[This is the text of the book review from episode 40.]
This week’s review is The DIY Porn Handbook: A How-To Guide to Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution by Madison Young.
Before we get started I would like to say I received this book for free, but if there are any doubts about my ability to review a free book honestly, listen to episode thirty one.
The entire point of the DIY porn revolution is very much in tune with my rant earlier in the episode about not projecting your kinks onto someone else. It’s about taking control over how the female body is sexualised—or showing that there’s more than just male and female bodies in the first place and people have sex in a plethora of ways.
Young takes the reader on a journey to creating their work—step-by-step from working out their values to writing a script to casting, funding, budgeting, building a website, distribution, branding, marketing, you name it. And of course actually filming.
Though the book has suggestions for the entire process, Young encourages people to use her ideas as a springboard and come up with something entirely new. She doesn’t think her way is the only way.
She’s clearly spent a lot of time making porn and thinking about it and has this to say:
Porn has been a container to hold our repressed sexual fantasies, a container and a closet that absorbs all the shame our society feels around its sexual desires. Porn becomes the scapegoat for sexual shame.
It was about then (on page, like, FOUR) I started thinking Young and David Ley should have coffee if they didn’t already know one another.
I’ve heard before that porn was political—that making porn was a political act. And I hadn’t really understood it, but in chapter three, which is called Why Does DIY Porn Matter, Young says this:
Documenting authentic sexual pleasure grants permission and creates space for viewers to recognize, explore and express their own authentic sexual desires. It also works to destigmatize sexuality and serves as a chance for us to view sex and sexual desire outside of a shamed mode of expression.
So. The title of this book includes the word ‘documenting’. The author regularly uses that word as well. She writes scripts, but the sex is real—there are no faked orgasms. At one point there’s an example of how she discusses what sort of sex the bottom in a scene likes—what will make that person comfortable. She doesn’t make ‘films’, as in fiction. She makes—and advocates—the making of documentaries. About sex.
This is how some people have sex—so it’s okay if you have sex like this, too.
And that’s when I got extra pissed about the porn laws in the U.K. Again. Because you can’t show legal acts like fisting and that’s how some people like having sex and fuck you for legislating that.
Back to the book.
Also in Chapter Three Young says:
DIY porn expands our minds to include images, sexual stories and narratives of a wide variety of body types, gender expressions, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and differently-abled bodies.
This is a good thing. Everyone doesn’t look like the people in generic white people porn.
Between chapters there are guest writings by artists, scholars, mothers of pornographers and so on. Those are enlightening, enraging and/or fun.
In one of those: Pornography as Protest: Direct Action and DIY Porn, the author of that piece, Zahra Stardust says:
In a criminalized environment, where our bodies, desires and sexualities are deemed ‘offensive,’ DIY porn is protest. DIY porn becomes a form of insubordination, a symbolic violation of laws designed to closet and invisiblise us. When we are excluded from participation in law reform, porn becomes our protest mechanism. DIY porn becomes an act of nonviolent resistance.
There’s lots of homework—you know how I love that. You start a journal for your various ideas and projects. One of the assignments is to write out a conversation with your desire. This is the conversation Young had with her desire:
Me: Hello, Desire.
Me: I wanted to ask you a question.
Desire: Go for it. I’m waiting.
Me: Well, what do you lust for? What really turns you on?
Desire: I want to be full.
Desire: I want to be so full of cock. I want cock stuffed down my throat, in my cunt, and two cocks rubbing against one another that pump in and out of my ass. I want to be so full.
Me: Wow! Tell me more about that. Where are you when you are full of all these cocks?
Desire: Somewhere filthy. Maybe a garage. Maybe they’re mechanics covered in oil and dirt. Everything is just so dirty and it feels so good, my sweat mixed with the dirt.
Obviously, as an asexual lesbian that is not my desire. But I love that assignment and I’m working on my own. And you’re welcome to anyone who wanted to hear me say those words. I say many more filthy words for Patreon supporters.
Films don’t occur in a vacuum—particularly DIY films, so there’s much information about building community, which is where you’ll be finding talent, graphic designers, crew and every other thing you can imagine.
There’s great advice for people starting out for how to avoid mistakes others have made—Jiz Lee wrote one of the guest pieces about the variety of ways porn directors and talent collaborate—sometimes they trade clips for performances rather than pay or all sorts of other arrangements. I learned a lot about how the industry works—it was fascinating.
Young also goes into the technicals on how to tell a story with a series of shots and gives the prospective director a shot list to use a video camera or even still camera to practice with. Then there’s good info on writing dialogue and a script.
There’s a chapter on budgets and how to keep yours as low as possible, with examples of what she pays for things.
The interlude between chapters is by the Tax Domme—her site is taxdomme.com. She’s a tax preparer with a speciality in the Arts and Entertainment industry, though she also does taxes for non-adult industry people, as well. Her section had some really interesting information about small businesses in general. Thanks, Tax Domme! That site is US-based, FYI.
There’s a section on the conversation that needs to happen during negotiations for BDSM scenes—it’s too long to read to you, but the way Young remembers it is by using the acronym REAL SHAG TOP. You’ll have to get the book if you want to know what all of those letters mean.
Young provides a chapter on production flow—or how she sets things up to keep everything moving as smoothly as possible so she can shoot an entire film in one day in order to save money. She has it down to a science. A sexy, sexy science.
A guest section between chapters is by Shanna Katz and is on how to be disability inclusive. The last piece of advice there is to be ready to fuck up. Because you know you’re going to.
Chapter eleven is my favorite—paperwork, legalities and obscenity laws! Whee!
In this chapter there’s a photo of someone named Elizabeth Thorn filling out paperwork before shooting a film called Bibliophile. So I had to go look that up and now I have an account on Filly Films. Ahem.
In regard to obscenity laws, there’s this:
In some instances bondage with penetrative sex, or bondage with penis/vagina penetration, is considered too obscene. Fisting is generally considered obscene (however, four fingers or even eight fingers is okay). Pee and poo are taboo as well. But many things, like context and distribution, factor into these issues.
Will this film just be screened as a film festival? Is it part of a documentary or a fantasy narrative? Does the film have artistic or educational merit? Are you marketing the film as erotic art, erotic film or porn? Is the film on DVD and are you shipping it to Alabama or Florida? Does it contain hardcore anal fisting with a girl in bondage?
That’s very specific. You really have to know what you can show and can’t show. No wonder she recommends having a legal advocate on speed-dial for if/when you need them.
Then there’s a chapter on the mechanics of shooting—lighting, audio, shots and so forth. Know your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths.
The chapter after that is on editing, which sounds about as meticulous and time-consuming (and possibly crazy-making) as can be. Then again, some people feel that way about editing writing, so eh.
But then, you have a finished film! Hooray! Chapter fourteen is on distribution—how to get your filthy art out into the world. There are many, many options—find the ones that work for you and the audience you’d like to reach. In this chapter Young says:
Along the way, you will also discover people who will not be supportive of erotic film, DIY porn or outward displays of sexuality. You are entering into a realm that embraces and celebrates a part of our humanity that is still steeped in shame. Your work is brave and it might frighten some people. Your events might get shut down. You might encounter problems with venues or disgruntled parents or the police. Have a plan. Know your rights, and know that the work you are doing is important. Have a lawyer. Have legal support and allies, and follow your heart, lead with compassion.
The final chapter is on the ever important branding and marketing. It doesn’t matter how mind-blowing your work is—if no one knows it exists they won’t know how to get it into their brains.
The DIY Porn Handbook is only 231 pages long and the font is fairly large, but it has everything I can think of to get someone started—it’s pretty impressive in that way.
For me, personally, this book was a lesson in judgment. I obviously don’t judge people who do or make porn, hello, I did an entire episode on porn, but I have never had a desire to make or be in it so figured I’d be reviewing this purely for my listeners—like service-oriented reading. I’ve always wondered how they got certain shots in porn, but that was the extent of my curiosity, really. Now I kinda want to be an assistant on set. I still have no desire to be in one—it’d be dull watching me, indeed, but I’d help out around set.
Instead of service-reading, though, I learned a great deal. Similar to David Ley’s Ethical Porn for Dicks, which was also going to be service-oriented reading, and turned out to be my favourite book of 2016. As mentioned before—this book showed me how porn is political. It also introduced the concept of Visions and Values Statement, which is something Young advocates writing down to help a person work out what they’re about. I’m working on mine to add to the site.
I would definitely 5/5 recommend this to anyone interested in making their own films for distribution. The legal and tax paperwork is U.S.-based, but that takes up a small amount of space in the book.
If you’re looking for info on making porn just for yourself? There’s still good information here, though the majority of the book is on other aspects of film-making, distribution, that sort of thing rather than specifics of how to hold a camera. So I suppose it would depend on how artistic you want to be with your personal films.
If you’re just interested in the porn industry—particularly the indie side of things then this has a lot of interesting information. Young knows her stuff and has been around—she’s made over 40 films in the last decade and is articulate about what she does and why it’s important. There are also many black and white photographs scattered throughout.