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Principled porn - full interview

When Kitty Stryker was researching her article on Principled Porn, she sent me and various other performers/directors some questions to get us thinking. They were pretty interesting to answer.

 

What makes for ethical porn from a consumer point of view?

As a consumer, my benchmark is being able to trust that the performers had fun, had space to express their own sexual desires, were able to say no, and were paid and treated fairly.

 

What makes for ethical porn from a director/performer point of view?

The same, plus. As a performer, I'm particularly concerned with how performers are presented by the studio. Does the language describing the scene humanise and celebrate the performers, or demean and objectify them? I look for a clear distinction between reality and fantasy. It's the difference between "watch this fat slut get what she deserves" and "[name] was amazing to work with, it was a real treat to be invited into explore her kinky fantasies and her enthusiasm was a joy to watch". This is something I look for as a consumer now as well.

I think scenes exploring power play, historical fantasies or non-consent play should be guided by the performers, and their agency and desires should be paramount. The website and promotional copy needs to reflect this focus. An ethical director will contextualise the non-consensual fantasy of the scene by framing it with the consensual, ethical reality - rather than trying to pretend that the non-consent fantasy is real and the performers actually didn't consent (ick).

As a director/producer, it's my business to make sure that I negotiate clearly with performers before the shoot, respect their preferences and don't pressure them into anything, give them space to be creative and contribute ideas if they like. I pay my male and female models equally, respect their limits (once someone's said 'no thankyou' I don't ask again) and try to treat all my performers like royalty on set. It's also my responsibility to be organised, cater to performers' unique needs (such as dietary requirements), and prevent production stress from impacting my performers so they can relax and have as much fun as possible. This is an ongoing learning curve but I'm definitely better at it now than I was when I started!

 

You are all people who create your own content. Why did you decide to do that in addition to/instead of working in the mainstream? What are the benefits? What are the disadvantages?

The spanking niche is small enough that even the most well-known performers only do a couple of video shoots a year. If you want to work more than that (and I do - acting in spanking films is the most fun I ever have) you needs must produce your own content. 

I always used to come up with ideas for storylines when working for other people anyway, but it's nice to have full creative control over a film and be able to realise ideas exactly as I envisage them. I get to do something I love full time, which employs a large number of creative, technical and social skills. I get to express myself creatively, and I learn new things about myself all the time. I feel much more grounded, balanced and fulfilled as a person, and my sexuality and relationship with my kink has reached an amazingly centered, happy place. 

But those are just the day to day benefits. The long term ones, the reason I think this is worth spending my time and energy on, aren't all self-involved. When people tell me how much my work has helped them accept their own desires, that's really what makes it all feel worthwhile.

Disadvantages... hrm. Working as producer/director makes it harder to relax and enjoy the thrill of performance, because your mind is full of other things. So acting in my own spanking films is a more complicated experience than acting in other people's, and the straightforward performance buzz is harder to find. But when I've co-ordinated a shoot that connected people, watched my performers get the buzz, and created something imaginative and hot? The sense of satisfaction is tenfold.

I have to spend a lot of time on admin and marketing, which is tedious. It's not super profitable and my income is unpredictable. But those things are true of any creative industry. I can't tell everyone what I do, but that was true before I produced my own content, too. In general I wouldn't say there are any disadvantages unique to producing your own content. Or perhaps I simply haven't encountered them yet!

 

What unethical practices or attitudes have you had to fight/come up against within the adult industry, if any? Names not at all required, but this would be a good time to talk about racism/sexism/pressure to have unsafe sex/pressure to do more than you want to do if that's occurred.

As a performer I've only found myself doing things I wasn't comfortable with a couple of times, when I was new to the industry and not very confident about maintaining my boundaries. I had to learn to be outspoken about my comfort levels and clearly communicate if something was bothering me. Since I learned those communication skills I've managed to stay out of sticky situations. I've also learned to trust my instincts and not book work with people who are ringing alarm bells. 

More generally, there's a worrying trend in the spanking scene which privileges M/F (and, to a lesser extent, F/F) play at the expense of all others. Most studios are very male gaze; I think I'm the first director to shoot male spankees for a female audience. It grates on me when people talk about M/F kink as if it was universal, and it does make me less able to enjoy playing patriarchal punishment fantasies in that context.

It's also very normal in the spanking scene for male actors, spankers and spankees, to not be paid for their work. I think this is appalling: it's demeaning to the men, it creates a culture where male actors are expected to perform in porn "for kicks" (imagine how it feels knowing your spanker has no screen experience, has been booked off a spanking forum and is there to get his rocks off, rather than a paid professional) and it drives talent away from the industry. You get what you pay for: and you value what you pay for, too, which I think more directors should bear in mind. I pay spankers one rate and spankees another, regardless of gender, and I've been lucky to shoot with some gorgeous, talented male actors.

 

Radical feminists are often very anti-porn because they see it as degrading and violent. What have discourses around porn, ethics, and feminism missed in their analysis? What are some things radfems say, if anything, that you agree with?

At its simplest, porn is a record of sex. If it's possible to have sex in a feminist way (and it is, through clear consent, negotiation and mutual respect) then it's possible to make porn in a feminist way. Recording a sex act doesn't make it inherently degrading or objectifying.

A lot of porn is problematic, but so is a lot of sex. The key to fixing both is improving consent and communication.

 

What are some things mainstream porn companies could do to promote a more ethical work environment?

Studios who care about their ethical reputation should:

  • Make an effort to book performers with a variety of body types: not only white, skinny, youthful, cisfemale people are sexy!
  • Pay male and female performers fairly.
  • Make expectations clear beforehand. Don't put performers on the spot during the shoot by asking them to do something you never mentioned before, particularly if it involves pushing their limits. Stick to the script - unless changes arise organically with the clear consent of the performers. Use your performers' ideas and enthusiasm. Pay close attention to your performers' body language and back off if they're uncomfortable, or ask them what you can do to improve their experience.
  • After the shoot, don't write about your performers in an ugly way. Blogs and twitter are great, but they aren't a place to continue a power exchange fantasy. Don't be insulting and don't conflate the performer with their character. If you shot a scene where a character was spanked for, say, washing a car badly, don't say of the performer, "having met this girl I'm surprised she even knows what a car is!" Don't make rude comments about their body shape, and don't call a performer rude names like "bitch", "slut" or "stupid" even if their character was called that in the fantasy.
  • And this one is specific to spanking, but: Don't assume that only women get spanked, deserve to get spanked, or are sexy getting spanked. Don't assume that your audience consists of only straight white male tops.

Comments

A Quesion

This was an excellent interview and responses. Thank you for sharing it. I have never heard ethical porn explained in such clear, understandable, and nuanced form.

You said,
"I think scenes exploring power play, historical fantasies or non-consent play should be guided by the performers, and their agency and desires should be paramount. "
I'm just curious about the extent to which you distinguish between "agency/desires" and "consent". Is it that consent alone may not be enough to make everyone comfortable? Or is it perhaps related to engendering a good sense of chemistry between the players? Or something else?

Fascinating analysis. Thank you, again.

-Quai

It's not just about generating good chemistry on screen, although that's a bonus. It's the difference between consent and enthusiastic consent. People have the right to consent to anything for any reason, and I have certainly consented to things on spanking shoots which I was not entirely comfortable with or enthusiastic about. Maybe I needed the money, maybe I was unwilling to say no for some reason, maybe the producer or top was annoying me and I just wanted to get it done and go home, maybe I was tired and didn't have the energy to argue. I'm not arguing that that sort of consent isn't valid, but an ethical producer will try to avoid it, I think.

Obviously there are occasions when a script is written and a professional performer will be contracted to follow it. But ethical production is about the casting process too: and in porn, I do think that it's important to cast people who are into what you want them to do. I wouldn't say it's essential for your performers to find the fantasy they're creating hot, but it's definitely good. It improves the experience for them, and your product. Basically, if you can get actors who ARE into what you're shooting, why wouldn't you?

"Principles Porn - Full Interview"

I also got a lot from the interview. It is really good to be given a feeling for the context - human, organisational, ethical - in which the porn I enjoy is produced. This is not an experience I have had elsewhere.

I was interested in Pandora's last comment - "And....don't assume that only women get spanked, deserve to get spanked, or are sexy getting spanked. Don't assume that your audience consists of only straight white male tops". I suppose some people might assume that. I personally enjoy F/M and F/F but am really uncomfortable about a male being a top in a scene, or even being present observing. That is not in any way a value judgement, of course, just how I personally happened to develop. I skip past M/F or M/M scenes as quickly as I can.

I have no idea of the frequencies of different spanking orientations, or if anyone knows. I wonder if men who are oriented to F/M are even more secretive than others with spanking interests, because of the fear that this would be seen as shameful, or un-masculine.

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