My recent approach to lovemaking might best be referred to as “Self-Taught Urban Tantra (for the New Millenium)” or maybe “Open Hearted Post-Mayan-Apocalypse Boner Snuggles,” which veers dangerously close to the absurd, but to me, these terms simply mean that my love ideally takes many forms: deep breathing, tantric respect, cosmic understanding are part of the equation - of course - but also I’m into playfulness and experimentation, which means that there must also be space for purple vibrating handheld petal-shaped vibrators, versatile body-contoured double-ended dildos, and so on and so forth. Like most of my peers, I want it both ways, holy and profane. I deserve it both ways.
The Feeldoe Slim double dildo is an efficient, attractive sex toy constructed of hypo-allergenic, latex-free, non-porous silicone that doesn’t smell rubbery. Its normal-sized shaft is an appropriate and realistic size, not too huge and not too small, making for a snug fit that was not overly uncomfortable. A nice tapered tip made it easy to penetrate, while the ridge portion at the base of the dildo had an additional function as a stabilizing handhold.
A small vibrator is included with the Feeldoe (a functioning battery came in the package; a nice touch), and while I appreciated the added detail, I found the vibrator almost unnecessary. My base chakra was opening, and I was feeling closeness, connection, and unexpected vulnerability, which is to say, I was pretty altered already. A vibrator going off at the same time was almost too much information for my poor brain, which labored to compute.
The bleachable, boilable, dishwasher-safe Feeldoe Slim received very high marks from me; its only significant downfall is the fact that it is harness-free, meaning the bulb end of the Feeldoe must be stabilized by PC muscles to achieve the simultaneous penetration which the toy can offer. That balancing act can prove challenging, particularly when significant motion wants to be introduced into the lovemaking act. I left the Feeldoe encounter totally satisfied, but also thinking I might like to experiment with a harness option for further toy play.
Overall, though, a great toy, superbly constructed, ergonomic, pleasant color, with overall good vibes. I give it a 9.5.
Click the pic to check it out and get one for yourself.
This picture taken at Ashley Blue’s Christmas party fills me with a certain joy. Though I haven’t remained very connected to the LA porn industry in recent years, apart from my close friendship with Ashley, these three warriors are people I respect and enjoy. From left to right, super-agent Mark Spiegler, director Billy Watson, myself, and legend Nina Hartley.
Nina’s hand was on my butt.
Photo by Erik Minh Swenson.
I wrote this piece for The Classical - you can read it there, along with other splendid articles curated by Bethlehem Shoals and his team.
I spent most of my mid-twenties as a director in the adult film industry, so it’s only natural that, to my eyes, a lot of life seems to resemble porn. The military-industrial complex? Pornesque. That reliance on shock and awe, the unending, obsessive kowtowing to tangible instruments of power. HGTV? Pure porno - but with wood paneling and an affordable down payment as the objects of gratification, instead of wet, soapy thighs or six-inch stilettos.
But when it comes to sports - particularly professional basketball - that’s when my porno detective powers really start to kick in. The pure, unabetted physical prowess of the players, the massive viewing audience, the innumerable tired faces, dripping with honest perspiration. Sports as porn, the amateur philosopher inside of me whispers. Athletes as paid stallions. Am I the only one who sees it?
Both enterprises apparently subsist on the emotional involvement of a viewership whose gawking habits tend to border on the addictive. Precious hours that could be spent in a community garden, or volunteering at a homeless shelter are repeatedly flushed down the sports toilet, as I watch intently, yapping at the television, holding up a victorious fist or, horribly, shaking an utterly flabbergasted head. Caring, in other words.
That’s how I watch pornography: with utter absorption, no small amount of guilt, and, in thebest of cases, tremendous fascination. Once the game is done, of course, it never fails: I look at the clock, groaning. Jesus, I can never do this again. Sports and porn have been my trusted companions for more than twenty-five years, though, baffling little buddies that I’m rather too fond of to condemn, and a bit too mesmerized by to ever really think of kicking out the door.
My current reality isn’t particularly humdrum. I live in LA, I’m trying to write a book about the band RATT, and on Tuesday afternoons, I go to a very compelling, very affordable psychiatrist in Burbank. But for some odd reason, I often can’t resist the temptation to bear witness to a more thrill-packed narrative than my own. Brief escape, the odd moment of transcendence played out in full living color on an LCD screen: these are the promised fruits of televised sports and porn.
But it’s not just a liberation from boredom that draws me to watch. It’s a perverse attraction to envy itself. For some reason, I actually seem to enjoy immersing myself in hours of footage featuring men more talented, more dynamic, more fulfilled than me. Inevitably, this practice incites pangs of resentful jealousy, followed, more often than not, by torrents of slobbering hero worship. I have an okay jump shot, but it’s nothing like Kevin Durant’s; therefore, I force myself to watch Durant for hours, gritting my teeth malevolently, or, alternately, placing myself into his size-sixteen shoes, and cheering on his every move.
The same goes for sex. I’ll never get down like my hero, Lexington Steele. He’s more skillful than I am, more playful, more inventive. He’s figured out a way to have chemistry, affection and respect for each woman he meets. Thus, Steele’s simultaneously a delight and a horror to watch: every subsequent viewing affirming my undying admiration for him, just as it drives home ever more concretely the lesson of how different we are. These painful, pleasurable glimpses into his and Durant’s world are so detail-rich - so full of compelling supporting characters, so finely rendered with stunning Dolby surround sound - that I literally cannot look away. Jealousy, perfected.
But the seedier aspects of vicarious pleasure can only take me so far. At their highest level, both sports and porno present me with tableaus so breathtaking and flamboyantly unreal that I can’t even for a moment envision myself engaged in them. When I watch LeBron bull past three world-class athletes, slap their advances away, then bank a seventeen-footer off the glass, I don’t even want to do that It’s too far-fetched for me, even in my dreams. My experience of watching such alien and impressive talents generally boils down to some version of gratefulness, and a sort of wonder that I got see it occur. It’s pure spectacle, like a ten-man Mexican midget gangbang, and I’m just glad I’m alive and have the internet, so I can see it go down.
Sometimes, though, I connect with both sportsand porn on a more modest, human scale, one thatis almost entirely about personal relationships,whether real or imagined. I’m a big Danny Green man. I watched D-Green all through college: loved his game, loved his attitude. Just a greatguy. Now, for him to go from getting drafted late in the second round, then warming the bench for the Cavs in 2010, then hitting the D-League, and finally working his way into a starting gig for the Spurs this year? Come on, that’s amazing. It constitutes heart-warming human interestdrama - maybe not to a Jeremy Lin level, but it’s the same basic idea. So when I saw Green drop a score of key three-pointers in the first two rounds of the playoffs, then get unceremoniously benched by the stoic Greg Popovich in the conference finals … well, that kept me interested. Was my man going to get his minutes?
The same goes for the porn companies I grew up with and the friends I made in the industry. Porno’s been hit hard by the tube sites: with the availability of free, easily downloadable wank clips all around us, the money generated by porn companies is way, way down. (I know: shed not a tear for the pornographers. I get it.) That means that the classic companies I grew up with, like Extreme Associates, Red Light District, WestCoast Productions, and Platinum X Pictures have less revenue to spread around, if they even still exist. There’s no danger of a lockout; they just shoot far fewer scenes, and that means less work for our favorite actors and actresses. So when I see click onto a clip, and see my old friend Brian Pumper start to deliver a line of absurd panty-dropping dialogue, I’m happy for the guy. He’s getting his minutes.
(Pumper and I go way back. I met him in 2002, inMalibu, California, when I was at the apex of mycommitment to the business, a Jewish pornographer with a finely attuned sense of underachievement, and he was just another a rookie with high hopes and a ten-inch dick. Ten years and a thousand scenes later, I’m rumpled and fat, but Pumper looks fit, healthy, even happy. The other day, I ran into him on my friend Billy Watson’s set. Billy was shooting a complicated, dialogue-laden set-up in his Koreatown studio that featured newbie porn actress Remy LaCroix and my old friend Pumper. Remy’s eyes bugged. Pumper’s muscles bulged. His jewelry was tight. In an increasingly competitive industry, Pumper, apparently, is still holding it down.)
There’s a distinct pleasure in growing olderon my couch in Echo Park, watching my belly thicken all around me, while others perform audacious feats of athleticism and bravery. And as of late, I’ve found it increasingly easier to choose the Finals over Redtube; for no women are harmed in the making of an NBA game, unless you include the dance teams, and their insipid glitterized Vegas-showgirl aerobic outfits. (Not that I’m complaining, exactly.) Maybe that means I’m becoming an old softy, or more of a guiltmachine, but truthfully, apart from the teams ofgroupies waiting at the Regency Hyatt for NorrisCole to make his entrance, the amount of moral and ethical quandaries experienced per minute during an NBA game is pretty far down the ladder compared to smut, at least in respect to gender.
Tonight I’m heading to El Conquistador, a dark bar with three televisions, all tuned to the same station. The drama is Durant and LeBron, Game 4. I am buzzing with excitement, just thinking about it.
Most people think I’m dead. At first I found this insulting. I mean, I know I look like fuck pie, but I’m only in my 40s. Eventually I realized that my problem was because of two things: 1) People are confusing me with Sam Kinison (the other obese, long-haired, screaming comedian from the 80s), and 2) people assume that if I WERE still alive I would obviously be on Dancing with the Stars or I Was a Celebrity—Watch Me Eat Crocodile Balls or whatever.
I know that you’re not supposed to talk ill of the dead, but I give as much of a fuck about Sam’s friends and fans as he gave a shit about Rock Hudson’s or Liberace’s. So allow me to clear up any confusion on the first issue.
Sam died in 1992 in a car crash driving to a gig in his Trans Am. I currently drive a sweet 2009 Ford Escape. Sam was the screaming misogynist xenophobe comedian. I was the screaming pinko comedian who acted like a crazy street person. Sam liked to pick on outsiders and misfits, while I always related to them. Sam prayed to Jesus and Hollywood, and I already knew that those things are as real as that giant hand-puppet-y shark on the Jaws ride.
As far as the Dancing with the People You Kind of Remember from That Thing That Time question—I don’t have to do that. I have already sold out. As a young man, I sold out big. I was at a point at the beginning of my career that most people don’t reach until the end. I was making Police Academy 2 the same year my high school classmates were graduating from college. Youth is not necessarily an excuse for dumb career decisions, but I’m just trying to put it in some kind of perspective for you. Think about the shit decisions you made at 21. Now imagine that a giant check was involved, and think about how much worse everything would have been. Now you’re with me, Sweetchuck.
I have been a game-show host, a talking puppet, and a Happy Meal toy. My acting has been dubbed into more languages than I can name. I cashed huge studio checks and got flown around the world. And I was miserable the entire time. Seriously—being the man’s dancing monkey was fucking horrible. I’m not bitter about it now (no, really), because it’s behind me. I love my life now. But it took me almost 30 years to get here.
Most people in showbiz are either bitter that they aren’t huge stars or unhappy that they are. From the Starbucks barista to Oscar winners, almost everyone thinks that they’re getting a raw deal. Here’s my advice to them and to all of you: Quit.
Quitting is how my life changed. After years of going to auditions and pitching and writing scripts for shit commercial hits, I came to a realization. I realized that I would never watch any of the fucking things I was doing. So I quit. I always joke that I retired from acting at the same time they stopped hiring me, but it’s true. To pay the rent I relied on doing a stand-up character I no longer related to at venues in the heartland, where it’s still the 80s.
Fortunately for me (as even the heartland has had an assload of the screaming comic), I also got work from Jimmy Kimmel as a director. Jimmy believed in me when most people were using my name as a punch line. His confidence that I could direct made me realize I had other options. Maybe it was because I was finally working in an environment where people encouraged me to have fun while being creative, but I did something I hadn’t done since my teens. I wrote things simply to write.
I wrote a very noncommercial screenplay about honesty, unconditional love, and bestiality. My manager at the time read it and told me that he was not going to send it out because he was afraid of what people would think about my mental health. (I fired that asshole a week later.) I liked it. But it sat in my desk for a year until my friend Sarah read it and said, “This is good. We should make it.” And with two weeks off, 20 grand, and a crew hired from Craigslist, we did.
We did it really just for the sake of doing it. It was almost like a dare to see if we could. Then it got into Sundance. For me, that was a big deal. I’ve made two more movies since then and have written five other scripts lots of people think are crazy (but anyone on my payroll knows not to say too bluntly).
My movies are far from mainstream, and I like it that way. I have no interest in making R-rated studio comedies with the sole purpose of entertaining teenagers. I hate teenagers. I think most of them are fucking idiots. Christ, I hated teenagers when I WAS a teenager. Besides, I will be 50 this year, so how the hell would I know what teenagers like? I make movies that me and my friends like, with actors I like working with, and on shoestring budgets far outside the system. I have found producers who support me and who also are, unimaginably, not even a little bit douche-y. As for Sarah, we are now married.
My point is this—if you want to be happy in showbiz (or any creative field), listen to that voice inside you. Even if it says “Fuck it” sometimes. Work with your friends. Avoid chasing fame or money. Just do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. And if it’s not making you happy, quit. Quit hard, and quit often. Eventually you’ll end up somewhere that you never want to leave.
My friend Andy Isaacson wrote a great article on the history - and future - of vibrators and sex toys. It appears in the Atlantic, and it’s worth checking out.
After the introduction of electric lights in 1876, home appliances were plugged in, one by one, beginning with the sewing machine and followed by the fan, the teakettle, the toaster and then, the vibrator. (The vacuum cleaner would come ten years later.) Ads for them appeared in Hearst’s, Popular Mechanics, Modern Women and Women’s Home Companion, among many others. A National Home Journal ad in 1908 for a $5 hand-powered vibrator, declared: “Gentle, soothing, invigorating and refreshing. Invented by a woman who knows a women’s needs. All nature pulsates and vibrates with life.” Another in American Magazine claimed that the vibrator “will chase away the years like magic…All the keen relish, the pleasures of youth, will throb within you…Your self-respect, even, will be increased a hundredfold.” A Sears, Roebuck catalog in 1918 advertised a portable vibrator on a page (with fans and household mixers) of “Aids That Every Woman Appreciates.”
Was this language camouflage for an orgasm? Were these vibrators also intended, with a wink, for masturbation? This has become the popular history of the device as written by Rachel Maines, a Cornell researcher, who argued in her 1999 book “The Technology of Orgasm” that electric vibrators replaced the hands of doctors who, from the time of Hippocrates to the 1920s, had been massaging women to orgasm as a treatment for hysteria.
Hysteria: The 17th century French physician Lazare Rivière’s described it as “a sort of madness, arising from a vehement and unbridled desire of carnal embracement which desire disthrones the Rational Faculties so far, that the Patient utters wanton and lascivious Speeches.” Today, this sounds a lot like normal functioning of female sexuality. But men long viewed it as a disorder. During antiquity physicians believed that hysteria was caused by the womb meandering around the body, wrecking havoc, yet by the 19thcentury the term had become “the wastepaper basket of medicine where one throws otherwise unemployed symptoms,” as the French physiatrist Charles Lasègue put it. (The American Psychiatric Association finally dropped hysteria altogether from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1952, the same year it added homosexuality.)
Virgins, nuns, widows and women with impotent husbands were thought especially prone. Victorian physicians, especially in England and the United States, were wary of female arousal. They viewed it as a dangerous slope towards uncontrollable desires and ill health, and advised women against tea, coffee, masturbation, feather beds, wearing tight corsets, and reading French novels.
Maines argues that relieving women of this pent-up desire was a standard medical practice. She takes us back to the Greek physician Soranus, who in the first century A.D. discussed his treatment: “We…moisten these parts freely with sweet oil, keeping it up for some time,” he wrote. Helen King, a historian and leading authority of Classical medicine at England’s Open University, told me that a correct translation of this passage has him massaging the abdomen, the typical treatment for yet another female disorder—chronic flowing of female “seed”—for which rose oil was prescribed, along with cold baths and avoiding sexy pictures. Rather, King says, it is with the influential Roman physician Galen where we see the first explicit mention of genital massage to orgasm as a medical treatment. Galen discusses a woman rubbing “the customary remedies” on her genitals—sachets of Artemisia, marjoram and iris oil—and feeling the “pain and at the same time the pleasure” associated with intercourse.
I rarely use this space to think aloud, like I once did in long-defunct blog, JewishCheerleaders, but for some reason today I don’t recoil at the thought of doing so - and so I suppose I’ll harness what’s left of my energy in today’s fading LA light to issue forth a couple of paragraphs about what’s going on in my life as of today, May 9, 2012.
First of all, the book’s not doing too much in terms of activity/sales. I had a great fall in respect to touring, seeing my friends come out in support of me, hitting bookstores, doing some cool group readings and so forth. But I believe that period is over. It seems like there’s a three-month aperture during which it’s appropriate to hawk your book and yourself, and when that’s over, it just feels awkward and slightly absurd. I’ve been gifted with the questionably-appropriate ability to track my sales through a so-called “author tool” on the Simon and Schuster website - and let’s just say that sales, while still coming in, are “modest.” Ahem. Harrumph.
I’m glad that anyone is reading my book, in fact …
An interesting episode happened yesterday, when I was visiting my friend Billy Watson, who still shoots porn. He’s getting fed up with it, and has been for years, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. In any case, he was getting ready to shoot some non-sex pick ups with Brian Pumper (Pumper! I squeal. It was good to see him, I haven’t laid eyes on that guy in quite some time … he still looks about twenty years old, though he’s got to be over thirty by now) and a new porn actress named Remy LaCroix.
Billy introduced me to Remy (yes, I still like to meet porn actresses, though I’ve gone the straight and narrow path - wouldn’t you?), and bizarre as it might seem, it turned out that she had just bought a copy of my book. I felt flattered. I would have felt happy had it been any member of our human contingent, but I felt especially into it, seeing as it was this twenty-year-old woman, new on her path in the skin business. It sort of felt appropriate, weirdly passing-the-torch, or something of that nature.
Remy has a blog. It seems rather literate, interesting, etc.
In terms of what else has been going on with me - I’m engaged in another ghostwriting project, which has been very engaging and consistently fulfilling. This will be the second ghostwriting gig for me; in the fall of 2010 I wrote a book with Jesse James, moving to Austin to do that. Happily, I get to stay in Los Angeles to work on this book, which is the memoir of an 80’s glam rock icon. The process of co-writing, or ghostwriting, whichever you call it, is great, because it involves a great deal of interviewing and researching. I love doing audio interviews; it’s one of my biggest pleasures. And researching a period like the 1980’s, particularly through the lens of “fashion metal,” is one big nostalgic head-shaking laugh.
So basically, I’m good. Thanks.
Jason Pettus, of the CCLaP, wrote about American Gangbang recently. Below is the full review.
American Gangbang: A Love Story
By Sam Benjamin
Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster
So before anything else, let me get a big disclosure out of the way: that about a decade ago, I did some writing and design work for the website JewishCheerleaders.com, online home of the now defunct alt-porn production company once owned by Sam Benjamin, although let me make it clear that I’ve had no contact with him since those days; and that’s important when it comes to this review, because his hilarious, filthy and touching new memoir on the subject, American Gangbang: A Love Story, is not really about Jewish Cheerleaders per se (although bizarre stories about its formation make up the bulk of the book’s first third), but rather how this quest to make smart alt-porn eventually led him to working full-time in the legitimate mainstream porn industry, waking up one day to realize that he was now living in one of the bedrooms of a Malibu mansion that served as a 24-hour drug-filled shooting location for the production company he was now making tens of thousands of dollars a month from, his personal life by definition now becoming complexly intertwined with the abusive interracial group-sex scenes he was now in charge of organizing and shooting on literally a daily basis.
And indeed, in a larger sense what this book is really about is the grand tragedy of the entire “alt-porn” industry of the early 2000s in general, and the dispiriting lesson that nearly all of us who were involved with it back then eventually learned — that no matter how noble your intentions, no matter how refined your pedigree (Benjamin, for example, had studied semiotics at Brown before getting involved in the industry), the combination of drugs and cash and douchebaggery and exploitation and desperation that automatically comes with any instance of sex being exchanged for money is bound to dirty and sully anyone who comes into contact with it, no matter how peripherally they’re involved or how little that person thinks they’re being affected. And so in Benjamin’s case, as he found himself surrounded more and more by the kinds of deeply dysfunctional fringe dwellers who normally populate the trillion-dollar adult industry of southern California, he also found more and more of his hipster postmodern high-mindedness slipping away from him, slowly turning more and more into the kind of person he used to make fun of and with there being an increasingly blurry line between his fantasy life, the outrageous concepts being created for his porn shoots, and the way he dealt with women on just a day-by-day nonsexual basis.
I mean, not that this is a dour book by any means; in fact it’s laugh-out-loud funny for nearly its entire length, with Benjamin having the courage to cast himself as the self-deprecatory foil of most of his own anecdotes, whether talking about his disastrous night while young and broke as an unpopular go-go dancer at a gay club, starring in a strap-on reverse-bisexual shoot for revered San Francisco company Good Vibrations simply for the hell of it, or later darker stories of becoming obsessed with ultra-abusive “gonzo” porn and having it bleed into his non-porn love life. And make no mistake, Benjamin puts his college degrees to good use here (he also has an MFA in Critical Studies from the California Institute of the Arts); this is not only one of the best-structured personal memoirs I’ve ever read, but Benjamin pulls off the neat trick of giving his stories a general appeal precisely by making them so specific, making this not just a naughty tell-all about sometimes some fairly famous people in the industry (although it’s that too) but also a bigger and grander examination of an entire sorry little era in Generation X’s history, when literally thousands of spoiled, overeducated young intellectuals thought they could change the very essence of exchanging sex for money simply because they were determined to, only to have the entire effort mainly end up biting them in the ass. I’m obviously too personally associated with the proceedings in this case to give anything even close to an “objective” review, which is why American Gangbang is neither receiving a score today nor will be eligible for CCLaP’s best-of lists at the end of the year; but it nonetheless comes strongly recommended, one of the best historical documents out there to help future generations understand (for example) how a place like Suicide Girls could go in a single decade from a darling of third-wave feminist hipsters to a nearly universally reviled codeword for misogyny and cruelty. When read in this spirit, I’m confident that most people will find it utterly riveting.
Recently, I did a really fun interview with Freddy and Eddy (Ian and Alicia Denchasy), an awesome married couple who run a sex-positive review and toy site. The link below will bring you to the podcast - I encourage you to check it out for both the content we created and valuable resources that are on their site.
The interview is also available on iTunes; to listen, click here and look for “American G******g.”