At a certain point during the week that I spend in Los Angeles, interviewing adult performers, visiting adult movie sets, and talking to those who live in the San Fernando Valley and work in the adult movie industry about the recession and how the current state of the economy is affecting their livelihood, I find myself in a nondescript apartment on the outskirts of the Valley, the residence of a man who requested I not reveal his identity.
Its a quiet, warm afternoon. Outside, a woman whose hair has been dyed the color of cherry Kool-Aid is smoking a cigarette on a narrow balcony overlooking a half-empty parking lot. In the living room, the man and I are sitting on a dingy beige sectional sofa, watching an adult movie playing on a laptop.
The movie set into which we are peering is your garden variety, run-of-the-mill porno fare: tan sofa, white walls, hideous curtains. In all likelihood, this is one more cheap hotel room located somewhere in the greater Los Angeles territory that has come to be known, colloquially, as Porn Valley.
At the center of the screen, a young woman is perched on the edge of the couch, alone. As the camera closes in on her, she smiles tentatively and crosses her arms protectively.
Her look is that of a 21st century Bettie Page. She has long, dark hair with short bangs and bright blue eyes rimmed with heavy black eyeliner. She wears a cropped black top with a plunging v-neck, a baby pink plaid miniskirt (not unlike the one worn by Britney Spears in the schoolgirl-themed music video for … Baby One More Time), and white high heels—otherwise known as stripper shoes.
OK, so what are we going to do? a man standing off-camera asks in a voice that sounds as if it has been digitally altered. Should I just beat the shit out of her?
The camera moves closer, following the man we cant see like an obedient dog. From the right side of the frame, his left hand reaches out and grabs her by the top of her head. His right hand secures her under the jaw, trapping her in his vice. Her grimace fills the screen.
So, what do you do for a living?
I work in porn.
Absolute whore, right?
What kind of whore?
Piece of shit whore?
Piece of shit whore.
Yeah? he pauses. You know, lately, I havent had any energy. Have you noticed that?
Mm-hm, another man we cant see concurs.
What do you think? the first queries.
Girls are getting off easy, the second advises.
Shes a little nervous, the first considers. Im a little nervous, too, he mock-confesses. I dont even want to hurt you, he tells her. But I have to—because my friends are here.
Over the next ten minutes, he threatens to beat her, threatens to torture her, pulls up her shirt, pulls up her skirt, hits her breasts, hits her thighs, throttles her by the neck with both hands, humiliates her, degrades her, makes her cry, chokes her until she is gasping for air. He gets her to tell the camera she is 27 years old and the only reason shes here doing this particular job on this particularly day in this particular hotel room in the Valley is for the money, and the fact of the matter is she has two young children to support, of whom the man asks rhetorically, and seemingly for the sole purpose of screwing with her head, Theyre going to grow up to be proud of her, right?
The woman is becoming unmoored. He orders her on her hands and knees, and begins beating her with a leather strap that cracks! across the bared skin of her backside every time he hits her, leaving angry pink welts, until, finally, in a futile attempt to protect herself, the woman reaches her arm around herself, her hand turned upwards, her palm facing outwards, and the man stops.
The camera pans to the side to find her face buried in the sofa cushions.
Can I ask you a question?
She doesnt move or respond.
Could you look at the camera, please?
He repeats himself. Eventually, she turns her head and faces the camera. There are tears tracking down her flush cheeks. Her body is shaking uncontrollably, and her breath is hitching with every intake.
To steal a Quentin Tarantino line, he muses, mockingly, Was that as good for you as it was for me?
There can be no mistake. This is when he breaks her. Her expression flattens. Her eyes go blank. She appears to be dissociating. Slowly, she turns from the camera, going somewhere else, inside herself, anywhere but here.
OK, Im going to bring the guys in here, the man announces to no one in particular. Because youve just gone to pieces on me.
And, with that, the real scene begins.
They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They? Words & photos by Susannah Breslin. Logo & design by Chris Bishop. Copyright 2009 HOME CREDITS