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The Feminist Pornographer

Tristan Taormino, editor of a new book on X-rated activism, says it's time to find a middle ground in the porn wars.

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I think porn is an easy scapegoat. Porn is the scapegoat for so many things that are wrong with our sexual culture. I think this notion of what we’re supposed to look like, and female bodies and diversity, has been around before even porn became so prevalent and acceptable for people.

I’ve got to say something so brutally honest that I can’t believe I’m really saying it to mainstream media, but I’m gonna, and that is: people gossip a lot in porn and I hear a lot of shit, and people can be cruel and mean. And there have been times when I’ve said — I’ve been just in conversation with people and I’ve said, “You know, I really want to shoot so-and-so for my next movie.” And someone will say, “Uh, have you seen her? ‘Cuz she’s gotten really fat.” Or someone else will say, “Um, you know, she just had another baby and those stretch marks are awful.” Again, they’re talking to the wrong person because I like body diversity when I can get it, and I am unafraid to shoot someone because they’ve “gained a few pounds,” and people say the craziest, most explicit shit about porn performers. But I’ve never once heard – I’m just being brutally honest with you, Tracy – I’ve never once heard, “Her pussy is really ugly.” Or, “Have you seen her pussy lips? They’re crazy weird.” We all as directors have our own aesthetics, but I’ve never heard anyone dis anyone’s pussy before. Maybe they just haven’t said it to me, but they’ve said enough other really offensive shit to me that I feel by now I would’ve heard it.

It’s funny, that’s your experience inside the industry, and the experience outside the industry is that you hear people insulting pussies all the time in mainstream, fratty movies where pussies are disgusting, or they’re too loose, or they smell bad, or whatever.

Right, I hear a lot of offensive shit, it really curls my toes, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “Oh my God, her outer labia are just too big.”

So related to that, as we talked about a little bit on Twitter,  a study recently made the rounds finding that the stereotype of the average female porn star being a blonde with big boobs was false; she’s actually a brunette with b-cups, at least according to the Internet Adult Film Database’s data. What did you make of that?

I found that super-fascinating. I think that it echoes my own experience, which is that I feel like what I would call a kind of a “California girl,” which is a blond, thin, white woman with breast implants, who has a kind of over-the-top femininity, that aesthetic exists and is alive and well. But that’s a segment of the porn industry and the talent pool, and one you can actually entirely avoid if you want. Because now there’s so many different kinds of porn, that if you want to see just a flat-chested brunette, or you want to see a “sporty girl,” or you want to see gender queers and dykes, or you want to see black women with big butts, there are so many different aesthetics now that I feel like there’s no one singular iconic image. And certainly sites like “Burning Angel” – you know, “Burning Angel” has established its own kind of aesthetic, in that alt-porn world, and so there’s room for the pierced, tattooed punk rock girl with the Mohawk. That girl can work.

Now, that said, I do think that there are certain aesthetics – there still is a certain beauty standard that exists in porn that propels certain performers to more success, more roles, higher visibility than others. You can’t deny that. If they did an analysis of all of the contract girls at the height of the contract girl era, I bet there were more blondes. I think it’s an interesting thing to analyze everything equally, which is what they did, versus who gets the most visibility, who gets the most box covers, who gets the most roles, who gets the most “success.” I still think there’s overwhelming whiteness, and the people who work the most, make the most money, and are on box covers the most, tend to be white. Are there exceptions? Yep, but very few. And they still tend to be very skinny. We’ve still got a long way to go.

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