Interviews, Sex + Love Advice

Ask a Porn Star: Joanna Angel

August 31, 2015
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Porn whisperer Vera Papisova gets the dish from Joanna Angel about relationship games, competing with your own fleshlight, and why “feminist porn” can be annoying. Illustration by Maggie Dunlap.

Joanna Angel is a legend. She is a writer, producer, director, model and award-winning adult film star. She is the founder and owner of BurningAngel Entertainment – a production company that pioneered a new genre of porn featuring punk rock girls with tattoos, aka “alt porn.”

She founded her studio Burning Angel in 2002, and since then, she’s appeared on the cover of every major adult magazine. She’s been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Village Voice, Esquire UK, Details, and the list goes on. She’s even on top of her social media game –  Playboy.com named Joanna Angel one of the 50 hottest adult stars on Instagram.

In short, Joanna Angel is the real deal, and we got a chance to talk to her about butt plugs, competing with her own fleshlight, sleazy directors, and why feminist porn can be annoying.

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Vera: What’s your ideal date?

Joanna: I think you should have a glass of wine, and then fuck for an hour and then go out to eat, and then your evening is really awesome. Sex first, food second.

Favorite sex toy?

Glass butt plugs, I really like them. They slide in really nicely. Crystal Delights I really like because they’re really pretty and actually really comfortable. It’s always a benefit for me when I get something that looks good on camera, but it also feels good to use in my personal life.

Can you give me some advice for using a butt plug for the first time?

I would say to make sure to push out instead of crunch up. A lot of people tell you to use a ton of lube. I really don’t feel that way. I use lube when I’m on camera with a huge guy. I don’t use lube when I’m just masturbating. I never even used lube until I was on a porn set. If you’ve never used a butt blug before, get a small one. Just use a lot of spit, or maybe use a dime size amount of lube. Then I’d say masturbate a little bit to get yourself aroused so you can get more relaxed.

Last night, for example, I was doing a webcam show and I knew I was going to use a lot of toys in my butt. So I put a butt plug in and I was like “Ugh, it’s kind of tight today.” But while I was in the middle of the cam show, I was masturbating, I just stuck the toy in my ass and it felt good because my body was in a different state. A lot of times people can’t do it because their bodies are tense.

Give me your best BJ tip!

Use both hands and a lot of spit. I’ve noticed a lot of guys really like it. I’ve learned that people really like using my fleshlight, even my boyfriend uses it sometimes. And I was like, “What is it about the fleshlight that everybody likes?” I don’t have a penis, but from what I’ve read it’s that my fleshlight is really tight—after my boyfriend told me that, I found myself almost competing with my own fleshlight. I was like, “What the hell is it doing that’s that great?” I started using my hands and gripping the cock really tightly, and using a lot of spit, and so far it’s gotten a great reaction.

“When I was starting out I did a bunch of different kind of scenes, and sometimes afterward I was like, “I don’t want to do that again” or “I don’t know if I want to work with that company or that person again,” and you learn that along the way. That doesn’t mean I experienced something traumatic. I think sometimes people have a hard time looking at porn like you would look at any other job.”

How do newcomers in the industry avoid being taken advantage of, and just avoid shady situations in general?

Most performers are independent contractors, so you have a responsibility to do your own research. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t go to the shoot. Or go to the shoot and if something doesn’t feel right, leave. I had a girl who was staying with me, she got booked to do a bunch of scenes through an agent and one of the scenes she felt weird about because she couldn’t find any information about the company. So she went to the shoot, she met the guy, she talked to him, and 45 minutes later she called me and was like, “I don’t feel comfortable I’m going to leave.” And of course the guy was annoyed and pissed off, and she was broke and needed the money, and I was like, “I’ll pay for an Uber for you to get out of there.”

She didn’t go crying to the press about it, she just realized it wasn’t for her. And you know, a friend of hers did a shoot with the same guy the day before, and she was comfortable with it. But you know, whatever it was, it didn’t make her feel comfortable, even though her friend has been. And of course the guy was sleazy and he gave her the run around. He was like, “This is really unprofessional. I’m going to tell other directors, blah blah blah,” but she didn’t care. She did what she had to do.

[When I was starting out,] I did a bunch of different kind of scenes, and sometimes afterward I was like, “I don’t want to do that again” or “I don’t know if I want to work with that company or that person again,” and you learn that along the way. That doesn’t mean I experienced something traumatic. I think sometimes people have a hard time looking at porn like you would look at any other job, and as time goes on you learn what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. It’s hard to explain these things to people who are on the outside.

As a porn director, how do you make sure performers feel safe and comfortable on your set?

I really try to be incredibly clear about what everyone is getting into. I always tell every girl I hire: “Here’s a username and password, you should take a look at the website. You should look at the type of scenes we do.” If a girl’s new I usually won’t put her in the first scene of the day. I’ll tell her to come in at 1 or 2 o’clock, even though I won’t really need her until 5 or 6 o’clock, so she can kind of see the other people performing and what they’re doing so there’s time for her to be like “This isn’t for me.”

Or, I could even get the feeling from her if she’s too nervous. I try to do whatever I can because I want everyone to be happy and comfortable and proud. You have to be able to walk away from money if you don’t feel comfortable with something.

What’s one thing about sex work that people on the outside should know?

Sometimes, I feel like I wish there was more that people didn’t know. Some of the allure of porn is going away, and everybody wants to know every last thing that’s going through your brain as a sex worker. Sometimes, I just want to do my job and for people to like what I do. They don’t have to worry about me. They don’t have to worry about whether I feel like a strong woman or a weak woman. I really just want people to watch the movies I’m putting out there and to enjoy themselves.

“I just want to do my job and for people to like what I do. They don’t have to worry about me. They don’t have to worry about whether I feel like a strong woman or a weak woman.”

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Is it annoying when people are concerned about whether or not porn is feminist?

I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s annoying. Maybe because I’ve been talking about it for 12 years and I really don’t have an answer. I don’t make porn that I don’t want to watch, and I don’t like it when women look like they aren’t enjoying themselves. That’s my own personal way of making feminist porn, but I feel like there’s now some sort of doctorate when it comes to making “feminist porn.”

I’ve been told before that my porn isn’t feminist because I like to dress girls up in high heels and stockings and have them wear lots of makeup. But I like that glamorous part of porn. Then there’s a whole faction of people who produce porn that looks way more natural. So do you have to be completely natural? Is a feminist not allowed to wear lipstick? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Some people think in order to make feminist porn there has to be pegging in it. In order to be an empowered woman, does that mean you have to stick a dildo in a guy’s ass? Is that a requirement? Some people think that instructional porn is feminist, so does that mean to be feminist you have to teach other people how to have sex? I don’t know.

“I’ve been told before that my porn isn’t feminist because I like to dress girls up in high heels and stockings and have them wear lots of makeup. But I like that glamorous part of porn. Is a feminist not allowed to wear lipstick?”

Could you answer one of our reader’s questions?

Dear Joanna,
What should I do when my new boyfriend says that he has another girl, which he started seeing before me? It’s crazy, he says that they have more in common, but he doesn’t love her, he loves me and feels right next to me. I’m 18, he’s 28. Girl’s 25. Obviously, I’m better than her, everyone knows it. Bigger butt, smaller waist, no extra pounds, I’m never hysterical and always nice with every single person, really like BDSM, etc. How do I make him choose one? It seems that he’s quite okay with having 2 girlfriends.

This situation is really unhealthy and it’s going to drive you insane. It sounds like it already is driving you insane. The fact that you are asking all your friends to compare you and the other girl is ridiculous. You have to see the situation for what it is. He doesn’t have two girlfriends—the guy is just plain old single and playing the field.

Look, you can play some stupid games, and they might buy you some more time. You can ignore him for a few days and he will probably chase after you. You can post really hot photos of yourself on Instagram, maybe have some subtly flirty conversations with other people on your Facebook wall or places he might see it. It might kind of work, but realistically at best it might buy you a few weeks or a few months of his time, and you are going feel absolutely insane in the process. It’s really not worth it. If you want to be in an open relationship with someone it requires trust and honesty, something you just don’t have with this person.

And girl, you’re 18 years old! Your small waist won’t last forever. But your brain will. Don’t be an idiot.

Vera Papisova is a writer and sometimes standup comedian who writes for Teen Vogue, Yahoo Style and Complex. Maggie Dunlap is an artist, illustrator, stylist and clothing designer (aka a true Millennial).

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