Interview with Scarlett Chaos aka Essin’Em
I promised that I’d be trying to get all aspects of the ethical porn making world and so far I’ve mostly focused on those who run things, but now I’d like to focus on someone who has spent some time in front of the camera and is now just starting to shoot porn as well.
Essin’Em is best known for her sex blogging and sex education, but did you know that she’s also made porn as Scarlett Chaos? She’s a super awesome subject for this article because of her varied background. All of her experiences and activism really lend themselves to the creation of ethical pornography. Plus she’s just sweet as pie.
Garnet Joyce: How did you decide to start performing in porn and why do you continue?
Scarlett Chaos: I have always been a performer/bit of a ham; I’ve been doing theater since I was 5. As I delved more into the sexuality field, it always seemed like something that might interested me at some point. However, as a chubby queer with red hair and tattoos, I always figured that no one (aside from my partners) would want to see me naked, and that I certainly wouldn’t get paid to shoot. Then, at Pornotopia in New Mexico in November 2008, I saw Crash Pad excerpts on the big screen. I had heard of them, yes, but just seeing them and their gender/body diversity made me quickly fall in love. I applied to be a model that night, and shot a few months later.
I’m actually no longer working in front of the camera. I live in AZ currently (although hoping to head back to CO soon), and there aren’t many ethical/sex-positive porn opportunities. Additionally, between working a full time job, and maintaining my blog, I don’t have a lot of free time to visit places that can shoot. That said, I’m now rocking out behind the camera. I just filmed 4 episodes for Shine’s Point of Contact, and am shooting a couple shortly for GoodDykePorn. Should the right chance come along for me to be on screen again, I’d probably take it, but for now, I think director/videographer works best for me.
GJ: What companies have you worked for? What inspired you to work with these companies specifically?
GJ: How do you define ethical pornography?
SC: Ethical pornography is when everyone involved (usually the actors, but also the crew) gets their input involved, where everyone is comfortable with what is happening, and where everyone is adequately compensated for their work. This means that the actors should at least partially get to dictate who they are shooting with (at least gender/orientation), what type of sex is happening (oral, anal, vaginal, toys, kink, etc) to whom, and are given the options to discuss having barriers. It seems pretty simple, yes? Unfortunately, many companies don’t tell people who they are shooting with until the day of, or hire someone for a girl/girl scene, and then when they show up, tell them they have to do an anal scene, or they’re fired. Barriers are almost never brought up in much mainstream porn.
That said, I don’t feel ethical pornography has to have a queer or feminist bent (although much of current ethical porn happens to). Ethical means treating everyone in a fair and respectful manner. It means listening to talent, and respecting limits/needs/etc. It means not lying, half-truth-ing or purposely deceiving people. Ethical porn is hot because you know the people in it are really enjoying the sex they are having, and not solely putting on a show of pleasure.
GJ: Have all of the companies that you’ve worked with 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?
SC: I would say yes. Why? Because they all let me decide what to do on camera, who to do (if I was with a partner), what toys I chose to use and how, whether I wanted barriers, etc. They also all paid me, in a timely manner, an amount that I felt truly compensated the work I did. I got to guide the direction the scenes went, I got to choose what to wear and say, and I felt completely comfortable and in control of myself and my sexuality at all times.
There was one situation where I wanted to use barriers, but it was so unorganized that I really didn’t have time to bring that up, and I felt like I had to start, regardless of my want for safer sex. Afterward, I felt a bit upset, but realized it was my responsibility to bring it up. They didn’t tell me I couldn’t use them, they just never brought them up. I would work with the company again if I was offered to do so, but would make sure barriers got brought up first and foremost.
GJ: Do you think there is anyone making ethical pornography in the mainstream porn world? If so, who?
GJ: You’ve recently started working behind the camera for Point of Contact. How do you feel your experience in front of the camera influences what you do behind it?
GJ: Do you think your background in sex education plays a role in how you approach porn (both in front of the camera and behind)?
GJ: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is interested in making ethical pornography what would it be?
SC: Before you start, decide what is important to you; what you will/won’t do, who you’ll shoot with, what barriers (if any) you’ll use, whether you’ll alter your body hair/look, whether you’ll do free content-trade shoots or only for money, etc. Make all of these decisions first. Then stick to them. It’s easy to get caught up in the world of porn (both ethical and not), and it’s very easy to change your mind and go back on the things that are important to you. These are the things you may regret. Ethical companies will not ask you to do things you’re not comfortable with.
Images courtesy of Essin’Em.