Sex + Dating

A Former 'Playboy' PA on the Glory Days of Softcore

In the seemingly endless of world of adult entertainment, softcore porn has become the black sheep of the scene... trotting around in Midwestern hotel rooms and left to gather dust in the back of dwindling video stores across America. Regardless of its status, the dying medium still manages to erect (hehe) eyebrows with one simple question: are the actors in softcore porn actually having sex? 

I came across a nice man named Zak, via a thread on Reddit, who took me deep inside the world of softcore porn shoots. Zak, a former production assistant for Playboy, saw it all and shed some light on the topic. I think we're really good buds now. 
 

So, you were at Playboy in the early 2000s. What was that like? 


I mean, Playboy was all softcore, but it was very much Playboy oriented, so it had its own rules of engagement. It would be very much like the Skinemax type of movies, really like Silk Stockings, but a little harder core than that. Basically you'd get a lot of crossover... sometimes they'd do softcore photo shoots, as well as doing the actual movie, so they'd get more press out of it. They'd do stuff that would end up in magazines, as well as regular shoots.

The movies were scripted, softcore story lines, but very cheesy, very cheesy, I don't know. I guess Silk Stockings is the closest thing I could think of that was you have detective stories where the girls end up ... Some girl goes through a story line, and she's always ending up in a sexual situation with multiple people throughout the show, sort of thing. I mean, as far as the simulated sex scenes and that sort of stuff, it was all very, very role-oriented.
 

And the, uh, sex? 

Essentially, they treat it just like any other movie, but when it comes to the time for the sex scenes, they don't use socks or anything to cover the genitals... which is something we do in normal movies. In typical mainstream movies, he actors are usually in some sort of skin-fitting material. 
 

So, there's no actual penetration? 

No, they don't actually have sex. All of the penetration is simulated. You'll notice in those movies a guy goes down a girl... basically he rests his forehead right above the pubic bone, and she usually lifts a leg to block what he's actually doing, and he's not doing a damn thing. There was some sort of rule to avoid it even being considered a hardcore by the standards and practices of a given studio. They would avoid doing the actual hardcore sex. Now, I've done some shows where they shot them both ways where it could be a hardcore and a softcore video. It would technically be a hardcore video, but then they'd do the softcore variation on it, so they could get two places out of it. 

If something was going to end up on, say, Spice Channel -- your typical hotel stuff -- that would do two variations. We always used to call it the "Midwest version" because it just like, 'This is the one that's going to end up at your Hilton Hotel,' where you rent the movie, it's sexy time, but it's not hardcore. Then there'd be a variation of it that was more for internet distribution... this was all in 2001, mind you. 
 

I, honestly, can't remember the last time I've seen a softcore movie. 

There's also been a shift to where a lot of our Television, your HBOs, your stuff like that, have no problem doing nudity. Game of Thrones is harder than most of the softcore we were producing back then. 

Oddly enough, hardcore has turned into bigger production budgets when they do storylines, or the complete opposite which is no storyline whatsoever, it's straight gonzo and it's very lowbrow. That's mostly internet content, really. Video stores are having hard time now, too. That's the state of those things at this point.
 

What are the rules of softcore? 

The variations on set as far as what they would do, often times on the softcore shoots they wouldn't cover up the genitals, they shied away from showing an erect dick because that would almost guarantee you to not be able to publish You can't show an erect penis or open vulva or any of that stuff. Softcore is treated very much the same way that we do a regular NC-17 scene in a movie but, it's just a little more graphic and a little more focused on the act and the movements, so they pretend to penetrate but they're freaking six inches away.
 

Is it hard on the actors? I mean... I imagine you get blue balls after so much grinding... 

For the actors, there was a pretty good chance that they just take care of that straight away before they go to avoid that problem. That's a backroom deal, but I think generally the guys were... most of these guys, if they were doing softcore, they were probably doing hardcore. I wouldn't be surprised if quite a few of them were gay, too. For most male porn stars there's really not a whole lot of money in straight porn.

I heard stories of guys making $250 bucks for a scene whereas a girl would get between $500 and $1,000 depending on the depths of what they were doing. Straight guys get $250 for a straight scene and they have to do a ridiculous number of scenes per day to keep up their quota. That's why there are so few famous male porn stars. You have these guys, Lex Steele, Evan Stone -- they're the only famous ones because they got to put out sheer numbers.
 

It's pretty much the only industry where men make less than women.

Absolutely, but there's no shortage of assholes who want to go and be male porn stars. They think it's a fucking dream, but it's a bitch. It's not a fun game for those guys. 


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Jeremy Glass is a writer for Thrillist and always has sex with the lights on.