The Demented Goddess (DG): Vex, I think I remember you telling me once that you always clarify in what ways a performer feels comfortable having their bodies and orifices filmed in close-up, as part of the process of consent and intimacy that goes into creating your work. What anxieties, if any, do you encounter among porn artists over having their cunts filmed?
I always ask for a yes/no list and I clarify by saying that it can be as simple as something like “I don’t like my butthole to be filmed super close up” or “I have an embarrassing tattoo I don’t want to be focused on”. It’s not something I specifically direct at pussies – I think confronting any part of your body in graphic close up can be unnerving but especially one that’s as “hidden from view” both socially and physically (it’s almost impossible to look at your own cunt in graphic detail without the use of a camera or mirror, unless you’re incredibly flexible!) even for people more used to putting their naked selves and sexual performances on the record.
We all carry anxieties about making ourselves vulnerable in different ways, for some that’s displaying their body in graphic explicitness for others, maybe I’m talking about myself here, it’s being emotionally vulnerable or explicit in that way. I try and be as sensitive as I can to those potential anxieties on set.
DG: In your film ‘Human Botany’, a slug inches along a hairy forearm. A slicked white finger delves into mauvish vaginal fronds and encloses an oozing black cock. Cunts and cocks are embedded in the slick, velvety, moist drippings of the natural world. Our cunts are so fetishized, adored and reviled, such decentering feels liberating. In what ways would you like to liberate our view of the cunt?
I think I’d actually like to liberate it from the idea that we should love and worship it. Due to how cunts were aligned with dirt and disgust for so long there’s been an important movement to reframe them as something wonderful but for me, my cunt isn’t exclusively a magic temple or holy site, essentially I feel neutral about it. I don’t think it’s particularly beautiful and I don’t think it’s inherently disgusting, it just… is. A functional organ that brings me joy sometimes and pain and hassle often. I think that to set the expectation that we should always love our bodies rather than just use them as best we can is setting us up to fail sometimes.
I think that a big part of a film like Human Botany was about liberating genitals and orifices from the context of the whole body or the sense of self and aligning them with form and function.
DG: How important is it to show clitoral orgasm and non-penetrative sex?
I think it’s equally important to say that porn isn’t a substitute for sex education. Our representations of sex in media do matter and we have to address the fact that a lot of what we see on the surface is skewed towards a particular way of fucking. Sex is too interesting and too good to be confined. Personally, showing those things, however important, isn’t about representation or authenticity. It’s just what’s hot for me. It’s what I want to see.
DG: There’s been some frothing and foaming on Social Media recently around the taboo of showing periods in commercial porn. Granted that being really into sex is in itself ‘hot’, do you feel we should link the messier, commonly shared aspects of female sexuality – periods, childbirth, menopause – with erotica?
Porn gets a bad rap here! The reason why periods are not shown in a lot of commercial porn is not because of a misogynist conspiracy on the part of the (granted, mostly male) porn directors or company owners – I think it’s been proven that if they can jerk off or make money with a niche they’ll eat it up. It goes much higher up the chain to the payment processors who will cut off billing for acts they consider “obscene” – so that’s VISA and MASTERCARD’s fault.
For me sex isn’t hot unless it’s engaging with our physicality, it’s about getting out of my consiousness and into my body. Something I really love about fucking is it’s often about vulnerability and taking a person’s polite public facing self and breaking it down, getting to look behind the curtain at the flesh and the mess and our corporeality. The way our bodies are constantly in flux; swelling and reddening and secreting for me is intrinsically tied to sex. Sex isn’t a separate and isolated human experience it intersects with caring and trauma, with birth and death and growth in everyway, we shouln’t be fighting or sanitising these connections but harnessing them to explore.
DG: Anais Nin famously complained when her mysterious American patron, who paid her $1 per erotic story demanded more sex, less poetry. However, in my opinion, he possibly did her a favour. Her resulting stories penetrate the consciousness of the feminine protagonist, while aggressively pushing sex situations – for example, the story of a courtesan who goes on a picnic with some of her men and ends up being licked out, terrified and aroused, by a stray hunting dog. What’s more important in your films: context, story or the fucking?
Your question reminds me of a game of fuck, marry, kill so I’m going to answer it like that. Obviously this depends on the film but in general I’d kill the story, I don’t want or need an explicit narrative or even continuity in a short film with sex, I want intensity, chaos and atmosphere.
I would fuck the context, for me that’s what I want to indulge in – the symbolism, the setting, the atmosphere, the characters – that’s what’s really doing the erotic work for me and then I would marry the fucking because sex is the constant, what’s always there. Sometimes undertone, sometimes very explicit in overtone – but it’s the groundwork and the basis to explore everything else from. Good, old, reliable sex.
In your terms, maybe I could often fall a little too far on the “more poetry, less sex” line and I do have to check myself often to not get too lost in pretentious, dreamy bullshit and just get down to it. It’s all about balance.
Vex Ashley was in conversation with Soma Ghosh, Editor of The Demented Goddess.
Follow Vex: Twitter @vextape Follow Soma: Twitter@calcourtesan.
All images are the copyright of Vex Ashley.