How Does One Become an Ex-pornographer?
WOW. This is actually kind of an intense list request to receive. I will answer @donnie's question as honestly as possible. But doing so may require a "trigger warning"...? I guess "adult content" at the very least. Here are the steps to me becoming an EP ("ex-pornographer").
- •First of all, of course, I had to become a pornographer.I had the recipe for it: Rough childhood; growing up at the poverty level; crazy low self-esteem. By age 21, I was living in Lexington, KY and writing a "fanzine" filled with contempt and hostility for everyone around me. I was ON FIRE with personal pain and in complete denial about it, as one can only be in one's 20s. A fellow fanzine editor got hired at Hustler Magazine, and recommended me. I was 21, flying out to LA for the first time, attending a Hustler party. I said, "Fuck, yes."
- •Then be a pornographer for the next five years.A confusing era. It was the Rise of the Internet, and porn crept over America's mental landscape in a new way. Boogie Nights came out; Jenna Jameson was interviewed everywhere. The mainstream perception was that porn was naughty fun and even kind of "cute." I learned the perfect, self-deprecating way to reveal that I was a Hustler editor at parties. I can only think of one time where someone got offended. Everyone was just amused, and often titillated. I loved the attention.
- •Then I saw too much.Models who walked into the photo studio when they were 21 years old, like me. Cute and a little wide-eyed and trying to pass as grown-ups, like me. A year later, after shooting lots of porn videos, they'd return. They were covered in tattoos, had painful-looking breast implants and a hard look in their eyes. Or they were high. The transformation was startling. Porn rendered them unrecognizable.
- •Then I saw WAY too much.The low-grade depression of me and my coworkers; my boss (not Larry) angrily throwing stuff at me. The porn actor - an unusually vulnerable guy, who stood next to me on a set, naked, discussing performance anxiety - who killed himself on his porn star girlfriend's doorstep. The HIV outbreak. The dawning realization that I spent my life staring into other people's orifices, nothing "erotic" about it. Definitely the "frog in boiling water" syndrome - just sitting still as it heated up.
- •But the most important step toward becoming an "ex-pornographer": I got some hope. I started performing standup comedy in coffeehouses for twelve people. I wrote like a maniac: screenplays that would never be produced, essays... Anything other than porn.Porn traps men and women who are prone to believe they have nothing else to offer the world. Standup became my lifeline. I'd be at the studio with nude models posing downstairs - and me hiding in a storage room, obsessively practicing "routines." One photographer dismissively said about me, "Why can't people just accept who they are?" I became determined to "show" him. Plus I had fellow coworkers in their 20s who were great friends. We'd laugh and play pranks on each other all day. Hope!
- •The real breaking point: I started suffering from terrible insomnia. An ex-girlfriend recommended I go see her acupuncturists.Four doctors, crammed into a tiny office in Koreatown. They prescribed me herbs to boil at home. The herbs made me violently ill - as sick as I've ever been in my life. I had a nightmare about a nude woman, frozen and suspended in a state of agony. And in the dream, I sat watching her with no emotional reaction. I woke up covered in sweat. I realized my job at Hustler was witnessing a tragedy. Those mysterious, bitter-tasting herbs blasted years of toxins out of my soul!
- •Then I had an unsuccessful "career suicide" attempt.I turned in a "girl copy" - meaning the text that accompanied a pictorial - which said things like, "I'm Mandy! I use my sexuality to prey on men who have been sexually abused, because they're easy targets. And I hate them anyway, thanks to my own abusive past!" At this point, I was high enough in the food chain that it almost went straight to print. But a Copy Editor caught it, called me and threatened to alert my supervisors if I didn't change it. I caved and asked her not to "tell on me."
- •And then one day, out of the blue, I quit.I didn't have a backup job and didn't really care. I gave two weeks notice. During my exit interview, the HR woman asked me to give the reason I was leaving in three words or less. I thought about it and said, "Moment of Clarity." She told me she couldn't put that on the form.
- •That's how I became an "ex-pornographer."Today, I think of porn as watching footage of someone else's bad day. No different than if they stubbed their toe or yelled at their kid. You know they probably don't feel great about it; it's probably not them at their best. But that's where their life is at that moment. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I hope that everyone involved gets to add "ex" to their title like I did. Because my life is infinitely better now! And God, if I can get through it - with my background - anyone can.
- •Thanks for asking for this list, @donnie.