UK-based JoyBear Pictures has been around since 2003; however, because of international distribution deals, only two of their films “Street Heat” and “The London Sex Project” are available in the US. And only since last year!
This is a bummer because their content is repeatedly lauded as kinder, gentler “Girl-Friendly Porn,” with all the bells and whistles necessary to meet heterosexual women’s needs. Now I know claiming that one thing (or one series of things) is capable of meeting the needs and wants of even the smallest and most homogenous-seeming group of women is pretty outlandish, but consider some of this press:
“It ticks all the right boxes for girl-powered filth.” — Forum
“[JoyBear] films successfully avoid clichéd soundtracks and cringe-worthy moments, making them a perfect introduction for anyone who has ever been put off by porn and anyone wanting to enjoy it with their partner.” — Erotic Review
“And there’s not a hint of anal. How refreshing. Joybear focuses on all the things that the rest of the porn industry have forgotten: situations, glances, genuine human beings and the majority of porn studios would do well to follow their lead.” — Knave Magazine, Review of JoyBear’s “Private Thoughts”
Not a hint of anal? People get really riled up about anal… Dip your toes in gently? Porn baby steps!
I gotta tell ya — cultural differences and market variability aside, I found these fully charmed bits of press to be pret-ty interesting…
And, as luck would have it, I recently got to interview Justin Ribeiro dos Santos, an Englishman with a Brazilian father and the mastermind behind JoyBear Pictures. I got to learn a little bit about Justin and why it is that he’s making “girl porn.”
Justin was minding his own business, fresh out of college and working in a mainstream sales position in the early 2000s, when a friend pointed him towards a Playboy-sponsored, reality-TV show contest. In it, contestants were given £8,000 (roughly $13,000) to make their own adult film in an apprentice environment. On a semi-whim, Justin, who had studied film and photography as an undergraduate, decided to give it a go. He won, and JoyBear Pictures was born.
Justin tells the story of his transition from “civilian” to “pornographer” :
Not one to fall victim to the contestant curse that plagues most reality show “winners,” Justin parlayed his winnings and dove headlong into adult production. His company has been growing steadily, but slowly, ever since. Currently JoyBear consists of Justin, three additional full-time employees and a collection of regular contract crew workers — a “small, but formidable” team.
Justin seems very committed to maintaining this steady-yet-slow process. This includes consciously refraining from producing too many films too quickly. His philosophy of “sell the films you’ve made,” rather than keeping to a production schedule that may contribute to an overabundance of product, seems to have worked well so far — JoyBear has only produced a handful of titles, but those wares are in consistently high-demand.
English porn director, Justin Ribeiro dos Santos
According to Justin, the UK market was predominately driven by DVD sales when JoyBear first came on the scene. And although much lip service has been paid to the specter of web-based platforms, online consumption has not replaced DVD sales in his experience. Consequently, JoyBear has placed less emphasis on its online presence in lieu of developing international markets and distribution. This is why we US consumers have access to the afore mentioned films, “Street Heat” and “The London Sex Project.”
Justin talks about JoyBear’s structure and growth:
As I mentioned, JoyBear films are described repeatedly as being “girl-porn,” which I take to mean women* focused and friendly. But what specifically constitutes this sort of content?
According to Justin, it involves avoiding certain stereotypical porn cheese — big hair, bad music, smarmy guys, amateurish acting, poor storytelling, and apparently excessive anal among other things. (FYI: there is a little bit of anal in some JoyBear content; but like everything else about this company, it’s subtle)
It also involves a certain amount of instinct. Regarding marketing, casting, and even production decisions, I get the impression that Justin often goes with his gut, a tactic that has been resonating positively with women in the UK since he made his very first adult film:
Justin is not content to let JoyBear rest comfortably on its laurels though, and he is constantly looking for ways to improve his products by seeking feedback from consumers. And he occasionally gets some surprising results!!
Case in point: he recently surveyed JoyBear customers about “bi-curious” content featuring men* performers. How did people feel about it? Specifically, how would people feel about it being included on the JoyBear site? He found that 70% of respondents were either indifferent about or in favor of seeing gay content on JoyBear.com.
Surprising results? I thought so, given JoyBear’s bread-and-butter offerings… but that’s why Justin runs a successful production company, and I just conduct the interviews!!
So although JoyBear has no plans to move into gay content production, they do have plans to add a discreet “Gay Curious?” button to their main navigation bar in the near future…
…and I’m left to wonder “Who woulda thought?” Who would have thought gay/bi-curious content would be a welcome addition to a very heteronormative-seeming site? Who would have thought the UK’s most successful producer of “girl-porn” was a man who learned by doing, a man who is constantly looking to evolve alongside the consumer?
Who would have thought a reality TV show “winner” would make good on his commitment to create something new?
* The author purposely uses “men” and “women” in lieu of “male” or “female” (respectively) in order to refrain from conflating gender and sex. Please direct any questions about this decision to Dr. Chauntelle.