Navigating the big hungry porn machine

This is a difficult topic for me. I’ve shared little pieces of my experience with a couple of people that I trust, but I’ve never told this story in its entirety. I am the type of person who, upon having a powerful experience, reflects for a long time. It’s taken me several months to sort through everything.

When I started making xxx porn, it was just Laz and me. It was 100% up to us what we wanted to film, and it was great. Then we decided to start hiring models to perform with us; we were very lucky that all the models we hired were great on set. They acted like they wanted to be there, and they all were perfectly happy to be having sex with us on camera. Even the models who hadn’t done professional porn before were complete professionals on set. It was so much fun, and each shoot was a positive experience.

That continued to be our experience for two years. I realize that we are very fortunate in that regard. I know from watching Twitter that some people don’t see the need to be kind or empathetic to their fellow performers on set and during scenes. Some don’t believe that they should maintain a certain level of enthusiasm to help their scene partners and are, quite frankly, callous in their treatment of their scene partners. We choose not to hire anyone who expresses that type of attitude. We believe that a good scene is made with the enthusiastic and informed consent of all performers, and that obtaining consent is an ongoing process throughout each scene. Enthusiasm from scene partners is just one good indication of continued consent. Kindness and empathy make for good shoots.

Unfortunately, and probably inevitably, we hired someone who does not believe as we do. Looking back, I should have recognized the signs in other scenes she did. Her lack of enthusiasm is apparent, but before hiring her, I honestly blamed the directors for the “boring” scenes. I had not noticed her expressing a poor attitude on social media, and I had no idea how little effort she put into being a good performer.

When she came to us, I was expecting an experience much like all of my previous experiences. I soon learned that was not to be the case. In our presence, she was quiet, sullen, and uncommunicative. At times, she bordered on being unfriendly. While reviewing scripts she barely acknowledged that we were speaking to her. She rolled her eyes when we tried to lighten the mood. What made it more confusing is that one minute she was helpful and even joked with us but would then quickly turn it off and behave as though she couldn’t wait to leave. Before the shoot and between scenes, she looked miserable. She wouldn’t make eye contact; she was stiff and lazy in her performance. It was clear that she didn’t want to work and put very little effort into hiding it. When she wasn’t in the room, Laz and I talked about our utter confusion and wondered how we were going to get through the whole shoot. We almost called it off.

Working with her was a horrible experience. I had to go places in my mind that I never thought I’d have to go. I had to separate my body from my mind and tell myself things like, “It’s almost over,” and “Just one more scene.” As hard as I tried to gather all my acting skills, to me, it’s painfully obvious in the footage that I didn’t know what to do. I constantly checked in with her, verbally asking her if this or that was okay and if she was doing alright. It was strained and unnatural. Throughout the entire shoot, I checked in with this performer at least four times more than anyone else I’ve ever hired, and at no point did she verbally indicate that anything was wrong. She also did not take our constant inquiries as a clue that she was behaving strangely. She was indifferent to the fact that her behavior was negatively impacting the shoot and our moods. In fact, she seemed to grow increasingly irritated at my inquiries. That irritation was a further indication to me that she was not only fully in charge of and aware of her behavior but also that she saw nothing wrong with it – or that she didn’t care. Yet there were those voices in the back of my head wondering if something was wrong; I was wondering if something negative would come out after the shoot. It was frightening.

It was a traumatic experience for me because I read stories about performers doing things on set they don’t want to do but feeling pressured to do them. I felt like I was the person doing the pressuring, even though I knew I wasn’t. I couldn’t have been more accommodating. I NEVER want to be the director who pressures someone to do something. It would absolutely break my heart. So there I was, having to maintain my composure in order to carry the scenes, while also having such conflicting feelings about the performer’s attitude and behavior. I knew she was there of her own free will, but she was consciously behaving as though she wasn’t. It was so confusing and disturbing.

We made it through and got some sub-standard content. It was upsetting to have wasted so much time and money on someone who had so little respect for us as producers and as performers. What stuck with me the most, and what changed the way I’ll work from now on, was her behavior and how I felt because of it.

After that shoot, I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to have anything to do with porn anymore. It took several days of processing that shoot to feel a little bit better about it. I wrote myself out of the next shoot I had booked. I then decided that I will not be in scenes with other women anymore unless I am sure that those women want to be doing porn. I DO realize how problematic this is. In any other job, there are lots of people who don’t want to be there, and that’s just how the world of employment works. I’ve had a couple jobs where I acted like I didn’t want to be there, and looking back on it, my bosses should’ve fired me long before I quit. The argument I’ve seen lately is “Why is sex work the only job where people are really concerned about whether the work is fulfilling to the workers? Why is that a requirement in order to say that the work is valid?” I agree with all of that. It’s a double standard. Society isn’t trying to outlaw other jobs where people use their bodies to do their labor and in which those people might not necessarily want to do those jobs or find that work fulfilling. Given this, I can’t really explain to you why having this encounter with someone who so obviously doesn’t want to be doing porn affected me the way it did. All I know is that it did. It was my body, and I felt awful using it to interact with this person. I felt trapped because really what other option did I have? I’ve seen the way that people act on social media. If I had refused to continue being in scenes with her or shoot her because of her completely unprofessional behavior, what would have happened to my reputation? I’ve gone through the BTS footage, and other than her looking really bored a lot of the time, there’s nothing there to indicate what I saw because the most-obvious sulking occurred before we started running the cameras for the day.

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe my experience is one that many others share and it’s so common that I seem melodramatic. In the big world of LA porn, there are many performers who work with people who they don’t really want to work with, and there are performers who just really don’t like their jobs. I’d never experienced it before, and it felt very bad. It felt ugly. It felt like I was adding to someone else’s pain. Some people believe the industry is just one big hungry porn machine, gobbling up broken people, chewing them up and spitting them out, more broken than they were before. But I know enough performers who love their jobs to not buy into that stigma. Intelligent, hard-working, strong-willed people. I know that together we can and will make this industry better. I really hope that the way I conduct myself on set adds to that positive change.

After much soul-searching and after watching this performer’s scenes with other companies, I’ve decided that her behavior on set had nothing to do with me. She doesn’t enjoy doing porn and she doesn’t attempt to do a good job for directors. She doesn’t try to hide how much she doesn’t want to be on set. Even the way she spoke about porn indicated this. I have gone over my behavior time and again. I have talked to others about the experience. I firmly believe that I didn’t do anything wrong. I know it in my heart. Yet I cannot shake the awful feeling that I had inside my soul, and I cannot forget the way that this performer put me in a position to have to use my body in a way that made me very uncomfortable.

I am on the “fringes” of the industry. I don’t understand even a small percentage of what performers deal with on sets or behind the scenes. Yet I am starting to understand why some people seem so jaded after being in the industry for a long time. I refuse to become jaded. I refuse to ignore the discomfort of my scene partners just to get through a shoot and to avoid being slammed on Twitter. The only thing I can do right now to make sure that I can stay a caring, empathetic human being, as well as stay completely in charge of my body and my reputation, is to write myself out of scenes for a while. In the future, when I decide to perform again, I will only be working with women who want to be, and who are enthusiastic about being, in porn. That is my choice. *I am not scheduled to be in any shoots for the rest of the year, though we have a few lovely women returning to us with whom I would feel absolutely comfortable performing. I need time. I thoroughly enjoy facilitating shoots because I can focus on making everyone feel safe, comfortable, and valued. That makes me happy. I also love filming all this sexy content! So that’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of this year, along with filming content with Laz.

I kept all of this to myself for a long time. I’ve gotten very close to posting about it, only to decide that I might be misunderstood and attacked. I am not just a performer, I’m a director as well. I hire performers, and I’m in charge of my sets. That means that I’m in a unique position where I have experiences as a performer does, but I believe most performers view me as a director and not fellow talent. I am usually silent on issues affecting performers because I know I’m seen as “other”. Yet I DO have some of the experiences performers have. I have struggled with body issues, with consent issues, with expressing myself on set, with not completely “meshing” with talent, etc… with many of the issues other performers have. Yet I feel that I need to be silent because I am in the position of director as well. I won’t pretend that I understand what it’s like to show up on someone else’s set since I’ve never been in that position.

All I can say now is that I’m telling my personal story which I’ve thought about long and hard. It’s a story that I need to tell in order to heal and move forward. It’s a story that I can only tell through my lens, as it’s the only lens I have.

*Note: I began writing this post months ago & it was supposed to be published on a site, but they never published it. I am scheduled to shoot with a returning performer in January & am looking forward to it.

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