Originally published in Verbicide issue #17
You’ve seen her naked. You’ve seen her fuck. But chances are, you’ve never gotten a close look into the mind of porn star Tera Patrick. Maybe you’ve never wondered what’s behind the veneer of her evocative 2D image, writhing and panting on screen, but I’d bet if you had the chance, you wouldn’t resist a little peek.
I got to spend an evening talking to Tera and her husband, manager, and sometimes-co-performer Evan Seinfeld about love, marriage, politics, and having sex in front of people. The fact that sex is their business gave me a passport into a hazy territory that is at once public and private, truthful and political, sacred and profane. I felt like a voyeur, but their responses confirmed that being a voyeur was my right, so long as they had extended the invitation. So I pushed as deep as they’d let me go.
If you haven’t already seen her, Tera’s mass appeal comes from her natural bombshell beauty, her exotic half-Thai, half Brit-Jewish genes, enormous boobs, and her naughty-yet-sweet demeanor. That she caught onto something big is obvious, but how she’s done it is a little more elusive considering how many women have tried and failed to land the measure of success she’s attained — you might say she has a certain je ne sais quoi? Whatever it is, she’s managed to make millions exploiting the hugely popular desire for the culturally deviant All-American girl, and no one seems to know that better than Evan Seinfeld.
A few years before her marriage to Evan — bassist and vocalist of metal stalwarts Biohazard — she broke free from her contract in an ugly legal battle with Digital Playground and switched to Vivid Video. It was with Vivid that she and Evan reigned in more control and a better contract. Tera remains mum when it comes to talking about the controversy surrounding Digital Playground, but as a couple, they’re surprisingly forthcoming when it comes to sharing some intimate details regarding their relationship, her boob job, and family matters. But I guess that’s their business, literally. Still, it makes me wonder how far deep they really did let me in; if what they show me is what they show everyone else, is it all a show? The exhibitionist feeds the voyeur and the cycle feeds itself. Reader, I’m too lazy and have more primal things to do (like figuring out how I’m going to get some tonight) — how about you be the judge.
When was the first time that you ever felt sexy?
Oh lord, I guess when I got into high school and I started modeling. I went to a modeling finishing school, so, I guess around that time.
I heard you first got started in this industry by posing nude, and I was wondering what you liked about that?
Well, I got started in 1999, and it was for Playboy magazine. I think what I love the most about it was knowing that I had been chosen out of so many other women to do the magazine. It was always a dream of mine to be in a men’s magazine and to have men look at me and see me as a centerfold. So doing the whole spread was such a great experience. I posed for Penthouse right after that and they were really nice people — everything was so nice about the shoots. The photographer made me feel sexy — she put me in beautiful lingerie, the locations were beautiful…I think it was just the time in my life, I was 25 when I first started in the industry, and it was a very impressionable time for me sexually and emotionally. And it was just nice.
And had you ever done anything like that before?
It was the first time I posed nude. I had been a model since I was 14. I had been modeling for a very long time so modeling came very natural to me, but I had never been naked before.
Did it feel really different? Or did it just feel like modeling?
For me it was very empowering — I felt very powerful being naked. I think that sex is obviously a very powerful tool and weapon, and I felt very strong when I was posing. And I felt like I was going to lure men to me, which has been the case…and women! (laughter)
I have to ask, because I’m guessing that this is something that comes up in people’s careers in this industry: when you first got started in porn, did you ever have to overcome your own prejudices about the industry?
Well, I didn’t have any views. Like I said, I was 25 and I was coming from working as a nurse. I didn’t know much about porn or the porn industry, and I wasn’t really a porn consumer.
But it does have a stigma, you know?
Yeah. To me, everyone in my life is understanding of what I do, and I just don’t let people in unless they’re accepting. I think that if they know who I am, they either greet me kindly, like, “Oh, I’m a really, really great fan,” or like, “Hey, I love you — you’re great!” But I don’t think I have to deal with [the stigma]. Maybe [that’s because] I just don’t represent anything that’s negative in porn. I don’t know.
What are some the preconditions for the type of people that you want to work with?
Well, I’m attracted to them in one way or another, but I think that everyone has their own special quality. If I’m talking about women, I’d say I like working with Savannah because she’s so experienced — she really knows how to physically please a woman. And I love Briana Banks because she’s so crazy and wild, and I know in the middle of having sex she could stick a finger up my butt, you know what I mean? And if I take a guy like Tommy Gunn, I enjoy working with him because he’s so handsome and he’s gentle. All the preconditions are different because everyone brings something different to the table.
What conditions do you consider unacceptable, that you will refuse to work under?
Well, my sets are really easy. I own my own production company, so I do most of my own productions these days. We try not to keep too long of hours. It’s hard to be working over eight to 10 hours, I think. Everyone has to show up clean and enthusiastic. I think a good attitude goes a long way. I’ve replaced people before who have complained or not come with a good attitude.
And they bring their health tests? That’s pretty routine?
There was an AIDS scare in the industry in 2004. How does the industry deal with this? And this isn’t a question about you, just the industry in general. Is there a structured response?
Well, I can’t really answer that question because it didn’t really affect me.
But if it gets out that one performer has contracted AIDS, is there a way that the information is relayed?
Well, it’s word of mouth, for sure. I think some people might put it on a website, but some people might think it’s fascist. And someone could get sued. The way I’ve heard most things like that is that other studio owners communicate with each other.
Did you ever feel pressured by trends in the industry? I know that in the past your natural body has been your championing point. I was wondering if trends had anything to do with your breast augmentation.
I don’t think so. I think that if I had felt pressured by any trends I would have definitely done more than I did. I’ve always been sexually in charge, so I’ve always done what I wanted to do. If you’re asking why I got breast implants it wasn’t because I felt pressure — it was because over the course of five years a person is going to change. They’re not always going to look the same or, hopefully, act the same. You can try to look the same, but I thought it was more of an enhancement — I wanted them bigger! I’m glad I have them.
You’ve had your share of contract troubles with Digital Playground. What advice would you give to a young woman entering the industry?
Don’t do anything without a lawyer. Get an attorney, don’t sign anything, don’t always believe everything anyone says.
But what about general advice?
Well, there’s a lot of advice I could give! (laughter) It’s different for everybody. Not everyone can receive the same benefits.
But what if she’s nervous, but she wants [to enter the porn industry]?
If she’s nervous, I’d tell her not to do it.
Really? Isn’t it natural to be a little nervous when starting something new?
If you’re nervous, don’t do it. It’s that simple. If you feel something inside you that’s not right, you shouldn’t do something. Everybody does porn for their own reasons, and yes, you can achieve success from it, but if you have any qualms about it…you have to realize that this is for the rest of your life. That’s one thing that I tell all the girls. Everyone is going to see you. If you’re nervous about it, then don’t do it! That’s the bottom line.
You incorporated your own video company, Teravison. Can you tell me a little about it?
I started Teravision with my husband Evan Seinfeld in 2004 and it’s my production company. Teravision is releasing one or two releases a month and they star me and my two contract girls: Nikki Benz, who is a former Jill Kelly girl but is now exclusive with me, and Yasmin Taylor. Our big movie that we’re featuring this year is called Teradise Island, and it’s my first anal movie. All the fans have been asking about it. They’ve been asking me to do another island movie and to do an anal scene. So we thought, okay, why not go to an island and do an anal scene? So there’s three of us. We’re also putting out Nikki’s first movie in May. It’s called Test Drive….shhhhhhhhh.
Oh, I won’t print that if you don’t want me to.
Oh no! I’m sorry. I’m talking to my dog. (laughter) You print that! It’s okay!
So [Teravision] is something you and your husband incorporated, but it’s still in association with Vivid video?
Vivid is my distributor.
But you’re the owner?
How does marriage and being in love affect your work?
It’s funny. Being in love is the greatest thing ever. I tell my girlfriends that I’m so lucky because I’m fulfilled in my fantasy with him, which is making movies, and I get fulfilled with the love from him, which is at home. We have to separate our movie lovemaking with our home lovemaking. We take time for each other every day. We spend time together. I cook him breakfast before he goes off to work. We believe in each other and we respect each other. And that’s what makes our relationship different than a lot of the relationships in the adult industry. Or in general.
So you were saying that you have to separate your movie sex life from your home sex life?
He works with other people and I work with other people, so when you’re at work you realize, “Okay, I’m having a good time.” And it’s great that we get to have sex with other people, but then when we go home, we’re loving and gentle and we listen to each other and we’re very attentive to each other. We save special things for us to do at home that we don’t do on camera.
But even when you do work together, it’s different?
Yeah. Of course, we’re acting a little bit. It’s definitely different.
Does it feel less intimate?
No, it doesn’t feel less intimate, it just feels like that’s our job. We’re the fantasies of people so we have to live up to that fantasy.
I noticed in one of your diary entries that you hang out with your dad quite a bit — you go on vacation, you go visit him. So you’re really close with your family. Was there ever a time when any of your family members had a difficult time accepting your career choice?
No, my family’s really small. It’s just me and my dad, and I have two sisters that are younger than me, and a brother. They’re very cool with what I do. They see it as, “this is her job.” They knew I was going to get into modeling or some facet of entertainment because I’m a Leo and I was always acting in school plays. I did theater and ballet. So it wasn’t a big shock to them. When I come home I have to sign autographs, not for them but for some people they know — they go, “Hey, some guy at the video store…” (laughter) My sister told me, “I got a year of free tanning. I need to give the tanning guy an 8×10!” I’m like, “Oh, lord!” They use me for stuff. (laughter)
I was wondering if you could comment about the [media] shift from video to Internet, because you’ve seen this happening first hand.
The one thing about the Internet is that it’s given [performers] the opportunity to have a chunk of the business that they can capitalize on. A lot of girls have opened their own websites and they shoot their own content. And they do sex shows and they do boy/girl shows and all that stuff, and they keep 100 percent of that. And they sell their panties and they are able to build a name for themselves just working on the Internet.
It decentralizes everything.
And some of these girls don’t want to own their own production agencies. They just want to manage a website. And that’s easy — they can do it in their pajamas! And fans love to see them in their pajamas doing a little chatting! I know my fans do. It’s very profitable.
Are there any downsides to the Internet in your industry?
Downsides? Where do I start? It’s just the people that rip you off. The people who take your images and start websites and charge memberships. Yeah, there are lots of downsides to the Internet. It’s ruined a lot of industries, the music industry as well. When you’re stealing content and downloading it for free and passing it to the masses, you’re putting people out of business. Why would you pay for it if there are people out there giving it away for free?
Not many women watch porn. I was wondering if you think that they should.
Yeah, I think it’s great. I have a lot of female fans that compliment me and tell me what a positive image I am.
What do they tell you they get from watching?
Oh, everything. Everything from, “You saved my marriage,” to, “I conceived my child to you,” to, “I’m a lesbian. I masturbate to you.” “I do my hair like you.” Everything. I have women coming to me from all walks of life.
Tera and I were talking about overcoming prejudices in the pornography industry. Did you have to overcome any prejudices when you first started seeing her?
Well, it’s hard not to have a preconceived notion about everything. I’m a very opinionated person. I totally thought that I knew what she was going to be like, what her behavior was going to be like. Every stereotype I had in my head about pornstars she broke for me.
Like what, for instance?
Like all the pornstars and strippers that I ever hung around with were slobs. They’d have dirty houses. They’d have a car full of high heels. Messy, chaotic, and disorganized. Tera had an immaculate home. It looked like a pre-jail Martha Stewart mixed with some rock and roll and hippie. There were beautiful plants that were manicured. She had expensive candles burning, incense everywhere. Her furniture…everything about her was perfect, like her face.
But what about her personality?
Listen, I thought she was going to be a drug addict and she wasn’t into drugs at all. I thought she was going to be a big slut and she was totally not like that. We were a good match because she was always wondering, like, who’s going to love me? I was always wondering, who’s going to ever keep my fucking attention? I had been going around the world banging girls in the back of the tour bus and each day never seeing the girls again. I mean, yeah, it’s more socially acceptable for a man to be a “man whore.” But that’s just gender reversal bullshit.
A lot of women were intimidated by me because I lived such an “out-there” lifestyle. Tera, if anything, was turned on by it. I remember other girls, in the biz or not, asking her, “How can you be with that guy? He’s a womanizing pig!” And Tera’s like, “No, he’s not. He’s sweet to me.” She made me feel good about who I was and part of what made me want to stay with her is that we never asked each other to apologize for what we’d done and who we were.
So you both got [Teravision] incorporated but Vivid is the distributor…
Vivid is the distributor and sister company. Tera is a Vivid girl. But on the other side, Teravision is a brand new, young company owned by an adult megastar. We produce our own films — we’ve shot about 20 films so far. Everything we’ve put out has made number one on the adult sales and rentals charts. Teravision is about Tera’s vision. It’s like, hey, girls come into this business, they get exploited, they get chewed up and spit out. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Female adult film stars are the only natural resource that matters in this industry.
How does ownership of the content work?
Tera owns all her own content. And we deliver the content in so many ways. In any given month, Tera’s on the cover of FHM, and Stuff, and two car magazines, and motorcycle magazines, and three adult magazines. She’s become the face of the new “hot chick” but she’s not a hot chick someone’s getting over on. She’s exploiting herself for her own personal gain and here in America it’s part of the freedom. To me, the way we’ve spun Tera is that she’s become the face of “the girl that makes porn okay.” She’s naturally beautiful. She’s not a blonde; she’s a brunette, so she breaks that whole bleach-blonde stereotype. She’s classy and elegant and smart and well spoken, and she’s not a victim.
Well, you say she’s naturally beautiful, but she did get breast augmentation.
She got breast augmentation about three years ago. She was shooting a layout for Playboy and she dieted really hard for five or six months. She lost a lot of weight and her natural D-sized boobs deflated down to like a B. And she was really depressed and didn’t feel great about how she looked. She loved every part of her body but she wanted her big boobs back. I kind of tried to talk her out of it at first. Then I realized that it’s her body, it’s her choice. She can do what she wants to do. Half the girls in the industry, they get their whole face rearranged. Nowadays, a girl getting a boob job is like a guy going to the gym. In L.A. it’s like standard equipment.
And you’re happy with them?
Yeah, I like them. The sexiest thing to me is a woman confident with her own body. Whatever it was going to take for her to feel good, I was going to support. And Tera was also very supportive of me when I said I wanna be a pornstar and I want to do scenes in the movies. And Tera said, “You go ahead, daddy.” You do what you’ve got to do.
I read that after you got married she would [only] work with you on movies, but that’s changed since then.
Actually, we read the fan mail and people were totally supportive. There was absolutely no backlash about it. We kinda heard, “Hey, this is going to hurt you guys. You guys need to expand your horizons.” She was working with other girls and I was working with other girls a little bit. Just enough to have fun, you know what I mean. We weren’t making a ton of movies. We really talked about it and we said, “Why is she famous, why is she on top, why is she making these millions of dollars?” Well, it’s because she’s done porn and people love her in that scenario. I told her, “You know, baby, I love you, I support you. If you’re going to stay in this industry, you should go all out and do it all.”
But it seemed like it was an issue before?
No, it was never an issue. To be honest, it never occurred to me that we might go this way. It was kind of a progression in a way. She didn’t want to. Tera was talking about leaving the business when we first got together. I was like, “No way, baby. You’re too popular, you’re too famous, and there’s too much money in it for you.” And I’m from Brooklyn. I was groomed that if anyone ever looks at your girlfriend, you hit them over the head with a bat, you know? And I’ve never been with a girl and wanted her to be with other guys. It wasn’t that sort of thing. I’m the perv! I’m the one who wants to be with different girls.
Tera is very monogamous by nature. [But] it’s kind of a dichotomy because part of her just wants to be married, and the other part of her is a sexually adventurous dynamo who wants to have torrid sex and sex with strange people. I brought it up to her and she was shocked. It became a discussion for almost a year until finally I said let’s just try it. What’s the worst that could happen? One of us will feel bad afterwards and we won’t do it anymore.
It’s a strange thing. If you told me three years ago that I would be doing this, I would have told you that you were crazy. Watching my wife have sex with another man was one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced in my life because it was like facing all my fears all at once. It was a myriad of emotions, of pain and release and power and, at the same time, a huge turn-on. After the first scene she did, she and I began having sex in front of a whole room full of people, real fucking hot sex. Like grudge-fuck sex. Our sex life has always been crazy, crazy hot, but it’s kind of added an entire new life to it that we’ve never had before.
I wanted to ask you about your involvement with the Free Speech Coalition and the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation.
We make regular donations to both. Teravsion and Tera Patrick Agency both make regular donations to Adult Industry Medical and the Free Speech Coalition. Free Speech Coalition is amazing and does so many wonderful things for every American whether you know it or not. There are so many state legislatures that are trying to bend the Constitution into their own weapon of enforcing morality as law. If the Free Speech Coalition wasn’t there, there’d be no one to stand up to it. They do the case law. If you own a strip club in Alabama and they’re trying to shut you down because the “good ol’ boys” don’t want you there, the Free Speech Coalition will be there for you.
It’s like the Guardian Angels. As a kid growing up in Canarsie, I’d be on the train and I was a white kid going through East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and I’d be shitting in my pants because I was going to get jumped. And I see five older, thugged-out kids get on the train and there’s Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels coming through; I knew someone’s got my back, you know?
People can look at the adult industry any way they want, but we live in a society that [happily] proliferates drugs, alcohol, violence on television, and violence in video games. Nobody ever needs to have violence. But everyone needs to reproduce and have sex. So they say, “Guess what, let make nudity the taboo and tell everyone it’s okay to shoot people.” What do we need, more fucking cop shows? How about a show about sex and love? Something people are going to experience in their life.
But another complaint that comes from politicians and community activist groups is that it’s not love. It’s dehumanizing.
I would say if that’s their opinion, they’re totally entitled to it. I don’t agree with it personally, but I respect their right to have an opinion and they should respect everyone else’s right to do what they want to do, because this is America. You know what, here’s the irony and the hypocrisy — the same people that are “rah, rah, rah!” waving flags, the religious right that lobbies to corporate America that we’ve got to shut these people down — those people are all jacking off to porn every night. They’re like, “Let’s protect the Catholic Church so they can molest some more children.” “Let’s keep buying off families from suing!” That’s okay, because that’s religion. Religion is a fucking business. Don’t get me started on religion, I’ll be ranting and raving…
No, no, no. (laughter) Let’s not get into religion… So what you’re saying is that you don’t believe that the adult industry dehumanizes male and female participants?
In my opinion, there are all kinds of porn, and for anyone to make that kind of statement…that’s like saying music is bad. There are so many subgenres and different degrees of porn, to make a sweeping generalization like that would be ignorant and asinine without doing your homework. There is porn that is disgusting out there. I wouldn’t look at it and I wouldn’t talk to the people that do it. But I still respect their right to do what they want to do. If I want to live in a dictatorship, I’ll go live in one!
I remember when they were opening a gay nightclub in my neighborhood and all my neighbors were going crazy saying, “We don’t want this in our neighborhood.” I remember saying, “What’s the difference?” It’s a business. If they have the permits, if they have the liquor license, how can you tell them they can’t have a business? Because their bar is gay and not straight? If you don’t like porn, don’t buy it. It’s your right. Nobody is giving it to you for free, I assure you.
But some people claim that it’s responsible for sex addiction because it’s on the Internet and it’s wired into your home. It seems like a fine line…
I’ve been in recovery for 18 years, I’ve been to rehab, and I’ve been sober from drugs and alcohol, and I’ve explored sexual addiction in my life. And I don’t think it has to do with what’s out there. They didn’t close all the liquor stores when they found out you can be an alcoholic. If anything, pornography to me is a release from sexual addiction. What if you were the kind of guy who didn’t have any social skills, and you weren’t very attractive, and you didn’t have any confidence and you didn’t have any way to meet women? And you also didn’t have the ability to look at naked pictures of women or videos to masturbate to and pleasure yourself? So now you become this first rate maniac, and that person’s more likely to commit a sex crime.
It makes sense to me. It’s just a good talking point.
I’m glad we got to talk about it. I love talking about things I’m passionate about. Because, you know, I’m not passionate about porn itself. Porn is just my business. I’m passionate about my rights as a human being and my rights as an American.