Anna Span (real name Anna Arrowsmith) is an English pornographic film director who speaks widely about sex, pornography and feminism.
I interviewed her on behalf of Women’s Views on News and reproduced the interview here.
You said your moment of inspiration came when you realised you weren’t angry about the existence of the porn industry but were jealous that men’s sexuality was catered for. What did you feel was lacking for women?
That was 1988 so everything was lacking for women in this country!
You didn’t even have the Chippendales – although I actually wrote my dissertation at St Martin’s about how the Chippendales aren’t what women want – and [women] didn’t have porn magazines.
I remember [British actress] Margi Clarke bringing out a programme about sexuality on television and it was very soft.
But regardless of whether people agree with the sex industry I believe the female libido is worth catering for.
Currently companies are spending money in order to make [porn] for women because there is a market out there.
Without that appreciation of the market there is a disavowing of the female libido and this perpetuates the idea that we’re in [sex solely] for the love, which I find quite insulting really.
What was your first experience of porn?
The first thing I ever saw was, ironically, some images in a gutter when I was 11, walking home from school. There was a woman in leopard skin clothing and of course as school girls we went crazy!
Later I think I stumbled across some copies of the [UK tabloid the Daily] Sport that my brother had in his room. But the first time I used porn was when I was with my boyfriend at the time.
And that was when you started to form the idea that you didn’t think women’s sexuality was being catered for in pornography?
Yes, I didn’t know anything about pornography. It was exciting, I enjoyed it and I certainly didn’t do it because I wanted to please the boyfriend.
When I was 22 I bought “Women on Top” by Nancy Friday and I think that was very key. It’s a book about women’s fantasies and there was absolutely everything in there, it helped me accept my sexual being, it was very useful to me.
I think it also helped me realise that I was bisexual. I don’t know when I owned up to myself about that. There wasn’t a “coming out” – it sort of gradually dawned on me that i fancied women as well.
Did these experiences feed into your desire to make porn for women?
For me, like a lot of people, making porn was a kind of naughty dream job that I would have liked to do in a parallel life.
I got into [London art college] St Martin’s when I was 24 and I started to think about making porn. In my final year at college I wrote my dissertation – “Towards a New Pornography” – on porn and I made a sex film.
My first film was quite experimental, although the blokes couldn’t get it up, but there were also people peeing etc so it wasn’t soft!
Do you think you been driven by having a greater interest in sex than the average person?
I don’t know. How do you compare? They say that men think about sex every seven seconds. Well, I think about sex a lot and I enjoy it, I still do.
There is no history of abuse in my life and if you met my family you’d wonder how they spawned me because they’re very middle class and very average. We’re certainly not a sexually overt family.
When I read Women on Top there were women admitting to having sexual imaginations from when they were very young and I did too. But I developed a guilt about this imagination in my teenage years.
Do you judge your films to be successful if you find them arousing?
Yes, to a certain extent. With porn it’s like catching a live dance, a performance, and you have to film it as well as you can, so it’s always a matter of compromise.
It’s not like mainstream cinema where you can map out everything in advance and you can get actors with acting skills. How it goes on the day is how good the film will be so there is a lot of chance involved.
You just have to get very good at managing the last minute things when people don’t turn and up and you have to recast etc.