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Interview with Vex Ashley on Four Chambers’ new feature film ‘Maman II’

The following images and text contain sexual references

Cover for Maman II (2023), A Four Chambers film featuring Valerie, Vex, Velvet and Sadie 
Can you provide a short one-paragraph introduction to your life and work? 

I’m Vex Ashley and I make pornography. I started taking my clothes off online to pay my way through art school. My project, Four Chambers, started with the aim to explore the conceptual and aesthetic potential of pornography and how sex could be a creative medium for ideas. I’ve been fucking on film for 10 years now.

When did you first know you wanted to become a porn producer/performer?

I’ve always found sex to be really fascinating, the power it has to completely eviscerate our polite, public-facing selves, bypass our logical brains and tap into our body and instincts. I don’t think being a porn performer was something I ever knew I consciously wanted, I have always enjoyed using my body in or as my art but I felt like the art world required you to buy into these old fashioned, archaic institutions to ask for permission to exist, or to validate your work. Porn making felt like the opposite of that because it didn’t exist in those spaces there was no establishment to pay lip service to and no blueprint to follow, It felt like I could make work on my own terms.

Can you name 3 women who have inspired/informed your artistic practice?

God, so many. I love, admire and connect deeply with the work of Carolee Schneeman and Francesca Woodman and I’m really loving making my way through the films of Claire Denis at the moment.

What does the word ‘Mommy’ mean to you?

Being Mommy for me is about control and submission through care and comfort rather than violence or pain. Obliterates someone’s ego and sense of self by taking a person and reducing them to just a needy, open mouth, a baby who is completely dependant on you and your body and what you can give them, it’s a different kind of domination.

Why is the sexuality of the mother archetype so taboo?

The archetype of the mother in society is the perfect woman; pure, good, chaste, holy, your use as a woman is to be a mother. We put mothers on pedestals as these untouchable vessels, something to be protected at all costs. It’s a dehumanising reverence. So to take that and to fuck with that, to give that archetype agency and sexuality and humanity and desire and especially the “wrong” kind of desire is to degrade it in lots of peoples eyes. Which is exactly where the fascination with this exploration comes.

Does your interest lie in the mythological/psychoanalytic roots of the questions you are exploring?

I always like to go really deep into thinking about why sexuality manifests in the way that it does but for this it felt less about mythology and more like an internal dive into our own personal contexts, primarily through long talks with my friend and collaborator Valerie about our own perspectives on motherhood, womenhood, gender, society and culture. We expanded our ideas about why it was this was hot for us and found new and exciting connections we’d never even considered.

Was there a specific reason you chose to explore this from a queer angle as opposed to a heteronormative one?

It wasn’t something necessarily intentional it just felt like a natural unfolding of our perspectives and lived experiences. The more we got into the heart of what is was that was interesting about this the queerer and queerer it became. In some of our first conversations we realised that having someone suck your tits felt so much more penetrative than having someone go down on you, more reminiscent of a getting a blow job. We knew that the gender and sexuality of our idea of Mommy was so much more complex than people might immediately give the kink credit for. All of the performers we worked with brought new expansive, queer perspectives on bodies and gender within these roles. Leatherdykes and queer people have always played with the idea, it’s nothing new just maybe not always represented in the more mainstream iteration of this kink that’s part of the cultural consciousness at the moment. 

Do you feel ‘mommy’ kinks have had less representation than ‘daddy’ kinks in mainstream porn? Why do you think that is?

I think honestly with the current vogue for “step-mom” porn  I’m not sure that there’s that much of a disparity in porn anymore! The cultural pornographic moment is very much mommy. But previously it definitely felt like mommy was somehow too far? We talk a lot about this in the film, my collaborator Valerie and our performer JV posed the idea that maybe Daddy feels safer to play with in a sex space there’s the expectation there culturally that fathers have a sexuality and are more distant, less emotionally connected, even that fathers have the potential to wrong you. So it’s easier mentally to associate them with the kind of play you might do in a daddy dynamic. In contrast, the mothers are desexualised and positioned as your protector, the person you’re supposed to be closest to which maybe makes “mommy issues” even more powerful, complicated and harder to unpack. Which of course makes a very potent and taboo space to explore.