Why Everyone Should Visit a Porn Set Before They DieMolly McAleer

In late 2008, I spent the day on set of an all-Asian lesbian pornographic film and it was one of the loveliest days I’ve ever had. You should be so lucky as to have this opportunity in your lifetime.

At the time, I was working for Gawker Media (specifically Defamer) as a videographer and it was often my responsibility to go to different events and locations to record video for them that I would later edit and pass over to the editors. Usually it was red carpet events and Hollywood parties but occasionally I would find myself covering something for one of Gawker’s other sites like Jalopnik, their automotive site, or Fleshbot, their pornography news site.

When I was asked to go to the set to grab some interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with one of Fleshbot’s editors, I was pumped. I was a bit more youthful back then and jumped at the chance to do anything that anyone would consider slightly odd or that seemed like a totally unique experience.

People have some pretty extreme opinions about pornography. They either love it, think it’s the downfall of our society or don’t particularly care for it but think that any kind of human expression is important. I personally have never been the biggest fan of watching porn, but I am a huge supporter of freedom of speech and think that as long as people are allowed to say whatever they want and create whatever they want, we’re all good.

The morning of the shoot was clear and sunny. As the editor and I drove through the hills of Encino up to the house where the shoot was taking place, nervousness (and the previous night’s drinking) caught up to me. I asked him to pull over the car quickly and jumped out to vomit. I puked all over that hill, you guys. It was a beautiful hill full of mansions unlike any I’d ever seen (meaning they were Southern Californian and relatively new and a far cry from the mansions I’d grown up seeing back in Boston where I’m from) and I was barfing grape Cisco because at this time in my life I was buckwild, bold and totally broke.

Once we arrived at the palatial estate that was rented to the production company by a baller female orthodontist who owned the entire thing herself and wanted to use it to make extra cash on long weekends, I was truly stunned by what I observed. I guess I expected the worst. I thought that the director would be some sleezeball with his genitals hanging out and that the craft services table would be made up of ecstasy, Red Bull and over-the-counter water pills.

Instead, the director, who greeted us at the door, was a sweetheart of a man who’d spent ten years trying to break into “normal” directing, but eventually realized that the porn industry would consistently hire him and let him do what he wants to do for a living. That’s actually the case with a lot of the people who work behind the camera in that industry. Hollywood only makes so many movies a year, but the porn business is booming and constant. The craft services were typical, too. A healthy lunch, and tons of candy and soda. I grabbed a can of ginger ale to calm my nervous stomach as we were escorted into the main room.

I sat down in a chair that was moved to the side of the living room (I guess it didn’t make the art director’s cut, which I’m sure would have pleased the baller orthodontist that owned the house), and waited to meet the stars. I was told that there were four women featured in this particular video, which was the ninth in the series. One played a dominatrix of sorts, two were her servants and the star of the whole thing (whose name escapes me, oddly enough) was supposed to be the one that they all wanted to be. I watched the crew make the final adjustments to the very soft lighting when I heard a tiny voice say, “Hi.”

When I looked up, a woman on her hands and knees, who was entirely naked save for several strands of beads, was waving at me through the balusters of the enormous spiral staircase. I said hello back and smiled, but I was freaking out on the inside because the only other place I’d ever seen a naked woman who wasn’t related to me in real life was the locker room at the gym and in the communal dressing room at Loehmann’s. A heartbeat later, an older woman in the tallest heels I’ve ever seen entered the set. She had on a long velvet jacket that was open to expose her naked body and long thin braided hair. Before I had a chance to process this, they began filming.

Since this is kind of a clean site and the specifics of what I saw the beaded girl do to this woman are not-so-clean, I won’t get into it, but I will tell you this: It was boring and unsexy and extremely technical. The real heroes in pornography are the editors, because they make some of the most safe and straight-up silly sexual acts look as if there’s any sort of passion or spur of the moment action is going on. After every thirty seconds of filming, they’d stop the cameras, the actresses would return to their original places. Between takes the stars would giggles to one another and talk about television or how ready they were to eat lunch, and then they’d take another go at the mechanical scene. They reminded me of my friends, except naked and far more comfortable with their bodies.

After they finished filming the scene in the living room, they broke for lunch and I filmed my editor as he interviewed the star of the video. She was perky and sweet and gracious, much nicer than most of the actual movie stars that I was interviewing back then. She recalled that they’d met briefly at a conference earlier that year and answered each of his questions thoughtfully and with a smile on her face. Once they were done, she shook both of our hands and asked me what my name was again. “M0lly,” she said, “Thanks for being here today.”

When my editor and I started down the hill back toward Los Angeles, he asked me what I thought about our day. “Honestly, I think that was the best day of my life. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, but I thought you kind of had to be a pervert or something to do this job. I know that sounds rude, but seriously, I thought you were kind of a pervert and I didn’t get how you were married and have a kid and stuff while working with those people all day but like, those were the nicest people I’ve ever met! I felt genuine love on that set and it wasn’t gross at all. I watched some seriously explicit stuff go down and I didn’t feel dirty or like anyone was being taken advantage of once. I know I was excited to come today, but I was also expecting the women to be on drugs and for the director to be absolutely disgusting and for this whole thing to just be some freak show that I could tell my friends about, but now I feel like I need to spend the rest of my life defending this industry. Hey, that’s where I puked this morning.”

“Thank you for saying that you understand how my wife can still love me, Molls,” he replied, “I’m glad you had such a great time.”

Even if (or especially if) you have a negative opinion of pornography and you ever have the chance to visit a set, I strongly encourage you to do so. If you’re one of those types who freaks out because your significant other likes to kick back with an adult DVD at the end of the day, maybe take them along, too. Once you see the almost family-like atmosphere on set and how completely non-sexual it all is compared to the final product, you’ll never think of it or see it the same way again, or maybe you’ll just find a new appreciation for it. Either way, you’ll probably have one of the nicest days of your life.

image via Wikimedia

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  1. I would think that you’d need to visit more than one porn set to have any real Idea of what the industry is like. After all, lesbian is just one of the many, many “genres” of pornography.

  2. Wow, this was super interesting. You absolutely shed some light and behind the camera reality to this industry. It’d be cool to check out a set, but how the heck can you do that as a regular joe…? Visit a porn set…mission accepted.

  3. hey, I live in the SFV heart of the porn kingdom just 20 (or so, depending on traffic) minutes from L.A. Think they’d let me on to a set? :D

  4. This is highly hilarious!

  5. I would love to visit this kind of set, because I have the image that you’v had before you went. lol
    And I’m very jelouse of the fact that those girl feel great about themselves.
    Loved reading that :)

  6. I’ll be honest. When I found porn sites in my boyfriend’s internet history for the first time I completely froke out, but not right away. I was actually cool about it until I was driving home hours later and talking to him about about it.
    This article puts things into perspective, certainly. I’m an art major who spends her days drawing truly adorable (live) nude boys. So somehow reading about this set makes me feel a lot more comfortable with porn.

  7. ha. well, i lived with a porn star once for about a year and he would film scenes in his bedroom all the time. i wish i had the same experience you had that day. but, my roommate was certainly the type that was on drugs all the time. he was exclusive to a very high-end reputable company, too. oh, and a prostitute as well. i still do love me some porn though!!! hahahaha.

  8. The people I’ve known that worked with porn have been some of the loveliest people I’ve met. But I’ve never seen behind the scenes, this makes me curious to go check it out. ;)

  9. What a great piece! I think I’ll go visit a set with my cousin…if we can find out how! Thanks! :)

  10. Definitely one of the most interesting reads ever…Thank you for posting this and for being so open minded and honest

  11. Well that was certainly an interesting read, haha. Ah, editors. They are magicians.

  12. Thanks for sharing. It’s interesting to read behind the scene posts.

  13. Dude. Very interesting. Sometime you should interview me on embalming so we can expose the wrongs of what people think there too ;) lol jk but thank you for doing this piece and showing us that all those people have normal lives too! I think it is a common misconception a ton of people have.