On my last post I talked about how porn dehumanizes women and teaches men to regard them as a set of holes meant for their pleasure. Porn is fantasyland, not reality. And a dose of reality can teach a valuable lesson.
Released in 2013, the documentary Date My Porn Star shows what happens when Kevin, Jonathan and Danny, three die-hard porn fans from the UK, go to LA to visit a live set and also meet their favorite pornstars. They see the casting of three girls for an eight-hour live show produced by pornographer Dan Leal, in which the actresses will have non-stop sex with other porn fans. Kevin, Jonathan and Danny ask the girls about their personal lives. One of them is eighteen and only had sex with three boyfriends. Another candidate, a mother of three, is majoring in quantum physics—it isn’t hard to figure she was led to porn by financial pressure. The girls start to emerge as human beings, and when Kevin, Jonathan and Danny learn about the mother of three, they become clearly uncomfortable.
Once filming begins, they see how the live action wears off the girls after the second hour of uninterrupted sex with different men. In the final hours of the marathon, one of the actresses breaks down from physical and mental exhaustion but is forced to keep going because the action is streaming live. In the end of the shooting, as night descends, Dan Leal still makes the girls have sex with him and his crew. “Definitely an eye opener,” says Kevin, while Jonathan reflects that “Maybe porn is a meat grinder for young women.” Danny is disturbed: “It’s just like these people got immunity to care about other people or feelings or love. It’s weird. I can’t explain. What I saw today was absolutely disgusting and heartbreaking.”
The next day the three of them have dates with their favorite stars. As conversation flows, each talks about past romantic relationships and reflect on them. As it turns out, Jonathan may be searching for an unrealistic mate that looks like a pornstar. Kevin shows classic signs of porn addiction without being aware of it: at the age of 28, he finds real sex boring, craves variety and has been intimate with more than 60 women but hardly ever experienced an orgasm with them.
Before going back home, the three men meet up with former pornstar Vanessa Belmont. She tells them about several STDs and injuries she has suffered in her career—chlamydia, gonorrhea, anal and vaginal tears, and a bleeding throat. In her first anal scene, she had to take painkillers in order to be able to smile to the camera and say how much she loved it. When asked about her mental state on set, she says she was drained from doing such unnatural things like having group sex with several men. After their experience in LA, Kevin, Jonathan and Danny went back home with a radically different view of porn, of themselves and their own lives. They found humanity in the women involved in porn, and in the process rediscovered a part of their own humanity.
Like many in the industry, Belmont got into porn by doing nude and girl-girl scenes, and then rapidly moving to hardcore material. There’s pressure for girls to keep crossing their boundaries: directors want them to do it, they have signed a contract and need the money, and if they don’t comply they may not get another job. Judging by the various interviews I watched with pornstars, this seems to be common: the contract doesn’t specify in detail what the performers are supposed to do, and things change in the set.
The 2005 TV show The Dark Side of Porn: Diary of a Porn Virgin gives an idea of how things progress. In it, newcomer Frankie expressly tells her agent she won’t do anal sex, and in her first professional job she finds out in the set that she’s required to perform it. She refuses, and the pressure is diffused when another girl agrees to do it. However, in the end of the shooting, Frankie changes her mind and tells the director she’ll have anal intercourse next time.
Female performers are at a much higher risk than their male counterparts when it comes to STDs, and in the numerous interviews I watched, all girls mention having contracted several STDs like gonorrhea and Chlamydia, which can cause infertility. The use of condoms on set is rare, and it doesn’t offer protection against all venereal diseases anyway. Girls still working in the industry and former porn actresses alike say they would never have sex in their private lives the way they do on camera. It’s common for porn performers to take drugs or alcohol on a regular basis in order to endure physical and mental stress.
The life expectancy for a pornstar is 38 years.
In an interview in Prime Time Live, popular pornstar Belladona talks about her first gang-bang scene with twelve men, and how she couldn’t stop crying afterwards: “It was really hard because I really felt like a piece of meat. You really took a piece of me and threw it into a lion’s cage. Twelve lions. I had to do a lot of things that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do.” On another occasion, she mentions being high on dope during a scene. Former pornstar Tiffany Million says in this interview she would disconnect while filming, as if she were “a fly on the wall” just observing and feeling nothing. It was her way of coping.
So does porn stand for sexual freedom and the things women really enjoy in bed?
On my next post I’ll share with you what a very special man has to say about that. I mean, a very special man. Stay tuned!