LOS ANGELES—With huge photos and even bigger illustrations, Ezra Klein's Vox.com took a colorful look at porn today in a multi-page feature called "Coming Out as a Porn Star," the focus of which is, as the title suggests, how porn stars maneuver their individual public and family outings (not referring to trips to the park). Querying an assortment of performers representing a variety of sexual orientations and philosophies, writer Dylan Matthews categorizes his pages into "chapters" on Timing, Reaction, Friends and Dating, with each containing first-person anecdotes from the subjects.
Performers—some past, most present—featured in the piece include Buck Angel, Joanna Angel, Lisa Daniels, Jessica Drake, Sophia Fiore, Jesse Flores, Jiz Lee, Shy Love, Michael Lucas, Chanel Preston, Tasha Reign, Stoya, Farrell Timlake, Danny Wylde and Madison Young. Notably, no currently performing straight male performer is included, as neither Wylde nor Timlake fuck on camera anymore.
Despite skimming the surface of industry issues, preferring (understandably) to approach the subject from a mainstreamer's perspective, the piece as a whole remains engaging because of its easy accessibility and because many of the performers' anecdotes are interesting and fun to read.
For instance, Danny Wylde on Timing:
The first thing I ever did was for Kink.com. It was a femdom scenario, so I was getting tied up and kind of whipped by women. I thought that this was going to be a one-time experience where I’d make a little bit of money and have a weird story to tell.
It didn't occur to me that my parents might find out about it, because I thought, even if my father or mother happens to be on a porn site, the likelihood they’ll come across this weird, fetish thing is pretty low.
It was also a little bit easy to hide in the beginning because I was in school. They didn't need to know what type of job I had. I could say, "I have a part-time job," which was true, it just happened to be porn.
On Reaction by Buck Angel:
Obviously my wife knew about it, because she helped me. I did not tell my immediate family at first because of the stigma and I wasn’t sure how they’d react.
My older sister is an LAPD officer and extremely conservative and judgmental in a lot of aspects, but she was also really supportive. Since I came from such a bad place with them about my transsexuality, and my drug addiction, they’re just happy to see me be successful.
Joanna Angel on Friends:
I did have a lot of friends from when I grew up and in college who were uncomfortable. Would I remain close with someone if they became a preacher? I don’t know. It’d probably put a damper on our friendship. If somebody became a staunch advocate for the Republican party or something, could I be their best friend? Probably not. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but when someone’s passionate about something you’re not too into, it can be a problem.
On Dating from Stoya:
I had, I guess you could call them boyfriends, and I had people who I would have sex with that were also friends, but it was always like, "This isn’t permanent, you’re not my priority." I was young, and awkward, and kind of a bitch, and very blunt at times. I probably did a very poor job of maintaining the balance and letting people know, "Hey, I like you, I just can’t commit to being around regularly and stuff." I probably bruised some hearts, which I feel bad about, possibly damaged some egos.
And then you find that one person who’s absolutely freaking incredible, and they match, and they work, and you’re already good friends, and all of a sudden both of you are pretty much single, and you ask, "Hey, do you want to start hanging out more seriously?" And you go for it! And then suddenly he has all of your shoes in his house in Los Angeles, and you have four cats, and you keep saying you’re a New Yorker but you’re not in New York very often.
There's a lot more where those came from, including expanded interviews with the performers on their individual pages.
That said, while it's hard to say that Vox.com has succeeded in "explaining" the industry any better than anyone else, it has made porn, as Taylor Marsh put it today, "palatable for your average reader." She attributes a part of that success to the "visuals stripping the grossness of porn away from the story."
That's an interesting take, though it also suggests a whitewash of sorts. Vox.com, of course, is not Fleshbot or The Sword, and will likely never include "the grossness of porn" in the same way those sites offer readers copious displays of graphic hardcore sex, but then, neither does AVN.com include depictions of actual sex or genitalia. So it remains an open question for us at least whether the act of prettying up porn's "grossness" with lots of cartoony graphics and artwork helps explain the truth about porn, which is what Vox.com has promised to do with every subject it addresses.
Ezra Klein took to Facebook yesterday morning to promote his porn feature, but if the comments in reaction are any indication, not too many people were impressed with vox.com's decision to tackle the subject in the first place.
"Seriously, Ezra? Slow day at Vox? Disappointing," wrote Mel Blann.
"Yusuf Gad You guys just launched and you've already jumped the shark? Nobody cares about this subject,' commented Yusuf Gad. "We might as well be talking about a shortage in Faberge Eggs. How many people does this effect?"
"A big let down," added Usman Ali. "I have been telling everyone about Vox and after seeing stuff like this, I do not know if I should."
Most were similar to these, but a few liked the piece.
"Ezra, this is great - keep it up. Shine the light of empathy and understanding in new places, especially those places that a site in your ballpark wouldn't normally consider," wrote DJ DeWitt. "The others will come around eventually, they always take time."
Another reader, Ira Wing, took note of the haters, writing, "Wow. This is a great piece, thanks for this. Confused and amused by people's reactions but I guess there are still many taboos that lead people to react like this."