The Prince of Alt-Porn

Director Eon McKai leads a new generation of smut makers

"Boys kill with violence. Girls kill with sex": That's the tagline of Eon McKai's video Kill Girl Kill. The third installment of the punk-porno series was released last week from Hustler-owned VCA Pictures. These days, there's lots of buzz around McKai, and it's not because he's created a line of revenge snuff films, as the title might suggest. It's because McKai (whose nom de porn pays homage to punk rocker Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame) is the unofficial poster boy of alt-porn.

Imagine what would happen if the Suicide Girls dropped their pretty pinup poses and got down to fucking, and you've got the idea behind the growing subgenre called alt-porn. It strives to subvert traditional porno standards of beauty, aesthetics, and form. At its best, not only are its clothes punk rock, so is its attitude. McKai, 25 (in spirit, if not according to his birth certificate), made his adult directorial debut last November with the trippy, zine-y Art School Sluts. Noticed as much for their casts as the creative direction, McKai's movies are populated by pierced 'n' inked girls and guys, but not shot in pretty lighting like a coffee-table book. Pink pigtails may look cute for a minute, but soon they're pulled, mouths are filled, and nipples are pinched as the slaps and spit fly. The performers fuck as hard as they party, and these girls party hard. It's like watching Debbie Does Dallas on acid. And crystal meth.

In 12 short months, McKai has managed to kick-start and champion an alt-porn movement: See Jack the Zipper's Stuntgirl, Joe Gallant's Contract Girl, Rob Rotten's Fuck the System, burningangel.com's Joanna's Angels, and Ron Royster's Alternative Worldz. Thousands of fans flock to McKai's infamous Hollywood parties and the popular message boards on his website (eonmckai.com) to celebrate a new generation of smut. But some people within the adult industry aren't nearly as giddy, and the backlash has come rather quickly. Critics from all corners have taken shots at McKai, calling him a poseur, a fake, and a sellout. Some think he's simply cashing in on a trend by using the look but losing the message of punk. Others who identify with the communities he represents are wary of him appropriating their alternative culture.

Porn to be wild: Joanna Angel
Courtesy of VCA Pictures
Porn to be wild: Joanna Angel

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When he first saw the girls on raverporn.net, McKai says he had a strong emotional reaction: Those were the girls he wanted to see getting it on. "There was a void in the video market. This look was not represented," he says. But when he decided to find some non-porno chicks to be in his first movie, it wasn't just about the way they looked. He didn't want to take guys with tattoos and girls with purple hair and plug them into the same old blue-movie formula. He wanted something darker, grittier, more awkward. Whenever a subculture—be it punk rock, s/m, or genderqueer—gets represented in a for-profit mass medium, questions arise about authenticity, an issue McKai is aware of. "There is a subtle something in the way alt-porn is made," he says. "You have to live it to make it. You have to acutely be attracted to that type of girl and be active in the scene."

No one says to the guy who shoots an all-girl sexy sleepover porn flick, "Hey, what do you think you're doing? You've never been to an all-girl slumber party in your life!" But when it comes to creating images of people on the fringe, scrutiny comes with the territory. The fear is that the cultural imagery will be diluted and misused, and lose its street cred the moment it's commodified. When that culture gets pornofied, the fear doubles. I've spent enough time with Eon to know he's the real deal (he was supervising editor on my new porn movie, which, incidentally, is not alt-porn). Judging by his punky pinup-style girlfriend, music collection, and friends, the people, places, and things that populate his movies do come from his world. He wants to create what he sees as missing from mainstream porn; like many of us, he wants to see on-screen what gets him off. He shoots what inspires him, and his passion and enthusiasm are genuine. The atypical talents he works with (especially the women) aren't playing dress-up; those piercings are not temporary and the tattoos aren't painted on. Other successful directors have a vision and shoot what they want to jerk off to; so does Eon. But why is there so much hostility and resentment being hurled his way?

Some of the backlash has to stem from jealousy of his success; after he made just four low-budget films, VCA gave him $100,000 (a big budget by porn standards) to shoot the feature Neu Wave Hookers, a retelling of the Gregory Dark classic New Wave Hookers, which he just finished. There's a segment of the adult industry that adamantly resists change and is fearful when something different comes along. As these folks cling to their old ways, the generation gap between producers and consumers grows, and producers scramble to figure out how to appeal to people under 30 who think current porn is outdated, unsophisticated, and boring. Not all twentysomethings are turned on by alt-porn, but it taps into a new market that I believe wouldn't buy porn otherwise. Plus, intentionally or not, Eon McKai feeds into his critics' cynical resentment when he embraces his film school training and dares to calls his porn art. In a recent article on eyeonadult.com lashing out at alt-porn auteurs, Scott McGowan wrote: "If people jack off to your art, you're not the artist you think you are."

I fundamentally disagree that all porn can do—and should do—is get people off. Porn illustrates fantasies and shows people other sexual worlds. It teaches, it preaches. It validates, invalidates, reflects, inspires, entertains, evokes, even enrages. Some producers want to churn it out as fast as they can and collect their paychecks. But there are others who want to make something different, who have an agenda, who are not just phoning it in. Just because there are close-up shots of cocks impaling pussies doesn't mean it can't be art. "Porn just happens to be this thing where the person giving you the money really wants good sex. So you, as the director, have all this room to play in between the humping," says McKai. "Can you blame me for putting a little art in there?"

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