VICE: We Spoke To Porn Actress Angela White About Shooting Scenes In Universities
This month a clip of an Australian porn star named Angela White did the rounds online. Unremarkably it depicted her and a cohort engaging in sexual relations. However, an outcry ensued soon after when people found out it was shot inside the library of Melbourne’s La Trobe University. Angela’s production company, the Netherlands based AGW Entertainment, promptly had the video removed, but not before it had sparked a minor digital shit-storm.
Reactions to the video ranged from outrage to commercial opportunism. For instance, a Melbourne bookmaker named Sportsbet soon after opened bets on the location for her next film. The highest stake—namely inside Kirribilli House—went for $101.
The affair proved that despite studies showing we’re watching more and more of it, porn remains a stigmatised career. It also proved that most Australians don’t think of Australia as being a porn producing nation.
Which brings us back to Angela White. Arguably Australia’s most recognised adult performer, Angela has worked alongside industry icons Phoenix Marie and Alexis Texas. She’s also written an honours thesis in gender studies and ran in a political campaign in 2010, which kind of makes the academic location of the offending shoot appropriate.
I caught up with Angela to talk about the changing tides of porn in the age of the internet.
VICE: What was the fallout from the recent scandal?
Angela White: That scene went viral when it was never even supposed to go live. It was an amateur video I shot with a lover for fun and turned out to be the most popular thing I’ve ever done.
Unfortunately, when the media got hold of it there was a lot of speculation over where it was shot and an institution was named. There’s not much I can say about it, although I will say that much of what was published was incorrect. I don’t care to correct the details because the damage is done and I don’t want to drag it out any longer.
Fair play. How did you feel about people gambling where your next film would be shot?
I’m the only person who actually knows where my next movie will be shot so I’m surprised I haven’t had any offers to fix bets.
I read somewhere that the University is “shocked and appalled” by news of the scene, and yet they’re enjoying the influx of student applications. I imagine for you this echoes the frustrating paradigm of people getting off on your work but still shunning you?
I’m a firm believer in the power of education, so if the scandal encouraged a few people to pick up a book then I’ll take that small victory.
What’s your take on the recent bank account scandal in America?
It’s pretty disturbing that the adult industry is being lumped with Ponzi schemes and racist materials. It’s a legitimate industry run like any other.
Freezing performers’ funds and shutting down their bank accounts seems like just another example of discrimination against people in the sex industry.
That about Samuel L. Jackson’s recent claim that Redtube is the best pop culture contribution of the past 50 years?
At least he admits to watching porn.
Word. Do you think the pay for your porn campaign will be able to gain much traction?
I hope that the campaign will at least be able to educate consumers about just how many people piracy affects. It’s not only the performers, it’s the videographers, production assistants, make-up artists… the list goes on.
Why do you think the porn industry is so flaccid in Australia?
The current laws regulating the production and distribution of adult material in Australia are strict and archaic. The laws don’t reflect current community standards and make it very difficult to legally produce adult content.
Despite this, there are more companies producing pornography in Australia than ever, and there are a number of companies producing amazing feminist and alternate visions of human sexuality. The industry is just more underground and grass roots than it is in the States.
There’s a widespread assumption that porn stars are all addicted to drugs or fundamentally fucked up. How did the results from your honors thesis on porn actresses answer to this?
I conducted qualitative research into female experiences in the Australian pornography industry and the findings did not support the assumption that porn performers are addicted to drugs or deficient in anyway. In a lot of instances, the reality of performing in porn is quite banal, much to the disappointment of a media that like a sensationalist story, but it seems studies like mine still can’t dismantle the lingering assumptions.
You’re intelligent, you come from a loving family, and you genuinely love your job. Why do you think it’s so hard to accept that porn actresses can be this way?
I would argue that the media has played the biggest role. I can’t do an interview without having the same tired questions thrown at me about drug addiction or sexual victimisation. There needs to be a paradigm shift in the way the media engages with sex industry workers.
Journalists should respect that sex industry workers are agents that are capable of making their own decisions. Otherwise, in order to be fair they need to ask the same questions to every lawyer, mechanic, [insert any professional] they interview.
There’s recently been an academic journal released called Porn Studies.This would indicate a greater recognition of your industry could be coming about. Would you say this could help loosen up some of the stigmas that surround porn?
Porn Studies is a excellent peer reviewed journal. I think that the way it brings together both academics and performers is a brilliant way to legitimise the porn industry.
It gives sex industry workers a voice within the academic world, while maintaining a focus on critical engagement and scholarly research. The publication of Porn Studies could help to debunk many of the myths that abound about the porn industry. However, these discourses take time to become part of the popular imagination.
I understand you’re a woman’s rights activist. This makes you a valuable voice in the porn/feminism debate, as you’re more informed than the peripheral commenters. What do you say to the anti-porn feminists who argue that your industry is harmful to woman?
Most of the arguments made by anti-porn feminists rely upon taking rare instances of “violent” pornography and insisting that this characterises the vast majority of pornography. This is simply incorrect.
The “violent” films in question are more often then not consensually shot BDSM scenes (and this just further marginalises sexual practices that fall outside of the vanilla heteronormative matrix).
My experience of performing has fallen on a spectrum ranging from transformative bliss to the daily grind. And I’m happy to say that most of the time it’s been on the blissful side of things.
How do you feel about porn actress Sasha Grey’s claim that feminism is a more or less redundant viewpoint?
Sasha is entitled to her opinion but I have to disagree. Feminism has gotten a bad wrap and has often marketed itself poorly but I don’t think it’s redundant.
Women still earn less for doing the same work, they continue to face discrimination if they express their sexuality outside of the confines of heterosexual matrimony, and are disproportionately affected by sexual violence. These and other factors are evidence to me that feminism is still very much pertinent today.
I understand you ran a political campaign in 2010. What lead you to this decision?
I ran as a candidate for the Australian Sex Party in the seat of Richmond. I was motivated to run when I found out that the Greens candidate Kathleen Maltzahn was planning on banning brothels if she won the seat.
Criminalising any part of the sex industry merely sends it underground, making it far more dangerous for the workers, so my aim in that campaign was not to win but to make sure Maltzahn didn’t. It was a success.
How did politics compare to porn?
The difference is that politics is sleazy while porn is honest.
Apart from those discussed, what would you say are the biggest myths surrounding your industry?
Another prominent myth is that porn performers can’t maintain intimate relationships. I find this myth to be very misleading, given that the vast majority of marriages end in divorce, which suggests that most people, regardless of profession, struggle to maintain relationships.
My own experience has been that people in the sex industry have more honest relationships that are longer lasting. The nature of our professions requires such sexual transparency that I’ve experienced and observed more communication and less adultery in relationships in which one or more people work in the adult industry.
Lastly, what are your post porn aspirations?
If I’ve made even a handful of people change their perceptions about sex workers by the time I’ve left porn, I’ll be happy.
You can peep Angela’s official site here.