Peep Show – Interview with Tristan Taormino, Part One
You probably already know about Tristan Taormino. If not, hold onto your hat. This brainy writer and feminist pornographer has taken anal sex (and the sexy librarian look) to the next level. And the next. And the next.
Tristan’s written several books, including The Ultimate guide to Anal Sex for Women, and served as an editor for many others. She was a syndicated columnist for the Village Voice for almost ten years and currently writes an advice column for Taboo Magazine. Between her writing, her teaching, and her TV appearances, we feel lucky to have gotten her to answer our Peep Show questions.
If you’ve read our past interviews, you might know that we (King is a Fink) are actually pretty prudish, despite our Peep Show cred. When we saw Tristan’s “Rough Sex” at Cinekink Vegas, it totally ruffled our feathers. The video started with the actors talking a little bit about why they wanted to be a part of Tristan’s project, a great way of prepping the audience for what lay ahead. The interviews didn’t, however, prepare us for the stiff content in the movie. Julie watched with her hands over her eyes; Jess watched with her hands over her ears. They hoped for someone to cover their mouths, but the closest person was sexologist Carol Queen, who seemed to be digging the movie, so they stayed mum.
Regardless of whether “Rough Sex” is up our alley or not, you gotta hand it to a lady filmmaker who knows how to rock and roll. The fact that she focuses so much attention on education while creating performer/crew-friendly sets gives her extra stars in our eyes.
Tristan’s journey to porn is an interesting one, so let’s get to it!
King is a Fink: Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions, Tristan. Let’s get right to the nitty gritty. Your work is comprised of an interesting blend of pornography and education.Â What inspired you to take the educational pornography route?
Tristan Taormino: I began my career as a writer and a sex educator and came to porn from that background. My very first movie, The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, was based on my book of the same name. I wanted to teach people how to have safe and pleasurable anal sex in the movie. But I also wanted to make a movie so hot that if you watched it, you were inspired to run out and have anal sex! It turned out to be a unique sex ed/gonzo porn hybrid. My vision has evolved in the decade since that film, but I still bring the lens of a sex educator to my work.
The Vivid-Ed line I created for Vivid Entertainment is explicitly educational; the point of the movies is to teach skills and impart information while still being sexy, fun, and inspiring. In my other movies, like Chemistry and Rough Sex, I’m interested in hearing from the performers themselves as they talk about their own lives and their sexuality; I suppose all the amazing things they have to say are educational!
KFink: On your website Pucker Up you claim to make feminist, ethical porn. Why?
Tristan: I consider my porn feminist and want viewers to know that up frontâ€”that I have a mission, a political perspective, and a vision. I want people to know that I am dedicated to creating a positive, respectful, empowering work environment for the performers and the crew. My porn is ethically produced: everyone on my set is treated well, the space is safe, everyone has a voice and participates in the process. Plenty of people want their clothing made ethically with fair labor practices and work conditions, so why shouldn’t they expect the same of their porn?
KFink: Some female pornographers use their films as a way to create a discourse about sex, sexuality, and gender. What are some issues you explore in your films?
Tristan: I want to challenge viewers to see performers as the fascinating, articulate, three-dimensional human beings that they are rather than the one-dimensional sex robots they can look like in other porn. I like to portray lots of different kinds of sex and pleasure beyond heterosexual vaginal intercourse to take on the dominant culture’s notions about what sex is. My films explore how diverse desire, pleasure, and orgasm can be for women and men.
KFink: How would you define/classify the audience for your films?
Tristan: People who watch my movies are looking for something different; they don’t want the same old thing. They appreciate intelligence, nuance, and authenticity. They’ve done their researchâ€”they’re well-informed porn consumers. They want to see real female orgasms. People who write to me say they often watch my movies with a partner, and some have screenings with small groups. With all that said, some are everyday people who stumbled on my movie at a local store and want to watch something and get off. That’s cool, too.
In the second half of her interview, Tristan talks about interacting with her audience, whether she thinks dialogues are as important as orgasms, and what’s coming next for her Pucker Up empire.
Check out Tristan’s website for videos or, you know, reading material.
You can also pillage a treasure trove of past Peep Show interviews and articles here.