"Something has to happen and I think right now blocking the flood of unfiltered contextless just, like, depths of human sexuality from the freaking eight-year-olds, drastic times call for drastic measures sometimes." Stoya, adult film star, actress, writer.
Stoya is an iconic adult film star and she is also a contributing writer to publications like Playboy and The New York Times. She joins the show to talk about her career and the state of the adult film industry. She also talks about her recent starring role in the Serbian Sci-Fi film Ederlezi Rising and her upcoming performance in the off-broadway play, The Last Bar At The End Of The World.
Jeff: I know when you were younger you wanted to become a dancer. So when did you start to think I want to translate that into acting, not only just with an adult film aspect to it but I mean also because you are an actress.
Stoya: You've already made a huge assumption.
Jeff: Okay, great.
Stoya: Two huge assumptions actually. So let's just skip over, like rewind, past, translate into acting and go all the way back to, what was it, when did I decide to or begin to think I wanted to?
Jeff: Let's put it like, did you ever have a moment in your life where you were like I want to perform no matter where that came from basically?
Stoya: I was like fuck man, I have already kind of driven my lower body into the ground before I even got to like auditioning for companies. So, what am I going to do, okay, I'll work this weird little job, that weird little job. And go-go dancing took up a lot of energy which was great and then one of my roommates at the time was a photographer and he was like, "You don't mind being naked." And I'm like, "No, I do not. For what purpose?" "On the Internet." "Can we like think about this and then if I decide I don't like it then we can like delete the photos and pretend it never happened?" He was like, "Yes." We waited like a month or something and I was like, Yeah, no, let's release these, turn them into money." It was kind of the same with performing and explicit videos. Like someone was like, what do you think about doing this and then maybe three or four movies in I started to realize oh, this is kind of like performing. It's the same like, you have to be aware of your body and where the eyeballs or camera are and that kind of thing. It would be silly and inaccurate and possibly harmfully so to pretend that at like 20 me saying, I'm going to take my existing background in the performing art of dance and transition it into, like no. I don't know a single 20-year-old and never have that thinks that way and that's just not how the world works. I tripped into it, it worked out spectacularly well and then I started to make the most of it on the back end.
Jeff: Tripping into something like this, you kind of said like three or four movies and you're like thinking okay, now I'm doing this for real, was there a moment in the beginning where ... You're almost talking about how it took you a little bit to get there, to want to do, to either be photographed or do these films.
Stoya: Wait, what?
Jeff: You said that you we tripped into this and you had it to the point where you kind of had to think about it when you first started. I'm wondering where a career starts from there. When you started going down the track of an adult film star, was it always career based or did the career come after the fact?
Stoya: The career cam after the fact. When I signed a contract, a major studio and started doing scenes with men, a few months later they released my first movie and it was significantly more popular than they expected. I had thought, well, not exactly the traditionally popular body type and like I don't see women that look like me on covers of the things and like this will just kind of be a fun thing to do a few times and then I'll wander off and go to college maybe or something. On my end and from what the company was saying to me on their end as well, we were a little bit like, oh, this is unexpected. Then quickly after that I realized that in like one week during one of the conventions I'd spoken to The Wall Street Journal and G4 TV back when they were a thing.
Dustin: Yeah, I remember G4.
Stoya: I was like, oh, this is not like, this is not a thing that like maybe one person that I know finds out about, this is like a whole wow, okay, now I have to rethink everything.
Dustin: You almost have to take it on as an identity at that point. Now you have to, every person who has seen your film has that in mind when they're talking to you even more so than if they were doing anything else. You kind of have to embrace it at that point.
Stoya: The thing that's really screwy is everyone has their own idea of you but their own specific idea that can be vastly different from the next person's or from your own or like what you've actually put out into the world. That starts to feel really strange.
Dustin: I mean do you like, I almost think that would be desired at that point. I feel like anybody who wasn't true or anybody who you wouldn't want to hang out with would have the wrong stigmas, right? So it'd be kind of like a filtration process.
Stoya: Yeah, but then you're at a convention and you're stuck with them.
Stoya: Or on a train and stuck with them or like whatever.
Dustin: Do you have like a way of dealing with that now? Do you have like moves?
Stoya: Oh god. There's always a desperate attempt to devise a new one in each situation.
Dustin: Well, my phone's ringing.
Jeff: And I mean also it's got to be hard to navigate just the online world that we're in now too. I know you're very active social media wise and I mean not just being in reality stuck in a convention or on a train with someone, I mean like you must have to deal with that same kind of thing but also in an internetverse as well, right?
Stoya: Yeah, the whole social media thing became such a flaming garbage fire that it's mostly a one way street now and I have my assistant in between me and the whole thing which is partially like with my travel schedule, who can remember that it's like two o'clock on Saturday and something needs to go up. But also because I don't need to be reading that shit. And there's this service, it's a website called ismygirl.com watch my eye twitch over the name. It's basically like you pay to message me.
Jeff: Well that's a good filtration system.
Stoya: It's a great filtration system. There's definitely a couple of people, it's like, wow, you're not totally balanced but at least they're not abusive.
Jeff: You've also become a very prominent voice in the industry and for the industry. In fact, you are a contributing writer for incredible stuff like Vice and New York, I just read your recent op-ed piece-
Stoya: I haven't worked for Vice in a very long time.
Jeff: You did contribute for them though, right?
Stoya: I did a long time ago. The climate over there was kind of sloppy, very male-dominated and from what I hear it hasn't improved.
Jeff: I've actually heard that as well.
Stoya: I did just have my second op-ed in The New York Times.
Jeff: Which is incredible. Was writing something that you have always pursued as well or did that kind of come after the fact like as your career was taking off, you wanted to voice it in a writing respect because again you really know how to write a very well informed op-ed piece and that's a tough thing to do.
Stoya: Thank you. I mean, when I was a kid I thought maybe like I always knew there's a part of your life after any physical career. So I did think maybe I'd like to be a journalist but didn't really know what a journalist did, something vague. Then when I started doing a lot of interviews and seeing what would get cut out and what would get focused on, at the same time I realized that I could write myself and then at least be able to refer people to thoughts that had been finished or whatever. When Measure B passed the Guardian was looking for someone in pornography to write about that and so I did and they paid me. I was like, oh, this could be a job, I could do this for real publications and so I started taking it seriously. Last week my first real non-porn role in a film premiered and I was given best actress for it.
Stoya: Thank you. It also won three other awards and so then we all went to have dinner to celebrate and I sit down at the table and there's this email, it's like NYT op-ed, we need you to approve print edits. And I'm like, hey, yeah man, best actress, I can do it in the morning, right? I immediately, this email it's like absolutely not, our deadline is closing in this many hours, you need to turn these in and I'm like, okay, better send them over before the [rocky 00:10:46] catches up. So apparently not only can I write, I can approve edits wasted.
Jeff: Hey, that's awesome.
Dustin: People find their best potential in tight areas like that.
Jeff: Of course.
Dustin: So, writing was something that came on later. Did you ever feel that you had like maybe responsibility to be the voice of the adult film industry at least on your side? I kind of want to move on to, you must have made such an impact on the sexual misconduct in the adult film industry after the whole-
Stoya: We don't talk about that.
Dustin: Okay, great. But, do you feel a responsibility as a writer to be a voice for the adult film industry? Do you take that on your back, weight on your shoulders?
Stoya: There is a certain amount of real responsibility like the New York Times specifically there was a time that I couldn't write a piece for them and I sent over a list of possible substitutes and they weren't interested and so the piece didn't get written. So on this particular matter even with the film premiere and my workload the week before, I felt a responsibility to get that piece done and get it done right because I couldn't count on them taking a replacement even though there are a whole list of other performers who write about pornography and comment on it, specifically a performer like Lorelei Lee would be better positioned than I am to comment on the legal stuff around it and like on and on and on. usually, it's easy to tell an editor like, "Oh, thank you, I can't this week. Try this person, this person, this person or this person," and then it's okay. But in certain cases, there is a responsibility there.
Jeff: Because a lot of what you're talking about with what you write and stuff like that is the industry at large and how the industry is changing especially in the landscape, the online landscape especially of today. Do you think that the adult film industry is leaning towards a better tomorrow or do you think it is still wallowing in some of the stuff it's been dealing with the last couple years?
Stoya: I think it's more that there are kind of extremes on both sides. There is really radical striving towards nuanced ethics, like feminist, queer, by women, for women, all that kind of stuff going on. It doesn't have a grip on the top 10 Google results. There's one company that does have that. When they first came into my awareness they were called Manwin.
Stoya: Right? The owner or the former owner Fabian Thylmann he in a podcast with Jon Ronson said like, we didn't know, we're German, we had no idea and I'm like dude.
Jeff: Sounds like bullshit.
Stoya: You're really telling there wasn't a single person around you who had just a thought for a second. In 2013 Slate said that they had a monopoly on production companies. So it's really like there is one kind of pornography and it always has been sort of a perpetual feedback loop. Some porn gets made, people go, oh my god, that's really misogynist, all porn is disgusting, they never look again. It only attracts consumers who want somewhat misogynist stuff and then ...
Jeff: It's just that cycle.
Stoya: Yeah. The market dictates what gets made. There have been people trying to break that and unfortunately this bad cycle is just on turbo out in the open where kids can get to it. One of the kind of secondary points of my recent op-ed is the tubes, owners of small independent studios they try to keep their content behind pay walls. They don't want minors having access to it. They want to be paid fairly for their work. It's the free tube sites that have absolutely no barrier and so like if you want to solve like incredibly easy access, if you want to make it just like a tiny bit harder and every little bit helps, get rid of the tube sites.
Jeff: I equate the adult film industry to the music industry in that respect because again, with the online society that we live in, even going back to the whole Napster wars and all that stuff-
Stoya: But that's the thing. It's like if in the 1990's Sony had owned Napster.
Jeff: I was actually going to say something like that.
Stoya: It's beyond.
Jeff: Is there a fix? Can we get to a point where there's a fix? Can we get to a point where the smaller studios will be able to I guess retain the rights of their work?
Stoya: We can ban the free tubes.
Jeff: That is going against I guess, not necessarily net neutrality but in a sense like ...
Dustin: The weird ideals of the internet.
Jeff: Right. That's a bigger fight, right, is because basically what that would be?
Stoya: I've gone on record saying that I believe there are legitimate reasons to pirate my work. I support torrenting based on apparent adherence to true freedom of information. At the same time, the rules of capitalism are at play. If I don't make enough on it to eat and fund more of it then I'm going to stop making it. So there's already a complication there. But when it comes to the free tubes and it comes to children being exposed to things, like a lot of 18-year-olds need some help to process and understand and even a lot of 35 or 40-year-olds.
Jeff: It's truth.
Stoya: It's like, look man, the cat's out of the fucking bag. We've got eight-year-olds and like hardcore furry gangbangs all happening all at the same time. Something has to happen and I think right now blocking the flood of unfiltered contextless just like depths of human sexuality from the freaking eight-year-olds, drastic times call for drastic measures sometimes.
Dustin: It kind of seems like we're stuck in this weird processing phase with technology growing so fast and us trying to figure out how to deal with it, but as we're figuring out how to deal with it, technology keeps on growing and the rules keep on changing.
Dustin: It's very weird. Is the answer is to be more vigilant about it, more aggressive about regulation?
Stoya: See, I don't think maybe I've stuck my foot in my mouth here by speaking about any temporary measure in the United States because our temporary measures are so rarely temporary.
Jeff: Temporary, right.
Stoya: I see it as a situation where we need a temporary full stop. An okay, now that we have a little bit of breathing room and nobody has to panic about the current moment. People can still continue to go about their business with consenting adults and so on and so forth. Let's actually talk about some rational sex-ed that includes some porn literacy and then if your child stumbles into something they're not like head first where now you have to like panic and how am I going to explain this to my kid and this is awkward. I don't have children, I can't even imagine what that's like.
Jeff: I don't either.
Dustin: I can't even imagine what it's like to be a teen going through puberty at this time with the internet being so accessible and quick. It's such a dangerous area. It's like having a bundle of cords. I think what you're talking about is maybe like putting all the cords together, hanging it up on a wall instead of just having like a mess of cords and trying to untangle it from there. It starts with the sexual education and we're so behind the ball right now.
Stoya: Exactly. Right now we're at what really seems like a crisis point and that's why I'm like, hey, actually, let's take a risk here with a temporary ... But of course I'm just a single person who has two cats and sometimes bounces ideas off them.
Jeff: But you've also got a great voice and I think that's needed in this industry right now. The other side of this is you kind of touch upon it too is the whole capitalism side. You've worked both as a performer but also behind the camera as a director, right?
Jeff: It's not just making, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong but it's not just about making the paycheck for the job, you also get paid for the work as it's out in the world. If the work is ...
Stoya: Oh my God, the assumptions.
Jeff: Okay. I'm completely wrong on that then.
Stoya: Yeah. There are like two companies or two situations I know of where performers have gotten royalties. One is a very couples' friendly company called Adam and Eve. They actually run everything that they release through a psychological screening.
Jeff: Oh wow.
Stoya: And then another one was one performer who was very powerful, had a lot of stature and visibility. She did a star showcase where you're in every scene and there are a few of the more extreme acts, like the more physically demanding ones. That was a very special deal and she got royalties.
Jeff: And that's it.
Stoya: God, no. A someone who's been a company owner, the idea of trying to give royalties, like how, we would have to have a whole other employee to keep track, to like do the math of it and the accounting and all that. It would be an absolute nightmare. Now I heard a rumor a couple of years ago about someone exploring the possibility of using blockchain for that purpose. And I'm like, if that idea ever comes to fruition that's really interesting not only from like the worker's rights-
Dustin: What's blockchain?
Stoya: The thing that powers like Bitcoin.
Dustin: Oh, okay. So kind of tracking people paying for stuff with internet money pretty much.
Stoya: I have no idea how it would work and blockchain doesn't necessarily mean money. It's just the technology that funds the money or fuels the money thing.
Dustin: But just a way of tracking how ...
Jeff: That's really interesting.
Stoya: If that were possible then that would be great both from a workers' rights perspective and from a cold hard capitalism perspective. When people are motivated by seeing money from it they are more likely to sell your product.
Jeff: Yeah, wow. I never thought about something like that but again like you were saying, the tech is always changing, the internet is always changing and maybe we will see something like that someday. It'd be interesting. I want to talk a little bit, you brought it up briefly but I want to dive into it. The movie that you just won best actress for, I'm going to get the name wrong Ederlezi Rising.
Jeff: How do you say that?
Jeff: Zi. Got it. I'm terrible. You can ask him. I'm the worst when it comes-
Stoya: I'm not going even going to attempt.
Jeff: How did you get to be a part of this? It looks like a science fiction and just incredible movie. How did this all come about?
Stoya: So my friend Nikola who made this book called Fucking New York, I don't know if you heard about it.
Dustin: No, but I like the name.
Stoya: I can show you guys before you leave.
Stoya: Years ago he emailed me and it was like he's Serbian and it's basically like, so these guys I know from Serbia wanted to make a science fiction movie. Do you want to take a look at the synopsis. I'm like, I'm in.
Stoya: Just like even if this goes terribly it's still going to be amazing. It'll be the best story. How can I say no to this. Then I go over for rehearsal and they do like one afternoon of test shooting and everything is so precise and it looks gorgeous and I'm like I've gotten myself into something real. Then I go to do the real movie and if I told you the budget they did that on people are stunned.
Jeff: It looks like a high budget movie, it really does from the trailer that I see.
Stoya: It's this like tiny budget and I don't know when the last science fiction movie in Serbia was if there ever was one.
Jeff: Did you shoot it all over there?
Dustin: That's awesome.
Jeff: That's so cool. Now, it just premiered at the film festival over there, right?
Stoya: Yeah, Belgrade Fest.
Jeff: That's so great and you won Best Actress and it also won best film. That's incredible. That's so cool.
Stoya: I know.
Jeff: Will we see a wider release on this?
Stoya: They're working on the details of the distribution deal right now.
Jeff: Excellent. That's so exciting.
Stoya: It should probably be out in 2019 if not earlier.
Jeff: That is so exciting. Is this your first like big small budget movie?
Dustin: Oh, that's fun.
Jeff: Do you have the bug now? Are you going to look for more, because I know you're a science fiction fan at heart.
Stoya: It turns out I really like acting.
Jeff: That's great.
Stoya: I'd like to do more of it. I would actually even like to get some time off and take some classes in it. That's how you know I'm really serious.
Jeff: Oh yeah, no, and that's the right track to go of course. That's really exciting because I'm sure just being on a set like that and especially again, I'm a science fiction fan too so just the whole science fiction aspect of it, you just get to play make believe for a while, it's got to be so much fun in that respect. So that's exciting so I hopefully we'll get to see it.
Dustin: Was it a lot of green screen stuff?
Stoya: Not a lot.
Jeff: No, they shot in space.
Stoya: I don't think there was any green screen.
Dustin: Was there any point that it was kind of, I don't know, I see a lot of science fiction films and it always blows me away when they do a really good job because they're so convincing that they're actually in this science fiction world when they're actually just in a studio. Did you have any moments that were tough to kind of believe you were in the scene that was happening when you're just like in a Serbian movie studio?
Stoya: No. The set designer and the costume designer were very good at their jobs.
Dustin: Oh nice. Cool.
Jeff: That's awesome, I'm very jealous. Very, very cool. Speaking of acting, you're also in an upcoming play. When this actually premiers, this episode will actually be premiering right before that play.
Stoya: Last Bar at the End of the World.
Jeff: That's so great. Written by a mutual friend, Dean Haspiel which is wonderful. This is the second time that you're working with him on stage, right?
Jeff: These two times, is this your first foray into stage acting?
Jeff: What do you think of that? Do you like that?
Stoya: I might like that even better than film acting.
Jeff: Really, how come?
Stoya: I mean the pay is terrible.
Jeff: What are the differences between film and on the stage?
Stoya: So, on the stage it's very immediate. There's no oops, can we go back and do that again, there's no, fuck, what's my line. There's no, oh, you stepped on my line, I'm going to cram. No, you just have to like roll with it. So it's exhilarating and having the instant feedback is also wonderful. Being in Belgrade with the premier in a room full of approximately three and a half thousand people clapping I have definitely gotten a taste for it.
Jeff: It's nice though, it's nice. Can you talk a little bit about the play?
Jeff: Okay. Good. Like I said, I am coming to see it so I'm very exciting.
Stoya: I'm never sure what's a spoiler so I really can't.
Jeff: I know Dean's work and I'm sure it is right in line with his hopeless romantic saves the world kind of aesthetics.
Jeff: I cannot wait for that.
Dustin: You said you went on a Kickstarter for it or ...
Dustin: Indiegogo, cool. All right.
Jeff: Help back that. I remember when, I want to say five or six years ago, that was really starting to gain ground, Indiegogo, Kickstarter and stuff like that, I was so against it. Both Dustin and I were in bands together for a very long time. We had some friends that started doing that for like records and stuff and it just felt, in the beginning it felt wrong, it felt like I'm asking you ...
Dustin: It's like, yeah, we're on a record label, we need to have a Kickstarter.
Jeff: I'm asking you to pay for the thing that I'm hoping to do but the culture of that has become so inviting and so, it's so incredible that that is the landscape that helps fuel creativity now. Whereas before you would put your blood, sweat and tears into something, create it and then hope to God somebody sees it or listens to it or watches it or comes to the premiere or whatever it is. But now, you kind of get them involved at the ground floor and I think that's so, I think it's important now, I really do.
Dustin: Well, you're really hearing the voice of the people at that point. You get to literally vote with your money at that point which is great and the things that are successful are the things that people are in interested in. It's been doing really well. YouTube does the same thing where it's giving the stage to anybody who wants to go out there but the problem is is everything ends up getting watered down. Talking to people in the music industry and talking to people in the film industry and it's yeah, it's great, anybody and their mother can make a movie or a rock song but the problem is everybody is making a movie or a rock song.
Jeff: You got to kind of weed through it.
Dustin: It's tricky but I think things like Kickstarter and Indiegogo and all the other ones do a good job of all right, it's up to you, what do you believe in, what do you want to throw your money behind. Those are the really cool things.
Jeff: It creates a good culture. I think it's interesting. So the one question we always come to in this show and I'm always curious because it's something that binds us all as humanity is that we all have this idea that we're fueled by death. We want to do whatever we can to change this world just a little bit before we leave it for good. With your career in the adult film industry as well as now, the bug you have for movies and stage performing and everything and everything that you're focused on including your writing, what fuels you to keep getting out there and doing it and to keep pursuing these paths?
Jeff: Just can't be complacent.
Jeff: Yeah. That's something I think that is lost on a lot of people and that's interesting that that's exactly what your answer is that it's not, you're not saying, oh, I'm just looking for something new, like you literally are, the hyperactivity, you want extra activity in your life.
Stoya: I have to have extra activity in my life or I start to go crazy.
Jeff: What's great that you're turning that into creative avenues though.
Stoya: I mean I guess so.
Jeff: I think it.
Stoya: The government of Florida would probably beg to differ. And on that note ...
Jeff: Go gone.
Stoya: I don't know. I feel like the second Florida comes up it's time to end it.
Jeff: I do agree with that though. I think that that's something that especially in today's day and age that people get too complacent in their lives and even in their own jobs people can love the job that they do and not think that there's any more than what's right in front of them and I think someone like you who's willing to go be in a Serbian science fiction movie just on a whim and really take life by the horns for that, it's empowering, it's inspirational, it really is, and I think that's the way everybody should live their life. That's the way everybody should be fueled to continue on.
Stoya: Thank you.
Jeff: I want to say at the end of this, The Last Bar at the End of the World, that's coming out April 10th through April 15th. Where is the theater?
Stoya: That's a good question.
Jeff: I'll put it up in this show.
Jeff: I'll have links to it in this show, I had it in my brain but it's gone. Is there anything else coming up in 2018 that you can talk about that you're going to be working on or?
Stoya: Not that I know of yet. Follow the Twitter, follow the Instagram, it's both @Stoya.
Jeff: Yeah, and those are the best places for people to follow your career and what's going on, that's so great because you are so busy.
Stoya: Also hellostoya.com
Jeff: Which is a great space for all of your stuff. In fact, you are a podcaster as well.
Jeff: You just keep getting out there and wanting to be creative and putting yourself out there and I really think that's commendable.
Stoya: Thank you.
Dustin: Do you have plans for any more podcasting at all?
Stoya: So the thing is we have to get Mitch and I in a similar timezone on the right sleep schedule when I have my microphone. It's a lot.
Dustin: Well I think you should, you do a great job.
Stoya: Thank you.
Dustin: On the way here we were listening to your interview with Buck Angel and I thought that was really-
Jeff: Yeah, it was a good one.
Stoya: I love Buck so much.
Jeff: That was a really good one, it was very entertaining.
Stoya: Thank you.
Jeff: Thank you so much for taking time to be on our show. It was a really absolute joy to talk to you.