Revolution, Porn Style
Libby goes from radical feminist Riot Grrrl to porno talent scout and finds herself much happier with the results.
As many of you may already know, this year I began a new career as the casting director for an upstart porn film company. I walked on set one day as the boom operator and graduated to talent scout within a few weeks. It has been an amazing, if not frustrating experience so far, but remains always interesting. If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be working in the porn industry, I would have never believed them.
You see, I used to be on the other side of this spectrum. In my late teens and early twenties, I was a hardcore feminist, the kind that worshipped Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin and wore big black combat boots in defiance of the girly-girl image people wanted me to project. I was appalled by porn and images that objectified women, as well as the sex industry. I was active in the Riot Grrrl movement and idolized such bands as Bikini Kill and Babes in Toyland.
I'd been active in a local activist group here called the Sister Serpents, that used humor and art to tackle sexism and present a different form of radical feminism. One of the members of that group, and a woman I considered a mentor in many ways, Kate Kaos, let on one day that she was a stripper at a peep show. It shocked and intrigued me immediately, considering Kate was one of the most radical feminists I knew. Soon I was finding out that many of my feminist friends were sex workers and found their experiences to be liberating at times. Though I didn't immediately think it was something I could ever try, I no longer judged women negatively if they chose to work in the sex trade, something I had done most of my life.
Slowly I began to realize that my radical distaste for porn and the sex industry was actually a secret obsession with it. My sex-positive feminist friends made me realize that it was still OK to look at porn and express my sexuality without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. I'd openly browse sex shops and during one particularly enlightening trip to south Florida, I went on a pornographic tour-de-force with my friend Sherry, going to strip clubs, buying porn pens and lighters for friends at home, and gobbling up her boyfriend's stash of Playboys. Sherry would tease me about my love of porn and I'd try to reassure her that I wasn't like that at home. If she found out what I did today, I'm sure she would laugh.
I didn't expect to ever work in the porn industry. Even during my years as an escort, it was never an area I wanted to get into. But my background in film and experience with the sex industry made it a perfect combination of the two. I stumbled into this industry completely by accident, but it's been one of the best things to ever happen to me.
However, these days the tables have been turned on me. I find myself having to constantly try to convince people that porn isn't degrading to women and that not all porn stars are drug-addled victims. Most are just the opposite. Though there are always exceptions to the rule, men and women choose to make porn films just like any profession and look to advance their careers. In my experience, many of these people are friendly, down-to-earth and enjoy what they do. Otherwise, they wouldn't be in it.
I consider my position with this porn company to be a very important one. Often I am one of the lone women on set, but am often one of the most vocal crewmembers. If I think an actress is uncomfortable or not enjoying herself, I speak up and ask her. If things are getting shaky behind the scenes, I try to calm the performers down and resolve any issues (of which there have been many). If a female performer gets her period on set, she feels more comfortable telling me. Most porn sets have no female crew at all, so I am an anomaly.
When we speak of 'women and porn', we usually think of 'women in porn', but it is so important for more of us to be behind the camera than in front of it. It is one of the few areas of the film industry where female directors are becoming just as common as men. Many female performers often find second careers directing films and are very successful at it. Veronica Hart, Hyapatia Lee, Nina Hartley, and Annie Sprinkle have all taken turns behind the camera after successful careers as porn stars. In addition, women make more money than male performers do and have bigger star power.
So a decade after my radical feminist phase, I find myself a lot more open minded and sex-positive. Many of my opinions, however, still remain the same. I'm adamantly against women being disrespected and forced into uncomfortable situations, but I've found the perfect industry to infiltrate and project my views upon. Many women may have a "how could you?" attitude about what I do, whereas my attitude is "how could I not?"
This is my own revolution, porn-style.