issue 5: Juliette March
Discussed: Kink, vaccines, ethics, control, isolation, Visa, OnlyFans, Sex Panther, QAnon, Public Disgrace, VR, etc.
Food, sex, and sleep are some of the most elemental human needs, and sex is arguably the drive most easily adaptable to the virtual realm. For this reason the sexual marketplace is often on technology’s cutting edge.
As a kid I first accessed pornography through scrambled television stations, usually channels 1 or 69. Skinemax, Playboy Channel, Spice Channel are the names I can recall. The audio and visuals were marred by lines and static, but occasionally, if you concentrated hard enough, you could make out a moan or a nipple.
Today, anyone with a computer can easily access a seemingly infinite supply of free pornography, organized by release date, clip length, performers’ race, gender, age and body type, fetish category, etc. This shift is consistent with broader cultural trends toward neoliberal atomisation.
Of course, the technological sword responsible for changes in pornography cuts both ways. It’s tempting to mourn the death of the porn theater in places like Times Square, to romanticize 70s porn tropes or even late night softcore transmissions on Pay Per View. But porn’s gradual decentralization means a lot more autonomy for the pornstars themselves. Performers have more options and more control about where and under what conditions they’d like to work.
Still, a top-down structure to pornography persists. Credit card companies continue to exert power and control over pornographic content.
Then there’s sex itself. Young people are fucking less than ever. What role does pornography play in an age of unprecedented alienation and celibacy? What can we expect from the future?
Juliette March has created porn for about a decade. She’s found herself in the roles of performer, director, wrestler, housekeeper, alien examiner, tiny masochist, cheating girlfriend, slutty American tourist, electro slut, perfect pain slut, pretty little rope slut, and, occasionally, therapist.
We spoke over the phone during a pause in March’s cross-country travels.
Thanks for doing this. I know you’re busy. I hope I didn’t bug you too much about it.
No, you didn’t. I felt bad because I wanted to do it, and I keep thinking, “Oh, I have a day tomorrow.” But then when I’m traveling my schedule actually changes all the time. You know, I’ve still been trying to reach out to people that are working. The main reason I don’t really know if I’m the person that you should be talking to is, I haven’t gone to work since March 2020.
Why is that?
I just can’t comprehend going back to work until I need money. I enjoy my job, but I’m overwhelmed with the ethical question of working during a pandemic. I’m still seeing my friends. But does the world need more porn of me? I’ve been shooting it for 12 years now.
I’m still occasionally selling fetish videos and that’s been getting me by. I haven’t been on a large production set in over a year and a half. I miss my friends and the sex, but COVID has really changed my tolerance for people. I used to enjoy talking to models and crew members with completely different views than me, I really loved to dig into it. But in the context of COVID, I’m sure those same differences now would just set me on edge. There are a lot of QAnon people.
Yeah, absolutely. I was just talking to a crew member this morning who is refusing to get vaccinated. There’s a ton of people. I talked to one performer who stopped shooting porn because they require COVID testing. She’s so anti-COVID and anti-vax that she isn’t shooting right now because she’s refusing to get a test.
I wonder why there’s such an overlap between Q people and porn.
Well, the industry is made up of people that are on the Internet a lot, you know? It’s people that spend a lot of time on social media, maybe more than we all have been lately. I don’t particularly like being on the Internet, which is also why I haven’t been working. There are people doing really, really well and flourishing since everything moved to OnlyFans during COVID. But I just do not have the patience to be working online all day, every day.
Yeah. Well, maybe it’s a good time to talk to you now, when you have some distance from work. I can imagine why, but why do you think pornstars are reluctant to do interviews?
I don’t think we’re represented very well in any kind of media outlet. There have been a few pieces on NPR recently that have been pretty pro-sex work, but it’s still pretty grim. And there’s no reason to when you’re able to put out your own narrative. These people have millions of followers on social media. They can share themselves exactly how they want to, so I don’t know why they would risk being misrepresented.
You mentioned OnlyFans. I know they were threatening to remove adult content or something like that. Is that happening?
No, they reversed that a month before they were supposed to implement it, but I’m sure there’s a lot of money pushing for it. They said, “We’ve secured payment processors that will continue to let us publish whatever content within a certain framework.”
But I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and it is pretty normal for a platform to shut down. We’ve seen lots of platforms in the last decade do the same thing. OnlyFans could easily look to companies like Tumblr, which people stopped using after they banned porn. They have a lot to lose by going through with that decision. I think they’ve always hoped OnlyFans would become more of a mainstream celebrity platform, one where you can watch Nicki Minaj backstage and charge a premium price for that. But they’re making millions and millions of dollars off of sex workers right now. It makes sense that they backed away from that decision.
To be honest, I didn’t know they hosted much else on there besides adult content.
Yeah, they have a lot of celebrity usage and then they have a lot of people who are not sex workers who sell adult content. For example, a lot of fitness models with large instagram followings have been really successful selling adult content on OnlyFans. In the last few months OnlyFans has gone from actively promoting these accounts on their explore page to suddenly targeting them for removal. It seems like they are toying with the idea of reaching a larger audience if they remove the adult content, but I don’t think that would go very well for them.
Do you remember when you encountered porn for the first time?
I don’t think I saw any porn when I was a young person. I remember being really attracted to those late night TV ads. Do you remember? The ones like call 1-800-SEX-HER or whatever? I thought those women were really cool and seemed very confident, and that that was interesting. I’ve always been interested in the performance of femininity. I grew up in Hawaii where the street workers are everywhere and dressed like a showgirl you might see on the Vegas strip. I love their clothes and the way they moved; I was really attracted to how they carried themselves.
The first things that I sexualized, before I even had any understanding of what that meant, are things that I believe are probably benign to most kids. A cartoon with someone tied up was really exciting to me. I loved Peter Pan, with characters getting tied up on a boat or being bullied by hot mermaids. I used to watch this scene in Rescuers Down Under over and over again, where a bird gets tied up by a crew of mice dressed like nurses and forcibly given a shot in his ass. It’s really funny to me now, but when I was younger I was just glued to these images and didn’t really understand why. I loved to wrestle and got into a lot of physical fights, and I was also both bullied and kind of a bully myself. The things I first saw as pornographic were almost always kinky and involved some sort of power-play. As an adult I’m much more turned on by nearly invisible interpersonal power dynamics than I am watching porn.
As a kid I was homeschooled. We had a small TV; I was allowed to watch Oregon Public Broadcasting and PBS. We didn’t have a lot of TV stations, and I didn’t really have access to anything like that, or the Internet. All I had access to was a small collection of VHS tapes, including some really wild ones from Japan. I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of US kids shows, but I had a ton of Ranma 1⁄2 tapes. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a boy who can transform into a girl and does so often to advance himself, often using his female body for sexual allure. I still don’t understand if or why it is a children’s show.
I got into the sex work because I was really interested in having sex. When I applied to Kink they asked, “Do you want to be a porn star?” And I was like—oh, no. It just didn’t occur to me. I just thought it would be really fun to do some specific shoots, and to do things that I wouldn’t normally be able to do in real life, or outside of a set.
Because the resources weren’t there, or?
I mean, Kink is a bondage site, so it’s just really extravagant.
They have all the gear.
They have all the gear. I applied to shoot for Public Disgrace, where they rent out an entire public venue, doing something you would normally be arrested for doing, right? You can’t just walk around naked in a park unless you have some legal paperwork drawn up and are doing it under the guise of an art film.
Would you describe what Public Disgrace is for whoever is reading?
It’s a bondage site centered around themes of public humiliation and voyeurism.
The participants aren’t necessarily porn stars, right? Some of them are just whoever shows up.
Yeah, it’s just whoever they can get. But I mean, it exists within the fetish scene in San Francisco. So the crowd can be equally made up of people invited beforehand from the BDSM scene, or just random people who happen to walk by whatever venue the shoot is at. During my first porn shoot a beer delivery guy accidentally walked into the restaurant we were shooting in and ended up staying.
What’s your experience like during those shoots?
Oh, my gosh. I don’t know, Adam. I mean, it’s really fun. I’ve done probably over 100 of them at this point. I was directing and producing and acting, and I was in Europe every summer for several years. Every one is different because of the public dynamic. You’re running around trying to find a place where you hopefully won’t get in trouble shooting, and trying to find people and controlling your crowd. Every shoot has been really, really different, but fun.
You directed some scenes?
Yes. My friend and I spent a few years working for one of the producers abroad. He allowed us to do whatever we wanted for a while. We had a few fun summers in Berlin and Madrid, and created a couple scenes that were so outrageous they got pulled from the site or were never published. After we did one where I was waterboarded using piss and an American flag we got reigned in a little.