“Consent is a system” says queer BDSM educator and performer BlakSyn, opening up to the participants of “Consenting Adults.”
The panel was held virtually, hosted by the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Adult Industry Collective (BIPOC AIC). The performers discussed the experiences they’ve had in the industry around harm and abuse, techniques for establishing consent on set, and strategies for how to move forward and collectively heal from traumatic experiences. The panel worked to center the needs of the sex industry’s BIPOC performers in a larger conversation about consent in porn. The conversation among performers BlakSyn, Wolf Hudson, King Noire, and Mickey Mod and many more will be presented online via clips on the organization’s Instagram and Twitter accounts as part of their ongoing work to bring awareness to their project.
The BIPOC AIC should be recognized for organizing this panel on consent, bringing to light the ways we can organize and prevent more abuse in the industry when it inevitably starts going strong again. The collective was formed in June, sparked by the friction of the BLM movement, #MeToo, and an industry-wide lockdown that encouraged many adult performers to abandon studio work and speak out about what they’ve experienced.
Understanding consent as a system, as BlackSyn encouraged us to do, allows us to discover our own boundaries, identify where they are being met or crossed, and make changes in the moment. This can only happen, though, in an environment where everyone is actively participating and making space for these conversations. “Observing consent allows us to check power,” BlakSyn said. They suggested that to be mindful of consent, we must “check in on our vulnerability and compassion and ability to understand. Those are the tools.”
“When I work with a female performer, I know where my privilege stands,” said Hudson, a bisexual performer who has been working for over a decade in gay, straight, and queer porn. He suggests a more open line of communication that comes from honesty and appreciation between performers on set, so things can be brought up immediately and without retribution. He says, “I know a lot of times performers feel like they can’t say anything” about what goes down while at work. Hudson wants to see a mutually supportive relationship between the performers, where they are able to speak up for each other. If performers actively focus on each other’s needs, he argues, you can tackle abuse on set without fear.
Mod, who has been performing and directing independently for over a decade and is now creative director at Kink.com, suggests that porn producers should lay out what’s going to happen on set with the performers, prior to filming so they “aren’t creating situations where coercion happens.” He cites scripting strategies often employed by indie, performer-led studios as a way to prevent consent violations. Mod said that pressure to produce porn too quickly can lead to boundary violations, suggesting that slowing down could lead to positive change.
Noire brought up the idea that kill fees from agents (which attach a price to a performer’s ability to cancel or back out of a scene) and many company’s porn contracts (which often don’t include formal consent checklists) should be reformed so that they function with the performer’s best interest in mind. “If companies continue to hire predatory people, we should stop working for those companies.”
“We shouldn’t create safe havens for predators in this industry,” adds Noire, as the panel tacked an incoming question about how the industry should handle established performers like Ron Jeremy, John Stagliano, Manuel Ferrara, Marcus Dupree, and James Deen, who have all been accused of participating in sexual assault.
Noire also encouraged everyone to start providing more allyship and solidarity, arguing that “our coworkers should not have to worry about us violating them. Performers can be better to each other.”
Wolf Hudson observes that some performers continue to experience retribution for speaking out against assault, harassment, groping, racism, diminishment, belittlement, and encourages newer performers to know that it has to be OK to choose safety over money, sighing, “I know it takes a lot.”
“When someone does make a point to make an allegation, we are already starting to mediate that at the BIPOC AIC,” says Noire, announcing an upcoming program that would be the first of its kind in the industry: a safe place to take one’s assault grievances.
Much of the panel, talks about ways in which positive experiences can be created on set, speaking to the vast ways in which sex workers and porn performers understand consent and how to cultivate it. As performers, we can also read one another’s performances. BlakSyn spoke to this, pointing to the importance of reading body language, tone of voice, and other ways to measure enthusiasm aside from a verbal “yes” or “no,” citing BDSM education as a way to further understand equity and create space for consent within our community.
Hudson says his fans love seeing consent on camera, pointing to ways in which he tries to make porn a more consensual environment. “I keep the akwardness because thats the stuff that happens in sex, showcasing that makes you more relatable.” He adds, “There’s nothing wrong with showcasing humanity, not everything has to be polished.”
“You are an entire human being—a whole person through and through.” says BlackSyn, at the closing of the “Consenting Adults” panel, which centered the voices of masculine Black porn professionals on the topic of consent.
What struck me about this conversation is that it seems that a new system is being built as a result of marginalized performers being pushed aside. The collective describes this as a process of “decolonizing porn,” a phrase used by veteran porn actress Sinnamon Love—an activist and one of the founders of the BIPOC AIC—in a closing statement over Zoom. Love organized the panel alongside Jet Setting Jasmine and Noire, who handled the technical aspects, and the rest of the BIPOC AIC. They are our leaders on the journey to decolonize porn, insisting for all of us that performers are not disposable. We should follow them into the future with our purses open.
The BIPOC AIC’s next event is The History of Black Women in Porn on July 30th at 6pm PST, by donation and presented by EventBrite, hosted on Zoom. Mireille Miller-Young, author of A Taste for Brown Sugar, will share some of her archival research and interviews with “women who have worked in the adult entertainment industry since the 1980s,” promises the EventBrite invitation. Register Here to learn from and experience the stories of Miller-Young, who in the words of the BIPOC_AIC, “boldly takes on representations of black women’s sexuality in the porn industry.”