“AJ” writes [condensed]:
“I did a search on Google to find any references to on-screen chemstry in porn. Now, there may be more porn on the net than grains of sand on a beach, but no reference came up. I know it’s a kind of acting but if I watched something I’d want there to be attraction between the performers, not just people going through the motions.
So here is my question: Why is it so difficult to find reference to on-screen attraction / intimacy in ‘porn’ when trying to find it online? And if there was more reference to it, wouldn’t that contribute to countering a lot of people’s assumptions that porn dehumanizes?
Regards and best wishes”
Beginning with the performers: Because people are being hired to perform sex with each other, we’re assuming there’s a natural chemistry–the willingness and subsequent enjoyment of engaging in the act of sex. We’re assuming that these people have a kind of natural, easy chemistry where sex in concerned because they are performing this job at all. Beyond that it compares to mainstream moviemaking. Mainstream actors sometimes have to create chemistry where there is none, but at least in porn we are assuming the producers are hiring people who 1) very much want to be there, and 2) are being given space during the scene to work with someone with which they have chemistry and to act out scenarios that please them.
It’s not always the easiest thing to create chemistry in a short period of time. Very few people I worked for had a problem hiring me to work within my list of preferred scene partners. But even if I chose someone, it didn’t guarantee they were going to be 100% that day. Still, moving on to producers, many start with right intention.
Tristan Taormino has interviewed many times saying that her lines revolve around doing exactly what the performers want to do and their working with exactly who they want to work with. In this essay by Danny Wylde, she states the one problem all producers run into from time to time. When you have a product idea and a deadline, and someone falls through, you are left not always knowing exactly how that will play out with the replacement performer or their replacement scene partner. In most cases, I’m sure, everyone makes the most of the situation. Performers are typically very malleable and quick to adapt. Then there is the matter of not knowing who you have chemistry with until you work with someone or a number of someones–the reality for every person who is brand new to the industry. Communication is really the highest priority on most sets. The moment a producer or performer gets uncomfortable communicating about every aspect of the job at hand, there’s usually a problem. Good communication contributes to a good scene, unless discomfort–and therefore an abusive end result–is the intent. That has been a problem with some smaller companies who hire a variety of women to work with only one male or set of males. Research to find what suits you is key.
There’s more product in the market that caters to chemistry these days. Jacky St. James produces a couples line at New Sensations. She’s interviewed with Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals and myself talking about how she caters her scripts to mirror specific performer’s personalities rather than the other way around. Nina Hartley has her instructional line and she is very conscientious about hiring people with which she has chemistry, as well as partners she is not working with in the scene.
As far as text goes, over time more and more performers are making blog spaces to talk about their experience in adult. The more they write their stories in book and blog form, the more there is to actually know about performing life, but you’re typically not going to get that from the producer, and never from the anti-porn perspective.
Porn producers want the consumer to be entertained and feel the performer is living their fantasy of having sex on camera. Hopefully, they are doing exactly what they want to be doing, but the producer can’t say what’s absolutely real for the performer. Only the performer can speak from their personal experience. Save for a few people in porn’s relatively young history, everyone is an adult having sex on-screen of their on free will, but from the process of hiring the performers to shooting the sex, we can only hope each scene is fun and fulfilling for everyone involved. The viewer is left to sort through their own intuition about chemistry as they’re watching the scene, but the producers typically are just hoping everything runs smoothly; hoping they get a good scene, along with everyone else on set. Anti-pornographers need to be the star of their own porn presence and product, so obviously you are not going to get any kind of sex worker voice from their camp unless that voice is angry and resentful, post-porn career. Given a little time, most ex-performers-turned-anti-porn will express how used they felt on both sides.
Lots of people who interview performers ask about their favorite movies, scenes, and who their favorite scene partners are. That’s probably your best insight for actual chemistry. That and asking good directors and producers whose work they enjoy. Movie reviews can be sketchy indicators. Kayden Kross interviewed saying that some of her favorite scenes have gotten scathing reviews, and I, personally, was nominated for ‘Best Boy/Girl’ sex scene at the 1999 AVN Awards Show for a scene that was one of my least favorites. It was my first time working with Brian Surewood and the positions were really uncomfortable, actually.
There are highly respected communities within the adult industry that take special care to project their goal of quality over quantity. How they would market “chemistry”, I don’t know, except through reviews and interviews, which are out there. I had to review a number of scenes years ago and I feel my intuition for chemistry is pretty good, but in the end, we are talking about entertainment and human beings with–at times–delicate threads of temperament. Even a married couple can have a bad day that throws off their usual on-screen chemistry.
I think with examples like Tristan Taormino, Jacky St. James and Nina Hartley (and Nica Noelle–recommended by Nina Hartley in an interview), current pornography shows a trend in caring about performers, caring about chemistry and contributing to the overall myth that porn dehumanizes. And I think it helps to remember that just because it’s fantasy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about what we’re seeing. I’ve seen scene clips that bothered me and stayed with me because something didn’t seem right about the scene. Not everyone is acting, so being aware at all times is the healthy, responsible step to take while watching anything. I can’t look at “funny” photos of animals, for instance, without studying the image and being suspect. We should never leave our conscience at the door. We should never allow other people to influence our judgment because we trust them so implicitly that we forget we are intelligent beings on every level, capable of determining what’s real and not real based purely upon our feelings about what we are seeing.
Also–and this is really just a common sense guess–if you are looking for a real guarantee on chemistry, you’re safest route is probably through model’s personal webcam shows; women who run and manage their own careers and handpick the men and women they work with. Couples webcam shows, well-known male and female performers, etc. I would go with someone established who interviews regularly about enjoying their work.
I hope this in some way answers your questions, and thank you for asking it.
*Also, I have a list here of Sex Worker Blogs in the right sidebar, and a category for Reviews (books, films, plays) that contributes to information about what actual sex workers/performers think about their life; their job. The pages at the top for Porn Star Vignettes and On The Couch with Lydia Lee also contribute to performer voices by way of video interviews. Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals’ site is an incredible source for interviews, podcasts and information at PVVOnline.com, as well as our combined interviews at TheGeekGoddesses.com.
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