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The H-Word: “Make Your Own Porn.”

A photograph of Dylan Ryan, a white queer woman with short, bleached blonde hair. She is photographed from the side, wearing a large, flowing shirt that reads DANGEROUSA sometime-writer, social worker, dancer, artist and yogi, Dylan Ryan is also one of adult entertainment's favorite feminist porn stars. She has been the recipient of The Feminist Porn Award's Heartthrob of the Year Award and was named one of Fleshbot.com's Crush Objects. An avid defender of sex worker rights and a queer-identified activist, Dylan is currently working on her first book. Here, Dylan speaks to the "strangeness" of being a queer person in porn. 

My name is Dylan Ryan, a name I coined from my early years of sex work, working as a stripper at The Lusty Lady in San Francisco. I wanted a somewhat androgynous name so I chose from various rockstar last names, hence Dylan. I got into sex work through a combination of volunteering and then eventually working for an organization called The St. James Infirmary and working at a sex toy retailer and sex-education hotspot called Good Vibrations. I was 22 and found myself inundated by sex and sexuality, much to my own choosing, and it was exciting and inspirational. I was also in a fairly sexless relationship which provided a challenging juxtaposition to all the sex around me so I decided to start stripping to help with my flagging ego and lack of sexual validation in my personal life.

I was working at Good Vibes with a woman named Shine Louise Houston. She and I would talk at length about hopes, dreams, those kind of things and one of her biggest dreams was to start a porn company. She had scripts and plans and was incredibly enthusiastic. I was very taken by her thoughts and very intrigued by porn. I somewhat off-handedly made the offer that should she ever get her porn company off the ground, she should call me and I would be in her first movie.

Move ahead about seven months, both Shine and myself have left Good Vibes, I'm still stripping, I've come out as queer, left the sexless boyfriend, and am employed beyond volunteering at St. James.  Shine calls.  She's made it happen.  Am I still down to be in her movie? I say yes—somewhat nervous, mostly thrilled. I shot my first porn scene in March of 2003.

At the risk of generalizing, people fear what they don't understand. People fear what they don't understand far more when it has to do with sex. To explain: Both being queer and being a sex worker are choices outside of the "norm." The othering of both, in my mind, has a lot to do with a lack of understanding about what is common to most people. People seem to imagine that queers are always dressed in leather, having orgy parties, and doing nothing but anal sex. It seems hard for people to imagine gays being married, raising children. We can't possibly be anything like everyone else because it's just so weird and non-normative to choose someone of the same sex! It's similar with sex workers. The "norm" is monogamy, and sex only exists in the context of dating or personal pleasure. The choice to make sex a financial thing is as weird as the choice of someone of the same sex, the social schema isn't really there to understand it, let alone support it. Add to that the concept of an empowered female behind all these non-normative choices and people simply can't handle it.

Being a queer person in porn (especially) is so strange sometimes. Porn is incredibly lacking in diversity. Though it is sex work and though it exists under the umbrella of sexual non-conformity and performativity, it still very much reinforces normative standards of sex, gender, and sexuality. Porn reflects, to a large extent, widely-held social stigmas and norms. This can be seen in the portrayals of women of color in porn. It is similar for queers in porn. Non-normativity, though taking place in the non-normative world of sex work, is just too weird sometimes.

I have experienced a certain rigidity in porn that reinforces stereotypical sex and tends to look down on "queer" sex. For instance: girl/girl porn is soft, with a lot of kissing. Queer porn is more rough and shows elements like fisting. There is a huge market for girl/girl and that's supported and promoted. Queer, on the other hand, while a burgeoning market these last few years, is still somewhat under the radar and unsupported. As a queer performer, I'm asked to show a kind of sex which is not always authentic to me, one that's less challenging when I'm having sex with a cis gendered man on camera and more challenging when I'm having sex with a woman. I sometimes feel like it's "Here, perform homosexual sex but do it just like this. Don't be too queer. We can't sell that."

I think that the bulk of my eight years has really been about talking about this, showing my authentic sexuality, performing in projects that highlight and show and discuss and reflect on sexuality. It's definitely not all the work I do, but I try to promote myself as caring about these issues and wanting to keep them on the forefront, hence things like this interview. I think the advent of feminist porn has been hugely helpful. Feminist porn is rising to the fore these last five or so years has shone a spotlight on diverse pornographic representations, from women making porn to queer pornmakers. I think the consumer can ask for their sexuality to be better represented in porn. I decided that making porn would be great because porn I watched never did it for me. I never saw myself represented, nor did I see my sexuality portrayed.  It made sense for me to try and make porn that was my sex. Though not a choice that every person could or should make, that's another way of going about it...make your own porn. Show your own sexuality.

People getting behind the camera and showing the world what their sex looks like is a direct way to try and not only represent themselves but demystify both queer sex and sex work. People making choices to engage in taboo and socially "deviant" choices from a place of empowerment and a desire to be seen is really powerful. I think we need more of that if we are to see a broadening of these particular horizons.

Follow Dylan Ryan on Twitter at @thedylanryan and check out her Tumblr. You can also watch a video interview with Dylan Ryan at Queer Porn TV

Previously:  "Cleaning Up" OWS and Our Country's Historic Fear of ContagionEssence, Revealed

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Comments

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Dylan Ryan, you are the most

Dylan Ryan, you are the most badass. Thanks for this freaking awesome, affirming, article!

Such a fucking Rock

Such a fucking Rock Star...Great article Dylan