Tricks of the Trade: Mighty Real
My name is Shine Louise Houston and I am producer, director and founder of Pink and White Productions. We have produced four explicit queer feature films, and we run two queer pornographic websites, CrashPadSeries.com and PinkLabel.tv. We will also be expanding our operations in the next few years.
I want to start by pointing out a problem in some of Pink and White Productions’ own promotional materials, which is the claim that “Queer Filmmaker Shine Louise Houston brings to the web authentic female and queer sexuality.” For one thing, our productions start in my head in some senses, but they quickly grow beyond me – I think of the CrashPadSeries.com website, for instance, as a machine that I service.
With casting out of my hands, a crew of four, and performers who make their own decisions about how their scenes will proceed, I control little more than the camera I hold and some of the later decisions about the final edit. At this point I could easily put every part of the CrashPadSeries.com site into my co-owners’ and crews’ hands and the site would go on as usual. Even more importantly, we do bring something to the web, and it does involve “female and queer sexuality,” but claims of “authenticity” go against the understandings of sexuality, queerness, and radicalism that lie beneath our work. The same is true for related words that I think we do manage to avoid, like “realistic,” “natural,” and “true.”
To be clear: our performers arrive at our studio and have wild, nasty, loud, intense, and multiply orgasmic live sex in front of our cameras with positions, fantasies, pacing, gender identifications, and sexual acts of their own choosing. Our “rules” consist mostly of a few parameters to ensure safety, consensuality, and easy enough cleanup – no blood, no tears, no urine, no glitter – and of time constraints – we always start and end on time so crew can leave when promised. If “authentic” means “it really happened,” then it is as true for the sex that we film as it is for any porno. Or to give us a little more credit, if “authentic” means “these people have sex this way,” then it is true that at least on the day we shot, the models were having the sex of their choosing.
The “authenticity” we do not truck in is the idea that there is a truth of every person’s sexuality and gender that we can all find if we search hard enough. This would be the same “authenticity” that would pretend that the sex viewers can watch on our site is a mirror of some sort of “real” or “true” queer sexuality. We are not taking part in a race to realness, as if queers need to occupy the land of the real that heteros have possessed for so long.
Part of our joy in the work we do is the chaos we hope we’re throwing in the face of any idea that sexuality and gender are a fixed or predetermined inner essence, as if the functions of our holes were inscribed on our DNA, as if queer women are all perpetually stuck in a sexual universe of softly-lit ultra-feminine lesbians caressing each other in a scene that ends in a mutual embrace of gentle tribadism. Even if we did believe that we were witnessing something “authentic,” it would be incredibly naïve of us to try to “capture” this realness on film, a form that so clearly offers manipulated representations, not the “actual thing.” Aesthetic pleasure is a big part of our business, and we work hard to produce beautiful representations of sexual performances that we think are beautiful.
So instead of discovering real sexuality, as if we overturned a gigantic rock in San Francisco and documented the awesome slithering masses of queer sexuality that were there for the finding (see our 2007 film, “The Wild Search” for a spoof of this idea), we are doing what we can to be the site of production of a queer discourse of sexuality. We offer representations not of the genuine reality of queer sexuality, but of its incredible possibility. We believe queerness in many of its diverse forms can allow for ways to experience sex and gender that move away from some of the coercive and damaged ideas of sex, romance, love, and beauty that so many of us grew up with.
Here are some things we think are possible: all body types being beautiful and sensual; countless gender expressions existing on countless different body types; people with non-normative gender expressions being hot; people wanting to watch non-normative queers fuck; hot sex and hot porn without a money shot; intimacy with strangers; ethical non-monogamy; consensual kink; erogenous zones that have nothing to do with reproduction; sex being hilarious; beauty and sexiness on every skin color; sexual power play being positive and healthy.
Pink and White is not inventing these possibilities; instead, we are making a space for them, disseminating them, bringing them into the realm of representation and representability. The more subscribers we have, the more people who have visited the CrashPadSeries.com or HeavenlySpire.com the more these different forms of sexuality, gender, and love will be available to experience. I see our pornography as offering sites of self-invention for performers and viewers, arenas for people to explore different and queerer ways of experiencing their sexuality, and a space for queer possibilities of gender and sexuality to thrive. Queerness in this sense is not who we are but what we do and what we make together. Our pornography in this sense is queer love on screen.
None of this is to say that we are somehow freely creating an entirely new language of sexuality. As an artist and a pornographer in the U.S., I am bound by conventions of law, film, narrative structure, tech-business models that work, capital (and restrictions on capital), and self-selection among performers. I borrow film conventions from Hitchcock, gay porn, Tony Comstock, Kenneth Anger; our films make use of centuries of representational formulae that I learned studying figurative painting and drawing in art school; I know that even gender and gendered self-presentations are matters of long-held conventions; and CrashPadSeries.com and HeavenlySpire.com each have their own particular narrative patterns that come from hundreds of years of film and literature about sex, love, and romance.
Pink and White avails itself of all of such artistic norms much the same as we are vigilant about our taxes and 2257 paperwork. The difference between the legal conventions and the artistic and ideological ones, though, is that where we are very careful to do our business legally, we are happy to fuck with the artistic and ideological languages we’ve inherited. This is also true when it comes to our internal financial operations: we are a for-profit company, but we want to play no part in the greed and selfishness of capitalism. Instead I see our company as creating an insular economy of queers, especially queers of color. The profits we make go into expanding the range of representations we offer and into paying our employees and performers as fairly as we can for their amazing work.
The intention of Pink and White Productions is to help people transform their authentic selves and how they experience authentic sexuality and gender. Even better, we hope that we can be a part of the growth of a queer community that cares more about being with each other in pleasurable, loving, respectful, vulnerable, powerful, intimate, and mutually consenting ways than about discovering the genuine reality of authentic sexual selves.
Shine Louise Houston is the founder/director of the San Francisco queer porn company Pink & White Productions.