Thursday, February 10, 2011
Interview With Tristan Taormino
Check out Tristan Taormino on her website, Pucker Up, and on Twitter.
Danny: You've been involved in the adult industry for a little over ten years now, right?
Tristan: I know. Where's my hall of fame pass? (laughs)
Danny: So you've taken on both roles as performer and director, and you've run the gamut of directing everything from educational or instructional films to sort of your own brand of gonzo porn...
Danny: So what differentiates your porn from other porn? In other words, what characterizes a Tristan Taormino film?
Tristan: Well, I think everyone has their own unique vision. What I really focus is the process of making the porn. And so how it turns out is not always planned, or intentional.
I don't know that it's possible to create a feminist image. What does that look like? Because you're going to create an image and then twenty million people – well, in my case, not twenty million people, but you know, say twenty people watch it. Everyone's going to see it differently. Everyone's going to take something different from it. Everyone's going to interpret it differently. So I don't know that there's a way to say, “This is feminist porn because that's a feminist sex image.” For me, feminist porn is about how you create the product. That's really my emphasis.
Now, based on some of the things I do in order to create the product in the way that I do, I think what sets my work apart is that, to the savvy viewer, it is very clear that the performers are attracted to each other. They have genuine chemistry. They have a sense of freedom. They seem to be doing things that they want to be doing rather than what someone told them to do. And they appear to be having a really good time, which is obviously not the case in every porn.
Danny: Is there anything on the box cover or on the website that lets the consumer know they're getting a different kind of product?
Tristan: If they buy it from me. So if they read an interview with me, and then it has a link, and then they go looking for my porn, or if they buy it from my website, then it's really clear. And I've been really clear about what this movie is about, and what I want to do with it.
But I wouldn't say there's like a feminist or ethical porn section in any porn store. I mean, I have say over my box covers, and how my material is packaged and marketed. So I would say that I do try to communicate that in press materials. I do try to communicate that in the still photography that I choose for the box, and in the copy that I write for the box. But I don't know how many people read the box of porn movies.
My intentions are there for the really informed consumer. So I think some people pick it up because they're like, “Oh my god, Sasha Grey. Hot!” And that's the extent of their purchasing experience.
Now, when they get the video, and they take it home, they may then say, “This scene seems different.” Or, “This is different than when I saw her in that five guy blow bang.”
Danny: How do you actually find or cast talent for your productions?
Tristan: I like to know something about my performers. I have certain criteria for who I want to work with. I really want to work with people who like their job. I really want to work with people who have something to say, who have opinions, who are articulate, and who are interested in engaging me on a number of topics. And that topic could be something as straight-forward as, “What's your favorite blowjob technique?” Or it could be something more revealing like, “How did you get into porn and how does it effect your relationships off camera?”
But I want someone who's willing to talk to me, and who's genuinely interested in talking about this stuff. Rather than just doing, I'm interested in what they have to say about what they're doing.
Danny: Have you ever had an instance where performers did not want to work with each other?
Tristan: Well, the way that I cast is that I call people up and say, “Who do you want to work with?” I usually call the girl up and ask, “Who do you want to work with?” I will then call the guy and say, “Hey, I want to book you for a scene with this person.”
So I have had people, yes, in the past... I've called up the girl and she says, “Yes, this is who I want to work with,” and then I've called the number one person on her list and that person's been like, “You know what? Not really feeling it.”
Now, I don't go back to the girl and say, “He's not feeling it for you.” That would be unnecessarily mean. I just say, “He's busy,” or “he's already booked,” or “give me another choice.” Yes, that's absolutely happened to me where people have said, “No, that's not a good pairing for me.”
But I would say, ninety percent of the time, when women pick guys, those guys tend to like them too. Like, it's a mutual thing. People are pretty smart about this stuff, and aware about who they have chemistry with and who they don't.
However, the wild card in all of this is, of course, the flake factor. I wrote a little bit about this on my blog recently. On my movie, The Expert Guide to Female Orgasms, I really did a ton of research and a ton of interviews to pick the five perfect women for this movie. And then one of them flaked.
The thing is, like, everything about the movie revolved around the fact that these five women have very different experiences and stories about how they have an orgasm. And I knew them inside and out, the stories, and how they were going to fit together in this movie.
So when someone flakes, it's not like I need a white girl with blond hair and a big butt. I need a person who meets all the criteria I just talked about, and I need to know how the fuck she has an orgasm, and if I can fit that into the movie.
In that case, it worked out great. But I have had situations where there were last-minute replacements, and I would say those are the most challenging for me. My ideal thing is that the girl is on top of the guy's list, and the guy's on top of the girl's list, and they're crazy about each other. And I get that a lot. I strive for a hundred percent, but I would say I get that most of the time. Because that's what I want to do, and I book them really far in advance, and all that shit.
But then sometimes some dude's gotta go to a funeral, and you've got to find someone else. And those are the times when it's clear that these two may not be at the top of each others lists. And then you kind of have to do your best.
Danny: Can you talk about the collaboration you have with your performers as far as the type of sex acts that take place in your films?
Tristan: I think part of the argument of the anti-porn feminist... They've taken it to a crazy extreme and they're like, “Porn valley is trafficking human beings,” which is ridiculous. But the less crazy of the anti-porn feminists fear that everyone is being coerced into everything they're doing.
And so I want to flip that entirely on its head. So what if I didn't even tell you what position you're going to have sex in? In the case of the Chemistry stuff, I'm not even going to tell you where. In some of my other stuff, it's limited to the set, and the situation, and what we have going on. I would say I err on the side of just giving someone a bed. But I want to know where they want to have sex, what kind of sex they want to have, and what pace they want to go. I want them to participate in their own representation. Because I think that is where you're intervening in the argument of objectification.
Objectification is like, “They're just doing what you want. They're like sex robots.” But when the performer is participating in their own representation, that gives them a whole other level of agency and power.
To the viewer, that may translate as: when you're on a kitchen counter and your leg is strung up, you're like, “Wow, that looks uncomfortable.” And when you're in a position that you really like, with someone you really like: “Wow, it seems like they really dig each other.” You see, that's all left up to how the consumer reads it though.
Danny: Has there ever been an instance where you felt uncomfortable filming one of these scenes?
Tristan: Yes. It was pretty early in my career. And it was someone who was a replacement for someone else. So this sort of background interviewing of people that I do, that gives me a certain level of comfortability when they arrive on set - I didn't have the opportunity to do.
And there were moments when I felt like [the female performer] was kind of disconnected from the process. It wasn't something where she arrived to the scene staggering drunk, and I could say, “I'm sending you home.” And I would wager that she was not on drugs. She just got into the scene and the male performer was really good. He's one of the performers that I love to direct. And he'll look you in the eye. And he knows what I want, and he was gonna give it to me. But she didn't want to cooperate, necessarily.
She did the scene fine. And I don't think all people can pick up on it. Of course, when I see it, I can. And at that moment, I was like, “This is not working for me.” This is not my idea of a good time. But I have to do this. So we're gonna do it.
Danny: Can you tell me about one of your favorite or most memorable directed scenes?
Tristan: There's a lot.
I have to say it still tops the list... I don't know how you want to go about talking about it, but I would say your scene with Sasha [Grey for Rough Sex] is still at the top of my list.
Danny: Well, thank you. I mean, I was there so...
Tristan: I mean, can I talk about that? Or is it weird?
Danny: No, no. I'm totally open to discuss that.
It was a different kind of a scene. I really love when I talk to people and say, “What do you want to do?” And people say, “Well, something I've never done, because no one else has been interested in shooting it is...” And that's kind of my hook. When you introduce something like that, you're pretty much bound to get what you want as a performer. Because I really like the idea of doing stuff that other people won't touch, whether it's because it's taboo, or whatever.
So when someone says, “I really want to do this, but no one's ever let me, or has been interested,” I'm like, “Yeah, let's do that.”
So when I called up Sasha on the phone and we talked about it for a while, she talked about how it was clear how she had gotten a chance to explore her submissive side through porn. And that has done a ton for her. But truthfully, in her personal life, and as she saw herself as a sexual being, she considered herself more of a switch. Now, people never cast her as a dominant, because they're like, “No, no, no. Have you seen Sasha? She's a great submissive.” And people can't conceive of you being both.
The other piece of it was, “Who am I gonna do it with?” Because there are all these guys in the industry who simply will not sub for anyone ever. So she was like, “I've got this awesome fantasy, and I think it would be really cool. But who the hell am I gonna do it with?” I had, at that point, seen you on Men in Pain, but also on The Training of O, as a dom. So for the first time, I had seen someone who I felt was as believable as a dom as he was a sub. Like, it was believable. It didn't feel like acting. It felt authentic. So I called her back and said, “Well, how about Danny Wylde?” And she was like, “Right. Danny Wylde. I like that guy. See if he'll do it.”
So then we get there on set, and of course, you guys had never worked together before. And of course, that can go, oh, so many different ways. So the scene started and I just felt like, “Okay, there's chemistry here, and it's clear from the beginning.” And as it went on, there was this sort of fluidity about who was in charge, who was in control, and who wasn't - this really back-and-forth negotiation happening during it.
It was a scene where I was entirely mesmerized by it. The crew was comprised of, you know, these porn veterans. They've been shooting forever, and they were mesmerized by it.
One of my favorite stories to tell is that I tapped my lead camera guy, Jason, on the shoulder because he was running out of tape. And I had a second camera guy, so I could easily pull Jason out, change his tape, and put him back in. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he was like, “Yeah, yeah, I got it.” And I said, “No, Jason,” because I don't want to stop the action. I tell Jason, “We have to change tapes,” and he's like, “Yeah, yeah, I got it.” And he won't even turn around and look at me. And the flashing thing is in his frame. I see it in his frame that the empty tape thing is there, but he literally can't see it. Because he's so into what's going on.
I just think that's the sign of an amazing scene. All this other stuff just falls away. Is that a phone ringing? I don't hear it. I don't care. We're not stopping. It was done in one take. You popped without us stopping for stills, which is a traditional thing that you're supposed to do. And I was just like, “I don't care.”
Consistently, when people review it, they say it's their favorite scene of the movie. I mean, there's not a single person who hasn't said that who's reviewed this movie. And I just think it's one of those times when it was just a totally magical scene. It was like, you both showed up, you brought your A-game, you had chemistry, which wasn't going to be guaranteed, and you went to some places you hadn't gone before on film. And it was like magic.
I guess another example I have is when I shot Marcos Leon and Lindsay Meadows in a movie about fellatio - my first one. One of the things that I wanted to do, that I wanted to talk about, which is seldom talked about in sex education, and that is the different ways you handle an uncircumcised cock versus a circumcised cock. So I pulled Marco aside, and said, “Hey, I was wondering if we could just do some basic shots of your dick. What would be ideal for me is if you started out soft, because it's much easier to see the actual anatomy without the foreskin when you're soft, and then you get hard, rather than you starting out rock hard.”
When guys start out rock hard and then they pull back the skin, people often can't tell the difference. They can't see the really tremendous differences there are. So I asked him this, and this is probably a big no-no in porn, like, “Please show your soft cock.” But he was like, “Sure, I'll do that,” which was really great.
Then the other thing we talked about was really having a sense of experiencing all these different things while he was doing them. He pulled me aside at one point and said, “I'm really kind of freaking out.” And I was like, “Oh, okay. Why? What's going on?” He said, “The thing is, I'm not used to being the center of attention, and I feel like the camera's on me all the time. And you're capturing my facial expressions.”
Someone had said, “Oh, there was this great shot where his toes curled up, and we got it!” And he was like, “You saw that? What do you mean?” He felt all of a sudden very self-conscious in a way that he hadn't, and this is someone who had fucked on film a hundred times. So he suddenly felt like, “Wait, you're interested in my sexuality? This is freaking me out.” Which I thought was an interesting comment about how we treat, perceive, and represent male sexuality on film.
Because the truth is that I am interested in men's bodies and their sexuality, and I don't want them to be disembodied dicks. So that really shaped my thinking going forward about how it wasn't necessarily going to be easy to say, “Turn the camera on the guy, or don't cut the guy out of the frame.” But actually having to work with the guy about how they felt about that, because they were so used to being really not... I mean, I've heard people on set tell guys to be quiet when they've moaned. I mean, I want to hear a guy moan. I want to hear him say whatever he has to say, because that means he's into it. It means he's turned on.
The crux of the story is that.... We hadn't decided a pop shot in that movie. And I was like, “Okay,” I looked up at the girl and said, “Lindsay, where do you want him to cum?” And she was like, “Well, I don't swallow.” And I was like, “Okay.” I was trying to make this couples-oriented and I feel like this whole pulling out and spraying on the face thing is not what every couple does when they're having blow jobs.
So I said to her, “What do you think about him coming and you just letting it drip out of your mouth? I don't want you to gag and gargle it, and do all of that weird shit that women do in porn. I just want you to let it naturally roll out of your mouth.” And she was like, “That'll be fine.”
A couple members of my crew, with Marco not around, say, “That's totally going to work because Marco does not have a big pop shot.” And I was like, “Okay, Great. Sounds like it's a win for everyone.”
So Lindsay Meadows is really wonderful at giving blow jobs. She knows her way around a cock. And she demonstrated a laundry list of techniques that were really amazing. And several times during the scene, Marcos asked to stop because he was like, “I'm gonna cum.” But I was like, “Well, we need to demonstrate like six more techniques.” So there was a pretty long build-up and I knew that he was really enjoying himself.
Okay, so finally we've gotten through the list of all the techniques I wanted to go over. So I said, “Okay, whenever you're ready, you can cum.” So he's gonna sort of say he's coming, and we're not really going to see it, and then a little bit of cum is going to drip out of her mouth, right?
I'm sitting at the monitor, and all of a sudden, all I see is her entire mouth fill with cum to the point where it almost jerks her head back. Like, it's so much that she doesn't know what to do. It just happened and she was like, “I have no idea what to do, but there's an avalanche of cum in my mouth, and how am I going to make this look sort of subtle and pretty?” And everyone on the crew is like standing in amazement and shock. Because they have no idea where all this cum came from and they're like, “Uh oh, oh my god. What's Lindsay going to do? It looks like it's coming out of her ears now. What do we do? What do we focus on?” And we all laughed about it afterwards.
But at the moment, it was hysterically funny. Because it was everyone's position that we all knew exactly how it was gonna go. But because of what had led up to it, he just got really, really, really stimulated.
Danny: When I've worked for you, I've noticed I'm generally interviewed before or after sex, or both. What are some of the questions you ask, and what are the purpose of these interviews?
Tristan: It really depends on the movie. Like, for the sex education movies, my intention is for people to share their own experiences and even their advice. One of the most underrated things that people don't really understand is that on some level pornstars are sexual gurus. They know things that other people don't know by the very fact of their profession, and the fact that they have such a variety of sexual partners. We have a lot to learn from them. Which is why I don't use amateurs in my productions.
The educational stuff really revolves people telling their own stories about what people like, what turns them on, what really works, their preferences, their advice for people trying something for the first time. And it revolves, usually, around a certain topic like fellatio, or hand jobs, or anal sex.
Now, with my Chemistry movies, I was really interested in digging pretty deep, and asking people a lot of questions about how they became a porn star, what they liked about it, what they didn't like about it, how it affected their relationships, and how it effected their own sexuality.
So there were those broad, big picture questions as well as these recaps I really like to do. They would go into a scene and I would be like, “So how was that? You've never worked with Derek Pierce before. That was the first time. Tell me about it. Tell me what you liked. Tell me what surprised you.” And I mean we watched it, but I wanted to hear what, internally, was going on for them.
I think people really respond to those interviews in Chemistry. We give viewers a good three-dimensional picture of the performer, which I feel like they don't necessarily get in other kinds of porn.
For the Rough Sex movies, the interviews really revolve around the woman's rough sex fantasy, why she wants to do this, how she picks the people or person to work with, what about it turns her on, how she protects herself and does it safely, what her limits and her boundaries are. So stuff like that to really talk about scenes in which there may be masochism and sadism, dominance and submission, and get to the heart of why those are turn-ons for people, and really establish how the scenes are consensual, so that when they start to unfold, the viewer, I think, has a certain level of comfort going there with the performers. Because they've heard them say, “No, I like to be slapped in the face.”
One of my favorite scenes in Rough Sex is the Satine Phoenix/Derek Pierce scene. And it's really, really, really rough. But after you hear them talk about it, you feel a hundred percent good about what they're doing because it doesn't go outside of where she said she wanted it to go. This didn't go beyond her limits because we heard what her limits are. In a general way, the interviews really are about giving context to what you're going to see, or what you just saw.
Danny: What are some examples of sex acts you've filmed that would be characterized as rough or maybe even violent?
Tristan: I've filmed scenes for this series where there is face slapping, spanking, flogging, hot wax, knives but no cutting, wrestling, spitting, verbal degradation, psychological play, psychological degradation and dominance, some interesting sort of fetish stuff - like there's this pony play scene in one of my movies where this girl wants to be dressed up as a pony. I've also filmed forced orgasms and sex slave fantasies, fantasies of a stranger breaking into your house... I think that covers a lot of it.
Danny: Did you ever feel as if you were degrading or taking advantage of a performer on set?
The whole point of the Rough Sex series is that the fantasy is the female performer's. She owns it, and she says what she wants, and who she wants to make it come true with.
So in many ways, I'm the submissive in that scenario. Because I'm sort of running around trying to get all the details in place to make her fantasy to come true, even if her fantasy is abusive. I'm like the service bottom.
I think that for me, I feel strongly that performers need to be treated with respect, and I ask people - before their scene - what kind of lube they want on set, what kind of sex toys they want, what kind of food, what kind of beverages. I want to take really good care of them, and I want the focus to be on them. And I will go out of my way, and I will go overtime, and I will do whatever to make sure that the performer is comfortable.
You know, I don't negotiate with people about their rates. That's just something I decided that I won't do. So if someone wants $2800 for an anal scene, I'm much more likely not to cast them, because it can't fit in my budget, instead of try and bargain with them for $1400, which is like half of what they want. Because I'm all for people setting their prices. If that's what it takes for you to get up at five in the morning and do an enema, that's great. I can't afford it, but I know other people can.
With all that said, I obviously don't tolerate coercion or any kind of disrespect on my set. I'm pretty intolerant of that. And my crew knows that, and I don't have a bunch of random other people on my set. Everyone knows the mission, and I've been working with the same crew for so long, and they really, really know what my whole deal is. So I would be surprised if anyone did something that strayed from that. It just wouldn't be right.
Danny: You've actually performed.
Tristan: I was in three movies.
Danny: During those performances, did you ever feel like you were taken advantage of, exploited, or degraded, or anything like that?
Tristan: Two out of the three of those, I was the director. I feel like that was an important piece of it, and why I even did it. Because I got to cast the person, or people, I was having sex with. And I really got to call the shots.
Now the third production was an independent production by these sort of feminist, sex academics. I thought there was really way too much dialog, but that would be my only complaint.
Danny: During any of your pornographic performances, did you ever have an instance where you actually felt empowered?
Tristan: That's a really good question. No one's ever asked me that, which is strange. I think part of what went on with the group scene in my first [performed] scene is that there were thirteen people in it. So there were thirteen different personalities. And I don't know if that could be a singular experience for anyone.
There were parts of that scene that felt very empowering. And there are parts of that scene that are incredibly memorable to this day for me, and I still find very hot. And then there are parts of the scene where I was like kind of ambivalent about them - “Wish that could have gone better, wish that could have gone a different way.” And the thing about that scene is that it got a lot of attention. I had some fallout in my personal life from that scene. So all of these things... I can't look at the scene in simple ways, and in a sort of pure way, like “the experience.” Because all of that stuff is wrapped up in the scene when I think of it.
My second scene was really fun. I didn't feel disempowered, but it was really fun.
And then the third scene, which was for the other people... Yeah, I don't think I've worked enough to hit that moment where it's just like awesome. If I'm being honest.
Danny: In your personal life, do you typically take on a dominant, submissive, or neutral role?
Tristan: I would say I'm primarily dominant, and I occasionally switch.
Danny: So in any of these sexual acts you have in your personal life, do you ever enjoy being called a cunt, whore, slut, bitch, or other derogatory term?
Danny: Do you ever enjoy calling your sexual partners by such names?
Tristan: Sure, if they like it.
Danny: Can you explain a little bit about the pleasure you derive from doing this?
Tristan: Well, I can think of one person in particular, who I played with in the past, who really likes to be objectified, and who really likes to be called a slut and a whore. So the pleasure in that for me is giving her what she wants, and what she needs. And coming up with new filthy words to call her that she hasn't been called before. And she's been called a lot of filthy names. So it's like a mental challenge for me to come up with new things that will totally twist her mind.
On the flip side of that, I think that when I'm being submissive, there's a time and a place where things line up and I really trust the person, where I like those words in the context they're being used. For example, I like to be used as a sexual object for someone else's enjoyment or humor, or whatever.
So I think that those words can help me get into that head space where I'm not the boss. Because in my world, and in my primary relationship, I'm the boss. I'm the boss most of the time. Let's just say ninety-eight percent of the time. So to get out of that and to get into another place can be difficult for me. I think that verbal play like that, or psychological play, can help me get there easier. Because the truth is, in my life, no one calls me those words. And if they do, it's totally behind my back, and I don't know about it.
Danny: Do you think there are any words in particular that you never want to be called, or will never call another person?
Tristan: I don't like to be called fat, and I don't like to be called animal names. So no “cow,” “pig,” or “dog” for me.
Danny: On set, have you ever called performers any names, particularly ones like cunt, bitch, slut, etc...
Tristan: I would only say with one person who's a close friend of mine who I'm really, really tight with, and we joke about it. Like she would do something, and I would be like, “That was really slutty.” Like, we're CLOSE friends. Otherwise, “No.”
Danny: What is your policy with drugs and alcohol on set?
Tristan: I have a reputation for being kind of a hard ass about this. And there are people who don't want to work for me because of it, which is fine. People have said, “I've heard what your set is like and I don't want to be there,” which is totally fine.
I don't provide drugs or alcohol to anyone. And I don't want to see drugs or alcohol anywhere. I make it pretty clear to the performers that that is my policy. Have people smoked a joint on my set? I'm sure they have. I can't babysit them and I won't babysit them because they're grownups. But I feel comfortable saying that no one's done anything beyond drink or smoke pot on my set.
It's really easy for me to tell if someone's fucked up, and I just don't want to work with them. I mean, I've been on sets where other people have showed up in really messy states, and they've been like, “Alright, we just need to make the best of this,” and I'm just like, “No, we're sending you home.”
Danny: So you've actually witnessed someone sent home for drug or alcohol abuse?
Tristan: I just witnessed people who got really, really fucked up on a set. So I feel like I have a pretty good sense... People think that if you get really fucked up or high, that people can't tell. Well you can. As long as you pay attention, you can. There's some people I work with who I know smoke a little pot in the car. I'm not gonna name names.
Danny: Do you think that smoking a little pot or having a few drinks before a scene, does this hamper someone's ability to perform in a scene with informed consent?
Tristan: Yes. I think that there's a line there. There are people who smoke half a joint every day, and have a certain tolerance for it. And that's different than someone who's on speed. But I'm like a legalized marijuana type of person too. So I guess that informs my feeling on that ... yeah.
Danny: Given your experience, how common do you think drug and alcohol abuse is in the industry?
Tristan: Part of me feels like - and I've always said this - because I only make a few movies a year, and because I do my own particular thing, I feel like I'm a little bit in my own bubble. I work with a lot of the same people again and again. I do not have access to a “representative cross-section” of porn. When I was doing more journalism, and writing about it, I absolutely did. And I would see other directors and other performers, and see kind of what was going on.
But on my sets, I feel like it's a very insular world where we're, like, doing this other thing. And also because I don't shoot every other day. If I shot every other day, I would have to come across much more talent than I actually do.
I'm literally in my own kind of bubble. So I have no idea. What I can tell you is that people gossip, obviously. And there have been instances when I have seen someone's movie, where I have heard about them, and I've gone up to a close friend and said, “I might be interested in casting this person. What do you think about them?” And they're like, “Oh, yeah, they're totally into meth. You don't want to work with them.” It wasn't a judgment, it was just like, “I know what you want, Tristan, and that isn't what you want.” And that happens more often than I like.
Danny: So if I understand correctly, you used to require condoms on your set?
Danny: But you've since taken a different stance on that issue? What are you current feelings about condom use on porn sets?
Tristan: It's a really loaded question, obviously.
You see, I want to empower performers to do what they want to do. So when I went into this... I can remember before shooting House of Ass [Tristan's first film], that I had dinner with a bunch of people in Vegas - several of them performers - and I said, perhaps naively, “Well, if you had the opportunity, you would all want to use condoms, right?” And eight out of ten of them said, “No.” And I was like, “Who are you people? What do you mean? Why wouldn't you want to use a condom?” And then the guys start talking about how it's much harder to stay hard that long. “You start and stop, and I just can't maintain the wood I can without a condom, with a condom.”
And then the women are like, “The scene lasts way longer because of the up and down, up and down, up and down, condom switch, condom switch, condom switch. Then I have latex burn in my vagina.” And I'm like, “Man, that doesn't sound good.” So then if I'm gonna go purely on personal preference, then I want people to choose for themselves.
However, I also don't feel that testing protocol as it stands right now is fool proof. And obviously, it would be my worst nightmare for someone to get an STD on my set. That's not my idea of a good time at all. And again, that doesn't say your set is safe. I mean, I can't follow everyone home and see who they're fucking, but it doesn't make me happy.
So I honestly don't know. I haven't shot in about six months. Quite frankly, the next time I pick up a camera, I don't know. I feel like we've got to address it in a different way. And I did shoot a condom scene... Did you see my blog? Do you follow my Twitter?
Danny: I do follow your Twitter. I get updates sometimes. It kind of depends when I'm on during the day and if you post something within the time-frame that I see it. So it depends.
Tristan: Well, I just posted this still from my next movie from a scene between Dylan Ryan and Mr. Marcus.
Danny: I actually did see that.
Tristan: Okay. That was a condom scene. And it was amazing. And he came twice. So that kind of flies in the face of, “No, it hampers my working conditions,” and, “No, it's not as hot.” It's like a really fucking hot scene. So that gave me new hope. No one was like, “No, I'm freaking out.” Marcus was like, “Okay. Great.”
Danny: You make most of your movies for Vivid still? Is that true?
Danny: Does Vivid tell you anything like, “You can't use condoms in this scene,” or has it affected sales or anything like that?
Tristan: They don't, but I've never pressed the issue with them. I consider my scenes condom optional. And that's Vivid's across-the-board policy. I've never had a conversation where I went in to Steve Hirsch and said, “I want to shoot all condom scenes.” So I don't know what he'd say to that. But he's never told me, “You must shoot all non-condom scenes.” That's never a conversation we've had.
Danny: Other than interviews, what are some ways a porn director such as yourself ensures the consent of performers other than their physical presence on set?
Tristan: Anyone will tell you that I check in with my performers. So when they arrive on set, unless I'm in the middle of shooting, I'm gonna check in with them. And I think that check-in is a basic, “Do you appear to be sober?” Which is in my judgment, totally in my judgment. And, “What is your general demeanor?”
I feel like I am someone who's very sensitive and good at reading people. For example, people have shown up on my set and been “not there.” And I've been like, “What's going on?” And they're like, “Can I just have fifteen minutes call my landlord and settle this fucked up rent situation? And then I'll be all yours.” And I'm like, “Great. Good. Sure.”
And you know, people have real life shit like that all the time. If I say, “What's going on?” And they're like, “I'm fine.” Then it could be something deeper, like, “I really don't want to do the scene,” or, “I really don't want to be here.”
I've also, mid-way in a scene, had someone on a break say, “This is really not working for me. Can we change this up, switch holes, give more direction towards this?” I've had that happen. Halfway through the scene, I've had someone say, “For these three reasons, this is not going in the direction I want it to go in. And can you advocate on my behalf?” And I've done that, and I've made that work. And if you can make that work without the viewer knowing, that's the best. It happens, and you know, people's butts get tired and things happen on set, and you have to change gears, right?
And the other thing is, now with Vivid, we have an insane amount of paperwork to do. So Colten, my production manager, is there going through this paperwork with people, and really making sure they get it.
I also have a policy: I don't shoot anyone under twenty-one. Sasha [Grey] was my only exception to that. She was twenty when we filmed that scene. And I don't generally shoot people who are new to the industry. And the reason that I don't is that I want someone who is fully committed to being a porn star.
I started out wanting to shoot amateur, and I thought it was going to be really great. And my experience in casting was they'd be like, “Oh my god. So excited. I'm totally gonna do this.” And then a week later, they'd be like, “Okay, I talked to my sister, and then she talked to, you know, her sister-in-law, and now I'm freaking out and maybe don't want to do it.” And then they'd call back and say, “You know, I think if I can just wear a wig...” And I'm like, “Okay, we're done.”
I don't want to convince you to do this. I don't want to be any part of your decision. I want you to come to this decision all on your own. And so for me, someone's who's been in the industry three years, five years, ten years, they've made a commitment to this career. And that doesn't mean that they've consented to everything that could possibly happen on any set. But the porn star part they feel comfortable with.
Danny: As a consumer, do you think you should just assume the performers are providing full consent to what's going on? In your movies, maybe you can say yes. But do you think in general this is true?
Tristan: No. I think no.
For me, bad porn comes in many flavors for me. One of the flavors is when something starts happening, one of the performers looks like they're really not into it. And then my head starts to go to this place where it's like, “Does that hurt, is there not enough warm-up, is she really not into this guy, is she on drugs, is she checking out?” And then I'm like, “Okay. No. I have to stop the porn.”
It's the ultimate wood killer for me to see what I perceive to be ambivalence or discomfort. Now, there are people who are experiencing it and can hide it form the consumer. And then I may see something and misinterpret it. We still really don't know enough about how people use porn, and consume it.
Danny: Do you think that pornographic content that depicts rough sex, such as staged rape scenarios, should be held to higher standards in terms of conveying consent?
Danny: Some companies and productions, such as most of your own, conduct the interviews. We already talked about that. Do you think these interviews actually affect the sex scenes?
Tristan: Again, I think they affect the scenes. But I also think the put the scenes in context for the viewer.
And yeah, they absolutely have an affect on the consumer.
Danny: Is there anything other than an interview stating explicit consent that would make you feel comfortable watching a staged rape scenario between two people you've never met for a production company you've never heard of?
Tristan: Besides an interview with the two performers?
Tristan: I would like a personal statement from the director about what they were doing and why they were doing it. And full disclosure, like, “This is coming.” A disclaimer basically.
Because if someone thinks they're going to see a naughty MILF being seduced by their school teacher and then they see a rape fantasy, that's not fair to the consumer. The consumer has to be informed about what they're about to see.
Danny: Do you think there are any rough sex acts that can be performed on camera without any transparency?
Tristan: I think it's tricky territory. I don't feel comfortable without some context in my own work. I think when you get to simulations of violence and rape, there absolutely has to be a higher standard. Because the fact of the matter is women are raped in this country. And that's reality. It's not just fantasy. That needs to be addressed. It has to be addressed. You're not making this in a vacuum.
So I guess I want people to have some awareness of what it means.
Danny: Are there any sexual acts you believe should not be performed on camera other than illegal activities?
Tristan: I guess not. But I would hope that when people did stuff that was outside the norm, that there would be context, there would be room for discussion, that there would be explanation, consent would be clear, and it wouldn't just be thrown out there.