“Someone asked me the other day if I had a naughty Purim story. This is a porn star, when we interview her we must ask her only sex questions, even when talking about Jewish holidays!”
I’m speaking with adult entertainment performer Casey Calvert, and we’ve just broached the subject of what a standard porn interview looks like, and how this may not be one of them. It’s seventy minutes into the conversation, and we’ve delved into all kinds of topics, from her work, her daily life, scarves, to the end of days. Calvert, who entered the industry in 2012 after being a fetish model, is a riveting conversationalist with a wry, pleasantly incisive sense of humor.
Calvert and I spoke for a little over ninety minutes, and it’s a shame not every word can appear here. Her thoughts are insightful and often jocular, and her presence, albeit projecting via Skype, oozes with amiable confidence and intellect.
Enjoy this delightfully weird interview with the wonderfully witty and talented Casey Calvert.
Tell me about how you prepare for a day of shooting?
Usually, a workday is entirely different than a not-work day, because work encompasses an entire day. On a workday, I’ll wake up, do all the grooming stuff, pack my suitcase with whatever kind of wardrobe I’m supposed to bring that morning. I’ll do my makeup and my hair if I’m supposed to for the job, but 75% of the time they have someone to do that. Then I go to work. Then I work. Then I come home. And probably go to bed pretty early, maybe watch a movie with my boyfriend. I usually don’t do anything besides work on a workday. At the foundation it’s no different than sitting in a cubicle or whatever.
What do you generally do when you’re not on camera?
I play on my phone or knit. I keep a scarf, and it’s in my set bag, that’s got everything I might need on set that’s separate from my wardrobe. I keep a scarf in there that I work on, that’s my porno scarf. Every single time I take it out I get the joke from somebody, who’s male, who says something to the effect of like, “oh are you knitting me a ball-sack warmer?” Without fail, every single time. I’m on porno scarf number three, and I started probably two years ago working on the porno scarves.
Tell me about the social community in the industry.
There isn’t the sex gossip that happens in mainstream, but any other kind of gossip you can imagine happens. Also, for the most part, everybody knows everybody; there’s always new people coming in, but once you’re established you tend to work with only established people and only established directors. It’s just pretty casual, like any other job.
How do you prepare for the films? How do you view the artistry of what you do?
On a gonzo day, like when there’s no dialogue or if there’s any dialogue it’s just stuff I’m just making up like dirty talk, I’m playing the role of Casey Calvert. It used to be difficult but now that I’ve been doing it for so long I can just slip into it really easily and it comes really naturally. On a vignette day, when there’s some sort of story, or on a feature day, when I’m actually playing a character, some directors are very, very particular and want you to stay exactly to the script that they’ve given you that morning, and will over direct. I’ve had directors who’ve handed me scripts and given me zero freedom, but other directors let me make it all up. There’ll be a script and there’ll be a story, but really they let me play with it and with the character. I’m never ever given a backstory to my character, or anything beyond what’s written on the page, no one goes to the effort to actually think of that. Like, you’re the good girl, the bad girl, there’s never any variation on character; it’s always the same. I always try to find something to give my character a little backstory, and that keeps me entertained and I feel I do a much better job when I actually have something to play with, rather than what’s on the page, when what’s on the page is very flat.
Can you talk about dirty talk in terms of what goes on film and what occurs in real life outside the shoot?
Dirty talk in porn is very, very straightforward, and the secret to dirty talk in porn, which someone taught me when I first got in the business, is you just say what’s going on. Just narrate. You just go and you go, and you don’t think of anything. You literally narrate what’s going on. It doesn’t sound like rambling narration. You put sex noises in there, and you vary the intonation of things, and it works.
If you could create your own porn, what would it look like?
As soon as I start hypothetically thinking about the perfect porno, that’s what I’ll think about and that’s what I want to do, but my perfect porno is not your perfect porno, and it’s not everyone else’s perfect porno. Everyone has their own perfect porno, and so frankly, if and when I direct, really it will be whatever the company hires me to do; whether it’s gonzo or features, it’ll be me doing the job I’ve been hired to do to the best of my abilities, of course.
My perfect porno would not sell, it’s not possible, and I don’t even know what it is, I can just tell you that it won’t sell. You have to be so, so broad with your strokes when you’re directing, even when you’re directing something that’s considered fetish, because companies have rules about what you can and can’t do. I wrote a BDSM script for a director and then he paid me a little bit extra to be on set with him as the BDSM consultant, and we could tie people up with scarves but we couldn’t tie people up with rope. Companies have little nitpicky rules, and those rules exist because really of credit card processing. They don’t want to associate themselves with anything that could potentially be considered pro rape, so they won’t process the money, and there’s no other way of processing money, so the rules are followed.
Seeing your BDSM background, I’d love your take on the entire 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.
Disclaimer #1, I have not read the book, and I have not seen the movie, I have no intention of doing either. I almost went to see the movie, just to see it, but I feel like I’ve read enough articles because every sex educator and her sister has written an article on 50 Shades, which is why I didn’t, but all of the talk and non-consensuality, and that Christian Grey comes from a damaged household, and that’s why he’s kinky, my point is, why are you surprised? Why are you surprised that some form of popular media portrays BDSM poorly? Since when has BDSM been portrayed correctly? Have you heard of Laura Antoniou? She’s written what I’ve found to be the most realistic BDSM erotica, but it’s still a complete fantasy [The Marketplace]. She wrote it so it takes place in a fantasy world. Everyone is talking about 50 Shades of Grey and I’m not surprised. I wish that it was an accurate portrayal, that there was more negotiation and a better discussion of safe words and consent. This is getting so much more attention than any other BDSM media that’s ever existed.
We’re very into this idea of naughty. We’re a little addicted to the idea that we’re transgressing, but we want to seem like we’re not, and 50 Shades gives the opportunity to dabble without any emotional and intellectual investment.
I think that the fact that more people are hearing about BDSM because of this book and movie, and that BDSM is becoming more mainstream, I think that’s great. I think that’s fantastic. The only problem is that people read the book and see the movie and then they get on FetLife or one of the other shady sites and then they go to a club and don’t know how to properly discuss their boundaries as a bottom, and they get taken advantage of and they cry rape! And then there’s all the backlash on the community. I very strongly believe it’s the bottom’s responsibility to negotiate what is ok and what is not. I also believe it’s the bottom’s responsibility to not just play with anybody. To do their research, and play with people who are known to be respectful of people’s boundaries and who are known to be receptive of body language, and who have been playing for a long time. That’s on the bottom to do the research. Anyone can go into a club and go I’m a dommly dom! Here’s my floggers! The new woman that’s just come in doesn’t know.
How do you educate people who are getting into the community, and what would you say to someone who’s interested in entering this world?
If you think you’re interested you should try. You should find someone who is reputable, who is a leader in their local community, who can be a mentor. Find someone who can explain all these new words and acronyms and toys, and find someone to teach you how to negotiate.
Do you ever find yourself having to defend the BDSM world? On the flipside, I’ve observed the “kinkier than thou” attitude, how would you respond to that?
To defend the BDSM community, usually what people say is to the effect of, “how can you be a feminist and like to do all of these things and be submissive to men?” The answer to that question is always just, to me being a feminist means being able to choose. So I chose to be submissive to these particular people. I’m not submissive to everybody. That is my negotiated choice. I can say stop whenever I want to, and they stop.
Do you ever get people up on their vanilla pedestal? I’m guilty of this once, actually. A tantric practitioner once told me he could blow my mind and I responded with, “What’s wrong with my mind?”
You take a vanilla person and you put them with an energy player, and that vanilla person is going to have a really great experience maybe, if they’re receptive. But to walk around and say, “I’m going to blow your mind! My sex is so much better than your sex!” That’s completely not acceptable. Whatever makes you happy, that’s your best sex. If someone is perfectly content with the sex that they’re having, and I come in and say, you should try getting tied up, it’ll blow your mind, that’s not ok, because they’re happy. It’s not my place to say, no you’re not happy, because you’re not kinky. Some people aren’t wired to be that way.
Where do you think that pornography fits into social media and dating technology, and these new ways we communicate?
This depends on how broad we’re defining porn. If we’re just talking about porn that got shot on a set with a camera and is now up on the Internet, I feel like that’s really no different in the hierarchy than watching a movie or a TV show. I know that people would disagree, because they’d say that there’s sex and that’s bad, but to me it’s no different in the hierarchy than watching House of Cards. But if we’re talking about the more intimate ways to use porn that are becoming more popular, like Skype shows, and camming, and making custom videos where there’s much more of a personal interaction between the model and the client… Porn is moving towards a business model where there’s more interaction. More and more fans are willing to pay for something that is personal, even if it’s just a Skype show to have a conversation where no one takes their clothes off. That enriches their experience of pornography. The business is definitely moving toward customized product. Very specific fetishes. I do really great business making custom videos for people. You can make a lot of money camming and doing Skype shows. People are out there searching for their perfect porn. And the mainstream porn company doesn’t make that. I hear from my fans all the time, I wish so and so did custom videos, so a lot of girls don’t do it cause it’s work. It’s time. But mainstream porn work is slowing down. It’s gradually declining. Porn doesn’t sell like it used to. But customs do, and camming does. Those are the things that are bringing in the most profit right now.
Have you done any parody work, speaking of fictional universes?
I’ve done some. Apparently I don’t get hired for them very often because I don’t look like anybody else. I played Power Woman in Spiderman #2 from Axel Braun, I had sex with Spiderman. I really wanted to be in the Game of Thrones parody, but there wasn’t anybody for me to play. I went and auditioned, but I don’t look like anybody.
If you could have sex in any fictional universe, where would that be?
This is a hard question because there are a million answers. The very first thing that came to my mind was Middle-earth. I don’t have a reason, but as soon as you asked that question, my mind went to Middle-earth and started going to a bunch of other places.
Where in Middle-earth?
Frankly, I feel like someplace tame, like a nondescript field or something. Someplace that’s not “a place,” like outside the Shire so it’s not even the Shire anymore. Just nowhere. Because each place has its meaning in that story. Each place is so ingrained in the story. But I just want to be able to say I fucked in Middle-earth, I don’t want it to be some place, just in Middle-earth. Some ambiguous place.
How much exercise is porn sex?
Porn sex is exhausting. People don’t realize how difficult porn sex is, and it’s always funny to listen to new girls talking about how tired they are. And it’s really hard because you have to hold your body in a certain way so it looks attractive, you have to keep your stomach sucked in so you don’t get any skin rolls and you have to make sure your back arches so your butt looks as big as it can, and your waist looks as small as it can, and you have to hold these positions for a long time. Reverse cowgirl is all on you. And you’re doing it in heels.
What kind of preparations do you make and do with scene partners before a shoot?
The only real preparation that happens is maybe a two-minute conversation about what you like, what you don’t like, you know. Something to the effect of, my hip feels a little weird today; let’s only turn out this way. Discussing logistics. And then depending on the kind of director you have, some directors will just point the camera at you and say go, then you go until they say stop, and some directors want to stop every five minutes. You just kind of professionally communicate, then you fuck. When it’s the more natural scenes, the more you do it, the better at it you get. And that’s why they put new girls with the most experienced guys for their first couple of scenes usually, because a new girl really doesn’t know what to do. It’s entirely unlike having real sex. Completely and entirely different. And so it just comes from experience, and knowing how your body looks good.
Do you do other acting and other types of performance?
I did improv in high school and college, and I did theater in high school, did a Shakespeare symposium in college, and all that. But I really prefer acting on camera. In film school, at least at my school, going to the theater department to get actors was always a bad idea, because you always got theater! And it never worked. I just kinda ended up being one of the token actors for all the student films. So I got practice doing that. It’s something I enjoy. I’ve thought about making the move to mainstream acting, and had a mainstream agent for awhile, but no one wants to hire a porn star. Even for a super specialized commercial where they needed someone to do a certain skill, like I was a competitive rock climber and they needed a rock climber that was female, a very specific role. There was no dialogue, it was a car commercial, but no one wants to hire the porn star. And even when I go to those auditions as my legal name, someone always knows. I also tried to do a bunch of mainstream modeling, and I almost booked a catalogue job, and then someone found out I do porn, and they didn’t want to hire me anymore.
How do we bridge the gap between pornography and the mainstream world, or is it this just an idealized, far off future?
I agree that it’s a far off future, but I also believe that the distinction, the discrimination, just like I was talking about how the rules in porn come from the credit card companies, the discrimination against porn is big business. It’s the executive sitting behind a big, wooden desk at Disney, worried about what it will do to the image of the company to put someone who’s done porn in something that is their product. You could be amazing, you could have the best audition out of anybody, but because they’re afraid of the image, because everyone just assumes the stereotype, they won’t do it. As soon as they knew I did porn, no one was ever going to put me in that commercial. Because someone will watch it, and will go, “she does porn!” and there’ll be a media backlash. And everyone is afraid of that.
Do you think there’s a broader, deeper fear behind the publicity argument?
I’m sure for some of them, yes. Especially with a lot of the female casting directors who I encountered. It’s a subconscious, “she’s a sexual being, that makes me uncomfortable” kind of fear. “She’s comfortable with her sexuality, that threatens me.” So there’s definitely that, but that’s coming from a much more subconscious place. The memo will say, “she’s going to give us negative publicity, we can’t use her!” And then it’s just belief in the stereotype, “you do porn, you must be a whore.” I think that a lot of people are afraid to intellectualize anything sexual. I think thinking about sex is scary. The thought of having sex is scary and gives so many people anxiety. To do it is one thing, but to think about doing it is entirely different, when you’re not horny at all. We have a saying in porn that you point with one hand and jack off with the other.
How do you dispel that, do you think? Is there a real way to? The world is so uncomfortable with the only thing that keeps the species from not dying off.
It’s very American. The fear of sex, I’ve found, is very American. 50 Shades of Grey here had an R rating. In France, it was given the equivalent of a PG rating. It’s something that Americans are afraid of. It’s something that you do not talk or think about. Sex is something you do in the dark, with your partner, who is the opposite sex, that you are married to, to make children, or else you’re going to hell and god will hate you. Sexual discrimination definitely exists in other parts of the world, but the pointing with one hand and jerking off with another, I feel like that’s very American. In countries where women are not allowed to do certain things, those men aren’t afraid of those women because they’re sexual, they’re afraid of them because society has said that men are better. I feel that society has said women are not capable. Our society got rid of those things in the 60s and 70s; Americans feel that women are capable, but women cannot be sexual, that’s what’s scary, a sexual woman.
You seem to have a sense of humor regarding your job. A sense of humor pertaining to this world could be a great lens for people to understand it, and cast less hate its way.
When people ask me who I am, in relation to my work, I say I’m a normal person with an abnormal job. I go to work, just like everyone else, and besides what I do when I go to work, I am otherwise entirely, completely normal. I’m not the kind of person to get butt-hurt every time someone calls me a whore. I came across a website the other day called fightthenewdrug.com, the new drug is pornography, and there are articles on there about how porn damages relationships, and how porn damages your sex life, and how porn hurts love. I want to buy one of their t-shirts, and wear it on set one day, and take a picture and tweet it at them. But I don’t want to give them twenty dollars.
It’s amusing to me how much hate people can have for me. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make me feel hurt, it doesn’t make me feel threatened. How terrified of sex must you be to build an entire non-profit organization based around how pornography is bad and ruining society? Where does that come from inside, and how did you get to be that way, because that’s so strange to me. Granted, I feel that there’s a lot of people out there who’d say, “how did you come from an upper middle class family and go to college and end up in porn, that seems so strange to me.” I can accept that, but I will argue that I am valid in my career choice with everyone except with someone who’s invoking god. When someone says to me you’re wrong because god says sex is bad, I can’t argue with that. If you’re going to read that in a book and believe that, then that’s your prerogative and I’m not getting involved.
You said you had a boyfriend, how do you manage the relationship and being in adult media?
I was in a committed master/slave relationship before I started porn. I discussed with him, me getting into porn, he was ok with that. As time went on, he became more and more jealous, more and more not ok with the fact that I was in porn, and really, in all of my experience, I’m sure it’s not 100% true, but every female porn star that I know with a boyfriend, and that relationship is actually positive and working, that boyfriend also works in the business. It’s kind of like mainstream film production, where it’s really hard for someone who works in movies to date someone who doesn’t, because of things like hours. You don’t know when you’re coming home, you go to work, you have a call time, but you don’t know how many hours you’re working that day. There’s always that little hint of “what if my girlfriend is getting really, really invested emotionally in this partner who she had sex with?” There’s always going to be that flash of jealousy, until you’ve been on set, numerous times, and realize it’s just a job.
My boyfriend’s not threatened when I go to work, because he’s seen it. And that is really what the secret is. My current boyfriend knows all of the stars; he knows that no one is trying to be my boyfriend. You have to be able to intellectualize your relationship enough to intellectualize the difference between sex at home and sex at work. And if you can’t do that, it’s not going to work. Whether you’re male or female, or whether you’re the talent or not. It’s a detachment thing. It sounds bad to say I detach when I go to work, but sex for me has never been something that’s intimate. Making out with someone is way more intimate, holding hands, cuddling, all of those things are way more intimate to me than having sex. Which is why I’m good at my job, because it’s just sex, it’s acting.
What do you think will come first, our extinction, or our ability to be universally open about sex? If it’s apocalypse, what’s the best way the world could end?
As much as I’d like to say that I wish that we would be able to talk about sex open and freely as a society before we go extinct, I don’t think that’s going to happen. My vote is for extinction first. Frankly, the way we’re going now, I don’t know how long we have. The best way the world could end would be from some sort of implosion, just we’re all going about our business, and the earth’s core implodes. And there’s no time for mass hysteria. Just all gone instantly.
If there’s anything that’s terrible, it’s allowing humans to know about their own end. It’s what keeps us being horrible creatures. You’ve thought up a very merciful apocalypse.
I don’t want to be in a world where the sun goes dark and we have 36 hours to live. I don’t want to be in that world. I don’t want to be in the world where the oceans have risen so high that we’re living on top of each other, or where we’ve farmed out all the nutrients of the soil so that there isn’t any food left and we’re eating processed crickets to get protein. I don’t want to live in that kind of apocalypse. It’s me being very selfish, or unusually empathetic. Everybody dies exactly the same way.
There was so much else I wanted to ask Calvert, but for now I’ll have to settle for Spiderman sex, hardcore knitting, and waxing lyrical about human extinction. Calvert can be found on her website, Twitter, her blog, and as an author of Huffington articles such as this one about condom use and this one about industry intelligence.