“Can they really live a normal life after porn?”: After Porn Ends (2012)

By Robert Kenneth Dator.

The title of this review, lifted from the publicity tagline, assumes the pitch of a midway barker outside the hoochie-coo tent at a wheat belt carnival. “See for yourself! She teases the imagination; he prods the curious, which is everyone, little lady, to take a peek! Go on now, my good sir, past the pretty lady and the handsome gent; go on in there, right there in the dark—is your heart pounding m’dear—and behold!”

They hailed from the rural South, steel towns, and the San Fernando Valley. As teenagers, and young adults, none of them thought that porn was in their future. They were artists, baseball players, child prodigies, and even Ivy Leaguers. Now, after their lives in porn; they’re television stars, bounty hunters, writers, and social activists. What happened in between?

At least, this is what the press kit asks. But as with the wheat belt hoochie-coo, the dirty little secret is—there is nothing whatever salacious going on. In fact the pitch begs a happy ending. But the viewer will have to decide as the perennials and superstars of a thriving porno industry’s past – such as the late, and charming, John Leslie; its present, the beautiful and confused, Raylene; and those on the cusp of the future, the disturbingly unselfconscious, Mary Carey – wrestle with the hard questions that attend a harder life.

Nina Hartley

Across the broad range of passive interviews in this sincere documentary, the title question proves fairly, if not predictably, easy to answer. But the mechanics of the matter rest, as ever, on two obvious crucial factors: the first, a hypocritical society that makes a palpable and indelible impact upon the second factor, that of the personality and emotional fortitude of the superstar sex worker. While the first remains immutable, the second is becoming more resilient with the times. Even so, in the wake of forty years of change there have been some casualties in an industry that, once illegal, emerged from darkened basements and back-alley warehouses to become an arguably legitimate multi-billion dollar corporate global trade. One can dispute the claim of legitimacy on moral and philosophical grounds until doomsday, but, ultimately, money talks.

As Dr. Neil Malamuth, professor of Psychology, UCLA, puts it: “most of the people who seek it [porn] out don’t have the means of making that kind of money by other means; I mean very few say, women, say: hummm, am I going to become a surgeon, or am I going to become a pornography star?”

Houston, and her million-dollar paycheck might agree the choice was a simple one. It would seem that sooner or later it all comes down to money. Certainly such was the case for fortunate, happy ever after, Tyfanny Million, who acquired a sizeable inheritance and ran like the wind from the rolling cameras. For others like, Asia Carrera, Shelly Lubben, and Crissy Moran, for whom the choice was more difficult and the consequences and conflicts more lasting, the jury is still out.

It is with the black heart of the hard cash versus societal pariah duality that author and sometime porn star Luke Ford takes issue. With so much money to be made it makes logical sense that somebody has to be spending it. And so it follows within these precincts that everyone, at least once in their lives, has “used porn” and, therefore, the sex workers who create it—mind you—all the while regarding the medium and the messengers as social, emotional, and spiritual outcasts. As Ford puts it: “When you’re involved with this industry you lose your humanity; you’re no longer treated as a human being by eighty percent of the people out there.”

Many another similar sentiment is expressed by those interviewed, but, with less angst, with more good nature, and in the majority, more of a sense of humor. In particular, a soundly jocular and engagingly casual Nina Hartley, who simply, pragmatically, and hilariously expresses the position that her extensive participation in the sex industry was, and remains, a personal choice, the consequences of which she freely accepts.

As the extensive parade of participants are steadily and skillfully introduced—yes, there is a real editor, William Paul Jones, at work on the film—one will make intuitive predictions about who among these sometimes lonely and touching people made a life after porn. But make no mistake, these are not pathetic outcasts; most are happy and lead successful lives.

Bill Margold

A thoughtful viewer might switch off the screen feeling humbled by the reality of objectification. These aren’t two dimensional automatons, but human beings with real lives and real struggles and real hardships to face.

Industry agent, Bill “Papa Bear” Margold, emphatically warns: “Porn is forever.” Perhaps it’s up to a world that sustains the industry to prove him wrong.

The curious can catch After Porn Ends on Netflix in December.

Actor, writer and director, Robert Kenneth Dator, worked in feature film and television in the United States and Australia. Bob is at work on The Camera as Entity; teaches Film Literacy, Literature and Drama at Oak Ridge Military Academy. He lives and writes in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he attends graduate school.


Film Details

After Porn Ends (2012)

United States

Director Bryce Wagoner

Producer Susan Dynner

Director of Photography Michael W. Abbott

Editor William Paul Jones

With first billed, Mary Carey (Herself), Asia Carrera (Herself), Luke Ford (Himself: Industry Columnist), Nina Hartley (Herself), Houston (Herself), John Leslie (Himself), Shelley Lubben (Herself), Amber Lynn (Herself), Neil Malamuth (Himself: Dr. Neil Malamuth), William Margold (Himself: Industry Agent), Sandra Margot (Herself), Crissy Moran (Herself), Richard Pacheco (Himself), Raylene (Herself), Sabree Scott (Herself), Seka (Herself), Bobby Slayton (Himself), Sunset Thomas (Herself), David Weintraub (Himself), Randy West (Himself)

Runtime 93 minutes

HD DVD (NTSC, Region 1) USA, 2010

Produced by Oxymoron Entertainment, Distributed by Gravitas Ventures, LLC (region 1)

Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Sound Mix: Stereo

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