Feb. 9 2016 04:43 PM

Performer Joanna Angel is his co-star on and off the screen

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Aaron Thompson and Joanna Angel
Photo by Jack Shelton

The story of Aaron Thompson's career in pornographic films is actually quite a romantic one. It's the kind of story that might make for an excellent rom-com one day, albeit a decidedly R-rated one. While working as a part-time bartender and musician in San Diego, he also began a screen-printing business called Let It Ride Design. He started to land adult entertainment clients and one of them was Burning Angel, a porn company specializing in performers with piercings, tattoos and decidedly less plastic surgery. The owner of the company, Joanna Angel, had not only established herself as one of the industry's top performers, but as one of the first female execs in an otherwise male-run industry. Thompson remembers getting business emails from her that were a little too friendly.

"It was pretty cute. About a month before we actually met, her messages started to get more flirty," Thompson says. "I asked my buddy, 'Is Joanna Angel flirting with me or am I just full of myself?' He was like, 'Dude, I think she's flirting with you.' I had no idea what to do, but he just told me to flirt back so I did."

The two eventually met, immediately hit it off and quickly fell in love. Thompson split his time between San Diego and Angel's place in L.A. He says he's always been cool with Angel's day job, but admits to having those initial feelings of tentativeness once he realized things were getting serious.

"It wasn't so much like I was against what she did. Obviously I met her as a fan, but it was more that it was a world I didn't know anything about, and I didn't know how to act in it," says Thompson, who was born and raised in San Diego by a minister father. "I didn't know what the protocol was, and there was a learning curve. I had to learn to have this new element in a relationship that most people don't have to deal with. There were tough days."

It wasn't until almost a year into their relationship that Thompson became more active in Angel's line of work. Just like his career in bartending, when it came to porn he says he "accidentally fell into it."

"Joanna and I were traveling in San Francisco when her editor called her freaking out, because whatever scene that was supposed to go up on the website the next day, the file was corrupt or something," he says. "She just looked at me and said, 'Alright, Aaron, you're on deck. We just have to make a movie in our hotel room tonight.' I was so scared. I never had any aspirations to do porn. It was never on my agenda."

Since then, he's acted in dozens of scenes for Burning Angel under the name Small Hands (there's no real joke here other than the fact that he has small hands). He also works behind the scenes on the production and business side of the company, and has made enough of a name for himself at this point that more established companies such as Wicked and Penthouse want to hire him for their movies.

Still, just as the last three years for Thompson has been a story of shooting seedy sex scenes, it's also a story of love—one that bucks the more conventional and traditional mores of what is expected in a relationship. Thompson says that in more ways than not, he and Angel are just like any other couple.

"This is the healthiest, most classic relationship I've ever been in. It just has one element that most people don't understand," Thompson says. "It took work and it took her and I being committed to honesty to get to that point. And hey, if we want to get a little weird, all we have to do is send a text and someone will come over."


Aaron “Small Hands” Thompson
Photo by Joanna Angel

Small Hands on...

The weirdest thing he's seen on set:

"Every single thing you can think of, I have now seen. But really, the craziest thing was an outdoor threesome scene. We were out in the desert and literally over one of the guys feet in the scene, a tarantula and a scorpion started fighting on his naked foot. I've heard some loud screams, but never heard someone scream like that."

Sex on camera vs. the real thing:

"Porn is the same thing as a regular movie. It's acting, man. There can be chemistry between two performers and that might make for a better scene, but it's still acting. There's still a camera in your face and five other people in the room."

On whether porn desensitizes people:

"If your definition of intimacy is just sex, then yes, you'll probably get desensitized and not feel the same level of intimacy that you did prior to watching a bunch of porn. If you watch baseball every day for the entire season, then you might get desensitized to baseball. The logic isn't something that applies just to porn. It can be anything in excess. If you drink a lot, you might get addicted. So yeah, if you watch porn for four hours a day, you might get a little desensitized."

On government regulation:

"The regulations on the porn industry are not making it easier for us and, more importantly, it's not making it safer for us. It's that same mentality that these poor porn performers need to be saved and that these corporations are taking advantage of people, but that's just not true. Things like the condom laws are written by people who don't really care about health and safety. They just don't like us and want to make it harder for us."

On how to last:

"No bullshit, you have to train for it. It's a sport man. I had to cut out a lot of drinking. I had to eat better. I work out all the time and for a punk rock guy like me, that was bullshit, but the healthier you are, the longer youíll last and the better you'll be at it."

On sexual adventurousness:

"Your openness to doing weird shit makes you better at sex. If you're a girl and you've never done anal, then maybe you should try it. How do you know you don't like it? Even if you don't like it, it's still going to make you learn a lot more about your own body."

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