The Valley

Susannah Breslin is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. She is a freelance journalist who blogs at Reverse Cowgirl and is at work on a novel set in the adult movie industry.


I took these photos on the set of an adult movie in the San Fernando Valley this April. It was April 10th, to be exact. Which is my birthday. Why I was on the set of an adult movie on my birthday is another story altogether. The story of my life.

The location was a hideous brown building in Canoga Park, not far from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, where rocket engines are built and in front of which sits a giant rocket engine as if it has fallen out of the sky. Both sides of the soundstage were lined with themed rooms: a shower room, a weight room, a sex dungeon. That day's scene would take place on one of the ugliest adult movie sets that I have ever seen: pea soup-colored walls, a diarrhea-colored leather sofa, a faux wood floor. All the flowers were fake.

The name of the movie was "Interactive Sex with Tori Black." The director explained: "We were going to go with 'Existential Musings of a Porn Star,' but we thought we'd dumb it down. If you want to have sex with Tori Black and don't have chloroform, this is your next best option."

Tori is 20 and very pretty. She has long brown hair and long tan legs. When she came out of the dressing room for her scene, wearing pink lingerie and matching pink high-heels, she said: "And here we go." Then she said: "Off to work."


Her co-star was James Deen, who is the hipster generation's answer to Dirk Diggler. He's 23 and has been doing porn since he was 18. When I asked him if he had had sex with 1,000 women in his lifetime thus far, he looked down, thought for a moment, and replied: "More than that."

While the director filmed, Tori and James went at it like dogs. Even when he stopped shooting, they kept going. It was impressive. It was Olympic. It was also Passover. In between shots, all the crew guys standing around and watching kept making jokes about Deen being Jewish and what they called his "Hobbit feet." Deen ignored them.


When it was time for the money shot, which in the business is referred to as the "pop shot," somebody called out: "Actually, he can't pop until sundown." After that, everybody got very quiet and respectful while Deen delivered his closing shot. Then they burst into a rousing rendition of "Hava Nagila," and everybody clapped.

Afterward, Tori checked her face in the mirror. She told me that the heavy makeup makes her face break out. I thought it was the pop shot. But what do I know? I guess you learn something new every day.



  1. Top notch photography. Composition, color, contrast (subject!) Your pictures really pop! :)

  2. It warms the cockles of my heart to hear about porn being made like this, by professionals.

    The internet has seen pornography devolve into the cheapest, most mysogynistic media. And angry. The guys are all angry.

    Its not like it was the feminist paradigm of art in the eighties, but it used to look like sex you might want have in your fantasies, not a bunch of thugs bullying a young girl into consenting to something she found disgusting.

    Maybe I’m just naive.

  3. Actually, Susannah, I’d have to agree with Tori about it being the makeup that breaks her out. I’ve heard from several sources that the other, er, substance is actually very good for skin (lots of natural acids and enzymes, apparently).

  4. Robulous: I’m not sure what you’ve been seeing, but in my 15yrs of paying a little attention to this stuff, the “angry and misogynistic” is pretty rare. I don’t know much about factory pro stuff like this, though, so I may be the naive one here.

    Hopefully you’re not just kneejerking MacKinnon here, sight unseen.

  5. “Hopefully you’re not just kneejerking MacKinnon here, sight unseen.”

    Nup. I’m talking (a bit more frankly than usual) about what you get if you sit down for some “me-time” and google plain vanilla porn. Theres a lot of video produced quick and nasty in motel rooms, where the ladies get called “bitch” a lot. It verges on simulated rape, and as far as I can tell it dominates adult web content.

    Its certainly not a style I saw a lot of before the internet became ubiquitous.

  6. Actually, on reflection, it probably isn’t the dominant style at all. Its just that it exists, and is randomly lumbered in with all the other stuff, and I find it a bit worrisome.

    Like, I guess if thats your kick and you really hate your Mum, then go find it. But it sort of turns up too routinely for my liking.

    Not the like old days. And get those damn kids of my lawn.

  7. Being gay, I usually look at gay porn, but sometimes I want to
    look other things. I’ve always been shocked about how much mainstream straight porn is degrading to women. In gay porn, even when a straight guy is coerced, everyone is having fun.
    A lot of teenagers get their sexual education on the web. I hope they realize that sex with an equal, respected partner is the best. If I was a parent, I think it would be something I talked to my son about, because most guys have seen this by early teens.

  8. Porn is so strange, when you really think about it.

    Sometimes I look up at the stars and wonder, would an advanced alien species make porn too? Maybe like the hive-mind all watch the queen lay the eggs or something.

  9. I don’t get American porn at all. “Dumb it down?” Can anyone tell me why there are *ahem* plots in the first place?

  10. Put me on the list for your book. I expect that you will render a view of porn that will be uncommon, given your very personal style.

  11. I agree that a lot of porn seems to be very degrading to women, and I do worry about what role it plays in establishing how people view sex.
    My girlfriend is into porn far more extreme and degrading than anything I ever enjoyed. At first I was disturbed but over time I’ve begun to get used to it and even find it kind of sexy. I’ve tried to figure out where this comes from in her, she has no history of abuse (and I’m confident she would of told me), but she did grow up very sexualized (in the sense that at a young age she wanted to be sexy) and started watching porn in her teens, she didn’t have sex particularly young, I think 15 or 16.
    The way she explains her porn habits is that over time she needed more and more extreme things in order to feel aroused enough to orgasm while masturbating. I’m hoping she has hit a plateau with her current preferences, both in porn and in bed. If it keeps escalating I’m not sure how to deal with it. It’s sexy in a very perverted dirty-girl kind of way now, she’s like my own private porn star, but there is really no where else to go from here that I am comfortable with.
    I suppose my life is pretty good when one of my biggest worries is that my girlfriend likes hardcore pornography and kinky sex more than I do…

  12. Many young people receive sex education on the web. I hope they recognize that gender and equality, respect for the partnership is the best. If I were a parent, I think this is my son with me, because most people have seen this early adolescents.

  13. #13: Sometimes I look up at the stars and wonder, would an advanced alien species make porn too? Maybe like the hive-mind all watch the queen lay the eggs or something.

    In Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix, the main character finds a “tape” of an alien queen laying eggs and then eating them, a taboo but exciting activity for the aliens, and uses the video to blackmail his way into a job.

  14. #16 Anonymous

    What you describe – more extreme porn to attain climax sounds a lot like the porn use habits of the child sex offenders I worked with for a while. There was often a history of more and more extreme porn being sought in order to achieve the same release. For many of these men the porn use lead on to actual sexual abuse of children.

    I’m not suggesting your gf is a sex offender or will ever be one! Merely pointing out that conditioning can happen to all sorts of behaviours. It almost sounds like addictive behaviour also. I only mentioned it because it sounded so similar to the histories of so many of those men.

  15. “In gay porn, even when a straight guy is coerced, everyone is having fun.”

    Really? Well, that explains why the ‘coerced’ are always laughing at the end of ‘Bait Bus’

  16. “Why I was on the set of an adult movie on my birthday is another story altogether. The story of my life.”

    Why you were on the set of an adult movie on your birthday is certainly another story altogether.

    The story of you life, though? Really?

  17. Actually, for porn as for any other item that we… consummate ;) (any help group for bad punners?) we can pick and choose and what we watch is our sole responsibility. Lately, I’ve had quite a good time watching (twice or trice) a compilation of women orgasms: quite inspiring, felt like being at church.

    In the end though, the brain, this biggest of all sexual organs, finds little use, use that I’d appreciate at least. Any recommendations?

  18. As much scary misogynistic crap as there is, the internet has also fueled the production of actual people having real sex, filming it for kicks, and, for whatever reason, showing the world. This is more realistic and less depressing than any professionally made stuff, and is apparently a big threat to the industry. Sex is, after all, “open source.”

  19. I see that Kino Flo is the porn key light of choice. And is that a Mole soft light as a kicker with the black wrap?

  20. @24 MORIARTY

    That’s exactly how I feel.

    I just finished reading (like two days ago) Robert Jensen’s anti-porn creed ‘Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity’, and its the book’s failure to discuss how mainstream truly amateur porn is becoming.

    As porn-as-industry continues to struggle and eventually collapse in its current form, I’d happily wager on homemade porn becoming most of what is watched – especially online.

    So we might have seen some bad examples of what ‘sex’ is, kids discovering masturbation at the moment might be seeing even worse, but the next crop may predominantly just be watching real people having real sex, and that has to be uplifting.

    Susannah: just wanna echo how good the photos are in this story, especially the last one.

  21. That studio doesn’t look like a very comfortable
    environment. I wonder if they have a shower, clean
    dressing room and kitchen. It doesn’t look like it’s
    air conditioned because the outside door is wide

    I think a lot of people condemn porn in public and
    view it in private. Internet porn means there’s no
    risk of someone seeing your car parked outside the
    porn shop on the way back from your business trip.

  22. porn has traditionally been organized crime controlled or at least “taxed”. If free amateur porn takes over altogether, where will the criminality go?

  23. Thank you for this. I am very interested in this business, I find it so intriguing. I love watching porn, but of course, there’s good porn and bad porn. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be sliding to “bad”, meaning poor shots, poor lighting, poor actors, bad esthetics, no continuity… where is the art?

    I’d love to invest in some “fine porn” but alas, i’m still a noob. Anyone got a good porn company out there that is looking for investors? I’ve been trying to get info on Northern Peaks, the Canadian porn company for some time but I can’t find any decent info…

  24. @29 Takuan: You might want to check your facts regarding porn’s connection to organized crime. That might have been true in the 70’s or early 80’s, but it’s a very different world now. In America, at least. Eastern Europe and Asia are a completely different story.

  25. I usually apply the Prostitution Test to porn production: adults have the right to make their choices and what they do is no one’s business so long as it harms no one else. That said: how do you honestly feel about your own child doing it?

  26. That studio doesn’t look like a very comfortable environment. I wonder if they have a shower, clean dressing room and kitchen. It doesn’t look like it’s air conditioned because the outside door is wide open.

    Sound stages – even professional studio sound stages – aren’t very comfortable environments. A lot of non-union low-budget filmmaking takes place in converted industrial space, and doesn’t include showers or clean dressing rooms or kitchens.

    High-end porn shoots (like this one) often have nicer facilities than low-budget indie shoots, though, since they’re not as desperately low-budget.

    This facility is located in Canoga Park, so it’s almost certainly one of the converted industrial tilt-up warehouses that line the northern end of the former right-of-way of the Southern Pacific’s Chatsworth Park branch along Canoga Avenue. Those warehouses became available at low rents after the Chatsworth Park branch was shut down.

    Tilt-up warehouses that are cheap because they don’t have freight trains constantly rumbling past make very nice improvised sound stages. That, and the easy availabilty of movie tech crew – many of whom live in the Valley – made it a popular location for porn (and a lot of low-budget non-porn, as well).

    It’s an odd thing – about half of the major ‘Hollywood’ studios, and the support and service businesses they attract, are located in the San Fernando Valley – which is why the tech crew people live there – but for some reason, people only mention ‘the Valley’ when they’re talking about porn.

    The Valley is actually the heart of workaday Hollywood – the largest concentration of entertainment industry companies in LA – but we still get FOB wannabes who think that only porn is made there.

    (And of course the Valley is about 200 square miles – almost half the city of Los Angeles – and the entertainment industry, porn or otherwise, occupies only a small fraction of that, but for some reason “the Valley”=”porn” seems to have insinuated itself into popular consciousness.)

  27. Did anyone else find that offhand “chloroform” remark moderately disturbing?

    I suspect it was meant as a simple innocent joke, but the worldview it implies weirded me out a little.

  28. #37 Takuan:

    “I usually apply the Prostitution Test to porn production: adults have the right to make their choices and what they do is no one’s business so long as it harms no one else. That said: how do you honestly feel about your own child doing it?”

    Parents commonly discount their adult children for not pursuing the parent’s career, for following their dreams, for leaving abusive relationships, or for being gay. Why should the subjective, emotional view of a parent toward a grown child have any more credence than the reasoned view of an adult toward another adult?

    If you’d feel differently about your own child working in porn than a professional acquaintance, or say a close friend, then I suggest an examination of one’s values is in order. That professional after all is *someone’s* child.

  29. Takuan, the important question isn’t how I feel about my own child doing it. The important question is how does my own child feels about doing it.

  30. I found the chloroform remark cynical and darkly facetious, #39, but I perceived irony and didn’t
    take it literally.

  31. your kids will make their own choices. That doesn’t absolve you. Also, this isn’t a solitary thing. Every prostitute has a customer who must decide to buy the use of the body of someone’s child. Every buyer of commercial porn makes a similar choice.
    I’m not telling anyone not to, I AM telling them not to remain wilfully ignorant.

    The other critical thing is power, If there is not equal power, a crime is being committed.

  32. perhaps the single most interesting thing about amateur porn is that it can be a gift. That has resonance with the doctrine of never taking what is not freely given.

  33. Porn with poor production quality seems such a waste. The whole tight shot thing is beyond me. Half the time you could be looking at a meat grinder the way they cut the actors’ heads and bodies out and make it all about the crotch. The way Susannah captures them here, the actors look like real people. That’s what’s great about it. The whole behind-the-scenes thing. Quite a bit more interesting (and sexy) than the movie itself…imho :)

    Erotic cinema is a perfectly respectable industry. Nothing to be ashamed of, and possibly something to be proud of if it is done well.

  34. Wolfiesma, ROFLMAO @
    “Top notch photography. Composition, color, contrast (subject!) Your pictures really pop! :)”

Comments are closed.