More Women In Porn Making Waves Behind The Camera

While Hugh Hefner's daughter Christie (seen at left) may be one of the more famous women in porn who's never actually been in porn, there are actually plenty of women cashing in on the industry. MSNBC's Brian Alexander talked to more than a few of them about what it's like to make your money in an industry that many people consider less-than-mainstream — and far from than feminist.

While for some women like Jenna Jameson, Candida Royalle, Nina Hartley or Danni Ashe the way up the executive ladder started in front of the camera, many other women went into the business like any other executive — through the front door and way behind the camera. Samantha Lewis, who co-owns Digital Playground, started out in real estate and invested in a profitable business; Joy King, vice president of special projects at Wicked Pictures, started out working in film distribution for children's movies; and Susan Colvin, who owns California Exotic Novelties, planned to go into public administration. Diane Duke, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, which advocates for adult companies' rights, was an executive at Planned Parenthood. They might not like porn — many of them don't even watch it — but they think it should exist and that it can be made better for the women in front of the camera.

One of the problems in the porn industry that everyone identifies — and that some female executives are trying to fight — is the problem of using inexperienced and ill-prepared actresses.

[The Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation's Sharon] Mitchell, herself a former actress, told the authors said that agents “are now recruiting people from, literally, the middle of the country [who] are 18 years old who haven’t remotely had any type of sex, let alone the type of sex they’re probably going to have tomorrow.” Too often, she said, “agents run them into the ground” signing them to make too many sex scenes, and that can lead to STDs.

Female directors, producers and owners know all this and say they work to fight it, partly by turning away young women they think are ill prepared. A few have suggested that producers should hire women who are at least 21, rather than 18.

The women in the business are less inclined to see women mistreated, partly because they are women and partly, as performer Lorelai Lee pointed out to Violet Blue earlier this year, it's simply not sexy to watch someone doing something they don't like.

What none of the women — in front of or behind the camera — like is being stereotyped as anti-woman, or anti-feminist. They point out that while some women are being taken advantage of, others are freely choosing to show their bodies and perform sex acts for money and the pleasure of others. They tend to think it's pretty narrow-minded (and un-feminist) of scholars to assume that the women who perform sex acts on camera could only do so because they are fucked-up women who have somehow been coerced.

University of California Santa Barbara film studies professor Constance Penley, who studies the adult industry, agreed. Name an industry that’s different, she said. Because porn involves sex it is subject to what Penley calls “exceptionalism.” It is not judged in the bigger cultural context. But it should be. “You have to ask: Does it have more drug abuse or more suicides, more incidents of girls being sexually abused as children, more cosmetic surgery than Hollywood, TV, the recording industry?” she said. The answer, she pointed out, is probably not. So why pick on sex movies?

Feminists talk a lot about owning our bodies and making our own sexual choices, but when it comes to women who choose to work in the sex industry, we tend to get a lot more narrow-minded about it. Just ask Joy King, the Wicked Pictures exec — when she was featured talking about her company on the local news, her son's best friend's mother refused to let him come over to play anymore because King was one of "those" women.

Women On Top: Female Execs Rise In Porn Biz [MSNBC]
An Inside Look At A Female Porn Executive’s Life [MSNBC]

Related: Sex For Money, Not For Love [San Francisco Chronicle]