David Mech, aka Dave Pounder, contacted me several years ago to explore the possibility of pursuing his PhD under my tutelage. To suggest that he had a unique profile would be an understatement. Dave has had a successful career as a pornographer including having starred in countless films as an actor. From my perspective as an evolutionary consumer psychologist, his experience in the adult industry offered a rare opportunity to tackle research questions that might have otherwise been difficult to investigate. Although Dave was accepted into our doctoral program and was offered an attractive financial package, he decided to remain in Florida as he felt that the Montreal winters would be too difficult to bear! Recently, he advised me that his book and documentary dealing with the porn industry were published and released respectively. I thought that it might be an instructive and fun exercise to interview him about his former career and recently completed projects. Here are the highlights of our recent e-chat. GS and DM refer to Gad Saad and David Mech respectively.
GS: What led you to pursue a career in pornography?
DM: I decided to follow a career in pornography because I wanted to align myself with an industry that was unnecessarily stigmatized. I never saw an issue with sex, yet many people did. Whenever I would ask people why they had an aversion to sex, they never really had a concrete, valid answer. Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I figured if I could use my desirable background (e.g., educated, well-spoken, no criminal history, etc.) and align it with the adult media business, then I could start having conversations with people about the adult industry (and sex more generally) and begin a process of social change.
GS: You make it sound as though your porn career was a grand civil and political rights action meant to improve society. Would it not be more accurate to simply state that this profession allowed you to have sex with countless attractive and readily available women?
DM: It was never hard for me to have sex with attractive women, so I did not need a career in porn to accomplish that. If I just wanted to have sex with a bunch of girls, I could have remained in the swinger environment, which is where I met the people who got me involved with the adult industry. Watching the movie The People vs. Larry Flynt was also a motivating factor in my decision to align myself with the industry. Sure, the sex with willing women was a factor, but hardly the primary one. I was primarily interested in aligning myself with the socially taboo adult industry to help legitimize sex.
GS: How did your family react to your career choice?
DM: When I shot my first scene, I was actually working for Wachovia Bank in Irvine, California. I took a day off and drove down to the San Fernando Valley for my first shoot. That weekend, I spoke with my mom and she asked me what I had done earlier that week. I replied, “I shot a porn movie.” She dismissed the response and said, “No really, what did you do?” To which I replied, “I shot a porn movie.” Once she realized that I wasn’t joking, she wasn’t too happy. She was concerned about what to tell her friends, neighbors, etc. I told her to tell those people that I make porn movies. I explained to my mom that, as a single guy, I would normally go out on the town to try and meet attractive women with an ultimate goal of (hopefully) hooking up for the night, which usually required me to spend money; but now I have this opportunity to get paid to have certain sex with attractive women, so why would I turn that down? She understood the logic, but didn’t like it. My dad, on the other hand, laughed it off and thought it was funny. He was okay with it until about two years later when I told him I was quitting my job at the bank to do porn full time. He was upset and demanded that I pay him back the money he gave me for graduate business school. I wrote him a check the next day.
GS: Did you ever experience performance difficulties during a film shoot? If yes, what were the contributing factors?
DM: I was 25 years old when I shot my first scene, and I had no idea what to expect. From years of watching porn, I’d see these guys having sex for what appeared to be 40 minutes straight, with no breaks. My co-star for the scene, Violet Blue, was attractive. She was petite, blonde, and about 20 years old. I wasn’t nervous at all, nor was my concern about getting an erection; rather, I was afraid I would climax too soon. To mitigate that fear, I asked the director for a 10-minute warning before the scene was going to start. When he gave the warning, I went to the bathroom and masturbated to completion. After that, I was confident I could go the distance. When the director ultimately called “Action,” I was totally limp. I didn’t anticipate the effect of the bright lights, cameras, people watching, etc. All of that, in conjunction with the fact I had “just” climaxed a few minutes earlier, ruined the scene. Thankfully it didn’t matter because most directors try out new guys in a Boy/Boy/Girl scene, so if one guy can’t perform that other guy can always carry the scene. They shot me in soft-core positions while the other guy was hardcore on the girl. Thanks to editors, the customers who ultimately watched the movie had no idea I was never hard.
GS: Oh yes. The pesky refractory period is operative even for healthy 25-year old males! Please go on.
DM: When I first started performing, I experienced performance issues quite often (maybe 25% of the time). After a few months, it dropped to about 10%; and after a few years, it dropped even further to about 2%. All male performers in the adult industry experience performance difficulties at certain times. It’s very hard to predict when it will happen, and it typically has nothing to do with the attractiveness of the girl with whom they are working. For example, there were some girls I had no attraction to yet still somehow performed without issue. Conversely, there were other girls to whom I was very attracted yet I still experienced performance problems. Like any craft, I learned what worked for me over time. I noticed that I was more likely to experience performance issues if I began the scene in a standing (as opposed to lying or sitting down) position, if the room was very cold or a fan or A/C vent was blowing on me, or if “non-involved” (meaning they were not part of the production crew and didn’t have a purpose to be there) people were watching the scene (e.g., the girl’s boyfriend, person renting out the location, random delivery person, etc.). I discovered that drinking some water and eating a very light meal before the scene typically helped my performance as well. And yes, I always had Viagra on hand for the extra assistance needed to perform as the scenes became more technical to shoot. Today, virtually all male performers use some form of ED [erectile dysfunction] drugs to aid in their performance.
GS: Did you ever have a serious relationship with a woman while you were performing as a porn actor? If yes, how did your partner react to your career choice? If not, do you think that your career choice hindered your ability to find a partner?
DM: I don’t think it is possible to have a serious relationship with someone while being involved in an acting capacity in the adult media industry. I formed some close friendships with some of the girls and hung out with them from time to time, but I never tried to have a serious relationship with them. This had nothing to do with the fact they were doing porn, but more so to do with the fact that they were crazy. If I would have met a bright, educated, cute, mentally-stable girl who happened to do porn, I certainly would have dated her. I just never found one. I did meet and eventually get engaged to a civilian (i.e., not in the adult industry) girl, but we broke up because I didn’t want to have children. I never performed in adult movies while we were together.
GS: What are your thoughts on the supposed pernicious effects of pornography on relationships, on attitudes toward women, and on morality?
DM: I have never seen any data to support the notion that pornography is harmful to relationships. As a producer, I have received countless emails from couples who happily watch my movies. Regarding attitudes toward women, if you look at gay porn it’s exactly the same as straight porn. If straight porn revealed anything about male attitudes toward women, then we would expect gay porn to be very different, but it’s not. I think pornography just caters to the evolved sexual preferences of men for low-investment sex with a variety of different partners, just as romance novels cater to the evolved sexual preferences of women, where the lead male character is tall, handsome, confident, etc., and she usually doesn’t have sex with him until chapter 6, after a huge build up of tension and “getting to know him” has occurred. For men, it’s about the sex; for women, it’s about the romance.
GS: Could you offer a broad description of the typical personality profiles of male and female porn actors?
DM: The female actresses, in my opinion, are all damaged (e.g., histories of sexual or emotional abuse). I know it sounds bad to say that, but that has been my experience after spending over a decade in the industry. I have yet to meet a non-damaged (i.e., no past history of sexual or emotional abuse or trauma) professional (e.g., attorney, doctor, professor) female who left her job to make adult videos. With men, however, there are two different types of guys. The first type is the guy with nothing to lose. He works a minimum wage job, has no assets, and jumps at the opportunity to do porn, assuming it is somehow presented to him. After all, most attractive women would never have sex with these guys, so it’s a golden opportunity for them. The other guy is the semi-retired professional who really doesn’t need to work anymore, so he typically starts his own business and shoots himself in most of the scenes in a way that doesn’t show his face. This allows him to maintain his vanilla (mainstream) friendships while still having sex with attractive women for fun. This is what gave rise to the POV [point of view] method of shooting [As explained to me by Dave, the man receiving a sex act holds the camera as though the lens were his eyes. His face is never shown. I learned something new!]
GS: What are your thoughts on the “damaged good” hypothesis when it comes to female porn actresses?
DM: It is very true, unfortunately; and it makes sense from an evolutionary psychology standpoint. The cost of having sex for women is much higher compared to men, so it doesn’t make much sense for a woman to seek out a career where she is having low-investment sex with a variety of males, especially of low social status and resources. Think of the corresponding scenario for men. We win from an evolutionary psychology standpoint when we are able to have sex and procreate with a variety of fertile women. Hardcore porn is much more closely aligned with male sexuality.
GS: In one of my recent Psychology Today articles (see here), I discussed a published paper that investigated the “damaged goods” hypothesis. The conclusions of the study do not seem to support your contention.
DM: It’s true as my experience goes. Looking at your link, it doesn’t mention prior sexual assault or emotional abuse growing up, which is my definition of damaged goods. Also, questionnaires are limited compared to behavioral research. I interviewed this girl for my documentary and asked her on camera if she had a past history of sexual or emotional abuse, and she said “no”. However, she had revealed to me in the past that she did. When I asked her why she lied, she said “people don’t need to know that.” Many people feel the same way when answering questionnaires.
GS: I understand that your first book was recently released. Congratulations. Could you tell us about it?
DM: My new book, Obscene Thoughts: A Pornographer’s Perspective on Sex, Love, and Dating, is about the social economics of sex and relationships. It explains why men and women act the way they do while dating, in relationships, or married, and it gives several explanations as to why men cheat in otherwise happy relationships and why women cheat when something is missing from the relationship. It draws upon the central tenants of evolutionary and social psychology to support many of the claims I make. The Kindle version should be released in about a week or two.
GS: Do you feel that your porn career has led you to develop unique insights about human mating that might otherwise have been invisible to evolutionary scientists?
DM: Yes, most definitely. Evolutionary psychologists are limited in the scope of research they can do as a result of having to comply with their school’s IRB [institutional review board]. My perspective is unique because I have observed sex in a commercial environment for over a decade, not to mention the extent of my involvement with the swinger communities in Arizona, California, and Florida. I’ve also read most of the academic literature on human mating (e.g., David Buss, Geoffrey Miller, Helen Fisher, Gad Saad, etc.), so I can link the academic theory to the practical reality.
GS: I hear that you have a documentary out, too. Could you briefly tell us about it?
DM: Yes, my new documentary, Risky Business: A Look Inside America’s Adult Film Industry, is currently making its way around the 2013 independent film festival circuit. It has done quite well, so far. The film was admitted into many major film festivals. The film is about the social, psychological, and economic impacts of performing in adult movies – how it affects relationships, jobs, etc.
GS: Thank you David. I wish you the best of luck with your current and future endeavors.
Interested readers can check out some of my previous porn-related Psychology Today articles here, here, here, and here. To otherwise “moralistic” readers, my writing about pornography and/or interviewing David Mech does not suggest that I condone or condemn the pornography industry.
Source for Image:
Courtesy of David Mech