Sex & Dating

Abella Danger on Porn Shaming, Faux Feminism and Kanye

Story by Sandra Song / Photography by Maya Fuhr

As one of the most famous porn stars in the world, Abella Danger is a force to be reckoned with. A Brazzers darling who's also moonlit as a model for Kanye West's Yeezy season six show, she's someone who's consistently fought against the (oft-derisive) mainstream narrative assigned to women in porn by pushing forward as a multifaceted talent.

After all, as she tells it, Abella's true passion lies in her behind-the-scenes work, as she's since established herself as a directorial force within the notoriously male-dominated porn industry. A performer-first director, the 24-year-old iconoclast is a rarity in the sense that she gives the talent working under her the ability to give creative input, including what they want to wear and helping them secure co-stars they'd like to work with.

"I get to make girls feel really good about themselves," she says, alluding to the fact that while these components are often overlooked, they're integral to ensuring that performers are comfortable and have a congenial experience. "I try to make them feel really good about themselves on-set," Abella continues. "I just want to make sure that they have really good sex and a good time that's fun."

Because as a porn star herself, Abella knows that a happy performer means an enthusiastic performance, which makes witnessing the tangible effects of something as simple as listening all the more gratifying.

"There are moments where two people are having such a good time that I catch myself with a smile on my face, because I'm enjoying how much they're enjoying it," she says. "I know the millions of people watching it are going to enjoy it too. It's a cool butterfly effect."

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, in her experience, she's "always enjoyed shooting for female directors more," and has made a conscious effort to ensure that all her female performers are comfortable — especially if Abella's the only other woman on-set.

"It's always been weird to be the only girl on-set. Like, the director is a guy, the PA is a guy, the sound guy is a guy," Abella says, before clarifying that while she's become friends with many of these people, "when I was a newer, it was definitely strange at times."

"It's easy to be offended by someone's sexuality when you're not as comfortable in your own."

She adds, "Sometimes you just want another girl there who has your back and understands what it's like to be a woman."

Thankfully, Abella says that the number of female directors has increased since she first began performing. And while she's also heartened by the increasing number of other female performers-turned-directors entering the fold, Abella makes it clear that we still have a long way to go, as "we're still really outnumbered by the guys."

"I always think we need more women directors in porn," she says, explaining that she's always inspired by other women in her field. After all, "they happen to be the best directors." Look no further than her recent experience on the set of Bella Thorne's Pornhub-backed film, Her and Him — a challenging production that saw Abella taking on a much heavier acting role than on previous projects.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, this is a really big script, I don't know if I can do this,' but my agent told me to just do it," Abella recalls, explaining that performers usually "don't audition, we just practice lines and parts on set" in porn.

"But it was really nerve-wracking, because I used to watch [Bella] on Disney Channel," she says, before calling it an "amazing" experience that helped her hone her skills as an actor with Bella's help and guidance. "I give her so many props. She wrote and directed everything. She's very multifaceted."

However, Abella also bristles at the way many people tend to talk about Bella. Despite being a talented artist and creator in her own right, the conversation surrounding her tends to be an example of the way society is still inherently misogynistic — especially when it comes to women who are comfortable with expressing their sexuality.

"I feel like it's very easy to be offended by someone's sexuality when you're not as comfortable in your own sexuality or in your own skin," Abella hypothesizes. "I feel sad for people who judge sexually empowered people, and especially sexually empowered women, because they're so strong to have the guts to even put it out there."

Given her line of work, this is something Abella is also unfortunately familiar with. Though she'd love to eventually transition into mainstream Hollywood, she realizes it'll be difficult thanks to the "huge stigma still surrounding the adult industry."

"We're taking control of our bodies by doing whatever we want to do with them."

"It still closes a lot of doors for you," she explains, recalling the time she met with a casting director for MTV. "I told them, 'If I didn't tell you I was a porn star, you'd never know, you'd think I'm a normal person.' And the casting woman was just like, 'I would, because I recognize your name.' It was such a back-handed compliment." She lets out a small, frustrated sigh, "They don't realize I'm just a human being."

Granted, even if the acceptance of porn in pop culture continues to progress, Abella says she'd also "stay close to my roots" — that she "would never abandon porn or talk down on it" if she left, before using former performer Mia Khalifa as an example.

"She talks so poorly about the whole industry, but at the same time, she still keeps her porn name," Abella says. "She says she's ashamed, but how ashamed are you to keep the name that made you famous? No one would know you otherwise."

Abella stops to collect her thoughts for a moment. "I would never do that, because there's nothing wrong with it. We're all consenting adults. We're all good people, some of us with families and children."

She continues, "We're not trying to hurt anyone or shove it down people's throats. It's here if you want it, but even if you don't watch, that's cool. I would never judge someone for not watching it, but you shouldn't judge me for being in it."

For her, the same line of thinking also applies to the conversation surrounding former Pornhub Awards Creative Director Kanye's recent disavowal of porn. As Abella says, "It sucks that [Kanye] hates porn now, but I still feel like you don't have to talk down on something to prove your point. I read somewhere that he regrets doing any work with the adult industry and porn stars, and I think that's sad, because I don't think you should regret anything you do. I think that says more about you than us."

At this point, we begin talking about the widely cited, second-wave argument that porn is anti-feminist, because porn stars are "selling our bodies." Saying that she truly doesn't believe that she's "seen as an object," Abella goes on to argue that she believes it's actually "the complete opposite."

"We're taking control of our bodies by doing whatever we want to do with them," she asserts. "Even though most of the people you're working with day-to-day are men, you still have a say in everything you do. If it's a certain script and you're not comfortable with a scene, you don't have to do it. You can say no," she says, alluding to her previously articulated frustrations with the supposed feminists who tear other women down.

"People like to argue that porn is not art in some way, but it is art."

That said, Abella does believe the feminist movement has had an undeniable positive effect on the industry, as it's leveled the playing field while "giving more understanding that women can do the same as men and sometimes do it better."

"It took a few of the first female directors to come in, dominate, and show we're badass, and open a lot of doors for other women to do this in the future," Abella says, before we circle back to why — despite being an established adult director at this point — she still loves (and always will love) performing.

"I love that I can explore my sexuality in a very safe, controlled environment," she explains. "I know everyone I'm working with is tested. I know there's a bunch of people in the room. It's not just me and this other person and if something happens, you can yell 'cut.'"

For her, that's one of the best things about porn — that there is a supervised level of control at work to check any potential power imbalances in a highly-charged, sexual situation. In addition to feeling empowered on-set, Abella explains that this feeling of empowerment also speaks to the way she's been encouraged to grow into her own as an artist.

"People like to argue that porn is not art in some way, but it is art," Abella says, emphasizing the validity of porn as an artistic medium. "You look at art and it evokes some kind of emotion out of you, and that's what porn does. Whether you look at porn with disgust, or you're like the majority of people who look at it and see lust, ecstasy, or happiness..."

She pauses for a beat, "And, you know what? I'm more than happy to give that to the world."

Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photography: Maya Fuhr
Styling: Keyla Marquez
Makeup: Barbara Lamelza

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