Saturday, February 19, 2011
Interview With Tyler Knight
Check out Tyler Knight on his website and on Twitter.
Danny: So how long have you been working in the adult industry?
Tyler: My first scene was October 7th, 2002.
Danny: As a porn star, what do you think you're known for? In other words, what do people associate with your porn star persona?
Tyler: I'm speculating, but if I could take an educated guess based on feedback I get from people on the street when they meet me, or fan mail, I'd say it's people's ability to see themselves through me - vicariously - in any given scene or situation.
Which, I guess, is the whole point. People want to be able to substitute themselves for what could be anyone's penis seen with a beautiful girl.
Danny: Can you just name a few of the awards you've won in your career?
Tyler: Yes. The Feminist Porn Award by a company, or committee, or whatever, called Good For Her. That's effectively guys, girls, companies, studios, whatever, that are creating content that is user friendly for women, I suppose - that doesn't have a misogynistic bent.
And that was actually nice, because there's no politics. There's no argument or debate about, “Well, gee, this person is XYZ...” You can figure out what I'm talking about there.
So yeah that was nice. It was very nice.
There's probably been a dozen or so nominations for the AVNs, which I've won three or four times.
Oh yeah, I got nominated for a couple Urban X Awards, which is funny. But nevertheless, it is what it is.
Danny: Have you performed in pornographic scenes that would be considered rough or violent?
Tyler: It's one of those things that I found out very quickly. It's not in my disposition. I could physically do it to an extent, but I'm not the right tool for the job. You're better off finding a couple of guys who are into that.
One, I struggle to keep myself erect, and even if I did by some miracle manage to pump myself up with Viagra or Caverject, it just wouldn't be anything worth watching.
So the simple answer is that I'm simply not good at it, because it's not in my disposition.
Danny: Well, would you say you've performed in scenes in which you've taken on a dominant role?
Tyler: Sure. I mean, there's no correlation between dominance and rough sex. With every relationship - whether it's you and your sibling who might be younger than you - you might take a dominant role in discussing what movie you're gonna see. It doesn't mean you have to smack him around or anything like that. There's no correlation between dominance and the other stuff you mentioned, or the warm and fuzzy.
So just by definition of being male talent, you're expected to direct the scene - even if the director won't admit it. Because there can't be the voice of god talking to you while the camera's rolling and the scene's going. It's up to you to make sure the girl's in sight, she's opened up so when she's in doggy, the action can be seen in the camera, when she's in cowgirl, hold her body so that she's not flush to you and her arms to one side, so the camera can also pick up the penetration and see the girl's face, not just the back of her head like Cousin It, or whatever.
Even though most directors will probably never admit it, the best possible scene is where the camera never has to cut, and the male talent is the one who's moving the female talent. So it's seamless. It's more organic that way. As opposed to some voice of god saying, “In three-point-five minutes, switch positions.”
That's the ideal situation, I believe.
Danny: That said, do you think you've been in positions where you've taken on a submissive sexual role?
Tyler: Sure. Absolutely.
Well, I guess I think if every scene is organic, you never know what type of personality a particular girl has, or what the director may want, or what have you. There's been one scene in particular where I was working with a Romanian girl named Sandra Romaine, and I was really aggressive with her in the beginning. Aggressive for me is all relative, I guess. But towards the end of the scene, I was lying on my back with my belt wrapped around my neck. She's stepping on my face while riding me cowgirl, and cinching my belt around my neck. So it's just the way things flowed in that particular scene.
But generally speaking, it doesn't really happen that often. Unless the director specifically wants it.
Danny: By your own admission, you're not that great at performing in rough scenes, but have you ever felt like you performed in a scene in which you were degrading another performer?
Tyler: Sure. Absolutely.
It could be a scene where you're picking up a girl that you're dating for ten years, or what have you, and you go back to the set, and you're going into the sex, and the girl is clearly not into it for whatever reason. Maybe she's not into you, maybe she has second thoughts about doing porn whatsoever. You can never know what's going on inside a person's head.
But in a situation like that, where the girl's clearly not there, you have to make a value judgment as another human being. Whether you want to continue the scene or have a little pow-wow and talk about it with the director and the female talent, or just say, “Screw it, it's not gonna happen.”
There's one scene in particular, and I'm not gonna mention who the actual participants were. But I was one of three people. And the girl effectively burst into tears. It was found out after the fact that it was because she had serious reservations against black people. She was, for all intents and purposes, being manipulated into doing an interracial scene. So I'm sitting here trying to work with a girl who's crying. And I wasn't necessarily pissed at the girl. I mean, hell, she could be a Klan's member. That's her prerogative. I was pissed at the director for knowing the situation, and for thinking that an extra hundred bucks would be the cure for her deep rooted point of view, and that it would make the scene go well.
So I blame the director for putting not only her, but myself, and the other male talent in that situation. It was pretty messed up.
Danny: Have you ever felt like you were being degraded or taken advantage of on set?
Tyler: Absolutely. It's not a matter of whether you have X chromosomes or Y chromosomes or any combination therein. It's very, very, very easy for a director in this business to see talent as another piece of equipment to get the end goal - which is the scene in the can. No more valuable than the sofa the performers are working on.
I'm not saying that all directors are like that. I'm saying some. And it's enough to make it worth mentioning.
Now, that is just a general statement that I've come across in perhaps one out of thirty or forty scenes I've done. So I've come across it quite a few times - enough to be worth mentioning.
Now, you go a little bit further, and add a different dimension to the mix. If you are hired for a scene because of your race, for example. Here, I'll give you an example. I got a call from one company, and the production manager didn't say, “Do you have this certain attire?” It was a forgone conclusion. He said, “Bring your pimp attire.” Like, I had a space in my closet that was specifically designated for gold chains and a purple suit, and a fuzzy hat. That's an extreme example, but people expect you to be a certain way.
Danny: Have there been experiences on camera where you've been sexually submissive and actually felt safe?
Tyler: Yeah. Always. I never do it with a girl I don't feel safe with. It's never worth it for me for [a day's pay] to put myself or anyone else's physical sanctity or psychological sanctity at harm. It's not worth it.
If there's a situation where I feel like my physical, emotional, or psychological self is compromised, I stop. I've left quite a few sets before and I have no problem with it whatsoever.
If they choose not to hire me again after that, then whatever.
Danny: So have you actually felt empowered during any of these submissive scenes?
Tyler: It depends on the girl. Again, every scene is organic.
There was a scene for Playgirl TV that I did with Katja Kassin. She's a German girl. Basically, she was the dominant girl for that kind of thing. And I was playing submissive. She was using sex as a tool to get what she wanted. I can't remember what it was. But whatever it was, she was using sex as a tool to get what she wanted from me, and I was being submissive. But at the same time, I was really in control because I was allowing this to happen, if that makes any sense.
Danny: I think so.... Anyways, moving on. You're a writer also, and I've read a few of your stories. And in one in particular, “The Woodpile,” you mentioned a scene you performed in in which the director requested that the girl call you some names that I'm kind of uncomfortable saying...
Tyler: Nigger. Whatever. If it's on HBO, it's in the lexicon of America.
Danny: So he asked that this girl call you a nigger. Can you talk a little bit about this situation? I mean, is this something you typically encounter on set?
Tyler: No. That was an extreme situation. Although, I'm sure it happens more to people who are not necessarily doing ...
Porn is not necessarily just porn. There's different markets, different niche markets. There's fetish markets... And I'm saying all this for the people who may not know. There's women's friendly boy/girl, there's couple's friendly stuff, and what have you. So within all the scenes that I've done that have probably covered every conceivable combination known to man, that was extreme... for me.
But that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen far more often to other black, male talent who aren't as established as me, who have to do whatever it takes to make a buck. Like, one of the characters in that story that I described, who was in the same situation as me, did whatever he had to do to make a dollar.
That said, even if it isn't that extreme of a situation, a lot of scenes that I get hired for or am requested to be hired for, race is always a subtext. It's like a third character in the scene. Like, “Oh My God, My Daughter's Fucking Blackzilla,” which is probably the title of an actual movie. I try to be conscience of what I choose, and what I choose not to do. Because at the end of the day, I want to feel at least somewhat decent about the choices I've made in life. And setting back the civil rights movement by thirty-five years is not the way to go.
But ultimately, to sum up what I just said: It may not be as explicit as that particular scene, but if you just look at the titles of a lot of the movies on the market, the subtext of race is always there. It's the third character in the scene, unfortunately.
Danny: As a black performer, do you find it more difficult to find work that doesn't pigeonhole you as a racial or ethnic stereotype?
Tyler: That is a good question. That is a very good question.
The knife cuts both ways. Generally speaking, I've been fortunate that it hasn't been the lion's share of my work that I've been hired because of my race to exploit the differences. It's been the flip side of the coin. It's that, “We need someone to diversify the situation a little more. We need a token black guy. I know, let's get Tyler.”
So for a lot of things I've done, say for Wicked, or Vivid, or Adam & Eve, or whatever, my race isn't a factor. It's just two people that are actually into having sex with each other, or three or four, or whatever. Neither of our races are material for the exposition of the story, or what it holds. Because those companies are shooting story-based content.
But sometimes, it's the exact opposite. I'm hired, I would imagine, to make it seem a lot more representative of cultural variation, or whatever.
Which is funny, because there's one Asian performer, Keni Styles, who I've got to believe experiences what I'm experiencing as well - as the only Asian guy in the business right now.
Danny: Do you think there's anything positive in highlighting racial stereotypes in porn?
Tyler: Well, look. It's naïve to take a situation where there are obvious differences and gloss over it. I think one of the healthiest things when you have, let's say a child who's about to enter pre-school, is that you sit down and talk about how some people are different. Some people don't have the same background as you. They might have different religious beliefs. Or they might have different sexual orientations. The point is you prepare a child to see other people's differences and to respect them anyways. As opposed to pretending it doesn't exist and letting external forces shape the child's perspective in things without the influence of rational parents, or what have you.
Now, to gloss over people's differences in any kind of media, whether it's in pornography, or in television and film - it's just representative of the society in which we exist. And just as porn can be the extreme, and can highlight the extremes of people, which is fine if people are into that – whatever gets people off, that's one thing. But it's equally important or responsible for any form of media to show that even with these differences, people can still get along, find each other attractive, and even rip each other's close off and have sex with one another. You can see that that's the beauty of it. With our differences, we can still find each other attractive enough to have sex with each other.
Danny: Those titles that you mentioned... I just looked up a couple that you were in that seemed a little... like My Daughter Likes 'Em Dark or Sistas Take Black Anacondas, White Chicks Getting Black Balled, etc... Do you know the titles when you go to work for these companies?
Tyler: Almost never. It's a decision that needn't be made before the scene is shot, or after. It's almost never.
The title cannot be used as a determining factor as to whether or not you want to do that particular scene. Because you just don't know. You could be real estate agent, or whatever, as male talent, and you're showing a white woman houses. And you think, “Okay. It's not bad. I'm not smearing fried chicken grease over her booty. I'm portraying a character who's a normal human being.” And you do your scene, and then later on, you find out it's called White Girls Who Like White Collar Niggers. You never know.
You kind of get an idea by looking at the trend of what particular studios produce what kind of movies. You can use hindsight and make your decisions that way, but you never really know.
Danny: So how do you actually feel about being marketed or portrayed as such in these titles? Does that bother you?
Tyler: Everybody has a line they drawn in the sand. It's an invisible line they have. And some people's lines are further back than others.
Some would never do porn in the first place. And if they did, it would be with people who looked just like them.
The other end of the spectrum is that someone's line might be that they'll do anything to make a buck because their rent is due, and they have to make money. Or they just flat out enjoy being whipped around by a cat-o-nine-tails and being called racist names, or whatever. They could care less what the movie is called. My line is somewhere in between. My invisible line is somewhere between those two extremes.
Danny: What is your opinion on drugs and alcohol on set? Do you think someone who has had a few drinks of alcohol or who is under the influence of marijuana can still perform with informed consent?
Tyler: If you can have a few drinks at a bar, and pick up someone or get picked up by somebody, and go home and have sex with them - assuming you're of legal drinking age - and the law says that you're not being raped or raping, then I don't see the correlation to the fact that there is a camera in the room.
Now, that being said, you don't want a girl that's smoking speed, and say, “Let's put her in a scene now, get her to sign a form before she blacks out.” That's common sense.
And now that I'm thinking this through while I'm talking about it, a lot of people lack common sense so the law is good. You don't drink while you fly an airplane. You don't drink while you flip burgers at McDonald's. I guess this shouldn't be any different.
The difference is that money is changing hands, and there's professional responsibility. Talking this problem all the way through, the law is fine. It would do far more harm to remove the law than otherwise. The law is fine.
Danny: Have you ever witnessed someone being sent home for drug abuse on set?
Tyler: Never. As a matter of fact, I've been in situations where the director's played Isaac the bartender from Loveboat, trying to loosen people up a little bit. This is an extreme example, and I must admit this doesn't happen all the time, but it happens enough that it's worth mentioning.
Let me just say this: I've done close to a thousand scenes. Every time I mention these examples, enough would be ten in a thousand. Percentage-wise, the decimal point is to the left. But yes, it does happen.
Danny: How common do you think drug abuse is in this industry?
Tyler: Not anywhere near as common as people outside this industry would believe. I mean, there are no people diving into mountains of coke and doing backstrokes, or anything like that. If you take Viagra and Caverject out of the equation, it's nowhere near as common.
Well since I mentioned coke, I think I've only seen coke maybe three times in eight years. Does it mean that if I don't see it, it doesn't happen? Of course not. But what I'm saying is that I've been on enough sets that if it was prevalent, I would be in a position to see it. It's not prevalent. It's that simple.
Danny: Do you ever enjoy being called a cunt, bitch, slut, whore, or any other derogatory term during sex?
Tyler: Okay, if neutral is, “I could care less one way or the other,” on the other side of neutral is, “I enjoy it,” I would never say I enjoy it. It's not something I think in my head, “Gee, I wonder if someone's gonna call me a cunt, slut...” What were the other words? Right, right. It's not like I'm waiting to be called those terms. I'm indifferent to it. I could care less.
Danny: Do you like to call other people these names during sex?
Tyler: Not particularly. It doesn't really do it for me one way or the other. Now, I'll do it if it's what the scene requires I guess, assuming the girl's okay with it. But this goes back to what I said a few questions back. You have to be very careful with someone's psychological state. You never know what chain of events, or what decisions, or what path that person took that opened up the next door, and the next door, and the next door.
It's kind of like a Russian Roulette type of situation to have that person, another human being with hopes and dreams, with you, on set with a camera going, especially if it's their first time. It's a life-changing situation. So you have to be very careful about how treat other people. You just never know how people got into it.
Maybe that person came from an abusive situation and her ex-boyfriend or husband, or whatever, called her those names. And it brings up feelings that put her into a bad place. I'm not into the BDSM scene at all, but I know enough about it from the scenes I've participated in and failed at, that you have to know your sub. You really do.
Taking it to the situation where it's not even about a sub or a dom, in the normal vanilla scene, you have to really know the person that you're dealing with so that you don't say anything that might trigger bad feelings. You're the steward for the other person you're dealing with in the scene - male or female talent.
Danny: What are your feelings on condom use on straight sets? Do you think it should be presented as an option?
Tyler: Absolutely. The biggest argument that the studio has would be that it kills the fantasy, that people who want to have sex with these girls can't do so vicariously through you if they see a pink condom wrapped around your penis. Those people aren't the ones putting their lives at risk. So fuck them, basically.
Now there is an element that's valid. Condoms are not as fun. A lot of male talent can't perform with condoms, which is why you see studios like Wicked using the same guys over and over and over again. And it is a buzzkill, or whatever.
Now, I'm not saying they should be mandatory, but if I'm in a situation where a female talent wants to use a condom, I would have no problem with it. She shouldn't be pressured or made to feel like she's not a team player or “less than” because she chooses to make that decision. It's her fucking health. Even if it's .0001 percent that you might catch an STD, god forbid HIV, you're still rolling the dice. It still happens. Case and point, two months ago. And last summer. And the summer of 2004 when I was first placed in quarantine.
If someone feels like they want to use condoms, they should be available, they should be able to use them. End of discussion. The next thing the director, or the production manager should say is, “What brand would you prefer?” And the conversation should be over.
Danny: There are some companies I know you've worked for that interview models either before or after sex, or both. What effect do you think this has on a scene, if any?
Tyler: I can only speak from my experiences, and from my frame of reference. I can't speak for anyone else.
Being that I don't watch porn at all, I can't say that the scenes I've watch with that happening, which would have been zero, would have gone one way or the other. But for me, I tend to be more of an organic kind of person. I'd much rather turn on the camera and let things happen, and not have the fourth wall broken at all, ever.
For me, it would never have a positive effect. It would only have the potential for a negative effect. These are things I ask most every female talent before we begin because, A: I don't like surprises. B: It's an opportunity for me to tell the girl, “Don't make use your nails on my scrotum.” You know, there's some other things you can't do like throw objects in my ass. So it's mutually beneficial to discuss do's and don't's before the scene, comfort levels, all the way up to safe words if it gets to that extreme.
Danny: Where I'm going with this is... Do you think consumers should always assume performers are providing full consent to everything performed on camera despite things like interviews?
Tyler: I think it's common sense.
Danny: Do you think companies that choose to shoot rougher content, say like staged rape scenarios... Do you think that maybe they should be held to higher standards in terms of providing consent?
Tyler: Absolutely. Everyone should know precisely what they're getting into before they arrive on set. And I say before they arrive on set, not before the camera rolls.
Say Jane Doe gets booked for a scene, or she gets booked for a couple of scenes, and she takes scene A instead of scene B. But when she gets to set, Scene A is a scene she wouldn't have done anyways. And Scene B is a scene that she would have done. Now she has to walk off the set when she could have had Scene B.
Now, as far as companies being held to higher standards once the cameras are set up, and they're about to shoot production or what have you, absolutely. It's a situation where I think every single person who's involved in the scene, the performers and the director, need to have a little pow-wow to go over exactly what's expected, exactly what people's boundaries are, exactly what they feel comfortable doing and what they don't feel comfortable doing before the camera's rolling.
There's one particular company I worked for, and I did two scenes in one day. I got the script right on set. The script was one page - three sentences basically. The first situation was where I played a sociopathic rapist. Some girl was exercising in her living room. I slid open her door from the back yard and ended up choking her to death with her Ipod cord and doing explicit sexual things to her, everything short of penetration while she was dead.
Right after that, before I even had a chance to digest what I was thinking, my inner voice was talking a million miles an hour. Right after that I had to do a scene where I was blown by my “little sister” while my parents were away. My sister presuming to be a good five years my junior.
So as I'm driving home, I'm thinking, “What the fuck am I?” I wasn't the one who was in the submissive situation, but it just fucked with me. And I made a decision from that point forward, that I wouldn't do anything like that again.
The girls were fine with it. The girl who I was choking to death with her Ipod cord... After the scene, she was complaining that I wasn't allowed to stick it in her. I had to explain to her that snuff is no bueno.
Danny: So this can effect you also as the dominant performer in the scene more-so than maybe the submissive? The psychological impacts can effect you as the dominant performer moreso than the submissive?
Tyler: You would know this because you study film and you know something about acting. But whenever actors are in a scene - mainstream scene, porn scene, whatever - no matter how lost they are in the moment, there's always a detached little window in which they're looking at themselves through the scene. At minimum, it's to make sure they open up to the camera, that they're properly positioned up stage, down stage, whatever. So that the people who are paying to see it, whether it be an audience on stage, or a TV camera, or a porn camera, can see what's going on. So you have to be at least peripherally aware that you are an actor in a particular situation no matter how much you get lost.
And that little voice was going super fast in my head. Even though the girls were having a good old time, I was not the right tool for a job. Using me for stuff like that is like hammering a nail with a chunky screwdriver. Eventually it will get done if you have enough time or patience, but whatever... you know?
Danny: Do you think it's important for the consumer to see anything extra about her providing consent, or even you, on a scene like that?
Tyler: That is an extreme niche market scene. And you would have to look for it. A consumer who would be looking for and watching that would presumably be into it anyway.
It's not exactly something you can go to your typical porn bin and pick up. You would actually have to look for it by typing in key phrases in Google or whatever for it to come up in the first place.
Again, it goes back to this: In a perfect world, people with common sense will know that it's acting, and it's fantasy, and it's not real. Anyone who would be caught up in a situation in which he believes it's real shouldn't watch cartoons, shouldn't watch Wile-E Coyote with a box of dynamite thrown off a cliff, shouldn't watch Tom and Jerry, shouldn't watch Sponge Bob Square Pants because turtles don't live under the sea and talk. It follows with common sense.
Danny: So do you think you'd feel comfortable watching a staged rape scenario between two people you've never met for a company you've never heard of without something like interviews?
Tyler: Sure. Absolutely.
You go to the theater, which has a history of showing things live, unedited, uncut, raw, with emotions pouring from the actors right then and there. It's immediate. While they may not go as extreme and as far with sexuality, I can assure you the quality of the performances and the acting is exponentially better, and has far more visceral impact in other ways.
Also in mainstream television and film. People generally have the common sense to know that when you're seeing Saw IV that people's arms and heads might get hacked off.
So people who pick up a book, or people who see a stage production, or people who watch television and film generally know going in what they're going to see. Porn is no different. And the fact that it's porn already has built-in filters. You have to be this tall to ride, you have to be a certain age to consume this product in the first place. It assumes that you have certain life experiences, that assumes you can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and that you have gone through the stages of a psychological adolescent, that you're a responsible adult, and you can consume these products responsibly without trying to re-enact them and you're not gonna burst into tears by thinking the poor girl is dead.
That's a long-winded way of saying that when you watch a movie, you know the explosions aren't real, you know that actors don't drink hemlock in a Shakespeare play and die. They get up afterwards, and take a bow at the curtain.
Danny: That being said, are there any acts you believe should not be performed on camera other than illegal acts such as depiction of minors or actual rape?
Tyler: Rape, depiction of minors... That's pretty much it. Unless I'm missing something that's obvious. Everything else that exists in the real world can be analogous to things in porn. Even the depiction of drug and alcohol abuse.
There's a gray area that I talked about before, because people really do pick each other up at bars, and they do drink, and they do have sex with each other afterwards. It does happen. All the time, every night all over the world. That's kind of a gray area, and I understand the law and everything, but besides that, everything else should be fair game. Because it's an analog for the real world. Any kind of medium is effectively a mirror for the society in which it exists. Anything you see on television or film, porn, stage, whatever, doesn't occur in a vacuum. There has to be some root or basis in reality for which the writer to create these things in his/her mind can make it happen. Unless you're talking about extreme theoretical science fiction, which porn is not.
So unless you're depicting someone being brutalized against their consent, raped, or a person is not old enough to make that decision, like a child, then I don't see the big deal. I really don't. I mean, if I wanted to consent to a film where I wanted to be chased by a bunch of Klans men with pitch forks, and they stab each other with pitch forks, and then tar and feather me, and light me ablaze while some girl's blowing me, or whatever, and my character's getting off on it, then it's all good. I'm not really getting tarred and feathered, and set ablaze, and the girls really blowing me, so whatever.