I was a guest on Emily Morse’s show, Sex With Emily, this Friday, February 24th, and had the best time.
How could I not, with this hottie?
You have to watch out for Emily - she reminds me of Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City: just less self-obsessed, and more fun.
I felt extremely welcomed by Emily and her right-hand woman, Kelsi, and we did a super-fun podcast where I got to talk about anal sex, handmade pornos, narrative in smut, and why gonzo is always superior.
I’ve gotten really lucky recently - getting to hang out with the likes of Jamye Waxman and now Emily Morse - grown up, sexy women who are out there using their minds and good spirits to educate us folks, and pass along the sex-positive vibe.
To listen to our show on ITunes, click here.
Or check out Emily’s entire site at www.emilymorse.com.
I first met Sam Benjamin back in 2009 at Audacia Ray’s Sex Worker Literati. He’s smart, charming, uses big words, has a great smile and knows how to write. His story at SWL (now the Red Umbrella Diaries) had me laughing really loud and hard. I wanted to get to know him better, but alas I was moving to LA, he had just moved to NY and so it goes. And now, I moved to SF and he’s living in LA, but I finally got a chance to sit down with him and chat it up.
This week’s podcast is not only about his wonderfully engaging and oft time hilarious memoir, American Gangbang: A Love Story, it’s also about his life as a go-go dancer, porn as art, condoms in porn, the best porn directors and performers in the world (think: Belladonna, John Leslie, Stagliano and more), and what it’s like for two of us..nice Jewish kids from the east coast, who got to working in the adult entertainment industry.
I had a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy listening too.
And if you’re in SF, Sam and Richard Pacheco will be talking porn TONIGHT, 8PM at the Center for Sex and Culture.
American Gangbang: A Love Story (Gallery Books, 2011) is a wickedly funny book chronicling Sam Benjamin’s journey from Brown University, where he studied postmodern theory and media, into the world of pornography. Benjamin and Winston Len met up over coffee in the West Village recently to discuss his experience.
Winston Len (Rail): In the book, there’s a scene where your then-girlfriend Liz said she thought you were a sweet guy who stumbled into the wrong job, to which you replied, “exactly. That’s what I am.” Now that you’ve some perspective about your experience, do you still think that’s true?
Sam Benjamin: No. I think that, in the book, I was trying to make her look at me, trying to joke with her. I definitely got into porn on purpose. I mean, there was a huge element of luck in it, too, yet it played out like that. It’s always a mix. It’s actually a mix for the performers, too. For the girl to get into porn, she has to be a total mix. She’s gotta be good looking enough to do it, for one thing, so that cuts out a big portion of the population, and she has to be in the geographically correct zone. It’s not like a lot of women are planning to do porn—maybe some are—so she has to meet the right people, and then she has to decide that it fits her. So, I think it’s kind of an interesting occupation because a lot of people kind of stumble into it.
Rail: I found it interesting how you tried to intellectualize your curiosity and involvement in porn initially. You wanted to make an art form of it. Now that you’re out, is your intellectual curiosity back or did it never go away?
Benjamin: I thought there was great potential to make porn films that were way better than what was being produced, and that had narrative. When I was faced with the actual challenge, I came across a lot of problems. One was that I don’t think I had the chops as an artist to create a really good film, whether it had sex in it or not. There are also the needs of the genre. Fifty to 75 percent of the movie is going to be sex, so it’s really hard to pop a narrative in there. There are other problems, like the talent pool; they’re not really actors [laughs]. I definitely wasn’t up to the challenge, and I gave up. Now, I’m interested in porn as a genre, but I’m not waiting for the next great director to make an awesome porn movie that we can all watch for its plot. I don’t think it’ll happen.
Rail: What about the dark side in you? Now that you’re out of the industry, do you feel like you’re clean again?
Benjamin: No, I’m still a degenerate. I think a lot of people are, and are happy to be like that. But I’m more interested in doing that in a private way. At the time, I wanted to be public, you know, put the worst side of me in a public forum for some reason, to kind of figure out a way to define myself. You could say I’m less exhibitionistic—especially about my negative side. I just didn’t have a lot of good role models there, particularly sexual role models. It was just kind of like, “explore your dark side all the time!” I don’t really do that anymore.
Rail: What’s the biggest insight you came away with?
Benjamin: I definitely came out of it feeling like what you do doesn’t necessarily define you. I’m not proud of everything I did, but it gave me the chance to step away and be like, “okay, I’m the dude who steps away from the bullshit parts of me.” The porn industry is useful because it offers you opportunities—it literalizes, in a certain sense, these conflicts of aggression. It’s an avenue through which to explore things like aggression or sexism or capitalism. You’re like this player in a video game or something.
Rail: In the book, Pitts, who ran the business, was laser-focused on website traffic and subscriptions. He seemed willing to do anything to make money. In the financial crisis we saw how the subprime lenders regarded their customers as numbers as well. Do you think that kind of dehumanization is a function of the data-driven world that we live in?
Benjamin: Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. You know, Pitts was a pretty ethical guy when it came down to it. I don’t know how I portrayed him in the book, but he wasn’t a bad guy to work for. Honestly, the porn industry can be pretty heartless—just like all other industries. I think what makes it stand out in relief is that you’re dealing with something that probably shouldn’t be humanized. Sex in a capitalistic context looks pretty grotesque, but it’s treated, you know—the business model is like Blockbuster.
Rail: In that context, what do you think is the relative morality of pornography versus other forms of exploitation?
Benjamin: That’s a good question. Personally I don’t find it more amoral than any other. It is voluntary. It’s a little bit shady because a lot of the people who get into that industry come from tough backgrounds—you know, family problems—and then they’re engaging in the type of behavior that—you know, it’s kind of a reiteration of the traumas that they grew up with so it’s pretty dark. However, is it amoral? I don’t think so. I don’t know. My own moral compass is pretty unpredictable. I just think it’s interesting when it sways into those areas. We live in this hypocritical atmosphere when people are willing to lie and cheat and engage in fucked-up behaviors in a private form. Pornography is interesting because it’s all of that in a public way. In that way, it’s always felt like a breath of fresh air to me—this honesty of how dark things can be.
Rail: There are large portions of the book that read like a confession. What has the feedback been from your family and former coworkers since the book was published?
Benjamin: While it’s embarrassing for my family to sit around Thanksgiving and everybody’s like, “hey good job with the book, but we’re not gonna talk about the content of it,” I think my family feels good about me succeeding in the field that I’ve been wanting to, regardless of content. Liz has mixed feelings about it. I divulged a lot and I feel bad, but I tried to write the book without her and the book sucked. Writing about our relationship was super important to me because, honestly, that’s what helped me understand that I was kind of going down the tubes as a person. I sent a copy to Pitts also and he’s been cool about it—really cool about it—and I saw Timberlake, too, all these people I haven’t talked to in like five years.
Rail: I know you’re doing a lot of visual and music performances to help promote your book. Were those ideas that you came up with before you got the book published? Or were they something that you thought of as part of the publicity of the book?
Benjamin: A little bit of both. I’ve always been interested in multimedia. When I was at Brown, I was studying video in a production way and that’s what led me to doing porn, but I was also writing and I have an interest in sound. When I was at Cal Arts, I was trying to explore sound documentary. The thing that I’m most interested in now is my lecture series called A Brief History of Porn where I take non-explicit clips from adult films over the last 50 years and use them to talk about the trajectory of the genre and how they relate to other types of film.
Rail: To quote another line from the book, “the real story is always now.” How has your life changed since the book?
Benjamin: I’m still dedicated to the same kind of ideals that led me to the porn industry, like exploration. I am getting older. I’m 35 now, so some of my behavior is more appropriate for a 21-year-old boy than it is for a 35-year-old man-boy, but I’m still on the same trip. I would love to do more participatory journalism or first-person stuff. I’d like to write another memoir where I put myself in an intense situation, something anthropological, akin to the porn industry but definitely not the porn industry.
via Tits and Sass
by Audacia Ray
1. Because this is the first time in more than 20 years that the U.S. has hosted the event. The IAC will take place in Washington, DC from July 22 to 27. The conference will feature both formal meetings and presentations (with a registration fee) and a Global Village with cultural and activist events (free admission). Interested in pitching an abstract for the conference or a cultural event for the Global Village? Learn more here. The main deadline for abstracts is February 15.
2. Because although Obama lifted travel restrictions against HIV positive people in 2009, there are still travel bans against sex workers and drug users. This means that people who have sold sex or used drugs, even if doing so is legal where they live, are not allowed to enter the United States.
3.Because the sex workers who won’t be allowed into the U.S. are counting on us to make some noise in DC. There will be an international gathering of sex workers happening at a hub conference in India, and we’ll be able to connect with them digitally before and during the conference to share resources and strategies.
4. Because sex workers are flagged as one of the key populations at higher risk for HIV transmission. The other populations in this group are intravenous drug users and men who have sex with men (MSM) – global health groups often problematically include trans women in the category of MSM. Some of our lives intersect with more than one of these categories.
5. Because on top of having our own problems the U.S. exports terrible policies and strings-attached funding that harms sex workers. For example the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which funds international organizations, include an anti-prostitution clause in contracts with grantees. American sex workers must stand up to our government and denounce PEPFAR and similar policies that harm our brothers and sisters around the world. The IAC is an important forum for us to make our voices heard.
There is some organizing happening already around the conference, but the more the merrier. If you’re interested in submitting a proposal for either a presentation at the conference or a cultural event at the Global Village, be sure to do so before February 15. If you want to show up, demonstrate, and represent sex workers, start planning, and start talking to other sex workers who might be interested in going. If you’re never done activism beyond your city, state, or the U.S., the IAC is a great opportunity to learn from and interact with sex workers from around the world.
“went to short dogs house,
they was watching Yo MTV
Yo MTV RAPS first aired:
Aug 6th 1988
Ice Cubes single “today was a good day” released on:
Feb 23 1993
”The Lakers beat the Super
Dates between Yo MTV Raps air date AUGUST 6 1988 and the release of the single FEBRUARY 23 1993 where the Lakers beat the Super Sonics:
Nov 11 1988 114-103
Nov 30 1988 110-106
Apr 4 1989 115-97
Apr 23 1989 121-117
Jan 17 1990 100-90
Feb 28 1990 112-107
Mar 25 1990 116-94
Apr 17 1990 102-101
Jan 18 1991 105-96
Mar 24 1991 113-96
Apr 21 1991 103-100
Jan 20 1992 116-110
Dates of those Laker wins over SuperSonics where it was a clear day with no Smog:
Nov 30 1988
Apr 4 1989
Jan 18 1991
Jan 20 1992
“Got a beep from Kim, and
she can fuck all night”
beepers weren’t adopted by mobile phone companies until the 1990s. Dates left where mobile beepers were availible to public:
Jan 18 1991
Jan 20 1992
Ice Cube starred in the film “Boyz in the hood” that released late Summer of 1991, but was being filmed mid-late 1990 early 1991 and Ice Cube was busy on set filming the movie Jan 18 1991 too busy to be lounging around the streets with no plans. Ladies and Gentlemen..
The ONLY day where:
Yo MTV Raps was on air
It was a clear and smogless day
Beepers were commercially sold
Lakers beat the SuperSonics
and Ice Cube had no events to attend was…
JANUARY 20 1992
National Good Day Day
Let me take a moment out from blatant self-promotion to blatantly and lovingly promote a very fine author friend of mine, David Henry Sterry. He’s got a book out called Confessions of a Sex Maniac, and, as with everything he writes, it’s crackling with wit, ferocity, and graphic electrical muckraking genius.
"When David Henry Sterry writes about sexuality, it’s like a chef writing about food.”—nerve.com.
Resident genius Mark Allen recaps the amazing and seriously PLEASURABLE December 1st Pitch! show, which I was super proud to be a part of!
Also, here’s some video from the show.
By the way … Mark Allen made some headlines recently by tweeting “Rick Santorum has Dan White-eyes.” (He does!)
If you follow that link, please check out the looney comments - they’re the best part. God Bless America.
Big thanks to the LA Weekly for mentioning my book in their year-end article "Top Books We Read in 2011."
from the article:
Sam Benjamin tried and failed to make art while a student at Brown University, so he did the next best thing and came to Malibu to make porn. American Gangbang is hilarious and honest about sex and pornography; it’s also intellectual enough to make you feel good about yourself. —Ben Westhoff