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Shockingly, a Porno Featuring Hijabis and Niqabis Is Not Very Sensitive Toward Islam

We spoke to the producer behind the feature-length porno "Women of the Middle East."

Back in November, the BangBros porn network released a new video in which the Lebanese Christian Mia Khalifa and Cuban Juliana Vega portray a daughter-mother Muslim duo getting down and dirty with daughter Khalifa's biker boyfriend—all while wearing hijabs. Entitled Mia Khalifa is Cumming for Dinner, the video was (to our knowledge) the first major-studio, well-produced, and widely disseminated American porn scene featuring an Islamic headscarf as a key prop. Predictably, the scene immediately gained notoriety it touched off holy hell across the internet. Most of the commentary surrounding Khalifa's scene focused on the hate she's received. But many (including VICE) also speculated that the success of the scene might trigger a new wave of hijabi porn in major, mainstream studios.

That day has come: PornFidelity's Women of the Middle East, set for release August 5, is the first feature-length hijabi- and niqabi-centered porno. And despite being touted as a shift away from the use of Muslim dress as an abstract erotic prop, it's about as culturally-sensitive as you'd imagine.

In the months following Khalifa's scene, a disturbing trend emerged from the cascade of veil smut: Unlike some amateur veil porn, which can be read as an expression of Muslim sexuality or a glimpse into the reality of outwardly conservative societies, mainstream vein porn uses the hijab as a bigoted tool, symbolizing the "demure Middle Eastern woman" in need of sexual conquest or salvation at the hands of white men.

To its credit, Women of the Middle East tries something slightly different. Each of its four scenes feature a different type of veil—hijab, niqab, khimar, and burqa—and each scene is meant to highlight or provide social commentary on a different aspect of women's status in the Islamic world.

If that strikes you as a bit high-concept for a porno, that's understandable. And your skepticism is deserved. While the script tries to mix up the status quo of white male domination of brown women with a scene featuring a dominant veiled woman, and attempts to portray the lesser-seen world of conservative Muslim prostitution, it does so very ham-fistedly. What pops out may not be a demur hijabi getting gangbanged by aggressive Americans, but it's still a fetishistic fantasy rooted in a white savior complex with a heavy garnish of Arabo-Muslim stereotypes.

Previews for the film open with text from its non-Muslim producers unambiguously condemning veils as a sign of women's blanket oppression in the whole Middle East and calling for their removal. The intro sets the tone for a movie that conflates a vast swathe of diverse cultures, fashions, and social conditions into one big Muslim-y mixing pot of reductionist preconceptions. At its core, the film is a prime example of banal ignorance fueling bigoted imagery.

VICE caught up with Kelly Madison, the mastermind behind the concept, script, and casting of Women of the Middle East. As our interview made clear, nobody on the production team seemed particularly bothered with cultural sensitivity or rudimentary research. We asked her what she thinks of the hijabi porn wave, her bids at social commentary and portrayal of the veil, and how she thinks consumers will receive her new film.

VICE: Why did you just decide to make a movie about veiling now?
Kelly Madison: [My husband and I] were talking about the Mia Khalifa incident. She basically went from having a hundred followers on Twitter to, after she did this scene... her Twitter basically exploded. With it came a bit of a backlash, but we thought: Okay, that's cutting-edge. How do we approach it in a way where it's not just taking a girl in a burqa doing a gangbang?

I wanted something with a little more intelligence. There's not a lot of intelligence in porn [laughs]. But something that had a little bit of my own voice in it saying: Hey, what's done to these women isn't cool. But at the same time, they're these beautiful, sexual beings and I want to show beautiful Middle Eastern women in a porn.

Trust me, the hardest part of it was casting. Not a lot of Middle Eastern porn girls.

Khalifa got some threats over her scene. Did any of the actresses you cast have any trepidation about doing this project after that?
When I talked to Nadia [Ali], she was pretty thrilled with it because I was showing it in a light where it wasn't that bad even if people from her own country [of Pakistan] saw it. It wasn't like she was doing a gangbang with five big black dudes. It wasn't completely offensive. The guy I had in the scene with her, [the director and Kelly's husband, Ryan Madison, who acts in every scene], I was portraying him as being Saudi [like her character], so it wasn't as controversial and crazy as we could have made it. She was happy about that.

Everyone else was pretty much onboard. They liked it. They had fun with it. I don't really ever force anyone to anything that they don't want to do.

What specifically can we expect to see in Women of the Middle East?
First and foremost, I want to make sure that everyone knows I'm not trying to incite another Charlie Hebdo incident. But [out four scenes] basically represent different women from different regions in the Middle East, different kinds of ideas. [We're] trying to be a little titillating, obviously, with the different kids of traditional dress. But I started the video by [thinking]: For Middle Eastern women, veiling is not just a way to suppress her sexual freedom, it's a symbol for all the human rights violations against these women like rape and domestic violence.

[It's about] taking the veil off. Not condemning the Muslim religion, but showing that it's sexually suppressing for women not being able to show their bodies, being hidden. So we thought we'd hit on that taboo... with an undertone of social commentary.

The first scene that we do with Karmen Bella is some kind of rebel post somewhere in war-torn Afghanistan. It's not cruel and crazy like ISIS. I wasn't trying to glorify that. But more like a female Robin Hood renegade group that's striking back at the civil leaders [who are] taking foreign aid money, stuffing their pockets with it, and meanwhile suppressing women and girls.

I thought: I'm going to do something crazy and put a niqab on her so she's naked with just a niqab. She has a guy chained up in the desert like a dog. She takes him back to the camp and he's submissive at first. But obviously this is porn. This isn't a social document [laughs]. Eventually they get along and find some common ground inside the tent and obviously sex ensues. But that was my idea, showing the women being in power—completely naked with nothing but a niqab on her. That in itself is kind of shocking, especially for us here in the United States.

A little of it's for shock. A little of it's for fantasy. —Kelly Madison

Do all of the scenes have the same female domination inversion going on?
Each one's kind of different. The second one is a commentary on Saudi Arabia and the crazy rules that are there, where women can't drive. They can be raped. They can be beaten. They have no rights. So I have ... Nadia being this doting little wife, doing everything for her husband. But she sneaks away and takes the car. He finds out and he's so pissed and threatens to stone her and beat her. She says, "No, no, no, I didn't do anything wrong!" And in the end, after he does an aggressive love making, so to speak, he finds out that all she was doing was running down to the dry cleaners to get his clothes for him before he was finished enjoying his dinner. So he kind of felt like an asshole afterwards.

Those two are the most social commentary ones. I have another taking a girl who happens to be half-Persian and half-Tunisian, Arabelle Raphael, and I was just like: Okay, I have to do this classic belly dancer girl fantasy. Then the fourth one is with Nikki Knightly, where I just wanted to show something that's not often played out onscreen, which is prostitution in the Middle East.

It's not like I did a whole lot of research for this. (I mean, come on, it's porn.) But I did a little bit. Prostitution has increased in countries like Jordan and Lebanon because of all the refugees. They need some kind of way to make money. There's also a lot of increasing prostitution in Iraq because of the Iraqi War.

So here [Knightly] shows up in a full-on burqa. That was kind of cool to juxtapose that: Here she's a prostitute, yet she still has to be covered in public. A little of it's for shock. A little of it's for fantasy. It's basically just having fun with the whole idea and showing these women as sexual beings, not just covered-up.

Since veils have been in the public eye for so long, why haven't we seen an all-hijabi movie like this one before now?
You can feel the energy when somebody does something different. We all follow each other and copy the hell out of each other. That's what this industry does. So we did [this film] as fast as humanly possible [after Khalifa's scene, which was the first] to beat anyone who was doing anything like it and get it out there first.

It was so much fun doing the costuming. Some of it I got right, some of it I'm sure I got totally wrong. But it was fun, it was challenging. —Kelly Madison

When hijabi porn cropped up with Khalifa, people though it would be all about subjugation. Do will be see more of what you're doing, or more of that in the future?
I think there're a bunch of people out there who'll just say: Hey, throw a niqab on a girl for shock value and have her in the middle of a gangbang. Just try to make the fast cash and move on. Not that I'm not money-motivated by doing this project...

Your video starts with an explicit anti-veiling message: "Take off the veil, they're a symbol of oppression," or something like that. But what about women who freely choose to wear veils?
I can't put all the social commentary in that I'd like to [in a porn]. I'm not doing a documentary on the suppression of the women.

I could maybe, in Part II, have [a scene] with: "Hey take the burqa off! No, no, I don't want to!"

But even if some of the women say they don't want to take the burqas off, it's because when they do they get sexually harassed in the streets. They get beaten. For a woman who has total freedom here in the United States, I totally support them on that. But it's not like I'm running for office. I'm trying to do a pornographic movie that entertains and excites people.

Nice shade of nail polish here.

Part II? Does that mean that the scenes you've previewed online are doing well?
We've seen a decent spike [in traffic online]. At first I thought: Oh god, we're going to scare off our members. But I haven't had a single negative response from the updates that we posted.

Is there anything else that you want to say about this project?
Porn is fantasy and it is fun. Some of the most beautiful women in the world are form the Middle East. And to show them in a beautiful way, done up in their traditional garments and showing them as beautiful, sexual beings, it's fun for me as a producer.

Sometimes I think porn is very limiting by not being able to get some of your personal social commentary out there. So for me to be able to get a little something going, it's cool. At the same time, I've still got to keep it safe—not go totally out there. Nor do I want to do anything highly offensive to the Islamic people.

It was just a fun project to do. It was so much fun doing the costuming. Some of it I got right, some of it I'm sure I got totally wrong. But it was fun, it was challenging.