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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.

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But I’m saddened to think that the only path to the absence of hostility and anger in porn is to remove women from the equation. It doesn’t bode well, especially for a world in which men and women must continue to co-exist. In the first half of my porn-life, I lived inside of a world where it almost seemed like an entire gender was being denigrated, like that was the whole point—where very young women were choked and slapped and written-on with lipstick, simply for the crime, it seemed, of being a woman. You should have slept with me, seemed to be the unspoken message. Now see what I have to do to you.

Choosing the Photograph

The semiotician Susan Sontag writes that, “Photography is essentially an act of non-intervention.” She references the famous photograph of a Vietnamese child, running down a road, her back burned from napalm: “Part of the horror of such journalistic coups of contemporary photojournalism . . . comes from the awareness of how plausible it has become, in situations where the photographer has the choice between a photograph and life, to choose the photograph.” Every day, I saw people in pain. And yet, I always chose the photograph.

Even so, I don’t regret my decision to work in porn. I regret how I acted within it, and wish that I had been driven more frequently by compassion than instinctive cruelty. But on its most basic level, pornography is neither evil nor noble. It is a sexual means to a solitary end, and for most, porn simply represents a harmless way to spend a half-hour: a bit of lust-inspired drivel that, done right, can serve a very practical purpose.

Moreover, within the world of heterosexual pornography, it’s clear that not every scene is degrading. Some are directed by women, others by alt-porn types who fancy a pink mohawk and maybe a bit of plot more so than your average everyday, run-of-the-mill gangbang; many films, happily, are simply produced by people who don’t seem propelled by anger. Some are just plain damn sexy.

At its worst, though, porn can represent with shocking clarity the inability of a modern society to empathize. We are living in an increasingly individualistic, over-privatized, fragmented society, and it's not going to get any better any time soon. Perhaps the character of our generation will be judged in how we react to the images that run before us on our screens: do we wish for the objects of our desire to be punished, humiliated? Or treated with respect? The answer is in our collective consciousness. It is up to us.

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