It is one of the greatest paradoxes of our generation: nobody wants to talk about porn yet everybody watches it. And when there is dialogue, porn performers are often absent from the conversation. Hence we chat with porn performer and director, Lina Bembe about the harmful effects of blurred boundaries between reality and fantasy, the Sex School project and how to consume porn ethically.
The Beyond Club Culture photography series is an ongoing project by sustainable fashion brand, The Black Market. By exploring the diverse plethora of talent that lurks extrinsic to Berlin’s infamous club presence, we meet Berliners in daytime mode and chat about how they’ve honed in on their art form and the role Berlin has played during their metamorphosis.
Hi Lina, could you please tell us about what you do?
I’m a porn performer and director. I often work in the field of sex education. Also, I usually write, speak or curate screenings about feminism, culture, sex education and explicit sexuality.
How has being a porn performer and film-maker personally influenced your life?
It has become an intrinsic part of my life in both personal and professional ways. Work wise, I cannot imagine myself doing something outside the realm of porn and explicit sexuality. On a personal level, porn has helped me a lot to understand myself better, be kinder to myself and more connected to the ways in which my body and desires work. I’ve gone through both incredible and difficult experiences, but I’ve never regretted my decision of choosing this line of work.
There is a diverse and inclusive community of indie porn performers, film-makers and sex workers in Berlin. How important has it been to find your community?
It has been very important. In Berlin there’s a good amount of space that can make it easier to create porn of different kinds, and connect with people who share similar interests. This is precisely what made me consider doing porn in a serious way six years ago. In terms of community, there’s plenty of nuances to it, in terms of diversity of bodies, pornographic narratives, access to resources, production styles, politics and so on. The scene is very complex and sometimes difficult to navigate.
Young people often resort to porn as a resource for learning about sex. However, the lack of education and stigma around porn results in blurred boundaries between reality and fantasy. Do you think this has harmful effects?
Absolutely. The lack of appropriate sex education can definitely have harmful effects on how people approach porn and the messages they think they get from it. On the one hand it’s potentially dangerous if people think they can simply recreate what they watched in a porn clip, disregarding crucial questions of safety and consent. On the other hand, when people simply put the blame on porn as the so-called ‘wrong kind’ of sex education, then an entire industry is made responsible for the puritanism and biases that are the core cause of why adequate sex education is so lacking.
It’s so mind blowing that when it comes to porn, the boundaries between reality and fantasy are so blurry. In the same way people don’t think they have superpowers after watching a superhero movie, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that all pornographic fantasies can simply be recreated. Access to unbiased education and availability of accurate information are vital.
Can you tell us about the driving force behind creating Sex School?
*Sex School is an accessible platform of sex education content for adults by a diverse team of certified sex ed teachers, film-makers and sex workers.”
Sex School is a project created by Anarella Martinez, who in tandem Poppy Sanchez, came up with the idea of creating explicit educational films for adults that bring together the knowledge of certified educators, porn creators and sex workers. By bringing together different people with different skills and backgrounds, we’ve been able to create films that are accurate, fun, approachable and explicit! (because if you talk about sex, that matters too).
On top of that, I think there’s a lot that people can learn from sex workers, in terms of safety, communication, consent, techniques, politics, gender and so on. So in many ways, I think that broader audiences could really learn and benefit from the experiences and knowledge of sex workers who decide to apply their work in educational dimensions.
Porn consumption has evolved over the years from Playboy Magazine, renting VHS tapes to streaming online. What are your predictions for the future of porn? Especially as our attention spans become shorter and porn accessibility increases.
The future of porn will definitely continue to happen online. However the terms in which this is going to evolve are quite uncertain, especially for independent creators and studios. On the one hand, we have to cope with ever increasing corporate and governmental censorship, and on the other one, with unfair market practices that make it really difficult for creators to survive.
Many people think that platforms like OnlyFans have revolutionized the industry, but we can’t just exist and try to survive on one platform. In the grand scheme of things, and in the light of other platforms who used to be porn friendly and ended up banning adult content after profiting from sex workers, the reality for independent creators is that we can only exist in mini spaces, on borrowed time. Sadly enough I can’t be too optimistic about this crucial issue.
How can people ensure they are ethical consumers of porn?
There’s no straightforward answer to this question. Because of all the stigma attached to porn, it can be difficult to access information that could educate consumers about ethical choices.
A good approach though, is to pay attention to what your favorite porn performers say about their work and the ways in which they ask you to consume their work. If they offer affiliate links, buy through them. If they do cam shows, check them out. If they’re on OnlyFans or platforms of the sort, subscribe. If your favorite performer does studio work, pay attention to what they say about their experience, and also pay attention if they don’t say anything about it too. It’s very easy for performers to speak with enthusiasm about positive experiences.
I’d also recommend being suspicious about companies that overhype the term ‘ethical porn.’ This term has become a marketing buzzword and is overused by companies and individuals, when in reality they don’t meet ethical standards. In a porn production, performers are the ones who bear the most risks. In consequence, consumers should focus a lot more in the performer’s experiences and recommendations.