Last Wednesday (11th April) I attended Tristan Taormino’s presentation at Pleasure Salon Melbourne where she talked about her life and experiences as a feminist pornographer. The event was amazingly well attended, with around 140 people packing into a sumptuous ex-nightclub in Brunswick. I was thrilled to catch up with old porny friends and to meet new ones as well. The vibe was very friendly, relaxed and rather excitable. It felt good to be in a place where everyone was sex positive and keen to see a more open and liberated sexuality in Australia.
Tristan is a great speaker, she weaves her anecdotes well and had the audience in the palm of her hand. She spoke about her beginnings as a queer student, aiming to become an activist lawyer before she realised that she could actually make a career from writing and talking about sex. She interspersed this with personal stories of erotic encounters which made for rather thrilling listening.
Tristan’s first foray into porn was pretty unusual: she made The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women with gonzo director Buttman and then proceeded to star in her own anal gangbang amid frolicking pornstars. Even though I knew this, it was pretty amazing to hear about that experience from her perspective. I’d always wondered how she ended up making that film because it is such a weird thing: full-on gonzo mainstream porn mixed with quality anal sex education and sex positivity. Turns out that Tristan pitched it, Buttman liked it and they went ahead and did it. And despite the porn stars being a little bit sceptical about the whole thing, they still did what she wanted and followed her gangbang “script” so that it all turned out just how she wanted. And the film still sells.
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Throughout I was impressed by the sheer force of Tristan’s personality. I think this is part of her success. She’s very personable, funny and approachable but also determined. She knows how to get her way: hence, her fabulous line of sex ed films from major porn company Vivid, who you wouldn’t pick as a supporter of feminist porn. This collaboration means she’s the most successful and well-known of all of us and I absolutely admire her chutzpah in making it all happen.
There were a lot of questions from the floor and the topics covered were very interesting. Making porn ethically was a big point of conversation, as was safe sex on set. Tristan also hinted that she wanted to do more trans porn, especially dealing with transwomen. Someone also asked about piracy and the best way to pay for porn. Tristan said that Vivid’s revenues were down something like 1500% (!!) and that piracy is really hurting the industry badly, so everyone was encouraged to pay for the good stuff so more can be produced.
The Vine has an article about Tristan’s visit and feminist porn here.
I got to chat with Tristan at the end of the evening and also caught up with her on Friday. It’s great to talk porn with another filmmaker and we ended up talking cameras, distribution, video on demand and all the usual stuff. Tristan had a fairly full-on visit to Australia, giving presentations at the Xplore conference in Sydney. Her Open Relationships talk on the Thursday night was completely sold out as well.
Tristan is now safely back in the US and will be at the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto this weekend. I’d love to go but it all got too much for the credit card.
I should also add shout-outs in this post to all the wonderful people I met on Wednesday and this past week: Cyndi Darnell from Pleasure Salon, filmmaker Anna Brownfield, porn stars Angela White, NaughtyNerdy.com’s Aeryn Walker, Liandra Dahl, Gala Vanting, Viola Turtledove, Shin Kou Sabre, Kara and Devon and writer Aimee Nichols and her guy.