The Pube in the Nothingness
I got in bed with on- and off-screen porn star couple Small Hands and Joanna Angel to get their perspectives on emotional attachment, monogamy, fantasy vs. reality, and, of course, anal.
Illustrations by Joel Benjamin
It's weird to think that everyone is fucking. Like, sometimes a sexual experience feels so profound and unique that it's sad to think a ton of other people are doing the exact same thing. What's also weird is that sometimes sex can feel like love, even when it isn't. In my continuing quest to decipher the interplay between sex and love, I've been speaking with a number of porn performers to get their takes.
Recently I spoke with on- and off-screen couple Joanna Angel and Small Hands. Joanna Angel is, of course, a notorious director, porn star, and owner of burningangel.com. Small Hands entered the porn industry as a performer much later, when Joanna lost a bunch of footage and needed to use his penis to solve the problem. After the launch of his first video on BurningAngel.com, he began getting requested all the time.
The pair invited me into their San Fernando Valley home (we all hung on their bed!) (but we didn't have sex) and shared their perspectives on emotional attachment, monogamy, fantasy vs. reality, and, of course, anal.
So Sad Today: What do you think is the difference, if there is one, between sex and love?
Small Hands: I think the two can exist separately. And they can also overlap depending on the context of the situation. I don't think there's one way that it always is. You can have sex with someone and really love them and feel those feelings, or you can just fuck someone and they're both cool, and they both have their value. They're two things that sometimes are the same thing, but aren't always the same thing.
Joanna Angel: Yeah, I have sex with a bunch of people in life. But you're the only person I love [to Small Hands], and the feeling we have is not a feeling I have with anyone else.
Have you ever caught feels for someone while you were filming?
SH:"Caught feels"? Is that what the kids are calling it?
JA: No, I think that's how I've been able to last in this industry for a really long time. I've had a lot of fun filming with people. Like great sexual experiences, lots of orgasms, and, you know, a lot of fun and a certain intensity. But never did I think, I'm in love with this person.
Are you able to just shut it off?
Yeah, I turn it on and then I shut it off. That's just what I do.
That's cool that you have that switch. Some of us don't have that switch, which sucks.
You don't get it overnight.
So do you have to grow the switch?
I don't know. I've been very motivated in this industry. I've always had certain goals. I've also been in this industry a long time. I've always had my own company, you know? My goal has always been, "I wanna move this company forward." So every scene I do, I take very seriously. Even when I was single I would look at the scenes a different way and be like, "Oh yes! I haven't gotten laid in a while! Today I'm definitely getting laid." And that was cool, but I still didn't take it out of the box. If I was falling in love with everyone I did a scene with, and I wanted to hang out with them and date them afterward...
SH: You'd be a very busy girl.
JA: Yeah. You know, I really was that girl before porn. A lot of times I'd have sex with someone and go, "So what's going on now?"
Like, "Where's the text? Where's the phone call? Where is this going?"
Yeah. I had a very hard time separating... I wasn't very good at sleeping with people and not talking to them again. I did it, but it wasn't natural to me the way it was natural to a lot of my friends. With porn there's something about the environment where I could be a slut. There was something about the environment that was comfortable to me.
For me, even if I go in with the intention of just being casual, if the sex is good, it's like I make some kind of spiritual connection and then am unable to detach.
You have to understand that a lot of what you have in porn, you don't have in real life. You have this controlled environment. You know where the beginning and the end is. When you have a one-night stand with someone, or you meet someone online or something, or meet someone at a bar or whatever, you still don't know where a lot of the feelings come from or what's going to happen. I mean there are a million reasons why two people end up having sex. But in porn, the reason why two people are having sex is because... you take away all the outside things that are around sex and you just have the sex.
SH: Also, the two people who show up on a porn set and have sex with each other don't choose. Like, if I go out to do a scene, half the time I don't even know who the girl is, or what her name is, until I get there. Maybe the night before... it's like you're just there to do the job, and it's a cool job and obviously at times a lot of fun, especially if you see the person you're with and it's like "All right she's hot this will be cool!"
If I got to request who I was shooting a porn with it would be Xander Corvus. My favorite is this one scene where he fucks his former babysitter, played by Melanie Rios. I love the consummation of years of longing on his character's part. Like, I love it when the dude looks like he is going to die if he doesn't eat her pussy. That to me is the ultimate hot.
JA: If they put a fantasy in your head...
SH: It was a success.
I also like twinks. Twinks are totally my milieu. There's this guy Tayte Hanson. He works with Cockyboys. He's gay though, so he would have no interest in me.
Is that hot to you? The fact that he doesn't have any interest? The unattainable...
Probably. The fact that I'm already rejected in advance is some of the allure.
You're very hard on yourself. What's the deal with that?
I think it's a coping skill. Like, if you're hard on yourself it gives you some sort of false purpose in life.
Because you have something to prove constantly?
Because you have something to achieve. Like, I can ignore the fact that I'm going to die at some point if I'm obsessing about bullshit like my pube style. It builds a false sense of the world as contained. My obsessions are, like, my pube style, eye-gazing, and mouth kissing in porn—like I write little narratives where the characters are in love with each other.
That's so funny. I mean, we talk to a million people about porn and I've never heard anyone have that, like the greatest love... I get when people like romantic or passionate scenes, but I've never heard anyone say they're putting together this epic love story while they're getting off. That's pretty cool.
Sometimes life feels sad when I watch a lot of porn and reality doesn't live up to it.
I mean, life isn't an album by The Weeknd.
I wish it was, though.
But that's the whole bit. Reality versus any sexuality, you want to live in those moments because they're so fucking cool. But you have to balance out real life, and it works across the board for porn.
But it's painful to let go of those moments. Sometimes it feels like sex and love—a deep sexual experience or a profound love fantasy—is a drug. Like, I've experienced withdrawal after a really beautiful...
JA: You know—and I know this from myself—relationships can drive people more crazy than drugs. I've seen it happen with me, or with friends. Like, when you want something from someone and you just can't get it. Or when two people aren't on the same page, you know, that makes people go crazy. That has nothing to do with porn.
Part of my interest in talking about this stuff, why I'm doing this interview, is to try to make sense of my own history of romantic obsession. For me, and probably with a lot of people, sex is about the fantasy component. And so I guess I'm still trying to parse what is fantasy and what is reality. Like, I'll watch a porn, and then I'm like, well why doesn't this IRL person have a giant cock? Would you ever date someone who had a small cock?
You just couldn't?
SH: On our first date she had to inspect me.
JA: I wasn't like that before porn. In fact I remember before porn, when I would have sex with a guy with a really big penis it like, scared me. You know? I just got accustomed to a certain thing. And you know, it made being single hard, because you can really get along with someone...
But you don't get along with their dick.
Yeah! You're like...fuck! If they have a small dick, all these other things are gonna go out the window, and I know that's horrible, and it doesn't mean that people with small penises are bad people. There are so many good people out there for guys with smaller penises—it's just not going to be me.
That's a shame.
I actually remember on our first date [points to Small Hands], we went out, and we were talking for hours and hours and hours and I was just falling for him, like, so hard. Like, this guy is so perfect... he probably has a small dick. Something has to be wrong! He must have a small dick. There's just no way he could possibly match everything I've ever been looking for in a human ever!
SH: And I'm like, "I hope my dick's big enough!"
Awwww! That's so cute.
JA: And we're talking and talking and he doesn't even realize I'm having, like, a mental breakdown. In my brain I'm just half listening to everything he's saying and half like, "I wish it was appropriate for me to just be like, 'How big is your dick?!'" You know?! And we met through friends, and I remember asking them...
You wanted to do a dick background check.
I remember asking them "Did you ever see his dick?" and they were like, "Why would I have seen his dick?" And I was like, "I don't know, maybe you were peeing in the same bathroom together, or something." But I figured it out pretty quickly.
And you were like "thank god!"
SH: Well I obviously knew what she did for work. In my mind I'm like, OK I can't be a douchebag. I'm not gonna try to have sex with her. Especially after we hung out all day and this girl is incredible. I really like her, so I was being overly gentlemanly. But then she like, inspected me, and I got a blowjob, which was sweet.
At the time I didn't know what was happening. I didn't know about all this shit she was thinking so I was just like Cool, she likes me so much I got a blowjob. That's sweet! Then months later she was like, "Dude, I just needed to see how big your dick was."
Do you guys have relationship rules?
JA: I wouldn't like to call them rules, but there are...
Yes, boundaries. I don't like to call them rules because rules mean that you want to break them, and you have to use all your restraint, you know? We have fun in a controlled environment, with other people on camera. We invite other females into our lives sometimes. On occasion I play with other girls. I like it when he's involved. He actually told me several months ago that he would think it was hot if I did something with a girl when he wasn't around and I did, and it actually took a lot for me. I'm kind of a really monogamous person, which is strange, because I don't consider anything on camera like... It's a controlled environment, and I'm not uncomfortable with anything that goes on on camera, and I have fun with that, but I would not be OK with him having any kind of sexual...
SH: We're not swingers.
So, it's just on cam?
It's like she said. If it's a night, and there's a female over here...
JA: We do it together, but not on his own.
SH: I have no desire to. [laughs] My dick gets used enough already.
Your dick is in, like, triage.
JA: Yeah, we don't have full time sex slaves living in our house. We don't have girlfriends. We fuck girls together sometimes. I think it's very fun, and it's very cool. We really are on the same page, and I haven't been that way with anyone I've ever dated before. The guy I was dating before him was mostly like, "Well, you're doing porn so I should be able to fuck whoever I want, whenever I want, cause that's just fair." And I was like, "Well, I guess that makes sense." And it just started happening, and it stung, you know?
SH: I mean, every relationship is different. I think the only right way to do something is to have the two people communicate their needs, maybe what they're not comfortable with and as long as you both want to please the other person, then it's a mutual, beneficial thing.
Can I ask you about anal?
JA: You can ask me about anything!
So, when I watch porn, the characters are always having spontaneous anal. And their assess are perfectly clean at any given moment. But I feel like, with anal, when considering anal, I always have shit in my ass. Like, there's never not shit in my ass.
You should probably change your diet.
Really? What do you suggest? Is there an anal diet?
Every girl I know has their own thing that works for them, but if I'm gonna have anal sex, I don't eat anything spicy, don't really eat any dairy. It actually is kind of complicated because I do try to keep a low carb diet all the time but when I do anal it's good to have fiber.
Keep the passageways clear.
I have to say the most complicated part about being a porn star is figuring out how to have anal sex on camera and be all good.
SH: It's an art form. It's like a delicate ballet of diet and timing and everything.
Do you ever use an enema?
JA: I do, just with water. But that's a balance too because if you do it too soon before then you could just have water coming out of your butt, and during the scene you'll think it's not water, so you'll start clenching up. You know what I mean?
So when someone is having an orgasm, or a faux orgasm, on screen, what they're really thinking about is: Is there shit leaking out of my ass right now?
Well, what goes through our heads during the scene doesn't matter; it's whatever you think is going on in our heads that really matters.
Sometimes when I'm having sex I think about the ice cream in the other room...
I'm thinking about food a lot.
You're definitely thinking about the fantasies of a sandwich.
I think about food MOST of the time, and then there are little breaks in it where I'm thinking about sex. And then sometimes at the same time.
So Sad Today: Personal Essays will be released next March from Grand Central Publishing. Pre-order it here.
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