Porn As A Revolutionary (and Local) Act


2018, June, Tara Almond

An interview with Laura Hansen, maker of feminist porn.

I met Bellingham’s Laura Hansen on a cold night early in January. I had gotten a call from a friend asking without too much detail if I would come to her home and take photos in exchange for food, wine and vodka drinks. Of course, being a former journalist we are easily exploited by the promise of free food and booze so I don’t recall thinking too much about what they were asking me to do.

Not knowing what I was getting into, I arrived, camera in hand to find bright studio lighting, glitter strewn about over uneven hardwood floors, rearranged furniture and naked people prancing around with props. That’s when I met Laura, a small-framed woman with jet black hair, a disarming gaze and sparkly sequins haphazardly affixed to her eyelids and cheeks. The photo series would be for a calendar, she said. A porn calendar, more specifically. She then explained that what she really wanted to get into producing was porn. Not your basic pedestrian porn for schlubs, mind you, but porn directed by women. Porn that was politically motivated. Porn that was intersectional. Porn that could possibly even redefine porn. So three months later I took the opportunity to sit down with her over mimosas and a cheese plate and find out more.

TA: So I guess the obvious first question is how did you get into this business?
LH: I went to WWU, dropped out of high school, I took a couple of years working and when I was 19 I went to culinary school. But I’ve never been good at school, I mean, I’ve always loved learning but I’ve never been good at the structure. Then, at 23 I started going to Whatcom Community College, and I kind of got involved in in the student government. I was elected student body president for a while and that was an interesting experience. Soon after that, I transferred to WWU and that first quarter, two days into the quarter, my husband told me he wanted to get a divorce. That really messed up my whole start there. We split up three months later but it took a minute for me to get my head straight. That’s when I had this idea I would finish school and then start a porn business. So I studied marketing, I still read my marketing book, it’s this great intersection of psychology and economics. Then one day I thought, “I could just stop going to school and could just start working toward making porn right away.”

So the next day a woman from work came over and took photos of me naked and it was really uncomfortable but I just kept doing it. I just thought I could figure out the things I need to know on my own. I call it “I made the decision to finish school on my own.”

I started my business called “The Next Take,” last year and I’ve been a little surprised at how interested people are and people who I did not think would be interested in exposing their bodies to strangers are just like “yes, I want to do this.”

TA: I guess I mean how did you develop the interest in porn?
LH: I ask myself that a lot. When I look back on it, I’ve kind of been slow rolling toward this since I was a kid… I felt like I was sexual at a really young age. I also thought growing up in the 90s and 2000 was a really unpleasant time to be a girl, the beauty standard at the time was anorexic and nothing in the stores looked good on me.

In a way, I grew up feeling the way that I was sexual was not OK. I’ve also always considered myself a feminist even though I didn’t have the language. When I was four, I used to get mad that all the characters in the books my mom read me were men and I made my mom change the pronouns when she read them.
And then, as soon as I found out porn was around I went out looking for it. I just have so much trouble finding the porn I want and finding porn that was up to my standards. I feel like I I’m pretty good at things, and I got good taste and I can write alright, so maybe I could make my own porn. It just sort of came together in my mind over time so it’s hard to even pinpoint the beginning of it.

TA: Is the eventual goal to make videos?
LH: I have a broad definition of porn in my mind that includes multi-media projects, as well as stories being told through writing, photos and videos. Because of the way the male gaze becomes the normal standard in our society, I think that when women read romance novels that they’re consuming porn in a way that is more comfortable for them. It’s easier to suspend disbelief if you’re reading as opposed to watching something. But yeah, in the future, I’m going to be making movies and I’m going to be really excited about that.

TA: What about porn as a revolutionary act. What do you mean by that?
LH: I think people want to be involved in something revolutionary. We’ve all heard the way movements have happened in the past and how people have marched and came together to make a difference. I think people are hungry for a way they can make a difference and be heard. I’ve actually in the last few weeks, all the people I know who are my age are upset about the state of the country and the politics, people are reaching out in ways they can be involved and socially radical or political. And I think for some people that means doing something uncomfortable. And maybe even get themselves in a bit of trouble.

TA: What, in your mind, are some of the social consequences of porn being almost entirely created for a male audience?
LH: There’s a really narrow field where women are allowed to be sexual in society and going outside of that is just not OK. I mean, we really relegate people’s sexuality so much in our society. And yet in movie ratings, you cannot have a movie that has actual penetrative sex but you can have absolutely any level of violent, sadistic, themes and visuals with an R rating and as long as you’re 17 or older that’s fine. And meanwhile, consensual love making could not be shown in a movie.

Sexuality is so basic to most human. I think it’s such a huge part of almost everyone’s life and it’s really sad that a lot of people don’t get to express themselves sexually the way they’d really like to or even encouraged to explore what they’re really into. It’s sad to think a lot of people die without ever having figured it out.

And porn being geared toward men for so long is part of the problem. So I feel really good about pushing something different and being a person who talks about their sexuality and advocates people being open about their sexuality. And that’s a big part of what I want to do with the porn I produce. I want people who act and model involved in the creative process. And if they love what they’re doing and think it’s hot, that will come through in photoshoots and movies.

But I think this porn that is produced for the lowest common denominator is also harmful to men in that it makes it really difficult for men to explore their authentic sexuality and authentic selves. Any trait associated with femininity is viewed as weak or If all those traits are considered bad, it’s hard to respect someone who has some of those characteristics. A lot of that becomes internalized.

I remember talking to a guy I was dating and he mentioned something about pegging and strapons but he was so embarrassed because he thought that made him gay. And I thought, what an absurd idea to think it would be gay to do a sexual act with a woman.

TA: So maybe it’s a cathartic kind of thing?
LH: Yeah, I think people want to have some influence. I think people feel pretty disillusioned by our system. They want to start voting with their actions. It’s something people can feel good about putting your money toward anyway.

I also think we’re also in the middle of another sexual revolution and people are starting to think about things more along the line of spectrums. Everything is getting less black and white it seems that people want to see more representation of things that are real––something a little more authentic. Maybe that means romantic comedies about things that don’t work out. I think people want to see something real that they’re a part of. Right now, I think most people don’t feel like porn is made for them. They don’t feel like it’s made ethically and we’re all suddenly confronted with how a huge percentage of our country is racist and sexist and fewer and fewer people are saying, “I don’t want to say anything.”

TA: Speaking of racist, it does seem porn has a fairly narrow spectrum of representation when it comes to people of color. Do you agree?
LH: Absolutely, there is a huge undercurrent––or, perhaps more appropriately, an overcurrent?––of racism in porn. When porn stars are deciding what to do they have a sequence of things they are willing to do basically. They’ll have something like in the beginning, they’ll say it’s not smart to do anal right away. And then maybe when you’re older you do anal. The last thing a white porn star typically does is interracial because that alienates a huge group of viewers who never want to watch a white woman in a porn again if she has done any scene with a black man. It’s horrifying. On the other hand, there are also very specific ways women of color are fetishized, shown and portrayed.

TA: You talk about the need for porn to be ethically created. How would you define that?
LH: We as a culture went from saying things like, “No means no,” to, “yes means yes,” to “enthusiastic consent.” I also think consent should be continuous. A lot of times I think people are responding in sexual situations the way they think they’re supposed to instead of maybe trying to understand the situation and paying attention to what the other person is experiencing. The way that I want my company to be a role model for that is by carefully examining issues relating to consent before hand to make sure they’re comfortable. And ensuring that the other people playing a part also care and are aware of and paying attention. I want the porn to be ethically created in that everyone is excited about what they’re doing and no one is made to feel uncomfortable or used in anyway or feel like they’re being exploited.

TA: Do you have any other hobbies besides porn?
LH: I have two best friends and I really like talking on the phone with them for hours at a time and really get into the minutea. I spend probably six hours a week with these people on the phone and it drives a lot of my thinking and my growth. I also really enjoy drinking alcohol and smoking weed and meeting new people. I like finding movies and TV shows that make me think. I’ve also really been into a show called Bojack Horseman, an animated series about a world where there are people but also anthropomorphized animals. It really delves into and tackles a lot of sadness but it’s also hilarious and really well-written and smart. I also really love The Simpsons and Star Trek.

I also like playing fetch with my dog, Harvey, a rescue Border Collie brought over from Idaho. Dogs are just all the best parts of people.

TA: So what’s the next step?
LH: My plan is to do a video for The Stranger’s Hump! Film Festival. I have someone who will act in it and had someone email me yesterday and ask if he can help write scripts and dialogue for me. And as soon as I get the zine going I want to start working on that.

I like the idea of hitting people’s nostalgia a little bit. I like the idea of starting out with subscriptions to a print magazine that starts out small and I want what I do to be up to my standards of taste I don’t want to overextend myself but I want to start out with people being able to buy subscriptions to an actual magazine that people can have in their house.

Next year I’ll be selling a calendar, Christmas cards, tshirts, things like that. I’d like people who kind of miss what you might call a simpler time be able to feel that tactile connection with something. Especially local.

It isn’t all about trying to get hits online.

Interested in modeling or getting involved? Contact The Next Take info@thenexttake.net or like them on Facebook at Facebook.com/thenexttake

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