The Meaning of Consent: Directors

by Rich Moreland, February 2016

The series of posts on consent in the adult industry begins with the directors.

*          *          *

Directors are the captains of the porn ship, so to speak. Everyone’s job on set is smooth sailing when the weather is good. . . until a disgruntled performer stirs turbulent waves that can wash over everyone’s day.

From a director perspective, coaxing anyone to go beyond their limits invites turmoil, such as speed dialing an agent to complain. If anyone walks, kill fees are offered to keep peace and the day is lost.

Though I’ve never seen this on any set I’ve visited, I’ve often observed models interacting with each other before their scenes. It’s not idle conversation. They are taking care of business, clarifying what they are good to go with and what they are not. It calms the waters.

Girlfriends Films

gfs logoThough directors have different levels of flexibility, they review the scene with talent before shooting commences and often work a camera themselves.

I queried two award-winners, the legendary Dan O’Connell and B Skow of Girlfriends Films, and got responses corroborated by performers who have worked for them.

Here’s Dan’s view. He shoots only girl/girl scenes, by the way.

“[Consent] has never been an issue on my sets. Everyone arrives knowing what is expected of them. We talk about the sex scene beforehand and go over each girl’s ‘don’ts.’ So nobody goes into the scene not knowing what to expect.

“I tell every girl that she can, should, and is encouraged to stop the scene if she wants to use the bathroom, consume water or discuss what’s going on. Nobody has ever stopped a scene except for water, to use the bathroom or blow her nose.”

Dan O'Connell reviews the scene with Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox

Dan O’Connell discusses the scene with Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox

B Skow sends a similar message.

“I never shoot scenes that push limits like the type that Kink.com or James Deen shoot, but I can tell you if I felt either performer was uncomfortable, I would stop shooting and make sure everyone respected each other’s boundaries and start shooting again if we all agreed.”

B Skow

B Skow

Skow does mostly boy/girl work, shooting gonzo and features. In Dan’s case, his content is the vignette, a short story with a sexual theme. My reviews of their films, which are offered on DVD, can be found on this blog and my column at AINews.com.

The Feminist View

For a theater-oriented director like Jacky St. James, whose content is marketed by New Sensations/Digital Sin, her set is geared to bring out a performer’s acting ability.

Jacky says, “I don’t delve too deeply into what is required of a performer prior to a shoot unless I am tackling territory that might be challenging for them.”

She mentions The Submission of Emma Marx, an award-winning three-feature series she wrote and directed, as an example of establishing limits. Jacky wanted to make sure the star, Penny Pax, “was comfortable with each of the BDSM activities we were going to film.”

Jacky St. James

Jacky St. James

Overall,  the feminist director emphasizes, “I would never ask talent to do something that made them uncomfortable. Basically I set the precedence that they must be prepared and work hard…and I’ll help take care of the rest. I want to make their lives easy on set so that we can really focus on the most important components of the production, namely, nailing their characters.”

Gonzo on the Internet

Internet sites, natural vehicles for gonzo or all-sex shoots, aim to satisfy the sexual tastes of their online members. How does this influence limits?

To explore that question, I chatted with Billy Watson who directs for the DogFart Network, an interracial conglomerate of over twenty sites. He runs his own studio in LA and has a variety of sets available for his scenes.

dog fart logo

“Essentially, when someone walks into my studio, I always go over what’s expected and what I want and what I need,” Billy begins.

He uses licensed agents exclusively and relies on them to tell the girls what the shoot entails, “so they know what they are getting into when they come here.” He mentions gang bang and cuckholding scenes as examples.

While the girls are in the make-up chair, a feature of Billy’s studio complete with artist on hand, he reviews the scene coming up, everything from “the sex positions themselves to what names we can call them during the shoot.”

Responses that vary from “Oh, you can call me anything, I don’t care,” to “Don’t call me a bitch,” and everything in between. The same with on-screen behavior. The native Arizonan gives the following example, “Pull my hair, choke me, but don’t spit on me,” or “You can spit on me, but just don’t choke me. You can slap this part of my butt . . . whatever.”

For the DogFart people, it seems language is a sticking point. Occasionally in a gang bang scene the girl will explicitly state she does not want to be called a bitch. “Invariably somebody will actually slip,” Billy comments with a shrug.

Apologies immediately follow, “‘Oh my God, I didn’t mean to do that,'” and the shoot moves on.

A Tricky Thing

However, Billy runs into an issue most other directors don’t encounter.

Jim Talks Business Photo by Bill Knight

Billy Watson

“We show a lot of interracial porn and a lot of the members love it when the girls call the guys the n-word. This is a tricky thing because it goes both ways.”

Some male performers don’t mind. In fact it cranks up their engine. However others “won’t accept that kind of language.”

Has he had an incident that caused filming to stop?

“No, never. I’ve never had any kind of drama because we’re really careful not to violate anybody’s boundaries.”

Billy Watson checks member responses

Billy checks member responses

There are times, however, when “my boss says the members are looking for a really crazy, over-the-top scene.”

In those cases, Billy will book a girl with guys who are comfortable around the n-word. But that may not apply to all the male performers that day and the ones who don’t want such language directed at them will make their boundaries known.

In this reversal of the norm, it’s the men who feel violated.

Billy recalls a particular shoot that starred a model who was free with questionable language. It was a ten-man gang bang and getting all male talent on the same page had its issues.

“A couple of the black guys came up to me and said, ‘that girl’s not going to call me a n—‘ and she had to hold her tongue because I didn’t want the black guys to get upset with her.”

Gone Away

Performers have hinted to me in casual conversation that there are some directors who will look the other way when problems arise.

Bringing this up with Billy evokes an honest assessment.

“It depends on the producer and director and your crew. There’s still some people in this business who think the girls are kind of like chattel. Bring them in [and do what you want] because we’ll never shoot her again.”

However . . .

“A lot of those guys seemed to have gone away,” he remarks.

“The 2008 perfect storm killed a lot of those dudes. [That’s when] Brazzers perfected the tube site, basically the fine art of piracy. They all started off as search engine guys in the early 2000s and have gone on to all the things they’ve done to ruin this business.”

Or challenged it, for sure. But they may also have run off the worst of the lot when it comes to ignoring the performer.

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