May Ling Su is counted in the ranks of the Pornsaints and her portrait is on permanent display in Amsterdam's Erotisch Museum.
Dubbed by prominent large-format photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders as one of the 30 most important porn stars in America, May Ling Su holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the premiere Jesuit university in the Philippines. Right after her graduation from the Ateneo de Manila, she migrated to the United States.
May and her husband Jay started self-publishing porn online as ‘frisky newlyweds’ in 1996. “We were a couple of horny newlywed artists with a camera,” says May. “Taking sexy photos came naturally. We posted photos online anonymously and under various aliases at first just for kicks. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that we got comfortable with presenting a cohesive body of work and website. People started to notice and we gained a following.”
Nominated for a Feminist Porn Award, she is counted in the ranks of the Pornsaints(known for their “pornoartistic approach to religion”), and her portrait is on permanent display at the Erotisch Museum in Amsterdam. I’ve known May since the mid-90s, and whenever I doubt myself before embarking on a cool or creative endeavour, I always say that “I am friends with an important porn star,” and my sure-footedness returns.
"If they set aside their preconceived notions of my job description, they might be surprised to see that the person behind it is someone worth getting to know."
What’s the toughest thing about your job? What makes you say, “Goddamn, why do I do this?”
There’s a stigma attached to this kind of work. I chose this path, knowing that many will misunderstand, because I believe in its importance in society. But I go through a lot of soul-searching. Exactly that question, “Why do I do this?” So I remind myself that society needs me as a spokesperson for health, sex education, women’s rights, freedom. But I’m also aware that I won’t have the credibility that a doctor or a senator has. Hopefully I’m more entertaining.
How does being a porn star make someone “a spokesperson for health, sex education, women’s rights, freedom”?
Sex is an important part of health. I think sex education is as important a topic as food and exercise. It’s good for the body and soul. A healthy sex life makes all other aspects of one’s life bloom—relationships, creativity, productivity in the work place. When you’ve had good sex, di ba ganado ka? You feel good about life.
What makes my porn unique is that it presents sex in kind of a wholistic way, as part of nurturing a long-term relationship, self-discovery, philosophy. I want to provide my audience value beyond a good wank. I love it when couples write me saying I’ve inspired them to try something new, or communicate more openly in the bedroom.
I love that more and more women’s voices are heard on the subject of sex, whether it’s communication between partners in the bedroom or speaking up in society regarding reproductive health issues. These are all topics I write about in my blog, MayLingSu.com
What’s the best thing about your job? What makes you say (at the end of a session) “I love what I do! I wouldn’t trade.”
Best thing is when I connect so deeply with my husband physically, emotionally, and artistically. He’s my partner and collaborator in everything.
How do you prepare for a task? (For lack of a better word.)
There’s so much involved in producing porn, from concept and production to post-production and marketing. I get in touch with my desires, [I have to] be really clear about my motives. I keep my body healthy at all times. I’m obsessive about nutrition, exercise, cleanliness. I keep our camera and computer gear in good working order. Scheduling is very important. It’s a juggling act.
When will you retire?
"Never. I will evolve. I will always be a spokesperson for women’s rights, reproductive health rights, sex education, health and freedom in some way, shape or form."
Have you ever been ‘not in the mood’ but you performed anyway?
Yes, but the results aren’t satisfying. For the most part I set my own hours. If I schedule something and we’re not in the mood, we do whatever else we’re in the mood to do instead.
Tell me about your ground rules?
Be clear about the “why.”
When will you retire?
Never. I will evolve. I will always be a spokesperson for women’s rights, reproductive health rights, sex education, health and freedom in some way, shape or form.
Tell me about how your family reacts to your career—when they first found out about what you do, compared to today.
When my family first found out, they were shocked and confused. Now, I can tell that they’re proud of me, though we don’t talk about it.
What keeps you going? (A good comment? Fan mail?)
Connecting with people I respect. When fans write me and tell me how my work has changed their lives.
Any resistance from anyone?
I get hate mail, but it’s usually not as well-written as my fan mail. I am my own harshest critic.
What would you say to a Filipina who thinks what you’re doing is evil?
They are entitled to their own opinions. I like winning people over. I like surprising people with my insight. If they set aside their preconceived notions of my job description, they might be surprised to see that the person behind it is someone worth getting to know. I say this also on behalf of all the Filipino sex workers. Don’t judge us by our job description. We are people just as deserving of love and respect as you.
"I get hate mail, but it’s usually not as well-written as my fan mail. I am my own harshest critic."
What advice can you give to Filipinas who are still sexually inhibited?
Those who still play the good girl card because ‘good girls don’t like sex’—or so they were taught. Be true to yourself. It is our nature to be sexy. Sex is how life happens. There’s nothing wrong with being shy or a “good girl.” And there’s nothing wrong with being a “bad girl” either. Do what is right for you. Life is short. Love as much and as deeply as you can in this life.
What is your “level up”? For example, in medicine there is an intern, a specialist, then perhaps head of a department...For you, what is the equivalent of a “promotion,” or of improving your skills?
I am an artist and a businesswoman. I’m always thinking of what’s next. Advancement is measured by fame and profit. I own intellectual property and media. The more media I create and own, the more I have working for me. That being said, I would love to create sex education media tailored to the Filipino audience. If anyone is interested in collaborating with me on this, I’d love to hear from you!
Do you feel every encounter every time or are there encounters that you just “ho-hum-ooh-aah” through?
The advantage of ownership is that I set my own hours and choose my own partners. I feel it every time.
Do you enjoy sex better when no one’s watching? Or does an audience do it (or add to it) for you?
There are advantages for both. When it’s off camera it’s more intimate, I can focus only on my husband. When it’s on camera it’s higher energy, more performance-oriented, and we get to enjoy the footage long after the moment is over.