Danni Daniels Is Dominating Porn with Her Nine-Inch Dick

We caught up with one of the more recognizable—and empowering—alternative porn stars in America.

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Oct 7 2015, 3:00pm

Photo courtesy of Dannidaniels.com

For Danni Daniels, being one of the more recognizable alternative trans porn stars has its ups and downs. "I had a fan come up to me in Disney World, with his kids in his arms, telling me he loved my work," she told me. "It took me a while to start being mean to some of my fans. I would sign a bunch of stuff and be overly nice and then they'd be like, 'Can we pop in the bathroom real quick and you can show me your shit?' And it's like, 'No! But do you have $5,000 in your pocket? Then, sure, I'll whip it out right now and beat you with it.'"

While many trans porn stars fit into a more heteronormative gender representation, Danni stands over six feet tall, sports an androgynous shaved side part, and is covered in tattoos. In 2013, she collaborated with Peaches. Danni played the part of a nurse, pushing the musician across the stage in a wheelchair, in the rock-opera-cum-feature-film, Peaches Does Herself.

Through her willingness to craft an image that runs counter to the dominant paradigms of porn, Danni has managed to shape a career over the past six years in which she has complete control. This is rare in an industry where trans women are underpaid and often pushed to participate in intense and violent sex acts in order to maintain an audience. Choosing to forgo the mainstream, Danni has never been penetrated on film and has built two successful websites (both NSFW), where she creates her scenes and chooses the people or—as is the case with one particularly memorable scene called "Pumpkin Fucker"—squashes she works with.

Last month I spoke with Danni over the phone about how working in porn helped her understand her sexuality and gender identity. I wanted to talk to Danni because I find it empowering—even as a cisgendered woman—to see a woman with tits and a nine-inch dick, penetrating all of these submissive men. Her work is disruptive and risky in an industry where it seems like everything has already been seen and done.

VICE: How did you get started in the porn industry?
Danni Daniels: When I was 16 or 17, I started doing modeling, editorial stuff. I was in Vogue and a lot of big fashion magazines, but then I started getting tattooed and transitioning and both those things were conflicting with my modeling agency. I was gaining weight and my agency was saying, "You're getting fat, you're getting too alternative, we can't book you for this." When you're on transitional hormones, you're on enough hormones for a pregnant woman with twins. Because of that, I was starving all the time and pissed off. For someone to tell me to stop eating so much, it was like, "If you get between me and my food, I will kill you." So I left.

I started working behind the scenes in theater. When the Broadway show I was working on was about to end its run, I started having panic attacks. My mentor also had a panic disorder, and she really helped me learn how to deal with anxiety. But then, right when the show closed, she went through my purse without my knowledge, stole my Xanax, and downed the whole bottle of it and killed herself. So the person who helped me find my place was now gone.

I had offers to go into the adult industry before that, but at that point, I just wanted to do something that would be liberating and get me out of New York. Also, I had a real fear of flying and traveling. When I feel that way, I always want to just do the thing that scares me. It ended up turning into a six-year, glorified, homeless adventure.

My sexuality is a very private and very intimate thing for me. I tell people what you see on camera is an act. It would be like walking up to Robert Downey, Jr. and saying, 'Oh my God, you're Iron Man.' —Danni Daniels

In your more recent work, you are topping cisgendered men. Was that always the case? Did you ever have sex with cisgendered women or trans men and women on camera?
I used porn as a way to discover my sexuality and where I fell on the spectrum. I've always been a sexual person, but the adult film industry really helped me clarify what I wanted in life. I exposed myself to as much as possible—all genders, all sexualities, any time something new came up, that was exciting for me. But I now know that I'm a straight, trans woman. I need dick in my life.

A lot of people do.
But when you go outside your sexuality in the adult film industry, you need to train your body to work as a tool. I would say porn helped me center myself and work through other issues that weren't even related, just because I was able to apply such a level of control to my mind and body. And being in a professional setting where I was able to be with people who had the same mindset of this being work allowed me to have a nonjudgmental space for my sexuality.

But my sexuality is far different from the sexuality I portray on camera, almost a stark contrast to what is seen on film. My sexuality is a very private and very intimate thing for me. I tell people what you see on camera is an act—enjoy it, but it isn't me. It would be like walking up to Robert Downey, Jr. and saying, "Oh my God, you're Iron Man." It's like, no.

I had tits and a dick and was tattooed and alternative, and I could come over and over again on camera.—Danni Daniels

So when you are working with people you aren't interested in, how do you stay hard? Do you take Viagra?
When I started filming one on one with another woman without another male involved, there was no way I could stay hard without some assistance. But my first three years in the industry, I refused to take erectile drugs. Because I would see these guys who would go from Viagra to Cialis to mixing Viagra and Cialis, and then they'd go right to injecting drugs into their penises because their bodies would get used to the less powerful drugs.

Did having a penis feel like it conflicted with or fit with your gender identity?
Walking into the porn industry with a nine-inch dick was gold. It gave me confidence and made it so that I didn't have to work really hard. I just had to show up, get naked, and I was praised for it. I had tits and a dick and was tattooed and alternative, and I could come over and over again on camera. So I was a niche within a niche within a niche, and it allowed me to be more creative and more picky and selective with what I did and who I worked with.

When you are seen as a submissive on camera, the production company treats you as a submissive in life. They start thinking, You are just a hole, and you're going to take whatever we give you. —Danni Daniels

Did you see cisgendered women and transwomen with vulvas getting treated differently?
Oh yeah. If you are a submissive genetic woman or submissive trans, you get treated like shit. You get treated like an object. I can't tell you how many people offered me tons of money to be passive. They were like, "We'll give you $10,000 grand to be passive." I'd have done it for $50,000. I still will. If someone were to call me and say, "I'll give you $50,000 grand to destroy you on camera," I'd be like, "Where do I sign?"

So if you were submissive just once, would your value in the industry drop?
Yeah, that would be the end of my career. Because then I would be treated differently. That's when I would be getting the calls where they would say they could only pay me half of what I requested. When you are seen as a submissive on camera, the production company treats you as a submissive in life. They start thinking, You are just a hole, and you're going to take whatever we give you.

Is that true for submissive men?
With submissive men, it's a different animal, because there is a line out the goddamn door of men who are applying for submission. I'm talking hundreds a day. So they get paid nothing just because so many men want to do it.

If someone were to call me and say, 'I'll give you $50,000 to destroy you on camera,' I'd be like, 'Where do I sign?' —Danni Daniels

How do you maintain a separation between your porn sexuality and your private sexuality?
I identify as a trans woman and my partner accepts and treats me as a trans woman. But there are so many guys out there who will start a relationship with a trans woman under the pretense of wanting to treat them as a woman. But later on down the line, they will weasel their way into being a sub. I can't even count how many times this scenario has played out. And a lot of trans women don't know what they want until it happens to them. A lot of times it really screws with their head, like, "What am I, and what does this mean for my life and my sexuality?"

And this would happen to me, especially because everyone who I was with would eventually find my videos and want [domination and penetration to be a] part of our sex life. And it wasn't what I wanted. And it was really hard for me to separate that out and make sure that's not going to be an element in my relationships.

A lot [of those men who date trans women] are closeted homosexuals who think this is the safe route to exploring their homosexuality without being homosexual. Trans women, we've been objectified and hurt so much in relationships that we are judgmental and guarded.

But I knew what it would mean emotionally when I met the right guy—and he's here, smiling at me right now. I would study a lot of heterosexual relationships and take notes off of that, and I also know some older trans women who were in very successful and happy relationships. I knew I couldn't predict when it would happen. But it has happened to me and it's amazing and everything that people say about being in love—it's clichéd, but all those songs on the radio make sense now. And I love my life and wouldn't trade it for anything.

How has the industry changed since you started working in it?
It's become really convoluted and taken away a lot of the freedoms that would make you comfortable. There's so many forms to fill out now and everything is taxed, so you don't get paid in cash anymore and you have to report everything.

But more than that, porn shoots used to just have Viagra on set. They'd order bulk from Mexico, and it would just be there. But not now, because it's a prescription drug and you can get heart palpitations, etc. If you have any problems as a porn star, you could sue the fuck out of them, so the industry got scared of being liable and stopped providing them.

Having Viagra is the same thing as having Xanax in my purse, or an inhaler, or an EpiPen. I know that it's there. It's like a safety blanket, and if something goes wrong, I can fix it.

So the last major scene I did, I didn't have any erectile drugs and it was with a woman I was not attracted to. It was a last-minute substitution, and it was so terrible. She farted in my mouth. And the whole thing just made me want to take a break for a while.

What kinds of projects do you do now?
I still do my thing with my site and my company, and I love them. It's mostly solo stuff, not scenes.

And does that feel good because you are controlling it?
Oh yeah, it relaxes you completely. It's like, It's mine, it's my baby, people are still paying for it. And it's also making it more exclusive. It's driving traffic to me, and I'm getting all the profits, as opposed to it being directed through three or four other companies. And I really only do solo scenes when I want to. I don't feel obligated to, which is great. It allows me to produce material I really want to produce and just be proud of putting my name on everything that I do.

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