Industry News

I Was A Teenage Porn Model

Lux Alptraum, the person who runs Fleshbot, wrote a very in depth article about the recent decision by Axel Braun to only cast girls over 21 in his movies. It was a very insightful piece that I wanted to share with you.

 

Lux Alptraum

Should performing in porn be reserved for those above the age of twenty-one?

I turned eighteen in September 2000. I was a sophomore at Columbia. A lot of significant things happened to me that year: I voted in my first ever election, discovered online dating, launched my first serious relationship, moved into my first real New York City apartment. And in the spring of that year, I began my nude modeling career.What began as a few striptease photo shoots for a Boston-based website turned into a more ongoing commitment as a cam girl* doing weekly cam shows, which later morphed into launching my own indie porn site, perhaps best described as a nerdier, less punk, slightly more hardcore, and far more budget version of Suicide Girls, that had the distinguishing feature of showcasing both male and female models.In a different version of this story, I stuck with that website, with that career choice, establishing an LA-NYC-SF trifecta with the likes of Joanna Angel and Courtney Trouble (two porn impresarios who began their careers at the same time, under similar circumstances, as I did). But that’s not what happened. Instead, at the age of twenty-two, I decided I was sick of it all and shut down my site. I left the world of porn modeling as quickly as I had entered it, and for the most part, I didn’t look back.
In recent weeks, award winning porn director Axel Braun announced that he will no longer work with performers under the age of twenty-one. Braun is not the first to make this decision — almost seven years ago, Oren Cohen’s Tightfight Productions made a similar announcement  — but as a three time winner of AVN’s Director of the Year award, he may be the most prominent person to eschew working with the under twenty-one set.There’s a dramatic difference between the mostly softcore photos I modeled for at eighteen and the hardcore features that Braun directs. But as someone who created sexual media at the age of eighteen, I was nonetheless struck by Braun’s decision. Would it be be better if porn performance were restricted to people over the age of twenty-one? Would I have been better off if I had waited three years before taking my clothes off on camera?It was hard for me to answer that question, hard even to begin the process of parsing the many emotions it evoked. So I turned to my colleagues in the adult industry to get their thoughts and opinions on the issue.
The first person to respond to me was Bella Vendetta. A dominatrix and porn model whose tastes run towards extreme fetish, Vendetta entered the adult industry at the age of eighteen, training as a dominatrix at the world’s oldest BDSM training chateau and shooting her first porn scenes. Three years later, she launched her own fetish site; now, at thirty-two, she’s preparing to relaunch the site after a two year hiatus.In spite of her own largely positive experiences as a young porn model, Vendetta’s views align with Braun’s — and then some. In the process of relaunching BellaVendetta.com, she’s made the decision to restrict modeling opportunities to those above the age of twenty-five, a full four years older than Braun’s age limit.Why twenty-five? “In my experience young people have a hard time thinking about the rest of their lives,” she says. “When you make porn, even if it’s just one time, even if it’s softcore photos, even if it’s for a small website, it will effect you for the rest of your life…. There are certainly some twenty-two year old models I know who are incredibly bright and have thought long and hard about the consequences of posing naked on the internet. But they are few and far between.”

There’s also her own personal tastes. “I prefer to negotiate scenes with adults…who have enough sexual experience to know what it is they like…. I am not personally turned on by the idea of defiling a young girl.”

At nineteen, I spent a few months as a cam model for Ducky Doolittle, a peep show girl and burlesque performer turned sex educator**. Early in our relationship, Doolittle called me to discuss the ramifications of my decision to be naked on the internet.“I want to be sure that you know what you’re getting into,” she said. She wanted to make sure I knew that whatever pictures I modeled for, whatever I publicized, it was forever.As a younger woman, she’d posed nude for magazines, naively thinking that when the month was up and they disappeared from the newsstands, they were gone for good. But nothing ever goes away: people save magazines, images are archived, the choices you make in your youth can always find a way to come back to you as an adult.

As we talked, I told her I understood. I told her I was comfortable with my decision. But over a decade later, I’m not sure that I did, that I really could. In 2002, it was impossible to predict how the internet — then a seemingly private, anonymous playground where secrets could live on in the shadows — would mature into a highly public, perpetually archived platform for the mass sharing of information. Whatever I thought I was agreeing to, it wasn’t what I actually signed up for.

It’s that sort of youthful blindness that’s made Vendetta uninterested in working with young models. “I have always made it a policy to fully discuss all the risks of making porn and the ways in which it will affect you forever,” she says. “I even put it in my models contracts’ that I will not take your photos down if your mom finds out or boyfriend gets mad. But that doesn’t stop it from happening.“When I looked at where these problems were coming from it was always from young models.”
In explaining his decision, Braun offered justification for the twenty-one year minimum thusly: “The percentage of talent who start performing at eighteen and are out of the industry by the time they turn twenty-one is staggering. Those are the ones who are not cut out for porn, and who could very well spend the rest of their lives regretting their choice.”The implication here is clear: porn work should only be pursued by people who plan to make a full time career out of it. It’s a sentiment echoed by Vendetta when she contrasts her experience as a teenage porn performer with that of the young people she’s worked with since. “Unlike me, a lot of eighteen and nineteen year olds aren’t looking to build an entire career or brand off of the adult industry. They think this sounds fun and crazy and exotic — and the money doesn’t hurt either.”It is true that the work you do as an eighteen year old porn performer will stick around — and, potentially, haunt you — for the rest of your life. But is that reason enough to limit porn performing to those who aspire to make a career out of it?
Around the time that I was launching my porn website, Courtney Trouble — then an Olympia, WA, based phone sex operator — was putting together a website known as NoFauxxx (now Indie Porn Revolution). In 2003, Trouble and I connected through message boards and later met in person; we stayed in touch over the years as our careers both diverged and followed parallel paths. These days Trouble lives in Oakland, CA, where she’s a part of the vibrant queer porn scene.Unlike Braun and Vendetta, Trouble isn’t convinced that upping the age limit on performing in porn is a good idea — and she doesn’t think that leaving the adult industry at twenty-one is necessarily a sign that’s one’s choice to do sex work was the wrong one.“A lot of people only do sex work for a few years,” she says. “When you’re super young it’s an incredibly easy way to make money for college or your family or your future plans.

“Leaving the industry quickly doesn’t mean it was an age-related mistake. It may actually be more of a reflection on the way that young women are treated in the industry by producers and agents than it is a reflection of their age. If porn were a safer place… maybe [performers would] stick around longer. The question isn’t only about age, but labor practices.”

It is difficult to separate the adult I am today from my decision to pursue porn modeling at the age of eighteen. If I hadn’t modeled nude, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the promise of indie porn, and I wouldn’t have been inspired to launch my own website — a decision which provided me with the industry knowledge and business sense that later enabled me to take over Fleshbot.And it’s also difficult to deny that, had I waited until twenty-one, I probably wouldn’t have ended up on this track. At twenty-one I was out of college, working my first full time job, and no longer feeling the same thrill I once got from taking off my clothes in front of a camera. At twenty-one, I was ready to move into a more mainstream career.Because as much as I enjoyed making porn, as much as I enjoyed learning about the adult industry, as important as the entire experience was for me, I wasn’t interested in being a full-time porn performer. I had never been interested in pursuing porn performance, or porn production, as a full-time, or even long term, career. At twenty-one, the window of opportunity for experimenting with porn, for experimenting with my identity, was drawing to a close. Had I waited until then to model nude, it may have been too late.
Though Trouble isn’t convinced that banning teenagers from porn is the best idea, she is encouraged by Braun’s attempt to make porn in a more ethical way. “I find it encouraging that mainstream porn directors are trying to find ways to bring their own ethics to their work. Each of us as directors experience the industry differently because we all make different movies, and maybe for Axel — taking advantage of brand new adults isn’t something he wants to risk doing.”Age restrictions are certainly one way to attempt a more ethical porn production environment. But it seems worth wondering whether there are other ways to ensure that everyone on a porn set is safe, respected, and taken care of, rather than merely limiting performance to those presumably old enough to know how to advocate for themselves.
I shuttered my porn site at twenty-two, and quit the adult industry completely a few months later. I thought I was done with the whole thing, and even when I found myself reimmersed in the world of porn through my work at Fleshbot, I still couldn’t imagine myself jumping back into the fray and attempting to be a model or a performer.And then, at twenty-nine, I did another nude photo shoot. I was in Toronto for the Feminist Porn Awards, sharing a hotel room with Courtney Trouble and Jiz Lee, a talented and respected genderqueer porn performer. In the bathroom, Lee and I stripped down and took a bubble bath together, drinking champagne out of tiny, single serving bottles and we giggled and made out and played in the tub. Trouble photographed us, the pictures ended up showcased on Karma Pervs, Lee’s philanthropic porn project.At twenty-nine, in a porn-friendly career, on a set with my friends, there was nothing dangerous or threatening about being naked in front of a camera. I didn’t have to worry about who might find the photos, I didn’t have to worry about the effect they might have on my career. I could enjoy myself and simply celebrate the experience of being a sexual person, making sexual art.

Most people don’t have the freedom that I had that day. Most people — especially young people — can’t dip in and out of the sex industry without worrying about the blemish it might place on their resume, the damage it might do to their relationships.

But perhaps if they did, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about whether every eighteen year old who wants to shoot a porn scene is going to still be doing porn five, or ten, or twenty years down the line. If it was easier to shift between the worlds of porn work and mainstream work — to dip your toes in the adult industry without fear of permanently ruining your resume — then teenagers intrigued by the adult industry could have the freedom to experiment with it without being burdened to commit to it. Teenagers could have the freedom to be teenagers, without fear of permanently blemishing their future.

But failing that, maybe limiting teenagers’ involvement in porn isn’t the worst thing. If involvement in sexual media is destined to be a life altering choice, it’s one that should be made by people old enough to understand the ramifications of that.

source

 

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