Illustration by Gica Tam
Culture Spotlight

I was a porn writer, no big deal

An ex-porn writer talks about yoghurt, leaky faucets, and other wicked euphemisms for the singing spasm. Oh, and how your average sex writer is probably a family woman with a child to feed and bills to pay.
Carmela Maraan Fernando | Mar 30 2019

According to a March 2019 report from Pornhub, more Filipinas prefer romantic porn compared to female viewers from other parts of the world. But these days, I prefer only food porn. 

You see, I used to be a porn writer.

I don't mean erotica along the lines of Anaïs Nin's saucy, quirky, and sometimes capricious Delta of Venus or even E.L. James' cringefest, 50 Shades of Grey. This is straight up, in-your-face online pornography


While the official job description said "blogger," the real task called for spinning the crunchiest sexual language into a marketing blurb that would entice visitors to browse through our US-based websites, rub a good one out, and subscribe to get premium paid content. 

I accepted the job offer—yes, I was asked to write for the company—because 1) my child was about to start school and 2) I genuinely enjoyed erotica and thought this would be a good avenue for expressing the sensuality that pervaded my steamier fantasies. Instead, my adult lexicon grew from delicately titillating euphemisms—Manhood! Honeypot!—to unlikely terms and phrases that sometimes reduced both parties to pieces of meat in the literal sense. It took me weeks to remove any sexual association from yogurt and leaky faucets. 

Now you'd imagine that a digital agency for porn would espouse a seedy culture filled with sexually frustrated employees who'd squeeze in a quickie during meal breaks or late-night shifts. In reality many of us are married or have kids, friendly yet frazzled from balancing family and work life, all hired for our obvious sexual experience and the need to hold a job down. Looking at explicit sexual scenes 8 hours a day also made us hanker for the ultimate office taboo: Facebook.

Other workplaces would kick you out for watching porn on company time; we’d be reprimanded for going on social media because we were paid to watch porn. And legally at that!

 

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Another surprise was the number of women in our staff. We didn’t outnumber the men, but there were more of us than what you’d expect to see in an adult entertainment company. I took the liberty of asking those in the creative pool how they felt about the nature of our work and discovered that we all simply saw this as another paying job. Was it offensive? Only if you think of it as such. It’s just sex, after all. 

Occasionally, we’d have the odd young female applicant who wasn’t yet that…seasoned in the idea of pornography. These aspirants would fall into two categories: one who suddenly discovers the field as a vast learning ground for sexual expression – the college of carnal knowledge, as it were -- and the other who suddenly discovers her inner activist. Unsurprisingly, we encountered more of the latter.

My personal activist would be awakened every so often. Wading through fantasy scenarios where a woman was both worshiped and degraded for sexual pleasure sporadically sent me running to random message boards to mentally decompress. We also handled gay porn (which, incidentally, is another popular category among female audiences), and the star would also be portrayed in a feminine role alongside his more traditionally studly partners.

It’s easy to see how the adult entertainment business affects the way women and femininity are perceived: sexually insatiable and available anytime, anywhere. But when my supervisor once asked, “Do you know who you write for?” it dawned on me that the industry also casts men, particularly male audiences, in an unsavory, base light. If the woman was a commoditized sexual ideal, the typical male viewer was equally sexually ravenous and given to wild lustful urges at the drop of a thong.   

These are stereotypes, not archetypes, however. Just as our family-style staff culture dispelled any nascent misconceptions I held about digital porn sellers, it also gave me a greater appreciation and respect for women who braved exposing themselves at their most physically vulnerable state in front of the camera for billions to consume, sometimes for as low as a few hundred dollars a pop, and at the expense of their physical and mental health.

This appreciation has been reinforced by googling ‘porn stars without makeup.’ Here I saw that like us, they’re just regular people. And like with us, slinging adult material is just work to them, a path of their own choosing.  

My porn writing stint lasted almost four years. Ultimately, it wasn’t the nature of the job that caused my interest in the field to go flaccid, but the monotony of the subject, like a relationship solely based on sexual chemistry. The company has also closed down since then. But along with solid friendships and a much longer, spicier glossary of terms, the adult industry fostered in me an unwavering reason to celebrate those who freely choose to make the world a happier place, one orgasm at a time.