Barely Legal, Virgin Porn, And "How To Lose Your Virginity"

[youtube nR6nlEvI5YI 550 351]Therese Shechter has spent the past few years eating, sleeping, and breathing virginity as she's put together her fantastic documentary on the subject, "How to Lose Your Virginity." One thing she couldn't leave out of the film? Virginity porn. In an effort to understand more about the genre, Therese teamed up with Fleshbot and made her way to the set of Barely Legal, where she met the legendary Erica McLean, got a peek at the the series' famous white panties, and learned a whole bunch about why, exactly, virgin porn is as popular as it is.

"How to Lose Your Virginity" has its US premiere this Sunday in NYC. As we get ready to go see it, we took a moment to talk with Therese about virginity porn--and what it was like to be on the set of Barely Legal.

Fleshbot: What made you interested in virgin porn and especially Barely Legal? Therese Shechter: My film "How to Lose Your Virginity" takes you on a journey through the meaning and value of virginity in US culture. One of the central questions is: In world where sex sells, why is virginity so valuable? So as part of that journey, I wanted to learn more about the "first-timer" porn genre, and how it depicted and sold the idea of virginity as a fetish. Barely Legal was especially interesting to me because of its huge popularity, and also because it was produced and directed by a woman, Erica McLean. Our Barely Legal scenes come near the end of the film and I think they turned out pretty great.

You ended up spending the day on the set of Barely Legal. Was it hard to get access? I knew absolutely nothing about the genre, or really the porn industry in general. One of the first things I did in my research was go to Fleshbot to see if there was someone there I could connect with. I found Gram Ponante's name and basically cold-contacted him, told him about the project, and what I wanted to shoot. He was incredibly helpful and gave me a very quick Virgin Porn 101 education by email. He also introduced me to Erica, and she was enthusiastic about us coming on set, so the only thing to do was hop on my Virgin America flight (really) and head to LA.

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I spent the first day with Gram at his office, and we shot a long interview with our cinematographer Jenna Rosher. Then Gram gave us a tour of his first-timer porn collection, with hilarious commentary Gram described virginity porn as a kind of "Kabuki Theater" with its own symbolic costumes and props like knee socks and white panties and pig tails, which obviously has absolutely nothing to do with actually having sex for the first time.

What was your time on set like and what did you learn? I really didn't know what to expect, this being my first time on a porn set (insert virgin joke here). On the drive there I was making jokes about whether we'd need to see all the previous Barely Legals to understand what was going on it this one. Erica gave us a really nice welcome: She put up a big sign at the turnoff saying "Welcome Trixie Films," so we knew where to turn. Plus she had her ten rescue dogs out to greet us so that was totally fun. I've been on a lot of film sets, and this one was really well run. There was lots of food, everyone was in a good mood and having fun.

Erica had an interesting take on what she was presenting, describing it as a girl's 'first good time' which seemed a lot more sex-positive than the obsession with blood and hymens I'd seen on other sites. Ew.

We got a rundown of the various white panty styles while actress Elli Foxx was being dressed in her "innocent schoolgirl" outfit by Melissa who did wardrobe and makeup. Then Melissa let us in on a trade secret: using Cetaphil lotion to augment the look of facials. This was the single most interesting thing I learned that day.

That said, for newbies like us, spending the entire day watching people having sex on the hood of a car, and on a bench, and in a shed, was incredibly weird and somewhat disturbing. But it ended up being for me the most memorable shooting day of this whole project.

What has the audience reaction been to that segment? I screened a rough cut of the film in LA last year, and Gram Ponante and Jessica Drake were both there and loved the film, and that made me really happy. I'm looking forward to showing it to Erica.

With non-industry people, the first question is usually: Are the women in these videos really virgins? I tell them, no, they are professional adult video actors. Duh. This seems to burst a few bubbles. I have heard of one or two women who claim to have shot "losing virginity"videos, but no one I've asked seems sure it was for real. Plus if you've been making porn for years using other holes, what kind of virginity are we talking about here?

Often, people want to have this whole porn is good/porn is bad debate, but that's not where my interest lies. I'm exploring the fantasy of a young, "fresh and clean" girl being transformed into a woman by some guy's penis, which at its heart is not that different from the narratives in fairy tales, virginity auctions or even Purity Balls. In our culture, virginity is a thing with value, which is the problem. If you tell a young woman her most precious gift is that virginity, when it's given away, what is she left with? That seems like a bad way to talk about sex, and a bad way to talk about women.

· Learn more about "How to Lose Your Virginity" (virginitymovie.com)

"How to Lose Your Virginity" has its US premiere this Sunday, November 17, at 9:30pm at the SVA theater. More info and tickets here.

Tagged in: interview, therese shechter, virgins, barely legal, sex culture

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