Filtering by Tag: PROJECTS

What's Your Book Cover Memoir?

This morning, I bought three small paperback books: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Immoralist by Andre Gide, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. Together, the trio tell the story of my Book Cover Memoir. If you're on Twitter or Instagram, take a photo of your Book Cover Memoir and hashtag it #bookcovermemoir.

100 Porn Movies/100 Days: An Introduction

The other day, I was talking to a friend who recalled seeing "Deep Throat" in the Seventies. I had to admit that despite having written about porn for 20 years this year (!), I'd never seen that seminal 1972 film. (Because, you know, that's what adult movies were, in those days: not cheap, fuzzy video, but actual, vivid film.)

It occurred to me that I should watch it. Then it occurred to me that there are probably 99 other porn movies, some of which I've seen and some of which I haven't seen, that could stand up to close consideration. Then I wondered what would happen if I watched those 100 porn movies, and because I like undertaking projects that are constrained by time, I thought it would be interesting if I watched those 100 movies in 100 days.

Hence, "100 Porn Movies/100 Days" was born. Would watching 100 porn movies in 100 days simply be a waste of my time? Would watching porn daily reduce this viewer to her "bottom-most" self, as the New York Times' Worst Hire Ever would have you believe? Or would scrutinizing some of the most important, noteworthy, and, well, curious porn movies ever made shed some kind of light on, dare I suggest, the human condition? Having spent a significant portion of my life looking at pornography, writing about our culture's ever-changing relationship to it, and lingering on the periphery of the industry that produces it, I'd like to believe that this oeuvre-of-100 would reveal something significant about the collective state of us.

As for what that is, that remains to be seen.

So far, I've got the start of a list of movies to watch. It includes legendary films like "Deep Throat" (so timely in today's political climate!) and "The Devil in Miss Jones"; movies that captured an era, like "New Wave Hookers" and "Debbie Does Dallas"; and movies unlike anything that came before them, like "The Operation" and "American Bukkake." 

What would you add to the list? If you've got suggestions of movies that you think should make my must-watch list, you can email me at susannahbreslin at gmail dot com

[Eventually], I'll kick off with "Deep Throat." Did you know the cast of performers includes not only "American Beauty" star Thora Birch's mother, but her father, too? Do 1972 sex scenes differ from 21st century sex scenes? Did the film that kicked off "porno chic" change the game with its preoccupation with female desire or are viewers bearing witness to a visibly bruised actress being sexually exploited by her handlers? How much did "Deep Throat" make at the box office, anyway? Was it $50M ... or $600M? What about those money-laundering-by-the-mob rumors? And let's not forget that groovy soundtrack. 

Also, a special thanks to Dave Winer, who is taking no prisoners on his blog, as of late. Dave is the blogfather, and he always reminds me of why we blog. As he wrote today: "First, you do this because you love it, not because it pays well." Thanks for the kick in the pants, Dave.

Do You Want to Be a Male Porn Star?

Image via  TIME

Image via TIME

If you follow this blog, you may recall that I wrote a Forbes blog post back in 2012 that has since proven to be my most-read post there. It's about being a male porn star, and it's since gotten nearly two million views. Around the same time, I started getting emails from men who want to be porn stars. Since, I've received nearly seven hundred emails. At a certain point, I started posting them to a page on this website. Most recently, I updated it with some newer ones.

"I read your article from a few years ago about male porn stars. You probably saved me a lot of time there. I checked out your page, something I generally don't do. Your article spoke to me in the most straightforward of terms so I wanted to thank you for taking such a world view of the matter. I'm considering more realistic work now, not that that's not what I've been doing... but thanks anyway. Your article was very helpful. I'll be keeping my eye out for more of your work I found it to be very piquing of my curiosities. You got a new fan."

Support the arts! Buy a digital copy of THE TUMOR, a "masterpiece of short fiction" by me, Susannah Breslin.


THE PROJECTS is a series focused on reinventing the journalist as an autonomous creator, exploring new avenues for digital self-publishing in a transforming media climate, and inspiring a new generation of creators to redefine how they do business in the digital age. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here. The projects section of this site can be found here.

I started The Letters Project on a whim. It was January 3, 2008. At the time, I had no idea the project would last five years, or that it would garner attention from media outlets around the world.  

On that day, I posted a call to my blog, asking readers to send me emails about why they pay for sex. Within a few hours, I had received my first email: "The Night I Drove A Call Girl To Her Next Stop." It began, "I am writing because I can’t tell this story to anyone I know and maintain my dignity."

That afternoon, I created a blog and named it Letters from Johns. "Why do you pay for sex?" the sidebar queried. I posted my email address, asking for more letters. The authors would remain anonymous.

Over the following year, I heard from over 50 johns. Their letters came at all hours of the day and night. They were from young guys and old guys, white guys and black guys, military grunts and corporate drones. The letters were poignant, exhilarated, nostalgic, terrifying, revelatory. They were all confessions.

"I keep a coded diary, in case it's discovered. 1 dot is oral, 2 dots is vaginal sex, and 2 connected dots is anal sex. In the event that someone questions the dots, they are associated with good/bad days: no dots are normal days, 1 dot is a good day, 2 dots is a great day, and 2 connected dots is the best day for that week."*

Of course, the letters weren't about sex, or prostitution, or johns. They were about love and loneliness, from guys who just wanted to be touched and men who had gotten dumped, stories in which call girls really had hearts of gold and mercenaries cruised foreign streets in search of bodhisattvas-for-hire.

On January 14, 2008, I launched Letters from Working Girls. I heard from fewer sex workers than I did johns. They were too busy living the life, I assumed. Those I did hear from had a wide range of experiences. Some were in their twenties and used the internet to turn cyber tricks. Some had long since retired and recollected fondly the good old days in which they had sex for money. 

"One guy, in particular, we all loved. We called him 'park bench.' He did not get undressed, he laid face down on the table, and the girl sat on him, naked, reading a magazine, not talking to him. After about 20 minutes he'd say thank-you, and that was it."* 

On March 10, 2008, the New York Times revealed that then-New York governor Eliot Spitzer had been paying escorts for sex. A few days later, Newsweek discovered The Letters Project and asked me to write an essay about why men who have a great deal to lose would risk paying for sex.

"For some men, especially those who are seen as particularly moral or righteous in their public lives (think of all those fallen preachers), part of the appeal is the fact that it is illegal and a moral transgression in their eyes."*

On April 26, 2010, I began Letters from Men Who Watch Pornography. I didn't hear from many men who wanted to examine why they watch porn. Introspection is the enemy of pornography: a literal boner-killer.  

"Am I addicted? Yes, probably. But I would rather say that I'm addicted to the world and to beauty. And while not all porn is beautiful (believe me, I know), sometimes a glimmer shines thru it and that is what I'm looking for."* 

On October 26, 2011, Letters from Men Who Go to Strip Clubs went live. This iteration begat a great deal of media attention. Salon deemed it "bizarrely poetic," CBC Radio concluded, "men go to strip clubs for much more than just naked women," and the Telegraph found it "startling."

Compared to the letters from johns, the letters from men who go to strip clubs were lighter, more playful, less torn. In some cases, strip clubs functioned as a kind of school for socially-awkward males who couldn't navigate the real world of courting women. In the clubs, they were assured a positive response from the dancers -- as long as they were tipping. The nudity was secondary to the connection. 

"The reason I go to places like this is for those moments when they stay and talk.  That's all I wanted.  They don't have to be naked.  They could be wearing a suit of armor for all I care; I just want to talk to someone who cares, and $1 every 3 minutes is a lot less than $250 an hour for a therapist."*

On September 24, 2012, I reached out for Letters from Cheaters. Adulterers didn't want to talk, apparently. Or perhaps the term "cheaters" was too pejorative. Maybe part of the thrill was keeping the secret a secret.

"Sometimes I worry that everything is really just work and performance."*

Every letters project lasted one year. Then I closed it to submissions. Over those five years, rarely did I respond to the letters. I surmised the letters were not for me; they were for their authors.

I did reach out to one john. He was John 21: "I Am Ashamed of Nothing I Have Done." He was ex-military, and he had traveled, and been a john, around the world. He had closed his letter with this assertion:

"One can try to hang a sign on us, the collective john, as perpetuating the global conspiracy of sex/slave traffic, and I'll grant that my Thailand trip may have/probably did contribute to some sort of thuggery. But in the end, I am ashamed of nothing I have done."

I asked him why he had written his letter and if it had made any difference that I was a woman. He responded:

"I read a piece on Slate or maybe MSNBC about the Spitzers of this world that referenced your blog. I found the concept of your blog akin to one of those Avedon-type coffee table books--voyeuristic and interesting enough to keep it in plain view for guests to peruse while the host/ess is at the bar scaring up some more mojitos or martinis or whatever. So I navigated to the blog, read a couple of the letters and decided I had a story to tell.
We create stories to share, and before I navigated to your blog, I had nothing to share. When Studs Terkel shows up at the door, the Average Joe asks, 'Studs who?' Yet he's created an indispensable repository of American history by asking simple questions. You were my Studs, showing up unannounced at my door, like a census-taker, with three simple questions. Although I loathe writing this, I will: 'This is why I sent the letter.
The writing experience was cathartic for so many reasons. The facts of the matter matter to me in such a profound manner. I love(d) the mother of my beautiful daughter, but I had such intense revulsion that she shared our crazy love/sex with someone else that I had nothing other than the 'nuclear' option available to me. While writing the letter to you, I experienced a range of emotions I haven't felt in almost a decade: achingly deep love, disloyalty, loss, freedom, puppy love, freedom... in a sort of linear fashion. I even had a Jenny and Forrest reunion synapse trigger while writing my letter. Although you may have picked up my closet romantic self in the letter, Jenny and Forrest will not be reuniting in an antebellum estate anytime soon.  And, yes, I did find writing about my Czech beauty very titillating. I was able to transport myself to another time, carefree and full of wanderlust. I saw the room, I saw her body, and I felt, f-e-l-t, the excitement I experienced. It was wonderful, and as I sit here writing this reply, I feel nothing of the sort. (Too bad.) This is near-clinical, but not quite.
By that, I mean I never considered that I was writing my letter to a woman. You're Ms. Breslin, with a blog about john experiences. Like my several john experiences, I was reaching out to no one in particular; I was, in hindsight, trying to find some elusive unidentifiable emotion. Although I gave you 'a perpetual, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, and otherwise exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to that information at its sole discretion, including incorporating it in other works in any media now known or later developed including without limitation published books,' you cannot take from me the liberating experience you elucidated from three simple questions. Thank you. And again, thank you, if only for a few brief moments of experiencing ... .... ..."