Oooo, shocking. Porn – the taboo topic. Get read – almost every guy I know watches or has watched porn a few times. A lot of girls do too but they won’t admit it. I have watched and still occasionally watch it from time to time, just to see what the new trends are, and incase I forget what the big deal is all about. We all watch porn. The vehicle through which you are read my blog post – the internet – was invented for the masses just so that people could access porn much easier. So get over it. Take your holier than thou attitude and shove it where the sun don’t shine and stop looking at me like that!
Recently I read in a post on Facebook about a documentary about ex-porn stars and their lives that intrigued me to watch it. A documentary about porn stars – what would that be like? I was so intrigued that I watched 3 of them in the last week and am surprised by what I have seen.
The first one I watched on DailyMotion is Twilight of the Porn Stars directed by Louis Theroux which came out in 2012. In 1997, Louis Theroux made a documentary about the world of male porn performers in Los Angeles. 15 years later, he returns to find a business struggling with the deluge of free porn on the internet. Louis revisits some of the original programme’s contributors as well as meeting the latest crop of porn performers dreaming of porn stardom. He returns to find an industry that has been decimated by illegal Internet tube sites. He goes and meets some of the performers & a movie maker he interviewed back in 1997 and is warmly received by them. Probably because he treated them as human beings and not objects to be dissected. At that time Theroux had a lot of curiosity about the industry in America which hadn’t a similar scene in the UK. focused largely (and highly entertainingly) on the male “performers” and contrasting the stereotypical macho fantasy of easy sex with the crude mechanics of the job – and the physical and psychological dangers it posed to those involved.
The big bucks have mostly vanished from the scene in 2012 with the deluge of free porn sites available to everyone. Gone are the days of easy money and rampant, drug-fuelled excess. Yet, they soldier on, the economic blight having had little obvious effect on the number of people willing to engage in extreme sex acts on camera in return for cold hard cash, however diminished the earnings. He meets two newcomers to the scene – both 23 and the girl who is a single mother and the guy a product of the foster home system who wants to make money to make his other dreams come true. The crew visits the set of the two performers shooting a session and Theroux notes a “courtship in reverse – starting with sex and ending up as something like friends” as Theroux described it. Another memorable scene is when he meets one model agency director declared she wouldn’t warn off newcomers from porn but wouldn’t want her own daughter getting involved as she “wouldn’t want to be the mother of a whore”. He meets with a veteran male performer who talks about the loss he feels, his own capacity for love and intimacy and the hope that he can find true love again to rid the lonliness in his life. They also talk about the dark sides of recent time in particular the fate of one Jon Dough, an actor who committed suicide five years ago, a victim of declining DVD sales and serious drug addiction. Then there is the Spanish star (the only one I have seen before) who talks about the high number of women he has performed with.
But what was really memorable for me was the female star who lives with her boyfriend, her assistant and basically takes care & provides for him. Theroux talks to him about what it is like to be the boyfriend of a porn star and there is a debate about a scene that she has been asked to do which the boyfriend is not comfortable with. However, she says that taking the job will mean able to go on a holiday later. I found it odd that the guy was living off his girl’s money, in that industry.
The second one I watched is the one I read about on Facebook – After Porn Ends which, as the title should suggest is about the lives of porn stars who have retired from the industry. Participants included Asia Carrera, Nina Hartley, Mary Carey, Houston, Crissy Moran, Randy West, Richard Pacheco, John Leslie, Amber Lynn, Seka, Raylene, Luke Ford, Bill Margold, Shelley Lubben and Tiffany Million – some really big names in the industry! You now have former female stars – Crissy Moran in particular – who are now Christian activists speaking out against pornography and exploitation of women to the dad who openly discusses his former life with his unfazed daughter. And then you have Asia Carrera, the first porn star of part Asian ancestry, who quit to have a family with her husband. While their first child was just 2 and Asia was pregnant with their second, her husband died in a car crash and one point she was struggling to pay the bills so she went online asking for donations and was touched by the love shown by her fans who helped her out. Eventually, Carrera got a message from an insurance company that a life insurance policy she had forgotten about did exist for her husband, and she was granted it after mandatory investigation.
Houston, once the queen of gang bang, has now moved into the real estate business after a singing project and finds it difficult to find a steady footing due to her past. And Tiffany Millions, who became a porn star as a means to “work the least amount of time for the most money” so she could be with her daughter while providing a good life in a good neighborhood. And now she’s a freaking bounty hunter and runs her own private investigator business! The story then focuses on some of the male performers, like Randy West who had a recent heart attack, and is seen as someone who relishes the time he spent being a star. He used to play baseball but dropped out that to play in rock bands. Randy was also a member of Chippendale’s dance company, and worked as stripper at private events from 1980 to 1992. He is now a celebrity golfer, aged 66, and loves playing for charity but finds that its tough to get on the tournaments because of his previous career. Shelley Luben & Crissy Moran are now born again Christians who are spokeswomen for lobbyist groups that want to rid the world of the evil porn industry. I find it strange that they can do that! Also strange is that Crissy’s website is still being run by a 3rd party but she refuses to take any money from it. Tyffany Millions, Seka and Asia Carrera are clear examples of performers who say that they do not regret their time in porn and confound this narrative, but seem to be overwhelmed in the shadow of these stories.
Since the film has come out, Houston’s gone back and Amber Lynn has come back. Raylene who quit in 2001 from porn and then 2004 from dancing to start her family, came back in 2010 for financial reasons but has retired again. While a lot of focus is given to the dark side of the industry as stated by some of the actresses, Nina Hartley is the opposite. From performer to pornographic film director, sex educator, feminist, and author, radio show host and even acting in two mainstream movies! She perhaps puts it best that some people should never get into the industry – the naive, coming from a broken home, having tons of personal issues and perhaps victims of physical or sexual abuse. She, Asia & Tyffany say that they never let the industry take advantage of them – rather they took advantage of the industry for their benefit.
The third and final documentary is Aroused a 2013 film directed by the photographer Deborah Anderson, in her directorial debut. The UK based Anderson t profiles the life of 16 notable adult film actresses – from newer stars like to established veterans like Lisa Ann & Francesca Le. Anderson gives them a different treatment as part of her photography book – renting a luxurious mansion, she has the ladies go through a glamourous makeup session and photo shoot (the entire thing is in black n white). While she talks to them during their makeup sessions to find out how they go into porn and the industry and find out about their background, at the end of the film she has each actress rest comfortably on a bed while they talk their hearts out. Some of the stuff is really moving! Other “actresses” appearing in the production include Katsuni, Teagan Presley, Ash Hollywood, Misty Stone, Tanya Tate, Asphyxia Noir, Jesse Jane, Lexi Belle, April O’Neil, Brooklyn Lee, Allie Haze and Alexis Texas are also featured.
However with 16 actresses, all having their own story, the interspaced snippets does not work really well in giving us a clear image of the persons. Anderson is not trying to change minds about why they do what they do; instead she aims to humanize these objects of male desire. In their interviews the women are generally insightful, including a casting agent who discusses her moral struggle over her role in the business. The actresses themselves frequently describe troubled childhoods, often with absent fathers. But they also demonstrate great pride in their professional achievements which “civilians” are just not able to understand. And although several take pains to point out the differences between their real and cinematic sex lives—“If you want to enjoy porn, never go to a porn set,” one advises–they also exhibit an undeniable enthusiasm for what they do. “I get paid to have sex!” one gushes. “Why doesn’t everybody do that?”
I have new found knowledge and some respect and sympathy for the performers in the industry. Not everything is glamarous and not everyone emerges out of it in the end unscathed. Huge problems emerge as they go deeper in the industry and the same public that leer and masturbate to their “acts” later belittles them and looks down upon them, often being the hindrance for the porn stars once they wish to move on to more regular jobs & careers.