Tag Archives: Ela Darling

AEE 2019: Ela Darling

by Rich Moreland, March 2019

Ela Darling is the final installment of our series on the Star Factory clients we interviewed at the 2019 Adult Entertainment Expo.

Formerly educated and politically active, Ela is not typical of adult stars.

Photos are credited to Kevin Sayers.

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Ela Darling and I go back a few years. It’s a delight to interview her again.

We begin our discussion with VR. Apropos, I might add, because this statuesque model is an able promoter of VR in the adult business.

She is the chief marketing officer for PVR Fun, an adult headset company.

“It’s incredibly good, very lightweight, really good tech,” Ela says of the product. “I would say it even outperforms some of the more mainstream standalone headsets.”

This University of Texas grad has been involved with VR for five years. “As you know, I created the first ever live broadcasting platform in virtual reality and I’m the world’s first VR cam girl,” she says.

Personally, Ela is branching out in the VR world. She’s learning code and building robots for her new company, Gonzo VR (nothing to do with porn, by the way), that she named after her dog.

“VR is basically my life. I’m held hostage to my house by VR robots and I escape the world through my PVR Iris,” she says with amusement.

A Librarian First

Ela Darling received her masters in library science from the University of Illinois, the gold standard for that profession.

“I was a librarian before I made the obvious transition to pornography,” she says matter-of-factly.

If that isn’t an interesting combination of talents, try this: Ela is political and acts on her beliefs. She took her  APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee) resume — she was on the board of directors and served a term as president — and reached into California politics.

The Texas native ran for the position of Democratic Assembly District Delegate in her home area.

“I was second runner up, which for someone who does porn, I think is pretty cool,” she says. “It was great running with some awesome progressives and getting to know some of the people in my community without [being] laughed right out of the house.”

Chalk one up for porn star activism.

Knowing how outspoken Ela is on political issues, I ask her to reflect on the #MeToo movement and the adult industry.

She begins,

“Adult film performers are feeling more emboldened to speak up about their experiences on set with people who are abusive and act in ways that are unacceptable.”

That is no mean feat, she implies.

“We still see people who come out and share their experiences being ignored. Some of that has to do with the fact that they are adult film performers. We’re a very marginalized group and people still have this idea that if we fuck on camera, what were you expecting?

“But there are boundaries in any sexual experience and establishing and respecting those boundaries is paramount, especially in a professional workplace.”

Ela continues. The public doesn’t understand that if a porn model claims she been abused on set, it isn’t easy to go to the police.

“The first thing they do is question your personal decisions. They start to look for any reason not to believe you and that goes twice as much if you’re a sex worker.”

Not only that, but pressure to stay silent comes from within the industry.

“We have this fear that if we speak up, we’re gonna be blacklisted. No one’s going to hire us again.”

Despite the barriers present, Ela is encouraged.

“People are sharing their experiences more, [but] I don’t know that they’re being granted the credence they deserve. It’s a very complicated discussion to have.”

From her end, Ela is there for victims who come forward. “I support anyone who is experiencing something like that and I will always be here to hear them and listen.”

Tolerance

We change the subject to camming. Does she?

Sort of, Ela says, but it is more like “live broadcasts” that are not always involved with adult entertainment. What’s more, she’s busy with it throughout the day.

“I’ve got a twenty-four-hour livestream from my living room. I’m talking to people who are driving around in my little VR car.”

Does she think the cam girl is becoming the new porn girl?

“It’s really insightful to say that cam girls are the new amateur porn because that’s basically what it is,” she says. Live broadcasting is their trademark, but only a portion of their business.

“Most of them also make clips. That is amateur porn. And, with the diminishing taboo with camming, we’re seeing a lot more people enter that space than we ever have seen before.”

To put things in perspective, Ela offers a short back story.

“Maybe fifteen years ago, most of the cam performers primarily were porn performers. Because if you’re already in porn, it’s not that big of a jump.”

On the other hand, it was challenging if sex work was not your thing back then.

Today is different. The public sees camming as “a light, exotic thing to do and more people are doing it all over the country. That’s awesome because that drives acceptance and tolerance,” she says.

Ela sees an increased fairness in the industry today because cammers and porn models are more alike than different.

“Both porn and cam performers have a lot more control and ownership over their careers and their brands and for what they do. So, they’re becoming a lot more similar than people imagine it to be,” she concludes.

Only One Part of the Picture

However, we can’t lose sight of market forces when it comes to porn models turning to camming, though one influence is not necessarily more  important than the others. It’s cumulative.

“I wouldn’t say that the growth of camming is driving porn performers to cam,” Ela contends. There are other factors, she believes, like “decreasing sales in porn, fewer work opportunities, rates either stagnating or decreasing.”

Of course, she adds, other money-making opportunities like “producing clips” and “feature dancing” are part of the total picture.

“The porn star of today is not just someone who goes to set, fucks, collects a check and goes home — the way that it was in the golden days. The porn star today does pretty much a little bit of everything. They go to set and shoot, they also shoot their own stuff. They cam because it makes sense. It does increase your brand, your reach [and] your fan base. It drives more people to buy your clips and your scenes and whatever wears you might be selling.

“I would say that camming has become one part of the very diverse job that is being an adult film performer.”

Legs Everywhere

We next talk about the modern porn girl. Some circumstances are updated, others not so much.

“These days, you have the ability to work a lot more. Your work and your financial opportunities aren’t at the whim of someone hiring you. You have more control so you can decide ‘I’m not shooting for a studio today, I’m gonna use this time to create something that I can make money off of forever.’”

On the other hand, “When you’re a sex worker, the rest of the world always sees you as a sex worker. You always have the same weight of discrimination and marginalization,” Ela says.

I bring up the three-legged stool analogy and Ela suggests the modern performer is like a centipede with legs everywhere.

Beyond shooting scenes, feature dancing, and escorting, all choices available to any porn girl, Ela asserts, they have other responsibilities.

“They do porn, they do clips, they do camming, they do production for their friends, they do production for themselves, they do editing, they do every aspect of the business, every job that there is.

“They learn to do it themselves so that they can create their own content and own it and maximize their profits off of it.”

Often performers do all of this without agents, perhaps the most telling change in the profession today.

Of course, stigmas remain, she insists, and brings up escorting as the longstanding example. But a girl in the business today builds her own choices, especially in producing their own content. They “own it and maximize their profits off of it.”

So, the cammer is the new porn girl?

“The new cam girl and porn girl are growing to be one and the same,” Ela Darling concludes.

And don’t forget, she’s an entrepreneur.

That’s the new porn industry that is growing around us everyday.

 

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Prop 60, Part Two: Unity

by Rich Moreland, February 2017

In doing this two part series on Prop 60, a special thanks is extended to Star Factory PR for arranging interviews with Cindy Starfall, Derrick Pierce, Briana Banks, and Ela Darling.

Photos included in this post are courtesy of AVN and @IndustryByRick.

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Roaring Chorus

Was Prop 60 a game changer for the industry and APAC?

57c610b493674-cindystarfall-onbedfacingout-1600Performer Cindy Starfall thinks so. “The industry definitely united. We did the whole campaign . . . we came together.”

She affirms that adult performers are “not a health risk” to society and agrees with others in the industry that the whole legal exercise was pointless. By the way, Cindy does not personally mind using condoms so she could have adjusted to the law had it passed.

Casey Calvert believes Prop 60’s defeat was pivotal.

“One hundred percent,” she declares, “Huge, massive industry wide, business wide, game changer.”58998d41c76c8-imgl6451

“It’s something everybody’s still talking about months later. Our history [has been] we all fight within each other. We’re all respectful but we don’t actually have anybody’s back.”

Best of all, the battle has resulted in a degree of unification not seen before.

Should an issue like Prop 60 pop up another time, Casey is “confident that the same people that stepped up for Prop 60 would step up [again].”

Ela Darling agrees.

“There is strength in unity, there is strength in community, especially when you are a marginalized community, in some cases marginalized on a variety of aspects whether we are sex workers or women or people of color or queer people. All of those things just stack up and nobody is going to have our backs if we don’t have our backs.

“It’s very easy to dismiss a few voices, but it’s much harder to dismiss a roaring chorus of people aligning together especially when you establish the value of that population. We are just not just weird sex people. We are the laborers. We are taxpayers. We’re so much more than people would like to describe us. When we all stand together, that becomes apparent.”

Caution

John Stagliano is cautiously optimistic, perhaps because of his battles in the past with government overreach into porn. In his view, cultural influences have altered attitudes and how people communicate.

“I think the game changer was the fact that the people have changed and the internet has changed people and we were able to effectively reach them. Eric Paul Leue arguably did a great job [and] the results are stunning with regard to the fact that we won. They seemed to have turned the tide.”

With his stark realism, Derrick Pierce is not so sure because of porn’s place in our culture.

“I wouldn’t say a game changer, maybe a shift in tides. We’ll all be long gone in the business before APAC has a game changer moment because I think mainstream would have to take this business seriously [first].”

As for APAC, Derrick is straight forward.58998d60a3303-imgl6569 As a support group it works, but a union, if that is its intent, requires the commitment of time and money.

“To be one hundred percent honest, there is never going to be a union in porn. It’s great in theory but seventy percent of the business is female” and most girls, the under twenty-one crowd, are just passing through, he says.

“Why [would]  they spend any money on this because all they’re looking for is to buy a car, pay for some school–the good ones—buy a purse, buy some shoes, or move out. Whatever their short term goal is for that.”

The attitude is simple, Derrick has seen it all along. This is a stopover and most girls think, “I’m just going to knock out a couple of scenes, blow a couple of dudes, and I’m outta here,” he says.

Refreshing and Empowering

On the other hand, Derrick believes the story is different for the other thirty percent.

“The jessica drakes and the Asa Akiras and the Phoenix Maries, all those girls who have made a career out of this. Yes, they would be the ones who would benefit the most and also a lot of the guys that stick around.”

Derricks words bring to mind an argument I’ve heard before from adult legend Nina Hartley . . . organizing porn talent is like herding cats. But, could times be changing?

58998d2190b02-imgl6284At any rate, the industry can revel in its victory today and hope for a profitable future.

We give Ela Darling the final word by repeating and reinforcing what she said earlier.

“I’ve never seen the industry aligned so strongly on anything like they did on Prop 60. It was refreshing, it was empowering and amazing.”

Perhaps we have a new political force in the making.

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In response to a comment that is reproduced below, I’m not certain what in this story is misleading. There is, of course, a union in adult entertainment that is duly registered, as this comment states.

“Your story is missleading and contains false untrue statements. There is a Union for the adult industry The International Entertainment Adult Union The IEAU. We are registered and certified as the “Union” for the adult entertainment industry by the Dept. Of Labor since Dec. 15th 2015 Union Number 000-404. Please either correct your story or we will send your site a C & D order. If you would like information pertaining to the Union, please fill free to contact us. Thank you”

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Prop 60, Part One: No More Debate

by Rich Moreland, February 2017

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Everyone knows by now that California voters rejected Proposition 60 last November. So, no condoms in adult film going forward!

But questions linger. How important was Prop 60’s defeat and what does it say about political activism in porn?

At the AVN trade show I decided to ask around.

Answers varied, as did opinions, and a sampling appears here.

First, however, performer Casey Calvert provides some background on the issue that has roiled the adult industry.

Measure B to Prop 60

The ruckus over Prop 60 began a few years ago in 2012 just when she entered the business, Casey remembers. The political dustup then was Measure B that required condoms for filmed sex in LA County.

img_0515-2“My first porn shoot was in November 5, 2012. Measure B passed in LA County on Nov 6, 2012, and I watched it on TV and thought, ‘What the fuck did I just get myself into?'”

Little changed, actually. The law was never really enforced, Casey points out.

“They don’t have the money to make sure porn stars are wearing condoms. LA as a political entity and a public service entity is stretched so thin,” the native Floridian explains and adds that the law is still around but is “unenforceable as written.”

Undeterred, the Aids Health Foundation’s  Michael Weinstein, who was behind the initiative, turned his attention statewide. Next came AB 1576 that did what Measure B advocated, Casey continues, and it, too, failed in the state legislature mainly because of cost.

Finally, Weinstein went the ballot route in the election and collected enough signatures to bring his proposal before the voters.

However, it expired at the ballot box because it was flawed.

“The issue with Prop 60 was less about condoms and more about enforcement and how every private citizen in California could sue a porn production company if they watched a movie shot in the state without a condom,” Casey says.

2017-01-18-07-18-13-3Evil Angel owner John Stagliano agrees.

“Prop 60 was a horribly written law,” he says, pointing out that it established Michael Weinstein as “the porn czar” with the power to “prosecute cases and collect his expenses from the state.”

Despite the proposition’s shortcomings, effort and planning was required to ensure its demise.

Political Unity

Unwilling to take chances, the industry fought the initiative. Ela Darling, the current President of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) comments, “APAC and the FSC (Free Speech Coalition) and a large number of performers did everything they could to defeat Prop 60 and we won, we got it!”

Casey Calvert reminds us that this was “the first time that porn stars actually rallied for a cause and we owe a lot of that to the Free Speech Coalition.” She talks about industry people using twitter and doing interviews to get the story out.

“I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post which I heard was very impactful . . . I also spoke on the radio,” Casey adds.

Ela and Casey give performers Julia Ann and SiouxsieQ and Free Speech Coalition’s Eric Leue much credit for organizing and leading the charge.

John Stagliano steps up to put Chanel Preston on the worthy list. “Chanel did some great interviews . . . She was very effective and active [in defeating Prop 60].”

And, everyone thanks California’s Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian Parties and the LGBT organizations for speaking out against Prop 60, a rare instance of political unity.

Activism

Ela talks about the lobbying in Sacramento.

2017-01-18-09-23-25-2“We spoke to legislators, we spoke to Senators . . . anybody who would give us time. Quite a few did. I got to be the voice of the industry to speak to the caucuses and the Democratic convention in Long Beach. It’s been a really big grassroots effort,” she says. Porn people even “led a protest through Hollywood.”

“I’ve never seen the industry aligned so strongly on anything like they did on Prop 60. It was refreshing, it was empowering, and amazing.”

Performer Derrick Pierce presents an unvarnished view of the campaign.

The FSC built a winning coalition of ” both talent and producers and production teams.” People “who are typically fragmented in nature” were on the same political page, Derrick remarks, because “even though we are socially amongst each other we don’t really function in that capacity.”

He characterizes the industry’s victory as a “David versus Goliath” fight.

In doing his part, Derrick went on Facebook to check postings from major media outlets where he found lots of comments.

“I literally went through every negative or misinformed comment and rebutted it. And who knows, maybe it reached five people, but that’s what was needed from every person who had a vested interest in this.”

But he had his doubts. “I’m glad that it was defeated though I was thinking that we were going to get screwed.”

Derrick interprets the victory as more than just a defeat for  poorly written law and its sponsor AHF.

“It wasn’t so much that prop 60 and us moving to Vegas or another place was necessarily the problem, it’s that it set precedent. That’s huge because, there’s no more debate.”

In other words, should similar issues arise with CAL/OSHA and safety regulations,”Now you just have to implement what’s already been said.”

Know the Process

Next Derrick sticks a dagger in the heart of deceit.

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“I would love to see what Weinstein’s real issue is. I know what he’s written and some of the things he’s said and I know who his donors and backers are.”

Moreover, the top male performer understands what spurs politicians and reformers.

“Anything to do with the adult business is a wonderful soapbox. You stand on it and preach to the people this is immoral, we have to protect these people [porn performers] that don’t know any better.”

He also calls out talent to educate themselves.

“Half the people don’t know what our testing process is. You should know because if you’re going to argue the point then you should know what the hell it is we’re doing. [Most performers] don’t know how many tests are done on us every two weeks . . .and they should.

“Know the process and how it works so  you don’t sound like a bumbling idiot when you talk about it.”

Derrick asserts that just screaming performer rights  “doesn’t mean anything” when it comes to debating health issues.

A Reminder of Reality

Finally, Briana Banks brings up a point that may have swayed some voters. She’s happy, of course, with the outcome but there is bit of reality that may have been missed when assessing the defeat of condoms.

Briana shot for the condom-only Vivid for eight years and her movies sold well, she says. But when she put up a recent condom clip she did for her website, her fans panned the scene.

2017-01-19-04-27-29-2“My fans were disgusted. They really were. We’ve put it out there so much of not using condoms that now if you use a condom, people watching porn can’t get past it.”

But there is something else at work here, Briana thinks.

The condom is a shock because of the reality it represents.

“Seeing a condom makes them think of STDs and HIV that they don’t think of when watching a porn movie.”

Condoms remind fans of the risks they take in their own lives, Briana believes. “To watch a porn star use a condom makes them think about the reality of life in general.”

Interesting. Maybe it’s something everybody missed in this battle. Porn is just fantasy and Prop 60 was about to take that away.

For the industry, however, there could be a darker underlying message hidden within this victory. Does it suggest that some fans may unconsciously regard porn performers as expendable?

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Next we’ll look at how the defeat of Prop 60 is seen as a game changer for the industry, if indeed it is.

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The 2017 AEE Extravaganza: Part One

by Rich Moreland, February 2017

I just returned from my annual trip to Las Vegas for the adult industry trade show. As usual my photographer and I teamed with Steve Nelson, the editor of Adult Industry News, to cover as much as possible in our brief four days.

This post is the first of two parts and represents only a portion of what we recorded.

A note on the hyperlinks. If a company’s online home page displays hardcore photos, I did not include the hyperlink here as it may not be suitable for all readers.

Photos provided by AVN are credited where appropriate.

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58791f73e034c-avnshow

Trade shows are for networking, marketing new products, attending seminars, and in the case of the annual Adult Entertainment Extravaganza, oops, I mean Expo, canvassing porn talent.

This year’s show was one the best I’ve attended. Here are few highlights.

On the production side of the business, I had another opportunity to interview the always busy John Stagliano of Evil Angel. He gave me some thoughts on the incoming administration in Washington DC (my part of the country, by the way). Later in the week, John participated in a seminar on the same topic.

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As the week was winding down, I renewed acquaintances with Moose of Girlfriends Films. Though they no longer have a booth in the show, Girlfriends has upped its game on the distribution side of the business and Moose is in Vegas to refresh his industry contacts.

I’m always interested in emerging companies poised to make a splash with a new idea. One relatively recent player is Royal Empire Productions. I interviewed the owner, Robert Morgan, to get his take on what he calls “realistic porn.”

Upbeat

Negotiating The Joint and the Artist and Muse Halls on opening day was easy, the crowd was a little sparser than I anticipated. By week’s end the fan traffic picked up considerably and the show was bustling with an upbeat tempo.

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The refreshing part of the AEE experience is running into people unexpectedly. Here are a few examples of my week.

A text exchange led to breakfast with seasoned pro, Natasha Nice. We discussed the possibility of her writing a post or two for this blog.

Photo courtesy of AVN

Photo courtesy of AVN

The super fabulous Chanel Preston gave me a few impromptu moments as did the BBW April Flores when I found her chatting with friends near the AVN booth in Artist Hall.

A couple of times I stopped by Bang.com to pass time with the two legends of porn, Casey Calvert and Maddy O’Reilly.

Love these powerhouse girls.

Maddy and Casey Photo courtesy of AVN

Maddy and Casey
Photo courtesy of AVN

And, by the way, I visited with Chris Cane of Foxxx Modeling where I met a new girl who is bound to become a star, Emma Hix. My interview with this sweetie follows in another post.

Oh yes, timing sometimes fails me. I attempted to persuade a hurried Riley Reid to pause for a “hello” but I might as well have tried to hail a bullet train!

New Face of Porn

A new girl is solidifying her place in porn: the webcam honey. This year’s AEE rolled out the welcome mat for these dynamos who float between real hardcore and solo performances via computer, all in direct connection with their fans. MyFreeCams and Chaturbate seduced show goers with face-to-face fun.

Emma Chase Photo courtesy of AVN

Emma Chase
Photo courtesy of AVN

I met Emma Chase, a Chaturbate girl who stopped me for a moment to demonstrate with her computer how our conversation was soaring through cyberspace. Emma lists her talents as simply “entertainer.”  She’s a delight and if Chaturbate is your thing, go to Google and search her out.

Likewise a goth looker named Eliza Bathory, who markets herself as a model, camgirl, and artist, was at her laptop among the horde of Chaturbate girls. Since I’m fascinated by facial piercing (Eliza has a bunch) I promised to return later to get an interview. Unfortunately, she disappeared into the nether regions of the show. Very Dracula-like.

2017-01-18-09-59-36For the oglers, the Chaturbate crowd had the distinction of being the least dressed. Lots of flesh with pasties all around.

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VR

From the marketing side, let’s not forget VR. The Cam4VR booth offered a rousing example of what the whole virtual reality thing is all about; it’s the wave of the future.

Photo courtesy of AVN

Photo courtesy of AVN

I interviewed Ela Darling and among her many talents is a love of VR.

ela4“I am the ‘Queen of VR Porn,'” Ela says, “and the leading voice in the VR industry for the adult industry. I speak at conferences all over the world. People in that space really make room for me. They respect the work that I do, they respect us as an industry and understand that we are an important for the future of VR.”

Direct engagement with the fan is where porn is going in this age of social media, Ela explains.

“We just launched Cam4VR this past year. I’m the world’s first VR camgirl. We’re getting ready to introduce a new camera that’s really cool and a voice-to-voice experience and a private chat network. When you put on that headset, you speak. The performer hears and gets right back [to you].”

Rearrangement

From year to year, the AEE rearranges its spaces to maximize the fan experience. The most obvious this year involved the setup for BDSM enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of AVN

Photo courtesy of AVN

The bondage carnival known as The Lair relocated from the second level of The Joint to the floor of Artist Hall, a move I’m sure to increase its visibility and fan traffic.

BDSM equipment and a demonstration or two (All models were fully dressed, there was more flesh on a Chaturbate girl!) highlighted its activities.

Lastly, every year I come away with the same thought on the show. Artist and Muse Halls are easier to negotiate than the tight spaces of The Joint. Being a bit claustrophobic, I do appreciate the efforts of AVN to keep movement as smooth as possible!

Stay tuned for part two of this report.

Easy entrance into the show Photo courtesy of AVN

An easy and convenient entrance into the show
Photo courtesy of AVN

 

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The Meaning of Consent: Ela Darling

by Rich Moreland, February 2016

I have interviewed Ela Darling previously and can attest that this twenty-nine year old, who holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois, is insightful and well-spoken. Like several other women in the industry, she identifies as a feminist.

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Photo courtesy of AdultDVDTalk

Photo courtesy of AdultDVDTalk

An articulate porn veteran who entered the business in 2009, Ela Darling is known for her girl/girl and bondage shoots. Recently she added boy/girl and the “pleasure of working with excellent men,” she says.

However, Ela has a couple of tales from the dark side where consent was conveniently abandoned.

More Experience with Women

“There was one person who pushed some boundaries with me [and] that was largely due to his unprofessionalism. He was drinking on set,” Ela recalls.

His behavior was “atrocious” and his rude behavior did not stop there. He slapped her off camera.

“That’s the worst I had with a dude,” she says. “I’ve actually had more experience with women crossing my personal boundaries.”

The university graduate remembers “a very prominent performer” with whom she worked a standard girl/girl shoot.

“I told her, ‘Do whatever you want, just don’t slap this side of my face.’ I had a bad tooth. It was very painful and I had a dentist appointment the next day. First thing she does when the camera starts is slap me exactly where I told her not to.”

Ela remembers another shoot involving a personal friend who is also a director. She has a bit of a reputation for ignoring boundaries.

In the three-way scene, “basic hygiene” was shoved aside. Fingers moved from Ela’s backdoor into her vagina, much to her disgust.

There’s is an infection risk with that type of behavior, she remarks, pointing out that she is careful to voice those limits before filming. “Just respect my personal safety.”

This time she was ignored.

After the shoot, Ela’s friend was driving her home and the conversation turned to business.

“We were talking about tough times working with some people in the industry,” Ela says.

Her friend referenced new girls and their “stupid boundaries” which included butt to vagina objections. “Whenever they say that, I just do it anyway,” the director commented.

Ela was astonished. “This is someone who was my friend.”

Having recounted these episodes, Ela Darling is quick to reassure me that consent issues are not widespread within the business. In fact, she can “count on one hand all the people I’ve had problems with.”

Ela and all girl model Pepper Kester Photo courtesy of Ela Darling

Ela and all-girl model Pepper Kester
Photo courtesy of Ela Darling

A Tricky Subject

How does this feminist performer view consent?

“It is a very tricky subject,” Ela says, because consent in porn is different from what everyday people talk about in their sex lives.  For example,  she says, imagine a woman going to an apartment to have sex with someone she didn’t really know or even like, for that matter, carrying a list of all the things she had to do while she was there.

“To a normal civilian that sounds like a really fucked up experience. But that’s the job you’re getting paid for. That’s what we’re signing up for.”

Paperwork finished, Ela ready to shoot a BDSM scene for HardTied Photo courtesy of Ela Darling

Paperwork finished, Ela is ready to shoot a BDSM scene for HardTied
Photo courtesy of Ela Darling

In other words, the “nuances of consent in porn” involve “a lot of grey areas,” Ela concludes.

Because things get overlooked on set, “it is imperative that we outline the things that are actually acceptable and those that are not,” she explains. “Have very detailed conversations before each scene and emphasize those things that are horrible.” Take the attitude that  “if you do this, it’ll ruin my whole month.”

Ela points out that shoots involve having two IDs, filling out 2257 forms (safeguards against child porn) and model releases, checking health tests, and taking “pretty girls” (stills used in marketing). Among all of that, performers must remember to come armed with their limits, which include “your hell yes’s and your hell no’s” and be prepared to talk everything out.

How should situations that violate limits be handled?

Go to the director, the fetish model urges, whoever is in charge, and if no one listens there is another avenue a model can take, talk with APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee).

“I’m on the board of APAC and I hope that people [feel they] can come to us.”

Someone is Going to Listen

APAC is exploring initiatives to improve the workplace. One is a mentorship program that matches veteran performers with newcomers.

“Give new people someone to talk to so they know there’s someone that’s going listen to them,” the native Texan says. APAC believes veterans and newbies alike will benefit.

Another APAC idea is the “the stamp of approval” given out to studios. The hope is that agents, producers, and others will become a part of it.

Because the industry “caters to teenage girls barely hitting eighteen,” Ela declares, “every agent is ethically responsible for new performers.” They are adults, yes, but “lack a lot of life experiences.” These fresh faces don’t understand the business culture nor how to “voice their concerns with a boss.”

Then there is the supply and demand issue, a problem for everyone since studios are shooting less these days.

“When they come in they are told there’s a lot of performers and there’s not a lot of work so you better be really good or no one’s going to want to book you. You’re expected to do everything possible to keep getting booked.”

That is a set up for ignoring boundaries.

Having said that, Ela believes performers should be aware that they can say ‘no’ anytime and leave anytime.

“Your body is your responsibility, but it is also your business. You have to put yourself first.”

Nevertheless, she emphasizes that “the ownership [of ethics] lies with the people who have been in this industry for years and years.” They have a responsibility to new performers.

Ela gives me a final shot on the day we talked.

Ela poses for the camera right after we talked

That Threshold

So in the end, are we saying that unsavory things happen in porn because that’s just the way it is?

“I honestly think we all do sometimes,” Ela begins. “It’s the nature of the work.”

But there is a threshold, she insists, that once crossed turns into real disrespect. Learning to handle that is imperative to survive and flourish in the business.

Every job has people and things a person doesn’t like, Ela concludes. “Every day on a porn set isn’t going to be the best day ever. It’s your job and you have to determine for yourself where that threshold of acceptability is. Stick to it and hold everyone else to it as well.”

Before we close, Ela Darling adds a final thought that references her feminism.

Often asked if she is empowered by her job, Ela believes porn is held to a “higher standard” in the workplace than other more mundane professions.  In other words, performing in adult movies has to be defended. “I guarantee you they don’t pose that same question to baristas, waitresses, or accountants.”

My personal thought is that people do not envision porn as a “normal” career because it exposes our greatest vulnerability, our sexuality presented as naked truth and recorded for all to see. As a result, there must be some reason, other than money, why performers engage in sex work and we are mystified by that reality.

 

 

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The Meaning of Consent: Beginning

by Rich Moreland, February 2016

In light of the widely reported James Deen/Stoya incident, I decided to investigate the issue of sexual consent in adult film with the understanding that their dustup was largely off camera. Performers with whom I talked agreed that the affair was personal and passing judgment on the couple was not something anyone wanted to do.

Stoya and James Photo courtesy of AVN

Stoya and James
Photo courtesy of AVN

However, everyone has an opinion on how to deal with consent. Here’s what became evident.

The Director

Directors are sensitive about issues on their sets and having performers know what to expect in a shoot is important to them. From the other side of the camera, there is a tacit understanding among talent that porn is a unique business and anyone who is paid for sex acts on film knows (or should know) what they have signed up for.

Performers indicated that directors let them find their own comfort level, though sometimes what they get excited about sexually may exceed what the company is good to go with. In those cases, directors rein in the action to conform to protocol. This is especially true when dealing with BDSM.

On the other hand, no one I interviewed indicated that directors blatantly looked the other way for the sake of getting a scene that will sell. Simply put, good directors adhere to performer limits.

No Means No

All performers, regardless of their time in the business, feel the need to discuss their limits with their co-stars.

Therefore . . .

No means no, period. Performers can’t stress this enough. Boundaries and limits can be pushed, quite often subtly, and veteran models will raise a red flag when situations get dicey.

The sticking point, however, is that boundaries are a matter of interpretation because limits differ from person to person. Nevertheless, performers are on board with the following:

When a model heads for home after a work day, any second thoughts she might have about what went on in front of the camera presents a problem that demands attention. This situation is deeply personal to performers because most have been there before which brings us to another commonality everyone shares.

Easy Targets

Newcomers need to be informed about what to anticipate before ever stripping down for the camera. In particular, girls who enter the business at the earliest possible age should be educated about establishing their boundaries and how to stop the action if they are violated.

This is important because neophytes don’t know what to expect. “Barely legal” girls just out of high school have never had a real job before, especially one in which big bucks are made quickly.  They want work as much as they can, in effect becoming easy targets for excesses.

Fortunately, some experienced performers step in to mentor fresh faces, reinforcing the linchpin of a successful porn career: taking personal responsibility for what happens on a set.

One more point. In the last few years porn talent has organized a self-help group, APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee). Part of its mission is to offer newcomers a road map into the business.

Final Thought

The Deen/Stoya situation has opened a discussion and the blog posts that follow are industry voices who were forthright, painting the consent picture with their own colorful palette. Their perspectives are as diverse as porn itself.

I thank everyone who talked with me and must say I was impressed with their honesty.

Enjoy the posts.

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I’ve tackled this subject in previous posts and encourage checking out the views of Natasha Nice, Ela Darling, and Mercy West. Just type in “consent” in the search box above and the articles will show up.

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Call “Red” Anytime: Ela Darling, Part Two

by Rich Moreland, February 2015

Ela continues our conversation. Photo courtesy of 3hattergringhouse.com

Ela continues our conversation.
Photo courtesy of 3hattergringhouse.com

Ela Darling is a responsible professional who has turned her fetishes into a career, so our jumping off point is the central question that teases all fetish performers: what makes a bondage shoot fun?

This ex-librarian and forever Harry Potter fan calls on her masochistic side when the camera rolls.

“I like rough sex. I like being spanked, I like the top of my hair pulled. I like being choked and slapped. [These things are] really arousing to me.”

Ela explains that rough sex acts as foreplay do not create orgasms by themselves. Rather, they make the orgasms “considerably stronger” when combined with hardcore penetration.

Smiling so Much

Ela loves Kink.com and respects how they handle the models they hire. She appreciates their checklist review because it illustrates the value they place in the people who shoot at the Armory. “You have to go through [it] every time you work for them to indicate what your are consenting to, what you’re okay with, and what you don’t want to happen. The director [and crew] both memorize your points on the list so they know exactly what you’re not okay with doing.”

“They’re super respectful. They make me feel so comfortable. They take care of me. I have so many friends who work there because they employ good people [who] try to do good things. I really like them.”

Running through a list of names at Kink, I bring up the now retired Bobbi Star, a well known pornography feminist. Ela shot her first porn scene with Bobbi when the San Jose State grad was still a performer. “She was the first girl I ever fucked on camera,” Ela remembers, though she never shot for Bobbi when she was directing for the company. Nevertheless, Ela describes Bobbi as “cool and smart.”

Ela at Kink.com. Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Ela at Kink.com.
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Incidentally, Ela did an Electrosluts shoot–Bobbi’s old site for Kink–when Lorelei Lee was directing. Also a feminist and long time Kink veteran, Lorelei owns a Master’s from NYU. “She’s incredible,” Ela remarks. “She is such an amazing woman. I have so much respect for her.”

To illustrate the importance of communication at Kink, Ela’s predominant memory of a Public Disgrace episode is being pulled aside by one of the female crew and quickly educated about what to do when stressed.

The crew person offered a valuable tip. “‘I know sometimes the girls get intimidated to use their safeword, so for Public Disgrace just call ‘red’ anytime, even if you have to go to the bathroom. If something is going on and you don’t feel comfortable saying, ‘Hey, this guy is creeping me out or this person is doing something I don’t like, just call ‘red’ and go to the bathroom, tell me what’s happening and I will take care of it so you don’t have to.'”

“That made me feel so incredibly safe and taken care of,” Ela recalls. “It made such a difference. It was a great shoot.”

Did she ever use her safeword during the show?

Ela's Public Disgrace shoot. Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Ela’s Public Disgrace shoot.
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

“I did,” Ela remarks, “a couple to times.” In one, she was not uncomfortable, she just needed a break to take care of a problem with her hair. On another occasion, food was the issue. Ela was “transitioning out of being a vegetarian” but still “very much” into it at the time. A cast member wanted to throw deli meat at her, but Ela was not okay with that and needed to halt the shooting to straighten things out.

“I called ‘red’ to ask people not to throw turkey on my vagina, which they we’re doing. They were very respectful” and adjusted the shoot.

Public Disgrace has a reputation of tipping toward the edge and chooses its models wisely for that reason. A beaming Ela describes her shoot as “so much fun [and] so extreme.” Her friends who watched it later were aghast. Ela was amused.

“There were times when I would have to turn my head away from the camera because I was smiling so much! It was so awesome!”

As often happens with girls who begin in BDSM porn as submissives, Ela is turning the tables a bit now.

A girl who can switch. Photo courtesy of Kink.com

A girl who can switch.
Photo courtesy of Kink.com

Owning Her Scene

“I switch sometimes. I top men mostly, which is really fun.” But Ela Darling underscores that bottoming for men is not high on her list.

“I like to top women sometimes. But I love subbing to women. I love seeing a strong and empowered woman just like owning everything.”

Well, Ela is owning her scene today. The final question has to do with the BDSM, in general. Is she a lifestyler?

“I really don’t consider myself a lifestyler because I don’t really participate in community events. It’s more of a private thing for me. But my interaction with the lifestyle community has been really great. [They are] a really intuitive bunch of people.”

If she ever changes her mind and goes more public, I’m betting Ela Darling would be welcomed with open arms.

*          *          *

Ela Darling is represented by Star Factory PR. They can be reached at 818-732-0191 or via email at Info@StarFactoryPR.com
StarFactoryPR.com

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