One of my works-in-progress, one that has been placed on the back burner the last couple years, is a novel that brings several of the characters in my novels You Don’t Think She Is and Meeting Dennis Wilson into adulthood. Rebecca: The Oral History of a Former Porn Star will tell the story of Christy Kelly’s foray into adult entertainment, first as an undergrad at Penn State in the 80s, then as a single mom struggling through grad school in the 90s, and finally as a grown woman returning to the business as an “amazing MILF stripper.” (It didn’t take me long to learn the lingo of the business.)
I’ve written much of the story via Christy’s Facebook page, but every now and then, I’ll have a burst of creativity and crank out a piece of writing that’s too long to be contained in a Facebook post or even “memo.”
And that’s what my new Kindle short, Colloquium, is. The premise is that a professor in the Penn State sociology department has been interviewing the recently-retired Christy (Rebecca) for a book he’s writing about the industry, and invites her to appear as a featured speaker in a department lunchtime colloquium series. Colloquium is just a “transcript” of that question-and-answer session, with Christy taking questions from a moderator and from audience members in front of a live audience.
Of course, if all of the questions were softball questions, pieces like this would be easy for me to write… but in a university setting, it only makes sense that a former porn star would get grilled about whether or not her experiences “reinforce the connection between sexual violence and porn.”
In this excerpt, right after answering a question about first being date raped as an undergrad and then later being approached sexually by a family member– men who “knew about Rebecca” and tried to use Christy’s porn career as an “I know you want it” excuse for their behavior– Christy fields and does her best answering the inevitable question.
Moderator – We have another question?
Question – Yeah, hi. And I guess what I wanted to ask really ties directly into what you were just talking about, which is pornography and rape culture. I know a lot of people in the business say that they don’t really condone that, but isn’t what you just talked about… doesn’t that kind of reinforce the connection between sexual violence and porn? (applause)
Rebecca – No. I think it reinforces the connection between assholes and porn. (audience laughter) I mean, seriously. These were… the guy who came at me, and not to speak badly of an extended family member, but… they were both kind of jerks who were looking for an excuse to behave badly. And they used Rebecca as an excuse to, you know…
Just… no. Whatever the message of what I did was, it wasn’t “you can fuck me any time you want, even if I say I don’t want to.” (applause) You know?
Q – But the unspoken message of porn seems to be that women are available and subservient–
R – I don’t know if that’s true. All I know is that in order for me to be available for Tom, the guy who date raped me, he first had to get me drunk on screwdrivers and a couple glasses of grain alcohol fruit punch, and then literally push me down and get on top of me. I don’t know how that’s sending him a message that I was available or subservient.
Q – But in your porn, wasn’t that the unspoken message?
R – No. Not that I’m aware of. Basically we just got in front of the camera and screwed. There was no message to it. The message was “Hey! This’ll get you off.”
Q – But don’t you think–
R – I don’t think there was any… I’m sorry. Don’t I think what?
Q – Don’t you think that the way that women are depicted in porn puts them in a degraded or subservient position?
R – No, not necessarily. I think it really depends on what porn you watch. I mean, clearly you’re dealing with an entertainment form that’s divorced from reality in a lot of ways. Reality, as far as good sex goes between a healthy happy couple, is nothing like porn. And if the point in a lot of porn seems to be that the women do whatever the men want them to, it’s probably because the intended audience is men who can’t find a woman to do what they want them to. (audience laughter) You know?
I’m not making excuses and I can’t speak for all porn. But I never felt like I was in a subservient or degraded position. Only one time did a shoot ever get out of hand like that, and it really didn’t get out of hand because I gave the safe sign and stopped it, and we all took a breath and reined it back in.
M – It might help if you told what the safe sign is.
R – Yeah. Right. Sorry. In a shoot, if you feel like the action is getting out of hand, there’s a signal you give and when the director sees it, he stops the action, no questions asked. I think that’s pretty standard. I don’t know if everyone calls it a safe sign, but that was what Roger and Gerry called it. And in all the shoots I did, I only ever had to do that once. That’s over sixty shoots and only one time I felt like I was out of my comfort zone, meaning that I felt the way you said, like I was being… well, maybe not degraded, but I felt like it was getting out of hand and that the guy in question needed to take a time out.
I just… I don’t mean to punt, but I really don’t feel like I can address the larger world of porn. I hate to sound like that, because really, doing this sort of chat, I feel like that’s what I’m expected to do. Answer questions. But I can’t, really, speak to any experience except my own. And I never felt degraded or anything like that. I was a consenting adult with eyes wide open.
M – But did it bother you what people might think once it was out there?
R – No. It seems to me that there are two kinds of people when it comes to this. They either get off on it, or they don’t…. Those who like it can’t understand for the life of them why those who don’t like it, what their hangup is. And people who don’t like it will find every reason in the world to justify not liking it. Usually it’s an intellectual or a philosophical reason, which, of course, is as far away from sexual feeling as you can probably get. You’re not going to rationalize anything having to do with sex, or sexual desire.
I get the objections. But I never felt them and I certainly never felt the way you’re saying. If I had, I wouldn’t have participated.
M – But part of her question is whether or not it encourages that sort of thinking societally?
R – Well, societally, and in pop culture in particular, I think there are bigger problems than the overt sex in porn. (applause) I mean, really. A lot of people have the attitude that this woman is asking about and they’ve never seen a bit of porn. Did all these people who voted for Donald Trump knowing he said that about grabbing a woman’s pussy and they were still perfectly all right with him becoming President… did THEY all get their attitudes about how to treat women from porn? (applause) So where do they get it? Not just from TV, advertising, movies, pop culture, but all sorts of places that don’t go anywhere NEAR porn. Parents, family… professional sports… as a recovering Catholic, let me add “religion”… I mean… (applause) And none of these present themselves as being harmful to women… in fact most of them would say “Oh, WE’RE not anything like porn… ” But meanwhile either they take you as close to the line as they can get or the poison is so embedded in the message that you can’t discern it. (applause)
Hip Hop culture… not to pick on hip hop, but a lot of what I hear from that music and culture is misogynistic in a more disturbing way than any porn is. (applause) Because… look… porn is what it is. It’s doesn’t pretend to be anything but explicit sexual entertainment. It’s not pretending to be wholesome or nice or whatever. You know, porn doesn’t start out as an episode of “The Waltons” and then all of a sudden there’s a gangbang. (audience laughter)
M – Actually, in the 70s, that movie might have gotten made. (audience laughter)
R – (laughs) But you get what I’m saying? With porn you know what you’re getting. It’s not veiling the sex or anything that comes with the sex. It says that it’s sexually explicit entertainment and that’s what it is and it’s not pretending to be anything else. And I don’t have a problem with that. I DO have a problem with entertainment that professes to be something else and yet it’s really about that. I think THAT’S where you need to look. Because adult entertainment is what it is and what it’s always been. Movies and pictures of sex. Period. I don’t think anyone expects anything else. The problem with the other stuff is that THAT’S the stuff that tries to normalize the attitudes that she’s talking about. (applause)
Even innocent places. I mean, a couple days ago Marty was playing this old Everly Brothers record, “Don’t Blame Me.” And I mean, it’s a sweet song and all… (sings) “Don’t blame me, for falling in love with you.” You know?
M – You have a beautiful singing voice.
R – Well, maybe that’s next. Anyway… he was playing this song, and I never thought of the words… but he sang “Don’t blame me, for forcing myself on you.” (audience laughter) You know? I mean, obviously that wasn’t what they were singing, but the whole theme of the song is “I love you and I want you and I can’t help it.” Well… take that to the nth degree. Now is that song porn? And yet you hear that attitude in popular entertainment and our culture, society all the time. “It’s not my fault she’s so damned hot.” You know? It’s the whole thinking behind the burqa. Guys can’t be held responsible, so girls, cover up! (applause) That’s not porn, is it? It’s our whole… freakin’ culture.
So I’d say: of course you find it in porn. But maybe that’s not the place you should be looking for it.
M- You know…
R – I just…you know, there’s one other thing too, and that’s… the other thing that the “porn depicts women as subservient to men” thing tends to overlook is that really, the nature of a LOT of porn, the trap of it, as I’m sure Marty could tell you, is that it makes you think that you CAN get any kind of sex you want at any time. And that’s not because the women are being depicted as subservient so much as it’s just so easy to get into the mindset of sex not being an interaction, but a voyeur-exhibitionist thing. You know? And that you can kind of dial in what you want and just get it. You know? Think of how most people look for porn. Type in “lesbians”? Yeah. Busty teens? Yeah. Busty teen lesbians? Yeah. I mean… THAT’S even too general. “I want to see a busty blonde milf strip outdoors and then piss in public and then finger herself till she cums.” You know? You just type that into Redtube or Planetsuzy, and there you’ll have page after page of search results, probably. Including a couple of mine. (audience laughter)
But ask most busty blonde wives if they’ll do that and see what reply you get.
I know Ross and I have talked about this and I think once again, and I bet this pisses a few feminists off, but… to me that’s just another example of how, when you really think about it, the ones who get exploited in porn aren’t the women who perform in it, but the people who view it addictively. The producers have those people right where they want them. I would guess that a lot of the people who are hooked on porn probably are very isolated and don’t have any truly intimate emotional relationships, because porn has given them a warped sense of what sex and relationships are about.
Q – So basically you’re agreeing with me.
R – No, because what you’re saying is that the type of sex that’s shown in porn necessarily depicts women as subservient and that’s the problem. Right?
Q – Yes.
R – Well, what I’m saying is that to someone who’s addicted to it, the very fact of the nature of porn–not the CONTENT of it, but the sort of “I can see whoever I want doing whatever I want whenever I want” dynamic of it, especially since online porn took over… THAT is what’s warped and what makes a person’s understanding of all these things skewed. Sex, relationships, men, women, human nature. The on-demand expectation that someone gets from porn. That’s how porn isn’t like real sex. Real sex is a communication and a negotiation, like any aspect of a relationship. There’s none of that in the REAL relationship in porn, which is not between the people on the screen, but between the people on the screen and the viewer. Or the user. I have a counselor friend who insists that people who watch porn are users the same as an alcoholic or a heroin addict.
I don’t know if I gave the answer you were looking for, but…
Q – No. I mean, it’s OK. Thanks.
R – Sure. (applause)
Look, the other thing… as far as encouraging someone to… you know. She said that my experience kind of ties into the connection between porn and sexual violence. And even as someone who had that perpetrated on her, I don’t agree. Really… I think someone who already thinks that way might be inclined to use it as an excuse. But in the end they’ve got to take responsibility for their own actions. (applause) I mean, Tom, the guy who date raped me, or my brother in law saying that they knew about Rebecca, that I’d done porn, and therefore they figured that meant I wanted it… I mean, that’s just kind of a poor excuse, isn’t it? I mean, really… if someone does that to a woman and then they say, “Well, the porn made me do it.” Oh, really?
I mean, it’s like my counselor friend after this happened. “Christy, with Tom it had nothing to do with Rebecca. If this had happened three years ago, it would have been about how much he liked seeing you in your bathing suit. If it’d happened two years ago, it would have been about your short nudie skirts.” You know? Blaming something on the outside. Which is really like the thinking that says it’s up to a woman to prevent rape by not looking hot. Which… that’s bullshit. Sorry. (applause)
Anyway… really. Thanks for asking the question. I don’t know if that’s the answer you wanted, but… praise Jeebus. (audience laughter) Is that all?
Q – Yeah… thanks.
R – No, thank you. I think it’s something that needs to be asked and discussed, but I would just say: broaden your field of vision. If you want to find the problems with societal attitudes about sex and violence toward women, you might find some answers in porn. But think about the number of people who really watch porn compared to, oh, I don’t know, mainstream movies or TV or hip hop or whatever. That’s where you’ll find the really disturbing answers, I think. Advertising. I mean, targeting porn is easy. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course you’ll hit something. Go broader. That’s what I’d say.
Anyway. I’m done answering now. (audience laughter) How much time do we have left?
M – Still twenty-five minutes.
R – Good. This is fun. And I liked that question. Don’t think I mind you asking that. Jesus Mary Joseph, if you only knew how many times I still ask myself stuff like that. So I hope I’m not making excuses.
M – I thought you said you were done answering that one.
R – I am now. OK? Next…
Colloquium is now available as an eBook in Amazon’s Kindle store.
Colloquium is actually the second book of excerpts from this work in progress. The first book, Interviews With A Porn Star, was published in 2013. Click here for information about that book.