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Culture House Daily

A report from the porn Oscars

3 February 2015

2:46 PM

3 February 2015

2:46 PM

The annual XBIZ Awards, which I attended as a journalist last month in Los Angeles, is regularly portrayed by its organisers as the Oscars of the porn industry. And it has many of the trappings of the Hollywood ceremony: a catalogue of nominations, gushing acceptance speeches, a jokey host.

But the sheen of respectability cannot disguise the reality. The XBIZ Awards are about the ruthless exploitation of women for financial gain. The porn producers and distributors strutting around were just pimps in bow ties.

Indeed, at times, the awards seemed like an amalgam of mafia convention, lap-dancing club and conference for insurance sales staff. There were the money men in black tie, their less wealthy colleagues in cheap suits and the extras from Goodfellas – shades, pork pie hats, winkle-pickers.

Most of the female porn performers tottered about in a uniform of barely-there dresses, silicon breasts and glazed expressions. In response to the noisy demands of some cameramen, one woman on the red carpet lifted her skirt to reveal that she was wearing no underwear. Flash photography, you could call it.


It has become fashionable to pretend that pornography can be a liberating force for women, but this is a trade that is controlled by men and glories in misogyny. I asked one young female performer if it was the money that motivated her. ‘We’re in it for the fun,’ she said, towing the industry line.

But a male porn actor was more honest. Of the popular double and triple anal scenes, he admitted that the women have to take a load of painkillers beforehand and do it only for the money.

One charmer reassured me that there was no connection between porn and cruelty, telling me that, on his set, none of the women have their heads shoved down a toilet and no-one is choked halfway to unconsciousness. That’s OK then.

I was also amazed to hear how Max Hardcore, a performer known as the ‘King of Gonzo’ because of his brutal lack of restraint, is regarded as a hero in the industry for supposedly pushing back the boundaries of taste. Pornographers make their money out of abuse, yet they have hijacked the language of social justice and freedom.

Just as in prostitution, there is a lot of talk about sex workers’ rights. There was even a category for Feminist Porn Release of the Year. In this world of twisted ethics, however, one of the demands of the sex workers’ rights lobby is that the requirement to wear condoms on set should be lifted because it allegedly infringed personal choice.

During the evening I chatted to one woman who was perfectly friendly until her boyfriend interrupted us. ‘She’s my slave,’ he said, telling me he would often put a collar on her and restrain her with a leash. If she was bad, he added, she had to sleep outside in a kennel.

Julie Bindel is the author of Straight Expectations: What Does It Mean To Be Gay Today? (Guardian Books)


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