After Porn Ends

After Porn Ends

| December 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

Porn is a part of the American way of life. No matter how much most of us deny that we look at it, it remains one of the most profitable industries in our country. But how much do we know about porn? More importantly, how much do we know about the people that we are watching? This is the question that director Bryce Wagoner tries to answer with his documentary, After Porn Ends. The film takes a look at the lives of some of the most renowned porn stars in their quest for “normalcy” after they have left the industry.

The thing about After Porn Ends is that the documentary doesn’t seem to have the requisite language to discuss the industry. Considering it is an undeniable force in our culture that many still refuse to talk about, it is possible that America does not have the tools to talk about it either. Some women refer to their time in porn as time spent in “the sex industry” (which personally conjures up images of prostitution more than pornography) while others refer to it as “porn” or “the business.” There is no uniform language to discuss porn. After Porn Ends attempts to reconcile this throughout, by allowing each of their interviewees to voice their own feelings on pornography. As is to be expected, several of them look down upon their time spent in the industry, with a few even actively campaigning to shut down pornography. However, others have a more enlightened approach and recognize the benefits that pornography has given them, no matter how thankful they are to have left it behind. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to view pornography. After Porn Ends does well to acknowledge it is a complicated matter, even if it does not effectively portray all of the moral and ethical uncertainties of it.

Unfortunately, After Porn Ends may not be the appropriate title for this documentary. At least half of the film is dedicated to the stories of these individuals getting in to the industry, rather than their attempts to leave it. This feels even longer because the interview segments don’t alternate between interview subjects, but rather, offer up chopped segments of the same star rehashing his/her rise to fame. However, when the narrative shifts and After Porn Ends begins to focus on life after porn, the film begins to take shape. The same unfortunate editing style is seen throughout the entire movie, but somehow becomes bearable as these people discuss what they have become since leaving the world of porn behind. Some of the interviewees are content to remain victims, even after they have retired from porn, while others offer truly compelling stories. Asia Carrera is a particularly inspiring example of well-adjusted life after porn. Now a mother and a member of MENSA, she acknowledges her time in porn, but recognizes that she was not necessarily living up to her full potential by doing porn. Each of these individuals offer compelling stories, but After Porn Ends struggles with how to showcase them.

The documentary attempts to establish them as sexual icons early on, hence the origin stories for each of these stories. However, as it progresses and the focus changes from getting story in porn to leaving it behind, After Porn Ends falters. These “sex workers“ are no longer seen as sexual beings at all. As each of these porn stars discusses their lives after porn, not a single one of them mentions any form of sexuality. For instance, Crissy Moran, who has since found God after retiring, is specifically saving herself for marriage. Luke Ford, who is happily married, makes no mention of sex in his life post-porn. It is a harsh reaction to their earlier establishment as, arguably, “whores” that they revert to the virginal archetype. It would have been nice to see some sort of reconciliation between the two extremes.

Then again, After Porn Ends dabbles in extremes throughout its 93 minute running time. To Wagoner’s credit, it is difficult to illustrate all of the subtleties in the lives of a handful of retired porn stars in such a short amount of time. Still, After Porn Ends feels a little too black-and-white. Furthermore, without any uniform language, the documentary ends up treading the same ground of “porn is good” and “porn is bad” or “porn destroyed my life” and “porn made me who I am today.” After Porn Ends, unfortunately, doesn’t offer anything new, but it does bring the topic of pornography into the mainstream. Although I felt I could have learned a lot more from After Porn Ends, it has encouraged me to look into this topic more. Although a flawed documentary, After Porn Ends proves to be, at the very least, an interesting discussion piece.

About the Author:

Calhoun Kersten is a recent transplant to the whimsical world of LA. Equal parts disarmingly charming and stunningly good looking, he enjoys horror films, nachos, and sharks. If you're interested in more of his depravity, please check out one of his many blogs.
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