Tag Archives: Marilyn Chambers

Eros: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2018

Now that we’ve introduced student filmmaker Davyana San Miguel, let’s have a conversation about what makes Eros a striking accomplishment.

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To begin, Davyana describes the film as “an audio-visual experience that explores themes of pornography and feminism through experimental filmic techniques.”

Without doubt, it accomplishes that.

After viewing the film, I wanted to share my thoughts with Davyana. One of them concerned how she chose to represent herself on-screen. As the film opens, the viewer’s first impression is Davyana with her back exposed to the camera by a very low-cut dress. To push an avant-garde button, she has buzzed her hair.

Was that intentional? Here’s what I found out.

Davyana shaved her head during a trip to London. Her hair was always long and a close trim was something she wanted to do, but her friends weren’t exactly supportive.

“According to their opinions, I wouldn’t be beautiful or feminine anymore if I shaved my hair,” she recalls.

Moving forward nevertheless, Davyana discovered an opportunity to put her new look on-screen in an interesting way.

“I decided to insert myself in the film to join the conversation and redefine the notions that a woman is defined by her adherence to traditional gender roles.”

What about baring her back?

“My outfit choice and camera angle are intentional but shouldn’t be over thought.” She comments. “There is no deeper meaning. I simply enjoyed the aesthetics of the shot.”

Unfortunately, I stand guilty of over thinking. Let me give you an example. 

In a film review I did a couple of years ago, I interpreted a painting as cleverly defining connections within the plot and its characters. Later, the director thanked me for the observation, but the painting was incidental in the scene and lent no special meaning to the film, he said.

Well, this time around I argue that Davyana gave her film “deeper meaning” by putting her image in it and I agree with Dr. Augsburg who claims, “I think she also underscores the importance of feminist art since the 1960s–or what I call feminist ars erotica— by depicting herself working with paint in the film. She seemed literally to turn her back on the male gaze as well.”

The good professor is spot on.

Simply a Business

Eros incorporates the feel of early film. There are sprocket holes continuously on-screen accompanied by flickering to create the effect of a reel-to-reel experience. Do the boxes on each side of the film have multiple meanings other than sprocket holes and did Davyana employ them to enhance the theme of the narrative? 

I think so. Grainy reel-to-reel images remind viewers there’s a bit of history going on with what they are seeing.

Incidentally, the effect confronts the male gaze engendered by stag films, the earliest version of motion picture pornography. If this is her intention, Davyana exposes how women’s sexuality has been viewed in our culture over time.

Here’s what she had to say, mixing in some techie talk with the film’s message.

“I’m intrigued by the psychological effects of subliminal messages. The grid pattern of 16mm hand-painted clear leader simply came together through experimentation. The strobing effect of the 16mm was achieved by filming the live projection.  Every frame is intentional and represents something related to the adult industry. I don’t want to give too much away; a lot is up for the audience to decode.”

Regarding Marilyn Chambers (in a clip taken from a TV appearance) and Andrea Dworkin as opposites in the film, Marilyn seems nervous; whereas, Dworkin is her usual forceful self.

Selecting those clips for Eros is astute filmmaking because Marilyn symbolizes the early days of the emerging 35 mm pornography phenomenon that is not quite sure of itself; whereas, Dworkin is a statement of suppressed (or repressed?) female sexuality, a longstanding cultural expectation then and now.

Does Davyana consider the two women as antithetical?

“Andrea Dworkin was included to represent the anti-porn feminist perspective and Marilyn Chambers represents the pornography feminist,” she says. “I wanted to showcase both sides of the feminist debate that spanned the 1970’s.” And into the 1980s, I might add, so Davyana has encapsulated a large chunk of porn history in momentary images.

Having said that, what do we do with Dworkin and Annie Sprinkle?

Davyana elaborates.

“Andrea Dworkin’s intensity and overconfidence (in her point of view) really helped to show the different sides of feminism that exist.  That visual (in the film) about porn people leading happy lives is all thanks to Annie Sprinkle! That’s the very message I wanted to get across strongly (about porn) . . . this is simply a business.” (Notice the dollar sign in the title card reproduced above?)

Buckley and Days Gone By

What about conservative commentator William F. Buckley? Where does he fit in?

“I found his reactions as a moderator quite funny and left his shots in there. Talking about pornography and feminism can be overwhelming and tiring, hence the need for comedic relief,” Davyana comments.

No doubt, but let’s not forget that Buckley’s resume includes supporting McCarthyism, segregation (he was no friend of civil rights), and opposing multiculturalism. With her avant-garde lens, Davyana gives him the zapping he deserves, if ever so subtle, in a film that addresses a pair of ideas that would appall him: feminism and pornography.

Another segment of interest in Eros is the scene of women and typewriters. It presents a 1940s snapshot of the corporate world that Buckley would certainly endorse. Jobs are stamped out; typists are cloned. They are hardly in charge of their image.

The vision is an innovative way to move the history of women forward because of how it defines society and the female statement within it.

“The shots of women training to be secretaries are included as a visual juxtaposition to the idea of an independent female who works in the adult industry,” Davyana declares. “These secretaries represent the women oppressed by a patriarchal society.”


Finally, how does Annie Sprinkle fit into Davyana’s message?

“I learned about Annie Sprinkle through Dr. Augsburg’s course,” the student artist says, and offers a “shout out” to her professor for “inspiring the themes discussed in Eros.”

Davyana explains that she needed “a credible source to help my argument that feminism and pornography can coexist.  What better person to ask than Annie Sprinkle, who has worked in the industry and created a successful art career because of her experiences.”

When I asked Dr. Tanya Augsburg about Davyana’s commitment to excellence, she said:

I’m so impressed that she took the initiative to interview Anne Sprinkle, Shine Louise Houston, and yourself. What I appreciate so much about her remarkable film is that is also quite the feast for the eyes. She presents a full range of feminist perspectives in mesmerizing ways.”

I could not agree more and am most flattered to be a part of Davyana San Miguel’s continuing journey into filmmaking.

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We have one more Davyana San Miguel post in front of us. This time we’ll talk about the artist up close and personal.


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Eros: Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2018

When I was researching feminism in adult film, my intention was to provide a historical resource for the college classroom. In the spring of 2017 that became a reality at San Francisco State University.

A student from the university was introduced to my work and contacted me concerning a film project she was undertaking. The discussion was an enjoyable role reversal for me because someone else was asking the questions.

The outcome of her effort is extraordinary considering this is a student film, not the product of a professional filmmaker. For that fact alone, it is a remarkable accomplishment.

(All visuals in Parts One, Two, and Three of Eros are courtesy of Davyana San Miguel except that of Dr. Tanya Augsburg who granted me permission to use a her image.)

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Five Minutes

The filmmaker is Davyana San Miguel and the film, Eros, is a comment on how we as a society must create a space for a woman’s take on her own sexuality and, more importantly, how she expresses it.

Early porn feminists, specifically Annie Sprinkle, a member of Club 90, the original feminist support group in the industry, and the late Marilyn Chambers, who did not openly identify as a feminist but was in control of her image, are included. For a more recent take on feminist porn, the narrative offers a moment with director Shine Louise Houston whose Pink and White Productions is a well-known studio in the queer porn genre.

Additionally, the ideas of two feminists from the heady days of second wave feminism are juxtaposed as part of Eros’s message: Andrea Dworkin’s anti-porn feminism and “the erotic is power” philosophy espoused by African-American lesbian, Audre Lorde.

By the way, the film is brief, running a bit over five minutes. But don’t let that fool you, it is smartly done with an artistic verve.

Challenging Social Stigmas

So, who is Davyana San Miguel?

“I’m a filmmaker and multimedia artist,” she says. “As of right now, I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Cinema from San Francisco State with an emphasis in Experimental Filmmaking.

“I’m originally from Hawai’i and moved to California when I was seventeen, spending the first three years in Southern California and now residing in foggy San Francisco.”

Davyana explains that her filmmaking focuses on “challenging social stigmas.” To do so, she explores “open conversations about topics that may make people uncomfortable,” such as feminism and pornography.

Of course, modern artists must take care of the technical aspects of their work. In Davyana’s case, she and her “creative partner” Mehran Karimabadi operate “DSM Visuals, a production company and art collective that creates diverse and original content,” she says.


Early in her time at the university, Davyana took a humanities class, Images of Eroticism, from Dr. Tanya Augsburg, an Associate Professor of Humanities in the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies who describes herself as “a humanities-trained interdisciplinary feminist performance scholar, critic, and curator.”

I invited her to talk about her course.

First, she tells me that Images of Eroticism “is a popular upper-division general education humanities course” that has been part of the university curriculum for quite some time. Dr. Augsburg is one of several professors who have undertaken the challenge of defining the sexual and its place in our culture.

“Each instructor teaches it differently, according to their own interpretation of what ‘images of eroticism’ means as well as their own areas of expertise,” the professor points out. Though one instructor teaches the class as a porn studies offering, Dr. Augsburg’s version is not quite that.

Her approach is broader, examining a variety of erotic “representations” that focus on “art, philosophy, literature, film, and contemporary pop culture.”

To give me some specifics, Dr.Augsburg mentions that her course encompasses “erotic imagery” as it connects with “sex-positive cultural representations of women that are created by women and those who do not identify with toxic heteronormative masculinity.”

Dr. Augsburg uses a variety of sources. For example, she includes “clips from the ‘golden age of porn’ and Annie Sprinkle’s films,” on one hand, she says, and “the art of young ‘fourth wave’ and ‘sex-negative’ feminists such as Ann Hirsch and Leah Schrager,” on the other.

The professor also mentions Cheryl Dunye’s film, Mommy Is Coming.

(Note: I met Cheryl Dunye a few years back by way of Pink and White’s Jiz Lee who was impressed with what Dunye brought to the cinematic table.)

New Erotic Imagery

Although the college atmosphere often resists changes in methodology (we often teach as we were taught), Dr. Augsburg’s students are not passive receptacles of professorial pronouncements (my professorial words, not hers!).

“In Images of Eroticism I challenge students to create new erotic imagery that is consensual and that represents their own communities and/or interests. Students can take up that challenge for their final as long as they draw from the course material,” the professor explains.

Some will write “erotic short stories that draw from the course material as well as their own experiences,” she continues. “I’d like to think that Davyana also took up that challenge after the class was over in her film class.”

(Indeed she did. Eros was a project Davyana developed for her Experimental Documentary Workshop at the university.)

What impressed Dr. Augsburg was that Davyana incorporated elements from her course in her student production. Among the literary examples that stand out for the humanities professor occurs in the final frames.

“Davyana ends the film with a shout-out to yet another course text, the novel Story of O with the masked man and woman.”

And, of course, the young filmmaker boldly steps into her own production prompting high praise from Professor Augsburg.

“My class featured many examples of feminist art and performance so I was delighted to see Davyana doing her own performance art in the film,” she says.

The “Porn” Class

From Davyana’s perspective, Dr. Augsburg had a significant impact on a young woman’s educational journey.

“Images of Eroticism was one of the first classes that I took at SF State. I was intrigued by the name. My roommates at the time told me that it was known as the ‘porn’ class. Well, maybe, but it was more than that.

In fact, firsts were everywhere. Not only was the class new to Davyana, it was Dr. Augsburg’s first time teaching it and she was the first woman at the university to do so.

The experience was rewarding. Dr. Augsburg “gave the class a critical analysis and historical overview of erotic art and its effects on society from a female perspective,” Davyana says.

A couple of decades ago that would have been unthinkable and certainly not conventional when it comes to the erotic.

Incidentally, Davyana mentioned that the class read parts of my take on adult film feminism because it “represents a counter-narrative to the consequences of traditional gender roles.”

She goes on to say,

“My copy of your book is littered with post-it notes and I read the whole book after the course was over. When I studied your text and related films, the concept of feminism coexisting with pornography, no longer felt foreign.”

Cool. That is exactly its intent.

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The filmmakers of DSM visuals.

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Next we will delve a bit into Eros, the film.

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The Actress as an Artist

by Rich Moreland, December 2014

When Bill Margold alerted me that Serena, one of the greats in adult film history, had finished her book, I knew a smidgen of advertising (or promotion) was in order.

A few years ago, Serena and I had some wonderful conversations via email. In its early years, the pantheon of porn’s best was a small sorority and her words helped establish a historical perspective on adult film’s creative women.

“While I didn’t give myself over to the case of feminism until retiring from porn in the 1980s, I never felt the least dilemma. When in porn, I was serving the highest in myself, the artist . . . I felt very strongly that my sex scenes were statements on film, the actress as an artist.”

At the time of our communications, I was in the neophytic stages of my work on adult film feminism. Professorial interest in pro-sex feminists eventually led to my penning a popular history soon to be released by John Hunt Publishing. Needless to say, I relied heavily on interviews because my youth was not familiar with filmed pornography though I did see Georgina Spelvin on the big screen in my first “official” adult film, a story for another day. As a result, personal accounts became my literary lifeblood.

Serena was a conduit of information, addressing my questions about some of the feminists I was researching.

“As to the women you mentioned, I worked with Georgina and felt only love oozing from her. Later when I was involved with Jamie Gillis and living in NYC, we’d work for Gloria [Leonard]. She was sharp, she reminds me of a female Donald Trump. I also knew Marilyn [Chambers] who seemed very fit to me, her body and her mind were tense but elastic like an athlete’s.”

Serena’s love affair with the incomparable Jamie Gillis is legendary; the accomplishments of Gloria Leonard I have touched upon in my book. Sadly, both are now deceased and with the passing of Marilyn in 2009 and John Leslie and Harry Reems of late, there are fewer pioneers left of the old days.

So history is preserved whenever recollections are recorded. Bright Lights Lonely Nights: The Memories of Serena is out and available at Amazon here.

In the meantime, here’s a tribute to “the actress as artist” from Bill Margold, who also wrote the Forward for Serena’s book. It appears in the LA Xpress.


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Is That Something You Can Live With?

by Rich Moreland, July 2014

Proud Parents is B Skow at his cleverest, a parody of porn history and a history of porn told tongue-in-cheek. Skow presents an inside look at adult film with a movie within a movie that entertains a question every parent faces.

GFF proud big boxcover

The sex scenes are top notch with three standout women, India Summer, Lily LeBeau, and the incomparable Casey Calvert. There’s enough nastiness in that trio to guarantee the success of any adult film.

The movie opens with Stan (Steven St. Croix) and Marge (India Summer) being interviewed by an unseen film director (B Skow). After meeting on a porn set—it was “love at first thrust,” Stan says—they married in 1982. Porn has brought Stan and Marge a comfortable home with a swimming pool they never use and enough money to pay for their daughter’s elite education.

Though their conversation has the casual appearance of a BTS (Behind the Scenes) segment that is common in today’s DVDs, Stan and Marge are actually talking with the documentary filmmaker who is following their daughter Casey (Casey Calvert). Unbeknown to her parents, she plans to enter the business and is set to do her first shoot.

Skow establishes the tone for the film when it’s revealed that Casey grew up around porn. Despite the opportunities the business has provided them, Stan and Marge are adamantly opposed to Casey following in their footsteps.

The Happy Family. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

The Happy Family.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Jamie Gillis, the rough-sex porn icon of 1980s and 1990s—the era of the VCR and white nose powder all around—is offhandedly mentioned. When Stan and Marge move into the film’s first sex scene at the request of the documentary filmmaker, the legendary Marilyn Chambers’ oral skills on Gillis in Insatiable II (1984) are recalled. Marge drops her head over the bedside for Stan’s pleasure in a salute to Chambers. At film’s end, Casey Calvert will offer another round of the same.

A Garage Studio

When Casey shows up for her first shoot in garage studio (the American dream often starts in a garage), Skow presents a hilarious 1980s moment. A dude named Leonard bops in wearing a tacky two piece outfit that thankfully is locked away in pop culture’s disco past. In this uncredited cameo, Richie Calhoun tries vainly to produce wood for his scene with Casey. It’s hopeless, of course, because he’s really the late John Holmes, cokehead extraordinaire, whose droopiness couldn’t respond to the best oral efforts of Marilyn Chambers in Up and Coming (1983).

Casey moves in to handle the casting couch on her own. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Casey moves in to handle the casting couch on her own.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

1980s cheesiness is not all rotten apples, however. When Casey’s identity is accidentally exposed, the garage director, Jean Kreem (Scott Lyons) is ready to drop her like an overheated halogen lamp. To save the day she reverses the casting couch schtick (they are on a couch, literally). She sucks him off. All the while Jean takes on a bizarre, wild-eyed look. Remember the fantasies of 1980s filmmaker, Rinse Dream (aka F. X. Pope), whose Night Dreams I, II, and III (1981, ’89, ’91) are avant-garde classics to this day?

The garage has a green screen and in an all-too-short segment, Casey’s friend Franny (Aiden Ashley) has a brief fling with porn newcomer, Keisha Grey. It’s steamy, but nothing like Franny and Casey’s earlier scene for the documentary guy.

Challenging Casey’s career decision, the director suggests that sex for money is different from loving sex. Casey’s answer is to have a good grind with her friend in his presence. Beyond the finger banging and oral with a scissors wrap-up, what makes the Casey/Franny scene top quality is their slutty demeanor. In warming up for her best sex, Casey’s eyes narrow with a wantonness that is deviously framed in a puckered brow. It’s the Casey Calvert erotic trademark. Like a cat ready to strike, Casey draws back a little before feasting on her lover with a smuttiness that redefines salacious. On the other hand, Aiden is demure and dreamy, but when the action starts is as aggressive as Casey.

Aiden Ashley Photo source unknown

Aiden Ashley
Photo source unknown

“Does that answer your question?” Casey says, finishing up with Franny.

To add an exclamation point to her performance, Casey crawls across the bed toward the director and as the camera focuses on her chest and neck, muffled slurping is heard. Remember a teenaged Traci Lord’s rep for doing everyone on the set?

Gonzo Implanted in a Feature

B Skow shoots the garage sequences in the reality TV mode popularized in porn with John Stagliano’s Buttman series. By the 1990s, gonzo, as the style came to be known, was appropriated for all-sex productions. Close-ups of anal and oral thrusting moved to the front of the line. Skow pays tribute to Stagliano with over-the-shoulder POV shots, including Franny’s tongue on Keisha’s crotch. The final sexcapade between Casey and Kurt Lockwood ends with a splashy facial (Casey is careful to keep her eyes closed), gonzo to the core.

Skow’s camera moves about in Stagliano style, not always removing objects around the cluttered garage. With sex scenes hastily set up in an amateurish way, Proud Parents seems like an off-the-cuff production. In truth, it’s a carefully crafted tribute to porn in the new century, gonzo implanted in a feature.

The Threesome. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

The threesome with the strap-on attachment at hand.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

An eventual three-way between Stan, Marge, and Casey’s friend Zooey (Lily LaBeau) is superb, proving that Skow’s sex scenes are rich and diverse. During Zooey’s oral work on Stan, cameras drift in and out of picture adding moments of delightful confusion. In one part of the sequence, Stan holds the camera that is shooting Zooey’s efforts and a crewman’s foot is spotted momentarily.

This is porn set reality. Things and people get in the way inadvertently and because of limited budgets, retakes don’t happen and editing doesn’t cover it all. Proud Parents is a commentary on how movies are made.

There is much in the threesome to be appreciated, though one shot stands out. Skow moves his camera above the action when Stan doggies Marge, Marge munches Zooey, and she kisses Stan. Later when Zooey moves to the floor, a cameraman hands Marge a strap-on. Priceless.

Zooey and Marge warming up. Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Zooey and Marge warming up.
Photo courtesy of Girlfriends Films

Raised in the Wild

Shoot cancelled, a disappointed Casey comes home reluctant to deal with her parents. The documentary director persuades her to give it a try, saying, “They raised a horse in the wild and they don’t expect it wants to run?”

When Casey finds a note her parents are out, her agent, Mark Spiegler, calls with a booking (Casey Calvert is a highly regarded Spiegler girl, by the way). Excited, the determined neophyte returns to the garage to be surprised by her parents and her old babysitter, their good friend Kurt (Kurt Lockwood), who refused to do Casey in the earlier scrapped scene.

Everything is a go now. Before they start, Kurt mentions the reality of a porn career. “Every day on the set, you’re going to do something you regret,” he says to Casey. “Question is, is that something you can live with?”

Like loving parents supporting their child’s first game, play, party, what have you, Marge and Stan are there to videotape the launch of Casey’s career. In hot sex with Kurt there is a standing sixty-nine, Casey positions her head upside down in front of his crotch in the best of gonzo acrobatics.

Oh yes, like Marge and Marilyn Chambers before her, Casey drops her head over the couch to fellate Kurt again. Stan later comes in to pause the action for the stills. In a reverse anal cowgirl, Casey seduces his camera with her signature expression, eyes of determined pleasure, as he clicks away.

“She’s going to have a great career,” Kurt says.

Who, then, are the Proud Parents in this film? Don’t be deceived by the obvious, because there is a twist to come. In a porn movie about making a porn movie with an embedded documentary film to drive the story, possibilities abound.

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Not long ago, I talked with B Skow about the comeback of the feature, a vehicle that he admires and is able to supplement with gonzo elements that satisfy a modern audience.

Though the DVD does not sustain the popularity of the video tape when that was a viewer’s only option, it survives with verve because people want to own things, he says, “they want to have it somewhere.”

“If you make something interesting, there’s a crowd [for it],” Skow believes. The crowd does not have to be huge, it just needs to exist.

Girlfriends Films’ award-winning boy/girl director proves his point with each of his productions. Proud Parents sold out in two weeks of its release, unheard of in today’s market. But it is no wonder, B Skow has built a following with films he rightly considers art.

When I asked about Casey Calvert, Skow’s praise is effusive. “She’s one of the top,” he exclaims, “a girl that loves what she does.”

Casey Calvert. Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

“Loves what she does.”
Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Casey Calvert treats Skow with similar enthusiasm.

“B Skow is very easy to work with. He pretty much lets us do whatever ideas we have,” she comments. He avoids over directing the sex scenes “unless he needs something super specific.” When I inquire about shooting with Kurt Lockwood, Casey references their creativity. “Skow sets up three cameras and just lets us do our thing,” she explains, “Kurt and I made up that last scene as we went.”

Though we don’t get into the MILF aspect of the film, Casey praises my favorite mature couple in porn.

“I LOVE India. Steven has played my dad in multiple movies, but we have never had sex. I like him. He’s very professional and a good actor,” she beams.

No doubt India and Steven have similar praise for Casey. There is a reason why these top tier performers appear on the boxcover; it’s all about competency, responsibility, and a personal pride in their work.


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