Friday, September 21

Porn panel aims to normalize sex, destigmatize adult film industry


Stoya, April Flores and Mia Little (left to right) were the three panelists for UCLA Sexpert's "Ask a Pornstar" event Monday. They are all activists in the industry – Flores is a proponent of body positivity while Little is the president of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin)

Stoya, April Flores and Mia Little (left to right) were the three panelists for UCLA Sexpert's "Ask a Pornstar" event Monday. They are all activists in the industry – Flores is a proponent of body positivity while Little is the president of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin)


Stoya’s prescene ritual includes drinking a cup of chai.

The pornographer joined two other women for the “Ask a Pornstar” panel hosted by UCLA Sexperts on Monday, following last week’s Sex Week events. They discussed topics and answered student-submitted questions about their experiences and opinions on the sex industry.

Julia Anderson, a second-year economics and art history student and assistant staff developer for Sexperts, said the goal of Sex Week is to normalize and destigmatize issues surrounding sex. The organizing committee hoped the panel could break down taboos around the adult entertainment industry and facilitate an open conversation about how the industry can relate to subjects such as modern-day feminism and queer and female empowerment, she said.

“I feel like (with) a lot of people, there’s a negative association with porn and the people that choose to take the adult industry as their career path,” she said. “So I just hope that people will realize that it is a viable option.”

The committee selected the panelists by first having members pitch two porn stars they thought would be interesting to feature and why. They then reached out to five shortlisted individuals just before spring break, specifically with the goal of generating a diverse group. The results were the three eventual panelists: Stoya, April Flores and Mia Little.

This year’s panel included two women of color, while last year’s panel of Buck Angel, Casey Calvert and Tasha Reign comprised all white performers, Anderson said. The committee also brought in stars who are activists in the sex industry. Flores, for instance, has been a proponent of body positivity, and Little is the president of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, an organization which aims to improve safety and working conditions in the adult film industry.

Friday marked the second year the committee has hosted the panel, following positive feedback from attendees at last year’s event. In 2017, the organizers reserved a room that held 60 seats, but they ended up having to turn people away at the door since the space had hit capacity, Anderson said.

This year, as people filed into Rolfe 1200, student moderators began asking submitted questions for the panelists to answer. The questions ranged from broad surveys about the panelists’ favorite parts of their work to specific inquiries regarding testing for sexually transmitted infections or how they prepare for a scene. Stoya answered the former question by saying she enjoys exploring her sexuality in ways that are difficult to arrange outside of the porn industry, while Flores aims to incorporate advocacy into her work.

“My favorite part – in addition to having sex and getting paid – is to use my body for activism,” Flores said.

Flores said she entered the sex industry in 2005, and became vocal about things in the industry she didn’t like, such as an article she saw labeling big beautiful women – known in the industry as BBWs – with a derogatory title.

 

“My motivation to continue doing porn after my first few scenes was to empower other fat people,” she said. “I continued on early in my career in the industry, with that in mind, to empower fat people and challenge the stereotypes of what we’re told is desirable and worthy of sexuality.”

Flores now hosts a radio show called “Voluptuous Life,” in which she engages with callers about sex-related topics – such as the opening of a sex-themed amusement park or how sex affects the brain – in order to open up a conversation about the subject.

Second-year art student Emma Schmitt attended the event and said she learned about the detrimental effects of tube sites on sex workers, who aren’t compensated when people access their content on online hubs that feature pirated videos. Schmitt said she also gained an understanding of the effort put into their work, which includes booking scenes and getting tested regularly.

“I know it’s hard work, I know it’s not an easy job,” she said. “I think a lot of people might be under the impression that it’s girls getting paid to be cute but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.”

Near the end of the night, the panelists fielded questions from the audience before closing out the event. One of the questions involved how they balanced their romantic life with their work, to which Little responded, “Google Calendar.”

Anderson said most people will experience a sexual relationship in some way, and it’s important to continue talking about sex and normalizing it, which may in turn decrease occurrences of sexual violence. She hopes after the panel, people will look at porn in a new way and view sex work as real work.

“These are people that most of us would only ever see on a computer screen,” Anderson said. “So I think seeing them in real life brings them back into the realization that, yeah, these are people living their life, and working and doing all these other normal human things.”

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Xu is the assistant editor for the Lifestyle beat of A&E. She was previously an A&E reporter.


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