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An Interview with Nenetl Avril
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Nenetl Avril is an LA-based, Indigenous Mexican American adult performer. Read here about the origins of her career, her recent Berlin film debut, and her ongoing creative projects.

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DE: Hey- can you introduce yourself?

NA: Hi! I’m Nenetl Avril. I’m an adult performer and a sex worker. I’m a writer. I like cookies.

DE: I think that’s a perfect way to identify yourself. How did you get involved in the adult industry?

NA: Honestly, it’s such a cliché but I started doing it in college. I was working as a nanny full time and was a full time student. I got a speeding ticket that I could not afford to pay while I was living in Oakland and I had already spoken to a lot of other friends who were doing camming. And that was their primary source of income. And after talking to them about it for a little bit it just seemed like the best way to pay for the ticket before getting penalized. Because it was seriously like, a 700 dollar ticket.

DE: How fast were you going?

NA: I actually wasn’t going that fast. It was a red light ticket. I was making a right hand turn onto a freeway and didn’t make the full 3 second stop. I stopped for two and … that’s how I got into the adult industry. With a ticket I couldn’t afford. I started showing my tits on the internet for money.

Shot by Rae Threat

DE: So, I’ve noticed that you’re on Twitter to communicate a lot with fans. How do you feel that social media has affected your career and ability to reach out to fans?

NA: I mean, social media is such a double-edged sword. Especially today with what the adult world is. You know, before the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and even some of the other social media platforms that there are, you didn’t have to have so much contact with your fans. And your PR was sort of managed by your agent or by you to some extent. There just wasn’t such a high demand for your constant updating of your life.

And so, for me it’s something that I have struggled to find balance with. Because I do like interacting with people. I do like that it affords me to be candid, and to some respect, keep fans who see a pretty good picture of who Nenetl is and what her politics are. I feel that the fans who have stuck around through a lot of my social justice rants are people who are genuine. But it can be really exhausting sometimes, too.

People seem to demand a lot of really personal information from you and they cross a lot of boundaries without realizing it. And it becomes a combination of “I’m here to promote this product like a fuck film that I really want people to enjoy” and having to constantly assert boundaries in a way that doesn’t put people off. But also gets them to back off enough that I can actually continue to do my job.

DE: Do you think that a lot of people are expecting for your social media to kind of allow them to have a girlfriend experience in a way?

NA: Oh, absolutely. I think that the hardest part about setting the boundaries with social media is to remind them that I’m not their girlfriend and if they want that they certainly have to pay for it because this is my job. And it looks exciting and it looks fun because I’m good at my job. But it is ultimately my job and it is something that I charge for. It’s a balance that you have to constantly remind people of.

Sometimes people want to share with you and expect you to bear a lot of emotional labor. It’s hard when you get a fan mail or something that really affects you emotionally. You know, knowing that you have to protect yourself and your own energy because it’s really easy for you to get tapped out. It’s really draining which can be both good and bad. So, it is weird. People do kind of expect this personal relationship that you really can’t give the people. And you have to remind them of that for your sanity and theirs.

It’s a complicated relationship. I think last year when things started to take off a little bit more than they had in years prior, I kind of learned why celebrities lose their minds. Because even with the small following that I have, and I do understand that my following is small, it becomes really overwhelming. And stressful at times. And then I think about people who have multi-million dollar contracts and are doing public appearances every day and are having to interact with millions if not billions of fans. It’s like, I can understand why people can lose their fucking shit as celebrities.

DE: It seems really isolating. Oh, how did you come up with you name?

NA: Nenetl is actually a Nahuatl name, it means vagina and doll interchangeably. It can have a dual meaning. So, I was dating someone at the time who wanted to give me a name he could refer to me as on the internet because I was still very closeted. I was not doing sex work at the time.

We had a small online presence and I didn’t want it to be linked to my real name at all. So, he came up with a lot of really racist names referring to the fact that I was Indigenous and Mexican and I hated all of them. So, I came up with my own. If he was going to insist of coming up with a name that was reflective of my identity then I was certainly going to pick it and not let him dictate those things.

So when I decided to start doing sex work I actually used a different name for a little while but the first people to come to my chat room and look me up were actually people that knew me online as Nenetl. So, it just seemed fitting to stick with that name since no one was referring to me as the other name, it just seemed easier. I think my old name was like Ophelia.

DE: You went to Berlin recently. What film were you working on and how did you end up there?

Shot by Rae Threat

NA: Every year in Berlin they do this small film festival called the Berlin Porn Film Festival. It is kind of everything under the sun in terms of pornography. JoAnna Angel has submitted and she’s presented there. Four Chambers has presented there before. Some smaller people who are more independent submit their work and it really gives them the opportunity to go, “hey this is something that I’m doing.” Then you answer questions about the film and talk about it in a frame that is completely your own.

I found out about it last year when I was in England and I meant to go. And then I missed my flight so I couldn’t go. But I was determined to go this year, well in 2016. It didn’t really occur to me to submit until my friend Mickey Mod sent me a text and said, “Do you think you want to submit ‘Choke’ to Berlin?” That was really even the first time I thought people would want to watch a film like that.

I shot ‘Choke’ probably in April of 2016 with Mickey Mod and Dark Arts Photography agreed to be our cinematographer. And it was the first film that I had produced and paid people to help me make. And the concept is really, really simple. It’s just a breath play video where Mickey is choking me and there is some sexual interaction.
The idea for ‘Choke’ and the other two films that I shot in sequence with them was that I wanted to create some porn that didn’t have a white person involved in it. But also didn’t fetishize our ethnicities at all. I noticed that there was such a lack of videos that where people were just having sex with each other without the pressure of whiteness to be a certain way or perform a certain way.

The only videos I’d seen like that were two people of color having sex were hyper-fetishized. So, Choke was one of a trilogy that I shot that day. The other two have since been deleted because they featured a performer that has since left the industry. So, out of respect for her choice I agreed to take the videos down. But it was a double blow job video and then a three-way between all of us. The idea of the series was the progression and three people of color engaging with each other in a sexual way with virtually no white people involved at all.

So when Mickey told me to submit it I thought, “I can’t go in front of an entire audience of Germans and say I shot a porno because I didn’t want any white people in it. Like, that is literally all that I have to say about the film and people are. Not going to be receptive to that.” And so he really encouraged me to do it. I didn’t think it would get accepted and I lost my shit when it did. And then I found out that another film that I had shot with Nico Bertrand from Spain also was accepted. So I had two films.

To go and actually be able to talk about things and hear people’s questions was, I don’t know. It made me feel like it was more interesting that I’d originally thought it could be.

DE: You constantly do creative work and create your own content. How do you manage creating while also performing?

NA: I have a really fortunate career in that I don’t make a ton of money but I make enough that people want to work with me. At least my friends do. The way that I balance it is that I create my own content more than I get booked to work in other people’s content. And, the way I work is that I book a trip. Usually to San Francisco. And I hit up all of my friends who I know will want to make things together, who are looking to create content and I basically overwork myself for a week straight.

I work with as many people as I can and do as many shoots as I can in the time that I’m there. And sometimes there’s a trade where I shoot their concepts and agree to it and they shoot mine and agree to it. Or we come up with a concept together and we share the content and sell it in our own stores.

I think the most clips I’ve shot in a single day was 10. Usually clips range from ten to thirty minutes. Depending on what the scene is, what the dynamic is, and how the other performer is feeling. But my clips usually range from ten to thirty minutes. It can be really intense. But sometimes you just have a lot of creative ideas and you have people who are willing to vibe with you on that. And it’s profitable for them as well. You meet halfway and you give it your all. And then you sell it. That seems to be the model that’s work best for me.

I’ve also maintained a civilian job that helps me be pickier. As I work a little bit more and more it’s been more beneficial to me to be able to pay someone to have exclusive rights to the content. Because a lot of the times the concepts I want to shoot, I can’t guarantee that it will sell for them or even me for that matter. But it’s just this feeling of: “I need to know what this looks like and I need to make it.” I’m willing to lose money on it if it doesn’t work just to say that I tried.

DE: It seems like a really noble effort to conserve your creativity and integrity while avoiding exploitive IR fetish work.

NA: It’s a tough balance. As a queer POC, you do have to kind of toe a line sometimes. I definitely play around with my own fetishes. If I’m going to be fetishized I like to stay in control of that and what the angle is. Because I can’t control if my fans fetishize me or not. I can’t control what the people buying my content for the concept or if they want to see some Latinx pussy get banged. That’s completely out of my control.

But what I can control is the work that I decide to take part in and what I’m pitching to people. If at the end of the day people are just jerking off to me because I’ve got a brown pussy than, fine. Whatever. Awesome. At the same time they’re buying a film that I have a lot of love and creative energy behind. You know, that have to take that, too.
I’m certainly not against shooting some traditional, more hardcore porn. I’ve got a lot of respect for the people who do that. There was definitely a point in my life where that was my goal. I’ve kind of made peace with the fact that that might not happen for me. But, it’s certainly not something that I try to discredit in my work or in the way that I talk about the adult industry. Because at t
he end of the day we’re all in it together and even if not everyone is on board with everyone else, if someone comes at someone at a performer they’re also coming at you. You have to have solidarity with each other.

DE: I think it’s really unique that there’s kind of porn for everyone now. There are higher budget feature films and parody project as well as more DIY studios like Four Chambers and Crashpad. To me, I think there’s something a little bit more genuine about the smaller studios that are just a bunch of friends having sex. Do you think that’s true in any way?

NA: I think you have to look at every video on a case by case basis rather than the image put forward by the company. A lot of companies try to shoot for ethical porn, you know, they try to mark off all the ticks on the social justice bandwagon. But, it’s hard. It’s hard to do it all the time. Even the most ethical intentioned sets can have their issues. And it doesn’t mean that they’re bad because those issues exist but it’s about how they handle it when those issues occur. How they address those problems.

I’ve worked with Four Chambers four times now. I consider myself to be good friends with one of the producers. But one of the biggest criticisms that they get is that they don’t feature enough trans women. And that’s not something that I can speak to but it’s a genuine criticism that people take issue with in terms of their company.
On the same end, they’re also the only porn company that I’ve ever known of or worked for that featured two indigenous models having sex with each other and choking a white guy. Which to me, is like, the coolest thing ever. And we got paid top dollar to do it. It’s kind of a give and take of things.

This concept of genuine pornography or genuine sexuality is also something that I think to the audience sounds really comforting and nice. As a performer, it kind of limits your sexual expressions. Because not every performance can be 100 percent genuine and not every sexual act comes without performance.

It’s like you also have to appreciate that pornography elicits certain things about sex that are not present in one on one human interaction. A lot of it is about creating fantasy and rekindling this fire that is easy to lose in this depressing-ass world that we live in. I think that companies like Four Chambers and Crashpad kind of attack that problem from a different angle.

It’s not so much about the Gonzo experience or the close-up and penetrative shots. It’s more about the emotional and sort of radical experience that is sex, that is queerness, and that is having an orgy with six people on a wooden floor while you’re throwing wine on each other. It’s a lot more imaginative. Certainly not any better or worse than the other stuff that’s out there. It’s just a different perspective. And that’s important.

DE: Are you working on anything right now or do you have any projects coming up that you want to mention?

NA: I’m always working on my store. My amateur porn store and my manyvids store. There are a couple projects that I’m working on getting off the ground right now. I’m saving up to fund my gangbang.

DE: Oh my god, have you started a GoFundMe for your gangbang?

NA: No, I think I have a hard time asking for money to finance my things. But I have these two projects that I’m working on. One of these is the gang bang and the other is sort of an art piece that I’m trying to get Mickey Mod to do at some point since I like working with him a lot.
It’s going to be a Catholic, demonic possession inspired sort of porn that has to do with, again, being Native American. There’s a Satanic ritual involved.

DE: What are some ways that you think that performers and workers in the adult industry can be politically active or participate in acts of resistance in the next four years?

NA: I think that the ones that are going to be politically active and resist are already doing what they can do. You can’t really expect that everybody is going to be able to pick up the cause because not everyone has the safety to do that. It’s not safe for everyone to be open and vocal and honest.

People will say things like oh, you’re more concerned for your job than being active and vocal. For some people that is the end all be all and you can’t really afford to lose your job. I have a college degree and I have a lot of privilege and if my porn career takes a shit turn and I can’t perform again, I have a degree and a lot of experience in other jobs. I can still support myself.

My friends and I who are politically active like to share ourvoices whenever we can. We encourage our fans to look into issues and to show up and vote. Sex Workers do so much fundraising it’s insane. For clinics, for Planned Parenthood, we do a lot of charity events. I remember when the Black Lives Matter shows took off I remember my friends and I were doing fundraiser cam shows where all of our money went to BLM. It kind of depends what your availability and your stability is. If you’re able to.

Sex Workers already depend on so many programs, clinics, and alternative means of living in order to survive. We all value those resources being available to not only us, but to everyone. We march. We fund raise. We encourage eachother to vote.

DE: Recently, during the women’s march, the language supporting Sex Works was removed from their site for a day. After outrage it was put back up. What do you think that we can do to encourage sex positivity in feminism and do away with SWERFs?

NA: First of all, we need to agree that everyone hates sex workers as a society. And we specifically hate escorts and those who are out and offering full-service. Even in the adult performer community and the adult industry there is a whore-archy where we completely throw our full-service counterparts under the bus. Which is a problem and I think addressing those personal issues as to why women who profit off of sex and those who set a rate and standard for themselves, why that makes us feel so insecure and so threatened.

And I think that also spills over into the feminist movement. My theory behind it is that women have been told for so long that they are all whores. That the fact that there are women out there working and making a profit from their sexualities makes us feel as though that’s what’s expected of us. And that’s not the case at all. But they are still people who provide a value service to people like us. As feminists, as people, as civilians, as part of the “regular world.” And we need to embrace their issues and their plight and their issues as our own because they’re already embraced our feminist issues. Because those things are not exclusive. They are not divisible.

I think I would say, hire an escort. That’s the fastest way to get over your whorephobia and biases against escorts and sex negativity. But honestly, go talk to someone. Don’t talk at them and dump your insecurities on them. Let them be who they are and then try to understand them.

I always hear people saying stuff like, I’d like to have a three-way. Then hire someone. You’d be surprised at how incredibly effective it is to hire someone to facilitate that experience for you. Who is not going to come after your boyfriend. Who is not going to make your life a living hell. Who is going to get there, do the job, and then leave.
There are ways to start reframing the myths and anxieties that we’ve framed around sex workers so that we can include them in a more sex positive feminist mission. But, that’s just my idea.

DE: Final question, what’s the last book you read?

NA: I’m so embarrassed by this. I’m actually reading The Commandant of Auschwitz by Rudolf Holtz. It’s the autobiography of this horrible Nazi who was in charge of Auschwitz. Thankfully the book’s profits go to the survivors of the holocaust and their families. But, he wrote it while he was in prison after being caught.

DE: Did he show any remorse?
NA: Oh, not at all. But I’m a firm believer in knowing your enemy. I’ve read Mein Kampf, now I’m reading this. I’ve read a lot of documents that I’ve found online. I’m a big believer in studying, in knowing the way that your enemy and your oppressor speaks so that you are more able to do away with concepts of non-violence when you see that your oppressor has no conscience. So yeah, I’m reading this really terrible book that’s horribly written Nazi propaganda.

DE: Well, at least Nazi’s aren’t very smart.

NA: Yeah, thankfully.

Photo by Chris Nutt

Nenetl Avril is an LA-based performer and activist. Her twitter can be found here.  Her instagram can be found here. To support her work you can buy her clips here.  Click here to support Nenetl’s team up with LA’s new Queer-friendly coffee shop Cuties!  Check out the Cuties Twitter here.