In the wake of such recent documentaries on the once-underground, now omnipresent porn industry as “Wadd” and Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy comes Marielle Nitoslawa’s smut expose, “Bad Girl.” Like the above-mentioned movies, Nitoslawa’s film is a frank, educational look at an industry that is becoming the sexual equivalent of McDonald’s and its fast-food counterparts, churning out over 10,000 hardcore features a year, recouping billions of dollars, and spanning from “Moscow to Anchorage,” according to one source.
“Bad Girl” serves up its saucy insider’s look with a twist. It’s dedicated exclusively to woman-generated porn, showing how adult videos have slowly become more appealing to females, on both consumer and business levels
As “Bad Girl”‘s opening reel begins to unspool, we’re transported to Denmark’s Zentropa Studios, where a petite brunette boasts about being the entity’s first female porn director. Her contribution to hardcore, 1999’s “Pink Prison”, complies with Zentropa’s motto that “no hair pulling, ejaculation in the face,” or other staples of male-oriented porn be shown. One clip from the film is described as “The Blue Scene,” a psychedelic light show reminiscent of a strobe-powered rave party, where a blonde and her many male pleasurers are drenched in the color of a Navy uniform. “Women seem to like the scene,” its director claims, “because it’s more æsthetically pleasing than usual. Still, I’m taking a risk in doing this stuff. I mean, in the old days, I’d be burned over a fire.”
After this revealing introduction, we become acquainted with a number of stateside female personalities with ties to the adult film industry. There’s the big-bosomed Annie Sprinkle, a porn performer who claims a series of instructional tapes including “Get to Know Your P***y”. Sprinkle is big on humor, including risqué puppet shows performed by mannequin-outfitted private parts. Representing the educational sector, University of Berkley professor Linda Williams is introduced as the author of Hardcore, a written analysis of porn with feminist leanings. Candida Royalle produces “couples’ tapes” through Fem Productions, who pledge “no money shots, with female pleasure being paramount.” Jane Hamilton directs more mainstream, glossy hardcore movies for VCA Pictures. “I think you can really ram it home,” she proclaims of female-friendly porn, “and still do it in the spirit of love.”
Perhaps the most fascinating scene in “Bad Girl” occurs as Hamilton tours the VCA offices and warehouses in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, where 99% of today’s porn is produced. She casually steps into the corporation’s main headquarters and introduces us to war veteran and VCA owner Russell Hampshire. It looks like any urban business, and a peek into one of VCA’s massive, hanger-like video distribution depots is about as sex-less an image imaginable. Thousands of tapes and display boxes line the endless warehouse shelves, awaiting distribution to salivating consumers across the world.
In fact, porn activist Bill Margold is dead-on accurate when he lounges about shirtless on an X-rated shoot, describing VCA as “the equivalent of a Ford auto warehouse, only it’s videos and not Model T’s. The American public is a big, hungry baby, and it needs a new pacifier every day.”
Another prominent stop along “Bad Girl”‘s tour of female-driven erotica is France, where sexually explicit mainstream films directed by women have, according to director Catherine Breillat (“Romance”, “Fat Girl”), “become a fad.” The recently-released Baise-Moi (F**k Me), praised by some as a more graphic variation on “Thelma and Louise” and denounced by others as exploitative, “Death Wish”-style nihilism, was banned from France, even as such movies become more common in Breillat’s home country.
Meanwhile, “Bad Girl” takes a pit stop at Hustler Hollywood, a sort of Costco of adult stores where female staffers point out where you can buy espresso or fruit smoothies along with the latest plastic novelties, nudie magazines, and baseball caps that proclaim, “Masturbation is Not a Crime.” Later, the film flies to Las Vegas for a video trade show, where female smut celebrities sign autographs like mainstream actresses posing for cameras at a big-studio premiere.
Nina Hartley, a nurse, political and social activist, and adult film performer who markets a series of “how to” lovemaking videos, is seen in one of her productions massaging a male member as she persuades women to take ownership of their desires. Off-screen, this blonde porn veteran admits to being a little embarrassed that she can make a comfortable living talking about things that most people are afraid to bring up in conversation.
It would seem that many women are already watching the same movies historically associated with “male entertainment”, and enjoying it. As “Bad Girl” concludes, a French writer affirms the film’s view that porn can exist for a feminist audience and not pose harm to women. She denounces the old cliché, “an honest woman has no pleasure,” and applauds society’s ability to see women as more than simply maternal icons, in matters of sexuality.
Meanwhile, Margold gets the film’s best quote, as he accuses porn’s critics – and a sexually ambiguous society in general – of being “frustrated, ignorant, and critical,” even as women become more accepting of the genre.
“No-one’s ever died from an O.D. on porn,” he laughs, “unless you accidentally slam your dick in the VCR.”