Shine Louise Houston by Maxwell Lander

The Story Behind the Site That's Basically Netflix for Indie Porn

Filmmaker Shine Louise Houston tells us about the subscription-based streaming service providing the erotic future liberals want.

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Feb 13 2019, 2:30pm

Shine Louise Houston by Maxwell Lander

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

It can be easy to get stuck in a porn rut, but adult filmmaker Shine Louise Houston has the solution to your woes: PinkLabel TV—a subscription-based streaming service that’s essentially a sexy equivalent to Netflix. From ‘boygasms’ and sexual sci to softcore flicks and instructional ‘edu-porn,’ the streaming subscription service has something for everyone. Better still, it’s fantasy with a conscience. Gone are gross, fetishizing labels, replaced instead by tags like ‘POC Porn’ and ‘The Feminist Porn Gaze.’ It is quite literally the erotic future liberals want.

This should come as no surprise to fans of Shine’s Pink & White Productions or the company’s online marketing director Jiz Lee, an adult film star and author whose 2015 book Coming Out Like a Porn Star tells the hilarious but often moving stories of sex workers. Together they’re helping to lead somewhat of a porn revolution, building a loyal fanbase on the back of their dedication to sensitively and sexily representing trans and non-binary bodies.

PinkLabel isn’t all they’ve got going on. Shine is also crowdfunding Chemistry Eases the Paina ‘straight-curious’ film about a ‘staunchly lesbian’ woman of color grappling with her sexuality. It’s a fusion of porn and dark humor which explores the terrifying question: What if I’m actually straight?

We we reached out to Shine for a long Skype chat about representation, the scapegoating of the porn industry, and the future of VR porn, which could end up looking strangely like Star Trek.

VICE: Hey Shine. So, as an independent adult filmmaker, how important has it been to keep up with and use new technology?
Shine Louise Houston: It’s pretty important. DVD sales really tanked around 2007 or 2008, so we made the shift and went online because that’s where the market is. There are limitations to the type of technology we can develop, but if something is new out there—like the streaming model—we can consider it. Crowdfunding has definitely made life less challenging for us, as well. We can’t exactly go knocking on the doors of investors, and I like being self-funded because it means we have creative control. There’s no waiting for a green light; I’ll approve things myself, thank you! Also, there are some doors which are locked to adult filmmakers—we can’t exactly go looking for a bank loan!

What sparked the creation of PinkLabel TV?
It was inspired by the Berlin Porn Film Festival. It’s not new—if you look back in history you can trace avant-garde adult filmmakers back to the 1950s and even beyond—but I wanted work like that to have a home and reach a wider audience, so I created PinkLabel.

Everything on there fits with descriptions of Pink & White as ‘feminist porn.’ How would you describe the work you make?
Well, other people label us as ‘feminist’ and 'ethical'—we tend to describe ourselves as 'queer' because that more encompasses the type of mission we have. Mostly it means that we’re inclusive behind the camera and in front of the camera, so that means representing different body types, gender expressions, and kind of flipping old narratives.

PinkLabel TV
Screenshot from PinkLabel TV

What about the idea of porn making positive change or even acting as sex education—do you believe in that?
I think porn can model sex-positive values and healthy sexuality, but I don’t believe in porn as sex education. I think we need comprehensive sex education starting at school; I see porn more as a graduate studies discussion of sexuality which goes into really interesting, taboo subjects and fantasies. It doesn’t always have to be a perfect model of what sexuality should look like—can you imagine if every Hollywood film was full of people being nice to each other? We’d have no drama!

True! Do you think people push so hard for positive representation in porn because it’s an industry that has been so stigmatized and so full of particularly bad examples in the past
Definitely, I agree with that statement.

So how do you navigate the fact that so many of our desires are politically incorrect; how do you broach those taboos?
With Crash Pad Series I really just control the camera, so everything the talent does is pretty much up to them—even with bigger projects when I write the scene into a larger narrative, they have a decent amount of autonomy once we actually get to the sex. What that means is that whenever we depict kink or fetish, it’s kind of addressed by them—it’s all about how they want to be represented and what they think is important to communicate, so I think that can circumvent certain problematic narratives. I think showing the post-interviews and the mechanics of what went into the scene really helps too, especially if it’s a particularly rough scene. It shows there’s consent, and it shows the humanity behind it.

Do you think social media plays a part in that humanization, too?
Definitely, but for us it’s really important to humanize the actors mostly because it’s our response to that rhetoric that porn inherently dehumanizes people, you know? I think it does and it doesn’t—it really depends on the production and on what type of lens you’re looking at it through, but we do try and respond to that cultural narrative.

Do people tend to respond well to the diverse representation that you bring to the industry?
We mainly get responses from people telling us they’re glad we exist. With ‘Bed Party’ we had a cisgender guy message us saying: “wow, this is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to my sexuality being represented on-screen!” I was like, “alright!” I think a lot of people have those transformative moments of maybe seeing a shift in their gender identity, or maybe feeling validated in their gender identity when they watch our scenes.

Society seems to be slowly embracing sex-positivity, but fear tends to come out particularly in those really iRobot discussions of sextech that speculate about killer sex machines! What do you think of the advancement of sextech?
I don’t think sextech is inherently bad, but we bring parts of ourselves to the technology so it will be interesting to see what comes out. We’re probably not going to go into VR, but I’m really interested to see what happens with it. If you look back to the late 1800s, filmmakers finally discovered that you could actually cut film—that discovery sparked this amazing, radical shift which redefined its limits. Until that point, film had emulated theater, and I think right now that VR is trying to emulate film. I think VR will have that same transformative moment, so I’ll be really fascinated to see what follows that.

What do you predict for the future of VR?
This is the Trekkie in me speaking, but part of me really wants [VR porn] to be like a holodeck one day when VR realizes its own potential—imagine how awesome that would be, that’s my fantasy!

Chemistry Eases The Pain is currently being crowdfunded here.

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