Tag Archives: Bobbi Starr

A Humanized Porn Star

by Rich Moreland, March 2013

If adult film ever decided to make a movie of Mata Hari’s adventures she would be portrayed as an enchantress and wanton woman, exotic and sultry, dark and promiscuous.

The supposed double agent of World War I was an exotic dancer pre-war. When she married, her choice was a captain in the Dutch Army stationed in what is today Indonesia. This femme fatale had a strong military connection, a provocative sense of exhibitionism, and a sharp mind. During the war she mingled with the top brass of Germany, France, and Britain, getting herself into trouble and unfortunately right in front of a firing squad.

If such a porn movie were ever made, Mata Hari would sexually exploit every man she met (and perhaps a woman or two for good measure), leading to some interesting on camera romps. In film image is everything and the usual porn stereotypes would not work for this legendary seducer of men, no cute blonde, sweet girl next door, or dim witted bimbo for this production. Mata Hari must be mysterious, sensuous, and alluring with a powerful manner of persuasion.

My choice for the leading role of this fantasy tale is Dana DeArmond.

An interview with the talented actress highlighted my recent visit to the adult film convention in Las Vegas. After a couple of years of relying on good luck, I finally caught up with her thanks to the fabulous people at GirlFriends Films. Dana and I had briefly met in 2010, but only for a hello. I wanted more on this fascinating woman for my upcoming book on adult film feminism. I was not disappointed.

Dana DeArmond at the GirlsFriends BoothPhoto Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dana DeArmond at the GirlFriends Booth
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

The following is an introduction to this almost decade old veteran of the industry. It’s an excerpt from my  book and comes from our Vegas conversations. In a manner that would have delighted Mata Hari, Dana DeArmond captivated me with her charm.

 *          *          *          *          *

Be Nice to Everyone

“Like other women in pornography, I tend to be third wave, sex-positive, porn-friendly, sex-friendly, and non-man hating,” says Dana DeArmond, a self-proclaimed feminist who is a blend of feminisms. We’re sitting in the Girlfriends Films booth at the 2013 Adult Entertainment Expo in Vegas. The company is feminist in its filming and its attitudes toward performers so talking here seems natural.

Describing herself as an “army brat,” Dana is a product of liberal parents, a bit unusual for the military. “I don’t have the traditional football watching dad and the housewife mom,” she laughs. Her mother entered the service to pay for college. Dana’s father is gay, HIV positive, and noted for his cooking skills. He’s a “pastry chef” who can turn out “crepes and glaze,” Dana says with noticeable affection.

Her parents’ child rearing wisdom is evident in the aphorism they often repeated to her when she was a teenager, “If you act like an adult, we’ll treat you like an adult.” Important advice because unlike most young people, Dana found no purpose in organized education, dropping out of high school before eventually getting her GED. She tried community college to no avail, remarking that “structured education” is not part of her agenda. Dana pursued her own path relying on her determination and a self-education to “think outside the box.” The result is a woman who understands expectations and responsibility, a formula she uses to market her talents in a tough business.

Dana DeArmond thinks of herself as “a humanized porn star.” It’s an entertainment persona that gives her fans free rein “to do what they are interested in sexually,” Dana explains. She sends her message with an acting verve that has carried her career.

Some studios, she mentions Kink.com and Girlfriends, give her particular satisfaction. Shooting for Dan O’Connell’s all-girl company is especially exciting because she can use her intelligence and her “acting chops.” She likes improvising on the set. “It’s a fun exercise and good for your brain,” Dana says. Of course, filming with a female cast is enticing because of her “porn wives,” as she calls them, performers for whom she feels a special affinity.

Though she may lack the credentials of formal learning, Dana DeArmond is capable in ways that strengthen survival, perhaps the most important kind of smartness there is. I suggest she is a skilled businesswoman. Dana smiles and reminds me of the road to success in porn, “Stand out, be unique, market yourself, and be nice to everyone.”

Raised in Orlando, Florida, Dana discovered early on that entertainment was her bag of tricks. She began as a dancer for Universal Studios and worked parades for the Disney resort complex. But it was another kind of dancing that lured her. After turning eighteen, Dana appeared in gentleman’s clubs while keeping her day job at Universal. She relished both gigs and nightly twenty dollar lap dances wedged between minimum wage choreography became her employment reality.

A porn career eventually came calling but not until Dana was into her twenties. In February 2004 she gave adult film a shot in San Francisco. “I didn’t think I was going to be a porn star when I walked into Kink.com,” she says. Now years later, Dana has paid her dues. A well-respected industry personality who shoots in both the L.A. and San Francisco adult markets, Dana describes her career is a “sexual journey” that highlights adult film as an art form. Dana is an artist, she believes, a performance artist who captures the imaginations of her fans.

Not a New girl.

After years in the business, Dana’s radar picks up situations that are not a fit for her. “I am not a new girl,” she says. “I’ve been around the block. I know what I’m doing.” Using gangbangs as an example, she insists that she doesn’t want “a bunch of idiots who don’t know what they’re doing” all over her. “It’s miserable,” she says. Dana buys into what feminist-oriented directors preach: chemistry on the set. Some performers don’t “mesh” either “personality-wise or sex-wise,” Dana explains. But in time a girl will learn and select her scenes judiciously because the pleasure of being on camera is a reward in itself. Making adult film is challenging both mentally and physically and for Dana to appear upset and stressed out in a shoot isn’t her style or how she defines her art. Like Bobbi [Starr], Dylan [Ryan], and the others, she seeks satisfaction in her sexual expression.

thoughtful responsePhoto courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Thoughtful Response
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Dana stands her ground in the face of criticism. “My parents don’t judge me and I don’t let people make me feel weird,” she says. Icy disapproval is of no consequence to her, a response I’ve heard from other adult performers. Though Dana’s attitude reinforces a tough exterior, her determination to do what she wants under circumstances she selects has honed her longevity. Behind it, however, is an intuitive understanding of the people who perform in adult film and a desire to protect them because working in pornography is a team effort. Dana mentors girls when needed, “take them under my wing” is how she phrases it. Dana believes in fairness regarding others. In her mind, it is part of being a feminist. “I don’t know if there is a word for my kind of feminism,” she adds, it’s all about how “people should treat each other.”

Dana DeArmond may lack the formal education necessary to speak academically of feminism, but she carries the commanding dignity of a feminist. She’s a businesswoman who is in control of her image and her filming experiences. Above all, Dana knows what it means to be there for friends, “to stick up for other girls,” as she puts it. She is well aware of the downside, particularly what it means to enter the business with naïvete and inexperience. She has seen it.

“There are girls who lock themselves in the bathroom crying,” Dana says of breakdowns on the set. “They’re so young and clueless.” Jumping into porn too early can become a nightmare. “You’re eighteen, you’re still a baby,” Dana observes. “Try something, anything other than porn.”

*          *          *           *           *

Dana DeArmond continues to build her career with a seductive flair that lures her fan base. I suspect that Mata Hari in all her feminine wiles would have found adult film had it existed in her time. But could she have equaled the sultry sexiness and the intelligence that is Dana DeArmond? After all, would not  Dana make a good fantasy spy when she comes in from the cold to seduce you?

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South Texas Friendly Lends a Hand

By Rich Moreland, March 2013

Settling in with Daisy Layne is comfortable, like chatting with a neighbor on a summer’s eve. South Texas friendly glows like the red setting sun.

Daisy was raised by an aunt and uncle. “I’m as tomboy as they come,” she says, with “horseback riding and team roping” heading up her Texas values. When not in front of a camera, Daisy’s a self-confessed “jeans and wife beaters” kind of girl, homespun and natural.

Her clothes are a statement of who she is, quite evident the first time we casually met in the hallway of the Hard Rock Hotel during the 2013 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.

Daisy when we met in hallwayPhoto courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Texas bred at the Hard Rock
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

An active upbringing creates an intense person. “I get bored easily, so I generally retain several jobs,” Daisy says of her life today in San Diego. She’s well educated with degrees in the culinary arts, computer science, and an associate’s in veterinary medicine.

Adult film is only one of Daisy’s livelihoods, “I also do animal search and rescue,” she adds, putting an exclamation point on her veterinary experience.

So how does a girl with all these interests end up at a porn convention signing for fans?

Good looks—particularly the sexy sassy type—for starters, coupled with a healthy dose of exhibitionism. Early training in front of a camera is always a perk. Daisy developed a modeling career at the tender age of eight, so photo shoots are in her blood.

But really, that’s fluff. It was a guy.

Dick ChibblesPhoto courtesy Soft Focus Studios

Dick Chibbles
Photo courtesy Soft Focus Studios

Daisy fell in love with porn performer and director Dick Chibbles. At first he was apprehensive about their relationship, asking Daisy if she could deal with his profession. Not a problem, according to Daisy, and a happy marriage eventually followed a “whirlwind romance.” Along the way, Daisy got an unexpected introduction to the whims and unpredictability of the porn business.

Dick and Daisy had been living together for a few months and a small crisis infringed on their bliss. Here it is in her words.

“We needed rent money and he had a shoot and the girl didn’t show the first time. They re-booked the shoot and she showed up drunk and all over the place. They rescheduled it a third time. She showed and looked beaten and ridden hard and put away wet. The shoot was canceled.”

In porn it’s not uncommon for girls to flake and blow off their call times. Coming in drunk or high is irresponsible because a girl cannot rely on her good judgment, putting agents and directors in a difficult position where time and money is wasted.

Daisy continues.

“We need this for our rent money. We can’t let this happen. Can I do it? He [Dick] looked at me and then sat down with me for a good hour and a half talking me out of it because he wanted to make sure.”

Dick was doubtful this was a good idea. Daisy had a lot on the line. True, she’s a modeling veteran and easy on the photographers’ lens, having been mainstreamed with print, catalog, and runway work in Europe’s high fashion world. But this is porn and it’s a different kind of forever.

At that point, another side to Daisy stepped forward. She’s a nudist and a free-spirited girl with a big heart who wanted to help out her boyfriend, keep their romance alive, and be a good soldier.

But Dick remained leery. A young woman in love can make life changing decisions that she may later regret.

Daisy didn’t see a problem. Maybe this porn business is a natural, after all?  How hard can it be? And, it might be fun.

Daisy furthers the tale.

“So he talked to me. He gave me the whole spiel. ‘This will never go away if you start it. There’s always going to be a trace of it somewhere.’ He went through the whole line of all the reasons why I would not do this and at the end I sat there for a little bit and said, ‘I’m ok with it.’

After all, I’m getting paid to have sex with my boyfriend and I’m used to cameras.

He called the director back and the director said, ‘Let’s meet her.’ I walked in and I guess I impressed him with acting as well. There was a huge intro into it [the scene] and he [the director] said,‘ignore me.’ So I ignored him and went through the whole spiel. He was totally happy with it. He said, ‘strip down and turn around in circles. Looks good, seriously, we should have just gone with her.’

My first movie I made the industry rate at the time, $1,200 for the basic stuff, and had sex with my boyfriend.”

There’s a caveat here for anyone who thinks the porn scene is a cakewalk.

Daisy Layne has been around the business since 2005 and she only does boy/girl shoots with her husband. She’s is a rarity and a lesson for any girl who wants the ever elusive fame and glam of adult film. A woman who manages her career with intelligence and takes control over her own image is not the norm. Daisy makes it work, but she’s not traveled the path alone. The wisdom of Nina Hartley and the late Hollie Stevens and a friendship with Bobbi Starr have educated her on what it means to function on solid ground.

Most important, Daisy was well into her twenties when she took the step and thanks to others she learned the business from “the bottom up,” as she puts it.

During our interview, hand is mine!Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhous

Our interview before a day of signing
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhous

I Enjoy Women

There’s a little more to Daisy Layne’s porn career. Asked about performing for Dan O’Connell’s Girlfriends Films, Daisy offers a bit of a shocker. “I was a lesbian for five years before I met my husband.”

“I indulge. I enjoy women,” she says, brightening. “So for me, Girlfriends was a big draw.”

If Daisy’s first boy/girl shoot was not unusual enough, her initial girl/girl shoot was with a model well into a pregnancy. Dan’s gig was the girl’s final shoot before the baby’s arrival and the obligatory time off that would keep her away from the camera . . . and out of work.

Daisy, the good soldier, helped out Dick and got their rent paid. Now she rode to the rescue to be there for a mother-to-be. No surprise and no sweat because Daisy has midwifing skills. “I have eight godchildren,” she says with pride, and “I birthed three of them.”

Daisy has a way of putting everyone at ease.

That’s why Dan got in touch with Daisy. The model, who was seven and a half months along, wanted a scene for her website so Girlfriends stepped up. Dan O’Connell, an industry favorite and overall great guy, wanted to know if Daisy was fine with the shoot.

Dan O'Connell, one of the truly best personalities in the adult bizPhoto courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Dan O’Connell, one of the top personalities in the adult biz
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

No problem, Daisy was willing to do her best. When she met the performer everyone was astonished to learn Daisy is a midwife.

“Yeah,” Daisy said, “if you go into labor I’ve got you.” The girl was excited and ready to go. “She was enthralled with it, we had a blast,” Daisy

remembers and recounts what happened.

“The scene went without a hitch. She [the model] knew exactly what to do to make it feel good and not make me feel uncomfortable. I made it all about the mood. She wanted to accentuate the feminism in it. I made her feel beautiful. It was very easy because she was glowing and I got lucky.”

Perhaps the lucky one was an expectant model who wanted to retain her desire to be desirable. Understandable, because sometimes a pregnant woman can be conflated with a colicky baby, not exactly a sensuous vision.

When a girl’s body is her ticket to the next dollar, pregnancy, despite all its joys, can be a daunting time to get through. . . . unless of course, Daisy Layne is at hand to lend a hand.

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A Bad Deal

by Rich Moreland, February, 2013

“Cancer is a rollercoaster, but he’s ridden with grace, dignity, and great good humor.”

These are the words of Melissa Palmer, Christian Mann’s support person, passionate companion, and overall good hope. She is gracious beyond belief in answering my recent inquiry about Christian’s health.

I’ve not known Christian Mann very long, having met him just a few months ago. In an earlier blog entry, “Deeper into Their Fantasies,” posted December 22 of last year, I recount my adventure at Evil Angel’s L.A. offices where I interviewed Christian. He set aside an hour of his time, but we went way over. He was more than generous with his thoughts and patience in helping me with what I wanted to know.

Of our conversation, what sticks in my mind is the image of Christian impersonating the late Reuben Sturman, one of the most colorful characters ever in the adult business. One day in 1987, Rueben called Christian into his office for a quick meeting. Using his pen as a cigar to flavor the story, Christian imitates the legend’s unique style. He leans forward and with captivating humor quotes Reuben’s advice on the best way to regard a proposed deal.

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Christian says, never imagining that a nasty deal is already on his doorstep. Christian explains that Reuben’s advice was invaluable because “a young man’s instinct is to force a deal.” Christian has learned the patience needed to take his time.

Before I leave Evil Angel, we arrange to meet again in Las Vegas during the Adult Entertainment Expo. I have ideas in mind for my next book and I want his input.

Christian and I meet again on the convention floorPhoto Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.

Christian and I meet again on the convention floor
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Fast forward to Wednesday of convention week, Christian invites me to the Evil Angel suite after floor hours to chat. John Stagliano sticks around and joins the conversation. It is, as the TV commercials say, ‘priceless.’

The rewards for the evening are all mine. I get a copy of Voracious and have the pleasure of reviewing it for my blog and Adult Industry News. But most important, my photographer takes a classic shot of Christian, John, and a life size poster of iconic performer Bobbi Starr.

In the blog post about my visit to the Evil Angel suite (“As the Night Settles In,” January 28, 2013) the photo is there. It is also ‘priceless’ and will remain in my personal inventory for a lifetime.

Christian in the suitePhoto Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Christian in the suite
Photo Courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

But there is an ominous presence in the room that night.

Christian is using a cane and mentions almost apologetically that he has back pain and needs help to ease his getting around. I sense something is wrong and it eats at me for the rest of the week.

Then quicker than a wink at a pretty girl, the announcement knocks the industry for a loop a few days later. Christian is seriously ill.

I am shocked and share the news with Bobbi Starr, who is equally stunned.

So, where are we now?

Having heard nothing for a couple of weeks and doing a good bit of worrying, I contact Melissa. Meeting her on that fateful evening turns into good fortune multiplied in spades. She is upbeat and looking forward to a positive swing of events that further marches Christian to a cure. She also alerts me to Christian’s newly created blog, http://www.christianmann.com/, to keep everyone informed of his progress.

As I sit here a continent away from Los Angeles, I know Christian’s response to this new very personal bad deal is to figure out a way to come out on top. Cancer can be conquered with a positive attitude and the support of friends vital armor in the battle.

Keep Christian in your thoughts or prayers, whatever your preference.

By the way, I’m due to make another trip west within a few months and I fully expect to visit a healthy Christian Mann. After all, he is destined to show Reuben Sturman how to overcome a bad deal.

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Follow Me

by Rich Moreland, February, 2013

This episode introduces Rocco Siffredi as Vlad. Siffredi is a long-time associate of John Stagliano and directs for Evil Angel.

*          *          *          *          *

Back in Los Angeles Manuel Batiste is probing further into the vampire mystery. Father Zoltan responds to Manuel’s inquiry by offering to video conference giving Manuel a chance to raise questions about the vampire killing and meeting Adriana and Amira. During their talk, the priest adroitly deflects Manuel’s concerns while pursuing an issue of his own.

Speaking of Adriana and Amira, Zoltan asks, “They are friends of yours?”

Manuel says “no,” but he wants to locate Amira.

The priest turns icy. “You have seen a lot, Mr. Batiste, and we’ll get back to you.”

With that, the call terminates and begins Episode Four, “You Can Never Leave the Clan.”

Nobody Can Leave Again

The hookers have returned to the park, they are blood slaves, not yet full-fledged vampires. Their task, one of the slaves announces, is to “feed the vampires.”

Luring Blood to Feed the Vampires

Luring Blood for the Vampires

They have no luck until a motorcycle pulls up.

“He’s the one who can help us,” the taller slave announces. She is played by Russian beauty Ivana Sugar, who sports a resemblance to Paris Hilton in face and figure.

“Really?” the second slave (Zorah White) responses.

With an assured presence, Ivana’s slave says, “Follow me.”

They arrive at a wooden dock that appears to access to an inlet or lake. Once again the water motif runs through the narrative. Here the water is more expansive than the hillside pool in LA and unlike the Pacific, very calm, perhaps indicative the clan’s self-satisfied control of its adopted environment.

The Blood Slaves Meet Vlad

The Blood Slaves Meet Vlad

“I think maybe he’s over there,” Zorah’s slave says.

They walk on until startled by Dracu who appears from nowhere the moment the motorcycle pulls up. The rider is Vlad whose status in the clan is not clear at this point, though it is apparently superior to Dracu’s.

“I’ve killed the mother fucker,” Vlad tells Dracu. Is this the dead vampire Manuel discovered?

“Good job,” Dracu replies.

Dracu Prepares his Special Fingernails

Dracu Prepares his Special Fingernails

“Nobody can leave again, nobody,” Vlad asserts. Is Amira doomed to never be free if this is what she wants? Or, does Vlad’s self-assurance forebode a conspiracy that will challenge his power?

Attention is drawn to the blood slaves. Vlad reminds Dracu to tell them once they are vampires, they can never leave. Vlad approaches Ivana’s slave and asks if she knows she is not a vampire yet. “Yes,” she replies.Episode4_031

And with that, the sexual encounter of this episode begins. Dracu backs out of the scene at the beginning in deference to Vlad, much the way a medieval inferior would cede an offering to his overlord before partaking himself. The girls are Vlad’s toys at this point. He starts by pinning Ivana’s hands behind her back in bondage fashion and grips her face to let her know the sex to come will be rough. She arches her back and drops her head like the girl with the satyr in episode one.

The sex begins in slow-motion with a guttural over voice that is reminiscent of a growling vampire wolf. Vald’s motorcycle sits in the background and like the painting in episode one, lords over the dock and its entertainment.

This part of the shoot is beautifully done. Eventually Dracu joins in. Saliva and spit is minimized. The oral skills of Ivana Sugar steal the scene. Her performance is a reminder that no female performer in this film ever gives the impression she is in it for a paycheck. The enthusiasm and hard work of all the female performers in Voracious is remarkable considering the length of time invested in the episodes. The girls in this scene appear to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

In particular is Ivana. Once she is caught momentarily glancing toward the camera, apparently at someone in the crew. It is slight but delightful because she smiles, hardly in character for a vampire- to-be who is engaging in heavy sex. Watching Ivana reminds me of a characterization I once heard of an Evil Angel icon and porn legend, Bobbi Starr. “She good at it and she knows she good at it” was the description. The same can be said of Ivana Sugar and the upbeat attitude she brings to the shoot. Not to minimize the talents of Zorah White who can rival anyone in porn, but this scene is Ivana’s.

Finally, Vlad takes the two blood slaves into a sauna on the dock. Their throats are ravaged, a bit of blood flows, and the deal is sealed.  The viewer cannot resist admiring the work of both girls when the action moves indoors. Ivana responds to Rocco Siffredi’s guidance through the scene with tenderness and a smile. She playfully kisses his abdomen in a moment that seems oddly placed in a vampire film, but speaks volumes about an Evil Angel production and the pleasure many performers get from working with Rocco.

Vlad secures his new vampires, but he has a task before him. What to do with Amira?

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Deeper into Their Fantasies

By Rich Moreland, December 2012

“I’ve failed miserably,” Christian Mann says with a smile. He’s referring to his lack of success in predicting what his boss, John Stagliano, will like in a project. That may be so, I don’t doubt, but Christian’s name in the porn universe is almost as well-known as his that of his employer. He’s the general manager of Evil Angel Productions, one of the dynamic names in adult entertainment.

Christian Mann Photo by Bill Knight

Christian Mann
Photo by Bill Knight

We’re in his office in Van Nuys, part of the greater Los Angeles area. The space is nicely appointed and part of a small facility tucked away among identical storefronts common in today’s ubiquitous industrial parks. “E.A. Productions” is printed over the glass enclosed entrance. The casual visitor is hard-pressed to recognize that this unassuming location houses an industry mover and shaker.

Inside there’s a small waiting area; a receptionist sits behind a window-like opening equipped with a sliding glass front. Typical office waiting room, all that is missing is a clipboard so I could check ‘new patient’ since this is my first visit.

A couple of perky young women are busy around the receptionist’s seat on this day. My guess is they probably shoot a few scenes for the studio and pick up steadier bucks answering the phone and greeting visitors. If not, it’s an entertaining thought.

Unlike most professionals I know, Christian is prompt, coming into the waiting room to greet Bill, my photographer, and me. Very cool. Visits to financial gurus and lawyers often involve secretaries leading the way; for doctors, it’s always a nurse. No third party here. Porn people are hands on and laid back, all puns intended.

Folk Appeal

Evil Angel is the brainchild of John Stagliano who, some twenty plus years ago, patented an artistic and innovative style of filmed pornography called gonzo, a topic I’ve written about previously. John is a genius and highly respected in the business.

A note on gonzo is in order here. It’s an adult film genre in which a movie is a series of somewhat disconnected scenes focused on the sex taking place before the camera. In a sense, it’s a modernized version of the old loop. A storyline is essentially vacant, though some of John’s signature “Buttman” series have a loose narrative base. In gonzo, the sex is the reason for the shoot unlike other approaches that work the sex into the narrative. For Evil Angel, the sex is never an “add on,” to quote Christian. Though this concept may appear overly simplistic, it has made the company into a recognized brand name.

Christian elaborates on the Stagliano philosophy. The sex is greater than “the storyline or the production values,” he says. That is not to say Evil Angel eschews these components, they just aren’t starting points. Two movies in a feature film format, The Fashionistas and Voracious, are “very intense when it comes to those elements,” Christian points out. For example, Voracious is episodic, centers on a vampire theme, and is shot in Europe where the sex is edgier than the American consumer is accustomed to seeing. Stateside, a degree of prudery still reigns. Using a serial format, Voracious turns the soil (always pleasing to vampire lovers) for a new and interesting approach to filmed pornography.

Courtesy of Evil Angel Proudctions

Courtesy of Evil Angel Productions

Courtesy Evil Angel Productions

Courtesy of Evil Angel Productions

Christian emphasizes the heart of the matter once again, hammering home the stake of truth that keeps the Evil Angel model moving forward. “Our movies always start with the sex because that’s what people [the consumers] are first and foremost wanting,” he says.

In defining the Evil Angel operation, Christian emphasizes that the company welcomes diversity. John Stagliano does not “mandate a certain point of view” though the “common thread” of sex first remains. Company directors have a free hand, Christian says, but “John has to like it” which means that boring sex dies on the cutting room floor.

Within a few minutes of talking with Christian Mann, two words jump out: charm and intelligence. He’s no stranger to adult entertainment having been involved in the business for over thirty years. Video, production, sales, marketing, he’s had a hand in all aspects of the pornographer’s trade. Christian got his start working a summer job for his father who was in the print segment of adult entertainment. Eventually Christian’s psychology major paid off as his early years in the business were in marketing. Owning an adult film company was down the road as was a bout with the government over obscenity. But like many of adult film’s historically important people, Christian Mann is stilling trucking.

Along with his current position, Christian sits on the board of the Free Speech Coalition, the industry’s political wing. He has a libertarian heart like his boss. Both have fought censorship battles in the courts.

I’m interested in Christian’s view on the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey literary trilogy. Now that the bondage fetish is collecting devotees, is the company jumping on the BDSM bandwagon as it journeys through the market bizarre of porn? He is definitive: Evil Angel prefers not to respond to the market.

Once again, Christian returns to the company mantra. It’s unlikely John will react enthusiastically to a project if he’s simply told “it’s going to sell,” Christian states. (He’s personally made that mistake a couple of times. That’s where the prediction failures add up.)  Rather, it is John’s personal belief in the product’s quality that establishes the company’s image. Attaching a well-known name (performer or director) to a project’s sales pitch, for example, is no guarantee it will gain traction with the boss.

Of course, if a product with the Evil Angel name generates a profit, all the better. In that case, “the market just happens to agree with him,” Christian says. But there is an underlying secret at work. John has “folk appeal,” Christian reveals, an intuitive understanding of what people want.

I have no doubt that is true. The company’s red logo shouts quality and tradition. But I also contend that John Stagliano shapes the market. Like Vivid Entertainment’s Steve Hirsch, Wicked Pictures’ Steve Orenstein, and Kink.com’s Peter Acworth, the Stagliano name creates sales. In a pensive moment, Christian concludes, “John is the market.” I could not agree more.

Gender Blind

Among the reasons I’ve come to Evil Angel is to talk feminism in porn. We quickly agree that Fifty Shades of Grey and BDSM have opened another door into the female empowerment arena.

E.A. has a stable of directors who own their content and distribute through the company. Among the team are two active legends, Belladonna and Bobbi Starr. John Stagliano is “gender blind” in his hiring practices and some of Evil Angel’s “hardest stuff” comes from these women, Christian says.

Though I’ve never had the opportunity to converse with Belladonna, I know Bobbi. She’s talked about her struggle to become a director. John gave her that opportunity, as he did with another well-known feminist filmmaker named Tristan Taormino, who refers to him as the Steven Spielberg of porn. Bobbi has not disappointed the company, she is hard core to the core in what she likes to put on film. Incidentally, the 2013 Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas are close at hand and Bobbi Starr is among the nominees for both Female Performer of the Year and Best Director, a result of hard work and a personal belief in her own creativity.

Christian comments about projects both women have to their credit. “If you didn’t know it was a female directing it, you would think it’s a guy” casting women in a submissive role, he says. Belladonna and Bobbi deliberately capture the male gonzo point of view and then contradictorily take possession of it, a characteristic of what I call pornography feminism.

But is this feminism in Christian’s view? Yes, he affirms, and goes on to suggest that E.A. directors “who are interested in dominance and role-play” reflect a modern porn POV that puts women in charge of the on screen sex. He mentions one male director who often shoots “high art bondage” and though the viewer might get the impression that he dislikes women, female performers “love working for him.”  In fact, it is often the women who “push the envelope;” in other words, female subjugation on film is often driven by the women themselves.

The upshot is a “new prototype of performer,” Christian asserts, who relishes working for female directors “trying to out hard core each other.” There is a downside to this scenario, he concedes, the sex can deteriorate into “acrobatics” that are devoid of creativity.  Finding balance is not always easy.

Christian understands the erotic perspectives of new century women. They are claiming ownership of their sexuality, refusing “to be told how they’re supposed to behave sexually,” he says. They’re insisting that their boundaries be expanded; they want to go “deeper” into their fantasies and this adventure includes the submissive and dominant sides of the role play.

In short, BDSM is now an “equal opportunity” playing field, Christian asserts, that gives women choices with an added benefit: accessorizing. In his analysis, that may be Fifty Shades’ real attraction. The story shines a light on “something that has existed for a while now,” he points out, the fascination with fetishes and role-play that gives permission to have fun with the attire, the leather, and the bondage gear. For reference, take a peek at a trailer for The Fashionistas or Voracious. Once again, Evil Angel is a step ahead of this curve.

Christian reviews what everyone secretly knows but few outside of the porn world act out. “A lot of sex fantasy is about power, role-reversal,” he says, emphasizing that men can be submissive to female dominance. Something, I might add, that many anti-porn people don’t take time to consider because they are lost in their monomaniacal vision that porn is violence against women.

“Part of a woman’s empowerment,” Christian explains, “and part of the modern woman owning her own sexuality includes the right to express herself”‘ in any role she might want. In relating the Fifty Shades phenomenon, Christian postulates, “When modern women are given the right to choose, they are frequently choosing to be submissive.”

A Final Shot Before We Head OutPhoto by Bill Knight

A Final Shot Before We Head Out
Photo by Bill Knight

Christian Mann’s conversational intensity is speeding the time away and before long his agenda demands attention. We’ve gone way over the time he allowed for me, I’m sure. But I can’t leave without a final inquiry. I ask Christian for a personal vision.

He sees himself as moving Evil Angel through changing times. Most important is keeping the erotic experience for the consumer at its highest level and the best way to do that is to market a quality product.

The philosophy of John Stagliano is everywhere inside this inconspicuous storefront.

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The Bondage Game: A BDSM Trilogy

By Rich Moreland, September, 2012

 

A couple of years ago I spent a few minutes with Kink.com’s Peter Acworth at San Francisco’s old National Guard Armory where the BDSM fetish giant runs its websites. Acworth talked about a re-make of Pauline Reage’s 1955 novel, The Story of O. His idea sounded interesting, but who would play O, I asked, and how would he tell the story? Where Acworth is today with his idea is only a guess, but Ernest Greene’s trilogy on O’s evolution reveals unique answers to my question.

The Story of O is more than an erotic tale of a woman who acknowledges her obedience and masochism. Trained at Roissy, a remote location where girls are delivered for their initiation into BDSM, O becomes a willing participant in her own sexual slavery. She agrees to her submission, serving her lover, Renee, and his whims and fancies. Now she faces change. Renee takes O to the Paris apartment of Sir Stephen, his older half-brother, and departs. At this juncture in the storyline, Sir Stephen tells O she can have only one master and clarifies that he is now that man. She is to become his submissive, wear his brand inflicted by a burning iron, and become a predator for him, the Owl she symbolically portrays in the narrative’s final chapter.

But who or what is O’s real master? Ernest Greene provides a hint in the first film of his trilogy, O: The Power of Submission. Adhering to Reage’s plot, O is taken to the House for her initiation. Naked, she is fitted with a collar and ankle and wrists restraints. At this moment, Greene lets us in on his secret. O is adorned with a shoulder-length veil as she is presented for her flogging. Later in the film when Jackie, the fashion model Ray desires, is taken to the House and prepared for her first taste of the whip, she, too, wears one.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

What is the meaning of the veil? A message runs under the convoluted love triangle Greene creates between O, Ray, and Steven. Greene’s interpretation insists O’s story is about a “wedding,” not between or among people, but to a lifestyle. Greene illustrates the self-defeating nuisances of questionable relationships and the failures of actual marriage. O moves in and out her love affairs with Steven, leaving him for good in the last installment, and Ray’s marriage to Jackie collapses in the second film. Through it all, O’s commitment to BDSM is unquestioned. Her real identity lives within the lifestyle that intrigues and guides her, the master/slave relationship she has wed, and it overrides her interactions with the people she meets. The literary Sir Stephen and Greene’s cinematic Steven are conduits that serve O. Her willingness to respond to their BDSM impulses is what drives their desire for her. She in turn, uses them for her satisfaction.

With the House, and later the bondage club of the third film, Greene shows us a BDSM community that was an underworld experiment during Reage’s time. Greene’s O exists within a modernized BDSM arrangement of convenience, a continuous menu of choices offered for the pleasure and power she savors. Reage hints that O’s submission seduces her captors; Greene pushes that revelation out of the shadows and onto the screen.

Choice is always in O’s hands. When the limo pulls up to the House in Submission, Ray, played by Tommy Gunn in the first two films, tells O (the bewitching Carmen Luvana) he is “glad” she agreed to come. Her response is pointed, almost a counter-punch, “Have I ever said anything else to you?” Carmen’s O projects a little cockiness with some indifference stirred in. Before her initiation begins, Ray asks O if she consents to “obey,” reminding her that the option to leave is open. O responds without hesitation, “I’ll stay.” But she does not repeat the word “obey,” cutting into the House’s control of her. Marie, the House’s owner, asks Ray if he ever whipped O. “Sometimes,” he replies. Turning to O, Marie wants to know if she enjoyed it. O repeats Ray’s “sometimes,” but with a nonchalant tone. She throws down the challenge, shifting the burden to Marie and Ray to pleasure her, not the other way round. Attached spreadeagled to a vertical frame, O is aroused by Maria’s application of the flogger, warming up O for the hot sex to follow. Carmen’s O shows off her talents with multiple partners, completing her initiation into the fold.

In conversation later with other house slaves, O discovers their breezy attitude is reflective of hers. Without their collective consent, there would be no House and no entertainment. Everything is voluntary. Greene sets the tone for the series in these early scenes and prepares the viewer for a revelation in the second film, The Surrender of O, where he cannot resist a little irony.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

In Surrender, Bree Olson’s O comes back to the house voluntarily and is surprised to learn that Marie runs the show and rewards are to be had.

“You mean we get paid?” O says with amazement.

Mika Tan’s Rita, a House girl, tells O that Marie lets the guys think their money dictates the action. O can’t believe they pony up cash for their privileges with the girls. The whole operation is a “profitable business for all of us,” Rita says, and reminds O that with her return she is now a House girl and “no one’s property” but her own.

Marie keeps a catalogue of the girls and their talents. Regina (played by the gorgeous Kayden Kross) reads to O what is written about her, “orgasms during punishment.” Rita implies that being a “very obedient good slave” has benefits. If her attitudes and talents are noteworthy, O has the freedom to “come and go” as she pleases and the next time she drops by she’ll find “a big fat wire transfer” in her bank account. Bree’s O is hesitant, but Regina is honest about the BDSM bordello. “It’s not like you can pretend to enjoy this sort of thing if you don’t. The masters think this is their club, we think of it as ours.” Rita chimes in amusingly, and “the attendants think it’s theirs.” The girls are playing the game for fun and profit, very much in control of their outcomes. Everyone is a winner.

With an attitude like that, is it any wonder the sex is spectacular.

*     *     *     *     *

O’s ongoing personal journey is a search for emotional satisfaction framed within a fierce desire to hold onto her independence, a task more difficult than life at the House. Though Bree’s O will backslide in the second film, Carmen’s O reveals a shade of defiance. The game is played with her permission and by her rules. In Submission’s conclusion Carmen’s O faces down Steven, ably portrayed by popular veteran actor Evan Stone. He once captured her with his self-confidence but made the fatal mistake of revealing his weakness. She reacts to his sudden declaration of his love for her:

“I never expected you to say that and back then I wanted this more than anything, but right now it’s a lot more than what I want. I did everything you required me to and the only thing I needed in return was that you were different from all the others, stronger somehow.”

She gives back her O ring, the symbol of attachment to him, and delivers her parting shot, a damning statement that shapes the message of film three, The Truth About O:

“You fell in love with what you think you see and not what’s there. I won’t be back.”

In fact, she relents and does return to him in Surrender. Marie, played with wisdom and charm by Nina Hartley, mentors O throughout the trilogy. She is O’s trainer and counselor, offering O a feminist education that flowers in the final installment, Truth, when Marie compliments Bobbi Starr’s O as “the finest slave I’ve ever trained.” Finest does not mean most compliant, rather O is now the strongest and most willful.

In Surrender, Marie sympathizes with O’s emotional uncertainty and arranges a reunion with Steven. But, there is a lesson attached. Giving Bree’s O a key, in reality the key to her happiness, Marie tells O that she can return to Steven if she wishes. Marie also gives her a fabric inscribed with “freedom is deciding whose slave you want to be.” Marie continues, “You have to decide what part of your life is yours and [what] part you would have to surrender totally.” It is the teachable moment in Ernest Greene’s “The Education of O.” The underlying meaning of the entire series is equality and O emerges with her total personhood in tact when the final curtain falls on Bobbi’s O. Once again, Greene’s message is O’s dedication to the lifestyle as a master, not any one person within it. The bondage game is her pleasure and the tool she uses to find a master of her choice who can deliver it. In the language of the real world of BDSM, O is searching for a “service top,” a dominant who arouses her by responding to her needs.

Bree’s O reunites with Steven and promises she will never leave again unless he orders her to. But her promise borders on schoolgirl silliness because the plot is never fated to play out that way. In presenting herself to Steven for sex, O wears a short veil this time, suggestive of a modified version of the “marriage” depicted in Submission. Symbolically, she is renewing her vows with BDSM; Steven is the master du jour. Bree’s O presents a confusion of hope and uncertainty that is later resolved in Truth. Surrender winds down with an extended sex scene between Bree and Evan Stone, the most sensual in the trilogy and there are good ones throughout featuring some of the best talent in the business.

In closing Surrender, Steven presents O with a contract designed for a master/slave relationship but looks a lot like a business arrangement. With this turn of events, Greene sets up the third movie. O agrees to help Steven obtain “love slaves” to serve him and gets approval over their selection. O is free to do as she pleases once she satisfies her “boss.” Again Greene gives O choices, this time spelled out in a written partnership between lovers that strongly suggests equality. Does Bree’s O understand the implications of what she holds? Bobbi’s O steps out of the shadows to answer that question.

*   *   *   *   * 

            Pauline Reage’s O is a complex character and the actresses Greene selects to play her are reflections of this varied composition. Carmen’s O is defiant, independent, a reluctant submissive; Bree is submissive, compliant, and easily manipulated. She shows none of the hard edge that sometimes shapes Carmen’s performance. The flavor of Bree’s sex scenes are more BDSM leaning than Carmen’s but they cannot match Bobbi Starr for realism. Bobbi is one of the most powerful adult film actresses in the business and perfectly selected for the final film. (For fans wanting another Bobbi Starr fix, she also appears as a house girl in Surrender.)

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

Bobbi’s O is a different breed. She develops wisdom by the time the script progresses to Truth.  Strong-willed, mature, and ready to demonstrate an obedience that is more attuned to her wishes than to Steven’s, Bobbi’s O plays a game she knows she will win. Like Carmen’s O, she challenges Steven, now played by porn heartthrob James Deen, wanting to know what he thinking. Bobbi intellectualizes her version of O and produces the most powerful scene in the trilogy done via flashback. O is chatting with a new sub (played by Krissy Andrews) and recalls “it was a typical day at home” with Steven. The scene moves to his library.

“You are the only one who can satisfy me,” he says. With a smile, O replies that she would do anything to be owned by him. All seems mutually satisfying, but their body language suggests trouble.

Steven sits her on his desk and she touches his forehead. “What’s going on in there?” she asks, forcing a smile.

“It’s all become so easy for you, hasn’t it?” Steven says, deflecting her question. “Just when you think you have it, it turns out you don’t.” Trouble is brewing.

Steven is addressing his own anxieties and wants reassurance that O is still loyal to their relationship. He asks her to find another girl for their mutual enjoyment. “See if you know me as well as you think,” he says and they hug without a lot of feeling.

Steven takes her hand and she playfully pulls it away. This is the opening they both know is fated: an O replacement for Steven, an exit opportunity for her.

Are the “typical days” a telling message that boredom has set in, or an indication that O needs to continue her search for more stimulation and excitement? Will O now play at BDSM only when it amuses her? Ray (Michael Vegas in Truth), is available again, but she now regards him as an equal, running off with him for the pure adventure of it. Using Ray and providing Steven with another slave, Bobbi’s O manipulates the entire scenario. Marie’s “finest slave” remark unveils the consummate O. She is emotionally grown up.

Truth is set in the bondage club, not at the House, in effect moving the hard lessons of submission into O’s past. There is little need for Marie’s mentoring now; the older woman will assist O in her mission to find a playmate for Steven. When the new slave (played the sensuous Asa Akira) is secured, O returns her contract and takes off, leaving Steven to ponder what he had, lost, regained, and lost again, but through no fault of his own. Like the masked Owl at the end of Reage’s novel, Greene’s O remains an elusive mystery: those around her believe she is emotionally naked and seemingly leashed, but they are her prey, they fall victim to their desires for her. O’s soul is reserved for the mystical master of BDSM, however she chooses to greet him. Desire her, but don’t expect to control her because BDSM is the ultimate leveler of the human equation.

In the real world of adult film, Bobbi Starr and Nina Hartley are feminist soul mates. Both are iconic performers, a rare status for women in porn. Bobbi began as a BDSM submissive and later achieved director status with Evil Angel and Kink.com. Carmen and Bree are also superstars. Each woman has a different “feel” for their BDSM role, a good thing because their performances explore the different sides of Reage’s O, one of the most complex fictional characters in adult literature.

There are hints of a feminist attitude in the literary O that intrigue Greene. Reage’s character gets to “set the rules” and control the action especially when she is pursuing other women. O achieves a “complete sense of freedom” in the hunt and Reage tells the reader O is an “accomplice of both men and women” though the game is “not all that easy.” But as we have seen, the bondage game has an overlord and O is beholden to his erotic demands.

Ernest Greene never defines the perfect O because she exists only in the imagination. He does peek at the different ingredients that make her up and when he gets to Truth, Bobbi becomes the completed O. In the book and the series, O’s destination is not a place, it is a process: an ongoing refinement of BDSM pursued for its personal satisfaction. The characters she meets along the way are mere stopovers in her quest.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Ernest Greene presents a female-friendly POV in much of his work. In most of the sex scenes, he is cautious to pleasure women with lots of oral sex and the ever present Hitachi Magic Wand. Orgasms are aplenty. Greene is no stranger to safer sex, by the way; condoms and latex gloves appear regularly. Like all good directors, he gives his performers choice.

In each film, the sex assumes a different flavor. Submission sets the trend of equality in oral sex for women. In Truth, it is filmed beautifully. Female porn viewers are not fond of DPs and anal but Greene knows they are fan favorites for men, so he sprinkles them in to add spice to the story. Surrender has its gonzo moments with group sex featuring Kayden Kross and Ava Rose that is acrobatic at times. Truth has definite feminist overtones. Bobbi is a feminist gonzo girl and her threesome with James Deen and Asa Askira is terrific. Submission is Carmen’s baby. Now retired, her performance in the film is superlative. Bree Olson in Surrender matches Carmen’s beauty and enthusiasm. There are others who deserve comment, newcomer Jessie Andrews comes to mind in Truth. It’s often said that porn can’t survive without the girls, but Greene’s series is a reminder that super male vets like Tommy Gunn, and Evan Stone in the first two films, and James Deen and Michael Vegas in the third, are also important to sustain the action.

On a final note, true BDSM submissives are not that frequent in adult film. One who deserves mention is a favorite of mine, the sensuous Justine Joli. Her scene with Carmen in the first movie and her performance art with the always innovative Claire Adams in the third is a must see. If there is a single female performer whose BDSM submission can steal a scene, it is Justine.

 

*     *     *     *     *

There is so much more in Greene’s trilogy than there is space here. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, watching is recommended. Three decades ago skirting the feds was on every pornographer’s list so combining sex and bondage was a restriction the industry imposed on itself. It took some time for the industry to get more adventurous. But that’s the past and for BDSM lovers your time is now. Check out Greene’s trilogy and do the pictures in the order they were filmed, otherwise, the meaning and message gets confused.

I’m certain Ernest Greene is setting us up for another O film and I, for one, am ready to see it. Should Peter Acworth decide to make his film, I suggest he take a peek at Greene’s work before he ventures too far into his project. By the way, if Greene is open to suggestions for another film, consider pairing Nina and Bobbi as mentors for a new “Academy of O” where willing submissives are trained in BDSM as a sexual delight and a performance art. What possibilities would exist in that hideaway?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Re-Visioned Pornography: A Woman’s “Right to Be Horny”

by Rich Moreland, September, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her introduction to Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, Pamela Paul writes that pornography is “seamlessly integrated into popular culture,” creating an “all-pornography, all-the-time mentally” that is literally “everywhere.” Sweeping generalizations rarely take into account personal tastes, cultural and political variances, or in this case, alternative views on sexuality. There is little doubt that sex is commodified; in fact, it is ubiquitous in advertising and popular culture. But continued presence does not translate into unrelenting offensiveness. In fact, sexuality can be enlightening, educational, and a tool for women’s equality, especially when reconfigured to celebrate a female “gaze.” Feminist pornography is doing just that and Anne G. Sabo’s newest study is a welcome addition to the debate

In After Pornified: How Women are Transforming Pornography and Why It Really Matters, Sabo amplifies feminist scholar Linda Williams’ concept of re-vision and explores a reconfigured porn for women. Sabo’s book is a montage of female filmmakers with samplings of their work embedded in summary reviews. Following the trail of American film visionary Candida Royalle, these new century women are not merely playing on the edges of a man’s world. They have a message for society’s “neo-Victorianism,” a cultural condition the late feminist Ellen Willis insists circumscribes female sexual expression. A reworked feminist pornography is symbolic liberation for all women.

Re-vision does not mean revision, Sabo explains. It is not a cleaning up process, but a radical rewrite. For clarification, she quotes German-born director Petra Joy who asserts that “erotic and pornographic images” are not exclusive to men. “Why should women not create and enjoy films that express their sexual desires . . . ?” Why not, indeed? Joy wants women to target men as “objects of desire” who focus their sexual expression on pleasuring their female lovers. Joy believes feminist adult film captures authentic sex in a way that creates a different entity, “transformed porn,” an alternative to the established male product that carries a female objectifying label.

A Swede now living in Spain, Erika Lust is part of this new breed of filmmaker. “I see porn as a tool for excitement, education, and pleasure,” she says, and a very powerful one at that. I agree and share Sabo’s delight for Lust’s short film, “The Good Girl” which takes one of the oldest stag film formulas, the delivery boy, and turns it around. When the pizza is delivered and the sex ensues (not without some doubt at first) the female protagonist captures the standard male “gaze” and alters the outcome. By seizing the action to get what she wants, our heroine moves from object to subject, possessing her own “gaze.” The story can stand by itself, but Lust has more in mind. She artistically infuses her film work with an urban MTV flavor that is a tasteful delight of energy and sex, in this case swirling around a pizza box!

The opening chapter on Candida Royalle is a must read for any novice to feminist pornography/erotica. If nothing else, Sabo’s review of Royalle’s professional standards from safer sex to “content and style” is an educational primer. Royalle is unique. As a filmmaker she weathered the political storms of feminism’s second wave “sex wars” when anti-porn feminists excoriated adult film. Her political efforts fighting censorship in Feminists for Free Expression and her classic film on oppression, Revelations, preserve for the New Yorker a seat among the liberal icons of our age.

Modern sex-positive feminists package adult film into a fast-paced, music dominated product. The short vignette is their cinematic bread and butter. Of particular interest is the “cell phone art porn” of another Swede, Mia Engberg. Her question, posed in the Dirty Diaries collection, is central to feminist pornography: how do women “liberate” their “sexual fantasies” to escape the commercialization of porn that Paul sees around us everyday? Offering takes on that question, Sabo deconstructs film narratives, casting a light on the message of all the filmmakers she presents. This process is particularly informative in the Dirty Diaries series. Incidentally, I commend Sabo’s emphasis on the Dirty Diaries manifesto, an enumeration of the elements composing the mission of feminist porn. Here are a few that stand out. “[B]eauty ideals” are of no consequence in feminist porn, it is a sexual collage of any body and every body. The genre confronts “narrow gender categories,” encouraging “gender plurality.” And, best of all, the practice of safer sex is foremost because feminist porn supports a woman’s “right to be horny.”

Sabo raises a contentious question that is still a work in progress among feminists. The chapter on Puzzy Power films hints at this conundrum. The Puzzy Power credo prohibits scenes “where women are subjected to violence or coercion,” though “rape or assault” passes muster if the woman is “living out her fantasy” with someone she can trust to accommodate her desires. Sabo references second wave feminist Robin Morgan whose fantasies of sexual stimulation via domination presented difficulties for her though she apparently got off on her mental images. Likewise, Sabo mentions third wave journalist Martine Aurdal who frequently “caught herself in a role-play right before orgasm” that centered on “power relations.” This was vexing for Aurdal because it represented “gender roles” locked in a Paleolithic mentality. But one suspects she liked it. The question then becomes: Can women enjoy role-play if it means they are submissive and dominated? Take a look at Erika Lust’s two short films, “Handcuffs” and “Love Me Like You Hate Me” to get a spin on this question. Later when reviewing the work of feminist directors Anna Span and Tristan Taormino, Sabo brings up a another issue that is also divisive among feminists: gonzo porn, a method of filming often condemned for degrading women. Sabo lets us know that both Span and Taormino shoot in a gonzo style: the camera and director participate in the action. Character portrayal is abandoned and performers play themselves for the pleasure of the sex alone.

Can women like rough BDSM oriented sex if it suits their fantasy and they are equal participants in it? Can they actively support close-ups of piston shots, oral sex, and external ejaculations that might be deposited on the eyes rather than the belly? Tricky issues for a female cinematographer because gonzo has a male reputation dating to the early work of Evil Angel’s John Stagliano’s Buttman series. Sabo’s suggests that gonzo female-style is more about legitimating the voyeur in all of us; and those who are watched are there by “mutual agreement.” Fair enough. I’ve always believed women can have sex for its pure raw fun. Now that feminist porn is inching closer to the longstanding male gaze, gonzo represents a long awaited evolution for women. Like Sabo, I believe that it works if it is framed from a female POV, represents the director’s artistic vision, and is a legitimate turn on for both performer and viewer.

My interviews with feminist director Bobbi Starr (who as a performer is noted for her BDSM, rough edged gangbangs, and anal shoots) reveal that gonzo is her filming taste. Starr is open about how she does things her way and being male-identified, should that criticism be raised, is not a concern. Queer feminist performers Dylan Ryan and Madison Young (who sits in director’s chair on occasion) also relish the submissive role and are no strangers to anal scenes and facials. So, what does this tell us today about feminist re-visioned porn? Are women directors succumbing to an ensconced filming that appeals to a male fan base? Or have women, mainly through their indie companies, seized ownership of the very thing that anti-porn feminists insist is their source of oppression? Sabo introduces this question and for that alone, After Pornified is worth a read.

The organization of the chapters merits comment. Sabo reviews various movies to give the reader a feel for her thesis. I am a social scientist/historian, not a film studies scholar, so I appreciate her in-depth look at the narrative and stylistic format of film. Sabo sets off her movie analysis in gray print to distinguish it from the rest of the text. I found this to be an effective tool that enabled me to get a complete picture of her message. It is a boon for any reader who, like yours truly, is largely unfamiliar with the intricacies of film study techniques.

Sex-positive feminist porn filmmakers are making a difference in how a “pornified” society looks at modern adult film. Anti-porn acolytes in the manner of Pamela Paul will continue to fire salvos at pornography as intrusive on society and debasing to women. Give them their due and move on. Take porn, re-vision it, and in the process pay close attention to Anne G. Sabo’s newest book.

 

 

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