“I’ve never been one to watch porn.” Although that disingenuous claim has been made by countless people I know, I mean it. I’ve never really enjoyed porn.
For me, the idea of pornography is inextricable from the hordes of men on the other side of the camera—directors, DPs, coffee-carrying interns—telling the female performer where to look, what to say, and when to begin shrieking into that mythical orgasm that it is far from something that might turn me on.
While the history of porn has been predominantly male—which in large part explains my discomfort—the future of it seems to be far more female. Since my experience on a porn set with producer and performer Samantha Mack for a VICE documentary, I’ve been fascinated by how powerhouse females are taking over and changing the industry, Mack included. The actors talked about getting valuable training. They attended a 90-minute discussion about consent. Mack’s set wasn’t seedy or intimidating; it was fun and welcoming, so much so that I didn’t want to leave.
Now that more women are making moves in the industry and getting recognized for their contributions, I’m starting to ask myself if this will make me and an entire generation of women more comfortable watching porn.
How are these women and femmes in positions of power instigating change and, more importantly, experiencing these contemporary shifts themselves? I sought out four wonderful women creating waves in the industry to find out.
‘You can’t just come in and show me your pussy and expect to be rich’
Samantha Mack, porn star and producer and CEO of Mack Models
VICE: Hello Samantha, you work on mainly female-run sets. What’s that like?
Samantha Mack: It’s fun and easy to be on an all-girl set. We see a lot more caution being taken, consent forms coming out, boxes being checked off, and conversations being had beforehand. Female directors and producers are really pushing this narrative—pushing what consent means before, during, and after a shoot.
Why do you think that is?
A fair chunk of the women in the industry who are now producers and directors were performers. If you’ve worked in the trenches you know how to make the trenches more accommodating for the next generation.
How important is that empathy in making sure your performers are comfortable?
Very. What makes a huge difference is I’ve been there; I’m coming from a place where I sympathize with them. That makes people more comfortable, which is something men can’t generally do. Teaching and nurturing will get you a far better performance than telling a person they’re wrong. I’ve had my job mansplained to me; I know what that is like.
Oh yes, the number of times I’ve had directors mansplain how a vagina works…
Eek. What about female-led content? How might that be changing?
It definitely leans towards the more ethical, again because most of us have been there. I stay far away from taboo subjects. I don’t want to make porn that’s going to make you cheat or assault somebody or fuck someone underage. It’s not a storyline I want to put in my audience’s heads. There could be repercussions. I want that fantasy to be something that’s plausible for you.
Do you think that level of responsibility is lacking on other sets?
I think so. I feel a ton of responsibility on my set. In the middle of shooting I have given up on my vision because the performer isn’t comfortable; I want them to have a successful experience. But for a lot of other producers, that’s not always the case. It comes down to people who want to make art and people who have more money than sense and who throw themselves into the porn industry for shits and giggles.
You teach both female and male amateurs at your porno bootcamp. How is this helping bring about change?
It’s empowering a younger generation. Especially for women—I’m teaching them that you can’t just come in and show me your pussy and expect to be rich. This is a business. We’re teaching them how to take control, be amazing, be your own boss, and know your brand. If they have this knowledge from the very beginning, we’ll continue to lift each other up and elevate a lot faster.
Laura Bell – Read more on vice.com