At a first glance, the downtown Hollywood club looks like any other: dark wooden floors, dim lighting, and a DJ playing Top 40 rap and pop. Scantily clad girls fill every corner; some wear skin-hugging latex dresses with their cleavage and belly buttons exposed, while others wear nothing at all.
Outside, two limousines in which two men wait roll up, licking their lips in anticipation. One of them, a black man with dreads, rubs the top of the limo and declares, “I wish for everyone to be sexy!” His wish is granted when the door opens and a stream of barely dressed women with big tits step out of the car. This limo is full of extras and one of the porn film’s leads, a man named Voodoo, who claims “they tired me out already!”
Angelica Saige and her former roommate and fellow porn star, Amy Brooke, are in the second limo. The two wear clothes that look like they were ripped right out of Madonna’s closet in the ’80s: lacy fingerless gloves, skin-tight leggings, and sheer, belly-bearing tops. Angelica steps out of the limousine first with a coy, mischievous smile planted on her face, as the cameraman releases a “Whoosh!” from his throat.
It’s time for her to get to work.
Inside the club, female extras bump and grind together. Some make use of the stripper pole, while others swap spit and lick each other’s nipples. One girl in an ass-bearing plaid kilt and an unbuttoned white dress shirt takes it a step further and performs cunnilingus on another woman in the middle of the dance floor.
Angelica watches the extras perform and quickly downs some Crown Royal and Coke. After that, she consumes three vodka-cranberry drinks. Tonight’s shoot is the first boy/boy/girl/girl scene she’s ever shot, she explains in between drinks. She has a frown on her face and she clasps her fingers tight around her glass, as if to stop them from shaking. Before she can finish her drink, she’s called to the back to sign consent forms and W-9 tax forms. She and the other stars meet and show each other copies of their clean STD tests.
When the “serious” shooting begins, Angelica and Amy are directed when to dance, kiss, touch each other, and touch the guys. They’re told by the producer–an overly tan, fat man—which “specific positions need to be accomplished,” like the shot of the girls giving their partners blow jobs while their pink g-strings dangle off the guys’ penises. One shot, they are told, is a “must,” and requires the girls to sit back-to-back, their hands behind them, grabbing each other’s breasts while the men are in their mouths.
The four porn stars move to a couch in the back, which looks like two single mattresses pushed together. A red velvet blanket is thrown on top, and the girls soon follow. Voodoo hastily peels off Angelica’s grey leggings, and aside from the thin black belt around her waist and a spotting of finger-sized bruises on her thighs, she is naked. She assumes the top position on Voodoo and bounces up and down with such force that you’d think her legs could break.
It’s not reality, but it’s manufactured to look like it. Every suck, lick, and thrust is performed for the sole purpose of titillating the consumer. Angelica is just one of many performers who get paid to keep up the mirage. It is her job to welcome the mostly male consumers of pornography into a world of fantasy disguised as reality. From the teasing bat of her eyelashes to the gratuitous close-ups of her freckled breasts and genitalia, she fully exposes herself for pay. And despite the obvious ethical issues surrounding pornography and opposition from feminists, politicians, and average Joes, Angelica feels no shame. She loves her job—it makes her feel powerful, and she sees nothing wrong with it.
Angelica was born 20 years ago to an Italian-Catholic father and an American mother. She was raised in a cramped three-bedroom home along with three younger siblings. She had a fairly normal childhood. Peers remember her as being quiet, shy, and normal. But then puberty struck and she became quite attractive in an exotic kind of way. Gone was the awkward, gangly girl with freckles; in her place was a tall, slender babe with naturally tan Italian skin. Her freckles became beauty marks, and her flat chest was replaced with big, full breasts. It wasn’t long before she became sexually active.
“I was 17, and I lost it to a boyfriend,” she recalls. She quickly learned that sex made her feel powerful. She began sneaking random boys (hockey players were favourites) into the room she shared with her younger sister. The cell phone she shared with her parents began to ring late at night with boys asking to “eat her out” and to “fuck her hard.”
This voracious appetite led to Angelica’s dropping out of the University of Ottawa to enter the Miss Erotica L.A. contest. With a laugh and a shrug, she says, “I decided I might as well just get paid for it.” The contest was set in Los Angeles, one of the two hot beds for the porn industry (the other is New York). Angelica, who has American citizenship because of her mother but wasn’t a resident at the time, lied about being Canadian and put down her grandmother’s Michigan address as her own (to this day, no one in the porn industry knows she hails from the Great White North). After entering and being selected as one of 12 finalists, Angelica was flown to L.A. to compete.
“At that point, I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t going anywhere with school, and I certainly wasn’t going to get anywhere in Leamington,” she explains.
With her proud sister in the audience, Angelica wowed the porn industry’s elite to win a slew of prizes including representation with L.A. Direct Models, one of the industry’s top agencies. From that point on, Angelica became Angelica Saige: “I wanted my first name to be Sage, but the agency didn’t like it. So, I tossed an ‘i’ in there and made it my last name!” It was the win that changed her life.
Angelica then moved to Venice, California to become a full-time porn star. Her agency owns houses where some of their stars live. She moved in with five other girls, including Amy Brooke. She’s dating a porn star now, too. His name is Mike and he takes care of her (“especially the way he eats my box!”). She didn’t tell her parents about her new life out of fear that her younger brothers would find out. But that was a secret she couldn’t keep. “Some people found out and word just spread so quickly,” Angelica says. “But my parents are like, super pumped about it. I think at first they were a little skeptical about it, but honestly, I don’t think anything surprises them anymore.”
The money also helps. Angelica, being a white woman, gets paid a minimum of US$1,000 per scene. This is significantly more than black women who get paid closer to US$500. With this income, her family can now afford to send her younger brothers to hockey camps while her sister gets a brand new car.
“I think they’re really proud that I’ve made it as far as I have already. Not everyone can handle this kind of work, you know? And I’m doing it and doing it well.”
Not everybody can handle this work. Life as a porn star is difficult. Other than the obvious physical manhandling, it is an expensive way to make a living. Los Angeles and New York are pricey places to live. To add to these expenses, both men and women have to pay for their own HIV testing every month. And if you think for a second that it doesn’t require a lot of time and money to get the girls to look as bouncy and sexy as they do, you’re wrong.
The earliest pornographic films lasted only a few minutes and repeated over and over in loops. The films were installed in machines that customers activated by inserting quarters. These machines and movies were called peep shows and were located in private booths in porn bookstores where customers would watch and masturbate. After the first AIDS cases surfaced in 1981, porn became more popular since people began to acknowledge that masturbation was far safer than sex with a partner who might be infected with HIV. This led to the legalization of shooting porn films, since porn stars were now considered actors and not prostitutes.
Today, pornography is a billion-dollar industry. Of this massive revenue, 10 percent comes from online porn. The National Research Council estimates that Internet pornography has become a $7-billion-a-year business.
As for the different styles of porn, there is a cornucopia to choose from. There’s vanilla, anal, gangbangs, bukake, scat play, teen, MILF, and more. Nothing is too freaky, too kinky, or too deviant for this industry. And with such a varied porn buffet up for the choosing, it’s easy to see how the industry is a breeding ground for cold, hard cash.
And Angelica does it all. She specializes in online gonzo pornography, which is porn with no storyline or script. It is essentially just non-stop sex. This type of pornography aims to make the viewer feel like he or she is directly in the scene: the porn stars will acknowledge the camera and lick their lips with a teasing smirk as if they’re looking right at you.
But today, Angelica is a sex slave. Her co-star, Mark Davis, is a bald man wearing a sharp burgundy dress shirt and black pants. His head gleams about as much as his leather loafers. Somewhere in the background, someone plays Lady Gaga (“P-p-p-poker face…”). Angelica wears a grey, cashmere robe as she sits perched on Mark’s knee. They laugh and joke around until it’s time to bolt Angelica to the floor. She’s whipped, gagged, and slapped across the face. And when it’s finished, she and her co-stars are all smiles. They look satisfied.
This satisfaction with Angelica’s line of work is quite common. Aside from the approval she gets from her family, Angelica herself loves her job. “It’s pretty fun. I feel so in control and empowered. I just really love it.” Her love may be fueled by the appreciation she has received from fans. One fan wrote to her, “Wow. Your body is amazing, and I think you do an incredible job, especially at the ends of scenes! Very hot!”
But not everyone agrees that having sex for pay is the way to go. For some, it’s downright disgusting and immoral.
“Women should not feel ogled or exploited, but rather properly esteemed and honoured,” exclaims Andy Flatt, the pastor at Brantford Community Church. A friendly family man, Pastor Flatt explains that breasts are intended for the sensual satisfaction of a husband. To abuse that purpose for any other gain, he says, is to distort and depreciate the good God intends. For the Pastor, porn is a testimony to the strength of Satan’s efforts to “pervert and cheapen” our culture.
It’s not surprising that religion plays a role in anti-pornography movements, or that some feminists have also opposed the industry. Some people and organizations believe that watching porn leads to the objectification of women, the committing of deviant sexual acts, and the perpetuating of domestic violence. Porn has been the scapegoat for many of society’s problems.
Dr. Catherine Stewart is a criminology professor at Laurier Brantford and has worked with survivors of sexual abuse through her work as a therapist and social worker. She is not against explicit erotica as long as it is not violent and does not judge women involved in the pornography industry as actors, but is concerned about some of the negative aspects of the industry. Stewart believes a good number of the women in pornography have a history of sexual abuse (Angelica is mum on the matter) and become involved as a way of trying to come to terms with the original trauma: “It gives them a chance to reenact it but in circumstances where they have ultimate control, unlike the original victimization.”
“Of course some of the people involved, including children, do not have control over their involvement and have been coerced into participating. In this case, pornography is simply a record of actual abuse. The irony with individuals, who are ‘willingly’ involved out of a need to rewrite the script of their original trauma, is that they are helping to perpetuate the idea that it’s desirable and erotic for women to be overpowered and forced into sex,”
Stewart said after hearing about Angelica’s latest scene. “Angelica may be willing, but through participating in an industry that propagates the myth that women enjoy being treated this way, she indirectly helps to put other women at risk. We know from the literature and clinical experience that pornography is often used by men who are abusing their partners sexually to justify and normalize what they are doing.”
One of Angelica’s high school peers, Jackie Sanger, knew of Angelica’s promiscuity, but was still shocked when she heard about her career choice. “I find porn to be really degrading and disgusting. I guess if you don’t have morals or self-respect, than you might as well do what you love and enjoy.” Other friends from high school remember Angelica’s apparent “need” to have sex. A former lover said she was, “blank and mechanical. As if [sex] was something she had to do.” He also said, “She has been having sex like [a porn star] for several years already, may as well be paid.”
Amy Brooke, Angelica’s former roommate and sometimes co-star, believes that the negative stigmas of porn aren’t necessarily true. “Porn does not objectify women and definitely not on set! We are the centre of attention so they cater to us all the time, making sure we are comfortable.” To the opposition, Amy says, “At least I get paid for something people do on a regular basis. A job is a job. It doesn’t mean that we are like that off camera.”
For Angelica, porn isn’t about the degradation of women, or reasserting male dominance. She’s just happy doing something she loves. It won’t last forever: two years is the average length of a female porn star’s career (for men, it’s five). But for Angelica, that’s okay.
“I know I’m definitely in the right place for myself at the moment,” she says. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be that way forever. I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.” Her happiness is plain on her face and she’s wearing a blue plaid kilt, a white T-shirt, and a black vest—the typical schoolgirl fantasy.
She’s on set again. This time, it’s for Wired Pussy and it’s her first girl/girl shoot. Her partner for the day is Mistress Madeline, a generic looking blonde who’s going to make Angelica her slave. As the cameras start rolling, Mistress Madeline bends Angelica over a desk, spanks her until her ass goes red, and carefully places four electrode pads onto her ass cheeks. She then puts clothes pins on Angelica’s nipples (“I feel so natural this way!”).
The scene is completely masochistic and uncomfortable, but it’s what she thrives on. In a society where pornography is seen as being taboo and dirty, Angelica sees it as an outlet to be powerful—to be in control over her body and over the men (or women) she’s paid to sleep with. The naysayers give her hell – one person from high school told her to “get AIDS and die” – but you know what? She still doesn’t give a shit.