After Porn Ends

I saw on iTunes recently that the documentary After Porn Ends (Bryce Wagoner, 2010) was available and immediately rented it. This is a subject I’m interested in as a woman and as a feminist. While as a feminist I support a woman’s right to work in whatever career she chooses, I’m disturbed by the increasing violence in porn, the rise of “gonzo” porn, and the extreme degradation of women in these films. Porn has changed significantly since the 70s, when cheesy set-ups featuring softly lit vanilla sex was the norm. Now we see women in rape scenarios, gang bangs, being choked, verbally abused and physically degraded. Obviously there is a demand for hardcore material or else it wouldn’t be made and for me, that’s the most disturbing thing of all.

What’s also worrying is the ready availability of porn. These days young kids get their first introduction to sex, often before they even kiss someone, via porn and in less than five minutes they can access hardcore material on their phones. As a result a generation is growing up with very skewed and unhealthy beliefs about sex. One of the interviewees in the film says that porn isn’t real sex, a distinction that adults can make but not one that young children and teenagers are aware of. Cindy Gallop is doing brilliant work in this area with her site Make Love Not Porn which is definitely worth a read, especially if you’re the parent of a teenager.

Life After Porn interviews many performers who have left porn including Houston, Seka, Asia Carrera, Amber Lynn, Tyffany Million and Raylene as well as scholars such as Dr Neil Malamuth (UCLA Communications Professor) and porn activists William Margold and Nina Hartley. Thus the viewer gets a well rounded look at the topic: some have made peace with their time in porn, some miss it, some have become born again Christians.

What’s striking is how many of the interviewees fell into the industry. Many started off with modelling, then stripping and then onto porn. Many of them talk about “living in the moment” – they didn’t think about how it would affect the rest of their lives as it all happened so quickly. Before they knew it they were earning more money than they thought possible and living the life of a star. One interviewee talks about life after porn and how many performers are shunned and made to feel ashamed by society – the same people that enjoyed their performances now won’t employ them or socialise with them.

It has been well documented that many of the women working in the sex industry have suffered sexual abuse, incest and rape. Jenna Jameson has been open about the fact that she was raped twice before she entered the adult industry and other famous porn stars have been equally candid about their own experiences. Three of the women in this documentary talk about their childhood sexual abuse. Although it seems bizarre that an abuse survivor would go on to star in porn movies, when a woman is used to separating what is happening with her body from what is happening inside her head, having sex on camera for money isn’t a big leap.

The performers interviewed mostly worked before the age of hardcore gonzo porn and so many of them don’t seem to be traumatised by their previous careers (As a counterbalance watch the 2003 Primetime segment with Diane Sawyer and a very young Belladonna – she is interviewed after doing her one of her first films which was a rough prison gang bang with twelve men and she is quite obviously in shock and very traumatised). Houston says that she regrets her porn career wholeheartedly – she was the star of The World’s Biggest Gangbang 3 where she reportedly had sex with 620 men in one day. She also mentions that she has a daughter and she emphatically does not want her daughter to follow the same career path. Another interviewee Shelley Lubben now runs The Pink Cross Foundation which reaches out to adult industry workers and her Youtube channel contains many videos (such as this one) which provide an alternative view of porn.

Porn has been around in various forms from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics through to the Internet and it’s not going anywhere. Documentaries such as this provide a vital viewpoint: they humanise the performers and show them as emotional thinking people instead of just a collection of body parts. Life After Porn is well worth watching for this reason alone.

3 thoughts on “After Porn Ends

  1. Pingback: Strippers – Channel 4 | Alex Donald's Multiverse

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