The Thrill Without The Tropes: An Interview Of Screenwriter Isa Mazzei & Actor Madeline Brewer On The Occasion Of Cam's Premiere On Netflix

text by Summer Bowie

portraits by Remy Holwick

film stills courtesy of Divide/Conquer

For anyone who has painstakingly worked to build and curate their Instagram page, only to have it disabled unexpectedly, you know just how devastating the loss can be. For those whose accounts have been hacked, the consequences can be much worse. Thus is the case for Alice (played by Madeline Brewer), a young and ambitious camgirl on the rise, who is relentlessly creating new shows and characters to improve her ranking on, a fictional camming site, designed and created specifically for the film. When Alice’s account is hacked and hijacked by someone with an uncanny resemblance, she is forced to outwit her doppelgänger while watching her own identity, both online and irl, degrade rapidly. Aside from the psychic thrill that the narrative provides, this film offers a refreshing subversion to the standard tropes that come from the sexy, horror genre. From the ways that sex work is represented in the film, to the ways that the screenwriter, Isa Mazzei and director, Daniel Goldhaber challenge the standard director-authorship, this film provides a wealth of new templates to consider that are seemingly radical, yet unsurprisingly, quite logical. In Mazzei and Goldhaber’s Cam, the hyper-indulgent and semi-private world of camming is given life in a way that is instantly translatable by the genre. A surreal, thrill ride that seeps into your unconscious mind and humanizes the very real people that hitherto have been unjustly stigmatized by the film and media industry at large.

SUMMER BOWIE: Isa, you wrote a film that is in many ways inspired by your own experience as a camgirl, but you chose to write a fictional, horror narrative. What drew you to the genre for this project?

ISA MAZZEI: First, I love genre, so that makes sense (laughs). But also, I felt like it was really important for me to bring audiences inside Alice’s experiences...and I think that genre is a really great tool for sharing subversive ideas in a way that’s really commercial and digestible. So to have an audience empathize with a sex worker and have them rooting for her to return to sex work… while there’s also so much adrenaline, and so much color, and so much action, and you’re on the edge of your seat –– I feel like that was the most effective way that I knew how to really bring audiences into that.

BOWIE: It seems the more horrific the daily news cycle becomes, the more obsessed we as a society become with horror films. What do we find so cathartic about it, and do we ever really exorcise the demons?

MAZZEI: I feel like horror can be really cathartic – absolutely – and I also think horror can be a way to communicate important ideas while still feeling like escapism, and that’s what I think is so cool about it. I don’t think anyone watches Cam and walks out going “Wow, I just watched something really political, and I just watched something really subversive.” I think those things happen on a subconscious level. I think that in a literal sense, Cam is a really fun, exciting movie that brings you into this really colorful, thrilling world for ninety minutes...and the work that it does that I think is really important is kind of on a more subconscious level than that. I think all horror can be used that way, and I think a lot of genre films do that work, and I think that’s why I love them so much. Because again, they’re kind of this way where you feel like you’re escaping from the real world, you feel like you’re in the fantasy space that is very cathartic, full of adrenaline...but actually they can communicate some really important ideas.


BOWIE: And there’s something really nice about this film and it’s approach to the genre, because I feel like horror in particular has a very rich, misogynist history, and to approach it from this perspective where you’re telling the story of a woman that is not a damsel in distress being chased by a monster is a really nice way to approach the genre.

MAZZEI: Thank you.

MADELINE BREWER: I think that’s what I found so refreshing about watching and doing the film. I’m a big slasher fan, but every situation in a slasher movie is like a young woman...with her boobs hanging out unnecessarily being chased by a much larger man, and that whole visual is just so tired to me now that I have a movie like Cam in my life. There are other ways to tell stories about women in a horror genre without that thing where the ‘slut’ always dies first. This movie still gives you the thrill without any of the tropes.

BOWIE: Madeline, how did you get a hold of the script, and did you initially see yourself playing the role, because I know a lot of reps won’t even show actors a script like this?

BREWER: Yeah, I talked to Danny and Isa about how there were some difficulties with them getting the script out, because not only actors, but actors reps have to be on board with the whole idea. My manager had said something to me like, “Hey, I have this script..I don’t’s about a camgirl. Just have a look, see what you feel.” I read it and I immediately was frightened of it, because I was just like...I don’t know if I can do justice to a story like this, playing three characters. But I was stoked to play a camgirl.

BOWIE: The role demands a certain vulnerability and I understand that the on-set crew was predominantly female. How would you say that affected the vibe on set?

BREWER: Oh my god, we could not have done this I don’t think––I know personally, and I know plenty of actors that would back me up––that in this kind of situation, where you are physically and emotionally vulnerable, where you are literally and figuratively naked, you have to be in a safe environment, in which you are free to explore and express, and take yourself to another level. I’ve been on sets where women have felt uncomfortable because some random...I don’t know...crew member ogled them in a way that maybe would make them feel uncomfortable. I think that whole situation was just a non-factor for me because there were so many women, and I feel comfortable around women. But also the fact that there was a crew that….they knew what they were getting themselves into, they knew the story that they were telling, so if they weren’t supportive of that, then they would not have been there. It was already like a litmus test that everyone had passed. They were there and willing to be supportive of whatever had to go down to make this film, and a lot of that was me not being clothed.

BOWIE: Isa, you undoubtedly directed yourself in the past as a camgirl. What made you feel confident that Daniel Goldhaber was the right director to bring your script to life?

MAZZEI: I mean, a lot of things. The main thing is that he listens to me. And I think, you know, it’s easy to look back and say we’ve been collaborating for ten years, I trust him and his shot. You know, in the past I had hired him to shoot porn for me, and direct some videos that I had made, but at the end of the day the most important thing about him is that he listens to me. When I said, you know, “this is how she would hold her body in this scene,” it was kind of this three-way collaboration. She already knew those things, and I knew those things, and to have a director that would just kind of say, “Okay, I trust you and I’m not going to force anything onto the scene or onto the character that you’re telling me is not real or valid.” From day one of collaborating on the script, Danny always deferred to my judgement calls, especially on representation of the female body and performative femininity, and performative sexuality; all of those.

BOWIE: And the two of you share equal credit for the film. Was this a decision that the two of you made from the beginning, or did it happen somewhere along the way?

MAZZEI: That happened along the way. Initially, I was just writing it and he was going to direct it. But it became pretty clear in the beginning of the collaboration that we were building the story together, we were building the world together. We were discussing things like how we were going to shoot scenes while I was still writing them, and while we were still workshopping them. I had a lot of opinions and insight on the actors that I wanted, and the crew that we wanted, and what kind of DP I wanted, and how we wanted to include as many women as possible on set, and all of these decisions. So, it became pretty clear that it was something we were making together. We always like to say it’s like 100% his movie and 100% my movie, and there’s no way to tease apart the ownership more than that. It’s a shared vision, it’s been a shared vision, and that’s what we decided.

BOWIE: The platform used in the film,, so closely resembles that of any social media platform with live capabilities that the basic act of camming is actual pretty familiar to most people. Madeline, did you have any personal experience with going live and juggling your attention between the performance and a live stream of comments and requests?

BREWER: The act of being live online and responding to a livestream of comments was totally new to me, I had never experienced anything like that before. I mean also what we were doing was synced up and I knew what they were going to say, and then the responses and everything. But it’s quick paced, very live and interactive and I watched a lot of cams in preparation in our pre-production time, and even during shoots to get kind of a refresher. I had a few camgirls that I liked in particular for their little quirks and nuances, so I watched them and how they interact. The things they say and what kind of inside jokes they have with their room, and their guys and all of that. It was something that I was totally unfamiliar with in that aspect, but what I was familiar with was that kind of performative identity that we all have online, and that feeling of always showing your best self, and the most ‘attractive,’ for lack of a better word, part of you to your internet following. The more time I spend on the internet, the more I learn about it. For example, someone I know who knows Kim Kardashian; all of her candid shots are completely staged. Everything she does is a business, and it’s all so perfectly cultivated and curated. This film in general has made me look a lot more at how I present myself online, and even whatever level of transparency I think I do have. I’ll never be totally transparent because the only people I reserve that for are my mother and my closest friends.

BOWIE: I read that Pink Narcissus was a major inspiration for the set of Alice’s room. That film has such a great tension between intimate vulnerability and performative indulgence. It’s more peep show than porn. Why have we seen so many films about strippers, porn stars and prostitutes, but never anything about peep shows or camming? Is it just too gray an area?

MAZZEI: One of the draws of camming in general is that there is this gray area between: Are they a performer? Or are you actually getting to know the real person? There’s definitely this line that a lot of performers walk, where a lot of them don’t say, “This is my cam room,” they’ll say “This is my bedroom.” And maybe it will be their real bedroom. I worked out of my real bedroom for a long time before I built my own “pink” room that I had. There’s an appeal to that, because unlike a stripper, where you know you’re getting a performance, you know that you’re at their place of work...when you’re watching a camgirl, there is this blurring of a fantasy where you feel exactly that – you feel like maybe you’re seeing into their real life a little bit. I would often work six to eight hour shifts. I would put dinner on, I would drink coffee, I would be getting up to go to the roommate’s dog would wander through on my camera feed. There’s a level of reality to it that I think is really appealing, and that builds this level of personal intimacy. This is often found in any type of sex work but is especially highlighted in camming. So, for the Pink Room, we drew a lot of inspiration from that, and for me it was just important to build a space where we could not only show that Alice has a curated space that she works from – this kind of fever dream fantasy space – but also to kind of contrast this space to her real life. Because what I found when I was working, and what sex workers are often not credited with enough, is how much they dedicate their calculated and dedicated they can be. So Alice has this space that is intensely curated, very much thought out and decorated with all of her props and all the things she might possibly need. Then she has her house – and her house is not even unpacked, it’s still in boxes, it’s messy, there’s takeout food. She is giving everything to this space and, as I had mentioned, this craft. And that’s a side of sex work that I wanted to show, and I wanted to be really clear in this visual juxtaposition of this really curated space and then this kind of sloppy, still expensive, but not quite so deliberate space that she exists in outside of her work.

BOWIE: Madeline, as you were following several camgirls, what were the characters that you were drawn to? What was it about a specific camgirl? Can you give an example of one that you felt was really honing the craft?

BREWER: There were aspects of some camgirls that I would watch that would take on the persona of a little more girly...or there was a sweetness, or an innocence to them that I felt when I watched, which was totally part of an act…I believe...I don’t know, but there was a lot of quirkiness to them that I really enjoyed. It felt very human, and I guess that is what is attractive about cam – you feel like you’re watching a real person. I feel like as a performer myself - and for these camgirls as performers - we’re constantly highlighting things about our personalities that we want to make a little bit louder or exaggerating them, and then not including too much of the things we don’t want other people to see. It’s all there, it’s all underneath, whereas someone like the camgirls that I related to when I was playing Lola II, who were purely so enigmatic, and so unobtainable seemingly, that I wanted to model Lola II after, but without losing the fact that it’s based on Alice. I watched a lot of cam. I watched these girls day and night and just...the best word is “stole” from them what performative things they were putting in their shows that I felt fit Lola I or II, I just kind of stole them.

BOWIE: And I’m sure that’s a process for other camgirls. Isa, maybe you can speak to that. Do other cam girls watch each other and get ideas? Is it a very interactive evolution?

MAZZEI: Oh absolutely! There’s varying degrees of that: There are girls who draw a lot of inspiration for each other, there are girls who accuse each other of stealing their show ideas. I know when I was working there was one girl who claimed that she had copyrighted a certain type of show and that if you performed it, you would get in trouble. There was also sharing ideas, or saying “I have this really cool idea for a show that you should do because you’re also really good at this type of thing,” and even collaboration between girls is really cool because there’s a lot of creativity there. Where I would work with a model, maybe a non-nude model, and I was definitely a very nude, very sexual model, and so us coming together creatively to figure out what type of show combines my style with her style, and how we highlight each other in the best way possible, while we maintain our own boundaries and the types of shows that we like to do. It’s a really interesting thing that happens and there’s so much sharing and inspiration there….there’s so many camgirls doing so many types of things, it’s quite mind blowing.

BOWIE: In addition to playing a wide range of characters, camgirls encounter an equally wide array of fans and benefactors. It seems that navigating this landscape safely and with dignity is almost an olympian feat. In your experience, Isa, do most camgirls have to learn how to do this alone, without any guidance?

MAZZEI: I think some girls are really integrated into cam girl communities and some girls aren’t. I think an important thing to remember is that every girl that’s camming is camming from a laptop or a computer somewhere in the world, so it’s not this thing when you’re in a sort of club with all your fellow dancers around you. It can be really isolating, it can be really hard. The only camgirls that I knew were the ones that I met through Twitter and I would fly to see them. I was recognized once in a coffee shop by another girl that cammed, who approached me and said, “Hey I cam too!” but that’s the only encounter in real life where I’ve actually met someone who lived in my hometown who did it. For the most part you’re pretty on your own, and I think that girls can choose to be really into these communities; they can choose to live together, they can choose to share and get advice from each other, and they can also choose to work in isolation and do their own thing. I think there’s a wide variety of that. When it comes to men, another misconception I think is that all the tippers on the site are middle-aged divorced men. I think if you look at just my fans, most of them were men...I had a couple women viewers, and a couple non-binary viewers. For the most part they were men but I also had a wide spectrum: I had married men, I had single men in their twenties, I had, like, fuckin’ hot men, I had men that worked in porn, men that were in their sixties or seventies who really didn’t know how to use the internet. You know, different levels of income, different levels of employment, interest, and I think that’s what’s cool about camming. A cam site is a place where all these different types of viewers in general can really find a person that they genuinely connect with.

BOWIE: I want to talk about the casting a bit. For any Paul Thomas Anderson fan, Melora Walters is a god among actors, and in this film, the two of you have a very tenuous relationship that is delicate and subtle. What was it like to play her daughter?

BREWER: To be on set with her was such a gift in itself, and hanging out a little bit. She’s such a pro, but she’s also so open to conversation and to how we both interpreted our relationship. I know that on Isa and Danny’s side, she had a lot of feelings and input about the script and her lines.

MAZZEI: Yeah, I mean, Melora was awesome. She came in right away...I was very much writing a mother from the perspective of a daughter. What I was so grateful to Melora for was that she literally would come in every day and be like “I wrote this line. I rewrote this line. I rewrote this part. I want to see this happen.” And she really engaged with those discussions as a mother, saying things like, “I really sat down and thought about what it would be like if my daughter were doing cam and I found out this way.” I really was blown away by the perspective that she brought in and how well she did that, and how it was very natural for her to just embody this character. So, I found working with her a really cool process.

BOWIE: Madeline, you’ve now played several major roles in shows like Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, and The Handmaid’s Tale. In the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh circus, we can see clearly why the dystopian present and women in bondage is currently such a recurring theme. What do you think of the protesters who have appeared in Washington in Handmaid costumes?

BREWER: The fact that the design that we wear every day when we go to work on this show–– we’re just actors and we work in Hollywood, and the fact that those designs that Ann Crabtree made from her heart and from her inspiration from Margaret Atwood’s book–– they’re being taken and used as a symbol of resistance, and there is truly no better life for them. It’s great that they’re on the show but the life of this symbol of women’s resistance and women’s refusal to sit down, and shut up, and let old white men make decisions for them; it’s the best possible life that your art can take on. A whole new life as a symbol.

BOWIE: Finally, Isa aside from the release of your first film on Netflix, your first book, CAMGIRL, is slated for release in November 2019. What can we expect from the book that wasn’t expressed in the film?

MAZZEI: I think that the book serves to work along with the film to kind of normalize and bring to light this subculture that not a lot of people are talking about. The book is really fun, it’s funny, it’s not at all like the movie. But I feel like often people come out of that film saying “Whoa, is that what it was really like, and where did the inspiration come from, what were your shows actually like?” So I think the book can serve to answer those questions, and also serve as another tool to reach more people, and raise people inside this world, and say that it’s just normal people doing this. It’s just another job that people have and it can be something that is not only a career but also really empowering to women. There’s this misconception that is predominantly held by men, but also can be held by women: that selling your body is somehow disempowering. Not to pretend that there aren’t victims. In the sex work industry there is often exploitation, but there is also a huge huge portion of the industry that is women reclaiming power over their bodies. I’ve been catcalled, I’ve been insulted, I’ve been abused, I’ve been sexually harassed for my entire life, and now I’m setting these boundaries, and I’m saying “Oh, you want to look at my body? You’re gonna pay me. You want to touch my body, you’re gonna pay me.” And that reclamation of power is an incredible tool for some women to heal and again, to build empires around themselves. So, I hope that the book can speak to that and just be another piece of the puzzle of trying to have people empathize with sex workers, look at sex workers a little differently, and I definitely think when they’re going in to vote, either to put someone in office or vote on legislation that does affect sex workers, they can look at it a little differently than they did before.

Cam is available now on Netflix.

Agency, Anal and Attitude: An Interview with Aiden Starr

Aiden Starr has the most magnificent rack I’ve ever come in contact with. Aside from her undeniably pronounced assets, Aiden is articulate and knowledgeable about what she does and has nothing to hide because of it. She is one of the most accomplished women in porn, exposed and giving no apologies. Straight forward and cutting; she tells it like it is and that is what I cherish about her as a friend and a colleague. She calls bullshit, she celebrates the good, she treats sex work with care and consideration. For her, porn is a humanist pursuit as she acts as a matchmaker between client and provider on all levels of the industry. I caught up with the 4’11” blonde bombshell and her sweet porn chum, Daisy Ducati, at the Beverly Center in mid-January after an Evil Angel shoot. I hung around while they shopped for their dresses for the 2016 AVNs and XBIZ awards while asking questions about her career and the porn industry at large, and learned more about her impressive roster of porn films, both as a performer and a director, past and upcoming and other untouchable arenas: agency, anal, and attitude. Some men seemed to recognize both of the girls as we walked through the mall, but I remained the invisible pervert.

Audra Wist: My interest in you has always been about you being super professional and somebody who has successfully crossed over hardcore porn and femdom and also somebody is who both a performer and a director. I am not so involved in the porn industry to know how common that is, but it doesn’t seem—

Aiden Starr: It’s not. Male performers and directors are way more common than female performer/directors.

Wist: So, was that a part of your trajectory when you started out… like you said, okay, I’m going to perform and I definitely want to get to directing eventually, this is something I’m interested in technically... or was it more or less I’m going to get into this and see how I do and play it by ear?

Starr: My first sex worker job was a phone girl in a dungeon. What a phone girl means is the girl who picks up the phone, who books the sessions for the other girls and who preps the equipment in the room and who keeps the time. And working on the magazine that the dungeon put out at the time cause this was the 90s.

Wist: And this was in New York?

Starr: Yeah, New York. And also working on the website, updating. But most of what I did and what I was really good at was managing the clients. I really liked submissive girls - that’s why I started working there. My buddy was a bottom and we played together and she started working there and she asked me to work there with her because she wanted me to work on her shifts, be the phone girl, and book all of her sessions. Get her guys that she liked and make good matches for her. So, my initial interest in the adult industry was making good matches between clients and providers to make the job enjoyable - to make the experience enjoyable for not only the clients, but also for the providers. Not only was a monetary exchange, but an exchange of a good time and a good energy.

Wist: Right, that’s what it’s about.

Starr: I didn’t start working in that kind of adult film until I was working in the dungeon for a couple of years and then I only did it with women who were my lovers in real life. Before I graduated high school, I thought about applying to Tisch [School of the Arts, at NYU] and had prepared an application, so I was familiar with video medium and had directed stuff before. In fact, the very first thing I directed, I was a twelve-year old and I directed a mockumentary on date rape.

Wist: Really? That’s great! Wait, so did you-

Starr: It was a dramatization. It was a girl and a guy going back and forth, talking about their experiences, like a he said/she said reenactment of it with a party scene: people drinking too much and the concept of date rape. She didn’t know why they were going into the bedroom because she’s young and didn’t have the experience... and he didn’t understand that she didn’t know why they were going into the bedroom because why would she go into the bedroom if she didn’t want to be there? That kind of scene. I wrote these scripts out for my friends, who were twelve, and I made them do it.

Wist: [laughs] Oh, you “made” them do it - that is your career in a nutshell.

Starr: And it was also kind of a porn, a soft-core porn. Now, my version of this was them getting under the covers and moving under the sheets because when you’re twelve you think that’s what sex is. You just pull the sheets over your head and move around.

Wist: That is so funny.

Starr: But that, theoretically, is a soft core porn. So, I guess if you look back early enough, I was always going to end up where I ended up but that’s not what initially sparked my wanting to be a sex worker. It’s like a spa, going to see a provider. It’s beautiful and it’s fantasy and it’s like watching one of those movies from the 80s like Legend or Labyrinth where everybody is amazing and is in a castle and there’s a princess. And to me, it was helping people with their castle fantasy.

Wist: You see a smattering of people in the adult industry, or maybe this is any industry, but you have people who are the real deal and people who are eh, what are you doing here.

Starr: Tourists.

Wist: Right, tourists. And I feel so much of what’s going on, all this shit about sex positivity and feminism, it’s all just internet chatter and no real showing up. Show up and do something. For you, it’s like here I am: a director for a huge porn company. Here I am: performing in porn. Here I am: a mainstay in porn and have been for a long time. What do you think about all the stuff that’s being thrown around on the internet online… I’m trying to think of an example…

Starr: Oh, you can think of an example. Just try real hard.

Wist: What are you thinking of?

Starr: The James Deen thing.

Wist: Oh, yes! Of course. I honestly did not even think of that when I was thinking of these questions but that is perfect. We should talk about that.

Starr: That’s a great example of sex workers espousing feminism in social media. The fact that, to these women, you always take the side of a woman whenever she claims to have been raped, that is part of their perceived definition of feminism. Which is interesting, because for me rape is not a gender-based issue. I know just as many men, or trans, or otherwise gendered people, who are sexually assaulted as I do women. So, I don’t see rape culture as a feminist issue. I see it as a humanist issue. And it’s interesting because it’s being ascribed to a feminist issue. People claiming “women get raped, women get raped, women get raped.” People get raped. Human beings get raped. And I think that’s kind of getting lost while people are espousing the idea of rape culture and the knowledge that this does exist. A man was trying to convince me the other day that rape culture doesn’t exist and I said “God bless you that you don’t know that that exists.”

Wist: Damn.

Starr: Seriously, bless your existence and that you don’t act that way towards people. Bless your parents for not fucking you up the way that a lot of other people are fucked up. It’s a thing, it’s a real thing. But I don’t think that it has to be under the feminist banner and I think that it is being ascribed to the feminist banner by sex workers or sex positive people in social media. It’s interesting to see the dynamic of where feminism was in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today. Today it’s all about preventing victimization and I feel like many many years ago it was about empowerment and equality. I’m not sure how that happened.

Wist: Preventing of victimization. So, do you think that there’s an alternative to that view? Not that this is a say-all-end-all my-little-constitution of feminism or whatever, but is there anything we can do? Or is it just being somebody who is doing the work and not being “I’m gonna go on the internet and say what I think about this thing that I have no first-hand knowledge of whatsoever!”

Starr: I think for me feminism, at it’s core, is about equality. It’s about people being equal to people. You obviously could go into the history of it and it’s present-day application and the issue, be they American, Central American, South American, African, European, Australian, Asian, whatever pocket of the world, and how feminism plays out in certain area, but for me, it’s about everybody being equal to each other.

Wist: Straight forward, straight up.

Starr: That’s kind of how I’ve always seen it. Everybody deserves common human rights.

Wist: Yeah, there was a gal [Laurie Penny] who wrote a piece for TIME and it was this call to arms, like we have to do something about this, isn’t this horrible and I thought yes, of course rape is horrible—

Starr: Yes! No one is arguing that! No one has ever been like this is totally fucking fine. Only the idiots are saying “she asked for it” and no one listens to them. They’re idiots and we all know they are idiots. Feminism has definitely become more anti-male. Feminism looks closer to female supremacy than it does feminism.

Wist: Right, it does! I wrote down one time “I am a female supremacist but I don’t devalue men,” and I could not for the life of me figure out what that meant. But now, hearing you say that, maybe I was trying to ascribe to a particular brand of contemporary feminism while wanting to break away or find some alternative that felt right. I looked at that sentence a lot. Do you think that that’s why there’s been a rise in femdom porn? I don’t know the numbers, but do you think there’s been a significant spike?

Starr: Why there’s been a rise in femdom porn is such an interesting fucking question. It’s one of my favorite subjects to talk about. When I talk to clients about porn and why they watch it, I always pick their brains and it’s so interesting to see that side where subs have no control and they like having no control. Whereas, if you play with a girl and it’s a girl/girl situation, the girls like “you can do this to me, you can do that to me, but I don’t like that and I don’t like this, period.” Whereas, guys just want to be this rock bottom. It’s so different between the two genders and their perception of being submissive. It’s fascinating! I have no fucking idea why except that money is so important in today’s society that I’m sure it has something to do with the burden that men are supposed to be the primary breadwinners.

Wist: Yes, I was thinking the same thing. It has something to do with money as it’s so closely related to power.

Starr: Yeah, findom [financial domination] is huge.

Wist: I think it’s also that because of money, people acquiring large sums of it, people are too comfortable and they really seriously do not know what to do with all of it. And then it gets mixed in with desire or their dick or—

Starr: It’s burning a hole in their pocket.

Wist: Right.

Starr: I think men also feel like the pressure is on them in social situations to engage women and do they like the sexually aggressive archetype because it takes the pressure off of them. So, why I think that any kind of porn rises, any kind of art rises, any kind of entertainment rises, at all in any medium, is culture. The pervasive language of the culture directly affects femdom. What that language is is debatable but definitely male responsibility and that they feel burdened by society in some way, shape, or form to still be the sexual aggressor or monetary provider affects femdom. And going back to feminism, maybe that’s why all these girls are angry on the internet because their realities are not pleasing to them.


Wist: Yeah, this is the whole put a ribbon on your car situation, right? Support our troops? Did that. I bought my ribbon and put it on my car. Done. It’s a whitewashing culture. Maybe something that folds into that too… I was really into your Marshmallow Girls series for Evil Angel. I remember thinking damn, this is in the fucking mainstream! This is so crazy and why not? And to put it out there under those circumstances and to really capitalize on a previously thought of as “niche” market is bold! With that and femdom porn too, I think we really have to acknowledge and reckon with the fact that people want different things and have different needs. And look - you put it out there and people buy it. That’s the best part.

Starr: They buy it! People buy the shit out of my porn. I make money and I can pay you. Yeah, people buy the shit out of my weird crap.

Wist: I’m wondering about the back end of that, too. Does porn still dictate what’s on the cusp of happening in technology? Is the porn industry experiencing the same thing that magazines and the print media are right now then?

Starr: Yeah, obsolescence. Our medium is experiencing a trend towards obsolescence because of the drop in capital because of all of the free porn on the internet. It’s fucking us super badly.

Wist: What do you do to counteract that?

Starr: What you have to do is make something that they would pay for even if they could get it for free. You have to make the air smell so good that people will come over to your post to sniff the air even though there’s air everywhere for free. It’s really fucking hard. Selling something for free is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is possible, but you just have to think about it. When I make movies, all of my cast is hand-picked. The movie we just shot Lesbian Anal Sex Slaves Volume 2—

Wist: Repeat the name for me?

Starr: Lesbian Anal Sex Slaves Volume 2. Daisy [Ducati] and I were doing a shot together, fleshing out ideas of how we were already interacting and then figured out as other characters, figuring out our dynamics, props. It’s a more complicated process now. You can’t just put anal porn on the internet now and expect to make money.

Wist: Do you guys storyboard?

Starr: I don’t storyboard… we were talking about it during sex. We were inspired by each other. I talked to her, proposed an idea afterward. She’s in a lot of my stuff anyway and I like picking performers who like to be involved in the creative process or are blank canvases. Typically, I like to pair those types together in a scene. Daisy has been in a lot of my stuff and she is a part of the creative process and then I pick a blank canvas, or two, and give them to her and it goes from there. Does that make sense? I just compared it to painting.

Wist: Makes sense to me.

Starr: I have active participants in a scene and passive participants. And I participate only if the passive participants are unable to complete the tasks at hands. So, today for example, the girl was having trouble with anal. I saw her having trouble with anal so I told her to get on her back and have the other gal lick her butthole. I had to change the situation because she was not comfortable. Otherwise, I would’ve just let them do what they were going to do. I only interject if I feel like I need to as a director.

Wist: Does that happen that often that people [directors] step in and say okay, you are clearly having trouble with your butthole today—

Starr: You just do something else. It’s okay! For me, it’s about the happiness and safety of all the performers. No one has to die. I don’t make snuff movies.

Wist: What’s that like for you to work with fresh eighteen year-olds in the industry? Do you feel like you’re mama bear?

Starr: I don’t usually hire young girls.

Wist: You don’t?

Starr: I don’t. I’m 36 and I’m not really attracted to people half my age. It’s just not a thing for me. This girl was special. She has a special energy and I wanted her to have good experiences with us doing rough stuff. She had fun today. And because of it, she’s going to be a more comfortable sex worker because of it.

Wist: Right, she didn’t feel bad about it and that’s so important! So many people have bad one-off experiences.

Starr: You can really give yourself serious psychological damage with bad experiences.

Wist: Yeah, I think about this with clients. They have these bad first experiences with dommes, and these are grown men, and they are traumatized. And I feel bad. That fucking blows. They paid to have a traumatic experience.

Starr: It’s intense. A lot of pro dommes are really bad. Really bad where I’m like what the fuck am I looking at right now?

Wist: Well, I have my own are-you-for-real bullshit detector thing that I do or observe, but do you have that too?

Starr: Yes, absolutely. If you are a pro domme and I see you do a scene with no aftercare, you suck. Period. If you are too fucking cool to get them a glass of water… if you are too fucking good to realize that you’re playing with a human being, I don’t like you. We’re not cut from the same fabric.

Wist: Yep. And it’s all too common.

Starr: And you know what it is? It stems from insecurity because cruelty stems from insecurity and that’s what that is. That’s not BDSM, that’s cruelty. It’s true, man. And girls think it makes them look like a badass.

Wist: It’s a bummer. So, you guys are preparing for the awards show this week?

Starr: Yeah, I’ve been working my balls off. XBIZ awards are this week and then the AVNs are the following week.

Wist : Did you ever read David Foster Wallace’s essay on his experience at the AVNs?

Starr: No.

Wist: He opens it up with this horrendous story about men jerking off so much, so furiously, that they just can’t handle it anymore and they chop that shit right off.

Starr: Sweet, wow. Wait a minute… first of all, the AVNs are not that much fun. Okay, if Satan were involved, I would be much more excited about not being able to work the entire time while being there. I would be much more excited if anybody even just masturbated until their dick fell off much less cut off! If there was any masturbation at all, that would be amazing. There’s really nothing. We get dressed up, sign shit, talk to people, they stare at us, we do radio shows—

Wist: What’s that like, getting the mesmerizing stare? What are their faces like?

Starr: Here’s the weirdest shit the world: everybody knows your name and you don’t know any of their names. And you don’t know who they are… or if you do. I just try to be nice to everybody. That’s my plan for AVNs.

Wist: Do they say weird shit to you during a meet and greet?

Starr: Sometimes. Like, “Every time I masturbate, I cry,” and shit like that. I love that though. I want people to scare the other girls standing around — that’s how weird I want it to be. If it’s not weird, it’s just like, “Hi, nice to meet you, goodbye.” I like weird shit. One dude during an independent signing at a store, he came in and said, “You have really big breasts.” and I’m like, “yeeeeep!” and he goes, “I bet your mother had really big breasts, too.” and I said, “She does.” and then he comes back with, “I bet your grandmother has big breasts.” and I’m like, “As a matter of fact, she does.” And he was older; he started asking what my grandmother looked like...

Wist: Oh, god.

Starr: And at the end of the conversation he asked me if I would tell my grandmother that he said hello and I was like, “Sure will, buddy.”

Wist: Shit. [laughs] By the way, I do have to say, your tits are amazing. That was one of the things I had wrote down to say. It’s not a question, but I needed to say it.

Starr: Then you’re going to love the dress I’m wearing to AVN. It’s red latex over the boobies, over the cleavage and it’s really not my size, total smashville.

Wist: Another question I had for you because I still haven’t figured this out for myself, was about negotiating yourself into your work. I struggle with this. So, you have your government self and then you have this performer you’ve created, another part of you, which is still very much you and not something false. I was also thinking about David Bowie since he passed the other day, and I thought wow, porn is like David Bowie. Is there a relationship there?

Starr: Porn is like David Bowie but porn is more like football.

Wist: Porn is like football? Explain.

Starr: So, you’re a football player, right? You eat well, you’re in shape, you work out and train, you look good, you’re a football player. But then, when you put on your uniform, you tackle people. You wouldn’t tackle people in real life, but you do when you’re in uniform because it’s your job and it’s okay. So, porn is like football.

Wist: Ohhhh, I see. So, porn is like football and not like David Bowie?

Starr: Porn is like David Bowie because David Bowie was majestic and sexual and fantastic. And tight shiny clothing and shoes you can’t really walk in. David Bowie is like porn because of the sexuality that is so raw and potent that it makes people nervous. The most popular comment on all of the stories on my Facebook feed about David Bowie on Facebook were “speechless.” He renders people speechless. Porn renders people speechless. When guys come up to us at AVN, they often cannot articulate themselves. You’re activating the part of your brain that does not recognize language as a form of communication, the animal or primal part of your brain that is activated by symbolism, colors, tarot cards, crosses, shit like that. That is how porn is like David Bowie.

Wist: You knocked it out of the park.

You can follow Aiden Starr on Twitter here. Text and interview by Audra Wist. Photographs by . Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE