So What Does a Porn Curator Do All Day?

She makes a living watching people have sex, but that's not all.
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Ali Drucker
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She makes a living watching people have sex, but that's not all.
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This woman literally has your dream job: Sarah Beall, the Montreal-based curator for the website Make Love Not Porn, makes a living staring at naked people all day. The site is dedicated to real world sex — that means no studios, no script, and no actors collecting a paycheck for fucking a stranger. Just real couples filming how they get busy, who want to share it with others. Beall was kind enough to sit down with Maxim and tell us about how she got her start, what her mother thinks of her job, and how she's helping change the porn industry for the better.

So how the hell do you get a job as a porn curator?

It was sort of a job that was tailor-made for me. My official title is Madam Curator for Make Love Not Porn. I’ve always been really interested in people who are having an open, frank dialogue around sex. In school I had side projects: I was in a burlesque troupe, I sold sex toys, I was a photo cropper for a dating site, and the biggest thing that led me directly to my current job is that I was a longtime contributor to and later editor of a zine called Lickety Split Smut Zine.

A smut zine? Go on...

It was a pansexual zine dedicated to sex positive expression and thought.

That’s a mouthful.

Well, the idea was just to have an alternative representation from the mainstream depictions of sex...I was curating art, writing, doing photoshoots, doing artistic design and stuff like that. One day I found out about MakeLoveNotPorn.com. I had no idea who ran it, but I thought the message was so cool: Real world sex and porn world sex were different.

Right. But how did that turn into a job?

So, I reached out to the site, run by Cindy Gallop, and I interviewed her. We just really, really hit it off. So she said, “Come to New York, let’s have coffee, let’s talk.” I brought examples of my work for Lickety Split to her place and she looked at them and she said…she basically explained to me the entire idea behind Make Love Not Porn, even though she was still designing it at the time. And I said you need a curator.

Direct!

Yeah, and about eight months later — it took her a little while to get funding — she called me and said, “I would like you to come on board.” So, it was interesting because I had been working towards this position for a very long time.

How so?

I always forget to mention this—in the eight months between learning about MLNP and getting hired, I took a job as a porn script writer in the mainstream adult film industry.

Wait, what?

You know, I started out producing scripts. I think I was writing like 30 porn scripts a month, or something like that.

Oh, my god, that’s like one a day. You never think of it being mass produced to that level.

I know. But how that’s translated into my role now. I can basically spot a porn cliché a mile away.

So what are the biggest porn clichés?

Well, let’s see. First of all, how porn is shot. This is one of the major things I look for when I’m curating real world sex. You know, porn is shot solely so that you know the viewer gets the best view of penetration at all times. The porn stars are working quite hard, but they’re not necessarily comfortable.

I once wrote a political satire porn script called "Republicunts."

True.

Coming on command, like it’s a lot more hard work than people realize. So definitely positions and angles, obviously the facial — a guy coming on a woman’s face, that’s pretty much de rigueur.

Do you have a script that you wrote that you’re most proud of?

I do, yes. It’s not very PC. But one of the first scripts I wrote, it was sort of a political satire script. It was called Republicunts. And it was for a lesbian site. I wrote a script about a Republican candidate who was running on an anti-masturbation platform. Her slogan was “Masturbation is for sissy liberals.” And to their credit, the props people, for that scene actually made posters that read “Masturbation is for sissy liberals.”

See, it’s all in the details.

I was very pleased about that.

Did you ever have any reservations about getting into the porn industry?

Yeah, I definitely did. I didn’t think that women in porn were being inherently abused by being in the industry. But I’d seen the belly of the beast exposed. There is a lot of desensitization that has to happen. You have to watch a lot of porn to write porn. It’s a very competitive industry, in the most boring way. Everyone is copying each other and how people one up each other is by being more extreme.

Ever have any strange moments at your old job?

I remember my first day working in the mainstream porn industry, I did a training session. Then I proceeded to sit down with my supervisor, whose desk was in the editing area. And I just remember seeing a close up shot of deep-dick penetration. And I just had to stand there and be like “Okay, I’m really, totally comfortable!”



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So you in your current job as curator, you wake up in the morning, and then what?

Well, I wake up, and I work from home. I usually work in my pajamas.

Ha, very sexy. 

I know! I have a look at what has been submitted to me. A lot of my job is reviewing the real sex that people have in their everyday lives. Most of it is actually corresponding with those people. The really cool thing about my work is that I pretty much have a one-on-one correspondence with every single Make Love Not Porn star on our site.

What kinds of things do you go back and forth about?

At first it will be helping people contextualize their submissions. I have some criteria for curation. One of the things is that the video has to be contextualized. So aside from being consensual and cliché free, you have to shoot an intro video especially if people are new to the site. I ask people to talk to the camera, explaining why they decided to share their real world sex.

What else?

I also ask people to really pull the camera back. I’m totally not against close-ups, but porn is very, very into close-ups. Even when people have decided to do it, a lot of the people on our site have never filmed themselves having sex before, let alone thought of sharing it online. So I consider myself a little bit of a hand holder, a bit of a coach.

How do you decide what kind of themes you’re looking for?

They emerge organically out of the content that we get. We’re developing a new vocabulary around sex, because so much of how we speak is a construct of porn. So we actually recently introduced our “Lick Job” tag, which is our tag for videos of cunnilingus.

We got this video from this amazing 20 year old...she’s a beautiful, sexy young woman. And so she shot a video of herself masturbating in a hammock in her backyard. 

Very nice.

We have a lot of people who film videos outside. We just got our first underwater video. It’s very exciting.

Woah

And then, we have this lovely Mexican couple who have been on our website for a while now. They’re amazing, their page is called We Made Love and Lasagna. They recently went on an amazing vacation where they shot themselves having sex against the backdrop of the mountain valley. The view is incredible.

Sounds exotic.

But we also have a lot of in-the-kitchen sex videos — people on kitchen counters and stuff like that which is really fun.

So you’re staring at people’s junk all day: do you ever feel desensitized to any of it?

Working for Make Love Not Porn and curating the videos has actually re-sensitized me. We had a viewing with some of our team members, and a guy there said "Wow, when I watch porn I want to jerk off. Watching real world sex makes me want to have sex with my girlfriend."

How do you think your job has influenced your own sex life?

Hmm. It’s made me realize the value of using sex videos as foreplay. Even though I wrote porn a lot, I was not super familiar with it before going in. And now, I kind of can’t even watch it because it’s so fake.

What do your friends and family have to say about what you do?

Well, I’m very lucky. My family is incredibly supportive. But it’s interesting because sometimes my mom will say, “Oh, she works for a feminist website” when people ask her what I do.

My mother does the same thing. All moms. It’s a mom thing.

But I like it! I like that she’ll say “I’m proud of it.” But sometimes you just need to give an easy answer.

And what does your husband think?

Um…well, he knows the woman that he married. He actually used to be a creative editor for Playboy.com. So he’s pretty familiar with the industry.

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job?

When I have to reject submissions. I don’t do it too often. It’s heartbreaking; I feel like people are quite generous in this vulnerability that they share, and often times I really want these people to come back.

And what’s your favorite part of your job?

Fostering relationships with the people who contribute to our site. We just got this video from this amazing 20-year-old...she’s a beautiful, sexy young woman. And so she shot a video of herself masturbating in a hammock in her backyard. Like, she’s stunning. And I totally admire her determination because she definitely gets off. But the thing is, there is a lot of background noise. And it’s a little bit awkward, seeing her get in the hammock and take off her clothes and trying to get comfortable and and everything, but it’s so beautiful and it’s so hot and none of those things take away from it. You’re like wow, I’m really watching a 20-year-old woman getting off in a hammock in her backyard and this is exactly what it’s like, and it’s gorgeous. So a video like that makes my week.

Photos by Main photo: Lara Kaluza, in-article photo: Melissa Ulto