Pornographers Descend on USC To Drop Cinematic Science

By: Gram Ponante


“Society seems to have lost its ‘Boogie Nights’ mentality (when thinking about porn),” said jessica drake, addressing a crowd at USC’s Cinematic Arts Complex. 

Southern California universities offer many opportunities to meet porn personnel, independent of trigger warnings. This week a diverse panel of directors, sex educators, and performers (some with overlapping titles) joined moderator Alex Ago at a Porn And Media conversation in front of 200 USC students and the less educated public.

On hand were sex educator Elle “Lady Cheeky” Chase, performer/director jessica drake, performer and Naked Truth BDSM columnist Casey Calvert, and “Marriage 2.0” writer/producer Magnus Sullivan. 

“Porn And Media” is not only a broad topic, but the forum at USC was also unlike industry-specific or fan-based seminars at events like XBiz360 or the Adult Entertainment Expo. This allowed for a wide-ranging — sometimes tangential — conversation and a lot of meaty questions from the audience.

In addition, the panel was not part of a class, but a curated, student activities fee-funded event (and a marketing coup, as three of the panelists are clients of a respected adult industry publicity firm).

Jessica Drake Sex Educator

“(But) as a performer I took for granted that people would know the difference between porn for fantasy and porn for your bedroom,” drake continued, in response to Ago’s question about problems with perception and reality vis a vis the porn performer’s job. “Porn isn’t supposed to be educational.”

This made me think of a very similar quote from Dr. Carol Queen: “Porn isn’t educational — until it is.”

The panel was asked about porn saturation and the effects on SoCal porn companies of Measure B, the condoms in porn law passed by L.A. County in 2012. Many people (including myself) believe that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation used scare tactics to bully LA County into putting the measure on the ballot and misinformation to sway uneducated voters.

Sullivan, co-founder of Gamelink, noted that the company once encoded 550 Video On Demand (VOD) scenes a week several years ago, but now it’s down to 250 per week. Still, drake said that “most of the companies that moved out of L.A. have come back” (she did not offer examples of which companies).

Marriage 2.0 by Magnus Sullivan

Sullivan was particularly emphatic on the subject of porn piracy.

We have to create a process that is impossible to replicate,” he said, dovetailing that idea with the adult world’s ability to provide one thing — hardcore sex — better than anyone, so its movies needed to reach the level of mainstream cinema but also have hardcore sex in them, a goal he attempted to reach with “Marriage 2.0.”

“Porn has art in it that is underutilized,” said Sullivan.

“If you can masturbate to it,” interjected Calvert, “it’s not art. It’s porn. The intent of orgasm is what makes something porn, not art.” She used Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” movies as an example of art.

Reflecting on the “crossover appeal” of a Jenna Jameson, Ron Jeremy, or James Deen, Calvert said that the dream of the mainstream crossover is dead.

“I mean, you can be naked in a horror movie for a hundred bucks,” she said, “but the days of a random guy on the street knowing your name, that’s gone.”

“I am glad I got into the industry when I did,” said drake. “Otherwise I would not be here now.”

Still, Calvert says (in response to an audience question) that, while the days of the contract star and that kind of steady money are gone (drake admitted she makes less as a Wicked contract star than she did ten years ago), she does vacuum naked her sofa naked for paid fan videos.

Casey Calvert BDSM Columnist

“And they send me the vacuum,” she said, laughing.

Calvert educated the audience about celebrity sex tapes (“none of them are ‘leaked,’” she said) and drake, emphasizing the public’s duty to not feed the beast, said she would never look at hacked celebrity nudes, a la the data dump known as The Fappening.

“No matter how big my celebrity crush is,” she said.

Bemoaning the “same formulas over and over again,” Sullivan said the adult industry needs to develop a “plan versus gimmicks.” After all, he said, “sex tapes and porn parodies have hit their peak.”

While the night was not a free-for-all, the format allowed for all sorts of questions. Clearly, the public wanted to know something that Netflix documentaries and “Frontline” specials hadn’t addressed.

For example, what’s in the future if sex tapes have allegedly hit their peak?

Chase called Sex Education the “Flintstone Vitamin of Pornography,” noting Nina Hartley’s sex education series for Adam & Eve as well as drake’s for Wicked, but asked, in re: the lopsided “Hot Girls Wanted,” if there was a place for a positive porn documentary.

(“Well,” Calvert said, “that’s definitely the state of porn in Florida, but not here.”)

drake mentioned that she had been followed by film crews for the documentary “Love, Jessica” that had been aired in Italy and Canada but not in the United States because it wasn’t titillating enough.

“I’m not enough of a trainwreck for them,” she said.

Moderator Ago had to refuse several raised hands from the audience as the discussion wound down after 90 minutes. He later said this was the biggest attendance this regular event had drawn.



Gram Ponante

About Gram Ponante

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The editor of Naked Truth, Gram Ponante has been writing about pornography since 2002, though he never expected to get more than three months of material out of it. Since then, he has edited and/or contributed to adult industry trade magazines AVN and XBiz, Hustler,, and dozens more classy publications. He has written for the great Gamelink since 2006. Gram regularly speaks about issues facing the adult industry — both entertaining and grim — at colleges and conferences, and has published several popular eBooks about his time as America's Beloved Porn Journalist.