Thank You, Pandora Blake

by Calico Rudasill at Porn For Women

Back in the mid-90s, I got my first “real job” shortly after completing my undergraduate degree. Actually, the job started out very much less-than-real, given that it was a data entry temp job, but I clawed my way out of the data entry pool and into a salaried position pretty quickly.

pandora blake porn

Read on…

The job was at a software company, and let me tell you, the culture at that company was more sexist, more macho and a whole lot less “empowering” from a woman’s perspective than any position I’ve held in the close to 20 years I’ve been working in the adult entertainment industry.

The assumption throughout the production department in which I worked was that I was a hack, a no-talent girl who had sucked her way to middle-management. I’m not kidding: The big, salacious rumor around the water cooler was that I had sucked off the president of the company while sitting in his Mercedes 500SL directly following the company Christmas party.

Never mind the fact I left the Christmas party hours before it ended and never once set foot inside our fearless leader’s prized status-symbol Mercedes (he’d have been a corpse sooner than risk a peasant like me sullying its premium leather interior); I was a relatively attractive young woman, so clearly there was no way I belonged in the production department of a software company.

Sales? Maybe. Answering phones? No problem there. Obviously I had nothing of substance to offer where the actual products were concerned, though; all of that was Man’s Work.

Interestingly, in the time I worked there, nobody ever asked me what it was like to be a woman working in the software industry. Not once did someone say “Software is a very male-dominated business sector; is it hard to function in that environment as a woman?” or “Does this job make you feel empowered?”

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked such questions by friends, family, journalists and others in connection with my work in the adult industry, on the other hand. It’s as though they think Max Hardcore is looming over me as I type each sentence, speculum and massive dildo in hand, threatening to brutally gape and penetrate my every orifice if I let so much as a single typo survive the editing process.

Those who ask me about working in the porn industry are uniformly stunned (and universally skeptical) when I tell them my experience working in porn has been far more pleasant, enjoyable and rewarding than my stint in the software biz.

They especially don’t believe me when I tell them the average male IT employee is a bigger pig by far than the average male porn director (in my experience, at least). I think to them, IT guys are a bunch of harmless, bespectacled, stereotypical nerd types who are simply too nervous around women to be shitty to us on a regular basis.

The truth, of course, is IT guys run the gamut from warm and wonderful people to abject wastes of oxygen, just like the personality types in any line of work. It was just my bad luck to land in a software production department staffed largely by guys who trended toward the ‘waste of oxygen’ end of the personality spectrum.

At this point, I’m sure I sound resentful of my days in the software industry and like I regret ever taking the job, but the truth is I’m grateful for the experience. I learned a lot at that job, and most of the lessons I absorbed had nothing to do with software, technology or business. Instead, those lessons had a lot to do with understanding hierarchy, interpersonal power relationships, the corrupting nature of petty authority and the vile phenomenon of ‘office politics.’

Kind of like having an older sibling picking on you as you grow up gives you a thicker skin when later confronting schoolyard bullies, being treated like shit every day at the hands of my coworkers steeled me for my career path ahead – and as I would find out in speaking to my older sisters, toughness is something a woman finds useful in any line of work.

If you think the assholes who run the hospital where my sister toils as a doctor are any more respectful of her than my former software compatriots were toward me, you have another thing coming. She’s had to scratch and claw her way to every promotion, every salary increase – and since she has transitioned from clinical work to research, every dollar of every grant, too.

The reason all this came flooding to mind this morning is an op/ed I read by feminist porn director Pandora Blake, in which she makes a number of points which had me standing and cheering – not the most ergonomic posture from which to type on a laptop, obviously, but I couldn’t help myself.

Pandora Blake
Pandora Blake

Blake writes of her disappointment in seeing Women’s Hour debate the question “can porn empower women?” at the Women of the World festival earlier this month.

“This question not only relies on misguided assumptions that limit the framing of the debate, it also misses the point,” Blake writes. “I could tell you that I have felt empowered by both watching porn and making it (which I have), but the truth is that it doesn’t matter. When we are talking about the porn industry as a site of labour, it doesn’t matter whether porn performers are empowered or not by their work – they still have agency, and they still have rights.”

Like me, Blake is bothered not so much by the question, but the fact it’s a question we only seem to ask of women working in porn, as though there’s no such thing as soul-crushing, mind-dumbing disempowerment of women working in other fields.

“We don’t ask this question of other industries because it assumes – falsely – that they are monolithic,” Blake continues. “Porn is a creative medium, as varied as any other. Like most of our entertainment media, a lot of porn is sexist and too much of it has historically been made by men for men, but claiming that all porn is sexist because you’ve only seen the worst of it is like saying that all TV is sexist because you’ve only watched Baywatch.”

Blake’s piece is so spot-on in every respect, I could go on quoting like this until I’ve reprinted the whole damn thing. She’s not the first to be irked by the women-porn-empowerment question, but she dissects and dismantles the assumptions implicit in the question like no other commentary I’ve read before.

Thank you, Pandora Blake, for putting into very insightful, perceptive words something which has been scratching around inside the heads of other women in the adult industry – myself included – for a long, long time.

Will anybody listen, particularly anti-porn feminists who appear to believe only women who have been brainwashed would ever willingly work in the adult industry? I doubt it; such people generally disregard the opinions of any woman with whom they disagree, terming her to be another victim of the patriarchy, a poor, downtrodden soul who can’t even recognize exploitation when it walks up and bites her on the ass.

Nevertheless, I certainly appreciate what Blake has written and so will other women who work in porn. If nothing else, it’s one more compelling and persuasive voice speaking up – and in my opinion, whether more “traditional” feminists hear this voice says a lot more about them than it does about porn.

[Image:  Pandora Blake ]

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