November 29, 2007

Seeing straight ahead: the porn industry’s sexuality blinders

Two years ago when I started to ponder directing and producing a porno film, I knew I wanted to make bisexual movies. When I said that word, “bisexual,” to people outside the porn industry, they’d respond with confusion: “Aren’t most porn movies bisexual, what with all the girl-girl action?” In pornoland, girl-girl action is coded as straight, unless of course some of the women have short hair and present as butches, in which case the mainstream industry ignores it. Except for that one time when S.I.R. Video won Best All-Girl Feature with their Hard Love and How to Fuck in High Heels. That was pretty sweet. In pornoland, bisexual means that the dudes touch each other too. And that’s what I wanted my movie to be. In pornoland, bisexual films fall under the rubric of “gay,” they aren’t included in the world of AVN, they are the propriety of GAYVN. Pornoland is trying to teach us something here: you’re either straight or you’re gay.

I knew, of course, that bisexual movies are weird things, that porn companies don’t understand who the market for these kinds of movies might be, but I also learned from Adam and Eve that without any promotion whatsoever their series “Fine Bi Me,” which is pretty bad porn but is bisexual, has sold briskly. I knew people wanted to see this stuff, and that it could sell, and when Adam and Eve Pictures gave me the chance, I was on it.

Fast forward to now: ’tis the season of porn award nominations.

This week AVN announced the nominations for the awards that will be given in Vegas in January. Reading through the titles of these movies, with classics like “Slant Eye for the Straight Guy” (a nom for Best Asian-Themed Series) and “We All Scream for Ass Cream 2” (a nom for Best Internal Release), is truly a trip through crazyland, even for someone jaded like me. This year, the list of noms is 58 pages long.

The GAYVN nomination process is wrapping up this week, and the list of categories is a long too – there are 39 of them.

Between these two award shows, there is ONE category for bisexual films: at the GAYVNs they give an award for “Best Bisexual Video.” The nom page says there is also a category for “Best Director-Bisexual Video,” but after I submitted The Bi Apple for these two categories I got an email saying that they’d eliminated the Best Director category this year.

Wow. I’m trying to figure out what this is about, and I know it is not about demand – The Bi Apple has been a best seller for Adam & Eve on a consistent basis since it became available in February, and other bi titles (even bad ones, which is most of them) sell well. It’s really just got to be about the close-mindedness of the adult industry, and the refusal to find space for different kinds of titles. I know it is tough to market films like this as “queer” because there is only a small subset of the population who understands the lingo, but there has got to be a way to successfully and proudly market this content. Unfortunately, the way things are at the moment just further underlines the fact that most porn is very “traditional and conservative,” words that were used by the Adam and Eve staff to describe the company when I flew to North Carolina to meet with them in May 2006.

Good for Her’s Emma Awards for Feminist Porn are definitely making strides in the right direction, with a broader range of categories for awards – The Bi Apple won “Hottest Bi Sex Scene” at the awards in June 2007. There’s definitely a long way to go, and the question for me is always whether it’s important to work within the system or whether it’s better to step outside of it and go indie.

11 Comments on “Seeing straight ahead: the porn industry’s sexuality blinders”

1
Trixie
11.29.07
2:25 pm

Rabble rousing and shenanigans to challenge the system are always good.

I do think this is a reflection of society’s unwillingness to recognize male bisexuality and pansexuality; if people accepted bi- and pansexuality as normal or even comprehended those things (particularly for men) then the porn world would follow suit. The sad part of all of it is that the porn industry SHOULD lead the way in showing people the way in these things and reflecting real human sexuality but of course it’s not. Same with gender.

If there were more guys in the industry who openly identified as bi, I don’t think this would be a problem but most guys want to keep their bicuriosity or bi sex secret (or they buy into the brainwashing that bi=gay) so it’s their (men’s) faults we’re in this predicament. And maybe the fact that most women would rather buy a bunch of shit at the Lancome counter than rise up and demand more 69ing bi guy videos.

2
bittergradstudent
11.29.07
5:30 pm

Additionally, there are many in the gay community that would be happy if bi people went away. So I’m not surprised that the gay porn community isn’t exerting all that much energy in supporting bi porn, either.

3
Essin' Em
11.29.07
6:11 pm

I remember how excited I was when I first saw your movie because it acknowledged bisexuality as a whole.

But then again, I’m still frustrated with the dearth of lesbian movies. I really want to be in good lesbian porn. I do. But there are SO FEW studios that produce real lesbian films with women that are actually attracted to women. No, you don’t need a butch in the scene to make it lesbian. No, you don’t need a strap on. But just like I don’t like the whole male gay for pay thing, I don’t like watching women lick pussy because that’s what straight men like to see. I want to watch real chicks who like cunts, and if I ever get into the movies, that’s the kind of movies I want to see.

I think it’s so sad that in today’s day and age, we cannot recognize the diversity of the spectrum of sexuality, especially in the porn industry. One would think (erroneously) that would be the first area to celebrate bi and pansexuality, but sadly, it is not.

I’m also sadden by the lack of area for studios such as Trannywood Pictures to win awards. They specialize in “Transmen in Action” and shouldn’t have to be up against “return of the shemale volume 12,” yet there is no FTM category as far as I’m aware…

4
Ms Naughty
11.29.07
8:31 pm

You’re spot on, of course. I trawled through those 58 pages trying to spot female-friendly titles and was half-disgusted and half-bemused at the weird rigidity at work in the categories. The sad thing is that the AVN awards get all the publicity, so a nomination is a good thing to receive. But the industry is definitely in need of some fresh thinking.

5
Tony Comstock
11.29.07
9:27 pm

Of course it’s always nice to have one’s work recognized. But it’s worth asking: just what is the value of an AVN nomination (or win, for that matter) to the marketablity of a film, most especially one that challenges conventions about the way sexuality is depicted on screen?

If THE BI APPLE has been successful, I’d wager that other than the film’s own merits, that success is due to the reputation you’ve earned in as a writer and a thinker, and your tireless promotion of the film. An AVN nom/award might be another good talking point, but at most, it would be the lemon next to the pie.

6
Tom
11.30.07
11:40 am

Seems to me like its time to produce another film, Audacia. I’d buy it and watch it over and over like I do the Bi-Apple.

If Adam&Eve won’t produce/distribute it, maybe Blowfish would be interested. They seem to be progressive and are doing well promoting Shine Louise Houston’s work.

7
Tony Comstock
11.30.07
12:38 pm

Just guessing here, Tom, but based on the exposure that Dacia’s gotten for THE BI APPLE (how many of A&E other productions are getting played at the New York New Filmmakers Series?) I’d guess that THE BI APPLE is throwing up numbers that have A&E begging Dacia to produce another film– begging being the key word.

The “porn industry” way of doing business has serious limitation, creatively yes, but financially as well. They just can’t make that much money on any given title. In turn that places a limit on how much time and energy talented people like Dacia can pour into a project.

8
Ian and Alicia Denchasy
11.30.07
8:30 pm

The hell with AVN, everyone on the inside knows those nominations have ZERO to do with quality and EVERYTHING to do with how much advertising you purchase in their mags and online. It’s like a Faustian bargain dealing with them; you need AVN to get picked up by distributors, who in turn promote your video (supposedly) to stores and websites. But you won’t get into their good graces – award nominations or favorable reviews – unless you throw down cash for ads.

I mean, have you SEEN some of the nominations? Horrible! So be PROUD you’re not nominated, it’s better in the long run.

9
Tony Comstock
11.30.07
9:16 pm

And of course you never want to say anything critical of AVN:

http://www.comstockfilms.com/blog/tony/2006/02/24/sex-films-for-the-rest-of-us-–-part-2/

Cause if you do, you’ll get a bad review:

http://www.avn.com/index.cfm?objectID=EE00AAE5-1372-4B41-C4AA8A0F3CECA118&slid=227630

Or maybe it doesn’t matter. XANA AND DAX is a few hundrew copies from going into its 6th pressing.

Ian’s right, Dacia. In the long run, you’ll be better off without the stench of AVN around your work.

10
Josh Jasper
11.30.07
9:50 pm

If you ever chose to do a second movie, I’m sure it’ll be even better, and Bi Apple was great.

11
Wendy
12.2.07
12:08 am

You know, I nearly had an orgasm AND shit myself when I first saw ‘The Bi Apple’ at Jefferson’s.
I’m a fan of bisexual porn. Really, bisexuality in general. But damnit, in my porn, I’d like so see boys making out with boys and making out with girls, and maybe one boy doing another boy while getting done by a girl with a strap on. And stuff.

Sadly, the only thing good about most of the bi porn I’ve seen is the titles (Bi the Castle, Training my Bi, Bi Bang Girls, Bi the Way, Bi’s wide open…so sue me, I like bad puns. And Bi’s wide open was tolderable)

While I can get by with what I’ve got, it was nice to see a bi movie with you know, attractive actors and good production values. And strap ons. I think I remember strap ons. (Though that could have been me, later at the party.)

So thank you Dacia, for making the porn I’ve been waiting for. And I really hope you make another one. The world could use some better bisexual porn.

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