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July 12, 2016

High IQ Group Hears What It's Like To Be a Porn Star's Kid

SAN DIEGO, Calif.—Recently, American Mensa, the group whose only admission criterion is having a high IQ, held its Annual Gathering at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, and the adult industry's own Kelly Shibari was the gathering's coordinator of adult programming. Shibari arranged for several lectures and panels dealing with various aspects of adult sexuality, and one of the more interesting ones was "Porn & Parenting: When Your Parent is a Porn Star," featuring retired performers Jeanne "Long Jeanne" Silver and Howie Gordon, the former Richard Pacheco, together with two of their children, Jeanne's daughter Irene and Howie's daughter Polly Stenberg. The first question, of course, was how the stars got into the adult business in the first place, and each had an interesting story to tell. "I started in the industry in 1976," Jeanne Silver told the crowd of about 100. "I am a child of a colonel in the Air Force; my mother was in the legal field. I got into the business, starting with magazines. My first magazine layout was in Cheri magazine as the first disabled amputee centerfold ever. Yes, I'm an amputee; it's been there since 1963, so I am the first physically disabled porn star that there ever was. My first film was Water Power, so that was rather risqué. I received an enema in that; that was my introduction to porn, was receiving an enema. It was about the 'enema bandit.' True story: he was going around to colleges and breaking into women's rooms, the college girls' rooms, and cleansing them, so it's from a true story. I traveled to San Francisco and worked for a brief time with the Mitchell Brothers, doing a stage show, and was scooped by Alex deRenzy. My first major film was Long Jeanne Silver ... I took my stump and I used it as a penis on both men and women." "And they marketed it as being larger than John Holmes's," added Irene, who currently works as a fetish model. Jeanne described herself as "kind of a reluctant porn star for a while ... I had mixed feelings but I always enjoyed it, I always enjoyed showing that people with a disability are sexual, they like sex, there's nothing wrong with it; sometimes it's even better, when you use what God's given you; very creative"—but with the AIDS epidemic making news worldwide, she decided to retire in 1986, giving birth to Irene three years later. "I have the smallest cock ever to hit the big time," Gordon began, also noting that as a child, he had been quite overweight. "I was a product of the '60s; I signed up for the sexual revolution full time. In college, I made a sex film. It was for a young filmmaker, a freshman, woman, who was also a virgin, who asked me, who was an upper classman, to star in her X-rated movie, which they didn't have X-rated movies yet; it was an 'art film'.... By age 17, I had lost 50 pounds, and went from Quasimodo to Robert Redford overnight, so all of a sudden to be asked to be in a sex film for my body, this was like winning the world series—YES!" Gordon appeared in more than 80 hardcore features because, he said, "I wanted sex as recreation, and I ended up in the X-rated world to try to find it." Shibari wondered how Irene and Polly had learned of their parents' profession, and Irene said she found out in the same way many of today's stars are outed to their friends and relatives. "I had this one particular photographer friend who will find the dirt that you don't want to be found," Irene, who began modeling for photographers at age 14, noted. "I already knew my mom was a performer in burlesque because I used to wear her costumes as dress-up; it was a lot of fun, but I got kicked out of the house one day because there was a documentary that was being done about burlesque. ... So I went over to my friend's house, and we were doing a photo shoot, and we had a little down time, and I said, 'You know, I got kicked out for a burlesque documentary, and that's a little weird, so I think something's up.' So he researches, and I help him research, and we're researching and researching, and we're looking up 'amputee burlesque dancers,' 'one-legged dancers,' anything that we can possibly find to hunt my mom down, because she wouldn't tell me her stage name either—way too many red flags. "Finally, he pulls up this strip of stills from a  porno," she continued. "He says, 'Take a look at this; it's a porno; it's probably not her. Let's look.' And I'm looking through, and I go, 'My God, it could be my mom, maybe, maybe.' We get down, and you can barely see, because it's a strip of film, this tiny little blurry tattoo on a woman's arm, and you can't see it now because it's twice covered up, but I go, 'Holy crap! That's my mom. She's a porn star! What?!?' So we look at the name, and it's Jeanne Silver, and I give her a call and say, 'Hey, mom, does 'Long Jeanne Silver' sound familiar to you?' She says, 'No; why?' And I'm like, 'No big deal; I'm just curious.' She hangs up on me. I look at my photographer friend and I'm like, 'Dude, this is good.'" Eventually, Jeanne copped to having fucked on camera, claiming here that she only kept her daughter in the dark because she wanted her to finish college first before finding out—and indeed, Irene was 21 when the above search took place. "I'm 32, and I basically have the reverse story of Irene, which is that the knowledge of my dad's career has kind of been seeped into me at what I would say are age-appropriate levels," Stenberg began. "So it feels as if I've known my whole life, and there wasn't a moment of finding out, because we had things that were said about my dad's career that were not totally straight-forward, so we were told for a period of time that he 'makes movies'; okay. And that was enough. "Then, at 5, 6, 7 years old, we were told, 'Dad makes grown-up movies'; okay. That's enough for a while. Then right around the time that Silence of the Lambs came out, I said to my dad, 'What makes them grown-up movies? Is it scary like Silence of the Lambs?' Because at this point, there were movies we were allowed to go see and not allowed to go see. And my dad cringed at the thought that he was making movies like Silence of the Lambs. 'No, no, no!' So I said, 'What makes them grown-up movies then? Sex?' And he looked at me like I had just given him this total free pass, basically, because he just looked back and said, 'Well, yeah.' And I went running to my sister because I thought I had the scoop of the century: "Julia, Julia, Julia, dad makes sex movies! Dad makes sex movies!' And she was standing at the mirror, combing her hair, and she and I were very close, but she very much maintained the prowess and the sibling dynamic, and everything cool went through her, and so she didn't bat an eyelash; she just looked at me and said, 'So?' "That totally deflated me, and pretty much from that point on, it was bits of information that came into my consciousness. There were periods of time when performers from the eras of his career would come over, and I immediately distinguished them as different than the types of people I would see at school or at the bank or whatever; you know, long fingernails and big eyelashes and big hair, and my sister and I would sort of sit at the top of the bannister and try to listen down, because we were not allowed to be at that party for some peculiar reason. So there were little things like that. ... But I thought my dad was a movie star; I thought it was great. It was a major source of pride. ... In our household, from as early as I can remember, there was a very sex-positive attitude toward self-pleasure, partner pleasure, but again, at age-appropriate levels. ... I really enjoyed the insinuation that somehow, I would probably fuck like a porn star because my dad was a porn star. I thought that was fantastic—and also true." Those revelations made the following question, about how the star told their kids they were in porn, relatively moot, though Jeanne noted that, "I figured I was going to leave a trunk with movies, magazines and a letter saying, 'Dear Irene, I have something to tell you,' but she found out early. I was happy she had graduated college summa cum laude, so once she got out of college and she presented me with, 'Hey, ma, you know, Long Jeanne Silver,' I had a slight heart attack, hung up the phone, walked around the house a few times, 'Fuck! Fuck! How am I going to explain this?' My mom knew all about it and always told me, 'Don't tell her. Don't tell her. She'll get in the business. She's so much like you, she'll get in the business.' I'm like, 'No, she won't. It's not the same.' And she hasn't gone into the porn-porn industry, as far as films or anything like that. ... But finding out that she knew was the biggest relief, because I really didn't know how I was going to tell her and how she was going to react." Gordon never really answered the question directly, instead noting that in the '60s, he and his friends were "talking sex and sex liberation," which they thought was "necessary to make the planet a saner place" but that,  "If you grew up in the '60s and you weren't fucking around, what was wrong with you? And if you were still fucking around after AIDS came along, what was wrong with you?" "I didn't know what I was going to tell them," he finally admitted. "My mother-in-law, when she found out that I was making porn movies, said, 'What are you gonna tell the kids?' Thinking like, 'You idiot!' And I said, 'I don't know what I'm gonna tell the kids. We're gonna raise our kids about the beauty of the flower and we're gonna tell them about the dangers of the thorns,' and they had to appreciate it, celebrate it and be fucking careful—and they were 2 and 4 years old at the time." Irene admitted that being the child of a porn star, although it allowed the pair to be more open and honest with each other about nearly everything and anything sexual, "Being open, adventurous, I can scare some people off, and with my modeling career, some men, or women, because I do date both—I'm gender-blind, is the way I consider it—it's caused some issues. A boyfriend will Google and go, 'Wow! I saw you naked! With this girl! And you were kind of next to each other!' And I'm like, 'Okay.' And he'll go, 'I didn't know you did nude modeling.' And I'm like, 'Well, I did nude modeling before we started dating.' 'Well, you need to stop.' So I've had those situations; I've had relationships go very sour very fast because of my nude modeling, my fetish modeling." "In a household where we were allowed to explore sexually in terms of not being shamed around masturbation, or when we had boyfriends, there was no closed-door policy," Polly recalled. "When my sister had a young boyfriend—I think this was around fifth grade, so he was like 10 or 11—and I would see that they made out and snuggled and all those things, and I saw this model of pair-bonding in my older sister, I remember being inquisitive of her. They were intimate for a long time before she lost her virginity, but she would tell me when she hit the milestones, and even though I wasn't intimate myself with boys at that time, I got an example of what's okay to do. "Still, I had some sense of public/private space that was developmentally appropriate, which may come up with your 5 year old kid," she added, "so something I'm working on currently with my own kids is how you be sex-positive, supportive, not shaming but also teach them socialization. There's a reason we're not all finger-banging ourselves right now. "My mom made me sign a Responsible Coochie Agreement, so that meant, if I was going to be afforded the freedom of sleepovers at my boyfriend's house, or have my boyfriend sleep over at my house, that meant that I was taking care of my sexual health and as my dad said, to understand that the thorns come with the flower." All of the panelists noted that they felt an obligation to raise society's sexual awareness, which Irene noted is sorely lacking in some areas, with public schools still teaching "abstinence-only sex-ed"—but that hasn't stopped some fans from stepping over the line in their adoration. Jeanne mentioned her experiences with one fan—she labeled him a "devotee"— who had written her letters about "how much he loved me and he couldn't wait to amputate my other leg and make love to me. Scared the shit out of me! And his therapist told him it was okay to contact me....  but I usually get quite decent feedback, for some reason... I spoke to his therapist [Dr. Susan Block]; we had a long conversation, and I told her as long as he never contacted me ever again, and got more help, serious help, that we could just drop it. Otherwise, I screen-shot everything; I have everything saved; I have all of his info, and I will turn him in." For her part, Irene's attempts at educating have been a bit more personal. "I think they talk to us in the way that they see in the movies and so if it's a heterosexual guy and he sees his favorite porn star having sex on camera and being spoken to in a certain way in the scene—they're either called derogatory names or they're being choked or whatever in a particular scene—and they can't make the disconnect that that is a fantasy scenario that we're creating for the purpose of masturbation and so then, when they meet us at public events, whether it's a signing event or a conference or whatever, they think that it's appropriate to speak to us in the same way, because nobody taught them any different," Irene explained. "One of  the benefits of having social media is that we're able to speak to our fans and actually say, 'Wait; is that exactly how you would talk to a girl in a club? Is that the first phrase you would ever say when you walked up to a girl in a bar that you found attractive?'" she continued. "And it actually catches them offguard, so some of them are haters and trolls and will continue, but the majority of the fans that I've had will go, 'Oh, gosh, I'm so sorry; I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to talk to you that way,' and I'll say things like, 'Start over. You got it wrong, but I'll give you a gimme. Start over.' And they always come back and they're always really polite and I'm like, 'Yes, now I can have a conversation with you because I'm human. I just happen to do stuff naked.'" Polly also hit on the lack of sex education as a cause of teens' and adults' sexual problems. "It's because of the lack of education that they're gonna want to experiment, and there's nobody telling them, 'Well, you go and have fun. You're in your 20s. Go; have fun; experiment, but do it in a safe way'," she said. "I think those kinds of apps [Tinder, Grindr] are not teaching that; they're just making it available. But there's no education at home or through society to teach those people that, 'Yeah, go ahead, have a polyamorous relationship; go and hook up with 20 people this week, but if you're going to, maybe you should be tested; maybe you should be using protection.'" Howie then gave the audience a rundown of how sexually explicit movies became legal in the U.S., noting the U.S. Supreme Court's acceptance of the Danish film I Am Curious (Yellow) in 1967, and the widespread showings of Deep Throat (which he described as having "very little sexual truth in it") in mainstream venues, which film, he said, though, "captured the wave." "It became porn chic, and so you had lines of the rich New Yorkers with the aristocrats and their limousines lined up outside porn theaters to see it," he described. "It ended up playing in New York City for, what, 25 years? It was the highest-grossing movie in the history of movies? And it was silly, and porn has rarely done more than that. There was a wonderful phrase that came in the middle '70s by Wolkoff, an editor for Esquire magazine. He said, 'Porn will wallow in the shallow of human experience until it's made by the artists, and then it'll have broader appeal; it'll have truth resonating within it.' I take a lot of solace in that." In terms of life after porn, Kelly Shibari gave the audience the benefit of her own experience after having been retired from performing for the past year and a half.   "The first year is kinda weird, because you kinda go, 'Gosh, maybe I should do something, you know. I have fans; they're still asking for new scenes; maybe I should do something.' And then you sit and think about it and you go, 'God, it's so tedious working on set'; it really is. "Being a porn performer is hard work, no pun intended," she continued, "but you are on set; you go through an hour and a half of makeup, so you don't look anything like this; there's a whole lot more makeup going on. You pose for photos, then you go through photos with your male costar in positions that are extremely uncomfortable. Then, for a scene that is probably edited down to about 20 minutes, you end up doing about 45 to an hour's worth of actual penetration, and that can be exhausting, and then, at the end, the male costar just leaves; they go take a shower and they go home, and you kinda go home too. Most of it is dependent on the male orgasm on camera, so the female orgasm isn't  necessarily required to be genuine or authentic; it's more required for us to actually play the part of having an authentic orgasm, because trust me, if I had an authentic orgasm on camera, I'd want to take a nap, and I can't take a nap on camera, because there's no napping in porn. So it's easier for me to barely have a real orgasm, but then you do interviews for radio and you're, 'Oh, yeah; I cum all the time.'" In all, the panel lasted nearly an hour and a half, with the audience asking many questions about all aspects of the industry and the performers' personal lives—and as far as an outside observer could tell, they'd be ready for plenty more of it at a future Annual Gathering.

 
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