What I Learned From Watching 500 Adult Films

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watch 500 adult films
Reviewing pornography for a living gives the writer a unique perspective on the genre.

Porn has played a starring role in my two most recent relationships—but not in the way you might expect.

I've been reviewing adult films for more than a decade. Over the course of those 10 years I've watched more than 500 porn movies, for fun and profit. OK, mostly for profit.

My porn writing career began when, while looking for a new publishing job, I answered an ad in the New York Times and landed a position as Associate Editor of Penthouse Forum. I had experience writing "semi-smut" for friends' zines (this was the '90s, after all) but hadn't watched an adult film besides a Deep Throat viewing with friends in college; I had been always been a porn supporter but never a viewer.

I've never been much of a prude and have always believed in freedom of speech. As such, my conscience about the porn industry always was—and still is—clear. Frankly, I felt more degraded working as a secretary than I ever did as a porn reviewer. Granted, there are women who wind up in the industry because they're drug addicts or runaways and have troubled lives. But there are plenty of women go into porn as smart, savvy businesswomen and manage to build their own empires. Brittany Andrews is a perfect example, as is Danni of Danni's Hard Drive. Plus, watching flicks of all varieties exposes the viewer to bodies and sexual preferences in all shapes and sizes. This exposure, in turn, leads to greater acceptance of diversity rather than an expectation of "perfect" bodies or fantasies.

While at Penthouse, I met and married a fellow porn reviewer. It wasn't as sexy as it sounds. We kept our work lives separate from our sex life. What might've been a carnal bonding experience never actually was. He was encouraged to slam the vids he watched for his publication while I was required to be upbeat and positive. This meant he screened things like C*m Dumpsters Volume 12, and I stuck to films I thought I might actually enjoy. I spent most of my smut-consuming time fast-forwarding to the sex scenes or through them. While it certainly occurred to me that I could mix business with (self) pleasure, watching porn was just a job.

The first time vocation finally converged with entertainment was after I'd separated from my husband and found myself on a ski trip with my to-be boyfriend, Jim. I was down to the wire on my deadline and had to watch a film called Airgazmic. "Why not give it a whirl with company?" I mused. There were a few moments when I sat with my back to the TV so I could observe Jim and our other male friend watching. This was, I must admit, considerably more stimulating than Airgazmic turned out to be. In Penthouse Forum the evening's story might've ended with the three of us in a tangle on the bearskin rug. The reality wasn't quite as clichéd—but that night I learned the power of porn from Jim's post-film enthusiasm for me.

Watch: Is It OK For My Guy To Watch Adult Films?

Assisting me when I had to work became an integral part of our courtship. When I reviewed Lady Scarface, a big-budget Adam & Eve production with the darling Carmen Luvana in the lead role, we watched it together. The box cover indicated that the video would clock in at over three hours. That's a lot of fake breasts for one night. But my adventurous boyfriend seemed interested in sharing every second with me, even if we didn't fast-forward to the sex scenes. When the two of us felt sufficiently inspired by the on-screen shenanigans, we pressed pause and started a little sex scene of our own.

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