Thinking XXX

In the past decade, pornography has gone mainstream. Once porn stars were pariahs, now they are feted and celebrated. Jenna Jameson, the reigning queen of porn, recently penned a national bestseller. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart) has made films in the past, but is more comfortable behind the photographic camera, where he has taken portraits of some extremely famous people. Thinking XXX was made in conjunction with his new book and art exhibition, where he took two portraits of thirty porn stars, one naked and one clothed, both in the same pose. Although this is essentially a making-of featurette (granted with lots of naked people, it doesn't feel that way, and it never tries to plug the book or the exhibition.

He intersperses interviews with the porn stars with some commentary by people like Gore Vidal and John Waters. Everything comes across as pretty academic, rather than prurient. There is full frontal male and female nudity, but nothing explicit. The dual portraits idea is actually pretty fascinating. The main difference, aside from the lack of clothes, in the naked picture is that Greenfield-Sanders usually adds a lot of make-up to the subject so they look like they would in a video. Thus, there is a real dichotomy in how the same person looks. The largest takeaway? Many of the porn stars look like ordinary people in their clothed portrait. Greenfield-Sanders has a diverse range of subjects. He chooses gay and straight men and women, as well as older stars and newer ones. The one common denominator seems to be that all his subjects are pretty famous.

It is interesting listening to some of the older performers like Nina Hartley and Sharon Mitchell, who have some intelligent things to say about the business. Make no mistake, pornography is a business, oddly enough, one that women rule. The top female stars are paid more than male stars. Male stars make good money in gay videos, where many straight men perform. Videos and DVDs are not the most lucrative aspect, feature dancing and product endorsement is. And most amusingly, when many of these porn stars go home at night, they want to make love in a very ordinary manner with their spouses, with the lights off. Hartley and Mitchell, along with some others like Ron Jeremy and Heather Hunter, came into the business when there was still a stigma attached to porn. Hartley knowing comments that most porn stars do not have a choice between porn and Harvard. Mitchell went on to earn a PhD and now runs AIM, while gay star Chad Hunt used his earnings to get a college education. Hunter and Sean Michaels had to deal with racism, a subject one really doesn't initially associate with the world of porn.

Many of today's stars are different. Many of the younger ones state that they got into porn because they liked the attention, or like having sex. Many have spouses, some of which encouraged them to enter the industry, others of whom left. Sunrise Adams remarked that she was so happy to have done a scene with Jameson that she asked people to "smell her face" after her first scene. Jesse Jane does most of her interview naked in a pool. These are probably the strangest and lowest parts of the documentary, but serve to highlight the diversity in the interview subjects. Everybody else carries themselves much better. Tera Patrick, Brianna Banks, and Gina Lynn have much more interesting things to say about the business. For them, the monetary aspect was what helped them overcome their initial reluctance, and now, these three women are arguably some of the most famous stars out there.

The commentary is also interesting, and while a lot is sympathetic, some of the commentators pull no punches. Waters (Seed of Chucky, A Dirty Shame) is pretty harsh on the stars in general. He what many would think is a stereotypical view, that many of them had abused backgrounds. Given his film work, it seems like an odd thing for him to say. There is some commentary on the assistance of hip-hop in mainstreaming porn, and the mommy complexes that perhaps explains why Jameson, Banks, Jane, and Patrick all have such monstrously large breasts. For the men, especially for the gay stars, size really matters. Their members are freakishly large, almost comically so. After viewing them and feeling very inferior, this reviewer had to pause to cry before moving on to other matters.

Gerf Rates It: Pretty Good.
43 minutes, Not Rated but contains considerable nudity and highly sexual language.

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