Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jacky St. James on the craft of writing porn for women

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 9:12 AM

Jacky St. James
  • Jacky St. James
While men are aroused primarily by the physical, for women, the emotional and cerebral cues of a good love story are erotic. This is not to say women can't enjoy watching x-rated action; they just want to see the romance that builds up to the sex. Having grown up with explicit content just a click away, this generation of women is curious about porn, but studios are still hesitant to invest in films for couples and women. New Sensations is one of the few adult companies taking a chance on the untapped female market with their Romance Series: a line of plot porns with high production value. Jacky St. James is one of the minds behind this series, and her efforts seem to be paying off. The Romance Series has been nominated for a number of XBiz and AVN awards this year, including "Screenplay of the Year" for St. James's Dear Abby script.

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Shawn Alff: In many ways, romance novels are the female equivalent to porn, generating nearly as much revenue each year as the adult industry. In some respects, what separates the pornographic scenes in these books from those in most adult films is that romance fans get to read about the connection, love, and passion that builds up to the physical event. They get the background story that gives meaning to the sex act. How do you build and establish emotional connections between characters while working with such limited time constraints. Similarly, because the natural climax of these films is for the two lead characters to get together, do you worry female viewers will be potentially turned off by the sex scenes between supporting characters whose romantic connections are less developed?

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Jacky St. James: I’m glad you recognized the time constraints. I am not sure people realize just how challenging it is to write a feature script and build a story with so many characters in so few pages with all the stipulations and criteria needed for making an adult film. In order to build the emotional connections, I tend to focus on building strong characters, from leads all the way down to supporting. For me, the characters are what make or break a story. You can have the best story in the world, but if the audience isn’t invested in the characters, who ultimately cares?

For me, whether or not women get turned off by the characters is usually only a passing thought. In a society where pornography is still looked at as being a negative sexual outlet, it is always wonderful to hear about women watching and enjoying our films—even if they are only enjoying the main characters. I can remember watching Almost Heaven—a title released by The Romance Series earlier this year—and to be honest, I was far more invested in the supporting characters (Allie Haze and Xander Corvus), than I was in the leads. To each her own. Hopefully our films give viewers something that appeals to a variety of tastes and interests.

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SA: Some writing instructors believe you cannot expect your reader to feel an emotion unless you feel that same emotion while writing. Does this hold true when creating an erotic romance script? Are you turned on by all of the male characters you create?

JSJ: I always feel the emotion when I’m writing. After all, these characters live inside me in some small ways, so what they are going through and dealing with, I am going through and dealing with. I become very attached to the characters I write and the stories I create. It might sound weird because (as some people might say), “it’s just porn,” but to me, writing is writing. Story creation is story creation.

Am I turned on by these male characters? Not always. To be quite honest, most of them are loosely based on men I know, have dated, have hated, have been in love with. So, yes, a few of them I’ve been turned on by at one point or another, but it would become boring to me as a writer to only write about the kind of storylines I’m most turned on by.

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SA: Many romance plots are built around a rogue, yet educated, lady’s man who falls for a woman who makes him want to settle down and be with only her. Love is a Dangerous Game and Dear Abby present similar male leads: bad boys who fall hopelessly in love with the female protagonist. When writing an erotic script for women, how important is it for you to create a male character who can have virtually any woman he wants, yet chooses to be with one woman? In your mind, what makes for the perfect heartthrob other than the obvious answers of confidence, success, intelligence, and a sense of humor?

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JSJ: Oh I can’t wait for you to see my next film, The Friend Zone, which stars a guy who actually isn’t a ladies man at all, and has fallen into that hideous trap of being best friends with the girl he’s in love with. I'm a sucker for the underdog and I honestly feel that script was my strongest to date.

I'll be honest, it’s often easier to write stories with strong male characters that make strong choices and have that edge to them. The edge is what is appealing in a lot of ways. The edge is what keeps that tension strong. During my teen years, I read a lot of really bad romance novels and what I always liked about them was how intense, strong, sexual, and seemingly unattainable the male characters were. A lot of women fantasize about being “that special girl” that somehow gets a bad boy to settle down. That is why those stories are appealing, even if they are horribly unrealistic.

The perfect heartthrob is a man who has a great balance of emotional availability and sexuality. For me, a man who is going to be aggressive with me sexually (and often), and who will be my shoulder to cry on emotionally, would be the perfect partner. But let’s be honest, normally the former is not the latter. Most men are extremely sexual but bad emotional companions or great emotional companions but way too passive in bed. It’s incredibly hard to find a great balance and I do feel that’s why a lot of women are drawn to romance stories which center around those strong, aggressive men that still have that intense loyalty. Those men are so hard to find in real life, but easy to crave in one’s mind.

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SA: Will you ever write a script in which the female lead carries on a series of flings without ever falling in love with one man? Is it possible to write a romance story that does not end in monogamy?

JSJ: I think you bring up an excellent point, which is whether a romance story can end without it resulting in some form of relationship. I don’t know. It certainly would stretch my own views of love and romance should I ever decide to venture down the road of writing such a story—at least from a female character’s perspective. I’ve contemplated writing stories that don’t end happily, or don’t end with society’s view of stereotypical happiness. I am not sure our audiences are ready for that. My first goal is to get women more passionate about watching porn. Once that day happens, then I’ll look to focusing more on taking the stories to that next level and exploring what a “happily ever after” can entail.

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SA: Porn is often criticized for reinforcing an unrealistic image of women, but few people ever question the impact romances and mainstream films have on women’s expectations of relationships and men. Do you feel that romance stories promote an unrealistic stereotype of men and relationships?

JSJ: Aren’t we all somewhat guilty of being drawn into a fantasy world? Whether it be video games or love stories or even Victoria’s Secret models, most people enjoy a form of escapism to decompress from the challenges of everyday life. Of course, if that escapism begins shaping your views and perceptions of life, instead of your actual experiences shaping them, then yes, that’s when it can become problematic. It’s the individual’s own responsibility to be able to discern between reality and fantasy and if they are unable to do that, I suggest they get some therapy. Besides, personally, I think an intimate relationship with a person who knows me inside and out, is far more romantic than a guy standing outside my bedroom window with a boom box playing Peter Gabriel. But that’s just me.

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SA: Most of the films in The Romance Series seem to be light comedies. Is this a result of the kind of stories that turn women on, or is this just the easiest genre to produce given the constraints of this project. For instance, would it be possible to write a horror film or would this require too many special effects, too much of a plot to cram between sex scenes, and dramatic acting that may be beyond many of the adult stars’ range?

Jacky St. James
  • Jacky St. James
JSJ: When The Romance Series began it was doing heavier, more dramatic stories but has since evolved into producing lighter, more romantic comedies. I don't think the evolution will stop there though. To date, of their 13 titles, only 5 are true romantic comedies, and I see the series branching out to other categories in the future. The Romance Series strives to produce the highest quality product for couples on the market, so that is the ultimate objective. Personally, I write lighter stories because I feel that they are far easier to direct people in with little to no acting experience. It’s a bit harder to get someone to cry or go to deep emotional levels that has never acted before. I like to be practical within my creativity. I want my scripts to be the best they can be, so I write within the limitations I’m working in because of that.

With regards to writing films with higher production values (like the implementation of special effects) you can look at feature films produced by New Sensations like The Sex Files: A XXX Parody or Star Trek-TNG: A XXX Parody. It is possible to create feature films like that, and they’re being produced every day in Porn Valley.

Check out the most recent titles by New Sensations's Romance Series and keep up with Jacky St. James at JackyStJames.com and on Twitter.

Follow Alfie on Twitter or Facebook and email him if interested in writing about Sex & Love.

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