Angela White was still in high school when she began her career in pornography, just days after her 18th birthday. Today she is arguably Australia’s most recognised adult performer, having worked alongside industry icons like Phoenix Marie and Alexis Texas. But her achievements are not limited to those captured on camera. During her time in the industry, Angela has graduated from the University of Melbourne with First Class Honours in Gender Studies, campaigned as a candidate for the Australian Sex Party and developed her own innovative production company, AGW Entertainment - kicking the tired assumption that sex industry workers are a bunch of flakes and no-hopers squarely in the nuts. We caught up with the indomitable mega babe for a chat.
As a small person growing up in Sydney’s Outer West, I wanted to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Edward Furlong in Terminator 2 in equal measure. Who were your idols when you were growing up?
Up until my teens I was too engrossed in the lives of animals and Goosebumps books to spend too much time revering any particular human or character. I would have been 12 or 13 when I became obsessed with female models in sexualised advertising catalogues. This one leggy brunette in a Wolford advertisement drove me particularly crazy. She was probably the first person I truly idolised. She stood in the street with her legs apart in purple fishnets and a short crocheted dress and stared right into the lens with a confidence verging on disdain. I thought she was badass.
Can you tell us about the moment you realised you wanted to do porn?
The decision was cumulative. The constant attacks during high school over my sexual behaviour put me in a position where I was actively searching for a space in which my sexual desires would be accepted and celebrated. I wanted to be with men and women, but no matter how I expressed myself I was branded a slut or a lesbian. I do remember one moment when I was sitting on my bed in my family home flipping through Penthouse letters and I just couldn’t stop staring at this photo of a blonde woman spreading her pussy lips for the camera. The mixture of pleasure and pride on her face made me simultaneously want her and want to be her.
There’s this whole discourse about the porn business being seedy and exploitative. Have you come across many unsavoury types while working in the industry?
There’s a huge misconception that those types are actually part of the industry- but if you see a Craiglist post about a casting couch in some suburban basement, I guarantee you that whoever posted the ad is not a part of the adult industry. Journalists and news outlets report on exploitative stories as if those people are shooting adult content akin to Brazzers or Vivid. No legitimate adult producer conducts him or herself in an unsavoury manner. The adult industry is fighting its bad reputation and for this reason it is self-policing. In any industry there are companies that are more or less ethical in their conduct but overall the porn industry is run like any other professional industry.
You’ve been a huge name in the business for over 10 years now. How has the industry changed since you started out?
Technology is rapidly changing the industry. My first porno came out on VHS which is pretty retro. The hot topic in the media is how the introduction of the Internet has resulted in a decline in revenue due to piracy, but I’d rather focus on the positive things that the Internet and new technologies are doing for the industry. The Internet is making it easier to reach an audience while making access to content more convenient. Live streaming and virtual reality are also bringing fans and stars closer than ever before.
What you're doing with your website is pretty revolutionary. What have you learned about your fans, now that you’re spending more one-on-one time with them via the web?
The best part of being so close to my members and fans is that they inspire me to expand my definition of the sexual. It is an honour and a privilege that they feel comfortable to tell me their deepest desires - everyday I learn about new fantasies that I then get to explore for myself. I’m already very sexually creative but my fans and members often tell me about how they are turned on by something that to me seemed previously mundane. I then get to challenge myself to think ‘Okay, so how can this can of spaghetti be as sexy to me as it is to them?’. It’s amazing what you can do with a sexually open mind.
Speaking of open minds - I was checking out the 2014 Annual Report from PornHub and it seems there has been a swing toward the taboo in terms of the types of content people are after. For instance, in the last year there was a 132% and 94% increase in searches for the terms ‘step sister’ and ‘step mom’ respectively. As someone with intimate, firsthand knowledge of the business (as an actress and producer), do you find things are trending toward the more extreme? If so, where do you see things going from here?
I wouldn’t consider an incest fantasy to be particularly extreme. It’s not a fantasy that particularly excites me personally, but it is something often asked for by male and female fans alike. Even Clueless, an M rated movie in the 90’s, was happy to have Alicia Silverstone’s character end up with her step-brother.
I also don’t think the industry is becoming more extreme as a whole, but I guess it really depends on how you define ‘extreme’. Pre-marital sex is extreme to some. I’ve seen the visual workshops of anti-porn feminists that take consensual BDSM scenes taken out of context in an attempt to prove that all porn is becoming more extreme and is a form of violence against women. If anything though, I think the industry is shifting towards more romantic content that is trying to target the hetero-couples market. But the wonderful thing about the Internet is that you really can find whatever you like.
According to the same PornHub report, in the USA there was a 486% increase in searches for the term ‘big booty’. The past couple of years have been huge for twerking and butts in general. Do you think porn has helped to widen the definition of what is considered sexy to most?
Porn is the one of the only mainstream media to represent a large variety of body types. In my teens I never saw my body type represented in fashion magazines, and even now it’s still rare to see curvy women represented in women’s magazines without the editors making a big deal about it.
Pornography was the first time I saw my own body reflected back at me. I didn’t have the perky, nipples-to-the-ceiling tits that fashion told me was beautiful. Having heavy natural 32GG cup breasts meant I had thick purple stretch marks and breasts that demonstrated Newton’s law. Porn magazines were the first place I heard stretch marks referred to as “beauty marks” and saggy breasts referred to affectionately as “hangers”. I don’t think pornography can take all the credit for widening the definition of what is considered sexy but in my experience I didn’t find myself sexy until I was exposed to pornography.
Switching gears a little bit - I wanted to ask you about some of your academic work. While completing your Honours degree in Gender Studies at Melbourne Uni you conducted some qualitative research into the experiences of female performers in the Australian pornography industry. Can you tell us a bit about your findings?
Some of the most interesting findings related to the ways in which performing in pornography expanded the participants’ understanding of their own sexual identity. The radical potential of pornography is that it creates a space in which performers can experience pleasure disinvested from desire and what they take to be their own sexual identity. For example, one of the participants identified as staunchly heterosexual before she started performing in porn but agreed to shoot a lesbian scene since she could rationalise it as work. However, the pleasure she experienced during the work made her question her own heterosexual identity.
You ran as a political candidate for the Australian Sex Party in the 2010 Victorian state election and were particularly vocal on the issue of sex worker rights. That was five years ago - do you think we’ve made much progress in the area of sex worker rights?
There’s still a long way to go. Sex workers continue to experience structural discrimination from being denied loans to having their jobs used against them in custody battles.
Do you feel your work in pornography has given you a greater platform to express some of your ideas on social and political issues?
I'll be completely honest here and say the only reason I’m given this platform to speak to your readers is because I’m not scared to share my gaping arsehole with the world. Pornography has given me more, not less, opportunities to lead a life that is meaningful to me. Pornography has allowed me to travel the world, to challenge myself and to live my art. The platform has also allowed me to share my message that sex and sexuality should be embraced and celebrated. There’s a lot of synergy in my life; my work in pornography informs my feminist politics which informs my research which informs my work in pornography.
Are you currently in any relationships? I can imagine it would be hard to find partners who aren’t intimidated by you.
I am and they are complicated and delicious! Traditional monogamy doesn’t work for me. I identify as polyamorous and have multiple partners and lovers. The challenge for me when finding new lovers is trying to figure out whether they are genuinely interested in me as a person or whether they are just interested in fucking a porn star. This is why I generally end up with people who are already my friends.
I asked our readers what they wanted to know about you and overwhelmingly our female readers were interested in whether you ever feel conflict when it comes to advocating simulatneously for women and the porn industry?
I don’t advocate for the porn industry per se, I advocate for free speech including the right to sexual expression. I have been able to use pornography in a way that strengthens my feminist politics, but pornography is not a feminist utopia. And not all pornography is educational, nor should it be. Pornography is a form of entertainment. We don’t ask the Fast and the Furious franchise to teach us about safer driving techniques. Pornography shouldn’t have to teach us about safer sex, feminist politics or how to be a better lover – but it’s a wonderful bonus when it does.
A desire to censor or ban pornography because it appears to affirm some people’s internalised misogyny is as problematic as a desire to ban action films because it affirms some people’s beliefs that they can summersault off a building and survive. Better sexual education and better education more generally is the key to an informed society, greater equality and a healthier democracy.
Our male readers were most curious about whether you’ve ever been recognised by someone who probably shouldn’t recognise you (i.e. a priest, a politician), and whether there are any particular fetishes which are definite ‘no go zones’ for you?
I try my best not to hang out with priests and politicians. They have the dirtiest jobs (laughs).
In all seriousness though, it’s the people who probably shouldn’t recognise me who are paying my bills most weeks. Many of my website’s members reside in conservative US states, the Bible belt and the Deep South.
And I don’t really have specific fetishes I won’t partake in aside from anything non-consensual. I’ve learnt to never say never, because things I thought I would never do I now do regularly and enjoy. I’m constantly exposed to new fantasies and fetishes in my industry and by keeping an open mind I’ve been able to expand my own sexual repertoire and my definition of what is and can be sexual.
WIN: Visit https://www.facebook.com/collideartandculture for details on how you can get your hands on a copy of Collide Mag Issue 4 signed by Angela White!