Looking Back at Dyke Porn, Part 1: An Interview with Jackie Strano

Jackie Strano and Shar Rednour were among the very first folks making dyke porn and things sure have changed since then. So I thought it’d be fun to ask the two of them to tell us a bit about their experiences. We’ll hear from Shar later.

Let’s start with a little background. How did you decide to start making dyke porn? What was the moment when you thought “let’s do this”? What was the response like, within the dyke community, the porn industry, and elsewhere?

We knew we wanted to do dyke porn and we also wanted to do sex ed. We needed to raise capital so we started the whole madness with Bend Over Boyfriend.

I had been working at Good Vibrations and Shar was working at On Our Backs back in the roaring dyke 90’s and we knew we wanted to do how to-videos as well as dyke porn. BOB took off and made us some money. We wanted to make some hot butch/femme dyke sex movies since there was nothing and had been nothing since Fatale’s features several years earlier. Basically we just wanted to see the images we wanted to see…we wanted to see our sexuality represented and there was nowhere to find it so in the true spirit of DIY, we just got busy.

The response was overwhelming. We won the top industry award with an AVN award for our dyke double-feature. Pop culture went nuts and came up with the word ‘pegging’ for the bend over boyfriend sex act via Dan Savage’s column about it. Queer film fests world-wide wanted our content for their festivals which was the first time porn was featured. We got featured on the cover of the SF Bay Guardian after our award win for the home team, featured on HBO, Channel 4 UK, various documentaries, articles in gay and straight papers and mags, our DVDs were best sellers for multiple vendors. And we represented for badass bitches and butches everywhere.

But seriously, it was crazy how everything took off. One of those perfect timing moments where  hard work and good luck pays off. My favorite thing to hear was from dykes who said they thought it was hot and they usually just watched gay porn to get off.

These days, there’s a lot more dyke porn than ever before. How is it different from what you started off with?

We helped start the concept of the ‘dyke porn star’. We had radical real dykes and bi-dykes performing hot scenes full of intense chemistry and power play and role playing. We eroticized butch bodies and butch-femme desire. We just put ads up at the Lexington bar in the Mission district of SF and cast our hot exhibitionist friends.

Fatale hadn’t made any feature in almost 10 years and we were starving for hot sexy dyke images. We wanted to showcase nasty down and dirty real fucking, real orgasms, real bodies, diversity, and not just lesbians playing in the woods with soft images and soft music. Our stuff was very edgy and urban. Now, of course, there’s lots to choose from. I love Shine Houston’s work and Good Releasing has a ton of new queer images of all stripes but Shar and I stayed in our comfort zone = nasty butch-femme sex with dildo play and dirty talk, pretty simple formula, ha ha. I love femmes, she loves butches and femmes so our movies reflected our objects of desire and sometimes they were each other because we got to direct each other.

On the production and studio side, we were completely independent. It was just me and Shar. We weren’t just performers, we were running a company- shipping, selling, marketing, producing, directing, editing, hiring crew, etc. It was a 100% labor of our own love and this was before facebook, before blogging, and before the internet was really a major commerce and viral marketing force to be reckoned with. There was also no VOD or digital downloads back then. So it really was about old school working the phones, catalogs, magazine deadlines, grass roots word of mouth, film festivals, road show tours, and doing college lecture circuits.

Secondly, we had a certain niche and aesthetic we represented- original rocknroll from my band and friends and crazy snapshots from our love affair with San Francisco documenting our culture and sexuality. On a technical side, we had to shoot with beta cameras and edit on Avid editing bays rented for a very expensive rate. Slowly but surely, we were able to shoot on smaller cameras when 3 chip came out and thank god for Final Cut Pro. Ultimately, we became a total in house operation but we loved to do features. We made MOVIES. We just didn’t make compilations or snippets of sex scenes strung together,

What was your favorite moment or experience as porn makers? Does anything stand out?

I loved the moment that Ginger Lynn announced from the stage at the AVN award show in Vegas that Hard Love & How to Fuck In High Heels had won and then after the show going to the back of the room to pick up the award with all the other producers. I was the only woman back there in a sea of men and I was the only woman in a tuxedo in the whole damn room.

Another moment was the wee dawn hours when Shar and I emerged after finishing editing HLHH from a 24 hour editing jag because we couldn’t use the editing facility after that day because another studio had rented it. We emerged from a studio on Potrero Hill to see the sun coming up over the bay and east bay hills and we had a moment together where we knew we had just finished something wonderful, no matter who saw it. We were proud and exhausted and exhilarated.

One of my favorite production moments was directing men in the Bend Over Boyfriend series. I had never been that close to male sexuality and here I was, the big bulldagger babysitting boys’ egos about their body image, performance anxieties, and vulnerabilities around being penetrated. It was a good bonding moment but my absolute favorite was directing my wife. I knew how to push her and knew what I wanted to see and there are so many hilarious moments I can’t even begin. We had a blast documenting ourselves and we were in our early 30’s at the time. Great to document yourself in your lean mean fighting machine years.

Do you have any advice for folks wanting to get into performing in or making porn?

Don’t just do it for the money. There are easier ways to make a lot of money. You have to love it, you have to have a mission. Be smart with the money you make, learn some skills besides just being on camera like production, etc. Stay clean and sober, be safe around sexual practices, treat your crew and talent well. Work hard and follow your passion and keep your sense of humor.

And for god’s sake be ready for everyone in your life to know about it. If you can’t handle that then don’t do it. Trust me- they will find out and living a double life is way too stressful. Stay authentic and in touch with yourself and don’t do any scenes that don’t get you hot or that you don’t feel good about. They will be committed to disc and to the internet forever so be proud of it or don’t do it.

And lastly- represent!!! You are not exploiting yourself or others by putting your desire out there. The world is full of interpretations of beauty and what is thought of as sexy We made our movies because we wanted to see our sexuality and identities represented. Stay humble and grateful. Nobody likes an egomaniac who is just whoring for themselves. Whore for others too.

As much as I can froth at the mouth with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I am eternally grateful and humble for the gifts I have been given and for the amazing people that have touched my life. II always want to give that energy back into my community and both Shar and I are young at heart and love learning and working with the younger generation of stars and producers

You recently hosted a Lesbo Retro night for the Independent Erotic Film Festival. How’d that go?

It was wonderful to showcase so many historical images from the 70’s, 80’s and on. Shar and I are big history lovers and we got to tell some stories along with the footage because we had sourced the original footage from the original filmmakers themselves. Honey Lee Cottrell was in the audience and featured that night for example.

The crowd that came out was full of such good energy and soooo enthusiastic. Shar had been digitizing like crazy because some of the old footage is only on VHS and needs to be preserved. It was funny to think of ourselves as Retro but you know the 90’s and early 2000’s were a very special time- post AIDS plague time, post lesbian sex wars time. We definitely felt like we were part of a revolution and feeling ground break. Obviously our elders had paved the way and I want to give mad props to Fatale and to the original On Our Backs and to the pioneers who helped pave way for Shar and me to take things to the mainstream.

Any plans for more movies? Or what would you like to see the current generation of dyke porn makers do?

We want to make Bend Over Boyfriend # 3 and another dyke movie like a real movie. We just recently worked together and produced and directed some footage for Good Releasing’s Pleasure-Ed movie about the G-spot. I had a blast working with Dylan Ryan and Mickey Mod who are part of the younger wave of stars and Queer Porn movement.

What I would like to see the current generation of dyke/queer porn makers do? Mmmm…just keep it coming, keep it real, keep production values high and stay true to yourself and your visions. A lot of them are working within the mainstream industry and interfacing with the mainstream industry on many levels and I would love to see them stick to their own aesthetic and have more creative freedom to do exactly what they want to do and don’t emulate the mainstream formula. Be fearless.

<>

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

You may also like...