Love & Sex

Are Porn Stars the Future of Modern Sex Education?

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On the set of the Guide to Wicked Sex, where porn and real sex meet.

The back patio at jessica drake’s house is about what I envisioned a porn star’s pool area to be: large four-poster outdoor bed, floating fire pits, and a fancy hot tub in the middle of the pool. What I didn’t expect to see there were two plus-size people, talking about their relationship and rubbing baby oil on each other’s skin in front of a camera.

Traditionally, in the world of porn, there are the mainstream women like drake – the ones who win AVN awards for best actress and work with Playboy – and then there are women like Kelly Shibari – BBWs who, until 2013, were delegated to the “niche/fetish” category, next to clown porn and bukkake.

Today, however, Shibari and drake (who prefers that her name not be capitalized) are working together to bridge the gap between the plus-size sex and mainstream worlds on the set of jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex: Plus-Size.

“I think the [BBW] genre as it exists right now for the most part is not an artistic genre…[and has] some really degrading titles [that are] disrespectful, demeaning, and encouraging of stereotypes,” drake says as we talked poolside. “I don’t want to do that [with my films].”

Instead, what drake is trying to do with her Guide to Wicked Sex series, which she writes, directs, and narrates herself, is show sex holistically, featuring candid couple interviews, soft-core erotic techniques, position guides, and, yes, real sex.

“Writing about the industry, I’ve loved Guide to Wicked Sex,” AVN reporter and film participant Sherri Shaulis says, sitting next to her partner Micheal Colbert after their on-camera interview. “It’s bridging the worlds of porn and sex education…Good or bad, we have a society that turns to porn for education because they can’t get it a lot of other places. I think this is a good way to actually provide real education in addition to some really hot sex.”

“I think the way porn is shot, it’s a big misinformation,” star Devlyn Red says, biting into a hamburger grilled for her by a production assistant. The set was catered by drake herself, who welcomed all of us into her home as guests. “If porn can find a way to be more educational in a realistic way, great, I’m totally for it.”

“Honestly,” star Angel DeLuca says, “I think that every school should teach sex in every possible manner. I don’t really recall getting sex ed. I think they should do something like what we’re doing today, something soft-core and educational.”

“Instead of teaching abstinence and saying ‘No, no, no, don’t do that,’ there should be instead, ‘This is how you can do it safely,'" DeLuca’s co-star Scarlet LaVey adds.

LaVey and DeLuca are both part of the “big natural” genre of porn, which lies somewhere between mainstream and BBW, and focuses on curvy women with large, natural breasts. For both of them, porn is work.

Not everybody on set were seasoned professionals, though, adding to the realistic nature of the film. After watching them rub baby oil on each other’s skin, I sat down with sex-educator Scarlette Cyn and JC Lewis (her partner of fourteen years), and asked them about the role of porn in sexual education. While Cyn had posed for some BBW model sites, neither she nor Lewis had ever been in porn before this.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to do this project,” Lewis says, “is the … how-tos for opening up conversations … It doesn’t matter what size you are, the topics jessica’s guides cover … help bring sex into people’s home without the stigma that goes along with porn.” 

Growing up in Japan, Shibari didn’t have the same stigma with pornography and sex that many here in the U.S. have. “My sex ed was more organic and continuously ongoing,” she says, as we lounged on the outdoor bed together.

“Television programming in Japan in the ‘70s and ‘80s was different, after 11pm all the regular channels would have adult programming, so…even though we didn’t have the birds and bees conversation with our parents, we just knew that…people had sex and it wasn’t necessarily always for procreation.”

When Shibari decided to enter the world of porn at 34, she talked to her mother about the decision first. “You’re not 19 … it’s a life experience and as long as you’re being choosy and safe, then sure, why not,” Shibari’s mother had told her.

“I have a background in business and entertainment,” Shibari says. “I have a solid understanding of the production process that goes into a project. It’s less about me coming in and being naked and getting a paycheck. It’s more about me being part of the creation of a product.”

Shibari has been working towards an educational guide for four years and she believes now is the right time for a plus-size mainstream informative film.

“If you go to your average adult tube site, BBW porn is one of the top searched genres. As people start to come out of the proverbial closet saying they like bigger women … the more high-end plus-size product we’ll see,” Shibari says, hopeful. “Had I put out a plus-size educational film four years ago, I don’t think it would have done as well as now.”

It’s not just the porn world that’s changing either, Shibari noted, mentioning cultural shifts seen in the rise of stars, like Melissa McCarthy, who don’t apologize for their size, the inclusion of plus-size clothing lines during New York Fashion Week, and larger lingerie sizes. “I think there’s still a ways to go before [larger bodies are] completely accepted,” Shibari adds, “but I think we’ve made strides in the past couple of years.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about relatable sex,” drake says, talking about her decision to do a plus-size guide. “The audiences I’m talking to are so incredibly diverse … I think other genres need to be represented, I think sex-ed should include everyone. I won’t teach something unless I’m qualified to do it, and that’s why I brought in Kelly. I didn’t want to make it ‘here I’m doing a movie about BBWs’, I wanted to explore the mindset of [plus-size couples] and I wanted to appreciate it for the dynamic it is. I didn’t want to just do it for show.”

While drake and her companions do put on a good show, it’s apparent that the goal of this film is to educate people not only on sex, but also on communication and positive body image. When I first arrived, drake was interviewing couples about the adjectives they do and do not like used to describe their bodies.

“I love plush,” Red says, smiling, sitting next to her partner for the day, Dick Chibbles. But other stars disagreed, saying they can’t stand the term. The candid interviews, which featured real-life couples along with porn star pairings, highlighted the difference in each person’s preferences and the essentiality of communication for couples.

The seamless integration of positive imagery and affirmations without over-the-top cheesiness is what makes drake’s guides more than just your average pornographic mainstream feature. The inclusion of sex makes it more than just your average inspiring, instructional video.

“I got sub-standard sex-ed as a kid,” drake says, talking about what drives her as a sex educator. “I feel like there were several times when I could have had pieces of very important, useful information. [I want to] provide people with more of the information that I wish I would have had in certain instances of my life.”

“I think it’s very important to give women and couples the imagery to be stimulated while also giving them the information that they may need to break out of a rut or to find that spice to add to their relationship.”

When asked where her educational guides are going next, drake talks about collaborating with queer, trans*, and BDSM stars, and enthusiastically shares her plans for a soft-core series without sex, starting with a guide to the art of striptease.

“I’d love to have my guides in places like plus-size clothing stores so women who wouldn’t normally buy porn would see them and feel more confident with their bodies” drake says.

Until that day, drake’s guides are available for sale in most sex and porn shops.

Images via GuidetoWickedSex.com