Liking Porn and Loving Women: My Day as an Ethical Porn Star

Kink.com claims that they go out of their way to respect models’ boundaries and ensure their safety during performances. Ezra Crane decided to find out firsthand.

I watch pornography. I like pornography.

My public school had abstinence-only sex education and I honestly would’ve had no idea what went where if not for the Internet’s movin’ pictures of naked hot people. As weird and arguably problematic as porn can be, I still appreciate it. Reconciling the sexy parts and exploitative aspects is tricky business though. Can something like double penetration be empowering?

My Oberlin class on the adult films of the 1970s (because of course Oberlin would have that) taught me a little about how porn was made back then, aside from the hilarious facial hair. Life could be less-than-stellar for performers. Linda Lovelace was forced at gunpoint by her abusive husband to make “Deep Throat.” The process of recruiting participants was several varieties of sketchy, there was no industry standard for STD testing and the social stigma of pornography prevented many porn stars from speaking out if they were involved against their will.

Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin famously argued that no women willingly made pornography, and they were mentally unstable or traumatized by childhood sexual abuse if they thought otherwise. Apparently Steinem and Dworkin were off base though, and porn’s sleaze factor had gone way the hell down since the 1970s (as did the sweet mustache-to-person ratio, sadly).

The Feminist Porn Network, Kink.com and their ilk had come up in conversations as being ethical pornographers—their performers do what they do because they want to.

Feminist Porn Network’s A Woman’s POV runs amateur movies of self-identified women getting it on with other self-identified women in whatever ways they find sexy. Kink.com stresses that their models are enthusiastic about their kinky pursuits on-camera and off. The companies claim that they go out of their way to respect model’s boundaries and ensure their safety during performances. All this performer agency sounded great.

I couldn’t help wondering though—was this was just marketing meant to prey on my liberal guilt and need for visual stimulation while doing the masturbation thing? Kink.com has a lot of the same anal shenanigans and semen spraying as other “less enlightened” sites, with the added presence of BDSM and rape-y stuff. How could it possibly be so empowering? I live near their San Francisco headquarters, so I decided to find out firsthand.

Their model application was just like a job application (albeit one that wanted detailed info about my man-parts). Because of how extremely scrawny I am, my girlfriend Allison thought they’d only want me for gay-for-pay movies. To my surprise, they asked me to be on a shoot for Public Disgrace, their fetish site devoted to women being violently ravaged in front of a large group of complete strangers in a semi-public setting. This was by no means a situation I ever expected to be in.

I had a fairly conservative view of sex in high school—it took my first few relationships and a semester at Oberlin to adopt a more non-traditional view of sexy times. These days, I believe people should be able to explore their sexuality in whatever way they want as long as things stay safe, sane and consensual.

I’m in an open relationship; I co-habitate with my primary partner (Allison), and we’re both dating the same sexy lady (Kate). None of us thought I’d get an offer from Kink.com when they helped me come up with my porn name. As liberal as everyone involved was, I had no idea how they would respond to me actually being in a porn.

When I broke the news, I could tell Allison and Kate weren’t really sure how to react. Both of them were some combination of enthusiastic and apprehensive. Allison wasn’t too into the non-consensual plots on some of Kink.com’s shoots. Although industry testing procedures are fairly strict, Kate wanted my penis be-condomed at all times just in case they missed anything.

Allison decided to bar people we knew from the shoot—she had felt a little uncomfortable when Kate’s whole house said they were going to come cheer me on. My relationships with them were more important than being in a porn shoot—I made sure they knew I’d call the whole thing off if they wanted me to. I got the OK.

Kink.com’s Bill of Model Rights

Kink.com had me start my first round of STD testing and join a national registry of adult performers. Anyone in my shoot could ask to see my results at any time, and I could do the same. All the STD testing for Kink.com models happens at the same tiny clinic in the Castro. I scanned the faces in the waiting room, nervously wondering if I’d see any of them again during my shoot.

I got progressively more worried as the filming date came closer. Having sex on camera was a scary enough thought without adding the kink and live studio audience. Dirty talking seemed like it’d be the hardest part—I never really felt comfortable calling folks the expected nasty names and my attempts usually ended in one or both parties laughing. To try and get ready, I read through some of the free dirty talk books for Kindle—they were not at all helpful, but it was kind of hilarious how terrible they all were.

I couldn’t stop wondering if I was a horrible person. Not only did I enjoy Kink.com, I’d be in one of their films! Sure, their fetish models honestly enjoyed those fetishes. If the fetish was objectifying, would I be participating in that objectification? Am I some manner of misogynist dude bro? I would feel 14 kinds of terrible if some mansplainer wanked off while feeling validated by my shoot. Public Disgrace’s host, porn star/director/BDSM educator/generally awesome person Princess Donna (SO VERY NOT SFW) helped make sure this wasn’t the case.

Credit: Princess Donna

 I think the pre and post-show interviews Princess Donna runs with the models are absolutely important to humanizing Public Disgrace. They establish context for the shoot and show the models as real people and not sex objects (even if they get used as such in the movies).

“You are about to watch someone’s sex fantasy acted out in a safe and controlled setting,” they tell the viewer. Just because these women have a fetish for getting violently fucked in front of a group of strangers doesn’t mean they’re any less in control of their bodies.

The two women headlining that night’s Public Disgrace shoot had filled out checklists saying exactly what they were and weren’t cool with happening during the shoot. Condoms weren’t required, but they could be introduced the second a model wanted them. Calling the house safeword stopped the shoot immediately. Models could re-start the scene at a more comfortable rate, or end it entirely if they felt like it.

It really seemed like the subs were the ones ultimately controlling what happened in the film—they set the rules, and the audience and the doms obeyed them. They told me the pay rates for the shoot ($75 if I get an erection on camera, $150 if I have sex on camera, $200 if I “pop shot” on somebody, for a maximum of $200 for the whole four-hour session).

I had an hour or two to kill after I finished all my paperwork. Waiting took place in the porn dorm (it’s looks like any freshman dorm you can think of, but visiting porn stars stay there). A quiet, buff dude was hanging out there, too. I’d find out later he was my shoot’s main male talent, but we didn’t say a word to each other. A bathrobe-clad James Deen furtively poked his head in, grabbed his leftovers from the fridge and scurried away. I just sort of sat there worrying about what came next.

Tools of the trade

Would I need to forget every sex position I knew to learn more camera-friendly poses? What if someone said the safeword and I didn’t hear them over the audience? The crowd is encouraged to get handsy, and we had to make sure they followed whatever rules the models had set. One of the models, for example, preferred water-based lube (I was on lube duty), didn’t want anyone touching her back and had another shoot in a few days so we had to try not to leave too many obvious bruises. Princess Donna made sure everything went off without a hitch.

Mingling with the crowd was a little awkward. The open bar made them more outgoing, but performers weren’t allowed to drink before shoots. Most attendees were in formal wear; some of them even had masquerade ball masks. I felt like I was in “Eyes Wide Shut” or something. People kept trying to high-five me for being in the shoot until a production assistant called me for a pre-shoot meet-and-greet with the porn stars. The models were really friendly and encouraging when they heard it was my first-ever time. After some pleasantries and healthy vegetable snacks, we got ready to start.

Vegetable snacks and rope

Princess Donna ripped the clothing off the models and encouraged the audience to do all sorts of nasty things to them. Her commands carried over the crowd as she busted out all manner of kinky sex devices. Fairly close attention was paid to the models’ well-being, but the check-ins were so subtle that I doubt the audience even noticed. Whenever either woman approached her breaking point, Donna carved a path toward the exit and let them go on break.

I’m not actually allowed to post any photos from the shoot, so here is my kitten being sleepy.

I was in total awe because she did all of these things AND directed the movie at the same time. The main male porn star was basically a walking erection. By comparison, most of my time was spent running around the room changing condoms on sex toys, strategically deploying lube and gently reminding patrons about the rules. Maneuvering corded vibrators through the crowds made me feel an awkwardness that was assuredly the stuff of legend.

During the break, the models put on tall boots and corsets; Donna put an intense mask over one woman and an unholy fusion of horse-bit and orthodontic headgear on the other. I did some light bondage and comparatively tame sexy stuff; a camera person reminded me to watch my angles. I got kind of uncomfortable when Princess Donna told me to “use” the fluffer to get ready. And then the shoot was over before I knew it. Some members of the crowd lingered to thank the performers and take pictures; Allison picked me up (I had my office job early the next morning).

I don’t have any regrets about participating in Public Disgrace. Because it showed me that ethical pornography is a real thing that can empower its participants. And because it let me see that porn stars are just, well, people — people who enjoy getting naked and having sex who just so happen to get paid for it.

Even with all my nervousness leading up to the shoot, Public Disgrace was still an unforgettable experience and I’d probably do it again. Things are fine with Allison and Kate (they’re kind of the best), and I’m happy to know what it’s like to be a porn star. (OK, maybe I was more like a porn extra.)

by Ezra Crane

 

Originally appeared on xoJane

More from our partners at xoJane.com:

‘India’s Daughter’ Revealed, But Should She Have Been?

What it’s Really Like: I’m a Drug-Addicted Stripper

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Lead photo courtesy of Flickr/Palinopsia_Films

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Comments

  1. I take my hat off to you sir. Being a male pornstar is a thing I like to fantasized about but I know I wouldnt be able to do it because I think its so damn hard. How do you mantain ( and get for me lol ) your erection in front of those strangers ( models and audiences) ? I guess some porn company ( and models ) ban viagra and other drugs right?

  2. Out of curiosity I took a look on Public Disgrace. Apparently, they film their outdoor scenes in European cities. From the trailer on the site I spotted Berlin and Budapest. Most likely the fly to Europe because the attitude about public nudity is more relaxed here than in the US, that is when they get caught filming they are in less trouble.

    I very much doubt they ask the bystanders on the outdoor shots for their consent to be filmed and their consent to witness the scenes. I’m German and when I go on a walk with my nieces I don’t want to run into a naked women on a leash and a film crew. And I don’t want my face in the background of a porn movie just because I happen to walk by. I’m happy that actors, actresses and viewers all get their sexual fantasy of public sex fulfilled. But I don’t want to be an involuntary part of this fantasy.

    Apparently, Kink.com is based in San Francisco. That’s a beautiful city. Why not use the local scenery to do their outdoor shots? IMO, a ethical porn company wouldn’t fly to Europe and abuse the lax attitudes about nudity and sex here to make money.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I don’t think it’s allowed. Film shoots require permits, and I’m certain they wouldn’t permit it?

      That’s my best guess.

      • Yes, it’s certainly illegal. That’s my point. They are filming illegally in Europe because they get away with it here. I mean, they are not flying to Berlin because the Brandenburger Tor is a better scenery than Golden Gate Bridge. I imagine the laws are much harsher in the US when it comes to these things. And it’s probably harder to take legal steps against an American company for the German jurisdiction.

        A company who apparently cares about consent should also care about the consent of the bystanders in a public sex scene. It’s one thing to shot in a bar, like the author describes, and everyone who enters the bar knows this is a porn set. It’s a whole other thing to shot outdoor where totally uninvolved people just walk by.

        This is also one of the cases where the “what about the children” argument is valid. They shot in broad daylight. What if children witness a scene. I wouldn’t even care that much if it was just normal sex. But the theme of the site is humiliation. Women get humiliated by having rough sex in public or getting walked around naked on a leash. How do you explain that to a child?

        • I agree with every point you are making ThomasM.

          However, lets think about the average age that young boys start looking at porn. Statistically it’s between 9-12. Add in that the humilation of women sexually seems to be largely sucessful in pornography, wide spread and easy to come across online, what exactly do we teach children about porn and sexuality to begin with. Perhaps we are lying to ourselves about what are children are already being exposed to just because it happens in the screen of a computer. It isn’t like porn is the most respectful to women to begin with. A woman doesn’t have to be on a leash for a young boy to see that with a few clicks of hi finger. Perhaps we are already teaching them that humilating women is “sexy”. Perhaps we are also inadvertenly teaching young girls that their humilation is “sexy” and “womanly”. Perhaps this is why the humilation of women sexually has become so popular of late.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          I strongly agree with you, Thomas, about the consent. They should be considerate of bystanders who wouldn’t want to be exposed to that level of sexuality.

  3. I don’t think men aren’t capable of loving women and liking porn. But I think it’s a huge simplification of what is going on to simply say that because men love women, it’s perfectly cool and okay to humiliate them and that we all must accept this kind of “fantasy” simply because there are women that agree to be in this kind of porn.

    All in all , this stuff makes me feel depressed and sad for womankind. It increasingly seems like the sexual humiliation of women is normalized. I’m not convinced this is healthy sexual behavior though just because it turns people on. And why does it turn people on anyway? Sure, there is stuff out there that may humiliate men, however, it seems that specific to women, alot of men get a lot of joy out of female humiliation. Why has the humiliation of women become so popular and sexy to people? Do we as a society have a secret loathing for the feminine and women that their sexual humiliation makes society more comfortable with their place in it? Is this a backlash over some of the social power men have lost? Have women also bought into their own humiliation believing this is what makes them worth while an sexy? Please, lets not make the mistake that just because it exists as a fantasy, that it’s automatically healthy.

    I don’t disagree that there are women that choose and maybe even enjoy being humiliated in porn. But I don’t sincerely know many healthy women that would want to publicly be lead around on a leash, implying that they were nothing but a dog. Choosing to do this kind of porn and knowing the specifics behind what lead someone to make the choice to do that kind of porn are two different things. And I will use Jenna Jamison as an example because she is pretty vocal about her unhealthy upbringing and what lead her to her lifestyle. There is a lot this article misses out on. Yes, I don’t think most will argue that pornstars choose to be in porn movies. However, we really don’t know why they make those choices. So we can’t say that it’s all good simply because of something we want to take at face value so we don’t have to look too much more closely at it. This article misses out on a deeper discussion.

    And I understand that women consent to be in these movies. But I don’t consent to seeing women treated and represented like that. I don’t get a say in the increasing amount of media and porn that seems to be about women’s humiliation. What message are women suppose to take form this? The ones that don’t get a say in how femininity and sexuality is expressed for fantasy?

    It seems to me that among all this, there is a core belief that women are meant to be humiliated. Perhaps there is some serious self loathing going on in women that enjoy humiliation. Perhaps they got the wrong messages growing up about what is “sexy” due to the media they were exposed to. No different from young boys that get exposed to porn early as well.

    All I know is that it seems like female humiliation has become increasingly commonplace. And it also seems like women as a whole are expected to accept it and welcome it with smiling faces simply because other people agree to make porn of it. But I never got a say as a woman about the role of sex and humiliation.

    It seems like, more then ever before, women are meant to be men’s receptacles when men want us to be. And to me, it doesn’t matter if women that do porn agree to these roles. The message is still the same. Women are to be humiliated and used. But we aren’t suppose to judge anyone when they want to humiliate and use women. They are still good people. Because it’s okay to humiliate and use or abuse women. It’s sexy. It’s popular. It’s what is going on a lot in the porn world. Female humiliation is perfectly okay. And I am also expected to believe that our world loves women so much. I’m sorry but that doesn’t feel like love to me.

    • Agreed, Erin. I don’t understand how and why humiliation especially in regards to treating women that way is so popular and turns so many people on

  4. Although I don’t follow her product I did check out Donna Dolore’s blog and she seems like an intelligent and well-spoken young lady with a pretty big heart, which counts for a lot. Her recent post on the BDSM dynamic and some forms of “extreme play” seemed thoughtful, at least, and anything that encourages us to interrogate our desires is generally good on some level.

    • Hey Inners, I’m not trying to have an ego or anything but I’m intelligent, well spoken young lady with a pretty big heart. Doesn’t that count for a lot too? Or is it only Donna Dolore’s intelligence, well-spoken youngness and big heart what matters?

      I think you will discover that people are diverse and just because people are well spoken, intelligent and kind with big hearts, that doesn’t mean that they have life figured out or that they always are doing the best thing.

      I don’t think most men would like to see an industry that repeatidly was bulit on humilating men. Yet many men..good men! Men who are fathers, lovers, husbands, boyfriends, brothers, uncles and grandfathers..they enjoy sometimes seeing women humiliated on some level it seems by the kind of porn that is mainstream and seems to draw in the biggest audience among men.

      The message: It’s okay to humilate women. Women’s humilation is pleasurable for both women and men right? But no one stops to think about who porn is actually made for. It’s not really made for women. It’s made for men. It’s a fantasy too right? We all understand that porn is a fantasy and is created largely for male pleasure. But now we are going to say that female sexuality is exactly how it’s represented through porn? something that is largely dominated by male desires first and most?

      • Erin, I’m probably going to regret taking the bait here (and don’t intend to talk about this much more since you have your opinion and I have mine and I have things to do other than argue) but I don’t see why you and “Princess Donna” can’t both be perfectly wonderful young ladies (and both not entirely correct about everything). In fact, even though I don’t know either of you, I imagine that both of you are (on both accounts). I must admit that you come off, at first blush, as a bit mocking and confrontational and that made me a little ill-disposed towards you right at first, but I am sure that you are a perfectly fine person trying to live in the best way that you can.

        As for the damages caused or not caused by the creation of pornography… well, people do a lot of things that damage them that I don’t think should be made illegal or eradicated in some way. I played football and have suffered, in no particular order, concussions, torn ligaments, broken ribs and a thrice broken wrist. My favorite injury, for its disgust factor, was being hit in the liver so hard that I vomited blood. That was fun and visually impressive. A derby girl friend of mine was recently hit hard enough to detach a retina. Bad things can happen in a lot of intense pursuits, artistic or athletic. People can be involved in BDSM and enjoy hurting but not harming each other just like two men or women can box or wrestle and fight without intending to seriously injure or kill each other.

        I don’t have any notion about female desires, other than those of the women who have been my romantic partners, nor did I make any generalized statement about them, only a brief comment that I had read something of interest on the blog of a person who was a minor subject of this article. Some women enjoy fantasies about humiliation and some don’t. Some men enjoy those fantasies and some don’t. There are even, in this wide world, submissive men and dominant women who enjoy the fantasies described in this article in reverse.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] at Public Disgrace, and found it to be ethical porn-making in action. His report is called Liking Porn And Loving Women: My Day As An Ethical Porn Star; he’s got a lot to say, but this is from near the end: Princess Donna ripped the clothing [...]

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