Tag Archives: Nina Hartley

AEE 2019: The Realities of an Adult Trade Show

by Rich Moreland, February 2019

Photos provided by AINews and Kevin Sayres.

     *          *         *

This year’s Adult Entertainment Expo marked two anniversaries which I’ve celebrated in previous posts: Evil Angel’s thirtieth year of operation and a salute to the great porn legend, Nina Hartley.

While there were upbeat moments of the positive in today’s industry, there were also reminders that we are in a time when porn reflects the greater issues facing our society. The first day on the floor of the show illustrates what I mean.

Security

Let’s begin with the metal detectors. For me, getting to Las Vegas requires flying and airports mean security checks. I’m thankful for the capable TSA employees who check every passenger and bag that boards a plane.

Likewise, the trade show is not immune from checking and rechecking and clearing everyone who wants to get in. Considering that a handful of states, most recently Arizona, have proposed legislation to declare porn a public health hazard, it would be no surprise that an anti-porn crazy might attempt sneak a device into the trade show and harm attendees.

Nevada does have an open carry law, by the way, but requires permits for concealed weapons and many fans (and industry personnel, yours truly included) do carry backpacks and tote bags into the show.

So, like the airport TSA, I commend the Hard Rock Hotel and AVN for taking defensive measures.

The Code

When I arrived at the press room to pick up my media pass, I was presented with the Code of Conduct. The Code was displayed at the entrance to the show and on the Table of Contents page of the show directory, a freebie for all fans and industry people.

In light of the #Metoo movement, it makes sense to recognize issues of proper conduct. Because performers are in the business of sexual entertainment, too many fans “assume” they are meeting a “different kind of girl” than the sweetheart or wife back home.

In fact, I remember a few years ago when I interviewed a prominent star, she reminded me that “no touching” was her personal rule with fans. She even came with her personal bodyguard.

Though not all performers are that sensitive to physical contact, bullying is another matter. I’ve witnessed girls politely deal with “insistent” fans who believe it’s okay to cross boundaries.

(A caveat is due here. Those types of fans are few. The vast majority are respectful and delighted to meet the stars. In turn, porn models are happy to provide the fan with a pleasurable experience.)

For its part, AVN explains that the Code represents “common-sense rules for public behavior and personal interaction” that applies “to EVERYONE at the convention” including those connected with the industry.

I agree and am happy to commend AVN on this.

August Ames

Sadly, there was a poignant reminder this year of the consequences of cyber bullying. The December 2017 suicide of August Ames still reverberates throughout the industry. A t-shirt honoring the twenty-three-year-old was in evidence among a handful of attendees.

My friend and colleague Steve Nelson, editor of Adult Industry News, had this to say about the circumstances that led to August’s death.

“August Ames was a good friend. She was always kind to me and very happy. Or so I thought. We all found out too late that she was dealing with the demons of depression.”

Among his other duties, Steve drives for modeling agencies. That’s how he got to know August. But like so many others, he didn’t see what was coming.

“I only saw her upbeat side. She hid her demons well.”

When the end shocked everyone, Steve reflected what others in porn expressed. “I regret not reaching out to her . . . She was on the edge and bullies on Twitter pushed her over.”

It is notable that in this year’s AVN balloting, a scene in which August Ames appeared was nommed for an award. Considering the overwhelming number of categories and scenes, a small honor perhaps, but not insignificant.

We should heed the lessons of August Ames’ passing and take a moment to treat each other with a bit more love and understanding.

In looking forward to AEE 2020,  we hope for the day when security measures, a code of conduct, and the tragedy of suicide are memories of past shows and not permanent realities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

AEE 2019: Nina at Thirty-five

by Rich Moreland, February 2019

*          *          *

Talking with Nina Hartley in 2012

Whenever someone learns that I write in the adult film industry, he (or she) will ask if I know Nina Hartley. Nina is the universally renowned super star associated with adult entertainment. Anyone who knows anything about porn in our culture has heard of Nina.

So, my answer to the question is, “Of course.” I met Nina several years ago and without her input, my book on the history of feminism in porn would never have happened.

At this year’s Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, I found out that she is entering her thirty-fifth year in the industry. Wow, what an opportunity to celebrate porn’s greatest living icon.

So, we got together and talked about her career.

She began with politics.

Moving Forward

What stands out for her, Nina says, “is the ongoing efforts of sex workers around the world to organize on their own behalf.” We live in “a post-feminist revolution world” with a current generation that is “proud, angry, outraged, and finding each other,” she tells me.

The best news is that the “pro-sex side” of the cultural battle over sexuality and sex work is evolving.  “The sex-positive movement works hard to be inclusive of everyone regardless of race, class, gender expression/identity,” Nina says, which makes it stronger.

The upshot of inclusion is this: our conception of “sex, sexuality, sexual expression, and consensual sexual commerce” is moving forward while “the people aligned against us are the same as they ever were with the same tired arguments they’ve always used,” she explains.

Among her proudest accomplishments, Nina points out, is her service “on the board of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance, a non-profit organization working at the intersection of human rights and sexual rights.”

Without doubt Nina has been, and is, more politically active than anyone in the industry. As always, freedom of speech and sex worker rights are at the top of her passions. Her feminist statements may not always vex her sex-negative adversaries, but they pass the test of historical importance. Nina Hartley speaks out against oppression with as fine a voice as will ever grace the adult industry.

On the trade show floor in 2019.  Photo by Kevin Sayres

The Nina Frequency

Nina next moves to her on-camera career.

“What sticks out is how happy I’ve been with my decision to enter porn in the first place,” she says. While dancing in San Francisco, Nina earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing. That was in 1984 and she was readying herself for the jump into hardcore.

She decided that culturally we needed a sex makeover to broaden our understanding of human relations.

“Sex is my area of study and interest. Porn proved a fantastic way to have a lot of it with a wide range of people in a controlled, semi-public environment, without the encumbrances of romantic entanglement,” Nina explains. It allowed her to present her ideas to “the broadest possible audience.”

Not surprisingly, sex education has always been on her radar. She’s broadcasted on the ‘Nina frequency,’ as she humorously puts it, since the beginning of her career, trusting that “the people who need to hear my message will find it.”

Reaction to her work has been beyond rewarding and reinforces that her professional choices were the best they could be. She elaborates,

“This personal connection with my fans is one of the best aspects of my job. The original ones have grown older with me and I continue to gain new, younger fans who also like my message about sex. My 2006 book, “Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex,” is something of which I’m still quite proud.”

Talking with Nina in 2019.  Photo by Kevin Sayres

Sex Worker Rights

Nina takes immeasurable satisfaction from the social changes she seen over the years and the part she has played in them.

“What stands out,” she begins,” is the ever-expanding social acceptance, at least in the bigger cities/college towns, of so-called “alternative lifestyles.”

In her younger days, swinging, “a very heteronormative sexual subculture,” was the only vehicle out there, she remembers. But things have changed today.

“Now, social support for trans inclusion, anti-racism, anti-White supremacy, sex worker rights, polyamory rights and non-traditional families, is nationwide and gaining traction,” Nina says. “Feminist scholars who are supportive of full bodily autonomy for women now populate more universities, helping to balance the hegemony of the older, all-sex-work-and-male-desire-are-bad camp of professors.”

Nevertheless, Nina offers an observation couched in her years of fighting for sex worker recognition and rights.

“The progressive movement [today] seems to be splitting along similar lines as the feminist movement did back during the “Porn Wars” of the mid-1980s, between pro and anti-censorship/sex worker rights wings.”

Power to the Performer

So, I ask Nina, “What about the state of porn today?”

“Porn-wise what stands out is the ongoing transfer of power within the producing community from company owners/producers to the performers themselves, fueled by technology.”

“Now, any performer can make direct contact with the end-user, charge what they want and keep the money.”

But that is just the beginning of the changes we’re going through.

Nina declares that “any consumer can find multiple performers who enjoy pleasing a wide range of fetishes.” This includes male performers who now have “equal access” to porn’s fan base.

“This is important because male performers never had the additional income stream opportunity afforded by feature dancing,” Nina adds. Throw in “content trade” (the collaboration of models and photographers that gives models input beyond their hired studio scenes) and “fans get to see their favorite performers doing exactly what they please.”

There is also another important change Nina has discovered. “Performers are also staying in the business longer, and coming together as a proud community. I find this satisfying to witness,” she adds.

Parting hugs are always welcome!  Photo by Kevin Sayres

From Pain to Empowerment

Finally, what’s on Nina’s agenda for 2019?

“Going forward life looks good. I have love in my life with a new partner, which is the icing on the cake.” She is also pleased with “the outcome of the work I’ve done over my career, both on camera and off.”

Nina continues to speak at academic institutions about sexuality, personal responsibility, “and how to get all the fun out of sex while minimizing the potential for negative outcomes.” Porn is a vital part of any talk she gives.

Of course, Nina remains a staunch advocate “for sex and sexual freedom.” She touts her “SFW (safe for work) site, nina.live. There she offers “counseling, consulting and coaching on sex and relationship issues.”

In closing, she says, “Sexual suffering is real and helping adults process and transform that energy from pain to empowerment, never loses its appeal and power. When we can learn how to make friends with our bodies and desires, true happiness and contentment is possible. For everyone.”

Indeed! We wish Nina Hartley another thirty-five of years of presence on the sexual stage!

*          *          *

To contact Nina Hartley, go to the following:

Twittter: @ninaland

IG: @miss_nina_hartley

nina.live (SFW)

nina.com (NSFW)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

*          *          *

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.

*          *         *

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”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Whatever Name I Choose: A Review of “Coming Out Like a Porn Star”

by Rich Moreland, November 2015

Snugly bundled against the chill of a cloudy April day, I was leaving Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel when I stepped aside for a porn performer I recognized but had never met. I held the door and offered a brief greeting.

A few hours later an impromptu dinner significantly influenced the direction of my research at the time. My dining companions that evening were in town for the same reason that brought me to Canada, the Feminist Porn Awards.

Among those at our table was the performer I passed earlier that day, Jiz Lee. A handful of interviews with Jiz followed over the next couple of years and we developed a modest friendship.

Jiz became a central figure in my manuscript on feminism in adult film and now Jiz has a book out. It’s sensational, smartly edited, and I highly recommend it.

*          *          *

51x4W4UtmyL

Author Jiz Lee has redefined “page turner” with Coming Out Like a Porn Star. The collection of personal essays are told with varied emotion–some hint of anger, others steeped in frustration and dark humor. Most are upfront with grinding doubt and the bravery required to deal with what everyone associated with the sex industry ultimately faces.

“Does your family know what you do?”

Jiz Lee Photo courtesy of GlennFrancis/PacificProDigital

Jiz Lee
Photo courtesy of GlennFrancis/PacificProDigital

That question, wrapped around issues such as stigmatization, feminism, gender preferences, and fetish proclivities, jumps from the book as the reader begins the journey.

Lee contributes the first essay and from there acts as editor, sorting and arranging the contributors who willing offer what they do and why. Sexuality’s personal definition for each writer is woven throughout the pages.

Coming Out Like Porn Star is certainly a seductive title, but the book is not an expose as we think of it. Rather, it is an intimate inside look at the people whose choices are in their own words. They are literary volunteers with a sense of accomplishment that refuses to succumb to shame.

What’s in a Name

At its most fundamental level, Coming Out Like a Porn Star is a lesson in social behavior and prejudice. Frustration, resentment, and shame, often resulting from religious upbringing and family disapproval, are crushing negatives. But they are ameliorated by the power of community and sex worker activism in which pride, joy, and a sense of strength are celebrated.

Here’s a quick look that is a mere sampling of well over fifty short entries.

Casey Calvert Photo Courtesy of David Hilton Photography

Casey Calvert
Photo Courtesy of David Hilton Photography

Casey Calvert talks about how she feels pretty in porn. “I have amazing new friends and strangers on the internet think I’m beautiful,” the fetish star writes. In a vibrant story of self-esteem, Casey loves a life without secrets, she says.

In their respective essays, “queer identified trans woman” Drew Deveaux and Connor Habib question what’s in a name? While Deveaux draws on a larger issue, noting that our culture is “reflected and reshaped” via the “medium” of porn, Habib asserts that having “sex publically” permits sex workers to “talk about integrating private and public aspects of life”

Adult company owner Courtney Trouble’s moving account of conversations with her father is an intimate expression of father-daughter love that contrasts markedly with bondage star Denali Winter, who recalls that the adult industry community saved her when family difficulties seemed insurmountable.

Both Denali and author Dale Cooper touch on the shame foisted on sexuality by religion.

The reader can choose preferred essays or take on the book cover to cover. Each writing is unique though limited, as Jiz Lee admits, to personalities of recent generations. The exceptions are legendary icons such as Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle, and the late Candida Royalle.

That is my Real Name

Regardless of how the book is tackled, two essays are a must read. Lorelei Lee’s finely crafted statement on “Naming” is balanced effectively with Stoya’s humor in “Noooooooodie Girl.”

Lorelei Lee Photo courtesy of Rick Garcia

Lorelei Lee
Photo courtesy of Rick Garcia

In fact, Lorelei Lee’s essay is the book’s linchpin. She is brilliant when speaking of her empowerment. “Naming a thing makes it real,” she says, then remarks with pride that “slut, whore, sister, freak, artist, wife—all of it is truly, wholly me.”

Her bottom line? “Whatever name I choose, that is my real name.”

My only criticism of Coming Out Like a Porn Star is really a historical comment. Feminism in porn today is heavily tilted toward the San Francisco queer porn community, though smart and resouceful women in Southern California are challenging adult film’s traditional patriarchy. Feminists, like the previously mentioned Nina Hartley and Casey Calvert, are making their voices heard. Others on Porn Valley’s expanding list–Jackie St. James, Tasha Reign, Jessica Drake, Dana Vespoli, Mason, Ela Darling, and the now retired Bobbi Starr, to name a few–have their own empowered statements.

Jiz Lee’s extraordinary work is worth six stars out of five for anyone interested in the adult film industry.

The book is available at Amazon.

 

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: ThreeL Media (October 20, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0990557162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0990557166

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Perverse Haute Couture

by Rich Moreland, 2014

I confess this review was generated by a conversation I had with Ira Levine (aka Ernest Greene) about his novel, Master of O. Within the BDSM community, Ira is a “master” in his own right and a renowned filmmaker. For a look at his visual trilogy wrapped around the O story, I’ve reviewed each installment here: O: The Power of Submission, The Surrender of O, and The Truth About O.

I figured that if his book landed anywhere within the vicinity of his visual storytelling dynamics, it likely has classic written all over it. I was not disappointed and must add that his print narrative is a giant leap ahead of anything that can be put on film.

Using the widely accepted Amazon rating system, Master of O is five stars, top of the line. If kink is your bailiwick, buy this book. You’ll find it a tasty delicacy of eroticism, pain, and high culture.

*          *          *          *          *

master-of-o-book-cover

Falling Short

“‘Me you want. Him you need. You can have both, but we all understand that need is stronger than want.’
O pushed away from Ray’s chest and glared at him. ‘Maybe I don’t want either one of you, or all your crazy bullshit.’
Ray managed a laugh of sorts. ‘I don’t buy that anymore than you do.’
. . .
Again, O realized, someone had loved her and she had hurt him. Someone had tried to be the man she needed and couldn’t be. This was O’s fate. She could give everything, but only to someone who didn’t require it. Just as her need for formality and consistency exhausted Ray, his need for affection and reassurance exhausted her . . .”

Set in the decadent glitz of a modern Hollywood splashed with bling and bondage sex, Master of O is Ernest Greene’s updated version of the sixty-year-old Story of O, Pauline Reage’s original tale about a fashion photographer and the mysterious Sir Stephen. Framed in mid-1950s Paris, Reage’s narrative is a salacious peek into the whispered kinks of those whose sexual secrets remained closeted until the 1960s gave way to free fall the ensuing decade.

story of o 2But in Greene’s mind, Reage falls short. The final page of her novel finds O the morning after a party asleep, but still deliciously available.

Awakened, O is led “to the middle of the courtyard” where is she laid “upon a table” and “possessed” by two men “one after the other.” There is no further comment other than an awkward epilogue that offers a choice of brief and inconclusive endings. It is as if Pauline Reage created a character she did not know how to discipline, so she simply walked away, perhaps glancing back one last time.

In Master of O, possession, intertwined with need and want, drives LA’s rapid-fire entertainment planet of fashion, sleaze, and the commercial struggle between a fading print pornography and the internet. The narrative moves the reader through designer everything–cars, clothes, fountain pens, and food for starters. Not to be outdone, a perverse haute couture dips into the novel’s central fetish: bondage and discipline. Erotic wearables, including tattoos, piercings, and corsets, decorate female submissives who adore their kinks administered with stings and welts, erotic precursors to a sexuality that is faux violent but infinitely satisfying.

By the way, don’t let the significance of O’s tattoo slip by. It quite literally follows her around “That tattoo was going to be a damned nuisance,”  Greene informs the reader in the novel’s final pages, refusing to exonerate anyone’s judgment for its creation or its folly.

If Reage’s story ends indecisively, Greene’s does not; he favors  a sharp closing that tumbles head over heels to the finish line. But a conclusion does not always mean closure. With just enough evidence to avoid leading the witness, Greene insists the reader decide for himself. A cautionary word: do not dive into the novel without reading the Forward and after signing off on the final page, read it again. The author offers reflections necessary to decide how narrowly conclusion brushes up against closure for this modern O. She is more than servicing another penetration before the credits roll.

The Author Photo courtesy of Rick Brenes and XBIZ.com

The Author
Photo courtesy of Rick Brenes and XBIZ.com

By the way, Master of O offers a flare Reage could only imagine: authenticity. Ernest Greene lives in the BDSM world as a player, bondage rigger, actor, director, and scriptwriter. His fictional O and her master, Steven Diamond, an LA attorney fixated on the accouterments of expensive fashion, understand the nasty ways money is accumulated and how it buys self-indulgent debauchery.  O begins as brother Ray’s collared slave, but an exchange shifts the kinky photographer to Steven’s fast cars and lavish apartment where a distorted reality glistens beyond the massive windows overlooking the city. An oddly transparent pain and pleasure continuum captures O and Jacqui, a fashion model who occasionally slips into porn and, like O, loves her masochism. Both girls are delivered to their respective masters for frolic (Jacqui becomes Ray’s possession via “contract,” a BDSM nicety) spiced with flowing cash and sleeping late.

Mostly Sooner

Greene enriches his tale with social and political commentary. Steven’s ex-wife Marie, The Pythia of his self-created universe, is the narrative’s moral compass such as it is. She speaks casually to her girls of Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi Germany’s famed filmmaker who denied her fascism post-war, prepares them for theatrical play dates in The Mansion (Greene’s version of Roissy/Samois) that get them off, and anchors Steven when he chooses to listen. Later the reader passes notables who populate the vagaries of the adult film world just as Dante’s Inferno lays bare the Florentine’s contemporaries of dubious distinction. AIDS Health Foundation’s front man and Kink.com’s founder are among Greene’s distinguished guests who wallow in self-aggrandizement.

The book is a hard-boiled noir experience in which Steven combines the cool smoothness of a wannabe James Bond with the shiftiness of Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe in survival mode. Ambrosia for BDSM aficionados, the sex is freely given and taken in ways that would delight the pervy nastiness of a medieval inquisitor.

Where does this lead, and leave, the enigmatic O? Perhaps her submissiveness plays on the margins of sexual slavery as femme fatale, or maybe she is exorcising her rich girl demons by contradictorily using servitude to reinforce her rights of choice. Or being thirty, perhaps she is just having fun her way while her body maintains its desirability.

And what of Steven who is haunted by a repeated dream that takes him to Venice where he declines to loll with his deceased relatives on a forever weekend? Upon waking, an apparition within reality–a violin’s eerie melody in the empty park beyond his window–reminds him of the novel’s central message.

“Sooner or later, mostly sooner, everyone said good-bye. Attachment to this world or anyone in it would ultimately end at this destination.”

One thing is certain, Ernest Greene takes an erotic original whose character development surrenders itself to the fetish and turns out a gem that is a lengthy, but fascinating read. Master of O is a journey in which gradations of want and need, chilly and self-serving at times, march lockstep in a single direction.

Epilogue for a Review

Some post-review comments might be helpful in getting the most out of Ernest Greene’s story.

The author is married to the irrepressible Nina Hartley, one of the most dynamic women in the adult film industry I have personally met. Nina is, I am certain, the model for the perceptive and humorous Marie. Everyone’s guidepost and the voice of reason at the novel’s every turn, Marie guards her girls and reminds Steven and Ray not to go beyond their own personal boundaries, or as we used to say in my adolescent years, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Nina talking with me about her feminism in Vegas, 2012. Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Nina talking with me in Vegas, 2012.
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

For readers who may know little about the adult film business, the author touches on key issues that roil industry waters: the timeliness of the blood testing protocol, the ongoing condom debate in LA county, and everyone’s demon, product piracy. The twenty-first century has also witnessed the decline of print and DVD sales at the expense of the internet. It’s a changing of the guard industry people have learned to accommodate as Greene illustrates when Steven, Ray, and internet entrepreneur, David Phelps, are persuaded to negotiate the fate of Forbidden, Ray’s magazine. Incidentally, the enduring art of the still photo, so important to modern adult entertainment, is replenished with the ongoing references to O’s photography.

As a literary experience, Master of O operates on several levels. There is the main story, of course, built around Greene’s successes in extending the direction of Pauline Reage’s thinking. Feminism is spot on in the book and anyone who doesn’t believe that Marie and O are pro-sex, sexually empowered women needs to pay attention. They are powerful decision makers, deftly placed in the narrative to counter the tightly controlled milieu Steven occupies for himself.

Additionally, there is the SSC (safe, sane, consensual) and RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) paradigm that is the BDSM community’s raison d’être for playing safe. Greene’s characters know their hard limits. O insists her boundaries are few but she does not want scars. Pushing aside the public’s misperception of a bunch of sadists who punish sick masochists, BDSMers are fetish lovers working together. By the way, don’t look past the black and red color motif  that metaphorically drives the community. I’ve always believed BDSMers adore the iconic and formally dressed Dracula and his sexy succubi of Hollywood’s pre-code days. Biting and sucking doesn’t do one in, it just keeps the game alive.

Speaking of games, the mythical glamor of the high life (no pun on product marketing intended) washes through and over the novel. Greene is an encyclopedia of international fashion, automobiles, the art of fine parties, good food and the sport of a Renaissance Man. The attorney’s favorite is fencing where “kills” refresh the soul while yielding a good workout. Vlad Dracul was good with a sword, too, I’ve heard.

Not to be left behind is psychology. Sigmund Freud’s id and superego collide with Carl Jung’s definition of masculinity and femininity as opposing forces. A natural since Sigmund and Carl parted intellectual ways by the early twentieth century. Jung’s male animus and female anima step into the fray between Freud’s animal id and the morally superior superego in the give and take between O and Steven. Neither is totally what the other thinks and the sticky prickly briar patch of love plagues them both, hanging in balance at novel’s end.

Of course, the magic of good literature is the unresolved debate over who are the most lovable, redeemable, disliked, weakest, sexiest, and smartest characters in the story. Greene poses the question with O and Steven. Where would you place them along a continuum of likability and fortitude?

Well, enough of this, but if I were teaching a course in modern literature, I’d include Master of O.

*          *          *           *          *

To order the book, go to Amazon or the Master of O website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Dirty Little Secret?

by Rich Moreland, August 2014

 

Recently, Assembly Bill 1576 requiring the use of protective barriers in adult film was tabled by the California State Senate. As a result, the adult industry will avoid further government oversight statewide except for Los Angeles County where a similar ordinance remains on the books.

The story of AB 1576’s demise as reported by XBIZ can be found here and Adult Video News’ version is referenced here.

The following commentary is about AB 1576’s unanticipated impact on the industry.

*          *          *          *          *

Casey Calvert sends the message. Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Casey Calvert sends the message.
Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

“Here’s the dirty little secret about porn production in California: it’s just work,” says Assemblyman Isadore Hall, whose effort to require condoms in adult film has just expired in a Senate committee.

The Honorable Mr. Hall confirms what everyone connected with the adult industry has known all along, porn people are entertainers who pick up a paycheck. Their job is hardly “a dirty little secret.”

What is missing from Assemblyman Halls’ sardonic comment is the acknowledgment that an effective industry wide blood testing protocol is already in place, and has been for years, to take care of what AB 1576 purports to address: worker safety. Adult entertainment can take care of its own and do it without burdening the taxpayers of a state rife with financial problems.

From California’s standpoint, money is the issue. Driving a multi-billion dollar industry underground or into the friendlier neighborhoods of Nevada, Florida, and New Hampshire (yes, it is legal to shoot porn in “The Granite State”) makes little sense. Enforcement of any protective barrier law demands more government spending, a difficult prospect in tough economic times, and increases unemployment as businesses move elsewhere.

Unfortunately, for LA county the expenditure already exists and state coffers are taking a hit anyway. Segments of the porn industry have vacated California as indicated by dwindling film permits.

Better Equipped

Having said that, only the naive are persuaded that the protective barrier fight is over. Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF) will carry on his private war with the industry. It’s a moral imperative for him just as it may be for Isadore Hall, though both claim performer safety is their concern, an astounding assertion since the public has traditionally cared little for people who make their living selling sexuality in any form.

But for now, the issue is tabled and it’s time to assess the benefits from an industry standpoint. Here’s a quick review.

A degree of political unity is emerging. In the condom debate, the Free Speech Coalition led a vanguard of concerned groups that stood against AB 1576. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Transgender Law Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Law Center, Project Inform of San Francisco, and the AIDS Project Los Angeles, are among the associations who voiced their opposition. And, the valuable support of the business oriented Valley Industry & Commerce Association cannot be overlooked. It has a stake in keeping porn dollars in the LA economy.

While this is a beginning, other longer term developments are taking shape.

The latex controversy has revealed that performers, always known for their renegade attitudes, can organize to express their opinions. The earliest, most primitive rumblings occurred in raucous protests before Measure B became law in LA county an election cycle ago. At the time, it was too little, too late and haphazard, at best. But as reality settled in and the battle moved to Sacramento, performer interest intensified. Stars like Chanel Preston, James Deen, Casey Calvert, Lorelei Lee, Jiz Lee, Nina Hartley, Annika Albright, Alex Chance, and others lobbied legislators.

Bottom line? Porn performers can advance their agenda and may have more political clout than they realize.

A performer organization, the nascent APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee), is emerging. Among APAC’s successes is Porn 101, a video educating talent about STDs. Porn people are sex workers foremost, just as Isadore Hall suggests, and where better to help than with health issues. As APAC grows, the political entanglement over condoms adds to its importance and performers are now better equipped to fight the next round.

In the meantime, two gutsy industry executives are creating their own political dust ups with AHF. First, Vivid’s Steven Hirsch has filed an appeal in the 9th U. S. Circuit Court involving the enforcement of Measure B. Second, Peter Acworth of Kink.com is taking on Michael Weinstein in a direct confrontation. In Acworth’s view, the company was unfairly fined over $78,000 for OSHA “violations” in San Francisco. When he moved some production to Las Vegas, AHF tailed him into town and initiated legal complaints over unprotected oral sex. “Baseless” is Acworth’s word for their accusation (this has gotten irritatingly personal) and Nevada, which envisions a porn biz financial windfall, is stepping around AHF for the moment.

At present, Peter Acworth is ahead in his fight; Steven Hirsch’s efforts remain in limbo.

So, where are we now? The condom push fell victim to state funding, the oft-cited reason for failures to increase government regulation. But, in this case, the aftermath is bringing together an industry willing to wrestle for its life. The message is awareness coupled with united action, ingredients for an effective voice in every political scrum.

Simply put, the porn world is not what it used to be. The people who are committed to adult entertainment understand that porn is a career and are better educated and more professional than ever before. They safeguard their working conditions and have a blood testing protocol to protect against STDs.

All the while, shooting scenes remains what they have always been. In this case, Isadore Hall is right on target, “it’s just work.”

————————————–

After posting Isadore Hall’s comment on porn and work, I decided to clarify that many performers enjoy their profession and believe it is an artistic expression that goes beyond making a living. With that in mind, I will quote awarding winning director Jacky St. James:

“Sex at work can feel very good, but at the end of the day, it’s still work. There do not have to be emotions involved…and having sex with a variety of people does not invalidate what you feel for your partner. Most of the long-term, stable relationships in adult are between two individuals that possess a strong sense of self and can see their profession for what it is – a job.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Spark of Activism

by Rich Moreland, July 2014

In her recent Huffington Post article “Why I Don’t Want Condoms: A Porn Performer’s Perspective,” Casey Calvert explains the irony of AB 1576, the condom legislation that will alter California’s porn production landscape should it become law. Casey argues that the bill would lessen her sexual well-being at work because its provisions are less rigorous than the current industry requirements. At present, she points out, the Free Speech Coalition’s Performer Availability Scheduling Services (PASS) updates an actor’s status and protects everyone by identifying those who are not cleared to shoot. The system is based on a fourteen-day protocol that tests for seven infections including HIV, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia.

Casey goes on to discuss the realities of condom use. The downside of lengthy penetrations can negatively affect female talent’s availability if condoms are required, a fact apparently ignored by Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Health Foundation. Friction creates soreness and irritated vaginal and anal corridors can limit a girl’s work schedule.

In her argument, Casey repeats what everyone connected with the business fears if AB 1576 becomes a legal reality. Some companies will go underground to avoid compliance while others will depart for friendlier confines (Las Vegas heading the list), or go out of business altogether.

Self-Explanatory Photo Courtesy of Casey Calver

Self-Explanatory!
Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

It’s not so much what Casey has to say that is the attention-getter. Rather, it is what her article reveals about performers that could spell changes for the future.

Michael Weinstein’s machinations aimed at curtailing adult film production is a call to action. He has pushed to the industry to the wall and there are hints that moving forward in a political way is more than just a discussion board topic. The testimony against AB 1576 in Sacramento is an indication of what porn people can do when they demonstrate a modicum of organization.

Some performers with sex-positive feminist leanings—Casey, Nina Hartley, Tasha Reign, Jiz Lee, Chanel Preston, and Lorelei Lee to name a few—have never shied away from their political opinions. Now we have the addition of a delegation that recently visited the Compton offices of Assemblyman Isadore Hall, the bill’s sponsor. Led by Nina Hartley, the group, which included Alex Chance, Anikka Albright, Mia Li, and Charli Piper, made the performer case against AB 1576 to a staff aide representing Hall. The account of their appearance can be found here.

Performers are learning that activism is possible in an industry unaccustomed to touting its political side beyond the work of the Free Speech Coalition (FSC).

Incidentally, should AB 1576 become law, the studios may be forced to regard performers as employees rather than independent contractors. If defined as employees, porn talent would then have organizational options. How much of a political voice they can muster may determine outcomes that are beneficial to them.

Organization demands leadership and its vital components, intelligence and commitment. Performers are exploring that scenario now with a new entity, the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC). Using education as its tool, APAC has established worthy goals that include the creation of a safe, professional work environment and a knowledgeable, respected performer.

Will APAC consider a more formal direction in giving porn talent a greater voice? The discussion has come up before. Industry vets will remember performer, director, and producer Ona Zee and her support for unionization some years ago.

Of course, talk of formal organization is problematic in an industry that tends toward libertarianism; porn performers value their unwavering independence and in the end, APAC may amount to nothing. But the specter of Sacramento, with its rules and regs, now looms over everyone and unless there is a dramatic shift in direction, the future is going to demand greater political involvement.

With a law on the books enacted under the auspices of AB 1576, would not performers be better off with a strong organization that would exclusively represent them? How, for example, is the law to be enforced on the set, who takes the blame if condoms are ignored, and how would workman’s comp issues be handled?

Nina Hartley, who believes organization is a good thing, once told me in a moment of frustration that performers lack an institutional memory about the business. They often assume that the way things are now in adult film is the way they have always been. Some performers do seem to get it, however. Like the outspoken Casey Calvert, they can become powerful activists if they choose to explore that possibility.

Here’s an example of the attitude needed for success. Casey says in her article that if studios “stay in California and flaunt the law,” AB 1576 will result in unsafe working conditions. Underground production is the easiest way out and sets up a scenario in which testing protocol evaporates and a host of problems can arise, endangering everyone.

“We self-regulate very well right now, but that’s bound to fall apart if we have to do it in secret. I’m not going to work if I don’t feel safe,” she declares.

What a feisty Casey does not say is she’ll leave the industry and she is adamant that she’ll not shoot underground. The Florida native and others will fight for all porn performers and their spirit of activism, evident in Sacramento’s legislative halls and in online articles and social media, will take up residence in APAC.

Positive changes begin with a spark, an attitude, and almost always a fed-up person. Remember Norma Rae and Erin Brockovich? Porn women are just as gutsy.

*          *          *          *          *

Postscript

At the hearing from left to right, Sid, Owen Gray, Jiz Lee, Chanel Preston, Casey Calvert, and Lorelei Lee Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Performers making a statement by attending the hearing. From left to right:  Sid, Owen Gray, Jiz Lee, Chanel Preston, Casey Calvert, and Lorelei Lee
Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

On the day of the Senate hearing, Casey and others from the industry appeared in the chamber to offer their views. Though each person was recognized, Casey reports, only designated speakers were allowed to make statements. The FSC’s Diane Duke and Kink.com-based performer and director Lorelei Lee presented arguments against the bill; the remaining interested parties were allowed a brief individual moment.

“We all got a chance to go up to the microphone, but all we were allowed to say was our name and that we oppose,” Casey states. As for the other side, “There were some people there to support the bill, but not as many as we had,” she adds. “The oddest one was Jessie Rodgers, who was literally in tears because she got herpes on set.”

Casey later mentions that herpes is “fairly common” in the industry and is often considered a “nothing disease” whose danger is hyped by drug companies. “It can’t hurt you at all,” she says and questions why Jessie was so over-the-top about it.

Former performers Sophia Delgado and Cameron Bay endorsed the bill along with Jessie Rogers, whose personal view on AB 1576 and the industry abuses she perceives harms all porn talent can be found here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized