LOS ANGELES — Calm. Cool. Collected. Despite the rough topic at hand, Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) vice president Riley Reyes and chairperson Tasha Reign eloquently led the panel, titled “Models of Consent,” in the packed-to-capacity studio room at the Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood.
Joining Reyes and Reign on the panel were directors Aiden Starr, Cyndi and Juliette March.
“We’re really excited about this panel,” Reyes began. She spoke with her hands enthusiastically. Reyes smiled as she began to explain what checkpoints APAC would like to hit this year. “We know that consent is really important, especially in this socio-political climate. It can be hard to figure out how to navigate it, and to make a safer set, but I know that everyone wants to enforce a safer set that performers would like to return to.”
Using her hand to acknowledge the other three girls on the panel, Reyes continued, “This panel is here to talk about tips, techniques and ways to help make sets safer.”
Reign interjected momentarily to offer comforting words, too. “I’m so incredibly grateful that all of you are here today. This topic has been on my mind for so long. I got into the adult industry almost eight years ago, and I love the work I do. I’m passionate about the adult industry, but unfortunately … as my years in performing have gone by, I have quickly realized that we are lacking in a lot of education. We are lacking in regulations. I have realized that our sets are not safe for the average person. I would say that a strong majority of the female performers that I have talked with have been assaulted or harassed sexually on an adult film set.
“I’m not proud to say that,” Reign confessed, “because I love this business. I just feel like people are not complying with the regulations Cal/OSHA has put in regards to sexual harassment. With the #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp movement, I have felt more encouraged to speak up. But even so, once I’ve spoken about this issue, I’ve had a lot of people on Twitter come back and accuse me of lying.”
Reign’s voice cracked during her confession, “It’s been really challenging to speak out, and I feel like our business is really behind on that. We’re a marginalized group of people, we don’t want people outside of adult judging us more, you know? That, itself, makes it harder for adult workers to talk about their abuse on set. People oftentimes blame the performer, but my biggest issue is not with performers and their boundaries of sex. It’s more about the crew and the onset vibe. Today, I just really want to hear from our panelists what they see the future of adult looks like in terms of consent and assault. I want to help figure out a way to make it a safer work environment for everyone involving.
“But I want to give a positive note,” Reign perked up. “I have had many, many experiences on set when I’ve gone in and had a wonderful, wonderful day. I’ve loved the work that I’ve done that day and everyone has been respectful. That’s the majority of the work that I’ve done and that is why I continue to perform. I mean, I’m 29 years old, and though I don’t know how long I will be in the industry … by the time I leave, I would like to have helped make things better for the next generation of performers.”
Starr introduced herself first: “I’m Aiden Starr. I direct, shoot camera, perform and I am a professional dominatrix.”
Up next was Cyndi of CumKitchen.com, "I’m Cyndi. I think I am the only person up here that is not talent. I’m a director. I run a production company, as well as various niche sites and mainstream. I’m here representing the director’s standpoint for safer work environments.”
March discussed how long she had been performing in her introduction, “I’ve been performing since 2009. I am a bondage rigger and director.”
To rev the panel into action, Reign asked, “Consent is involved in every part of the porn making process. From booking to wrap, much of consent negotiation can happen in the booking. How do you set expectations for what acts a performer is hired to do in a scene? Are those documented in paper or verbally?”
March replied first: “It depends on the company, but I tend to reach out to the models way in advance. During the initial booking, I have encountered when there’s a mix of expectations about what the model is going to show up and do. Sometimes the agent just doesn’t tell her, or they’ve scheduled her for something she says she isn’t going to do until much later. Sometimes they’re not always comfortable, so I try really hard to get the agent to give me the model’s direct contact information. I reach out to them to get to know who’s on their no list, of course I keep that confidential, and what their level of comfort is.”
Reign, bouncing off March asked if she felt the agents played an important role in the consent negotiations.
“Yes,” March confessed. “It’s hard to talk to them sometimes. It definitely depends on the agent; some are harder to contact than others.”
Cyndi tacked on, “I’ve been doing this for 17 years, as a director and producer. I do really hyper fetish content stuff, and what I’ve learned through the years is that creating expectations before the shoot makes a world of difference. You know, in my younger days, I’ve been on the receiving end of bad communication. Because we do things that aren’t necessarily difficult, as these two girls know…”
Cyndi used her hands to indicate she was speaking about Starr and March, both who work deeply with fetish content.
“Some girls are not very comfortable with doing these things,” Cyndi added. “I’ve actually experienced it where I don’t communicate what exactly it is that I’m looking for … what happens is that on set it becomes an issue. I always try to resolve an issue. I never try to push anyone to do anything they don’t want to do — which is what all directors should do!”
All the women on the panel nodded encouragingly.
“But it’s also setting the expectation of what we should do prior to a scene,” Cyndi reiterated. “Agents play a huge role in that, and like Juliette said, there’s agents that communicate better than others. Take Mark from ATMLA for example. He’s a wonderful agent!”
Reign smiled enthusiastically as Cyndi waved to Mark in the crowd.
“He communicates well with his models and the bookers, but that’s not always the case,” she continued. “As a director, we should always air on the side of us being the one that communicates clearly and effectively. I’ve had an onset where if somebody doesn’t want to do something, then we try and figure out way to navigate where the level of comfort is. It’s always been that way. I can’t speak for other directors, but it’s just one of those things that come naturally. You should be able to communicate if there’s an issue, and someone feels uncomfortable. There’s always another way. Problems always arise when both parties don’t try and find the medium point."
Starr expressed similar thoughts to that of Cyndi, “The only thing I would add to that … I let the girls look at the website consistently. I show them content of the fetish they’re performing. I’m like … ‘look at this thing!’”
She waved her hands in enthusiasm, creating a large square shape in the air.
“Look at this thing! Would you like specifically to do this thing!?” Starr smiled while talking. “Kink.com is a great example for this. We use a long, extensive checklist. But, when you’re dealing with intricate BDSM stuff … like, if I’m shooting with Evil Angel and I need to know if the girl gapes, and if I need to know if she’s willing to put strange, gaping things in her butthole … I send her examples. I just get really explicit with things.”
Then, Starr enunciated her next words drastically. She wanted to get her point across.
“If a girl says no it’s a no. If a girl says maybe … it’s a no.” The other girls immediately agreed with her.
“That is absolutely true!” Cyndi pointed her finger at Starr enthusiastically. “Maybe is always a no.”
Starr continued, “This morning I was thinking if I could say anything to people, that a no is no and a maybe is no.”
Cyndi and Starr mutually agreed, showing examples of when a maybe was expressed and meant no, “which is always a no.”
“If you want their maybe to be a yes,” Star said, “Which, of course, you do. They have to tell yes. You cannot go to them and coerce them to say yes. That’s like them saying no.”
Once each lady strongly enforced the idea that a no was a no, and a maybe was also no, the conversation moved to how the industry, as a whole, could improve protocols and make sets safer.
“There are many steps to the process of creating a consent-positive set,” Reyes explained. “It is the responsibility of the director to ensure these steps take place. During booking, be clear about expectations and what acts are to be performed, including providing links to your site. On the day of the shoot, have multiple check-ins with the performers. Start with a pre-scene check-in, during which the talent communicate verbally about their do’s and don’ts.
“A written checklist can be useful for this part of the process,” she added. “During the scene, performers should have an ability to call cut if they need it, and you should make it known that this is an option. If they use their safeword or call cut, honor it, and do not shame or pressure them. After the scene, you should follow-up and make sure that the talent feel comfortable with the shoot. Some companies have a performer liaison for this. Developing this kind of multi-pronged approach leads to greater communication and model satisfaction.”
Reyes reiterated Reign’s idea.
“I would like to see a world where all directors treat the talent as the artists that they are, with respect and dignity,” Reign said. “What we do is art and it deserves a more sensitive protocol than any other art. We bare everything, and our repercussions and risks are extremely high, in return the least we as the performers could ask for is a safe work environment. That being said I would like all directors to make sure that all members of the crew on set are well trained.
“Through sexual harassment videos, to paperwork that ensures they understand the information, and consent videos about this education they have agreed to apply, before anyone can set foot on an adult film set,” Reign continued. “I want all directors to make sure that the artists are heard and that after they they speak their truth about whatever issue occurred, and then action steps put in place. I want all directors to keep a watchful eye on the behavior they are condoning on their sets and making sure that the only physical touch is had between the two or more consenting artists at the time where they are filming.
“I would like to see a mandatory checklist on set for all performers that they have to thoroughly fill out before they engage in sexual activity,” she expressed. “The problem, however, is that often times the very people in these power positions are the abusers. That is why our entire industry needs more then just self regulation. I would like a mandatory checklist to be in place, like Kink.com enforces. I would like the set environment to be like a Penthouse set, where precaution is taken, so that everyone feels safe.”
To conclude the panel, Reyes gave a brief overview of what was to come in the next year for APAC, and how they would seek to help all performers, new and old, navigate the industry better.
“I look forward to APAC releasing its open-source consent materials,” Reyes said. “We are working on two main resources. First, consent checklists for performers, designed for use on mainstream BG sets, not just in BDSM.
“And second, educational materials for crew members,” she concluded. “Sexual harassment training is commonplace in all other industries. It’s time for porn to catch up. APAC is here to support people, across the spectrum of adult entertainment, in creating safer more consent-focused sets. We represent and serve performers first, but this process benefits us all. If a director wants resources to train their crew, we want to support that however we can. If an agent wants to educate their models on their rights, we are here to help. By tackling this as a united industry, we can make a difference.”
XBIZ 2018 is capped by the star-studded XBIZ Awards, presented by MyFreeCams.com, and hosted by adult superstar Jessica Drake, which honor the very best in the business of sex with an elegant red-carpet gala at one of Los Angeles’ top venues, the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, on Thursday.
To view the full schedule, click here.