Mason X: The Enigmatic Maestra of Hard XXX
LOS ANGELES — Pornography reveals the concealed. It revels in what happens behind closed doors, in the dark recesses of fantasies. The only thing that remains hidden in porn is the work that goes into creating it, and by extension, its creators. As such, much of what we know about the enigmatic director, Mason, comes from reflecting on the films she has shot for Elegant Angel and most recently, Hard X.
While Mason remains largely a mystery, the following discussion of her work brings to light a kind of film negative of the shadowy figure lurking behind the camera.
An L.A. native, Mason got into porn first as a fan. In college, she forced boyfriends to watch adult films by directors like Joey Silvera and Rocco Siffredi. “I liked what I saw happening in front of their lenses,” Mason said. “Their performers didn’t appear as if they were being filmed. They seemed to surrender to desire without thinking the world was watching.”
Mason graduated from a liberal arts college with a degree in political science and a dread of her career prospects. “I was on my way to graduate school and I wasn’t happy,” she said. “I knew that life at the end of graduate school wasn’t going to be for me.”
Abandoning a common career trajectory, Mason met director Rodney Moore at an adult convention and took a job working for him as an intern making $50 a day. “It was more fateful than anything,” Mason said of the encounter. “I knew how to operate a camera and he had just parted ways with his cameraperson.”
Mason learned everything about the technical side of shooting from Moore before continuing her apprenticeship under Andre Madness. “Your value increases by the jobs you turn down,” Mason said, reflecting on the biggest lesson she took from Madness. “That piece of advice landed me my first directing gig.”
Mason made her directorial debut for Elegant Angel in 2002 with her “Lady Fellatio” and “Dirty Trixxx” series. These efforts earned her praise from reviewers and fans, but criticism from outsiders who saw her work as perpetuating degrading gender stereotypes. This reaction shocked and confused Mason. For her, these films were more than just an assignment; they were a personal statement. “[‘Dirty Trixxx 2’] gave me the courage to embrace what was going on inside and revel in it,” she remarked. “It was a middle finger to anything and everything that held me back. It was a huge awakening.”
Mason developed a reputation for defying expectations. She had no qualms about playing around with controversial material as a means of exploring the sexual triggers they arouse. She also felt no obligation to serve as a token female director who proved that the porn industry was not exclusively a product of male desires. “Being a female director gets brought up a lot and I greatly dislike that qualifier,” she underscored. “I try and never filter anything I do through my sex or gender.”
The more Mason’s filmography grew, the more she took refuge behind her work, avoiding public appearances and press. The only interviews she granted came in her films when she chatted with performers from behind her camera. “At first [the interviews] were done as a way to provide context for the sex that was being documented,” she explained. “Then, the interviews became context for the girls and brought some humanity to capturing sex in general. I think this was the evolution of the ‘showcases.’ Everything shifted from providing context to the sex, to celebrating the individual girl behind the sex.”
While social media has aided this transition of starlets from sex objects to real people, the performers themselves have changed, in part due to the accessibility of porn. “Girls show up on set nowadays that are more sexually self aware than girls were ten years ago,” Mason said. “They seem to be in full control of their sex.”
In 2003, Mason parted ways with Elegant Angel to pursue other projects before returning to the company in September of 2007. Back with Elegant Angel, she helped build a number of the studio’s brands, including, “Slutwoman,” “Buttwoman,” “GangBanged,” “Massive Facials” and showcases like “Dani” and “Asa Akira is Insatiable.”
In 2013, Mason won an XBIZ award for “Director of the Year — Non-Feature Release,” for “Lexi.” In July of that year she left Elegant Angel to become an exclusive director for OpenLife (O.L.) Entertainment and their studios, Hard X and Erotica X.
Hard X immediately established itself with the 2013, award-winning release, “Anikka.” Mason developed a number of popular series for Hard X, including “DP Me,” “Analized,” “GangBang Me,” “Facialized,” “Prime MILF” and “Super Cute.” Hard X aligned perfectly with Mason’s style and preferences, but she soon lost interest in shooting for Erotica X.
“Sometimes it felt like the performers were having sex to a metronome,” Mason said. “When female sex gets boxed into having to be ‘classy’ or ‘ladylike’ that’s where I check out. Reinforcing such antiquated notions is not what I signed up for. I understand sexuality is personal, and some women enjoy this type of sex, but, when it's mandated it is nauseating. I was showing up for a paycheck and I hate that feeling, especially in this business. The luxury I have is being able to turn projects down, and Erotica X was one I was able to hand off to James Avalon.”
While Mason’s style continues to evolve, it has not softened. “I don't necessarily feel a need to capture explicit pornography,” she said. “I just enjoy watching people surrender to their desires/pleasures. I enjoy watching people let go. That's a bit difficult to do in a softcore format.”
While continuing her work with Hard X, in 2015 Mason partnered again with O.L. to create the interracial studio, Dark X.
This year Mason is nominated at the 2017 XBIZ Awards for, “Director of the Year — Body of Work” and “Director of the Year — Non-Feature Release” for “Super Cute Vol. 4.” However, as her film credits and accolades stack up, she still views her public successes on a personal level.
“[Porn] has helped me work through all of that sexual baggage chicks seem to have such a difficult time with,” Mason said, “and it constantly reinforces the fact that I made the right choice to be true to myself. You have these giving women, who share their authentic sex with us every day, and that is above and beyond what I ever expected I would gain from porn. It's been a beautiful journey and I am forever grateful.”