Like it or not pornography is a billion dollar industry, forms the seedy backbone to the internet, and was the deciding factor in the war between Betamax and VHS and between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Sex sells, sex streams, and in order for pornography to exist people have to have sex on camera. Beyond the simple appeal of watching naked people touch one another porn is fascinating from a psychological point of view; what makes people get into porn and what do they do with their lives afterwards? After Porn Ends is a documentary which aims to answer these questions by talking to former pornographic actors about their life in porn and what came next.
The stories we hear are varied and curious. Pornography is not a black and white issue and After Porn Ends is not out to preach in either its favour or condemnation. The former actors interviewed all joined the porn industry for a different reason. Some found it the perfect job to bring in money and still allow them time to look after their children, for others it was the less sentimental motivations of fame and money. Amusingly one actor got into porn simply because they wanted to act. Imagine if Helen Mirren hadn’t been able to get any TV work. Possibly the most male-fantasy-friendly story was that of one male performer who started as a cameraman but got a little too close to the action. His reason for working in porn? To get laid.
The interviews are pleasingly frank as interviewees more familiar with exposing their genitals reveal what lies beneath their skin – though perhaps sometimes unintentionally. One woman in particular had a sadness in her eyes that betrayed her and revealed more about her relationship with porn than her words ever could. The majority no longer work in the industry and it is hard to believe that the respectable middle-aged Americans telling you their story once made their money by rimming on camera. As if predicting our lack of imagination the film-makers overlay the audio from the interviews with footage from the subjects’ careers. Watching as the man in front of you is replaced by footage of him cavorting with two naked ladies while he continues to talk about the good old days has a startling effect and is a powerful device.
In today’s world of torrents and streaming the face of porn has changed considerably. The distribution of penetrating visuals is no longer restricted to the licensed sex shop and you are just as likely to sit next to a teen streaming bukkake on their mobile as you are to see a man in a dirty mac looking shifty as he leaves the neon-heavy shops of Soho. As such the world of pornography portrayed here seems almost quaint and old-fashioned. The actors speaking are from a world before amateur porn, a world with much less competition from “hot young teens” and “horny amateur lesbians”*. As much as the film is an insight into the mind of a porn actor it is an insight into an industry that doesn’t really exist any more. For more on this give Louis Theroux a thorough Google.
While not the most in-depth exploration of the porn industry After Porn Ends gives us a fascinating look at those who have survived years on what is sometimes considered a destructive career path. After Porn Ends does not judge or sensationalise an industry where fisting is just another day at the office but instead lets the world of porn speak for itself. It is up to the audience to judge, but if nothing else this film shows us that porn stars are people too and don’t really deserve to be judged.
Don’t forget it’s only classy if you’re watching porn within a documentary or if subtitles are involved.
*Excuse the shameless attempt to appear in all the wrong Google searches