Sex & Relationships

What Happened at My First Porn Shoot

As a woman and feminist, I’ve found there’s often a negotiation that occurs when watching most porn, especially if it involves heavy aggression or degradation.

“Isis?” said Shine Louse Houston as she greeted me at the door.

“Anna,” I corrected, and held out my hand. It was 10am on a Saturday. Houston, a filmmaker and director of the "Crash Pad Series," looked a little confused, but invited me in. She told me to help myself to some coffee, strawberries, pita chips and cookies laid out on the kitchen counter.

We chatted as more of the crew showed up, and about 30 minutes later, Houston exclaimed, “Oh! You’re the writer.” She had mistaken me for one of the four porn models expected on the set that morning. I found this immensely flattering, and thought that perhaps her earlier confused look had to do with why a porn star would ever go by the name Anna.

TheCrash Pad Series is a queer feminist porn site featuring amateur and professional performers alike. Aside from the titillating video episodes, after each shoot Houston interviews the performers, providing an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the stars view the porn industry. The series, which is quite popular and has won numerous awards, is a continuation of Houston’s first adult-themed film, The Crash Pad. According to the Web site, the series, “continues from where the film left off, portraying a clandestine San Francisco apartment where a voyeuristic landlord (played by Houston herself) supplies keys to the pad’s pleasure-seeking occupants so that she can observe their sexual escapades through hidden cameras.”

Crash Pad found me on Twitter, and invited me to be a guest observer for two live-streamed shoots featuring Nic Switch and Iona Grace in the morning, and Ray and Maggie Mayhem in the afternoon. The original lineup had shifted since Ray’s flight was delayed—she flew in from Seattle to do this shoot—but Nic and Iona stepped in on short notice to fill the gap. “We’re like superheroes,” Nic said, with a smile. “We saw the porn signal in the sky.”

My first porn shoot was conveniently located about five minutes away from my house. I can’t tell you where it is, but suffice to say that I never knew my sleepy San Francisco neighborhood was so delightfully rife with smut mongers. “Oh yeah,” said Houston. “Annie Sprinkle lives up the street, too.”

At once intimate and breezy, the folks behind the "Crash Pad Series" operate like a family, albeit one that segues easily from sharing cat photos to impassioned concerns about fisting censorship. Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops played low in the background, a copy of Scientific American sat on the kitchen table, and two shelves of sex toy-shaped awards were prominently displayed. “Have you ever, uh, put your awards to use?” I asked Houston. “That’s been christened,” she laughed, pointing to the curved metal wand titled “The Visionary” from the Feminist Porn Awards.

Models can do just about any sex act they want, with a few exceptions. “No blood, no poop, and no glitter,” said production assistant Jiz Lee, especially adamant about the glitter, which is notoriously difficult to clean up. After some light refreshments, Houston sat down with Nic and Iona to discuss their scene. The models determine the direction, which is rarely true in mainstream porn. When asked if they had a plan, Iona said, “No. We just wanna fuck.”

In addition to Houston, another videographer, Alexa Shae, photographer Tristan Crane, and me, the bedroom also housed a “voyeur cam,” where paying members of the site can watch the action unfold in real time, as well as a bookshelf that held such titles as,Bad Catand All The Birds of North America. Aside from shooting a few different takes of Nic and Iona’s entrance, the sex unfolded almost seamlessly from foreplay to multiple climaxes. The performers seemed well versed in each other’s bodies. Indeed, few words were exchanged, despite the occasional expletive or deity, even when some of the more high-stakes moves were involved, like fisting, and tit slapping.

Since the room was small and crowded, I tried to flatten myself against the wall as much as possible, but even then I could’ve reached out and touched the performers, they were so close. I briefly considered the possibility of being in the line of fire should ejaculation occur, but mostly pushed that thought out of my mind and enjoyed my front-row seat. Luckily, I remained dry through both shoots…at least outwardly.

As a feminist, I’ve found there’s often a negotiation that occurs when watching most porn, especially if it involves any kind of heavy aggression or degradation. Because, let’s face it, our desires are hardly ever politically correct. When a woman in porn is tied up and being called a dirty whore, the last thing you want to be thinking is, “Does liking this make me a bad person?” With "Crash Pad," there was no such negotiation. The performers genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. Nothing about the sex seemed contrived or for the benefit of an audience. Pleasure was the central tenet, and it worked. It was hot.

After 47 minutes of fucking with their fingers, mouths, fists, and a Hitachi Magic Wand, Nic and Iona wound down their scene, though seemed a little disappointed that they ran out of time before getting to use the dildos they'd brought. “That’s quite a wet spot,” I said, noting the puddle that spanned about a foot and a half in diameter. “Oh, that’s nothing,” Tristan shrugged. I took her word for it.

“Why do you do porn?” Nic asked Iona, in the informal co-star interview afterward. “It’s really fun, for one,” she said. “I mean, I could be a cashier and earn money that way, or I could have sex with lots of fun people.”

In her downtime, Iona occupied herself by knitting a scarf in the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

“It’s not something I do consistently,” said Nic. “I like representing the community. I get to learn more about myself and what I enjoy. Plus, it’s a great bonus to be able to facilitate sexual awareness in other people’s lives.”

The afternoon taping ran behind schedule due to Ray’s flight delay, and because she had to spend a little time pumping her breast milk. “Feel this,” she said to Jiz, pointing at her left breast. “It’s hard as a rock!” As she filled a 12-ounce glass with breast milk, the conversation turned silly. “One time I didn’t have enough milk for my Cheerios, so I just used my own,” said Ray. Maggie Mayhem held up a tiny orange tube-top. “Maybe I can wear this for Halloween. What do you think? Sexy traffic cone?”

In their scene, Ray was a hitchhiker Maggie had picked up. Ray joked that it was her first time at the Crash Pad, as the camera panned upward to reveal a framed erotic photo of her gripping a dildo, while being embraced from behind. The chemistry between Ray and Maggie was palpable, encapsulating a rapport that was somehow both lighthearted and intensely personal. “I didn’t bring as big a dick this time,” said Ray. “That’s okay,” said Maggie. “We’re in a recession. You can downsize.”

Turning her abundance of breast milk into an erotic act, Ray playfully sprayed Maggie in the chest and face, then licked it off her. As a hitchhiker, Ray’s bag came equipped with several dildos and harnesses, which Maggie used on her in a variety of different positions. My favorite part of their scene came toward the end. Maggie was fucking Ray from behind. Then Ray stealthily reached between Maggie’s legs and started rubbing her clit.

“Oh,” Maggie startled. “You effective slut!” Switching positions again, Ray fingered Maggie while sucking on her silicone cock. More than an hour had passed at this point, and with a mere seven seconds left on the tape, Maggie shuddered in orgasm and collapsed on top of Ray, where they stayed for several minutes, long after the cameras had stopped rolling.

The porn industry is still very much made for and produced by men, but it was certainly refreshing to witness Houston’s work, and to experience the kind of frank, pleasure-focused, authentic sex that rarely exists outside the mainstream.

“Don’t forget to take some porn home with you,” Jiz said as I was packing up. “If you know of a fundraiser, they make great raffle prizes.”