Brian Dwayne is Making Pro-Black Porn

Category: POV Podcast

Author: Aria Vega

Brian Dwayne is the creator of BlkTouch, the online porn platform featuring erotic exchanges between Black folks. Each scene is plot-driven, cinematic, and deeply sensual, with a sharp focus on celebrating Black women’s pleasure.

Podcast Transcript:

Transcript: Brian Dwayne

Aria Vega [00:00:00] [Voiceover]This podcast contains explicit content. Listener's discretion is advised. POV by Lustery explores culture, politics and creativity in the sex industry, one point of view at a time. I'm your host, Aria Vega.

Aria Vega [00:00:17] Brian Dwayne is the creator of BlkTouch, an adult film studio and streaming platform featuring Black erotic art with a "for us, by us" ethos, based here in Atlanta. Brian is the kind of creative who takes his artistic impulses very seriously, and stops at nothing to manifest them. Before creating BlkTouch, brian was a self-taught photographer with a focus on portraits of Black women. He even taught himself Adobe Photoshop, the notoriously difficult editing program. But Brian's timing was great. He picked up his first camera right around the time that photographers everywhere had newly gained a powerful tool for skill-sharing and marketing.

Brian Dwayne [00:01:01] [Interview] This was kind of at the beginning of Instagram, where you really didn't have to be that knowledgeable. You just had to be consistent and you could build up a name for yourself. So for a while, I just sort of created these images and shared them. But yeah, it was September 2013, 2014 [that] picked up the camera, and I started doing portrait work and implied nudes. I also did a lot of artistic-leaning yoga photography, which at the time there wasn't a ton of that before.

Aria Vega [00:01:32] [Voiceover] Brian has felt a fascination for portraits ever since the early-2010s heyday of Flickr, the image hosting site where he'd browse the portfolios of portrait artists.

Brian Dwayne [00:01:43] [Interview] The portraiture side of the work that I found on Flickr really spoke to me. You know, the ability to capture somebody in a way where they're first isolated, maybe from their environment, they're engaged with their environment in some way. But you get to feel like you know the person that you're looking at. So that was a really big thing for me when I was looking at photography and then wondering, Could I do this? Like, What does this person know that I don't? And I'm super big nerd and I would study on YouTube, how photography works, and then per square law, and all these things, because then I would try to replicate the stuff that's on Flickr. But the things I was most drawn to was capturing portraiture, like capturing someone's story or essence in that moment. That's really what draws me to it more than anything else.

Aria Vega [00:02:37] [Voiceover] Brian was born to Jamaican parents in Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up as the eldest of three boys. His mother is a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, and raised them with those values. When it comes to sex, this denomination can be as conservative as it sounds.

Brian Dwayne [00:02:54] [Interview] Regardless, sex... There wasn't much conversation around it except for, let's say, if I found porn, or they found me watching something, it was just sort of like, That's wrong, don't do it. I think it's just the discomfort around the conversations, as well as indoctrination, about Christianity and the way it should work and when you should have sex. All of that came together to sort of having to figure it out on my own, for the most part. So, yeah, my relationship to sex was like any other young boy. You know, if it showed up on TV and it showed up on a magazine, I was there for it.

Aria Vega [00:03:31] And what was your initial discovery of of porn like? Was it that classic stumbling upon your dad's stash, type of thing?

Brian Dwayne [00:03:41] It's wrid, my father never had a collection or anything. It was visiting other people's homes... I went to visit family members in Jamaica, and the guy next door had a daughter. We hung out with her, and one day I'm in her brother's room and there is a magazine on his bed and it was a naked woman. And I was like, What? I hadn't seen anything like it.

Aria Vega [00:04:08] How old were you at that point?

Brian Dwayne [00:04:09] That's a good question. Probably like 9 or 10. So around that time, I don't think I was really close to... the woman closest to me was my mother, I wasn't raised with any sisters, so women were still kind of a mystery to me. Then to see a whole naked one, and then, you know, sexual acts on paper left a big impression on me. And my personal feeling around women were that they were sort of like otherworldly. At that age, and growing up, women were sort ofnot like us silly dirty little boys. They were, they were better. They were higher. They were more, you know, they were not quite as scruffy as us, I should say. If that makes sense.

Aria Vega [00:05:01] Yeah, yeah. So you're growing up and appreciating this otherworldly beauty of women, and I imagine developing your own taste in porn. What types of things were you observing about how Black performers and Black models were being portrayed?

Brian Dwayne [00:05:19] You know, when I was younger, I didn't look at my porn in terms of race at all. It was just if I could see it, I wanted to see it. And so, you know, the things that sort of stuck out to me happened fairly later in my life, like maybe in my 30s? (I'm 42 now.) So around 35, 36 is when I started thinking a little bit differently about what I was seeing, and why things were the way they were.

Aria Vega [00:05:46] [Voiceover] Brian started to notice that mainstream porn featuring Black performers did so from a white gaze, often for the express purpose of fetishization. Think about the undying cliche of the big black cock, or the grossly exoticizing notion of "jungle fever."

Brian Dwayne [00:06:04] [Interview] But after a while, it just started weighing on me that this doesn't feel right. The reason why this scene is even crafted the way it is, or the way they're telling the story, or why it's supposed to be provocative, had almost everything to do with race. It had nothing to do with the connection between the characters and the stories.

Aria Vega [00:06:26] [Voiceover] With this new consciousness came a burgeoning desire to tell the types of erotic stories that Brian wasn't finding organically. Black erotic stories, with plot driven scenes and genuine chemistry. In the spring of 2019, Brian launched BlkTouch not long after one especially steamy photograph of his attracted some attention online.

Brian Dwayne [00:06:49] [Interview] It was two males and a female posing in a sensual way with each other, and it was the first time I'd done that. I didn't realize it, that there weren't many examples of that out there, a black woman posing with two men. And to me, I do think that the subject matter was more important than the quality of the image. But these pictures got out there, they went viral. I used to see them all over the place and see people turn them into memes. Then I realized I wanted to keep creating content like that. So by May of 2019, I'd done a couple more shoots in that space, and I decided I wanted to have a home for that work. So BlkTouch was born and registered in that month of May. And it probably for a year it was just free content. I was just doing photoshoots and had a mailing list, and the mailing list would grow as more people heard about it. And June of the next year was the first time I'd even thought about monetizing, because at that point I had maybe 15 or so scenes that I had shot and shared and they were growing naturally, and I thought to myself, I can't keep doing this, it has to be some sort of financial benefit from it. So yeah, I took some time and I built out... like I said I'm a big nerd. So monetizing it essentially was restructuring the website so that it was some version of free content there. And then there had to be something that only members could access, and I wrote the code to tie into the credit card processor— oh, I didn't mention this part, but I'm in IT...

Aria Vega [00:08:29] Oh wow! I was like, Wait, did I miss something? That's cool!

Brian Dwayne [00:08:34] I'm self-taught in everything. For 20 years I was a network engineer, and I worked on routers, firewalls, switches, load balancers, things like that tie the internet together. At the same time, I taught myself programing, and then in 2019, built out that website in two thousand twenty, 2020, I wrote the code to tie into to the credit card processor and get people access as members. And that's when I would consider I became a company, per se.

Aria Vega [00:09:07] [Voiceover] By the time things evolved from free photos to monetized videos in 2020, BlkTouch was in full swing. It's essentially a one-man band with Brian coding and running the site, shooting the content, and so very much more.

Brian Dwayne [00:09:23] [Interview] So there is casting, I have to sort of promote the idea that, hey, you can shoot with me, which now as of August of last year, I was able to hand off a lot of that work. But for a very long time, it was me managing the casting, planning the shoots, booking locations, shooting it, editing it, publishing it on the site, promoting it online, and then it just starts over.

Aria Vega [00:09:47] Do you do the screenwriting too?

Brian Dwayne [00:09:48] Yeah.

Aria Vega [00:09:49] Wow.

Brian Dwayne [00:09:52] I don't know, it's just whatever was needed, I was like, Alright, I'll figure that out too.

Aria Vega [00:09:56] So how would you characterize the impact of the pandemic on your work? Because you were really just getting started.

Brian Dwayne [00:10:02] Actually, I think it helped because, you know, a lot of people were at home a lot of the time. More people were talking about [and] sharing this sort of content. And for me, it allowed me to take a break. So I'm a... I guess an "introvert" is the right term. I could stay at home for months and be totally fine, I won't have emotional breakdown or anything like that. So the pandemic just gave me more of a reason to be like Hey, now I'm going to put my head down and actually code and make the site the way I want it to for a couple of months. After I've done that, then I started doing very limited shoots with people that I was already familiar with, because we were all sort of learning COVID impacts us, and how quickly you can get it, and what is the right time to shoot if somebody feels something... There's all these things that will have to be sort of figured out in negotiating. But I always looked at each and every step as like a challenge to overcome. My production didn't do worse in 2020. I suspect I did better than the previous year, because I built a lot of structure around what I do. So I have databases to manage the scenes that I shoot, and the people in the scenes, and the documentation they submitted, and the communication I kept with them...Like I said, I'm a big nerd, so if there's a way to solve these problems, I can relatively quickly solve them on my own. So, yeah, it wasn't that big of a challenge, really.

Aria Vega [00:11:34] You know, the other thing that's just occurring to me about your timing is that 2020 was also this year of our collective reckoning around race in this country, and black businesses had a degree of visibility that they had not enjoyed even the year before. And I wonder if you feel like that also had an impact.

Brian Dwayne [00:12:01] I would think so. I think when you create content, the idea is that it should have, well at least for me, I have an audience that I'm creating it for, which is Black women, generally. Because I think in mainstream porn there is not (or, you know, erotica) there isn't really a focus on creating content for Black women. In fact, I've been told by people that, oh, if you're making this stuff for Black women it's not going to go anywhere. And I'm thinking, The reason why people would feel that way is because there isn't anyone who's dedicated themselves to doing it, right? So now you've got a massive segment of the market who feels underserved and unseen. I think that, yes, Black folk to wanting to patronize other Black businesses, there really was this surge there, but I don't think I presented BlkTouch as a Black business more than I presented it as something for Black women and Black people. I do say, you know, I mention clearly that it's it's "by us, for us," but the "for us" is what I focus more on, I still today focus more on. So I think when you speak to the right market properly, you respect them, you listen to them, yeah there are going to be ups and downs in any market, but the people who realize that you're serving them directly, they appreciate and they they talk about it, they share, they support it. And that's what I feel I've experienced. And it's not really a reaction to the social changes that we're having, it's more like, Finally.

Aria Vega [00:13:40] [Voiceover] As a group, Black Americans have a unique and complex relationship with porn, stemming from the hypersexual lens through which the world perceives us, a legacy of slavery. Brian explores this idea in an article on BlkTouch entitled, "Can Porn Be Pro-Black?"

Brian Dwayne [00:13:58] [Interview] The gist of the article was the truth that Black people were brought to this country as a economic resource. Even our sex was a part of an economic system, the same way we breed dogs and cows and what have you is the same way that our Black people were treated. So even today, the idea that our sex belongs to us, and that it isn't a part of some sort of gimmick, or what have you, is a kind of revolutionary idea. The vast majority of porn that's made, most of it is created to serve white males.

Aria Vega [00:14:37] Absolutely. They're not calling us "ebony" for us.

Brian Dwayne [00:14:41] That's not for us! So in my mind, we need to have something that is directly created to serve us so that we can see levels of freedom in the work that we consume. Because it has a very deep impact, the porn that we watch from the time we're young until now, or until we're older, has a very deep impact on the way we see pleasure in our lives. And when we see pleasure through the eyes of somebody who doesn't consider it when they're creating the content, you're going to have generations of women who see themselves as more of an object because that's how they were treated in the content they consume. Same thing with the men, and I used to say there's a lot in the beginning of the project: The idea is that if we are part of the story, we are more of a prop than a character. That's how it feels when I was consuming. So that's sort of my personal awakening, that's how it felt. It was like, The people in here are considered more like a prop, and I wanted to create what I saw was missing. It wasn't a very clear idea, in the beginning. It sort of evolved as I started making more and more of this. Like, I wanted there to be a higher reason for me to shoot this scene. In the beginning, the photos showed genuine connections between Black men and women, and I loved that, and I wanted to extend that into the video when I started doing video. And even till today my goal is, and I'm very clear with the people I work with, especially the men, that the goal is the Black woman's pleasure. I say that we want to keep in mind who are making this for, and why we're making it. And I basically have that conversation every time I shoot, to try to ground the work that we're doing.

Aria Vega [00:16:30] Yeah, you know, I was just going to ask you next, because I know that a major part of your mission is producing this Black erotic art that highlights intimacy and sensuality. I was going to ask why that was important to you, and I feel like you've just answered that.

Brian Dwayne [00:16:44] Oh, yeah. I mean, my awareness as a Black male in America has, probably over the last five or six years, really came into its own. So when I decided to create this content, I had to ask myself, what is the highest purpose for it? To me, the highest purpose is to create true erotica. If you're familiar with... Now I'm going to forget her name... She created a series of essays around erotica, like erotica for the purpose of power.

Aria Vega [00:17:15] Oh, are you talking about The Uses of the Erotic by Audre Lorde? Yeah!

Brian Dwayne [00:17:19] Yeah! I think the challenge with this, and I want to get a little bit in the weeds here...

Aria Vega [00:17:25] Let's do it!

Brian Dwayne [00:17:25] The thing is that when I first started doing this, people were telling me, Oh, this isn't porn, man, this isn't porn! And I'm like, Yes, it is! But if you want to call it something else, that's fine. But I realized through my own experience, and also being introduced to Audre Lorde's work, that erotica is about exposing you to your capacity for more pleasure. You know, I was working a regular corporate job, and then I was doing this work. But the more I did this work, the more it brought me joy, the less palatable the non-joyous work of my corporate job was, and I had to reconcile with that. The more you expose someone to their pleasure, the less they're going to put up with shit. So if I can create content that helps people, that helps expose people to higher levels of pleasure, whether it's seeing someone of their body type or their skin tone feeling and being pleased in the way that they've never seen in other media, that is the highest purpose of BlkTouch, to expose people to that space. I was exposed to creating the work, and I want this work to be that sort of channel to mostly women, but everyone.

Aria Vega [00:18:39] Your story is such a powerful example of the point that Audre Lorde was trying to make, in that erotic energy has the potential to be this liberatory tool from systems of oppression, in that grand sense, but also in the micro sense. You know, you were saying it helped you realize that your job was not sustainable.

Brian Dwayne [00:18:59] Yeah, I did that for 20 years! I loved it when I started it, [but] I did it for so long that I got disconnected from the work, and I was really down about my purpose in the world. As I started this project, it just started feeling more and more like, This is why I'm here. Now I wake up with energy and I go all day and all night dealing with nonsense on levels that I can't even express, but just to get this work out and just build something that I think the world needs. It's a different type of life that I'm living.

Aria Vega [00:19:36] Yeah, and this is the type of work that spreads that feeling to other people. I think one of the things that you do that makes that so successful is how much chemistry there is between the performers that you cast. I'm curious, how do you go about your casting process? How do you ensure that? You know, because unlike Lustery, where real-life couples who obviously already have that connection are coming to us with it. As a casting director, you are generating it from scratch.

Brian Dwayne [00:20:10] That's one of the most complex parts of it. But really, in essence, when I started, I started working with people who were already creating content, and so they already were familiar. And even today, if somebody were to reach out, the first thing I ask them is do they know of or do they have a partner that they would like to work with? Because the only part that's really scripted and controlled is the narrative portion. I'm telling the story. I am super controlling in terms of writing and direction, trying to elevate my own movie, creating a story, creating power or whatever. But when it comes to the actual intimacy, I focus— I basically allow them to be in their own space. So a lot of the people that you see, especially when it's penetrative heterosexual sex, they've already been with each other, they are either couples and stuff like that. I don't really do a lot of pairing, because even when that's the case, my biggest concern is how well these two people are going to perform. First off, they're going to get together for the first time, and now there's a guy running around them with a camera, and there's a light... It's too much to be natural, and my goal is to try to pull out the natural chemistry from every scene. So when you see The Last Scene, he's having unprotected sex with her, that's not the first time they've done it. She's telling him to slap her, that's not the first time she's ever asked him to do that. They're doing what they normally do in front of my camera, and I'm just making sure it looks as good as possible. So that's why the chemistry feels like that, because I'm sure a lot of conten on Lustery, it's just people in their organic space doing their own kind of thing. And that's what I desire to capture, in a really cinematic way.

Aria Vega [00:22:00] What would you say is the most important idea that you wish to convey through your work about sex and love as Black people experience them?

Brian Dwayne [00:22:09] So Black says, currently focuses on scenes. Basically I construct them, whether there's a narrative, it's like 15 to maybe 20 minutes of intimacy. But I also have been working on a project for about the last six months that is about to be released this month called Pleasure Portraits. The focus is capturing the natural, orgasmic energy that rising energy through the whole sexual, the whole masturbatory ritual, whether it's male or female (right now, there's a lot of women) but the idea is to just capture that and present it in its own natural state, right? And in figuring out how to launch it, I realized that my goal is to talk about pleasure or to communicate that our pleasure doesn't belong to anyone but us, that we shouldn't be focused on only enjoying ourselves when a partner is involved. We can watch a scene of, let's say, on BlkTouch that speaks to us, and we don't need to have to have sex with someone afterwards. If we were looking at a lot of porn from the time we're young, it normalizes the way things should be in our mind. And a lot of the times it's always partnered stuff. So my biggest thing that I want to basically state is that it's important to focus on our own sort of expression and our own freedom. And if we focus on our own personal freedom through taking control and managing and owning our own pleasure, then as a people, we are freer to experience pleasure together, right? And I think that that this work allows that to be at the forefront.

Aria Vega [00:24:04] Do you understand pleasure as containing a spiritual component?

Brian Dwayne [00:24:08] Oh yeah.

Aria Vega [00:24:09] I can tell from how you describe it. Say more about that.

Brian Dwayne [00:24:12] I don't know. It took me a very long time to accept my own sexual state, which if I sat and I watched porn and I just consumed and watched what society told me, it would tell me as a heterosexual man that I should be attracted to and lust after women constantly. But I was always at odds with my reality because that's not natural to me. For me personally, I need to know a woman before the idea of even sex comes up. So I would say that I'm a demisexual. The bridge in which I cross to even get to pleasure is a personal one, something that has something to do with me. That's why I don't get caught up with what's happening in front of me when I'm shooting, because I'm looking at it from an artistic lens, right? And I think that if we all recognize the fact that the messages were receiving around pleasure and usually manufactured by organizations, companies and stuff like that, that are trying to extract something from us, whether it's our attention or our money, then we can be aware of that and divorce ourselves from what we're told we're supposed to be. There's a true power in finding out what we really are. Here I am in my forties still figuring this out and having spent most of my life feeling like something was wrong with me, when I had to stop paying attention to what the world was telling me I should be, and sort of embrace it for myself. That's my personal, my take on it because I think that, yeah, I don't see something wrong with somebody who's very lustful or what have you. I just hope that that's genuinely who they are, and that they're not reacting and not playing a role. The longer we play a role, the less time we give ourselves to be truly, who we are.

Aria Vega [00:26:15] That's Brian Dwayne, creator of BlkTouch. The site is at BlkTouch.com, that's B-l-k Touch dot com. You can also get connected via Twitter and Instagram @BlkTouch. I'd love to chat with some more of the awesome independent porn producers out there. What inspired you to go the indie route? Send an email or a voice memo with your answer to askaria@lustery.com, or you can find me on Twitter @vegadreamcast. You can always remain anonymous. If you're into the show, please leave us a five star rating and review. POV is brought to you by Lustery, and this episode was hosted by me, Aria Vega. It was edited and produced by Kathryn Fischer and Adrienne Teicher, and our showrunner is Paulita Pappel. Lustery is the home of real-life partners filming their sex lives behind closed doors. If you're 18 or older, you can find us at Lustery.com, and we're on Twitter and Instagram @lusterypov. Catch you next week, lovers!