[“THE REAL INTERVIEW“] STOYA; RISING IN BETWEEN CAPITALISM, SEX AND POLITICS
То read the Macedonian version, click here.
This year for the first time the Beach Film Festival took place, and it offered a brand new perspective and fresh concept, merging the newest European films and the hottest summer destination in Macedonia, Ohrid.
At the “Beach Film Festival”, it’s Macedonian premiere had the Serbian science fiction film EDERLEZI RISING, starring STOYA, the super-girl of the 21st century.
As she says, EDERLEZI RISING it’s like Adam and Eve in space, and it tells the story of the Yugoslav astronaut MILUTIN (SEBASTIAN CAVAZZA), who is accompanied by the female android NIMANI (STOYA), which is programmed to satisfy all his needs. The turning point occurs when Milutin decides not to use the capabilities of the operating system and rapes Nimani.
STOYA successfully plays the role of Nimani, which is her debut role in a feature, narrative film. She is a recognized porn actress, journalist, and writer.
EDERLEZI RISING is an aesthetic and visual masterpiece that, with its open end, allows viewers to endlessly debate the male-female communication, misunderstandings, and needs.
I had the opportunity to talk to STOYA about EDERLEZI RISING, her book PHILOSOPHY, PUSSYCATS & PORN, and male-female relationships.
ПИРЕЈ: Why did you choose EDERLEZI RISING?
STOYA: Well, they asked me through a friend of a friend and unlike the most of the acting offers I have received, this was a real role with some depth to it and it didn’t feel exploitative. I mean of course, even before we started filming the tabloids in Serbia got a hold of it like “AAA! PORNSTAR! MINISTRY OF CULTURE THINKING OF FUNDING A PORNSTAR„ and we had to wait but the creators themselves weren’t tacky, which is rare in film.
ПИРЕЈ: Do you like science fiction as a genre?
STOYA: I believe science fiction is a way of talking about social issues in a context that people can actually hear. Sooo, when you say in the real world “hey, women have a really hard time because men behave in a certain way„, men shut down like „ugh, feminist, what’s wrong with this world…“. But when you put it in a spaceship outer space, all of a sudden they can like, maybe interact with the concept.
ПИРЕЈ: Are there similarities between Stoya and Nimani?
STOYA: Well, we look the same. 🙂
ПИРЕЈ: Do you think that is possible for the sexes to find mutual dialogue…Eventually?
STOYA: I come from the US where we have a very extensive theory about genders and the gender binary as in male/female and also we have space for people who are not male and not female. Personally, I am completely over gender. I think it causes more problems than it solves. Yes, generally we have two types of bodies, but there are people born with a combination of parts and this female/male divide is frequently used as an excuse to tell a person who they must be. I don’t think that helps, I think that the part of the problem. But not many people think like I do, so you have to interact with it.
ПИРЕЈ: How do you interact with this particular problem?
STOYA: As a part of my job I have to answer all sorts of questions, „porn for women“, like that so insulting! It’s like saying that all women like the same thing which is not true at all, and it’s like saying every man likes the same thing. But as soon as you scratch the surface of that, what you are implying when you say „porn for women“ is that men like this very aggressive stuff and women want flowers, petals and like looking deeper at each other’s eyes barely moving. And what actually I want is to see humans having the ability to express themselves fully and sexually instead of being stuck in these narrow boxes. So that’s a sample of me interacting with the gender binary.
ПИРЕЈ: According to you what glass ceilings should the women of this century break? Or men, maybe it’s their turn?
STOYA: It would be nice if men can start really examining what masculinity really means and what effect has that on the world around them. I see a lot of work from men talking about manhood but really just glorifying it. Or there is not self-criticism and very little self-awareness to it. And frankly, women right now, or at least in the US are very much like Nimani; shes expected to be the sex toy, the psychiatrist, the supervisor, the doctor, like everything. And all Milutin has to do is run the spaceship and not to fuck it up too bad which he doesn’t really manage. And the condition of women today is very similar in the US; we’re expected to have our own careers, to take care of our partners, whether they are male or female, as we do have quite a few openly lesbian women in the US or openly queer, so it’s not necessarily „taking care of your man“, but all the emotional support and, and, and, and cook, and be sort of a nurse and making sure your children’s education is going well and until men are expected to do all those things, its very unbalanced and in my opinion it’s even less fair than it was in the fifties, like now we have the opportunity to be the woman and the man and it fucking sucks. I have my own career, so I have to be in front of the cameras, doing aesthetic things (we call them beauty labor) to comb my eyelashes, to make sure my nail polish isn’t chipped, decide what I am going to wear ect., and meanwhile at home in New York I have to be the man of the house, I am the one who makes sure that the rent is taken care of, I am the one who is responsible for the security of the home and on top of that I am the one who has to scrub the fucking toilet, it’s unacceptable.
ПИРЕЈ: After starring in EDERLEZI RISING, are you planning to do other featured movies?
STOYA: It turns out that I like acting, so I did another narrative film, and unlike EDERLEZI RISING it was not well organized, it was not precise and I maybe will never mention the name of the movie in public, that’s how unhappy I am with the experience. I also did two theatrical plays in New York; one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan written by a comic book artist names DEAN HASPIEL. So, acting sure always have a soft spot for surrealism but its often done poorly. Acting requires a lot of work and energy and I am not interested in putting myself through all that for some like egotistical dude who actually just has very basic ideas who already have been done to death and thinks I should do it just for the art of it, you know? Acting costs money so we’ll see what project comes along next.
ПИРЕЈ: Can you tell me more about the plays? What are they about?
STOYA: Yeah, both of Deans plays are about mortality. One was basically overt although I avoided touching fake blood because me touching fake blood also costs money and theatre acting doesn’t pay very well at all. But, the other one was more esoteric, more cerebral, the first one was very violent and overt, there is a serial killer, there is a boxer who died and came back to life with this impulsion to touch dying people because it’s now his job is to help shepherd them into the afterlife. And in the second one there is a comic book artist dying of cancer and the most aggressive sign of that is just this cough and the play is much more him having to confront the unfinished business he left behind him. In both plays, my role is just a female secondary character there to help move the plot along for the main guy to interact with. In the second play, my role is to be there for the secondary male character to interact and move the plot along.
ПИРЕЈ: You starred at EDERLEZI RISING, you made an appearance in music videos and in the same time a lot of musicians are collaborating with porn productions and platforms, so in this context I want to ask you where the porn industry is going in the future: Is this kind of merging; porn industry with a general art, will make even more open art scene?
STOYA: Porn and the rest of the world have always been tied up with each other. Every single new technology until blue ray was immediately used to depict sexual overt images whether it was the first daguerreotypes, depicting new women, whether it was the first movie clips. In the first days of movie clips, there were; there was one with a woman in a costume on a trapeze swinging back and forth and there was one where people were fucking. This is not new at all, you can go back to the 50s and see BETTY PAGE which now has been used to slap on magnets and t-shirts and notebooks at HOT TOPIC which is medium sized capitalistic enterprise at the US. You go to the seventies where pornographers were struggling actors. SYLVESTER STALONE made a porno earlier on his career. So this is not a new phenomenon and there is a very real very dangerous thing that happens when you’ll erase the history of one community. And pornography history has been erased over and over and over by the media. Every decade or two, the mainstream media takes interest and goes „OH MY GOD porn doing something that isn’t garbage.“ We’ve always done things that are interesting and exist in this weird zone especially as capitalism is growing stronger and stronger that is an intersection of sexuality, publicity, and commerce. You really need to knock it off, especially in countries like Macedonia, where I feel you can understand my pain of having a little connection to your roots. I was trying so hard not to go political today, especially because Macedonia is a dodgy territory.
(Be free to go political, the online magazine where I am going to publish this is political)
Ohh so great, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, North Macedonia or whatever an individual person is comfortable calling this country…. You have these monuments going up, its an attempt to build a history. It’s the same thing in porn. We are desperate to be seen as we are and what we are is complicated, and messy and mixed up. And every time the media comes in and the thing this year is: like omg women in porn; we had women behind the camera since the 1980s, you go back to 1985, CANDIDA ROYALE founded her production company FEMME PRODUCTIONS, and then her distribution company, FEMME DISTRIBUTION, because it was hard for her to find distribution because the product wasn’t easy digestible and marketable. And anytime somebody behaves like this is new, it blocks the history that is there which gives us less of an ability to feel strong and proud of what we are. And it makes harder for us to find the examples that came before us so we have to make the same mistakes they did. And that is deeply problematic.
ПИРЕЈ: Should the art of today be expressed through anger or should be preaching some higher principles through positivity?
STOYA: You guys know Milosevic? There was a movement that was against him called OTPOR, one of the women and we don’t hear much about her in the West, one of the women who was very prominent in that movement is SRBIJANKA TURAJLIC. I saw DRUGA STRANA SVEGA (THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING) which was Srbijanka’s daughter’s documentary about her. And the thing that Srbijanka did and still does is making speeches. Making a speech can be very risky. Towards the end of the documentary, Srbijanka is saying: „I already did my revolution, am not happy with the results, but I am old, now its someone else’s turn.“ And the daughter says; “But mom, am I supposed to make a speech?„ And Srbijanka goes: „Look; it’s not my job either to tell you what to do. You’ll look inside yourself and if you have a speech in there, go make a speech!“ And I interpreted from that is if you have some piece of artwork in there you do that, and if you have an urge to feed the street cats go do that; like whatever it is that you as an individual have in you as a way to process the difficult parts of life or compensate for them and help people around you who need something you can provide for them, whatever it is you have, do that, but you have to figure it out yourself, no one can tell you what you have in you.
ПИРЕЈ: Three years ago you publicly announced your nonconsensual sexual experience and other women followed. Nowadays, women talk about their no consent experiences more and more because of #MeToo. Is there some progress in the years in between on how are the women treated and supported after coming out or #MeToo is also problematic?
STOYA: So, when men feel like they are being attacked, and it is so easy for them to feel like they are being attacked, they puff up and they go „I don’t do anything wrong“ and they refuse to have a conversation, they refuse to engage with any harm they’ve done, whatever. I have certain theories, one is perhaps the US practice of mutilating men genitals at birth is not very helpful , but I respect certain cultures doing it for religious reasons, that’s their thing; I am not here to tell anyone that their cultural practice is wrong, but I do think just like standard of mutilation dicks in the hospital maybe is not the best thing; it decreases sensations and I think it contributes to why so much of the American porn has this vigorous pounding and the feminists wanna say: „oh its because porn shows and that’s how man learn“. Оk, but why are we doing it in the first place? It’s not like God came out of the sky and said „PORN! Тhis is how you are gonna do it!, So that, and a lack of sensitivity which is also partially culturally induced; the way that we raise man contributes on them having a hard time using empathy.
So I am gonna go back for a second.
There are literary, men, who respond to another person’s pain as though they are being personally attacked. Why is that? Because they are so unused to feeling empathy, that to look at another person’s pain threatens to overwhelm them emotionally and they have to shut down and push it away.
To circle back to the problem of the gender binary.
As long as its like men are like this and women are like this we are going to have a cultural war.
And it’s very hard to de-escalate a war.
Not because of all that mess, and whatever parts of it that I am missing, or whatever parts where my thinking is unclear and incorrect, but because of that combat; we are on one side you are on the other, something has to be done, we have a situation where we cannot talk about the finer points. We cannot have a conversation that says: „Hey, you are not a bad man that needs to be thrown away or set on fire, but you keep doing things that are harmful to the women around you in small ways. Let’s work on that.“ And what I saw with #MeToo is finally women having a platform to discuss. But, how many men learned something? How many women got some closure or some resolution that makes them feel ok? And dragging that stuff out in public there is a retraumatization that happens and is not basic psychiatric science, but it’s a pretty understandable thrill that at this point the trauma they’ve been working on it 30-40 years pretty intensively is… I just don’t know if #MeToo really did any good.
ПИРЕЈ: Can you tell me something more about PHILOSOPHY, PUSSYCATS & PORN?
STOYA: PHILOSOPHY, PUSSYCATS & PORN is my book, its collection of essays, everything from blog post through to the two pieces that I wrote for the NEW YORK TIMES open section. And it’s a lot of personal experiences or linking of issues in the pornography to the issues of the world. For instance, we have a law in Los Angeles County where a lot of porn historically has been shot, and now that is changing partially because of this law. And also because thanks to the Internet everything doesn’t have to be central and thanks to the lower barriers of entry technology it’s so much easier to operate outside the existing film infrastructure. You don’t really need a super educated director of photography, it’s very easy for someone to pick up an expensive camera and used it to tell a story. Porn is still a story. It’s a very short story about two to six hundred people having sexual interactions, but it’s a story. So this law said that everybody has to use a condom. And us performers, a lot of us, were like this is gonna make our jobs harder. Because it does. And I happened to cross to a story of a ballet dancer in Paris in the 1800s, and we had a similar situation; the government said „we had this new chemical that you can spray on the costume and it makes less likely to be set on fire“ because at that time they used an open fire to light the stage and ELIVERY (the ballet dancer) was basically: „LOOK MAN I’VE BEEN TORTURING MY BODY FOR YEARS TO BE ABLE TO LOOK LIKE A FAIRY. YOUR CHEMICAL THAT YOU WANT ME TO PUT ON THE COSTUME MAKES HARDER FOR ME TO LOOK LIKE THAT LET ME TAKE MY OWN RISK.“ She didn’t use the chemical and her dress went in flames. She had terrible burns all over her body, she spent months in bed slowly dying and a journalist came to her towards the end and asked: “if you are ever able to come out of bed and dance again will you use the chemical?„ She said, “no, absolutely not.“. And there is a certain amount of respect for a person ability to decide what risks they take. And that is not just a porn problem, it a young women problem, it’s an artist problem. Both young women and artists, like creative talent, get treated like children in certain ways and in some ways that work for us and in some ways that hurt us. And in this particular law, there is an essay that talks about all that, and something that it’s not in the book it this law later how the process goes. First, it’s in the Middle court and they make a decision and if you don’t like that you can take it to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court only sees so many cases a year. So you probably not gonna get a heard in the Supreme Court. So, in the Middle court, they reduce the definition of sex to a penis in vagina or anus, which for the US is very offensive and it’s also just absurd and then they say freedom of speech which is just a big thing in America, freedom of speech. We grow up on that. Freedom of speech versus the negative impact on the public health of least than a thousand actively performers. There aren’t many of us, we make a lot of product collectively every year, but there aren’t many of us. And they decided fuck freedom of speech, these people are public health hazard which would almost be possibly functional in a certain way if it weren’t for the fact that requiring people to use a condom for penis in oral sex, penis, and vagina, does absolutely nothing about the fact that gonorrhea is becoming antibiotic resistant and can be transmitted oral to genital. Or vice versa. Its more common for to go genital to oral but there are a few rare cases, and for me personally, all I want is US Government to really look at the situation and come up with coherent solution and condoms are great, they can be very functional, but they are not a whole solution, there have to be other solutions as well. So, PHILOSOPHY, PUSSYCATS & PORN it’s a lot of things like that and because it’s me there are digressions like I met this cat and lets talk about this cat for a minute but it also catches this high level intellectual and philosophical stuff in porn is really sad and heavy and you have to have something to break that up. I have to have something to break that up in my life otherwise I will turn into this really grumpy person.
ПИРЕЈ: Do you have some project that you wanted to do, as in dream project?
STOYA: I only deal with politics, I mean I deal with politics a lot, but I only do that because its in the way of me doing basically anything and if we lived in a world where it wasn’t required to constantly deal with politics I would just want to make visual interesting porn, it doesn’t necessarily mean high production value or necessarily this kind of body but just visually interesting depictions of people having sex in lots of different ways. I don’t get to do that. So I founded my own company, my own company is called zerospaces.com and because of that I have a direct platform to release my work and I’ve been directing in years right now. There are a lot of things I want to do that I can’t do because of budgets or access to infrastructure… I would like to have graphic depictions too, with actual styling by someone who actually knows what they are doing and guess what, in porn, nobody who knows what they were doing will work for you as a stylist because they don’t want to damage their reputation, or because you don’t have the budget. I would love to be shot by some of the fashion photographers and artists that I worked with in a nonpornographic context, again they can’t because they advertise their clients and they can decide not to work with them anymore. I have another series I really enjoy called AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 WAYS; it borders on gonzo journalism in a HUNTER THOMPSON sort of way, like there is a place in the Adriatic Coast, now owned by Croatia, called KRK. (!HOLY SHIT I DID THE R RIGHT! VERY PROUD MOMENT FOR ME!) And this man BOB GUCCIONE bought PENTHOUSE and in the 70ties shot a film called CALIGULA with HELEN MIRREN and MALCOLM MCDOWELL. They didn’t know he gonna put sex afterward but he did, it was a very strange project and Bob was a very interesting man, he is dead now, so he wasn’t available for an interview. He built his PENTHOUSE PALACE and CASINO in this incredible brutalist architecture, it’s enormous, and then because of the politics, wars, and taxes, he pulled out of it, it wasn’t profitable as he thought it will be. And after the war nobody knows who owns it now, it’s very murky, and it becomes a destination for urban explorers like sneaking it take a picture and put it on the Internet. And than I thought as a pornographer this place can never be properly preserved until somebody is fucked on camera and nobody did that so I did that and afterward I was like if that makes enough noise Croatia can decide not to take me back, because I technically I did trespassing and all sorts of things, but I just was in Zagreb for a film festival and at least the journalists were quite entertained, so I guess they gonna let me back in the country so it’s okay. And I would love to be able to do that with a producer and have someone to get the appropriate permission, it is always better to have the appropriate permission, it’s much more polite.
But really my hopes and dreams are to collect enough budget to do things at a higher level and like step by step, just seeing what can be done in that middle space where the history is erased.