1. The Feminist Pornographer
The first woman I ever saw with a cock was Tristan Taormino. In 2000, on HBO’s Real Sex 25, I watched a gorgeous brunette with cute glasses stand on a bar in a room full of lesbians and tease them with her bright red strap-on. Eventually, another girl also climbed up on the bar, and got down on her knees to worship the candy-colored cock. When the brunette finally allowed the girl to suck it, I was shocked—not at the graphic sexuality on television, but at the fact that the focus was on the pleasure the girl was experiencing in doing it. Tristan Taormino, the brunette, had shifted the focus of the classic blowjob to the pleasure women can experience while sucking cock. This love and respect for women’s sexuality would later earn her the title of “The Feminist Pornographer”.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University, advice from a professor and a lack of interest from law schools caused Tristan to change her plans of becoming a lawyer to becoming a sex writer. Since then she has published four books, including the groundbreaking books Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships and The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. She has served as an editor for various erotica series, as well as On Our Backs, and appeared in numerous magazines and TV shows as an expert on women’s sexuality.
In 1999, Tristan convinced John “Buttman” Stagliano to turn The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women into a film, which eventually won two AVN Awards. She then made The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women 2, House of Ass, the reality show porn Chemistry Volumes 1-4, and a series of Expert films for Vivid-Ed on a variety of subjects including anal sex, oral sex, and threesomes. Her most recent film, Rough Sex, has been nominated for the 2010 Best Specialty Film of the Year at the AVN Awards, and more importantly, has become my favorite heterosexual porn movie of all time.
I sat down with Tristan in the outdoor courtyard of the beautiful adobe bed and breakfast I was staying at in Albuquerque for the Pornotopia Erotic Film Festival. Although originally scheduled for a half-hour interview, we ended up talking for almost two hours. I tried to remain objective and professional, all the while reminding myself that I was having a discussion on feminism, pornography, and women’s sexuality with one of the true game changers of the adult industry.
Have you always been this curious and interested in sex?
People often ask, “Where did you grow up?”—like on some lesbian, feminist commune. I didn’t. I was raised by a single mom, and there was no open discussion about sex [or] sexuality at all. Her way of educating me was that she had really good explicit sex education books on the shelf, out in plain sight. And if they disappeared for weeks at a time, nothing would be said.
Oh, for sure the Joy of Sex. For all its faults, it had the sense that everyone liked each other, and everyone was enjoying themselves. Those are really the first explicit images of sexuality I saw—not Hustler or Penthouse.
My first porn was Sisters, by David Hamilton, and it was not a scary experience at all.
There used to be a whole ritual associated with your first porn: His dad went out of town, and we call our friends, and the babysitter was coming over, but we had half an hour and we dug under the bed and found the stash. It had this charge to it, this taboo—and that made it twice as hot, the fact that it was forbidden. And there were all these ways you had to find it in this tiny little sliver of time that you could get your hands on it. Whereas now, it’s one search on Google, and you have hardcore free porn at your fingertips.
We are coming out of eight years of Bush and abstinence-only education, while at the same time Internet pornography is ramping up. How do you feel the Internet is changing the way society looks at sex?
I think that it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there is such a diversity of sexuality represented on the Internet that people have a tendency to be able to find what they are into faster than they could five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, so it’s like, Oh my god, I thought I was the only one into that, and no, here are 20 sites, and an organization, and here is a conference next week. We don’t have just Playboy and Penthouse and this sort of dominant machine putting out this imagery. We’ve got amateur sites, we’ve got swingers, we’ve got alt people, we’ve got queer people—all over the board. So you can find your sexuality or a piece of you somewhere.
The flip side of that is that all this talk about what is sexy with no education. We still will not talk to kids in explicit terms about sex education. There’s the sense that that’s what fucking looks like or should look like, and women still don’t know how their clitoris works. Or women are 22 years old, and have gotten to college and never had an orgasm. There is all this: image, image, image, and no information, no education. So, in some ways, it’s like we still need to sit everyone down and show them naked people and actually how their bodies work.
Feminism and Porn
This summer, Bitch magazine posted a piece called “I Blame Porn” by Becky Sharper, which was a response to a Details piece called “How Internet Porn is Changing Teen Sex.” She was particularly disturbed by this quote from a college student, Travis. “Pubic hair is disgusting,” Travis says. “Girls should keep their vaginas porn-star trim.”
I think porn is an easy scapegoat, and it always has been. Let’s blame porn for everything. There’s this tricky relationship where in some ways porn is ahead of the curve—like the rise of anal sex. [That] was in porn was before there was a real dialogue and growing movement of people talking about having anal sex among straight people. Porn was ahead of the curve kind of showing you what was ahead on the frontier, like the next kinky thing, the next taboo thing, the new thing.
But then in other ways, it’s just reinforcing these same old stereotypes about sexuality for both men and women. And the thing that I would argue about those kids [they] interviewed is that in some ways, I think that they were trying to be cool. I don’t know that that’s what every man believes. That’s what they wanted to say to the interviewer because that is what they think their friends think; they think, That’s what other guys want, so I’m going to say that. But I feel like men at that age are just as confused about their sexuality as women. A lot of that is maybe just a little bravado, it’s not necessarily how that guy is behaving with a girl.
In my discussions with anti-porn feminists, I find that they are watching shit porn.
I have obviously debated anti-porn feminists. I’ve been on panels with them, and when they say 99.9 percent of pornography involves double penetration, that’s not true. Okay? That’s not true. There are people in the audience, students taking notes writing that down like that’s a fact. That in 99.9 percent of pornography the man is dominant and the woman is submissive and she never comes, and yeah, there is porn out there like that, but that is not the majority of porn and I am always telling [the anti-porn feminists] you haven’t watched enough porn. Because they like to solidify porn as this one monolithic thing, which it just isn’t. Is there a dominant kind of porn that is stupid and misogynist and stereotypical? Yes. But is there a whole bunch of other stuff to choose from? Absolutely!
When the comments in the Bitch article focused on facials, a woman linked to an article on The Sexist where the author compared facials with heterosexual weddings, i.e. although we know both are patriarchal and sexist, some women like them. When I watched Crashpad for the first time, I noticed that there were all kinds of ejaculations on the face. In fact, one of the partners is literally pouring into her partner’s mouth, and I was thinking that there wasn’t any sexism with that, or with their heavy use of strap-ons. What does it mean if you are a sexual submissive and you do get aroused by being ejaculated on?
The anti-porn feminists are going to say you’ve been brainwashed. You are not allowed to have that agency, and that’s where it really gets tricky. I remember that one of my first goals for my movie was to let people do what they wanted to do. So when we would get to the come shot, where do you want him to come? And every single porn performer would say: “My face, my face, my face,” and I was a little bit like, “Wait, time out. Are you saying that because that’s what you think I want to hear? Are you saying that because that is what you did for the last 12 days and the last 12 movie sets you were on? Where is this coming from?” And so when I ask, “Where do you really want [it], there is a certain percentage of women who say, “My face,” and they can really clearly articulate why.
Marie Luv, one of my favorite performers, loves to give a really sloppy blowjob. She wants to get dirty and doesn’t want her makeup retouched—she hates that. She wants to be a dirty pig. She wants to be just coated in come and to feel: Okay, I’m spent now. I can’t even drive my car home. I’ve put it all out there. I don’t think that that’s her being brainwashed by the patriarchy. I think that is her really liking come, and really liking dicks, and her really getting into the sex. And so for her, that’s just like a piece of it.
Are there women who feel like, Well this is what my partner wants. I don’t like it, or they feel neutral about it, or it doesn’t turn them on, or it freaks them out, and they still do it? Of course, but not everyone. Not everyone.
If he tells you he wants to come on your face, you say no, and he does it anyway, he is a guy you don’t need to be fucking in the first place. It has nothing to do with porn creating that and everything to do with him not paying attention to your boundaries.
That’s the one thing about the coming on the face: Is it is a repetition? And when it looks like the girl is not into it, have you seen that face, where it looks like she’s dodging it? That’s a turn-off. That’s no fun for anyone. When you see that kind of thing over and over again, it’s like at some point you want to say, Okay, wait a second. Can we do this any other way? Can there be any other variety? Please?!? So I do think that there’s a kernel of truth in those arguments, but they’ve taken it way too far, and made too much of blanket statement about it.
Cunnilingus and Porn
How hard has it been for you to work for a mainstream porn company and do the things that are different, like, “We’re going to film him eating her pussy, but we’re not going to be zooming in on it.”
I like close-up shots, and that’s one of the ways I think I differ. There are other female pornographers who want to pull back [so you can always] see the person’s face, and have everyone sort of fully embodied, but I like really close-up genital shots; they’re definitely in my movies.
I was thinking about that the other day, there was a shot in the threesome movie ( Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to Threesomes) that they showed last night where I was like, Wow! I can see her pussy so close, like there’s a light on it and it is like, Wow! Look at that pussy!
That is the first FFM threesome I have ever seen that didn’t start off with two women sucking the man’s dick.
He’s the pussy eater extraordinaire in real life though; that’s his thing. The interesting thing is that when I first shot him—Jack Lawrence… You know, everyone has the thing that helps them keep their erection, how they stay hard, and it’s totally mental for most of them; they have to kind of figure out how their body works. The camera guy is right up in your shit, the lights there, and it’s a hard part of their job. Jack said, “If I can be eating pussy, I can stay hard.” That’s how he gets hard in the first place, that’s how he gets turned on, that’s his arousal process. So I said, “Okay, here’s two! Go for it!”
People have told me that in porn you have to make the pussy eating fake in order to make it look good, but in that movie it was not like that at all. Was this a conscious choice?
That’s because I just let them go there, except for the cunnilingus movie Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to Oral Sex Part 1: Cunnilingus. The cunnilingus movie was tricky, because in Chemistry, I was thinking: If you want to eat her pussy for two days, fine, and if I am just looking at the back of your head, cool because I can see from her body and her expression what’s going on. But in the cunnilingus movie, we have to show and teach, so it’s a tricky balance.
The movie was also unique in that the other woman had a vibrator.
It’s a huge part of my movies. There are always vibrators on my set, and a variety of kinds of vibrators. The thing is that women are working under circumstances where sometimes they have to get turned on quickly, and I just feel like no one is giving them even the tools to be able to have an orgasm on camera. They are not even making it remotely easy. Give her time and give her a vibrator, and most women can come. With time and a vibrator, and a position that they want to be in, not on a balcony.