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.
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.
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?