The Sporadic Beaver

The Stoya Exception

May 2, 2013

Tags: Stoya, Village Voice, Beaver Street, porn stars

"People become porn stars because they're good at it; because they have no other options; because they have nothing to lose; and because they're desperate, either economically or emotionally or both." --Robert Rosen, from Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography

"It made it harder for people to stay in that mindset of porn stars as people who don't have other options because they're too emotionally damaged or stupid to do something else." --Stoya, the porn star, telling the Village Voice why she prefers to post her thoughts directly on the Internet rather than talk to the press.

I’d never heard of Stoya until I read the cover story in last week’s Village Voice. The article, “Pop Star of Porn,” by Amanda Hess, tells how Stoya, 26-year-old star of such X-rated videos as Stoya: Web Whore, has become the toast of the New York art world, perhaps because of her “Snow White beauty,” the mathematical perfection of her face and body, and her even more famous boyfriend, porn star James Deen.

I find it interesting (though not especially surprising) that when I was looking the other way, the line between XXX celebrity and non-XXX celebrity seems to have vanished completely. But even more interesting, I thought, was how Stoya’s above quote echoed what I wrote in Beaver Street, and might have even been a response to it.

Stoya does not want you to think that people become porn stars because they have no other options or because they’re emotionally damaged. And she holds herself up as a shining example of a porn star who has options and is not emotionally damaged.

Fair enough. Stoya is the exception that proves the rule. Though I wonder what, exactly, she’s planning to do when she’s no longer under contract to Digital Playground and her celebrity is no longer based on how well she performs sex acts on video or in live shows. A handful of success stories come to mind: Danni Ashe (Internet millionaire), Jenna Jameson (best-selling author), Ginger Lynn and Christy Canyon (radio personalities).

And I’m sure there are a few more potential Stoyas out there—intelligent, beautiful, emotionally together women with a wide array of options who see hardcore porno as a good career move. But my quote, about economically and emotionally desperate people without options, is based on what I learned from conducting approximately 200 in-depth interviews with porn stars, erotic performers, and nude models, many of whom were intelligent, witty, and articulate.

Stories of sexual abuse, incest, and loss of virginity through rape were common. The porn stars I spoke with, over a 16-year period, were people scarred by emotional trauma, with little education, who were usually driven into porn by economic desperation. If they had options, it was a choice between a minimum wage job at McDonald’s, Burger King, or Wendy’s.

So yes, what Stoya has accomplished is remarkable. But, I think it would be best for the rest of the world to hold on to the mindset of “porn stars as people who don’t have other options because they’re too emotionally damaged.” Because it’s true, even if Stoya doesn’t want you to believe it.

Is There Work After Porn?

November 29, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, pornography, porn stars

In the Beaver Street Prologue, I talk about how, after working in adult entertainment for 16 years, I was "totally burnt out on smut" but felt trapped in my job because "I'd become a professional pornographer and my career options were limited."

Fortunately, I was saved by a book deal, which coincided with my being fired. For the past 13 years, I've been able to stitch together something resembling a living through a combination of book writing, freelance writing and editorial work, and a number of odd jobs that have nothing to do with writing or publishing.

Most of my former colleagues, the majority of whom have been laid off or cut back to nothing as the magazine business collapsed in the face of free Internet porn, have not been so lucky. They've been forced into unwilling retirement because--as if it's not hard enough for members of the Baby Boom Generation (and older) to find any kind of work that pays a living wage in this economy--nobody, apparently, is willing to hire somebody who once worked in hardcore pornography. (I left the business in 1999, just before most magazines switched from a softcore to hardcore format.)

I’ve been thinking about this dilemma since an article from the Detroit Free Press was brought to my attention. A district attorney in upstate New York, Mark Suben, denied during a reelection campaign they he’d ever worked in pornography. Videos posted on Youtube then came to light, indicating that Suben, using the pseudonym Gus Thomas, had acted, in the early 1970s, in such X-rated films as Deep Throat Part II, Doctor’s Teenage Dilemma, and The Love Witch. Suben, however, has refused to resign, saying that the films were made over 40 years ago, they weren’t illegal, he wasn’t married at the time, he wasn’t practicing law, he wasn’t even a law student, and his studwork is irrelevant to his current job and law practice.

Suben’s opponent, of course, is saying that the issue is that Suben lied, not that he was once a porn stud. But would Suben have been elected if he’d admitted that he was once Gus Thomas? Well, considering that none of my former colleagues who are now seeking work outside the porn industry can get so much as the time of day from potential employers, I think the answer is self evident: If you’ve ever had any association with XXX, you are forevermore unqualified to make any contribution to society. This is, after all, America.

The Beaver Correspondence 6

May 25, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Lou Grant, porn stars

This is the response to the e-mail I posted yesterday.

Bob,

Ah, good times. Low-walled doorless offices with grumpy neighbors (maybe there was an environmental influence). The ebb and flow of editorial and art people, especially the calculated rambling of the creative director—causal, yet poisonous. And a pretty decent view. (If the offices were still in the same place on 9/11—and I showed up to work on time—it would have been a truly twisted view: doomed 747s at eye level.)

Did you write down the Lou Grant thing in the journal at some point? Either that, or your memory is strangely preserved.

So if porn stars don’t do it for art’s sake, then is it just for money? Is there some twisted idea of glamor involved? Or a psychological quirk? You put the people front and center here (with a touch o’ general history) and it seems like these are questions that are suggested in your work. There’s plenty of people more than happy to guess at this stuff from the outside—you write from a position of privilege by comparison.

Blog this if you wish, shorn, of course, of particulars.

Jack

To be continued…