In a week’s time I’ll be hosting an evening of erotic film and discussion with my sex-industry colleague Madison Young in Melbourne (and in Sydney in the week to follow). Over the last few months, I’ve previewed a portion of her rather massive catalogue of porn production and performance work, selected some of the work I find most compelling, and curated it into an event for my community. This is a fantastic opportunity for me – it’s not often that I get to look into someone’s work in such depth, and as someone who has kind of come of age in the alt porn, feminist porn, and sex-positive sex-ed movements, it’s a chance to see it through the eyes of one of my peers. Madison and I are close in age and have a number of shared identities, aspirations, and influences. So it’s a privilege to talk shop on these topics with someone who’s been there, done that, and lovehates the internet as much as, if not more than, I do.
It’s been about 5 years since I last sat down to chat with Madison for an interview we did for a local porn site. I’ve reviewed some of that footage over the last few days and reflected a lot on the things we talked about then, and on my own personal history with some of the same topics we explored. I’ve been thinking about the fact that there’s this dense archive of my personal and sexual development available for purchase online – an archive that is very particular to a time and place. I’ve been thinking about the way in which my politics became my art and my art was my body. About the edgy practice of revelation, and the consequences we experience. And about how the stories we tell about that – and how the way other people interpret them, or just overwrite them – changes over time.
Story is where modern Madison is at. She released her memoir Daddy in 2014, and this is the first time she’ll be in Australia to promote and read from it. As the book was coming together she began to throw out the phrase, ‘reveal all, fear nothing’, which came to be a sort of slogan for the project. It’s a threatening concept. Particularly for someone who conducts themselves in the public eye and / or has some accountability to a community of co-creators and supporters. But as someone who puts a lot of thought into all of the aspects of her work, and who is channelling a background in performance and visual arts, I reckon she’s got a wrangle on this one.
The way that Madison describes some of the more memorable scenes of her porn career, and how those weave into the story of her relationship to her partner and to herself, are perhaps some of the most fascinating aspects of the book. It’s always refreshing to hear stories about sex work told as first-person narratives from those who’ve experienced them, and Madison doesn’t play to the idea that she needs to tell an easy story in order to be taken seriously. You also get a sense of the breadth of the work she’s been involved in – from high-budget hardcore fetish porn to indie feminist smut made on a shoestring and with the help of her porn-performing friends. I’ve tried to bring together a little bit of everything in this programme.
Having spoken with Madison a year or so before the release of Daddy, I knew that there was a scene from a shoot we’d done together being written into the book. The thing about making professional sex films is that you don’t necessarily get to debrief that much after the production wraps and you move onto the next thing – it’s rare to experience those long, heartfelt post-fuck D&Ms you’d have with a lover when folks are trying to pack away the lights and prep for the next shoot. Reading Madison’s experience of that shoot was a little window into what it might be like to work with me, and in some small way served as another step to my own processing and meaning-making. What I love about telling stories like that, especially in longer-term retrospect, is that they are necessarily subjective. They are given to the vagaries of memory and coloured with our own intentions and contexts.
So I thought that this was as good an opportunity as any to add something to that story. And to reflect on the ways in which we are co-creating with every instance of eroticism we share with another. What we make may be entirely ephemeral, fading into the background of our memories, or be documented for perpetuity, or become a story to be volleyed back and forth, a blending of truths, told lovingly. One of the selections I’ve made for the screening will come from that experience – one that was actually quite formative for me – and Madison and I will have the chance to look at it again, five years later, with all that has evolved about our careers and our relationships to our imagery.
To see this collection of Madison’s work and hear us in conversation about a whole mess o’ stuff, check out the event and ticketing pages to follow. We’re screening in Melbourne on the 30th of July, and again in Sydney on the 11th of August. Madison will also have books available for purchase and is very happy to sign your copy.