After Porn Ends(2010)

by Charlotte Shane on September 20, 2012 · 6 comments

in Porn, Reviews

The unfortunate thing about a film as honest as After Porn Ends is how disingenuously it can be used by those with an anti-porn bias. The Huffington Post declared that the film “reveals the dark side” of the porn industry, an angle that LA Weekly and Inquisitr, solely based on a viewing of the trailer, echoed—as though porn is usually regarded by the public as harmless and wholesome as Disney films.  But After Porn Ends, much like porn itself, embraces all comers. (Heh heh insert stupid pun here.) There’s room for the born-again Christians who crusade against the industry on a whole, just as there’s room for former performers who say “I’m happy I did it” and “[being in porn] has changed me for the better.” Each subject is given plenty of nonjudgmental camera time, salacious details are few and far between, and there’s a refreshing lack of ominous or plaintive music played over the dialogue. Aside from one mean-spirited moment of editing, when Mary Carey is shown checking with someone off-camera to make sure she pronounces “unprecedented” correctly before talking about her run for California governor, the filmmakers seem respectful and gentle with their subjects. How could they be otherwise? One of film’s focuses is how stigmatized performers are by the same civilians who regularly consume their work.

The film is edited in a way that continually confounds the audience’s expectations, wiping out one opinion with evidence to the contrary. Moments after academic expert Neil Malamuth sets up that classic false dilemma of “no little girl asks herself, ‘am I going to become a surgeon, or am I going to become a porn star,'” the film cuts to Asia Carerra as she talk about abandoning her full college scholarship to make money in adult modeling, desperate to lose her image as nerd and geek. We then find out that Richard Pacheco mulled over whether he should become a rabbi or shoot his first porn film. (You can guess which he chose.) It makes for some jarring juxtapositions when historian Bill Margold disdains escorting but Shelley Lubben says her first thought about performing in porn was that it’s “a lot worse than prostitution,” which she’d previously done. Then (former) blogger Luke Ford offers the following conflation of prostitution and porn: “Hookers are people looking to make a quick buck with the least amount of effort. Being a porn star is just like the world’s oldest profession. It’s not that complicated. Reality is hard.”

No one in this film is an industry outsider other than Dr. Malamuth, but three industry players are presented as experts who comment on porn life without sharing personal details of their own. These talking heads are Luke Ford, Bill Margold, and a woefully under-used Nina Hartley, who says some of what the men say albeit in an infinitely more reasonable, more compassionate, and ultimately more objective way. Compare her comment that “like rock and roll, people in the porn industry are not suited to 9-5 jobs” with grade-A asshole Luke Ford’s rambling, condemnatory monologue: “People who are well-adjusted, people who are doing something meaningful and constructive with their lives, aren’t people in the industry to begin with. People who are in the industry are really broken, twisted souls without a lot of job skills. They’re turbulent souls, so they’re always going to be twisting and turning in the wind.” Ok. Let’s tell Tiffany Million that raising her daughter wasn’t “meaningful” or “constructive” enough to keep her out of porn. (The single mom attributes her decision to do porn exclusively to her need to support herself and her daughter, with a maximum amount of her time left free for hands-on care.) With friends like Luke, who needs enemies?

It’s an interesting move that the director let the most negative and cruel comments about the industry and its inhabitants come from folks like Margold and Ford, which may or may not have been expected when they were chosen as interviewees. I don’t think of myself as a porn performer in spite of having done webcam for a large company (one that regularly featured shows with Vivid girls and big name stars) and having shot some fetish clips and images for a friend’s website. But in my exposure to the industry, through attending events with friends, talking with performers, reading about it and watching documentaries, I’ve gotten the impression that quite a few men in the industry think as little (or less) of the performers as most civilians do. They believe that the performers are stupid, slutty, emotionally stunted, and largely valueless, by which I mean that they have nothing to offer the world other than their bodies.

For instance, director Jim Powers told writer Susannah Breslin, “I’m giving people money, that could not hold a job at fucking McDonald’s,” going on to refer to the “girls” in the business as “broken toy[s,]” —broken before they got to him and not in the process of working with him, presumably. Five or so years ago, I was backstage at an industry event where Joanna Angel, who is highly educated and has spoken freely about her functional relationship with her parents, joked on stage by assuming the role of a simpering, clueless girl who got into the business “because my parents didn’t love me.” No one laughed, or even seemed to recognize that she wasn’t being serious. In After Porn Ends, Luke Ford insists that the industry “hacks away” at all personal relationships of the people involved, though many of the performers talk about having parents who accepted their career choice, and Tiffany Million’s daughter appears on camera calling her mom “my hero.” Richard Pacheco’s daughter is similarly enthusiastic about her father’s history. Amber Lynn even worked with her brother (not that way, you pervs) and when we see her breaking down at his funeral, it’s clear the two had a close bond. Though the film never mentions her, Sunny Lane is famous in part because of her parents’ involvement in her career.

Similarly, Bill Margold insists that “nobody thinks [their time in porn] is going to end” and most performers “can’t even spell the word ‘future,'” yet plenty of the actresses talk about having an exit year in mind as soon as they start; and his additional declaration that “there isn’t much of a future for those in the porn industry” is contrasted with John Leslie goofing off with his wife as he cooks in his kitchen. Though Margold is critical of how society “damns” porn performers, it seems he applies much of the same judgement by implying these are fundamentally stupid people. Who decides what a successful life looks like, within or outside of porn? Are Luke Ford’s notion of “constructive and meaningful” the only ones we can apply? Thank God for the radiant Houston, who, in the midst of extensive cancer treatment, smiles when she remembers her genius for self-marketing, which included going into “the world’s biggest gang bang” with eyes wide open, and selling the “trimmings” left over from her labiaplasty after encasing them in lucite. “I was having a blast,” she says. The epilogue informs us that she’s currently cancer-free.

Several themes emerge without explicit comment, including how disproportionately well the male former performers seem to fare after their porn careers when compared to the women, and the lack of direct coercion in performers’ stories of how they came to appear in porn. Several of the women discuss abusive childhoods; both Asia Carerra and Shelley Lubben mention being kicked out of their homes while underage and Raylene attributes her drug addiction to an older man who gave her acid without her knowledge while she was a teen. But when one of the male “experts” presenting commentary on the industry says ,”no one has a gun held to their head,” he seems to be speaking the truth. There are no stories here of how anyone was forced to a scene they didn’t want to do, or felt abused by a director or a cast mate. If these performers have those stories, they’ve either decided not share them or it’s not been included.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Miss Dior Dandridge September 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm

unfortunately, i have met him & bill margold is a very sad,bitter, little man.

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Charlotte Shane Charlotte Shane September 22, 2012 at 12:28 am

Poor you! He would have seemed irredeemably terrible if Luke hadn’t been making everyone else look 10x better with all the awful things he said.

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D September 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm

This was a great review. I’d really like to see the movie now.

Re: the idea that porn actresses are clueless naifs with no concept of the future — a couple years ago I saw an interview with Harmony Rose and remember thinking she really had her shit together. She was saving her money and I believe investing in real estate. She also seemed to have healthy self esteem and was not ashamed of her career choice. Recently I read somewhere (on this site?) that she was getting post-career blowback because the fire department where she was a volunteer EMT had found out about her past.

A *volunteer* EMT is getting harassed? Someone who spent the time and money to get trained and *does it for free* should be ashamed of her past?

Would that we were all so damaged and shameful.

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richard scandrett January 1, 2013 at 9:19 am

This was an interesting movie and nothing more. It provided some insight into the industry from those who had lived it. I enjoy pornography, and do not condemn those who choose to make a living from it, however, I found it particularly hard to empathize with certain stars who had made ungodly sums of money unabashedly (if not directly) asking for sympathy. Asia Carrera was particularly nauseating: She asked for donations from her fans after her husband died, despite making more money in her short career than most Americans make in three lifetimes. She is not working at the decidedly geriatric age of 40, yet lives on what appears to be spacious property in Utah. Sabree Scott is wearing a hospital bracelet and slurring her speech. Are her and her mother’s lives so great?

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hamdy December 28, 2013 at 3:28 am

good movie

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Judgments R Us January 26, 2014 at 12:15 am

The idea that Luke Ford should act judgmental about any porn performer and how “meaningful” or “constructive” their lives or careers are is irony in the extreme. Ford is a pathetic poster boy for people torn between their own porn addiction, jealousy of performers and obsession with people who are less hungup about sex than themselves. He has devoted his life to vacillating back and forth between high minded “I’m so religious and pious and above all these people” judgment and doing everything he can to slavishly follow porn performers’ every hiccup as a devoted little sycophant. There are few people more messed up by and about porn than Luke Ford and the idea that anyone seeks him out or quotes him on it or performers as an “expert” is beyond absurd. What that boy needs more than anything is years and years of INTENSIVE THERAPY.

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