Queer Porn, Authentic Sex, and Grad School: An Interview with Dylan Ryan

It’s always a pleasure to get to talk with Dylan Ryan. She’s smart, sassy and sexy- what more could you ask for?

We’ve been getting more questions about queer porn and what it means, so I took the opportunity to ask Dylan what she thinks about it. After all, she’s been in lots of queer porn movies including Femmetastic!, Champion, the Crash Pad series, Roulette: Dirty South, and more. So sit back and enjoy hearing what she has to say about it.

What makes queer porn different from other porn? Both conceptually and as a performer?

Over the last few years that I have been making queer porn, I have also been part of the dialogue about what queer porn is and why it has captured the attention of both queer and non-queer people alike.

If I had to find a single, succinct aspect of queer porn that sets it apart from the rest, it would be its “authenticity”.  Queer porn from the outset has ventured to show sex as it is and in the case of queer people, sex that queer people are actually having.  I identified as one of those people who, when watching, porn, thought, “This is not what my sex looks like, this seems fake”.

When I started making porn, I wanted to get away from that and portray sex as I knew it to be with all the elements intact.  In queer porn, these elements include fisting, strap-ons, slapping, spitting, fingers and many, many other super hot sex acts.  People have responded to watching queer porn with the feeling that it seems more real, is more authentic, the people in the films and on the websites are fully present, happy about what they are doing and actually enjoying themselves as opposed to just acting as if they are.

As a performer, I go into all my shoots ready to bring myself to what I will be doing but with queer porn I know that there is a greater freedom to do whatever I feel and not over-think things or have to perform any specific thing.  I feel that this freedom show in my performances and shows in queer porn in general, making what there is to watch, unforgettable.

Who are some of your favorite performers to work with and why?

I have been really lucky in this industry thus far and have had the privilege of meeting some awesome performers.  While I don’t have specific favorites, I do have a lot of friends in the industry and am always happy for a chance to work with them.  Jiz Lee, Madison Young, Wolf Hudson, April Flores, Billy Castro,Courtney Trouble, Syd Blakovich, these are all super talented folks who make “work” more like a hilarious day hanging out.

I’ve also been immersed in the world of Boy/Girl shoots this last year and have met many amazing performers in that arena as well.  I really enjoyed working with Mr. Marcus and am excited for an upcoming shoot with Derick Pierce.

Who are some of your favorite performers to watch (assuming you watch porn) and why?

You know, I have to be quite honest even though I feel like a bad porn star… In my off time, I don’t really watch a lot of porn.  I am a huge fan of Tristan Taormino’s films, especially the Chemistry series and I watch those over and over.  I am also a huge fan of Belladonna and never tire of watching her get off.  Her confidence is so sexy and outrageous.  other than that, though, when I am home it’s primarily downtime and time away from interactions with porn.  I also (secret), hardly ever watch my own porn.  I get way too nervous.

You’re quite open about being in grad school. Have any of your classmates or professors said anything about your being a porn performer?

My classmates and professors have been some of my most interested supporters, somewhat surprisingly.  I think I was expecting some measure of judgment around my work but instead I have only encountered curiosity and enthusiasm.

I spent have spent the second year of the program working on and researching porn both through specific projects and in preparation for writing my thesis.  Consequently it was all I really talked about or created work about for awhile. It was fun to see most of my peers go from somewhat shocked and shy about asking me questions to be well-informed and totally non-plussed.

That is kind-of my vision for my interactions with people in general; that they be super curious and possibly anti and as they get to know me and my work, become more and more open and come to see sex worker and sex workers as non-threatening and an important part of our world.

How has being in porn influenced your studies? How have your studies affected your porn career?

I feel like the answer to this question is so multi-threaded, the influence of one on the other has been so enormous. From the beginning, I chose to focus my MSW study on sex work and as the semesters passed, that lens became more narrowly focused on porn and identity.  I became fascinated by the process that sex workers undergo in creating identities that protect and support the work that they do.  I wanted to study how societies see and feel about sex workers and how the workers themselves deal with those impressions and perceptions of them.

What I found this last year was that the most direct way to study such processes was to look at myself and my process.  My thesis was about feminist critiques and impressions of porn and how I have formed my identity as a pornographer and performer as a result of those critiques and my intersections with them.  This required that I take a close look at my life in porn, the way I represent myself and how all of it is intertwined and why I have set things up in the way I have.

The MSW program I am in is one that is incredibly critically focused and theory driven and consequently it has informed my sense of self-awareness and has caused me to be more hyper-critical than ever.  Now I analyze my social location, my privilege and the way I present myself in the world.  This has influenced my porn in causing me to think even more deeply about the projects I get involved with, why I am making them, where I want to go and who I want to be in porn.

Again, it is all very interlinked and as with life, one aspect of involvement that is highly influential changes the nature of other choices and involvements.  I have enjoyed the interplay between the two and have been weighing my future options against knowing that I want to keep the academic/personal/professional dialogues going for as long as I can, as long as I find them stimulating.

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice when you were just starting out in porn, what would it be?

This question is very timely for me as I have been thinking about this a lot recently and have been attempting to form my thoughts into non-judgmental advice for people who are just entering into the industry.

I would advise myself to not get caught up in the seeming glamour of it all.  Porn is very alluring; there is big money to be made, famous people to know and the draw of people telling you that you are sexy and interesting and the next big thing.  I got very caught-up in all of that early on and made some excessively poor decisions.

If I could go back I would tell myself that fame is a vapor and it’s not really real or sustainable.  I would tell myself to go a bit more slowly and trust in myself a bit more.  I would tell myself that I was going to have experiences bigger than I could imagine and to not grasp so tightly or so manically to what was happening at the time because the best was yet to come.  All that being said, I am glad, in the end that I did it the way I did.  I would, at this point, not change a thing.

Who have been some of your influences as a performer?

I am influenced and inspired by people who are the top of their fields in what they do, pornographically, creatively.  I find influences in many different genres of the arts and performance-wise have always gotten a lot out of music.  Primarily I look to performers, directors, actors, writers, musicians who are dynamic and creating amazing work and I aspire to achieve that level of creativity.  It pushes me to work more, work harder and make work that I feel good about.

What do you think is important about porn?

I think porn is important in what it has the ability to teach about sex.  While many people argue that pornography poisons our understandings of sex and kills marriages, I argue that porn has just as much of a capacity to show that sex can be empowering, beautiful, healthy and positive.  Porn can benefit marriages and allow people to imagine and consider sex in ways they never have before.

For me, porn is my my way of showing how proud I am of my sexuality.  Porn is my way of reaching women who may be on the cusp of a sexual breakthrough and showing them that they can have what they want, ask for what they want, get what they want.  Porn shows possibilities, not just male-driven sexuality that is narrow and hindering.  Porn is going in an amazing direction and it seems that people are starting to recognize it’s myriad of possibilities and that is exciting.  Hopefully the broadening of understandings about porn will allow for an even more great range of types and kinds of porn that will eventually get made.

What are some of the things that you think allow for porn to show authentic pleasure and passion?

I think that film has a great ability to connect with people.  Moving images, sounds, music, story lines, we grow up watching television and film and have an ingrained ability to feel moved and stirred by these things.  Consequently, porn operates on this innate level with people.  People feel an immediate reaction to porn, be it revulsion, attraction, arousal, curiosity… Whatever they feel, that connection is what allows porn to get through to people and show authenticity.

I strongly believe that people know the difference between porn that is good for them and porn that is not, the same way people either like or do not like works of art.  I feel a strong sense of when a porn performer is enjoying what they are doing and is there willingly and by choice.  Porn speaks to me on a primal level and I learn a lot about what I am attracted to and repulsed by.  Making porn that is authentic shows that to people and allows them to connect to what they are watching, connect to me and then learn something about themselves.

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.

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