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Why I Had to Stop Making Hardcore Porn

As a director of heterosexual porn, I came to learn that while my overt task was to make sure the girls got naked, my true responsibility was to make sure the girls got punished.

When I was in my early 20s, I made my living as a pornographer. For more than five years, my working life revolved around framing acts of public copulation. I’ve pushed cameras and microphones into dwellings no machines should ever go. I’ve been granted a front-row seat to scenes of startling intimacy. I’ve helped pick up thousands of used baby-wipes. Somewhere along the line, I gained a financial stability that, in light of the rather limited artistic scope of the movies I helped produce, I probably didn’t deserve.

But after half a decade of the sex grind, I decided to call it quits. For despite having entered the smut leagues with the very best of intentions, the vast majority of the porn I ended up shooting was not “sex-positive” in character. Instead, the sex I found myself videotaping was of the Gonzo variety: the kind of scenes that are harshly lit, reek of a basement in the San Fernando Valley, and inevitably wind up devoured and forgotten in 15 minutes. If my “career” as a director is notable in any way, it’s that I’ve played for both sides—which is to say, while I’ve shot hundreds of hetero scenes, I’ve shot almost as many in gay porn.

We Have to Give Them What They Want

Though gay and straight porn may appear distinct from one another mostly due to the various orifices which receive the majority of the camera’s gaze, for me, the most important difference was that they felt governed by subtly different moral tenets.

Let’s begin with straight porn; for that’s where I began. I got into porn as a horny 23-year-old Jewish kid, hoping to stare at and hopefully score with curvy women who didn’t see a roll in the hay as too absurd a way to make their rent. Perhaps I was blessed with an excessively literal mind, but I quite simply imagined that the best way for me to live out my sexual fantasies was to, well, join the sex industry itself. It was not to be so simple, I soon discovered: many a man had shared my same dream. A good job was hard to come by, but after months of crushing disappointments, I finally landed a mildly lucrative gig shooting camera for a website. Understandably, I was psyched.

But in due time, I came to learn that within the context of the heterosexual L.A. industry, while my overt task at hand was to make sure that the girls got naked, my true responsibility as director was to make sure the girls got punished. Scenes that stuck out, and hence made more money, were those in which the female “targets” were verbally degraded and sometimes physically humiliated.

None of it was written in my contract, of course; it was more of a contextual thing. Like: Everyone’s doing it . . . thus, so shall we. My various superiors across the years saw the issue from a businessman’s perspective, reminding me quite openly of the need to keep up with our competition. Anabolic’s getting nasty?Then we need to be nastier. Another one of their gambits was “We owe it our viewers.” We have to give them what they want! (And what do “they” want? Scenes of degradation, of course. Gloryholes and gang-bangs. The facial cumshot became de riguer sometime in the 1980s, but by the 2000s, you literally had to do it in every scene or risk not collecting your paycheck.)

What surprised me most though, was the fact that I found within myself a happy willingness to be violent, a willingness to degrade. Though my bosses may have ordered me to organize and record the scenes of degradation, I followed their orders, and not without pleasure. Something cowardly within me, an internal space, suffused with a weak kind of anger, felt satisfied when I saw a woman “take her punishment.” I clung to the sense of temporary empowerment I found through the bullying. Lust-colored aggression and the satisfaction of making “good money” guided me through scene after scene.

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