On the Set: Adult Time's 'The Yes List' Celebrates Sexy Consent

On the Set: Adult Time's 'The Yes List' Celebrates Sexy Consent

In life, as in porn, you gotta — as the 1940s standard by Johnny Mercer would have it — “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.” Or as Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s “Ulysses” enthusiastically declares, “yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Adult Time’s new series, “The Yes List,” is all about that basic three-letter-word, following the motto, “To have great sex, it is important to talk about sex — we hope these stories show that.”

Look, we have influence — we can use our content to get people off and make people entertained, but also, hopefully, they’ll walk away with something that they can at least think about.

By design, consent is central both to the stories depicted on “The Yes List” and also behind the scenes, as performers get to pick whom they want to work with.

It’s a topsy-turvy riff on an ancient industry tradition: “No” lists have for decades designated the performers — usually male — that a specific talent — usually female — refuses to work with.

Adult Time Chief Creative Officer Bree Mills considers “The Yes List” the natural evolution from earlier positive-consent projects by the studio, like “We Like Girls” or “She Wants Him.”

“A lot of these projects have been opportunities for me to really showcase the importance of ‘Yes’ lists within casting,” she tells XBIZ during a break from shooting the first proper episode of the series, several months after the initial one-off pilot idea.

Unlike those dreaded “No” lists, “Yes” lists, Mills explains, are not just one-sided.

“It’s not just about asking the female talent which male she wants to work with,” she notes. “It’s equally important to validate with the male performer about which team partners they want to have. In the case of ‘We Like Girls,’ it's a lesbian project, so that is just between inclusive women, but with ‘She Wants Him,’ which we put out in 2018 or 2019, it was kind of the opposite. We asked the female talent to choose her male partner.”

What Mills realized in doing “She Wants Him” was that nobody was really asking male performers how they felt.

“They were sort of used to showing up only to make the girl look good,” she explains. “Doing their thing, doing their job and making sure that the scene looked good. But they were very rarely part of the equation. With ‘The Yes List’ this year, I actually was very conscious to make sure that the castings were mutual.”

For the inaugural episode, Seth Gamble and Ryan Reid chose each other, and then Mills developed a scenario for them involving Jay Romero in a non-sex role.

As the Adult Time production crew led by Michael Vegas and Siouxsie Q set up the shots, Mills continued elaborating on the genesis of the project.

“Last year, I was asked to participate in a mainstream Netflix documentary — which will air in early 2023 — about consent as it relates to sex. At the same time, Siri Dahl, who is a performer we work with a lot, came to me and said she wanted to do her first bisexual scene. So I was in this documentary project around the subject of consent, and I decided to make the bisex scene with Siri into something that infused consent into the foreplay.”

That scene, shot as a one-off pilot for a potential new series, was called “The Yes List” and co-starred Siri, Wolf Hudson and Johnny Hill.

“We intentionally released the full scene online for free,” Mills says, “because my goal with this project is really to raise awareness about consent and to get people to think.”

Fast-forward to the fall of 2022, when the pilot begat a four-episode limited series, of which the Gamble-Reid pairing was the initial one.

“I had long wanted to make a story that was fiction, an anthology series with episodic content. But within the context of those stories, could we organically include communication and consent within the foreplay? To kind of show how sexy that can be, but also how important it is,” Mills elaborates. “Once we launched Adult Time and saw it grow, and started to work with even more people and reach even wider audiences, I really began to feel the social responsibility behind the position of influence that we have.”

Although Mills believes the industry should not be “accountable for sex education,” she does recognize that, by default, porn often fulfills a role left vacant by social and political cluelessness or disregard.

“Let's face it,” Mills acknowledges. “People watch our content not just to get off, but also to model themselves, or just to learn about something or to discover something about sexuality. So we have a tremendous opportunity to educate people, and to do so in a way that is within the content itself.”

And so, when it came time for the new streaming season, Mills returned to the idea of “The Yes List.”

“Every season, it's no different than any other streaming platform — we have a big old programming plan for each of our sexual and gender preference categories. We define the shows we want to make and the movies we want to make. And probably one of my favorite perks of being in my position is that I get my own budget every year, so I can put that towards projects that I want to promote. I wanted to resurrect ‘The Yes List’ as a concept and to do a short season, running from January through April or May of 2023.”

Mills says that her intention with these four episodes was “to deep-dive into the hetero world, and to tackle a variety of stories with hetero couples or a hetero sex dynamic. The goal was to do situations that are very realistic, that people find themselves in, that really highlight the importance of talking to your partner before you have sex.”

Mills and her Adult Time team did extensive research trying to identify some of the most common situations that both men and women find themselves in when they are about to hook up.

The initial story, she says, is “about what happens when assumptions kick in and communication is not there.”

Gamble and Reid play two people who are starting out a relationship, but before it becomes sexual, the male partner learns something about the female partner that skews his perception of what she likes and who she is.

“And rather than talking to her about it,” Mills says, “he just assumes, ‘Okay, I need to be this type of person.’ And it ends up causing a conflict and forcing them to have to really check themselves and talk, and realize that no, just because you assumed it was like this, that's not actually how it is. And I think that's something that is super common.”

In the scenario, Gamble finds out that Reid does some form of sex work and has an OnlyFans account. Romero plays his buddy, who also learns this information and unleashes a stream — a sewer, really — of peer-pressuring banter trying to goad Gamble into hypersexualizing his new hookup mate.

“A lot of men, in particular, feel pressure about acting a certain way, and all the classic toxic masculine traits,” Mills points out. “And then they have to realize that, no, even if your friends are egging you on to act like this, or you think that's what she wants, you actually need to talk to her. You can’t just assume. So that's the first lesson in the first episode.”

Mills says the plot was inspired by a scene in the first season of “Euphoria,” which tackled the same subject.

“It was very much about a guy who was getting peer-pressured by his buddies after realizing the girl he was dating was a cam girl, or had some sort of NSFW content creation, and then he felt he needed to be that guy in the video to match her. And she was like, ‘I don't want that guy in the video!’ When I watched that, I thought, ‘I’m sure this happens to so many people, especially people we know in the industry.’ But also I think that's very true of our society in general. One of the things that we're really learning as a society, as we become more aware of our actions, is that people do make a lot of assumptions and act on a lot of assumptions. And that's really important to try to reverse-engineer. This first story talks about that.”

Episode 2 concerns a married couple, played by real-life coupled performers Vanna Bardot and Codey Steele, who fall into a rut because they've never talked about sex.

“They've had sex, obviously, but they've just never talked about it,” Mills explains. “And so they're both feeling really bad about their lack of libido, or their lack of chemistry, but they're unable to communicate with each other because they just don't know how to talk about sex. That's also something that a lot of couples face as a challenge.”

In Episode 3, Aiden Ashley and Nathan Bronson match on a hookup app and just get together.

“I wanted to dispel the notion that just because you hook up with somebody casually, that doesn't mean it's a bad thing,” Mills says. “Because there's a lot of shame around the concept of sex. There's nothing wrong with hooking up, especially when you do so in a way that's really mutually respectful and communicative. We're just going to show basically a very positive hookup, and the reason why it's so positive and they feel so comfortable to get together is because they are able to connect and communicate.”

Episode 4, co-starring Kenna James, Oliver Flynn and Isiah Maxwell, is about a couple that very earnestly wants to wife-share. “They've arranged it, but then when they get to it, they don't really know what to do,” Mills explains. “And it's showing what happens when you have three newbies who want to do something, but what happens then when they actually have to do it.”

Back on the set for the first episode, Gamble, Reid and Romero are being interviewed for a wraparound segment blurring the line between fiction and behind-the-scenes disclosure.

“In a short, candid SFW interview, we ask the actors to share their advice on how to bring consent into foreplay, both in scenes and their personal lives,” Mills says.

“I really think consent is just having mutual respect for one another, and what we both want in the scene,” Gamble says about navigating those issues with an on-set partner. “I try to gauge the other person I'm working with, mostly for their comfort. I feel that my job as a male performer is to make the girl look good. And that's always been my perspective on the job. The way to do that is to make them feel comfortable and safe. That's the first priority for me.”

Reid agrees, stressing that pre-scene consent talks are fundamental “to make sure everything that's on the ‘no’ list does not happen and everything on the ‘yes’ does happen.”

“I really like whenever a guy, during the ‘yeses and noes’ talk, asks you personally, ‘Hey, how do you come? What’s your way to make yourself come?’ and then makes sure to have that happen during the scene,” she says.

“I think the most important thing that I've learned in my 16 years performing,” Gamble reflects, “is just learning how to communicate with the person and build chemistry with each girl I work with. And you can only do that by communicating openly. Sometimes, being a guy, it's hard to get voluble and be like, ‘Hey, I don't know how to do this. Have you had this done to you before?’”

“It’s a turn-on having a guy ask you, ‘How do you want this done? Do you like this, or do you like this more?” concludes Reid. “That’s a big, enthusiastic ‘Yes!’”


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