Giving consent to capitalism

Pub date February 26, 2013

SEX “BDSM so quickly and easily gets painted with a broad brush,” said porn performer and author (her piece this week on Jezebel, “How I Became a Feminist Porn Star” is not to be missed) Dylan Ryan.

I’d called her in the wake of last week’s SF Weekly cover story (“Gag Order,” 2/20/13), which included some healthy critiques of, the local porn company often held up as the standard when it comes to shooting kinky sex.

The piece also included testimony that was run without being fact-checked from certain ex-Kink employees — and that aside, the article was clearly timed to capitalize on controversy surrounding owner Peter Acworth’s recent drug and gun arrest. (ATTN: Weekly, you need not call into question the “strict code of ethical behavior and transparency” a pornographer is known for when it is discovered that said pornographer does cocaine, nor when he fires guns in the bowels of a building made for that purpose.)

The Weekly’s investigation continues. Hopefully it will help move conversation forward on how to make better porn.

As Ryan — who has shot for for nearly 10 years — pointed out, the trouble with porn wars is that they can be skewed into a referendum on whether such-and-such porn (and often, by extension, the sexual desire it portrays) should exist.

So real quick, let’s use this moment to convene members of our occasionally dysfunctional, but forever-forward thinking sex work community. The question: can sexual consent exist when you’re doing it for the money? Who is in charge of making sure everyone’s needs are respected?

“When capitalism is involved, it makes the situation…interesting,” wrote performer Maxine Holloway [after protesting and ceasing to shoot for when it removed base pay for web cam models, Holloway settled out of court with the company. Her voice appears in the Weekly article.] “As models we want to perform well, we want to push our boundaries, we want to get paid, and we want to be hired again and again.”

But, she continued, “money can be a perfectly legitimate reason to consent. Most people would not agree to show up at their nine-to-five job if they were not being paid an agreed amount of money.”

Ryan re-enforced the importance of the shoot’s producers stating clear run times, expectations, and other matters with performers before filming. After that point: “it’s a fine line, but so much of the onus is on the person to be their own agent.”

Locally, performer Kitty Stryker has examined these issues in her “Safe/Ward” consent workshops. And Holloway wrote she hopes to create an “industry standards” rating system that could guide performers to responsible producers. “Porn performers are not inherently victims and producers are not inherently exploitive,” she cautioned.

“These things can be positive, sexually healthy,” Ryan continued. “Every performance I do is about showing women how much fun I’m having.” Would that all debate on ethical porn started off with how its participants want to demystify, and excise shame from, sexuality — instead of drug charges.


“Bling My Vibe” Fri/1-March 31, free. Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF.

Who says no to creating a work of art with a $3 vibrating dildo? Not this writer — check out my handiwork, and that of other Bay Area artists and sexy local celebs at this sex toy art show on view ’til the end of the month.

The Great Church of Holy Fuck Fri/1-Sun/3, 8pm, $15. Counterpulse, 1310 Mission, SF. The name, the fact that this production is helmed by Annie Danger, queer trans utopia-seeker, the promise of nudity — surely these will add to a truly religious interactive theater experience.

International Sex Workers Rights Day picnic Sun/3, 11am-2pm, free. Dolores Park, 19th St. and Guerrero, SF. The Sex Workers Outreach Project and St. James’ Infirmary are hosting this gathering of past and present sex workers and their allies in celebration of this day of commemoration, which started in 2001 at sex worker festival in Calcutta, India.