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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.
 
 
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“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 Cat and 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.

 
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