The Latest

May 2, 2014

Raw Hippie Delight. 

Reading at “Eat Your Words,” The Standard Hotel, Hollywood, May 1st, 2014.

Mar 20, 2014

My interview with Duke Porn Star Belle Knox

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"Sometime I just look, and I think, my life is absurd." (Read the article in its entirety at Nerve.com)

It’s seven o’clock on a Monday evening in Los Angeles, and Belle Knox is at work.Knox, the newly famous Duke University student-turned-feminist-porno-starlet, is spending this part of her spring break on the set of Real College Girls. She’s waiting for the male talent to arrive. ("The guy we had was having some problems, um, staying hard,” she tells mesympathetically but straightforwardly. “They had to send for reinforcements.”)

Since her entreé into the professional adult film industry several months ago, Knox has performed in approximately 25 scenes. She earns between $1000 and $2000 per work day in Los Angeles’s hardcore industry, depending on the particulars of her labor. In the process, she’s become a galvanizing figure, and the subject of much debate.  

Nerve: How does the public perception of porn differ from what you’ve experienced?
BELLE KNOX: I think that people assume that the performers in pornography are all drug-addicted, uneducated, or it’s a desperate exchange, because they have no other options. But from what I’ve seen, I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. For the most part, the people I’ve encountered in porn treat it like it’s their job. They wake up, and they go do porn. That’s how they make their living. 

I’ve also met a lot of people in porn who have college degrees, or who are working on their degrees. If I hadn’t had the reason to pay my tuition, then I never would have worked in porn. But that doesn’t mean I consider it a desperate exchange or that I’m doing it because I have no other option. But asking someone to pay $60,000 for a year of college is just ridiculous. And I don’t see any way that can really be justified. People like to think of colleges as noble institutions where people learn to have an education, but the reality is that they’re businesses.  

What do you think of the coverage of your story? 
A lot of mainstream media has really been vitriolic towards me. I think it’s because I’ve pissed off the banking industry. I’m telling people that loans are bad, that college is too expensive. And they would rather have people believe that the solution to education is taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. 

One of the points that I want people to take away from my story is that middle-class and upper-middle-class students really get caught in this Catch-22 when they’re applying for financial aid. On paper, they make too much money to qualify for a lot of aid, so they’re left with these really big tuition bills, which in reality their families can’t pay. 

What was it like going on Piers Morgan Tonight
Surreal. Oh, it’s bizarre. And the thing is, this has all happened so fast. Sometime I just look, and I think, my life is absurd. 

You’re not only being “outed” as an actress in adult films, you’re becoming a public figure in ways most porn stars are not. What’s the transition like? 
By being a student as well as a porn star, I’ve forced a crossover between mainstream and porn, and I’m really excited to see where all of this takes me. My goal is to help break down barriers between the two worlds and dispel some of the stereotypes and stigma against sex workers.

Has it been strange to be the “porn star” on campus at Duke University? Are you more or less famous than [Duke basketball player] Jabari Parker there?
I’m less famous than him. I mean, come on, he’s fucking Jabari Parker! [Laughs]

Duke’s been a mixed bag. I did get a lot of support from people – I have my friends at Duke. I’ve also had some really low points, where I was really struggling with all of the hate that I was receiving. But I want people to focus on the great stuff about Duke. We have a girl in my grade who found a way to detect breast cancer. I want her to be getting publicity in the news. It just so happens that people like to focus on a scandal.  

Do you envision that you’ll be able to go back to Duke and graduate from there? I would imagine that after being on CNN and shooting porn, maybe landing a book deal, it would be hard to go back to things like term papers and cafeteria food. 
No, I’m going back to college. That’s the whole reason I did porn. I’m completely aware that doing pornography for me at least isn’t something that I consider to be a long-term career. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, so that’s what I’m going to go after. Porn is just a means to an end.  

How did you come to major in sociology/women’s studies?  
I’m very passionate about feminism and LGBTQ rights. My personal experience as a young woman in a world that is still extremely hostile to women – as well as the current situation – have informed this passion. The type of law I wish to work in is women’s/civil rights, so majoring in women’s studies made perfect sense. 

How would you characterize yourself as a feminist? 
I align myself with a libertarian kind of feminism. I’m kind of just, like, [laughs] a hippie.

Listen, patriarchy is telling women what to do with their bodies. Dictating to women what they can and can’t do. And when feminists make our movement about that, they marginalize sex workers. I’ve had anti-porn activists create really horrible blogs about me or treat me like I’m a rescue project, or basically say that I’m naive and stupid and that my brain isn’t developed. I think that when people condemn pornography, they’re really just following this societal construct of what sex is, based on religion, based on patriarchy, and so many societal forces. 

What’s your history of watching porn?  
The first porn I ever watched was – it was just like an orgy of girls getting fingered. And I just had watched it, and I remember how much it aroused me. It’s really weird, because us girls were always told that watching pornography was something that only men do. So I never told my friends or my family that I watched porn. It was my deepest darkest secret.  

But I love watching porn, even now that I’m in college. Even now that I do porn, I love watching porn. 

Do you feel like you have to align with the male point of view to watch porn, since porn is created within that male fantasy?
I don’t call it male, and I don’t call it female. I don’t really like identifying certain genders with certain things – that’s perpetuating the binary. I like what I like. But I do really like rough sex and stuff. And I like lesbian porn.

What’s an example of a scene you might like to watch for your own pleasure? 
This is interesting, actually. The only porn I watch is blowjob porn. It is the only thing I can get off to, is watching a girl get her face fucked, and have spit running down her face. And her make up is all fucked up. That’s hot. I can’t watch normal sex and get off to it. I have to watch blowjob porn. I don’t know why.

Is that what you’re going for, as a performer?
Right now, I’m kind of performing — I’m doing a scene for Adam and Eve — and it’s going to have a scene in it with Boy-Boy-Girl and I’m going to be wearing kind of a leash and collar type of thing. So, as a performer, I’ve only done one rough scene, really, but I’d really like to do more rough scenes. I want to do what makes me happy, you know? 

Do you think that will skew the perception of what you’re all about?  
I think that people are really confused because I do like rough sex so much. And they’re like, “how can you be a feminist and like rough sex?” But it’s really simple, you know? As long as everyone’s consenting and it’s legal and are happy and enjoying what they’re doing, that’s great. 

Are there any women in porn whose career trajectories you’d like to follow? 
Definitely. Sasha Grey is my idol. She totally took advantage of the industry, and she really changed the game. She’s just in my opinion, a really smart businesswoman, and also she’s kinky and hot as hell. 

Have you been able to indulge yourself with the money you’ve been making? 
I really like lemon cupcakes with chocolate frosting, from Sprinkles. I have a total sweet tooth, and I’ll just eat candy for days. Sometimes I just treat myself to nice restaurants. But all of my money really does go to tuition. I’m not lying. I’m really not. I have a $4,000 tuition bill every month. 

Mar 6, 2014

The original Ronald McDonald

This freaks me out. 1963. 

Mar 5, 2014

Food Art

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I’m a big fan of the clever work of Molly Schiot, a Los Angeles-based designer, illustrator, and video director.  

Mar 5, 2014

Go Book Yourself

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I’m a fan of this Tumblr, which recommends books based on books that you have already enjoyed reading.

Promising indeed. 

Feb 26, 2014

Sex Smells: How Natural Odors Can Affect Your Sex Life

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When it comes to attraction, the nose knows. As Sam Benjamin discovers, what you smell can affect how you feel when it comes to sex. (published on Gasm.org)

We live in a world pervaded by unnatural scents – Speed Sticks, so-called “air fresheners,” our boss or our co-worker’s ill-chosen perfume. It’s no wonder, then, that our noses tend to shut off from time to time: it’s in the name of self-preservation.

A carefully-selected aroma can go a long way in the bedroom. Scent is a natural aphrodisiac, one of our oldest and most reliable. Here are a few tips to get your snout twitching with pleasure.

Scents Are Subtle, But Crucial

Women often choose their mates via pheromones — which are barely discernable scents that convey a dossier’s worth of information about their potential partner. Pheromones can give us the lowdown on the genetic makeup of an individual, and give us hints about whether or not we feel comfortable and aroused with a person. If you take the time to tune into your partner’s subtle musk, you can receive important hints about your potential compatibility. So, if you’re feeling wishy-washy, snuggle close, cleanse yourself of any unnatural odors… and breathe deep!

Note: Sexologist Dr. Laura Berman believes that women who are on the pill may have trouble following the cues they glean via pheromones. Berman says: “Women on the pill experience hormonal changes that can interfere with this law of “scent attraction.” This can lead to trouble picking the right partner. In fact, a woman who goes off the pill may suddenly realize that she’s no longer attracted to the pheromones that her partner emits.

What Smells Are Sexy? 

Sense of smell is very personal, so the answer to this conundrum depends a great deal on taste. Some men like the scent of vanilla: it conveys a domesticity and sweetness reminiscent of a home kitchen to them, and that’s a turn on. (To me, it conveys my seventh-grade math teacher, Mrs. Hartdress, who applied it so liberally before every period that her wrists and neck glistened powerfully for the forty-five minutes that she taught us about pre-Algebra. I’m not a vanilla man.)

For the hippies among us, the sexiest smells are often the most natural ones. Aromatherapy, aphrodisiac blends often include Ylang Ylang essential oil, which pervades a rich fragrance that’s appropriate for both sexes. Ylang Ylang blends well with both floral and wood scents, and a few well-placed drops of it in your massage oil or body lotion can really transform the mood.

Integrating Smell into Your Sex Life

Bringing smells into your bedroom should be fun and playful. Try blindfolding your partner, and let him smell different parts of your body: your hair, your heart, your pits, your wrists, your genitals. Are your armpits spicy and warm? Does the smell of your shampoo bring back a rush of early memories?

Candles can also be a wonderful tool for integrating smells into your sex life. Emily Morse and Tony Sosnick recently developed a line of Aromatherapy Massage Candles. The candles emit seductive scents like cedar, vetiver, patchouli and amber. When they liquefy, the oil can be slowly poured onto your beloved’s body. A sensual massage may follow… you can take it from there.

Smells From Around the World

Still don’t believe smells are important? Check out these facts published by the Social Issues Research Center in their Smell Report:

- In some Arab cultures, it’s good manners to breathe on your partner during conversation. To deny your partner the smell of your breath conveys a humiliating lack of involvement.

- Among the Desana tribe of the Amazon, all members of the tribe are believed to share a similar odor, and marriage can only occur between people of different odors. The Batek Negrito tribe of the Malay Peninsula agree: not only can you not marry or make love to someone with your odor, sitting too close to them for long is considered to be treacherous.

- Among the cattle-centric culture of the Dassanetch of Ethiopia, the scent of cows is extremely desirable. Men wash their hands in cattle urine, or bedaub their bodies with manure in order to attract potential mates.

- To the Dogon of Mali, the scent of an onion is highly intoxicating. Men rub fried onions over their bodies, creating a powerful perfume.

So there you have it! Enjoy your own experiments with aromas! Even if you probably won’t be frying up a pan’s worth of onions and bringing them into your bedroom, your own creative scents will doubtlessly infuse your own sex life with purpose, power, and pleasure.

Nov 8, 2013

Five Things I Didn’t Know about Sex - Until I Started Shooting Porn

           You can read this post in its entirety at gasm.org

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I fell into the role of porn director at the tender young age of twenty-three. Having barely gotten my own sex life off the ground, videotaping paid professionals getting raw and passionate seemed like a pretty good opportunity to learn. Never mind that half of what I learned was what not to do … it was still an unforgettable experience.

And still, there are some things that have stuck with me in the years since then.

1. Healthy alternatives to Viagra are out there

By 2000, the year I started shooting porn, Viagra had become a very important part of the adult film industry. Fledgling actors relied on it, not to get hard so much as to stay hard for the long periods of time that porn demanded. However, on one shoot, I ran into an actor named Lucky Starr, who swore by Yohimbe, an herbal pill derived from the bark of an African evergreen tree. “I can get it at the health food store,” he said, “and I don’t need a prescription.”

Like Viagra, Yohimbe increases blood flow and nerve impulses to the sexual organs – and while most porn guys seemed pretty content with the little blue pill, over the years I gradually learned about other natural remedies for normal guys to stay hard, including Ginkgo Biloba, Horny Goat Weed, Ginseng, Arginine, Acupuncture, and even pomegranate juice.

2. “Double Penetration” isn’t Just Pleasurable for the Woman

Most of the scenes I shot featured one woman and several men; double penetration (simultaenous anal and vaginal intercourse) was a thing that we often tried to make happen. My boss surmised that viewers found it sexy, or at least interesting, and, in retrospect, I suppose that’s what porn supplies, some combination of sexy and interesting. Many of the actresses I hired were super into the DP, like Belladonna, and Flick Shagwell. Others were on the fence. I remember a Canadian actress named Bella Maria who vacillated. Meanwhile, the male actors in the scene looked on anxiously as I discussed if a raise in pay would make it worth her while.

“I got $50 extra on it, Sammy,” said one of them, finally.

“I’ll pay for it.” It was right then I realized, this feels good for guys, too. They appreciated the snug fit. Maybe they really liked the close proximity to one another. Call it homoerotic; call it what you will. Guys like the DP.

3. Complex Positions Don’t Necessarily Lead To Pleasure

You tend to see a minimum of five different sexual positions in most porn scenes, ranging from doggystyle to cowgirl to reverse cowgirl, then piledriver, so on and so forth; it’s a way to make things look exciting, glamorous, and attractively perverse, I suppose. Many orgasms follow the intricate coupling. However, I would routinely ask my actors and actresses if they made love like this at home, and amused stares were all I got. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Hell no. I don’t do any of this acrobatic stuff. I’m way into missionary.”

Missionary might not be the most glamorous of positions: it’s what you learn first, when you’re just starting to have sex. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s porn-addicted character in Don Jon professes to hate missionary. But it feels good. It’s intimate. Eye contact is easy. Take it from those who’ve done it every other possible way: simple is sometimes the best.

4. Assgasms DO exist

Yeah, I know: most orgasms in porn are fake. I realize that. But the truth is, I shot so many scenes over the course of a five-year career that I got to the point that I was actually pretty talented in discerning a fake one from the Real Thing – and Real Female Orgasmsdid happen from time to time … and they were goddamn beautiful. They made my job worth doing, in fact.

And here’s the interesting part: I’d say that at least a good 10 percent of the orgasms that I witnessed came during anal sex. It’s my understanding, or my guess, actually, that they were vaginal or clitoral orgasms that came about due to prolonged stimulation during anal intercourse. But that makes them no less real. Or amazing. Assgasms. Believe it.

5. Oral Sex doesn’t just mean Fellatio

The best actors and actresses in porn – hands down – are those who have something interesting to say. Talking while you’re having sex isn’t necessarily easy, and in fact, it’s an art: those who can do it seem to make the sex more personal, more meaningful, and more cerebral. Simply put, the stakes are higher when words are spoken – and this is true whether we’re talking about sex on film or in your bedroom. So take a chance. Talk naughty. Surprise yourself and your partner. In a safe environment, it can lead to great passion.

Nov 5, 2013 / 1 note

Sister Lucy

"Sister Lucy on the phone again, back under her home, down in the hideout, inhaling bongloads. Her husband forbade the habit, with good reason. Under the fevered clarity of the reefer, her favorite thing was to savor his inadequacies – the girlish overdrive of his singing voice, his moist, offended silences, his delicate heron-manner in bed." 

 from “Executors of Important Energies,” by Wells Tower

Oct 25, 2013

"Legends, Icons, and Rebels"

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Legendary guitarist Robbie Robertson (The Band) has released a really cool book that’s designed to introduce children - and the rest of us - to the essential players of roots rock’n’roll.

(From the LA Times):

According to the book’s introduction by Robertson, the project began when his son was working part time at a children’s recreation and learning center, and noticed that “they didn’t respond to the average, pandering children’s music near as much as they did to really good songs performed by great artists.”

The list of those included stretches back as far as jazz innovator Louis Armstrong to jazz greats (Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald) to Great American Songbook pop (Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole), primal rock (Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard) to R&B and soul (Ray Charles, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield) to country (Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline) to classic rock (Dylan, Carole King) and reggae (Bob Marley).

The illustrations for this book are just beautiful, and two CD’s of music accompany “Legends, Icons and Rebels.” I just got my copy, and I’m digging in. So check it out, pronto!

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