Andrew Richardson on Porn, Sex and America

I interviewed one of my favorite people in the world and my personal hero, Andrew Richardson, publisher of the sex magazine Richardson, for Amuse (a new site from Vice). We talked about sex, style, America, our overly-PC shame culture, and the new American female body.

Read it HERE :)

Richardson Radio

Me and Andrew Richardson <3

Richardson mag, everyone’s favorite/the only academic sex magazine, now has its own radio show on know-wave radio, yay! As you can imagine, the show is very smart and sexy, with lots of dirty sex talking, paired with some intellectual rants, inspired ideas, and the occasional segment of great/dark/holy music. I was very honored to be asked as a guest on the show a couple of times over the past month, (as you may already know from my tweets about it). All of the Richardson radio segments are now available for streaming on the Richardson mag site. They’re each two hours long and hosted by the mag’s editor and publisher, the amazing Andrew Richardson. The two episodes that feature me are:

Richardson Radio episode 1: Where I interview Mr. Richardson about the genesis of his sex magazine, and we talk about a whole bunch of other wonderful things like death, porn and tantric sex. Other guests on this episode include Dev “Blood Orange” Hynes, Alexandra Marzella and Carly Mark. 

Richardson Radio episode 3: Featuring an interview with Cindy Gallop, the founder of Make Love Not Porn, as well as an interview with porn superstar Belladonna. Also, we all get into a pretty deep convo about feminism, porn and sex education. Other guests on this episode include Alexandra Marzella and Carly Mark. 

Bad Girls Do It Well: A Chat With Porn Icon Tori Black

I recently interviewed pornstar Tori Black for the cover of Richardson magazine. I conducted the interview alongside another hero of mine, the cult artist and pornographer Bruce LaBruce. For the cover and accompanying spread, Tori was shot by the legendary Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki–all in all, a really good crowd! You can read the article below. I can honestly say, I think this is the most extreme interview I’ve done thus far. You will soon see why. (Also, you should check out Richardson’s newly launched clothing line. Photos on their site.)

Ladies and gentlemen, hailing from Seattle Washington, measuring five feet eight inches tall, weighing in at 125 pounds, two-time AVN Starlet of the year and mother of two, Richardson is proud to present the most beautiful girl in porn, Ms. Tori Black. Read about her emergence from the insanity of home life, her chaotic early days in the adult entertainment industry, and the true story of her coke-induced face-off with death at the hands of a human trafficker. And so, without further ado, here’s Tori…

Tori: I spent a lot of my youth fighting. When I was in high school I beat a girl with a baseball bat. She thought I fucked her boyfriend, but I didn’t even know who she was. I was like, “Who are you, who’s your boyfriend?” Then she stabbed me. So I put a baseball bat into her cheekbone and it imploded. Her eye almost popped out of her head. She went to the hospital and had to have plastic surgery. Afterwards she had scars all over her face; it was bad.

Karley: Did she stab you badly?

T: No, I didn’t even have stitches. But still, I’ve never forgiven myself for that; she was a kid, and she was stupid—you don’t go around stabbing people—but my part in it was totally unacceptable.

K: Maybe you’d like to tell us a little bit about you were like growing up.

T: Well, I think I must’ve been about twelve years old when I started experimenting with drugs. I was never addicted to any one drug or another, but I was addicted to getting high, to getting outside my body, outside my mind. Eventually my mom said, “Enough. I’m done with this.” My grandparents happen to be filthy rich, and so I got shipped off to boot camp. After boot camp, they recommended I go straight to boarding school, but my mom decided that I should be homeschooled instead, that way I could come home, but I wouldn’t have any contact with my old friends. So we moved about three-hours away from my old home. I was totally isolated. I was in the house by myself all day, everyday, while everybody else went to work and school.

K: So you weren’t actually being schooled at all?  

T: No, I had internet school. But unless you love to learn, at age sixteen you’re not going to sit by yourself and study. So I started sneaking out and getting into a lot of trouble because I was failing school again. I ended up moving in with my grandparents back near where I used to live. All my old friends were around, so it was back to getting high and everything else, until my grandparents kicked me out. I went to live with my dad for about a day and then he kicked me out too. So then I was homeless, living with friends, going from couch to couch. I was on top of the world. I was dropping acid, taking literally any pill I could get my hands on, crunching, snorting, having sex with people I would’ve never had sex with. Eventually my parents sent me away to boarding school.

Bruce: You mentioned that it wasn’t a typical boarding school…

T: It was called Mission Mountain. It’s shut down now. It was a school for gifted girls with behavior problems. I was stuck with twenty-five psycho girls in the middle-of-nowhere, Montana. The school was for the crazy of the crazy, but also the smart of the smart, and when you put crazy and smart together, it’s not a good combination: the things they come up with, to do to each other, to do to themselves. It was like living in some weird horror movie.

K: Sounds like a good movie.

T: It was like a cult. They trained you as if you were going to live in the middle of nowhere for the rest of your life, as if the only people you were ever going to be around would be soldiers hand-selected from their therapy game. I felt like I’d been brainwashed. When I finally got out and went to college—and when I say college, I mean a 12,000-student university—I felt like an alien.

B: It was during college that you got into porn?

T: In college I was partying a lot, and essentially I found myself right back where I started before I went to boarding school. I wasn’t going to any of my classes because I couldn’t pay attention to anything. My mind was reeling; I’d become an insomniac. The only thing I was doing was going to keggers. I’d never felt crazier in my life than in that moment—trying to assess myself, the world around me, trying to figure out what the fuck I was supposed to do, who I was, what I was doing, what was right, what was wrong. I immediately started looking for a way out. I said, “You know what? I love to dance. I’m going to be a go-go dancer.” Then I saw an ad for porn: “Do you want to make $20,000 a month?” A week later I flew to Florida. Talk about flying by the seat of your pants. My whole life has kind of been like that.

B: Could you tell us how you came up with your name, Tori Black?

T: Well, to be honest, I was wasted one night in college and still trying to figure out if porn was what I wanted to do. I asked my friends, “Ok, if I was a porn star, what would my name be?” Of course I’m hanging out with black guys, of course, of course… and they say, “Your name should be Tori.” And I’m like, “Tori? Why?” And they’re like, “Because Tori’s a hot white girl name.”

K: Like Tori Spelling?

T: So I’m laughing and drinking, and I asked, “What’s my last name going to be?” From out of the back room, somebody who must’ve been eavesdropping screamed, “Black!” I died laughing. Even though I hang out with a lot of black guys, I’m not a “hood,” as some people would say, you know what I mean? I don’t talk with that kind of vocabulary, I don’t dress the same way; I listen to similar music, but I’m not trying to be black. Of course I’m not. So it was a sort of a big inside joke to call me Tori Black.

B: You’re known for working with a lot of black performers. Was that a deliberate career decision, or something that just happened?

T: Well, when I first started in the industry, they had me fill out this checklist of what I would and wouldn’t do: Do you do boy/girl? Do you do girl/girl? Do you do solo? Do you do interracial? When I reached the interracial box, I thought, there are a lot of different races out there, so if I don’t check this, does that mean I’ll only work with white people? So of course I checked the box. Then my agent said, “You don’t want to do that so soon or you’ll ruin your career.” I was dumbfounded: “I’m going to ruin my career? What the hell do you mean?” It just made me laugh; you’re sitting there jerking off to porn, but at the same time, you’re going to tell me I’m somehow immoral or unacceptable because I’m fucking a black guy?

B: But do you think starting your career with interracial porn had an effect, one way or another?

T: Yes. I started advocating for it. When I talked to new girls entering the business I told them not to listen to their agents because the whole thing is just ridiculous. If you look at some of the greats in the industry—Belladonna, Jenna Haze, ummm… not Jenna Jameson, she’s not a good example for a million reasons—but if you look at a lot of the big names, they all started their careers doing anal, interracial, everything. Jenna Haze’s first scene was anal and they told her she was going to ruin her career. Obviously that didn’t happen. Jenna’s retired now and people are still demanding more. So I think the reason people say I’m known for interracial porn is not because I did it anymore than any one else, but because I’ve been so outspoken about the taboo—about how stupid it is.

K: You described to me some kind of abduction by a coke dealer. Would you talk a little about that? It sounded extraordinary.

T: Well, I started doing porn in Miami. And what do you find in Miami except cocaine? I was doing coke all the time. I felt just like Scarface—like I was impervious, just completely bulletproof. After a couple months, I moved to L.A. to do porn and live in a model house. One of the other girls and I went to a party, and I was introduced to this coke dealer, an older black guy. He was like, “I don’t want to talk about your work because I think you’re better than that.” And me being me, I’m like, “Oh! What a perfect gentleman!” So one night, my girlfriend and I went over to his house. We ended up staying until four or something in the morning. My girlfriend had to work the next day, so she said, “Hey let’s go home now, I gotta get some sleep.” And I said, “I don’t have to work for another five days, what are you talking about? I’m not ready to go.” And then she left. But I never left. Well I did, but not for a while.

B: Was there a moment, after your friend left, when you suddenly realized that this was no longer fun?

T: Yeah. At some point I think I said, “Okay, I’m ready to go back now, it’s eight o’clock in the morning and I’m tired.” And the guy said, “No, you’re going to stay here for a while longer.” At first I started laughing. I was like, “Yeah, okay, whatever. You want to keep me forever?” But he wasn’t laughing. And so I said, “No. I’m really ready to go home now; I need to relax and shower.” That’s when he said: “You can shower here.” As soon as he said that—“you can shower here”—I knew something was wrong.

K: What happened?

I was trapped in a basement for five days. They took away my phone and my shoes.

There was a lot of beating and a lot of raping. I wouldn’t say it was just about sex; it was more about domination. At one point they had to tie me down because I was fighting so hard. I don’t even know how many guys came and went. They watched me in shifts. Someone would go sleep, and then someone else would come and force me to do drugs. They kept me awake for days. They didn’t want me to sober up because then I might’ve figured out how to get out of there. When you’re high out of your mind, you’re not thinking very clearly.

K: Did you fear for you life?

Yeah. One time they took me to this one guy’s house, and this guy was a celebrity. He didn’t rape me or anything, but I was looking at him the whole time, thinking, Oh my god this is a celebrity. What if he’s involved? If he’s involved, then they must have a lot of power. Who else do they know? You know?

K: Didn’t your friend wonder where you were, since you didn’t come back for five days?

T: Well she did show up, along with my ex-boyfriend. But the guy holding me hostage pulled out guns—he had so many guns—and all of his friends were hiding in the trees. It was late at night and you couldn’t see where they were hiding, but they were all pointing guns at my ex’s car. So when I came out into the street, I said, “No, no, no. I’m good. I’m having a good time, guys. I don’t know why you’re here, everything’s fine.” I’ve got bruises all over my face, my lips are bleeding, and of course my ex is looking at me like, “I know you’re not okay.”

K: Did they call the police?

T: They did after they left. When the cops showed up at the house, they said they were looking for a Michelle—“Is there a Michelle here?” And I said, “No, I don’t know who Michelle is. My name is Tori.”

K: You didn’t take the chance to escape?

T: I was so high. And I was terrified. They warned me, “You’re high out of your mind. Do you think they’re going to believe anything you say right now?” I don’t know how many different kinds of drugs I had in my system—crank, meth, whatever they were making me snort. I’d been up for days. I had no concept of where I was or what was going on. All I knew was that if I told the police and it didn’t work out, I was probably going to get killed.

K: How did you finally escape?

T: Eventually they decided to take me to San Francisco and told me that I needed to go collect my shit. I told them that I didn’t know where my “shit” was, that I’d been staying in a model house and needed to call my agent to see what happened to it. They agreed to let me call him, but said that he had to be on speakerphone and that if I said anything they were going to fuck me up. So when I called my agent and told him I needed to pick up my stuff, he said, “It’s in garbage bags. We’ve given your room to somebody else. If this is the way you’re going to behave, we can’t represent you.” So the guy brought me to my agent’s office to get my stuff; he brought along his dog too. My agent is very anal, very British; he said, “What’s that dog doing in my office?” The guy said, “This is California. It’s a dog friendly state. I can bring my dog wherever I want.” Then they started bickering about stupid shit. Eventually my agent said, “If you don’t get your dog out my office, I’m going to call the cops.” The guy was a felon, and so as soon as my agent called the cops, the guy just bolted. He didn’t have enough time to grab me. He said he was going to go to the bathroom and then he snuck out the back.

K: Did you explain to your agent what had happened?

T: Yes. But I was still very high. My whole body was shaking, my eyes were bloodshot, and I had bruises and cuts all over me.  Of course he didn’t believe me. He was looking at me like, “You’re out of your mind, you’re a crack head. You would say anything at this moment because you have jack shit.” And I said, “You’re right. He stole my credit cards, he took my money; I don’t have anything.”  And he was like, “Well, that’s your fault. I didn’t tell you to go to this guy’s house.” My agent showed no mercy in that moment. He just told me, “The doors are closing—get out.” So there I was, standing on the street with my garbage bags and a broken-ass cellphone. I called my ex to come and pick me up. We’d only been seeing each other for a few weeks by this point, but he let me move in with him.

B: Did they ever catch “the guy”?

T: Well, he started calling me and harassing me, and so I took all these voicemails to the police. They brought him in for questioning, but ended up having to release him because they didn’t have enough evidence. They found my blood in his apartment, but that wasn’t enough. “How do we know it wasn’t voluntary?” they asked. “How do we know it wasn’t just a nosebleed from all the cocaine you were doing?” The police told me that the only way to charge him with kidnapping and rape would be for me to get him to confess. There was no rape kit, and I’d admitted to having been high, so my testimony was already on shaky ground.

B: Did you think he was running a prostitution ring?

T: I think so. I found out later that he was wanted in New York for pimping and pandering. But at the time I was so naïve. I came from vanilla middle of nowhere where things like that don’t happen. I’d never seen things like that. Anyhow, he ended up getting arrested years later for something else. Now he’s in jail.

B: I’ve heard similar stories about the fashion industry. You have all these young girls, living in model houses; they’re cut off, they’re naïve, and some of them end up as prostitutes.

T: Now more than ever. And porn stars especially. I mean, if you look at the trend right now, Kevin Durant just mentioned me in his rap song. I don’t know if you know who he is—Kevin Durant’s a basketball player. The only reason I know who he is is because my fiancé loves basketball.

K: Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma Thunder…

T: Yes!

K: …is rapping?

T: Yes. About me!

B: Wow.

T: Lots of well-known people out there have propositioned me. I need to say that Kevin Durant has never approached me; the only reason I mention his name is because he put me out there in a song. Anyhow, I’m not going to say who’s out there looking for me, but there are people literally hunting me.

B: Athletes or…

T: Athletes, celebrities, entertainers…

B: They’re offering you money for sex?

T: Yes. I’ve been offered trips on private jets. I’ve been offered everything from $50,000 to $100,000.

B: You turned them all down?

T: Yup. Because I know that as soon as they can buy it, as soon as it’s for sale, then they own me, then I become obtainable, and that’s something I never want to be.

K: Do many porn stars make that transition to prostitution after their careers are finished?

T: No, no, no. Porn stars are prostitutes. I’d venture to say that eighty-five, ninety percent use porn as an advertisement for their hooking careers.

B: But it sounds like porn was never about that for you—never about the sex per se.

T: It had more to do with power. Like I could steal your soul out of your eyes. It was like: I want to be perfect in your eyes, to capture you, to control you, to make you do things you would never otherwise do. That was my high—my orgasm. I wanted to seduce everybody in the room. I wanted the sound guy, I wanted the lighting guy, I wanted the camera man, I wanted all my fans, even my agent, I even wanted my agent to wish he could goddamn experience me. I wanted that power, not to make them have sex with me, but I wanted everyone in the room to be in love with me, to become completely engulfed in this perfect creature I’d created called Tori Black.

B:  Looking back on it now, why do think you ended up in porn?

T: I think it must’ve come from a lot of different places. It’s not like one day something happens and then the next you decide to become a porn star. It takes a certain kind of person to enter this industry. Even being confident about my sexuality, I would say that for me, having been abused from a very young age, that it completely changed my view of my body. I remember when my dad got drunk he had this weird thing where he would tell all his friends how pretty I was, how I was single, and that they should hit on me. Of course, all his friends were his age, and I was thirteen or fourteen.

K. Did you parents abuse you?

T: No. I was sexually abused by people outside my family. It started at age four actually, I think. What happens is that the abuse makes you look at yourself as a vehicle for someone else’s pleasure. Literally just that—a car. If you use that as a metaphor, somebody will go, “Look at that car in the window. I want that car.” They might spend a lot of money to get that car, but they’re going to take care of it the way they want to take care of it, not necessarily the way you need to be taken care of. In order to cope, I think I just decided that I was here for somebody else’s pleasure, that I existed to be whatever they wanted, to become their fantasy—the car they saw in the window.

B: Did porn allow you to regain some control over that?

T: That was part of it. It was more like: Fuck that. This is your life. You’re going to do what you want. You’re going to fuck how you want to fuck, and you’re going to do it in front of the whole world. I don’t give a shit how much you hate me. I don’t give a shit how low you think I am. This is me. This is my life.

B: I’m sure that there are a lot of women in porn who were abused as children. What’s interesting is how you manage that, how someone responds to that history of abuse.

T: Well, I think there are three ways that people go. Either they become asexual, completely cutting off their sexuality, or they go the opposite direction, becoming hypersexual, which is what happened to me, especially during my high school years. Other people find some sort of inner peace with the matter. But you’re always going to be affected; there’s no way getting around that. You know, when I was in boot camp, there was a fifteen-year-old boy who’d been involved with a gang. As part of the initiation, he’d raped a girl. At the time he’d thought it was okay; but, as the weeks went by, he’d see her around school and it ate him alive. Just talking about it, he could barely get the words out; his whole body shook, tears started streaming down his face. I was thirteen-years old, and I’d just been raped by somebody at my school, somebody who I knew and saw all the time, and sitting there with this guy who’d been through something similar, I had this moment, this epiphany: Oh my god, you’re a person too. It took some of my anger away. But I wanted to be angry; I wanted to hate him. I wanted to hate all of them so much for what they did to me. Even to this day, there are moments when I’m making love to my fiancé, and I’ll have a flashback, and there’s nothing I can do except to say, “Ummm, can you hang on for just a minute.” And then I just have to burst into tears. The only thing you can do is take care of that hurt inside of you. When I have these feelings, these flashbacks, I can’t hold them in. If I try to hold them in, that’s when I know I’m starting to abuse myself all over again, that’s when I’m thinking: he doesn’t want to see me cry; he’s enjoying himself right now and I don’t want to ruin this for him.

K: You’re pregnant with your second child now. How has having had children affected your career?

T: It’s really hard. For example, when I went to the AVN [Adult Video News] awards, I’d just found out that I was pregnant. I was sitting there signing autographs, listening to my fans say, “Oh my God Tori! I love the way you sucked this dick,” or, “Oh my God, you take cock in the ass so great,” and all the while I was saying to myself, “These Spanx are really tight; I really just want to let my belly out.” If I’m feeling pregnant, it’s hard to get myself into Tori Black mode.

K: You’re about to turn your back on hardcore porn. What’s next?

Well, being pregnant and doing porn—I won’t do that. But I can do solo work for the next four or five years and make triple the money I made taking two cocks at the same time. It’s a matter of being smart about it—smarter instead of harder. I’ve reached a point in my career where people in mainstream entertainment are approaching me and saying, “I want to do a reality show, I want to do this, I want to do that.” Of course there are still options for me in the adult industry, but I’m not going back to hardcore. If I want to do hardcore again in the future, that door is always going to be open. But am I ready to do that right now? Obviously not—I’m having a baby. It’s family time right now.

Vice Meets Andrew Richardson

In light of the interview I posted a few days ago with Andrew Richardson, the man behind the sex magazine Richardson, I thought I would share this video with you. It’s the newest episode of the VICE Meets series (which is made by my friend Adri Murguia, who also makes the VICE Slutever show), and it features Mr. Richardson talking about sex, love, porn stars, ass-less skirts and lots of other good stuff. Watching this makes me want to spend the rest of my life wearing latex and smoking cigarettes (even though I know they are very bad for you).

Andrew Richardson: Sex and Love

I recently interviewed Andrew Richardson, the man behind Richardson mag (possibly my favorite magazine in the world) for Interview magazine. Read the article below. And buy the new issue because it’s amazing and also because I have an article in it :) Photo above by Tim Barber.

In 1998 Andrew Richardson launched the now infamous Richardson magazine—a radical publication about sex, fetish, desire, and porn stars. Speaking about sex in an analytical and academic way, Richardson is more an anthropology experiment than a titillating porn rag. In the new issue, A6, the magazine takes on its most challenging theme to date: Love.

The cover of A6 sees the skin-headed porn star Belladonna smiling her signature gap-toothed smile, shot by Terry Richardson. Previous issues, which dealt with themes including feminism and the male gaze, have featured greats like Harmony Korine, Steven Klein, Mario Sorrenti, and Bruce LaBruce, offering their take on extreme sex for Richardson‘s beautifully printed pages. And though there have only been six issues in its 14-year lifespan, the magazine’s transgressive, punk ideals have turned Andrew Richardson into something of a counterculture icon.

Born in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the dashing Mr. Richardson has lived in New York for over 20 years and works primarily as a fashion stylist. (Fun fact: he worked on Madonna’s Sex book back in ’92.) The latest issue of his sex mag features an investigation into the BDSM empire, a photo essay by Dan Colen about his friendship with Dash Snow, writings on love by Dennis Cooper and drawings by the Chapman Brothers, to name a few. I talked with him about love, sex, and the makings of what he has called America’s first “asexual sex magazine.”

Why love?
Andrew Richardson: I thought it was the most difficult subject we could deal with.  We made associations to fraternal love, loss of love, or one could say atypical concepts of love. It turned out more counter-love, in a way.

Do you believe in love?
Well, I don’t really know what love is. There are many languages that use multiple words to describe love, in order to capture the nuances of the feeling. But we good Anglo-Saxons just have one blanket term for the emotional reaction to intimacy. A friend of mine once told me that his parents, who are still together and have a very good relationship, never use the word, and I think it’s probably a good idea. I think if you don’t say it and instead just behave in a loving, considerate, respectful way towards the person you’re with, that it’s much better than saying “I love you” to compensation for less than excellent behavior.

And when people say “I love you,” too often it loses its meaning and becomes cringey.
Yeah. I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt extremely euphoric—those moments when you just want to cut yourself open and become one with the other person. And when you feel that way using the word “love” can feed the high. But demonstrative love is the worst thing in the world.

In this issue, you published excerpts from Dennis Cooper’s novels and poems that pertain to love. Often, his depictions of love and obsession are similar to what you just described—wanting to cut someone open and crawl inside their body, to get at what’s “inside” a person. It’s a good analogy.
I was watching an interview with a porn star recently who had done lots of extreme scenes, and the interviewer asked her, “Now that porn has reached such an extreme level, what’s next?” And she said, “Maybe people will start cutting each other open and fucking the wounds.” Now that would be impractical, but I get it.

Do you think that’s what Bruce LaBruce was getting at with all his zombie porn?
Yeah, but Bruce is so smart that when he does something like that you think, “Oh, I’ve figured it out,” but then some much deeper, significant reason is revealed to you that makes you realize just how superficial you are.

David Foster Wallace wrote a famous essay about the porn industry after attending the 1997 AVN Awards. One of his conclusions was that all of the clichés about porn are true, and that the people involved are quite stupid. Do you think that’s accurate?
Well, that conclusion is a bit easy, isn’t it? In my experience, people in the porn business have often surprised me by being smarter, more ambitious, or more in control of their careers and lives than one would presume. And maybe going to the AVN Awards isn’t the best place to get an idea of who the people in porn are. That’s like going to the Oscars and seeing a drunk actress make a fool of herself, and then thinking all actresses are drunken fools. It’s difficult to write about porn, because it’s something that’s quite sensational and quite loaded. When our magazine interviews porn stars, our aim isn’t to be mean, or to expose them for being clichés. We just show them for who they are.

Why did you choose porn star Belladonna for the cover of this issue?
People in the office had been talking about her for ages and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I would have put her on the cover had we not taken a hiatus from publishing the magazine in 2003—she would have followed Tera Patrick—but that didn’t happen. I think it’s interesting that her success was an accident of fate. About ten years ago, Diane Sawyer interviewed Belladonna for Prime Time, they followed her around for two years, and in her final interview she broke out in tears, and did all the things that porn stars are supposed to do—she gave the sensational interview. And the show gave her so much exposure that she became a huge success.

It humanized her.
Yeah, it showed her to be vulnerable and conflicted, and maybe that was an unconscious turn on for a lot of people. And by doing that she changed the perception of what a porn star is—within the industry and outside of it—on its head. Really she was the right girl, right place, right time.

You interview porn stars in the way a culture magazine would interview an actress. What was the idea behind this?
When I came to New York in 1989, I started listening to Howard Stern. Porn wasn’t readily available; to get it, you had to go to some dodgy store and have a shame attack walking in and out. It felt a bit dangerous, like scoring drugs or something. And so I knew about porn stars mainly from listening to Howard Stern. What we do with our cover girls is an extension of, or a recontextualizing of, the Howard Stern interview. Except where Stern asks very puerile questions and can be a bit juvenile, we deal with it more analytically. We’re trying to find out who these women are, but without being flippant or crude about it.

Is it correct to say that Richardson deals with the psychology behind the people who are involved in porn and the sex industry?
That’s one aspect. People often call it a porn magazine, but outside of the cover star I don’t think the magazine really deals with the porn industry. We deal more with people like Annie Sprinkle, who come from the world of porn but have radicalized it.

Because you have been exposed to so many different avenues of sexual behavior through the magazine, has it changed the way you think about sex, or affected what you are into personally?
It’s definitely informed me about what’s potentially on the menu. When you enter this somewhat isolated world, stuff that would be shocking to civilians becomes no longer a big deal. You realize it’s all “just fucking.” But I think a lot of the change that’s happened within me is more to do with the way people’s perceptions and expectations of me are different, now that I’m publicly known for making a sex magazine.

So basically now people think of you as a sophisticated bachelor who fucks lots of porn stars.
Yeah, like a low-rent James Bond, I suppose. But I’m probably a lot more sensitive than people imagine.

You have lots of feelings.
When I’m not compartmentalizing them, yeah. But I enjoy that confusion, because I’m into provocation. At heart, the magazine is really about provocation and confrontation; sex is just what we use to provoke. Because if you pontificate about sex in a fanatical way, you’re a joke. But if you’re analytical about sex, it makes people very uncomfortable.

Are you trying to piss people off?
Well, I think when you are a provocative person, you need a negative reaction, or you need to be misunderstood, in order to then come back in quite an articulate way and explain just how wrong the other person is. Most of the work that I enjoy from people, whether it’s film, painting, photography, or writing, is fueled by anger more than it’s fueled by love, or a desire to share. Deep down I’m just a middle-class boy from suburban England, so part of me is very conservative. So in a way I’m seeing how far I can push myself, or the audience, to a point where I don’t go to jail, but I push some buttons. It’s the erotic attack. I’m trying to shock my parents, ultimately.

So what was your introduction to sex, being a suburban British child with parents in the Church of England?
It was from a Harold Robbins book, when I was about 16. I had seen porn before—I’d looked at some porn magazine under a bush at school or whatever—but that book was my first real introduction to sensational descriptions of fantastical sex. Like Helmut Newton sex.

Hot. So what do you see yourself doing next?
I would like to use other mediums to take the point of view of the magazine into areas that maybe have more mass appeal. Like I think what you do for example has a real mass appeal. I don’t think what I do does, unfortunately.

How do you think what you do is different from what I do?
Well your voice is very normalized–that whole delivery of  “like” and “OMG, no big deal.” It’s dumbed down in a quite deliberate way. You’re trying to communicate directly to people about sex, and have a direct relationship with them, speaking to them in words they won’t be overwhelmed by. It’s accessible. And what we do at the magazine is try to offer up things that demand more of the audience, and counter intuitive point of view, using a tone that’s more academic and serious.

It’s like, “Fuck you, I’m going to talk about sex in a really intelligent way and make it challenging for you.” It’s quite punk.
Is it punk?

I don’t know, probably. So …one of the main stories in this issue is about your trip to the armory in San Francisco. Can you tell me about that?
The story is about extreme sex practices, and the modern evolution of porn and fetish. I am interested in how extreme sex is commercialized in the online world, and how fetish is the only thing in porn that’s really growing right now, whereas the more conventional idea of pornography is sort of dying.

Fetish is so mainstream now.
It is. I worked as an assistant on Madonna’s Sex Book in 1992, and at the time that was pretty radical, now everybody knows about bondage and fetish. It’s in fashion; a lot of what is edgy about fashion comes from the fetish community.

So in a world where extreme sex is becoming more and more commercialized, does Richardson need to make extreme changes in order to keep being transgressive?
It’s like religion in a way: religions shouldn’t change. They should be what they are, and when they’re out of date they should stop being. Richardson is what it is, there’s a rough formula to it, and when that’s no longer relevant I’ll stop making it and start doing something else.