Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Delving Deep with Dylan Ryan
Dylan Ryan is a unique gem in the adult industry. A powerful and inquisitive woman who is on the road to creating change in the world through her activism, academics and amazing on screen performances. This year the Feminist Porn Awards honored her excellence with the Heartthrob of the Year award. I have always been impressed with this woman, her sheer brilliance and her legs that go on for days. Below Dylan Ryan shares with us her experiences in bdsm, sexuality, and activism. I'll be shooting Dylan in two weeks for my documentary/porn "Fluid" on the fluidity of sexuality to be released through Good Vibrations. Until then make sure to check Dylan out in Perversions of Lesbian Lust and Writers and Rock Stars and on MadisonBound.com, SexandSubmission.com and follow her four day sexual and bdsm journey on The Training of O.
Where did you grow up and how did your environment inform your early sexual development? (either in identifying with those around you, not identifying with those around you, or fetishes rooted in your environment growing up)
I grew up in Southern California, hopping around suburban areas and generally enjoying being a small child in the sunshine. My earliest memories of encountering difference where not until I was in 6th grade/ going into Jr. High, a time that seems to be difficult time for most young people- especially difficult for me. I was, at the time, hopelessly androgynous and awkward, a fact that quite a few fellow classmates pounced upon mercilessly. All I wanted at the time was to look like a girl and have boobs and fit in to some gender model that would let me slip past unnoticed during my two-year school sentence. Alas, I didn’t really develop until much later and spent a lot of time suffering and keeping myself company. I tell this tragic story because the realities of that time resulted in a few things: spending all that time alone meant I read, A LOT. And in the world of books were all manner of scandalous ideas; from underage sex and pregnancy to conceptual ideas about constraint and power play. The other reality was that since no boys were interested in me, I turned my attention to girls and playing “house” and doing the things that young girls who are discovering their bodies do. At the time I was horribly guilty but looking back on it now, I understand that it was a rite of passage and I hope I haven’t scarred any of them. Sometimes I wonder if they are out there and if they are queer… All in all, I had a pretty fantastic childhood. I had two parents who were never-failing in telling me that I could do anything that I wanted to do and in fostering my self-esteem. To this day, I think I have such a healthy, open-minded idea of sexuality because they always talked to me like an adult and taught me to love myself.
What was your first kinky experience like and when was the first time that you identified with an alternative sexual identification or alternative sexual culture?
My first experiences that I would isolate as kinky were with my first partner the person with whom I officially came out as queer. I am very lucky that he has such a great memory because while I remember a lot of amazing tying and cropping and smacking and dominant sex, I was failing to remember the true ‘first’. He recalled my talking about how our first times hooking up were filled with my being submissive and that I was astounded at my desire for and appreciation of that dynamic. I think those early days were the first times that I let myself go and really enjoyed bottoming. There was a deep love of smacking and chocking, the impact of the hit and the return of pleasure soon after. I remember the sheer rawness of it and I think that that was the time that formed my sensibility about bdsm, the power-dynamics of it. I had never before been with someone that could take such control and I discovered how much I liked giving it up. That remains true to this day.
What did you major in college? What are you currently studying? How does your academic life relate your sexual life?
I majored in English Literature and Philosophy in undergrad with a focus on writing and ethics. Coming out of university, I was certain that I wanted to teach at the college level and effect the lives of young adults. I went for my teaching credential with that direction in mind and taught for a few years before I got involved in doing Sex Education through my work at Good Vibrations and realized that I still wanted to teach, just not English Lit. Talking to people about sex through Good Vibes and San Francisco Sex Information showed me that education and social change were still the ultimate goals of my work but that I was more interested in communicating about alternative sexualities and marginalized communities (sex workers) than I was about perpetuating existing ideas about normativity and sex/gender. Currently, I feel like I am in the greatest moment of overlap between my academics and my sexual life that I have had thus far… I am entering into my second year of a Masters of Social Work program, my community focus being sex workers; primarily street-based prostitutes. My research in the program focuses on anti-oppressive perspectives around working with sex workers and developing social change to better serve the unique needs of the community. As a sex worker myself, my on-camera sexuality is very much a mouthpiece for the ultimate message I am attempting to convey through my social work and research; that sex workers can be empowered, can enjoy sex for money, that though countless numbers of women are victimized and sexually trafficked, not all are. My message is that sex work is a viable option, serves an important purpose in our world and that changing our laws and public perceptions about this allows women to reclaim ownership of their bodies. Legislating the female body has always been and might always be a hot button topic and I see sex work- prostitution as falling under this umbrella of female control. Though the profession is not entirely populated by women, I feel that the laws are what they are to control women, to enforce the system of patriarchal control. For me, when I get camera, I am first and foremost wearing my sexuality on my sleeve as it were. I am showing that I can do this, can choose this, can enjoy this and hoping that one woman, many women, see that, see me and think that they can too- from actually doing sex work to trying a new sexual position. A big part of my life is dedicated to furthering the cause of sex- free sex, un-constituted by the world in which we live and instead, defined by the individuals themselves.
When did you first get into the adult film industry and what was your motivation behind choosing this career?
I feel like this story is such a huge part of my Dylan identity at this point in my career…telling it always gives me fond feelings of nostalgia toward Shine Louise Houston and Pink and White Productions. That, or even somewhat more accurately, she, is where I started, acting in Pink and White’s first production; The Crash Pad. Rewinding almost five years ago, I was working with Shine at Good Vibrations and during our breaks or slow moments on the sales floor, we would banter about our big life dreams, mine was to take over the world with my writing, her’s was to make hot queer porn. I was a stripper at the time, working at The Lusty Lady and I remember thinking her dream was amazing and that she had a ton of guts. I promised her, on one of these lazy workdays, that should she ever make a go of it, I would star in her first movie. After leaving Good Vibes and starting her venture, she called me and I was good on my word. Her first movie was my first movie and that is why I am still intensely loyal to Pink and White after all these years. Without Shine and her big dreams of fulfilling her “inner thirteen year old”, I might not be where I am today.
What importance do you see coming out of a new breed of feminist pornographers and feminist porn stars?
In an attempt to sum up my perspective on this question in one line, I am motivated to quote two of my favorite divas, Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox (how hot is she?!), “Sisters are doing it for themselves”. I feel like that is the most important thing that this new wave of creative people bring to the table; the growing understanding that it’s not as simple as “The Male Gaze” anymore, that the new generation of porn is representative of authentic female and queer sexuality. Women, trans people got behind the camera and ventured to make porn that showed their sex, porn stars got in front of the camera and started to show the sex that they were having behind closed doors, the sex that they identified with, not just the sex that they were being directed to have. In the last few years, the tidal wave of ‘alt porn’. queer porn and female-produced porn has given us a ‘for us, by us’ genre that we and the porn-seeking world can consume and relate to. It is amazing and motivating to finally see a greater breadth of production of this kind of work and I am overwhelming grateful to be a part of it.
How does bdsm and ds dynamics fit into your life? What role does engaging in those power dynamics play?
I am a huge proponent of power play and I enjoy experimenting with those dynamics in both my professional and my personal life. There is definitely a difference between the two however and what I gain from either is different as well. For me, work is a challenge. When I am on set and tied and am being flogged, I am completely at one with myself. The range of experimentation and power play that happens in my professional life continues to be a challenge to myself; learning what I like, learning what I can take, battling with my inner demons and constraints. I love a good shoot when it pushes me and takes me to new places, either through the bondage, the impact play, the interactions with the domme… I am always working with and against myself and the inner dialogue that comes out of these experiences is almost epiphanic. In my personal life, the connection and dialogue is shared with my partner. The power play experience, the experience of pain and pushing and challenging is shared as a conversation with him. He pushes, I push back and we battle with one another. It s cerebral and embodied and intuitive and I learn as I would in any bdsm situation but as I learn about myself, I am learning about him. There is also the element of love and release in my personal play…allowing him to take me over and take me where he wants. This is true for my pro life as well but in the intimate space it is a totally giving over, complete trust…the knowledge that for those brief moments I can leave my head, lose myself in the pleasure and that he will show me the way back when I have come down from the experience, whereas in my professional life, I am always acutely aware and never not present.
What are your goals with in the adult industry? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My goals are to continue to do projects that I feel reflect my sexuality and promote empowered female sexuality. There are still so many things I haven’t done in porn, so many people I would love to work with; some of the big name directors and actors that I admire- Belladonna, John Stagliano, Tristan Taormino, Nina Hartley. I hope to have a chance to work with all of these people before my time is up. As for ten years, I think my impact on the industry in ten years will be through my writing, my research and the work I do with community organizations and legislation. I hope to have a chance to promote other young actresses and actors that want to be in this business and I hope to see the continued progression of porn toward re-structuring the ‘mainstream’ and giving people hot, well-made sex that is authentic.
How do you define sex positive, queer and feminist pornography?
It is porn that shows the variety of different bodies and sexualities that are out there. It is porn that is made by members of the community for whom it is designed. It is porn that pushes the envelope of our limited spectrum of what constitutes hot and erotic. It is porn that shows people having sex the way they do in their personal lives. It is porn with authentic storylines that is populated by performers who feel proud of what they do and do it willingly. It is porn that makes people stop and think. It is porn that challenges the mainstream and creates an entirely new world of fantasy. It is porn that empowers rather than degrading. It is porn that is so hot you can’t wait for the sequel…
What are your favorite kinks and sexual ice creams to indulge in and let us in on why these elements of sexuality and kink are intriguing to you?
I love that term: sexual ice creams… I think I shall list mine: role playing, experimenting with sexual deviance and the kinds of sex you’re not supposed to talk about, breath play, humiliation, hardcore anal.
Who are your artistic, academic, and sexual inspirations and heros?
I think a list would be apropos here as well and since I‘m feeling it, I’ll stick to women.
Academic; bell hooks, Audacia Ray, Gloria Anzaldua, Margo St, James, Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, Nikki Giovanni, Annie Oakley.
Sexual; Belladonna, Joanna Angel, Madison Young, Tristan Taormino, Shine Louise Houston, Lorelei Lee, Courtney Trouble, Annie Sprinkle, Nina Hartley, Carol Queen.
Artistic: PJ Harvey, Inga Muscio, Barbara Kingsolver, Susie Bright, Elizabeth Gilbert, Miranda July, Regina Spektor, Tracey Emin, Wangechi Mutu.
* this terribly short list was off the cuff…I wish I had time to go home and raid my book collection…
Who are some of your favorite performers and directors to work with and why?
I love working with directors that let me be me and allow my creativity to be a part of our projects together. I also love working with fellow performers who are really into making porn and having a good time on camera. You know who you are.
What helps you to reach the deepest connection and sexually satisfying moment with another performer?
Knowing that they are into it. There is truly nothing worse than working with someone who is only there because they are being paid or who is not into me at all. When I am able to be sexual and perform and get into it, I am able to connect with my co-star. I have had the best time with down-to-earth and genuine people who really love sex and really love what they do. When I get together with these people and we geek out on the fun and hotness of making porn, it is magic.
Do you have any upcoming workshops, videos or performances on the horizon?
I will be shooting with Madison Young for an upcoming project in September T.B.A. (yay!) and working with Courtney Trouble for one of her upcoming films. In my hometown of Toronto, I will be performing onstage at Torture Garden and at Nuit Blanche in October. Both of these stage performances will be part of a day-in-the life cinema verite-style documentary that will hopefully come out next year. I am also set to teach a stripping workshop at Good For Her in Toronto in early November.