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Alt Porn Is Taking Over Brazil, One Performer at a Time

A tall, blond white woman in bright yellow negligee teases the camera in the open air of an unnamed tropical setting. As she begins to peel off the negligee and then the lingerie beneath it, her stark bikini tan lines are revealed, followed by her smooth, shaved genitals and a perfectly tanned butt. She’s soon joined by an older black man, whose dick is eventually released from his shorts and placed within her every orifice over the course of the video. Aside from her tan lines and the fact that the dialogue is in Portuguese, the scene will seem familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of American mainstream porn. But it was actually shot in Brazil — by the country’s biggest porn company, Brasileirinhas, with Brazilian performers. And it’s exactly what international audiences have come to expect from Brazil’s porn industry, which has been producing similar content on a large scale for decades.

Léa Santana, a researcher at the Federal University of Bahia who studies contemporary pornography, explains that according to recent data, “Brazil is the 16th-biggest porn producer worldwide, [and] the major producer in Latin America.” The country has been a major stronghold for porn since the mid-1980s, when a military-led dictatorship that had ruled the country for more than two decades — with public backing from the U.S. — was disbanded.

“In the 1970s, during the military dictatorship, there was a law against ‘material that violates moral or [good] behavior’ or ‘depicts obscene imagery,’” Santana says. But, while the military government forbade films that were overtly political, filmmaking of a lighter nature was encouraged. “The federal government believed that we had to strengthen all internal industry, including the movies,” says Santana. “[That meant] there was easy financing for production of movies, through Embrafilme,” the government’s movie production agency, which wanted to keep the public occupied. “People would go to the movies [for] fun,” says Santana. “Not to think about political problems.”

Thus, many filmmakers made movies they knew the government would approve — comedies with sexy themes and light nudity called pornochanchadas. “A lot of the porn industry [that developed later] was trained [and] employed by the pornochanchada movies,” says Santana. “Actresses and actors made their name, fame and money [in the softcore genre first].”

After the dictatorship was dismantled and democracy returned in 1985, the new Constitution of the Federative Republic Brazil guaranteed that Brazilians were “free to the expression of intellectual, artistic, scientific and communicative activity, independent of censorship and license.” This freedom of expression included the right to make and distribute hardcore porn in addition to pornochanchadas.

It also happened almost simultaneously with American pornographers gaining their own stronghold in Southern California. And early on, American audiences and filmmakers alike were entranced by the “exotic” beauty of Brazil and the possibilities its burgeoning porn industry offered. Not to mention, American pornographers were still beholden to stricter regulations about shooting licenses, public nudity and sex al fresco. In Brazil, however, many of these restrictions were nonexistent, so U.S. filmmakers were eager to capitalize on what Santana calls Brazil’s “hands-off police [policy]. There is no obstruction or control over the production of porn, since it’s made by legal, consenting adults.”

And so, a sort of porn exchange program began to emerge between the U.S. and Brazil. John Stagliano, the founder and owner of the Evil Angel porn empire, tells me, “I shot in Brazil before anyone else, in 1990. The Hi8 camera with little tapes was just out [on the market] and provided the convenience to do this. I did this off and on for years.” Profitable American porn producers like Evil Angel and Red Light District were soon flying to Brazil regularly to take advantage of what was perceived to be a sexual bounty: curvaceous women, bisexual men and transgender performers, all with few inhibitions (especially as they pertained to dance-floor orgies and anal sex). As a result, the country has come to be known to Americans as a sexual free-for-all.

But Brazil’s wild reputation, says Santana, “is just a media stereotype. In general interactions, in everyday Brazilian life and conversation, there’s still a lot of homophobia, heteronormativity, Catholicism, moralism and the like.” This sexy street cred, flawed as it may have been, nevertheless fed into a thriving cultural export that kept porn producers and consumers interested until 2004, when an American actor (Darren James) brought HIV home with him. By that time, the American porn industry had adopted strict STD testing protocols, but James wasn’t diagnosed as positive until he’d already spread the infection to three of his scene partners back in L.A. The HIV outbreak prompted a 30-day moratorium on straight porn filming in the U.S. and led many producers to reexamine the safety of sending performers to Brazil. “If anyone is shooting [in Brazil] now, I don’t know about them,” says Stagliano. “I haven’t shot there since 2008.”

A major blow had been dealt to the relationship between American and Brazilian pornographers, which was further strained by financial difficulties from a seemingly unstoppable deluge of online piracy in the new millennium. Meanwhile, the infamous gonzo genre of porn, which prized extreme sex acts, took over mainstream porn in both the U.S. and Brazil, culminating in 2007’s infamous “Two Girls One Cup,” arguably the best-known (and most disgusting) porn scene of all-time — and a scene that was filmed in São Paulo by Brazilian fetish pornographer Marco Fiorito.

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“The [Brazilian] market is going through a bad moment,” says Santana. “Brasileirinhas, the major porn company in Brazil, released 33 new titles last year — a third of what [they] released in 2007.”

But among this dead zone is also disruption. Particularly the “alt porn” of Safada.tv and xPlastic, both of which are owned by Luz Vermelha Filmes, whose owner — a man who goes only by “Roy” — has set out to transform the porn market in Brazil. Both websites prominently feature glimpses of performers with tattoos, piercings, dyed hair and natural bodies as well as a mingling of queer and straight sex. A quick glance at the Brasileirinhas homepage, meanwhile, reveals a wall of predictable straight sex acts performed by tanned, white performers sporting fake breasts and butts, ostentatious tan lines and virtually no ink. Here, trans and gay performers are kept separate from the straight fare. Safada.tv’s homepage, on the other hand, features trans, queer and straight actors in nearly equal measure.

“Here all bodies are adequate,” reads xPlastic’s About page (according to Google Translate). “Our mission is to show the sex without mystification, in a fun way, and to discuss social issues.” For its part, Safada.tv boasts that its content “is divided into channels. Each channel is an independent site controlled by a porn star or producer. … We share the subscription revenue with channel owners. Fifty percent of the value [of a subscription] will stay with the actress so she can invest in better videos.”

Gween Black is a popular Brazilian performer of native descent with light skin punctuated by dark nipples, multiple tattoos and dark hair that she often covers with wildly colored wigs for the videos she creates. Her slim, natural-looking body and fondness for cosplay, fishnets and gas masks might not fly at Brasileirinhas, but she’s a huge presence on xPlastic and Safada.tv, where the videos she makes for her cam shows at MyFreeCams are re-posted and distributed.

Camming is actually where much of Brazil’s alt porn begins, primarily out of necessity since, aside from Safada.tv and xPlastic, there aren’t yet a lot of opportunities for alt models. Camming provides a steady, supplemental income as well as autonomy over adult personas and performances — i.e., cam models like Black and thousands of others can express themselves however they choose, rather than the ways in which mainstream producers or directors decide are sexy.

“All the girls are independent contractors, so they have full power over the room, the time they work and [the] money [they earn],” says Black. Her cam shows obviously feature a heavy dose of sexual content, but a considerable amount of fangirl cosplay, too: She cams as everyone from Princess Leia to Khaleesi from Game of Thrones. This extends to her Tumblr, where you’re just as likely to find a Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon Go reference as you are a nude selfie, and her Twitter presence, where she’s tweeted candidly about her struggles with anxiety and depression.

Alt porn, Black adds, also has changed the way she sees her opportunities as a porn performer, and even given her a better relationship with her own body. “When I started in the sex industry [three years ago],” she says, “I considered saving money for anal bleaching because I am from [a] native family and my bits are brown [and] black. When you look at normal porn, you don’t usually see those colors. I thought I was disgusting for being born that way, and bleaching would make me feel beautiful.” But then, she says, she met another alternative model who said that she had “the most beautiful brown nipples she’d ever seen in her life, and that was mind-blowing.”

Now, she’s one of Brazil’s most popular alt porn stars, and she makes her living on her own terms. She’s able to perform in cosplay, bedecked in leather and fishnets, or covered head to toe in glitter at her whim. As a queer woman, she can work solo with a variety of toys, with a giant teddy bear (which appears in several of her videos) or with performers of multiple gender identities, each of whom can represent themselves the way they feel most comfortable. And sometimes, she can combine several of her favorite things — like the video where she and her costar cover each other’s bodies in glitter under a pink light.

“It’s amazing that we can all fit under the Brazilian porn scene,” she continues. “It’s good seeing girls with real bodies taking over the Brazilian industry!”