LONG BEACH, Calif.—About 100 people filtered into the seats at last night's City Church Sex Forum, which was held at the Long Beach Art Theater in what's referred to as the city's "Retro Row." (Hint: There was hardly any neon visible for blocks.)
The forum, put together by the church's "Teaching Pastor" Dusty Fraser, pitted current porn stars (and a committed couple in their private lives) Jeremy Steele and Lucky Starr against the recently retired Brendan Kelly—four months out of the business after a two-year career—and Amanda (no last name given), a 21-year-old pastor's daughter who said she'd at various times "done video porn," was an "escort" and a "call girl" since she was 16, but left the business a year and a half after her best friend was killed during a hook-up gone wrong.
The evening's exchange was very civil throughout, perhaps in part because the church's mission, according to Fraser, is, "We want to build a bridge into the porn community and various people and groups that we in the church usually don't associate with, and which some religious institutions run from."
Each of the participants was given a 10-question survey beforehand asking about such topics as the person's first contact with anything sexual, their feelings about the industry and its effects on their personal lives, and each was given a chance to answer before audience members were allowed to ask questions of their own.
What emerged was a generally positive image of the industry, with Steele and Starr shining brightly and articulately in both their sexually open viewpoints and their ability to define the line between their working and private lives—and to cope with both.
Starr was particularly well-spoken. A college graduate with a degree in fashion design, she told the audience that she'd tried a number of careers, including waitressing and mainstream acting, before entering porn in her early 30s after some synchronistic occurrences on the set of a Wendy's commercial.
"God brought me to porn," Starr, a practicing Catholic, averred, speaking in part of her time on the commercial set when someone handed her a book to pretend to read that had "Lucky Starr" in its title.
She described herself as a "really sexual person," and felt empowered by her ability to express her sexuality on screen.
"It's done amazing things for my self-esteem," she said, adding later that acting in porn made her feel like a "superhero."
Steele told the audience that his first sexual experience was finding some adult magazines at his parents' house when he was 11 or 12—he felt that the people in the photos had “power”—and that he felt strange when he first appeared on a porn set at age 22.
"I sort of had a standoffish attitude about being on the set," he said. "On the set, I saw Randy Spears; I think Joey Silvera was there. I'd seen a few pornos before, and ... Ashlyn Gere was the girl on the set, and she was kind of rubbing her breasts on me, which kind of made me nervous, and I was kind of overwhelmed by it. But I found out this attitude that I was better than this—I didn't mean to have that attitude; it just kind of caught me by surprise that I was on the set and that it was a porno."
"I never had anything against porn, ever," Kelly told the assemblage. "I was just like, 'Oh, boy; oh, boy.'"
When asked whether he regretted taking part in the industry, Kelly replied, "No, I don't regret being part of the industry because it made the person I am today, able to be more open-minded about just everything in life."
"I'm very much against porn now," Amanda disagreed. "I'm a mother and soon to be a wife. Looking at it now, I'm definitely opposed to it, because it's not glamorous. ... A friend of mine was raped and killed and put in the back seat of a trunk because she wanted to be someone's big star on stage. It's not glamorous, by no means, and when you see these 18-year-old girls, and you hear people on the street that want to get into porn and want to strip, just let them know that this is real; it's not something glamorous. ... When you lose your best friend because some guy didn't want to pay her so he decides to rape her and kill her and put her in a trunk, you realize it's not glamorous."
Perhaps the biggest divide between the panelists came in answer to this question: "Would you discourage your children or other people's children from getting into the industry when they were of age?"
"Of course!" Amanda replied. "I would discourage the world's children. It's not glamorous. ... Being part of the industry for a year and a half, and thinking everything is so glamorous—it is, because people do greet you with open arms because you have 'paycheck' written on your forehead, because you're making them money."
"Yeah, I probably would discourage them," added Kelly, "and I think that's just based on some of the bad experiences that I had with the industry; I wouldn't want to push that upon anybody."
"If I had a daughter, I would not encourage her to enter the business, but what she does is her province," Starr countered. "I would just encourage her to make wise choices—don't get involved in the parties, don't get involved in gossip, don't do drugs. I don't understand what is the big deal with porn. Your agent calls you up, says you have a job; you show up; your put your makeup on; you do some hardcore stuff; you're finished; you go home. And what you make of it beyond that is up to you. Do you escort? Do you take drugs? Do you get involved in some of the bad choices? Do they exist in the industry? Absolutely, but it's up to you to decide whether or not you want to go in that direction. I try to keep my life outside of the adult industry as normal as humanly possible. ... I've seen some girls go in a matter of months from a really good-looking girl to looking like she'd been chewed up and spit out because they made some poor choices, and it's just up to you whether you want to take those choices."
"I'm not planning to have kids, but if I did and they actually wanted to get into the business, I would tell them my experiences good and bad, I would encourage them to think hard about," Steele added. "Interestingly enough, I heard that Goldie Hawn didn't want her daughter Kate Hudson entering the mainstream industry because even in the mainstream industry, you can fall and it can be devastating, so you can suffer from that, but I would be a hypocrite to say you cannot do it if I've done it myself, so I would just tell them to be cautious about the decision."
The discussion continued for almost two hours, with the moderators and some audience members trying to ascertain what part spirituality plays in the adult industry but for the most part genuinely seeking an understanding of what makes an adult performer tick.
At the end of the session, Fraser announced that he planned to do a series of lectures on sex at City Church that he said would be based on the Bible's "Song of Solomon," thought by some to be the most erotic part of that book.
What was particularly gratifying about the evening, though, was the lack of rancor between those on stage, and between the panelists and the audience members—a far cry from some of the anti-sex and anti-porn rhetoric that can be found on some religious websites.
Those interested in finding out more about City Church's activities can visit their website, lbcitychurch.org.