Skip to Content

Features Life

Amateur porn is not empowering

Behind the scenes of a woman who performs for 10,000 subscribers.

August 9, 2018

8:47 AM

9 August 2018

8:47 AM

If ever you find yourself bored and with 15 minutes to spare, I recommend looking up Pornhub’s annual report, the closest thing you will get to a statistical breakdown of the planet’s libido. Here you will discover that the average visit to Pornhub lasts nine minutes 59 seconds; that the most popular time to watch porn is a Sunday evening; and that sexual tastes for the most part tend to follow cultural lines, with English-speakers prizing lesbian material most highly, and eastern Europeans on the whole preferring anal.

There’s nothing new about porn, and humans have been trying to get their hands on it pretty much since they left the primordial soup. The novelty is in the rate of change.

In the early 2000s, the internet made every-thing freely viewable to watch on computer screens. The big shift in this decade, however, isn’t to do with how we consume porn, but how we create it. This is the decade of the dilettante. Last year nearly a quarter of all videos uploaded on to Pornhub were by amateurs, ordinary folk sprawled out in the comfort of their own bedrooms, cobbling together homemade videos and putting them on free-to-access porn sites for all the world to see. And that number is growing.

Up until recently, a young woman wanting to make a career in porn would sign a contract with a production company and produce a certain number of videos. If she did well, she would sign more, and eventually maybe star in a big-budget feature like Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones (or, to take an example from my own boyhood, Pirates, which did the rounds at my school through the auspices of a soiled black hard drive passed down from year to year). But in 2018, that same aspirant will sidestep the corporate contracts and go it alone, because if she has an iPhone, a bit of editing software and a social media account, she can.

With this has come the theory that the amateur revolution might give women in porn the power that hitherto has languished in the grasp of the producers. Pornhub’s director of ‘Sexual Wellness’, Dr Laurie Betito, commented: ‘From the #MeToo movement to prominent females, the likes of Hillary Clinton and Nikki Haley, on the world stage, women are feeling more empowered and they have found their voice. This is a sign of things to come.’

Producer, director and performer Paul Taylor largely agrees, telling me that ‘Now, more than ever before, the power is in the hands of female performers.’ Taylor, who runs a production company based in Durham and stars in his own films, is a dying breed because of this. ‘These days, girls are working for themselves and producing their own stuff. The fact that the quality is lower doesn’t really matter because it feels more real, more “touchable”. They have taken back control from producers because they don’t need us any more.’

With that in mind, I went to meet Caitlin, an amateur porn star who works out of her two-bedroom flat in Lambeth. Caitlin doesn’t work with production studios; rather, she puts out all her stuff herself or with other independent filmmakers.

One bedroom is for sleeping, one is for working. In her workroom there are six big spotlights, two fans and four mounted cameras. It’s a snake pit of wires, and about five degrees warmer than the rest of the flat. ‘Sorry about the smell,’ she warned before opening the bedroom door, ‘I had a scene earlier.’

She was to have a scene later, too, and as we sat talking in the kitchen her friend Roisin was busy in the work-bedroom setting up the lights. It will be Caitlin’s last job for a while because she’s taking a holiday in Morocco, much to the disappointment of the 10,000 subscribers from whom she makes a living.

It may well be an indefinite sabbatical. Caitlin has spent four years moving up from self-shot camera-phone flicks to respectable midrange movies, all the while amassing a circle of dedicated followers. Now she wants out. As she describes it, the porn landscape of today’s world is a Wild West of enterprising adventurers setting up shop in the rich and fertile plains of the internet, with the result that there are too many, as those rough-hewn iPhone videos that not long ago seemed so refreshingly real swamp the internet. ‘People have caught on, and there are so many girls doing it, it’s become a struggle to keep your audience interested,’ she says.

I wanted to know what she thought about the idea of empowerment, and so quoted Taylor and Betito’s remarks to her. ‘Well one’s a man and the other has probably never been near a set in her life,’ she scoffs. ‘There aren’t many women in this business who will tell you they feel empowered.’

The fact that she sells directly to her customers means that she interacts with them much more closely than the porn stars of yore ever did. ‘Blokes can comment on my stuff and send me messages,’ she says, while pedalling her feet through the air to dry the red nail varnish on her toes. ‘Some of it is nice, but a lot is the same sort of thing — slut, bitch, whore, whatever.’

On top of that, it seems the tastes of the habitual porn consumer, sitting jack-knifed above a laptop screen night after night, are becoming ever more extreme. (Particularly revealing among the Pornhub stats was that the average time spent on the site has increased by 23 seconds since the previous year.) The amateur scene is well placed to cater to this because, unlike professionally produced videos such as Paul Taylor’s, amateur films are not required to be certified by the British Board of Film Classification.

According to Caitlin, ‘There are more “female-friendly” producers now than there were, but at the same time there’s more extreme stuff out there. You can be the most beautiful girl in the world, but still they want to see you in an orgy or being humiliated.’

Porn’s defenders will tell you that it provides a place for people to indulge some of the less gallant impulses of their sexual psyches that otherwise can’t or shouldn’t be indulged in real life. But where does that leave Caitlin, whose reality is that dark side? ‘If you want to feel empowered, don’t go into porn,’ she says, as Roisin wafts some antibacterial spray over the bedsheets. ‘You might think you’re liberated, but this is an industry built around men’s desires — you’re always going to be a slave to that.’


Sign up to receive a weekly summary of the best of Spectator USA


See also

Show comments
Close