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12

Sep

A letter to The Weekend Australian Magazine in response to this article about the online porn industry.

(also CC’d to The Big Issue Australia as they republished a quote from there, which is where I first heard of it.)

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Dear The Australian and The Big Issue,

I recently picked up The Big Issue #389 and in their Hearsay section they quoted a Weekend Australian Magazine article citing Australian porn stars who claim that the industry is full of fakeness, STIs, drugs, and people with abuse histories. I would like to chime in as someone based in Brisbane who has shot for porn and had a very different experience.

Recently I was in San Francisco and had the opportunity to perform for the Crash Pad Series (http://crashpadseries.com), an indie queer porn website whose performers and scenes span a wide range of races, bodies, sexualities, genders, and sexual interests. It is a cornerstone of an industry that is known for authenticity, freedom of sexual expression, and treating performers with respect. I have a background in performance art and have done erotic pieces before, but had never created porn asides from a self-shoot (available on QueerPorn.TV), so I was rather nervous coming in.

I found the experience highly enjoyable and the working conditions top-notch - better even than some conventional/”vanilla” jobs I have done! Everyone was friendly and open, answering questions with patience and treating my co-star and I like good friends. We were given full freedom to decide what happens in our scene, taking into account both our turn-ons and our boundaries, and my co-star and I got to plan out a fun unusual scene that we would both enjoy. Direction was minimal and nothing was faked - every reaction and orgasm was real. What was especially heartening for me personally was that despite being a racial/cultural minority (South Asian), I did not have to exotify myself or play up to a stereotype; I was allowed to perform however I liked.

Unlike stereotypes and assumptions, porn professionals are often very safe with STIs as they get checked regularly. In San Francisco and the queer porn scene especially, there is a strong push towards representing safe sex methods on screen, including safer sex between non-heterosexual couples (the scene I shot does include safe-sex barriers). There are also regular discussions amongst porn professionals, producers, viewers, and other people of interest online and in person about making porn more ethical, fair pay and working conditions, fair representation of diversity, sex-positivity, and so on. While in San Francisco I had the honour of assisting and working with various people who are or have been porn professionals not just in San Francisco but also in more mainstream markets like Los Angeles, and they talked to me about the pros and cons of the different markets, how the experiences differ, and how they are also similar - such as regular testing (which most of the time the performers get compensated for) and authentic creativity.

I was disappointed and disheartened to read a quote that played up to outdated stereotypes without casting a wider net for a range of responses. Yes, there are many things that are problematic about the various porn and sex industries around the world - but much of them are issues that affect other industries as well. Other industries also have to deal with abusive employers, unfair work conditions, people who have to fake it through the job - and yet when it comes to the sex industry it’s assumed that these issues are *part and parcel* of the industry specifically rather than reflective of overarching systemic problems. There are plenty of people who are working hard towards increasing education and visibility of authentic ethical porn in all forms, as well as combating issues that affect the world of sexuality (such as abuse) - I would recommend checking out the work of Jiz Lee, Shine Louise Houston, Dr Carol Queen, Tristan Taormino, my co-star Kitty Stryker, and their peers for more information and perspective.

And I would also like to invite you to check out the Crash Pad Series to see the wider possibilities of porn - including my first scene!

Sincerely,
Mendhi Henna