Corrections appended February 15, 2011
Collective consent to give into your truly scandalous nature is immediately reinforced upon entrance to Montreal’s “Everything About Sex Show.”
Music from a large stage pulses over the grid-like system of booths, each separated by thick black curtains. Booths are alternately stocked with XXX products, elaborate sex toys and clothing, or offering services – massages, a booth creating plaster molds of body parts. I witnessed one woman receiving a chest mould. An erotic art exhibit runs along one wall, while on the opposite side of the hall a burlesque themed fashion show begins. At the far end of the convention, the “dungeon area” offers workshops on the hands-on aspects of sex; I listen in on one instructing how to trigger an orgasm with the touch of an ear.
People are here to sell their product or service and network with friends in the business. Representation from the porn industry is limited, though all groups present embrace the label of “adult entertainment” wholeheartedly. Cam4 is one of the few representing the true porn industry. On Cam4.com, the largest free pornographic webcam site in the world, anyone can post themselves doing “freaky” pornographic things, and anyone can watch.
Montreal is known as the third largest porn-producing city in the world – though in a close race with Prague for that prestigious position – placing behind the largest producer, Los Angeles, with Amsterdam in second place. Canada is among the top ten producers of porn videos in the world and the presence of Canadian porn is increasing. The show has both local representation and out-of-towners excited to be in Montreal.
With $97 billion in revenue annually, the porn industry is among the internet’s biggest. The porn capital of the world is undeniably L.A. home to legendary companies such as Playboy, Hustler, Vivid Entertainment Group, Wicked Pictures, and Red Light District – to name some of the most well known. Porn in Hollywood has a reputation of creating stars out the ordinary people who, in the mainstream world, would likely never achieve the same stardom.
Upon my arrival at the Cam4 booth I am instantly referred to Freaky Steve, a Toronto-based director and producer of lesbian fetish porn, who sat down to do an interview with me near the “dungeons.”
Steve was initially involved in the software business, which eventually led him into the porn industry. He ended up working at a dungeon where he met his fiancee Jasmine Jade. Steve and Jasmine now co-own a dungeon in Toronto, Kink Den, where they produce BDSM and kink niche films.
“There’s a lot of combination of things that can make it go for you. It’s like any other business in that regard, but a lot of people come and go,” Steve said. He followed up by saying that when people leave there’s usually a good reason: assholes don’t last long in the industry. “Reputation is everything.”
In addition to filming, Jasmine and Steve also offer training to aspiring actresses and dominatrixes at Kink Den.
“Authenticity is a big deal for us,” Steve says. He and Jasmine only hire actors who are professional doms with proven skills, or who have a personal interest in BDSM. “I’m into it myself so I know what’s good,” Steve adds, “If I wasn’t into BDSM, I’d be a fool to try to produce BDSM content.”
Steve’s production process is unique thanks to the creative freedom he exercises, and the special process that goes into making his films. The DVDs shot are within the girls’ limits, and Steve’s films have garnered nominations for Feminist Porn Awards in the last few years.
“There’s a feminist element to it. It’s obviously directed at guys as the primary consumers, but a secondary thing that’s come out it is that couples like what we do, girls like what we do,” Steve says. “It’s all girls, there’s no dudes. It’s kind of a female empowerment thing because we’re dealing with domination and BDSM.”
Steve, unlike many others, does not agree that the DVD is dying. “Lot’s of people have websites, not everyone is on a DVD that’s in stores.”
Our conversation turns to Jasmine Jade, who is featured on many Freaky Steve DVDs distributed to stores across North America.
“She’s the real deal. She can be a sassy little brat submissive or she can also be a badass bitch as far as domination goes. So you go, ‘Oh this cute little Asian girl,’ and yet, she’ll fuck you up.”
Lesbian fetish domination
Steve leads me back to the Cam4 booth for an interview with Jasmine, who is busy promoting a new toy called the Violet Wand – a glowing wand that emits low voltage electric shocks. She coyly strokes the passing flocks of curious show goers and, though she is incredibly petite – barely reaching my shoulders – Steve’s parting words ring in my ears as I wait for our interview.
Jasmine extricates herself from the booth and launches into her story. She is a fetish porn star and a professional dominatrix, specializing in lesbian domination. She got her start at 18 or 19, (“whatever the legal age is,”) on a fetish webcam site. Initially it was about “money and fun,” and after shooting fetish videos for the site she discovered her love for performing.
“When you say porn, most people think of hardcore and that’s it. What we do is different because it’s no-cock porn, number one, so no guys at all, and it’s all play.”
Jasmine classified mainstream porn as “more sexual.” With fetish porn she can play with fun possibilities such as caning, flogging, electricity, spanking, bondage, and S&M. The girls she films with are all trained fetish performers who “like getting hurt,” and who possess the skills necessary to work in the world of kink and fetish.
“You can tell they enjoy it, and I enjoy what I do, ” she said with a smile.
Jasmine will be turning thirty and has been practicing and learning about BDSM since she began her career. She outlined the importance of communication and the safety measures she and her actresses take, among them the safety words “yellow” and “red,” and a pain ranking from one to ten that signals how tolerable the pain is. What makes a good dom, according to Jasmine, is to know the sensations you create, and not to make assumptions about what your sub can handle.
Jasmine has worked hard to build up her reputation. Over a year ago, she was invited to broadcast a fetish and kink show twice a week on Cam4, occupying a Super Show slot on the site – a major accomplishment as spaces only go to well-established stars.
Jasmine recounted how women liken her films to feminist porn. Though she admitted to not seeing the connection, she gives credit to others who do similar things and states that her main goal is “getting kink out of the darkness.” Her latest movie, Purry Furries: Lesbian Catgirls Having Sex, is anything but dark – it’s feline-themed fun filled with faux fur. From Jasmine’s perspective, the taboo of getting bruised and bloody masks the fun and playful nature of kink and fetish.
“Fetish is play. I like playing. Playing around, hurting.” She glances at me, seems to ponder for a moment, and then clarifies with a grin, “Hurting but not harming.”
The Ass Man
After questioning me about my article, Steve declared, “You’ve got to meet the Ass Man.”
“The Canadian Ass Man, Uncle D. If people find out he was here and you didn’t talk to him it’ll be…ridiculous, really embarrassing.”
Uncle D has two sleeves of tattoos, a giant spider on his back, and vines climbing up the back of his head, which is covered by a bandana. His beard is long, and knotted with elastics to make it a rigid column of hair protruding down from his chin. He’s the classic bad boy, complete with musical aspirations. In his former life he worked in radio, hoping to slip his band’s CD into the hands of a record producer. After trying the “whole rock and roll thing,” he made a huge change.
“You get to a point – when you are an entrepreneur and a creative individual – when you gotta take a chance on your own stuff,” he said.
Uncle D quit all his jobs and embarked on his new venture: travelling the world photographing women’s butts in tight clothing. He posts his findings on his website, touchyourtoes.com, which is sustained by online membership. His goal, he says, is to show off the curvature of a woman’s body.
Uncle D says his work falls into a grey area in the adult business. Though he does close ups and face smothering – along with everything else that comes in the territory of an “Ass Man” – the girls are always clothed.
Though his work is now fairly well known, it was not always easy “shootin’ ass.” When he first started his project, he recalls thinking, “What kind of a fuckin’ freak am I? But then you find out there’s a lot more freaks out there who think the same way you do! So I guess I’m no longer a freak, I’m more of a leader now,” he laughed. “So it works.”
When approaching girls he wants to photograph, Uncle D explained how his “freak factor” attracts the ladies. “It makes you go holy shit, what’s this guy about? So they’re intrigued,” he said.
He will typically begin his pitch by saying: “I’m not trying to pick you up, but you’ve got an incredible butt…” Then he hands the lucky girl a business card with all his past work and media credits.
So how much junk in the trunk warrants an Uncle D shot?
“I want something that pops,” Uncle D said. “Where a girl almost feels self conscious to walk out, where she wants to wrap a sweater around her waist cause she thinks her ass looks too big – take that sweater away, that’s what I want to see.”
Sitting down with Katrina B. in her Westmount apartment, it is evident that she has a long list of accomplishments to her name. She has worked alongside legendary porn actor Ron Jeremy, was featured in Hustler magazine, and works in various cities across North America and Europe. With Uncle D, Katrina starred in the Gemini-nominated Canadian reality show Webdreams, which followed prominent Canadians in porn. Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, she immigrated to Montreal in 1997. It was in Montreal that Katrina became the internationally known porn star she is today.
“It didn’t happen in one day,” she said. She had been modelling and acting since she was seven or eight and went to Concordia and Dawson College for film studies. After she turned 18, her former mainstream gigs began to ask for topless and nude pictures.
“I’m an exhibitionist so I like to be in front of the camera,” Katrina explained. She began her career with solo scenes, shooting scenes with girls and her longtime boyfriend before being comfortable to do scenes with “everybody.”
“When it’s artistic pictures it’s more about me, my body, my personality, what I want to do and the photographer’s vision,” Katrina said.
In mainstream industries, she pointed out how the focus is often the product as opposed to the model.
“I shoot almost every day, or give an interview, or meet people for potential work,” Katrina said. She loves variety: her work can range from hour-long amateur shoots in a small hotel with natural light to a high-profile shoot with Hustler, where she had an oasis built in the desert for her scenes and five assistants attending to her every need.
“I like that I do different things everyday but it can also get a little bit exhausting,” she noted, explaining her freelance lifestyle, “I’m an independent artist; I don’t have any long-term contracts.”
Katrina balances many different projects; among them an erotic novel, Pornartgraphy, which she penned over the course of several years. It has been published in France and a translated edition is available online.
Though she noted some competition, she outlined the enormous variety of work in the industry. “They don’t need just one girl,” She says. “There’s always new companies and in porn you have so many niches.”
Katrina adds that Montreal does have “a lot of stuff going on” despite a decline in production that she attributes to the increasing strength of the Canadian dollar and the financial crisis. “Here in Quebec we make one big movie that everyone talks about, [in L.A.] everyday there is a new movie. They have big studios just like mainstream studios,” she explained.
“There’s less companies who want to come here from the States to shoot because there’s no point.”
I asked about how being a porn star affected her “real life,” and she laughed before setting the record straight on what her real life consists of.
“That is my life! No, there’s nothing else to influence!” she said, referring to her routine of sleeping late before going to shoot whatever project she may be involved in on a given day. “I’m very detached from the mainstream crowd; the people who work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m… I watch it on TV and I go ‘Whoa!’– just like they do about me.”
She says she hopes to still work in porn when she’s sixty or seventy, and laughs imagining an aged version of herself “in some fetish movie as a mistress who needs to undress.”
The Quebec Industry
Cached behind a nondescript door in a run-of-the-mill Plateau office building, I enter El Diablo Productions’ four-month-old studio.
Frédéric Paquin, vice-president of El Diablo and an occasional actor in his films, escorted me through the facilities where they shoot their movies. The studio consists of a spacious foyer, a room for costumes and make-up, a bedroom set, and an under-construction stage complete with stripper poles.
Paquin, a Montreal native, has invested three years and $100,000 into starting up El Diablo. Simon Templard, founding producer and webmaster, first introduced Paquin to the business. The pair found video editor Marc Longtin, originally from Gatineau, on Craigslist. Longtin graduated from film school in Paris and was out of a job until he found El Diablo, the first group to actually pay him for work since he returned to Montreal two years ago.
They began producing in a renovated church – “We’re going to hell,” Longtin interjected – and have since expanded to this new studio with intentions to be in the business for the long haul.
El Diablo has produced movies such as 2010 Hardcore Striptour Quebec, Amateur Gonzo, Lesbian Lust, A Hardcore Year with Patricia Petite, and Puck Bunnies, a hockey-themed movie that plays to Canada’s “national fantasy” and “national sport,” as Paquin described it.
“Once you get over the stigma of people fucking, it’s easy work,” said Marc. “It’s actually quite boring.” He outlined an average day on the job: makeup, have a few beers then shoot the scene and leave.
Sylvain “D.R.” Morneau, another Montrealer, got involved by chance when his cousin, the owner of a porn production company, asked him to do sound. Having already worked in sound, he obliged, later taking on the role of cameraman, and eventually he became the director of the company.
Porn star Vandal Vyxen brought colour to the group with her irrepressible yet easygoing commentary and fantastic hair. “One of the most popular girls in Quebec,” according to Paquin, Vandal began her work behind the camera at Erobec Productions and studied video editing and broadcasting in school, before she started working as a stripper. After a Christmas party where she did a live show with a friend “for fun,” she became more interested in being in front of the camera. When she was asked to be in a movie she said yes, and now, seven years later, she has not looked back. Vandal has filmed up to 300 scenes throughout her career, in addition to feature shows and the live appearances she makes at various clubs and events.
In the clean and freshly painted studio foyer, the five of us sat around a large desk. I took a seat on an old church pew (presumably from the old studio), while the rest of them light cigarettes.
“I can go into any party – know nobody – and just say I work in porn, and I’m everybody’s friend by the end of the night,” said Longtin.
“I don’t know if this has ever happened to you guys when a girl learns that you do porn she always will move her eyes –” Marc points down at his crotch. Laughter erupts. “It happens all the time for me,” he continues.
Paquin notes the challenges of being a producer and actor. Porn stars will show up late – and the show cannot go on without them. Then there are difficulties that come with the territory: “People think it’s very easy, but it’s not like you’re fucking in your bedroom.”
Vandal chimes in: “When I shoot I have make-up, I have hair – but some people recognize me in the grocery store and it’s like–” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “‘Hey, hey, it’s Vandal Vyxen’…I like it. I’m like, ‘Yeah! You want an autograph?’ I’m more excited than them.”
When having sex is a part of your job, it does hold risks, as Vandal acknowledges readily, though she explains the rules that make the profession safe. Porn stars must be tested for STIs and bring documented medical proof to shoots, otherwise the DVD cannot be distributed. With so many regular visits to medical clinics, a porn star is likely more aware of their sexual health than the average person.
“I’m sorry but it’s better than the girl-next-door that goes out every Friday and is too drunk and fucks with anyone,” said Vandal, calling critics out on their hypocritical stance against porn.
“Having sex with a porn star is probably the safest thing around,” Longtin agrees.
Though sex with porn stars may be safe, working with them can be difficult. Paquin discusses how he never knows when a scheduled shoot will begin and end: “It’s really stressed out the day of your shooting.”
Vandal said that it was obvious, both to her and the camera, when a girl does porn only for the money without enjoying her work. “Not cool,” she stated emphatically. Good chemistry and a connection with the other actor is something that Vandal emphasizes as crucial to the makings of a good scene.
“We make enough money not to work everyday but, at the same time, it’s a hard business…It’s a little bit everyone for himself,” Vandal explained. “You might wake up at 7 a.m. and be so tired and you don’t want to go fuck – you just want to sleep.” Everyone in the business is essentially “freelancing,” and self-motivation is key.
“In my personal life, I’m not, like, all that horny. I’m not a nymphomaniac – at all, but the camera and that I have to do my job and for my fans – it gets me into it,” she continued. Yet in spite of all her experience, Vandal admitted to nerves: “Sometimes I get really, really nervous, but once I’m onstage I love it. When I’m not going to be nervous anymore I think is going to be the time when I stop, because I won’t be thrilled anymore.”
Vandal took a moment to reflect on the effects porn has had on her life, and any misconceptions or judgments that she has encountered. “It’s been seven years,” Vandal said, “I’m so into it that I don’t see and I don’t hear things the same.”
Female pleasure and ejaculation is paramount according to the group at El Diablo. The porn star is the central presence on the set. “You can tell if she’s having fun,” said Longtin. “You can recognize it [if she had an orgasm].”
“The girl has to come – me, I squirt,” Vandal said, explaining the necessity of the money shot, but also the lesser-known ending to a scene. “Even if she doesn’t squirt, it has to show that she came.”
The biggest headache in the business, all agree, is male performance. Ejaculating or getting hard at a moment’s notice is necessary, but not always possible. Paquin and Longtin relayed how they once used a pina colada to fake a cum shot. Morneau shared a story of waiting on set until 6 a.m. to get the shot. “It can happen in two to five minutes or it can take two to three hours,” he said. Sometimes the stress of performing can literally be deflating.
A producer at Erobec named Mike had echoed these sentiments when I sat down with him earlier. We were at a cafe near his alma mater, UQAM, where a decade ago Mike was refused entrance to a Masters program on sexology due to the selection committee’s distaste for his “other job” in porn.
Mike is a self-described jack-of-all-trades, who has done everything from pornographic journalism to starring in a porno scene himself. Our three-hour interview covered diverse topics ranging from why four – not five – fingers can go into a vagina up to the knuckle in film, according to Le Régie du cinema du Québec, to the legendary, and the historic importance of the cum shot.
“Not having the well-known cum shot is like not having any blood. It’s like you’re watching a movie and somebody kills somebody else with a gun and you don’t see the blood splash – there’s something missing,” he said.
According to Mike, porn is the only industry in which women consistently earn more money than men. Women are the centre of attention for the traditional target audience of straight white males, and therefore walk away with the bigger paycheque. At Erobec, said Mike, any female actor, regardless of her experience, will get paid around $600 for vaginal sex whereas the male actor will receive around $250.
Production in Quebec
“Today any film with the label ‘Made in Quebec’ is going to sell more than a film of equal quality – it’s going to have higher sale than an American one,” said Mike, who worked at an XXX movie store, Gypsy Video – a real “ma and pa kind of place” at the beginning of his career.
“We like things from here. It’s been like that from start.”
Though the demand is there, the Quebec porn industry is not easy. “If you want to be a porn star in Quebec you need to work very hard,” Paquin said. The porn market in Quebec is not extremely large, so producers must search out more consumers. Longtin notes that El Diablo finds the French market is a frequent recipient of Quebec content: “Frenchmen have a boner for Quebec accents.”
Away from the crowd surrounding Québec érotique’s booth at the Salon de l’amour, General Manager Cédric Savard-Filion, as he sucks on a penis-shaped lollipop, said that the circulation of the magazine is constantly growing. Savard-Filion attributed the lack of porn production in Quebec to a shortage of actors, which, in turn, was due to porn being considered taboo.
“Posing nude in Quebec, it depends on how you do it. It is possible [to be nude]; to be in a video is another thing.” He described how people outside the industry tend to make to judgments about porn stars – either she is glamorous and impressive or “a fucking bitch.” Savard-Filion says the line is drawn at seeing people have sex. “It’s a question of moral conceptions that we’ll accept up to a certain point.”
The January cover girl for Québec érotique, Stéfanie Richard, contended with the weight of societal taboo when deciding whether to pose for the magazine. She is a fitness model, not an erotic model or in any way active in the porn industry. “I reflected before…just because it’s still, after all, a magazine for adults, and I really don’t want to align myself with the adult world,” she said. To combat these sentiments, Québec érotique is in the process of changing its image to a more professional Playboy-esque concept.
The Playboy businessmodel is the end goal of many ambitious producers in Quebec, among them legendary TV producer and broadcaster, Anne-Marie Losique. The co-founder of production company Image Diffusion International, Losique is aiming to create a Playboy brand around her new “stand-alone” French language adult entertainment channel, Vanessa TV, which was launched in Quebec October 28, 2010. A national English Vanessa channel is currently in development.
Losique attributes the immense popularity of locally produced porn to a cultural awareness of not being “French from France” or American. “It’s our way of speaking… It’s cultural, and sex is also like that. We have certain relationships between men and women… It’s a different approach to sex, and that’s important.”
“In French Canada we are very matriarchal,” Losique explained. The origins of this “different approach to sex,” and the humorous stories attract her attention the most. “Women are very dominant in Quebec, but that’s very known anyway. You know that,” she joked with me.
Vanessa aims to help “complete” the Quebec adult industry and build production. Losique cites the demand for adult entertainment as one of the key reasons she decided to pursue opening an adult entertainment channel four years ago. “We were producing so much that we said: well why not have our own channel?” She says if it hadn’t been for the amount of interest in the locally produced adult entertainment genre, and the lack of suppliers to match that interest, she might not have created Vanessa.
“With adult entertainment there was definitely a void, and there was a lot of demand. Before we had our station we had demands from everybody asking us to produce that,” Losique says, “You go with the demand.”
She defines Vanessa as the “grey zone”– not porn but adult entertainment. “The real porn industry people want to do film, obviously, and the regular TV producers, like we were, never want to touch sex.” Losique cited taboos and fears of personal image and reputation as factors holding people back from becoming involved. Though she is not involved directly in porn production, Losique does do much of the selection of pornographic content for Vanessa.
“Even if we don’t do that, we’re still a window on the porn industry.” She said, further expanding on the gap, not only in local porn production in Quebec, but more broadly in Canada. “There’s nothing Canadian, it’s crazy.”
Jeremy Roddick, a major gay porn producer and webmaster, began his porn career while still a university student. He hosted an online show with call-in customers on the side of his marketing and web design studies. After graduation, he acted in porn movies and started his own network of sites including Videoboys, Squirtz, a self-titled site, and a scouting agency called Nous Les Boys.
A year ago, Roddick abandoned his porn career and devoted himself entirely to the production and management side of porn, which permits him total freedom and creativity regarding what is produced. Based in the Village, we met at a local Starbucks to discuss his “dream job,” his vision of porn production in the gay porn market, and his experiences in the industry.
Roddick said that the porn industry is facing some big challenges. Traffic – the amount of people visiting a site – has become “the cornerstone of sales on the internet” for the adult industry, according to Roddick. Specialty companies like Braincash assist sites, helping them harness traffic effectively, and the result has been less “readily available” traffic. “You could have the best looking site, the best models, the best sex going on, [but] if nobody knows about it…” Roddick explained.
Accompanying the uneven advantages of internet comes the universal challenge of easy access to free porn and online piracy – both of which are extremely problematic for producers and actors.
“It’s like music, people think that it’s free so that you can download it. They don’t really see the repercussions on the industry and they don’t really care because ‘Oh people doing porn, they must be rich,’” Roddick said.
The notion that working in porn generates mass wealth is an alluring and well-known myth – and not a reality. Roddick says he works ninety hours a week and spends a lot of his time waging the near-impossible fight against piracy. He tries to take down servers who have ripped off his content by sending out copyright infringement notices.
Roddick mentioned that his companies preserve the Québécois identity of his actors and maintain his sites’ uniqueness. “In interviews if the guy speaks French we keep it in French and put subtitles. A lot of people think it’s sexy to see a guy speaking French, we’re renowned for that.”
I ended my survey of Montreal’s porn industry in the office of McGill Sociology professor Eran Shor, who in a single sentence stated the ongoing relevance of the discussion: “Whether we like it or not we’re influenced by it because, even if we choose not to watch porn, our society has become pornified.”
With pornographic images featuring prominently in all sectors of society, albeit to varying degrees of intensity, porn in some form is part of our everyday lives. The porn industry – moral, immoral, empowering, or exploitative, whichever you prefer – is built by the people who make it happen. So what kind of person does porn? Well…
“What were you expecting? Did you imagine the place full of old pedophiles?” Mike demanded rhetorically. “We’re just like everybody else…for the most part.”
Freaky Steve and Jasmine Jade were originally said to have been recipients of Feminist Porn Awards. They were in fact nominees.
The Daily regrets the error.