The Porn That Could Be


Dear Porn Producers of the World:

Many of you are terrible at what you do. You seem to care more about finishing a shoot in one day, getting the pop shot and marketing whatever cheap,crappy rendition of sexually exciting material you’ve made than creating something of real quality.You aren’t even offending me. You are boring the hell out of me.

This demeans how amazing sex can be.

There are producers I adore such as Shine-Louise Huston, Gerard Damiano (old school porn), Eon McKai, Tristan Taormino, Tony Comstock and Madison Young [NSFW]. They think outside of the box and offer images that push my sexytime buttons.

For the rest of you, here’s some advice:

  • Make sure your performers are actually attracted to each other. Even big Hollywood producers look for something called “chemistry” between performers. Why? They know that attraction is hard to fake. The audience can tell and it makes all the difference in the world.
  • 20 minute long genital close-up shots: please stop. We get it. They’re having sex and their junks look all aroused and awesome. But what about the rest of their body? Curled toes? Contorted faces? Ass-grabbing in a moment of passion? Maybe you could even, I don’t know, show a shot of their entire body as well. Which brings me to…
  • Try multiple angles with thoughtful editing. Part of being aroused is having your brain (that big organ that controls sexual responses) stimulated. Filming a scene non-stop from one angle and not editing it makes it look like a bad vacation video that no-one cares to see. (“Yeah, Changing of the Guard- hold on that guy’s head gets in the way, OK now we can see the top of his hat. Here they go, they’re walking. I’m just gonna keep the camera rolling. Something cool might happen.” ) Change it up! Pan up the leg, cut to some lip-biting, then a shot of fingers going somewhere sexy, followed by a shot of someone tossing their head back and groaning in ecstasy. Then more genitals, then full shots of fucking, then- I think you get it. Variety.
  • Music, please. Sexy music. You know how many awesome up and coming, struggling musicians you can find on the internet! Give them some of your porn money to create a simple song. Music moves us, music can inspire us. And music with quivering loin cries over it? I’m pretty sure that can arouse us even more.
  • Context does not mean belabored dialogue. Shine-Louise Houston’s Superfreak is my favorite example of this in action. The porn tells a story of a certain superfreak’s soul possessing various attendants of a San Francisco house party. She did this with images, action and minimal dialogue. Here’s a short clip, completely NSFW save for an F-bomb. (Sadly, it’s missing Madison Young’s “I’m Rick James, bitch!” line).

In short, get creative. Shooting most every porn in the same tired way saturates the market with crap, making it harder for consumers to find what turns them on. Searching for good porn these days is like trying to find truffles in pig shit.

But when you find the good stuff? Oh my. Anytime I’ve had sex with porn involved I feel like my senses are being overloaded. The images start by turning me on and keep raising my tempurature anytime I open my eyes. No longer do I have to look at bare ceilings or get an accidental glance at a friend or family member’s photo. I get to see other people fucking while I’m fucking. No longer is masturbation foiled by distracting thoughts of errands. I get to lose myself in a wash of sexy beasts professionally humping.

I only wish it was easier to find quality porn. Also: more James Deen, Tyler Knight and Danny Wylde please. Thank you.

Sincerely,

A Porn Loving Lady

28 thoughts on “The Porn That Could Be”

  1. Bravo! I could not agree more, PARTICULARLY about the lackluster techniques and lazy editing.

    As for chemistry between performers, I have learned that sometimes people who don’t really get along can make for an explosive scene — it’s a matter of providing good direction — but generally, yes, you are right on the mark there as well.

  2. I’ve always really liked Taormino’s approach: check in and ask to see if they’re interested working with a certain performer.

  3. The things you list are spot on, and longstanding complaints about what’s missing from the overwhelming flood of bad porn out there.

    There are a few producers I like who I think really nail it, notably Abby Winters, Viv Thomas, and also “Mason” who’s the director of the “Girl Crush” series. Abby Winters (a pseudonym, and there are probably a number of directors and photographers that work for this company) is probably the best I’ve ever seen in terms of capturing raw chemistry. They by design hire models who are only occasionally conventionally “hot” in terms of appearance and still more than make up for it by how hot the sex is. Viv Thomas, on the other hand, is all about Central European hotties, but unlike a lot of porn from that part of the world, shows chemistry and careful filmmaking. The videos directed by Lewis Thomas represent the best of these, and the “Unfaithful” series is outstanding.

    In terms of old school porn, its hit or miss, and sex scenes were typically very short, but there were a few surprisingly good directors. Alan Vydra, a European director who was active both in Europe and the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 70s and early 80s, did some hidden gems.

  4. Thanks a ton. Context please, at least a hint of who these people are. Tension. Some suggestion of a back story. Porn should be film making at least a little, not just the same dumb formula that is like some a bit above junior high. I’m looking for at least a touch of humanity not plastic blow up dolls bumping together.

  5. 20 minute long genital close-up shots: please stop.

    Yes. I think this is a big problem for a lot of women who aren’t opposed to porn on principle. As a rule (which of course means there are exceptions) we just aren’t turned on by these shots, and plenty of us are turned right off. I like porn, and I find them a mood-killer. What effect must they have on women who aren’t 100% comfortable with porn anyway?

    Thanks for the tips on alternatives, anyway :p

  6. If you want to wear the badge “academic” you need to think more about *why* all of your suggestions are all but absent in cinematic depiction of explicit sexuality. Otherwise you’re just making the same list that people have been making for 40 years.

    Here’s hint. Pornography is not a genre or a creative conceit. It is a business-model that embraces and in fact is wholly parasitic to normative power structures. Once you understand that, it’s easy to see why this “how to make better porn” has remained unchanged since the advent of legally available photographic depictions of explicit sexual activity.

    1. I disagree about this list being ubiquitous to porn cinema since its advent. The mafia-funded days of early porn saw talented actors and directors using the media as an easier avenue to express their craft and make money at the same time. Porn got worse as the market expanded into a cheap and mass produced tapes because creativity was forsaken for productivity.

      Even today there are examples of porn being produced that fit the criteria within my list (including your work) so I don’t think this is unworkable in any way. Considering that porn is part of normative power structures and business models I would think that consumer demand for a different type of product would change the face of pornography. What I see as a larger problem is that we expect it to be shit and fear speaking up about porn because of the stigma it carries. I mean, imagine trying to start a petition to change the face of porn. Who would sign their real name to it?

      I think it’s entirely possible that smaller porn production houses could make it profitable by diversifying revenue sources. How exactly this would be done, I have no idea. I don’t make it, I just watch it. (And lately pontificate on it.)

      Also: I have a hard time even coming up with a list of sexually explicit moments in non-porn cinema. Sex is too often banned in favor of violence. Anyone want to chime in with explicit hardcore sex movie moments?

      I wish my thoughts on this could be a little more coherent right now but I am suffering from serious jet lag. Brain is not in functional mode.

        1. Then enlighten this thread with a more coherent discussion instead of insults. Education does not spring from derisive shut downs.

          1. You’re right. My previous was uncalled for.

            Every predicate in your response has the cart in front of the horse. You’ve conflated correlation with causality. There’s not even a basic command of history or facts.

            A (dicactic) question for you: Why do you think Comstock Films has been able to run a going concern on 7 shortish features produced in 9 years, with a grand total of 7 sexual encounters documented, while any of the other producers you’ve cited often have that many encounters in a single production?

            When you reason your way through that, you’ll have a better understanding of what porn is and isn’t, and why your list (contrary to your assertion) has remained largely unchanged in 40 years.

            1. At least you see now that insults do nothing other than establishing another power structure in which you claim superiority with nothing to show for it. Your question is still laden with this uncalled-for and undeserved feeling of superiority and self-entitlement, and therefore does not deserve an answer. I hope Sexademic won’t give you one.

              Let me support what she said. If you have a comment or suggestion worth making — one that does not imply lofty and self-sufficient lack of respect for the people here — then please do it, and rest assured that your arguments will not be derided, mocked, or otherwise treated with the dismissiveness you so gallantly dish out. Instead of that, they will actually be heard, commented, and discussed, and if found valid even accepted.

              In other words: knock off the pseudo-“didactic” arrogance and stop talking like a real person, or else go away. The world is already full of abusive pricks; don’t be yet another one.

            2. If you feel you have an interesting and relevant presentation of the history and motivation of porn to present, Tony, write it up or link us to your existing presentation.

              Otherwise you’re just being a ****.

      1. I think you’ve made an important point here.

        “I have a hard time even coming up with a list of sexually explicit moments in non-porn cinema.”

        I think we’d have much much better porn if explicit sex were allowed to be included in non-porn entertainment. As it stands, porn is separated from all other forms of media. So when somebody makes porn, the emphasis is on the sex, and there’s rarely enough context to make the sex more than superficially interesting. If a director were interested in actually making a good movie, and was allowed to decide to include scenes of explicit sex, then naturally you’d end up with something that is less cheap porn, and more sexually explicit quality cinema. But the way porn is treated in society, it’s hard for someone who has the talent and wants to be taken seriously to make the decision to ruin his reputation by working in porn. I think that after we change the repressed and shame-filled cultural view of sex (which still affects poorly those who don’t subscribe to it), the quality of porn will begin to improve greatly.

  7. From the shoots I’ve been on, there’s usually only a couple camera men, sometimes only one, depending on the budget. If there’s two, then sometimes one is shooting hardcore and the other is shooting softcore… and never the two shall meet. The industry has taken a hefty blow with all the illegal downloading, getting money for quality porn shot with more than just the bare bones staff doesn’t seem to happen.

  8. I think there’s a lot of porn producers with the porn-is-easy mindset. Did you see that old Daily Show Project Redlight (see here Part 2)? I don’t know if it really has anything to do with the experience of aspiring porn directors, but it sure does support the stereotype that porn is something done as quickly as possible because, no matter how it ends up looking, someone is going to want it anyway.

    My impression is that better stuff should eventually come up — and it will be sufficiently successful to move the center of gravity of the industry (though the bad stuff will never really disappear). I think it might be a little like modern theater: when it started out, with the Commedia dell’Arte, it looked stupid and goofy; you wouldn’t have guessed that there would be a Shakespeare, and then that theater would become a high-brow art form. Perhaps somewhere there’s a porn Shakespeare waiting to happen, and ready to give shape and form to many a powerful porn idea thus far untried because ‘porn should be easy’ and ‘whatever we do someone will want it.’

  9. Sound advice. It might also be helpful for some of them to hire professional writers, not use their kid sister’s friend or whatever. Good porn is better, nine out of ten people agree.

  10. I would be interested to learn how the cleverly named Mr. Comstock “has been able to run a going concern on 7 shortish features produced in 9 years, with a grand total of 7 sexual encounters documented, while any of the other producers … cited often have that many encounters in a single production.”

    And while I respect the (rather mainstream) tastes of the columnist here, I’d like to add a theorem I was taught in my first days working in the American XXX business: That’s that the porn market is big enough for innumerable types and styles of porn … but there’s a corollary: efficient-to-make and reliable-to-sell models will dominate.

    I guess I’m surprised that The Sexademic has trouble finding some porn that doesn’t concentrate on genital close-ups. As to the idea of the moving camera with lots of edited shots, I’ll offer an opposing taste: Certain voyeuristic consumers actually like porn seemingly shot on a tripod from the corner of a Motel 6 room because it approximates the experience of voyeurism. My point is simply that one viewer’s boredom can be another viewer’s fetish.

    As to writers and music: If Hollywood won’t spend decent bucks on writing and continues to churn out product devoid of any original or even coherent writing in so many mainstream features, it would seem very unlikely that many porn producers could. Besides, we have many consumers with literally no interest in dialogue or “story.” If you’re looking for that, you might be able to find it in all the parody porn that is now so popular. (I suspect that style of porn is more popular among college frats and tittering couples than among serious sex enthusiasts.) And hiring musicians to create original music would have to be a very low priority for most porn producers because it’s a low priority to most consumers. (Some still do it. Check out John Stagliano’s “The Fashionistas” series. That series might challenge a lot of people’s middle-brow porn expectations, but its edgy sex will turn off as many as it turns on. That’s porn.)

    Porn producers try to sell an easily bootlegged product in a marketplace with little government enforcement of copyright laws (as politicians still stigmatize the product) to a very fragmented (by their tastes) audience … and, indeed, under a very real threat of government censoring them out of business. That’s not the easiest market to make a big profit in, and the days easy profit in porn are long gone. So it can’t be too surprising that a lot of pornographers wind up trying to cater to their most reliable market segment, which remains young heterosexual males. Everybody’s entitled to their own porn and their own taste, but it can’t be too surprising when the least common denominator rules the market.

    McDonalds could (theoretically) make better food, but they’ve figured out price points that work for them, and they sell a lot of whatever they sell. It’s up to connoisseurs to seek more sophisticated fare, and probably pay more for it. But they can’t expect a mainstream fast food producer to present sophisticated fare at McDonalds prices.

    1. The writers have always been the n—–rs of Hollywood. Don’t know who said it exactly, but its true. However, during the depression Hollywood did attract a lot of award winning writers who either had their works adapted, adapted their works or wrote original stuff, Fitzgerald and Faulkner, who won a Nobel for Literature, immediately come to mind.

      I’m currently putting my computer to the task. The problem with trying to apply mainstream values (I was an actor for 35 years, my degree is in playwrighting and I have written for the mainstream media, unsuccessfully, as my taste for kink comes through in my writing.) to porn is that you have to stop the dramatic action in order to have the sex scenes. At least that is what the mainstream movies believe. For me, the trick is to use the sex scenes to advance the dramatic action. So that is what I am trying to do.

      Rick Umbaugh
      qui bene amat bene castigat

  11. Hardcore close up genital shots resemble surgery to me. I like leaving something to the imagination.

    That said, I’ve watched a few of the Tony Comstock videos and wasn’t that impressed, as much as I wanted to be. It’s a great concept!

  12. Jessi:

    I understand and share a lot of your criticism of badly done, low-quality porn, and have often opined about the same goal of improving the quality of what passes for erotic entertainment.

    However….let’s not confuse asthetic taste and individual personal desire with quality control. Sure, a lot of porn is mass-produced dreck that relies on all-too-common set formulae and herd mentality…but that doesn’t mean that one person’s dreck can’t be another person’s deepest fantasy.

    Also…the production process can be affected by the constraint of time and money. It’s much easier for a high-end studio like VIVID or Wicked or Digital Playground to spend the cash necessary to create more ascetically pleasing and erotic porn when you have an unlimited budget. It’s a bit less easy when you have to shoot content in 2 days with flaky talent that may or may not make it to a shoot on time with all their personal issues, and with the production company screaming at the director’s ear to hurry up and finish so that the finished product can hit the retail stores ASAP. Quick profit almost always trumps quality control.

    Plus…”gonzo porn” on its own is much easier to shoot, appeals to a larger base of consistent consumers who have money to spend, and is far cheaper in cost (all you need is a camcorder, willing subjects, and a venue in most cases). It’s mostly about maximizing their profits using the least common denominator…and the tried and true will always win out over creativity.

    On the other hand…Tony Comstock strikes me as being just a elitist who simply confuses his own tastes in porn with what he perceives “the majority” to want. Avant-guardism is one form of improving porn..but it isn’t the only way.

    Besides that…it’s not as if there haven’t been efforts within mainstream porn to improve the quality and eroticism of their product. Do the names Tristan Taormino, Candida Royalle, and Nina Hartley ring any bells??

    You don’t like the porn you’re getting now?? Support those who want to improve it, or make your own. Don’t hate the players….change the game.

    Anthony

  13. oh and another thing about today’s porn. First of all, I had a successful chain of video stores in the 80s when porn and video just started. Now, every porn video ends with the man coming on the women’s face or mouth. It can be exciting but does it always have to and that way? What about her stroking making him come? Does it always have to be on her face/mouth? That’s not reality. Granted, it’s the money shot, but not exciting when it’s mundane and repetitive.

  14. Things I like about today’s porn better than early “golden age” porn: (not every new video qualifies, but the trends are there)

    1. No more close up shot of guys faces. (evidently the directors finally figured out that guys don’t like to look at other guys with their tools in their hands) they at least give the guy SOMETHING to focus in on when is mostly a shot of the male performer.

    2. Music. I have to disagree with your music take. The music in the golden age was TERRIBLE. It has led to common culture items like “bow chicka bow wow” to imitate the music of porn, or jokes like: “what’s the difference between a Brittany Spears video and a porno flick? The porno has better music.” I can remember only *1* song from GA that was cool, and it wasn’t even a good porno song, it was just a good song. Music definatley helps the REAL sexual experience but its usually because its romantic music that we’re USED to, and KNOW. Porn producers can’t license popular music to put into their porn, it would be too expensive and few artists would license.

    3. Performer quality, both male and female gets better and better. There were some very questionable “stars” in the GA, especially the males.

    4. Initial penetration. When you first start having sex, you realize that getting it IN can be a task! You can really hurt a woman by just jabbing away, and since you usually CARE about the person, you’ll work it in slow. This is one of the most stimulating portions of sex. The golden age porn skipped right over it. There would be some oral sex, and then cut to we’re already penetrated and going at it. WTH? Did he have a hard time getting it in? That’s a MASSIVE turn-on to guys. With the lube they use I doubt they have much of an issue, and maybe I’m being to wishful thinking on the tightness of sexual professionals? Most new porn just keeps filming, and that is the correct way.

    5. The sample. In the GA, you had skinny girls with large fake breasts, or gargantuan “BBW”s. The idea of a “chubby” was too fat for mainstream porn, and too skinny for fat porn. With the amount of amateur porn out there, the quality may be poor, but the instances of varied body-types is much more prevalent.

    6. The price. You can’t beat free porn. You can beat TO it, but you can’t beat it.

    Things I don’t like about porn now than during the golden age of porn:

    1. The prevalence of anal in every episode. Only the dumbest of 12 year old kids doesn’t realize that you need the receiver to use a power washer up the yin-yang prior to engaging in this. You’ll notice these episodes are everywhere on tube sites as they become the “loss leader” material sites put out for free because they don’t generate sales well. “aw, he just went in the WRONG hole, is he going to go back? A2P? fast forward. . . . .NO? Close.”

    2. The “easy pickup”. HEY, we know you are PAYING the performers. We KNOW you didn’t find a woman dressed that provocatively out on the beach or the street, or in the parking lot, or with a flat tire, or out of gas etc. Its especially obvious when we’ve already seen that performer in 10 other videos being picked up the same way. You don’t need to try to make us think you’re good a picking up women, all we have to do is look at the male performer. No woman would have sex with him without being paid and paid well. A story is not necessary, the real story works fine, pay the money, make the video. We know you didn’t “fool” the girl into having sex on camera for free. We KNOW you paid her. Write a story keeping that in mind.

    I’d be interested to know if data-mining can be performed on tube-sites. i.e. what parts of videos to people skip past, if people close out is it right after something that they didn’t like? Do the anal videos get less views than standard videos? Do 99.9% of people immediately stop watching when he spits in her mouth? I can’t imagine more than 0.1% of the viewers can keep arousal after that crap. I think you could hone in better on what people do and do not like on average.

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