Dylan Ryan, in my humble opinion, is one of the sexiest and smartest women in porn today. I’m a big fan of hers not only because I can always count on her for a hot scene, but also because she has a brain and views the work she does as revolutionary. And it really is revolutionary. It was an honor getting to interview her and I hope you enjoy her answers to my questions as much as I do.
Garnet Joyce: How did you decide to start performing in porn and why do you continue?
Dylan Ryan: I decided to start performing after a few years of stripping and doing nude photography. I had a lot of curiosity about porn and always thought it would be something I would try eventually. I got my “in” when Shine Louise Houston started her own film company, Pink and White. She and I had been talking about porn a lot and I promised her I would be in her first film. When she came calling with the opportunity, I just sort-of jumped on it because it felt safe and interesting and like the right time. I enjoyed it and found it to be a new avenue of sexual performance and expression that I felt really suited me. I have been making porn ever since.
GJ: What companies have you worked for? What inspired you to work with these companies specifically?
DR: I have worked for so many different companies, I am afraid I have lost track of all of them. I can say that generally what inspired me to work with them has been one or more of a few various factors:
- The company is run or the porn is directed by someone I admire, someone whose work I enjoy or someone I feel inspired by.
- I feel that the porn I will make with the company will be an authentic representation of myself or show empowered and positive female sexuality
- I think that making porn with the company will be a good step forward in my life/career and will fit well within the repertoire of the work I am making at the time
- I see an opportunity through working with the company to explore something new or exciting and/or break boundaries in porn as a whole.
- I trust that the company will respect me, have my best interests in mind and represent me in a positive light and a performer and woman.
- I am offered the opportunity to shoot with someone I have wanted to work with to make porn that I think is hot and that I think people will respond to.
GJ: How much do you get to contribute to your scenes?
DR: It really varies. I have been lucky that in my entire career, I have gotten to contribute quite a bit, primarily in the way of my portrayal and how I am represented. I get to decide all manner of things from my clothing to my sexual positions to what kind of sex I want to have to what parts I play. I have shot scenes where I was told what to do from start to finish but even then what I contribute is my personality, my sense of self, my empowered identity. Even when I am tied and gagged and being flogged, which would seem like one of the most disempowered positions, I am still completely present and never victimized or disempowered. My agency is present regardless of the scenario and structure of my scenes. I have always felt that a key point to my work and very important in the message I am trying to send to women.
GJ: How do you define ethical pornography?
DR: I have really struggled with how to answer this question, primarily because ethics is defined as a set of moral rules or standards of conduct held up or reinforced by a community. In the case of pornography, I feel that most people would argue that porn, by it’s very nature is unethical as it does not subscribe to any standards of it’s own convention and instead subverts the traditional and widely held morals of western society. So where to go from there? I think at that point in my thought process, my definition of ethical porn becomes very personal and based on my morals and values. So to answer it from that place, my values and my personal ethics are around fair treatment and individual agency. I think that ethical porn is porn where all the people involved are there and operating of their own volition, free from coercion or force. To go a step further, I think that ethical porn, or should I say, “successful” ethical porn is porn that ventures to show that and make it known that everyone involved is not only acting on personal agency but actually wants to be there. I find it refreshing when the scene I am watching operates in a way where the performers’s desire comes across, their interest, their enjoyment about what they are doing. I think that a major tenant of foundational ethics is the concept of force, that something is “unethical” if it is being done to someone against their will, being done without their consent and consideration. Though this is a somewhat narrow perspective on what ethical porn could be, i will concentrate my thoughts there… that ethical porn is that where the performers want to be performing and are enjoying performing.
GJ: Have all of the companies that you’ve worked for been ethical? What kinds of standards have they followed? Was there anyone you thought was unethical (no need to include names)? How was working for them different and do you plan on working for them again?
DR: I have never been forced to do anything in pornography. I know I am very lucky in that way, that I have never experienced extreme coercion or force in my work. That being said, have I been encouraged to do things for additional money? To make the producers happy? Because the scene would be better? Sure. As a performer, I have a deep-seated drive to make the best porn I can. I am not interested in doing a mediocre job and so I am easily reached at that level, the “don’t you want this to be really good” level. There have been companies that have operated with me on that level, when I showed hesitation, I was encouraged to go where I was uncomfortable and that is something that I feel is fairly pervasive in the industry. That being said, I will reinforce that I have NEVER been forced. The ultimate decision has always been mine and I have always felt like I can say, could have said no. The experience does linger, however and the companies that I return to over and over again are those where I did not feel compromised or pushed, companies I would call “ethical” in the way they do business and treat their models.
GJ: What has doing porn taught you about yourself and others?
DR: I could do an entire interview just answering this question! Porn is so much a part of my identity at this point in my life. It has become both my art form and how I express myself to the world. It’s always so interesting to me when people present porn as this solely disempowering thing in women’s lives when it has been the most fantastic conduit for self-expression and voice in my life. Porn has given me a voice, a platform, a space to explore who I am. I think, as a person, I would likely have found another platform and yet, I can’t quite imagine who I would be and how I would know myself were it not for the impact of porn performance in and on my life. When i think about what I want to say, I think about how to say it as a sex worker, as a sexually empowered woman. Porn has operated much like any other form of expression for me, writing, art, dance, music…through making porn I have discovered who I am, what I want and learned so much about the way the world works. It is both a form of expression and a process for me, the process of creation is itself an education, each scene is a new learning experience and I walk away with more information each time.
GJ: With any sort of porn it is important to know who you’re working for and with, do you find that to be especially true of BDSM porn, which you perform in a lot? Or do you find it is even easier to know which companies are reputable and which ones are not?
DR: I think reputation is paramount in this industry. After five years, I have learned that if you hear something negative about a company or performer, it really behooves a person to look into it. People can definitely talk and rumours are sometimes just that but if a model tells me she was hurt or verbally mistreated or not paid or disrespected, it gives me major pause. Most of the people I work with I do so because I have heard about them or they make themselves known to be respectful, appreciative and professional. This is, as you suggest, especially important in BDSM porn work because the nature of the scenes are more intense and risky. I MUST trust that the rigger knows what they are doing and has enough experience to play safely with me. I am a bit sheepish to admit that when I first began in doing BDSM/fetish, I worked with a lot of green folks. I (knock on wood) came out unscathed but I took more chances than I should have with riggers in garages, trying out things on me for the first time. I think that people who are new deserve to work with great models too and I am never opposed to helping people learn or trying new things with a rigger or domme but I feel like at this point in my career I am much more personally equipped to do that well. When I was 23 and didn’t know any better and blindly trusted everyone, I could have endangered myself. Now I know enough to know if something feels off or bad. I definitely know now which companies and people I want to work with, which people are doing great work and which ones are being a bit more shady for whatever reason.
GJ: You seem to enjoy performing with a wide variety of people. Do you strive for that kind of diversity in your fucking or is it just something that comes naturally? Do you often choose who you perform with or do you not get a whole lot of choice besides a yes or no?
DR: I do enjoy performing with a wide variety of people and that I do is completely intentional. As a person, I feel a lot of pride about being queer identified and feel it important that the understandings of what queer is be more broad. I resist being pigeonholed in general but also want to represent a more fluid sexuality that feels available to all people. I guess I strive for it and it comes naturally, I just enjoy sex and want to promote a sexuality that is open and accessible. Lately I have been getting to choose who I work with, especially in doing boy/girl porn. It’s fun to be able to choose because as I mentioned earlier, I know who is professional and has a reputation for shooting great scenes and being pleasant to work with. I also have people in the business that I admire and want to work with at some point so getting to choose those people is always great. I am also flexible and enjoy working with people who are booked, which is how it happens most often. Again, I have been very lucky that I have really enjoyed a lot of the people I have shot with, that’s the benefit of working with companies you love, they hire great people and you make new acquaintances that way.
GJ: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is interested in making ethical pornography, what would it be?
DR: Start with the models and the talent you book. Think about them. Give them a safe, warm, comfortable place to shoot. Ask them what they want to eat or drink. Tell them plainly and clearly how they can facilitate your getting a good scene, camera angles, noises, positions, etc. Be grateful for your talent, set it all up then get out of their way and let them fuck. Let them be raw and sexy and into it. I feel that a lot of people in porn do want to be there, strive to work with those people, give them a positive experience and they’ll be back. I also believe that if you trust the talent to do a good job, start from the place of believing they will, most often that is what will happen. Let the women show how they like to have sex, find out upfront if they really don’t want to do something and then don’t push them. Pay them on time, say thank you. I really think that the ethics of porn, again are in the interpersonal relations between who is making the porn and not necessarily in what is being shown. If a woman wants to be on set and wants to be gagged and thrown around like a rag doll while getting double penetrated, you will SEE THAT. You will see it in her eyes, if she wants that to be happening, it will feel differently when you watch it than if she doesn’t. Ethical porn starts with the people performing it. Think about them.