The Virtues of Perfectionism: A Talk with Stoya, 2016 XBIZ Awards Host

January 12, 2016 | Posted in Pornstars by tucker-bankshot


There's a reason that Stoya gets more mainstream press—and more importantly credibility—than the average adult star. She's simply not average. Differentiating herself from the pack almost immediately, Stoya has gone from "alt" girl to a distinguished and eloquent representative of the industry as a whole in less than a decade. Her cv as a freelance writer contains such prestige mainstream publications as The New York Times and The Guardian, and like all of the writing she has released for publication, she has earned such reverence thanks to a bitingly funny and educated point of view that casts new light on what it means to be an adult performer. Stoya's latest conquest involves hosting this weekend's XBIZ Awards solo, while also turning TRENCHCOATx, the site she created with friend and fellow performer Kayden Kross, into a destination for adult consumers bored with the same old thing, and she does it all with a work ethic that puts many of her peers to shame.

In the interest of full disclosure, this interview was conducted before Stoya publicly stated that ex James Deen raped her. I made the decision to hold off on running the interview until just before the awards show so as to not distract from that completely separate and important issue.  


Tucker Bankshot: We’ll get to XBIZ in a moment, but let me just start off by just asking how your experience has been working on Graphic Depictions for TRENCHCOATx and has it gotten the reaction you expected it would get when you first envisioned it?

Stoya: Well, I shot all five episodes over two and a half days before we even started coding TRENCHCOATx, or I should say having TRENCHCOATx coded, I did not build it (laughs). It was so intense (both laugh). I’m sort of a perfectionist. Now I rarely will shoot anything of an adult nature, as far photos, with anyone other than Steve Prue, because I know Steve will let me look over his shoulder and let me pick the actual pictures. He’ll let me mark which ones I like, which ones I find acceptable, which ones are terrible and nobody ever gets to see (both laugh). So I’ll say this one you need to photoshop, I need you to change this but make sure it looks like I still have skin instead of like smeared Barbie paint (both laugh). 

So, being in charge of everything it was kind of this awesome feeling of, “I get to be precious over every detail,”  but then also toward the actual shoot when you’re dealing with twenty different people, you sometimes just have to go, “Oh, we’re going to have to go without this thing being exactly how I want it,” which is interesting (both laugh). The response to it has been really awesome, and all five of the episodes we originally shot are up now, and obviously there are positive comments and there are negative comments, but the negative ones are generally along the lines of “This doesn’t look like what I think porn should look like. Why isn’t there light blasted at it from three or four different angles?” (Both laugh). So that ultimately works for me because it tells me that it did what I wanted it to do.


TB: As far as that goes, relating to what you said earlier about wanting to control every aspect of it, when you put stuff out there that you have had sort of ultimate control over, is it harder to take any kind of rejection that comes your way because it’s so much in line with what you’ve always wanted to do?

Stoya: No. Part of the reason that we have TRENCHCOATx is because it’s harder for me to compromise on the way that it is presented, where previously when I was contracted to a large production studio as a performer, if they put words on something that I wasn’t particularly happy with, I would just think, “Well, I did sign a contract and it has this clause and that clause, and you know, it’s fine.” So, if it’s something that I put a lot of time and effort into, nobody’s getting called a MILF, nobody’s getting called a girl, nobody’s calling this “alt,” (both laugh), just none of it, I don’t give a shit if it gets clicks, we’re not saying those things. So then I decided that I just needed to have a site with Kayden where I’d be able to micromanage every step of the process (both laugh).

But with the criticism, I was one of the first big performers in the professional industry to really get in there with social media. I didn’t have a marketing person or some guy that’s freelancing for the company I worked with (both laugh), that was all me. And Twitter, and so on and so forth, and now it’s just the norm for everybody to have fifteen different social media accounts directly sent to their phone and Snapchat from set, and Instagram that, and Tweet this other thing, and Tumblr about it, and all that other stuff. But for eight plus years, I’ve been hearing everything that people say to a porn star when they don’t have to look them in the face.


TB: Yeah.

Stoya: So, criticism like someone telling me that I’m a whore that should have her head cut off, or telling me I’m responsible for rape culture. So unless you’re saying absolute garbage and being dehumanizing, I’m just like, “Oh, okay, you didn’t like it, that’s fine.” There’s one guy who bought three episodes of Graphic Depictions, and every time he complained there was no light, and so finally I said, “Look dude, I really think you want Wide Open or Around the World, this is not the series for you, stop buying it!” (Both laugh).


TB: Now, your mileage may vary with this question, but how much criticism or online commenting is constructive versus just pure vitriol?

Stoya: Personally, there’s not much that I feel is constructive criticism. I feel that I do get a lot of compliments, everything from “You’re so pretty,” to kids now calling me “mom”—which is different from MILF (both laugh)—to gushing online, so it’s not that it’s been this wall of negative. It’s rare for me to find anyone who disagrees respectfully in a nuanced way other than, “You’re wrong,” and present it in a way that’s constructive. So if I do find that, I’m like, “Oh, that’s awesome, let’s be friends, and we’ll have discussions about things” (both laugh).


TB: That pretty much lines up with what I’ve seen and what others have said. I don’t think people offering constructive criticism exist anymore, but maybe somebody is.

Stoya; I really think it does happen, it’s just rare and it’s hard to do when you’re only working with 140 characters. It’s especially hard to do when you’re working with translations of things; I don’t speak any other languages, I don’t speak more than ten words of any of the languages of the places I’ve ever been, but I don’t speak enough to really communicate in any other language, so I use translation apps and they get super dodgy super fast, you know (both laugh). I also think it’s the way that we communicate on a global level now doesn’t leave much room for nuance. 



TB: Yeah, unfortunately. I had another question before we move on to XBIZ, but you’re writing a new sex column over at The Verge? How has that been working out thus far?

Stoya: I love my editor there so much. I’ve been freelancing since the end of 2012, and I’ve written for The Guardian and The New York Times, and some more indie New York publications like New Inquiry and Adult Magazine, and I have written for Vice and The Verge, and the thing that I’ve learned is that an editor is really the most important thing. It’s nice to be able to call my Mom and be like, “Hey, you probably want to go get the New York Times today,” (both laugh). So, when it comes down to whether the job is fun or not, it’s all about the editor, and my editor’s awesome. Her name is Liz Lopatto and if you ever get a chance to work with her, you totally should. 


TB: How long was it between the time they asked you and when you agreed to host the 2016 XBIZ Awards? Did you spend some time thinking it over or were you immediately on board?

Stoya: It was about two months, and it was more like they asked me to host it, and I asked if the other person could be Kayden so I don’t get stuck with god knows what comedian or whatever (both laugh). And they said they’d get back to me, and they did and said, “How about if it’s just you?” And I said, “Okay, but you have to pay me, because I know what you paid the last guy” (both laugh), because in this industry, I’m not going to get paid less than what a man gets.


TB: Absolutely not.

Stoya: If it’s writing, the scale of what I get varies, but when it comes to adult (both laugh). They said, “Okay, we’ll think about that. Now how about dresses?” And I just said, “Well, if you’re going to tell me what to wear, you have to pay me more” (both laugh). So we finally came to an agreement.


TB: These are fantastic negotiation points, by the way, I think that these are the pertinent things that should be discussed for this type of thing.

Stoya: I think so. I feel like it’s important to be open about these things.


TB: Do you have a philosophy about hosting an awards show? Anything you’ve seen past hosts do that you either think was great or maybe want to avoid?

Stoya: No. I must say that the only other awards show that I’ve hosted was the last Fleshbot Awards that happened, and with this one, I signed a contract and in the contract it says something about how I cannot go off script, so otherwise my pay is forfeit, so I think that I’ll be given the opportunity to have input on the script, but I’m definitely not going to host and not get paid. So once we’re ready to go, whatever is on that screen I’ll be reading (both laugh).


TB: It doesn’t seem like, with hosting an award show, your main goal is to keep things moving so it seems like it would be difficult for anyone to put their stamp on it, so to speak.

Stoya: I think that it’s the comedians that have gotten to do that, outside of the adult world. They say things that might fly with their usual audience, they’ll say things like, “There’s no Asian men in porn,” and the crowd is going to stop the show and make Keni Syles get up and then he can be awkward in front of everyone (both laugh). So I think the idea is just to have a pretty dress and keep it moving and ideally not let it take four hours, because nobody seems to like that (both laugh), and that’s it. 


TB: Well, I would say that if you hit all those points, you’ve succeeded.

Stoya: That seems to be the bare minimum, so we’ll aim for that and hopefully it’ll be okay (both laugh). 


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