Recently, I was asked to be part of a piece in mainstream media about “The Industry.” The writer has been working on this piece for a while now, and has been published in several high-end national magazines. His current project has him asking numerous members of The Industry, both new and established, young and old, to see the “true” face of an industry that has way too many assumptions made of it by the civilian public.
I sent him a long-form answer to a few questions he had, which included not only some questions based on assumptions he had heard but also some answers from other performers he had received – and in doing so realized I’d made a pretty good post to share. For privacy reasons, I’ll leave out the writer’s name:
Adult performers primarily operate on ego – and male performers seem to operate on that more than female performers. It’s an industry that operates on physical attractiveness, a measure of youthfulness, and ability to perform on cue. It’s a hard (pardon the pun) industry for men – their performance is clearly visible. Female performers can get away with, well, performance — in the acting sense of the word. There are only a few performers that work without having met all of the superficial criteria laid out above (for instance, Ron Jeremy) — but those performers are rare, are still able to perform, and come with an established history in the business. I have a lot of respect for male performers because if I were a guy, I probably wouldn’t be able to perform on cue like they do.
I’m not sure which “industry veteran” with whom you spoke, but I do know that performers in general have been feeling the pinch of the decline of the adult industry. Fewer bookings means less money, and less money means the inability to do those things that came so easily (again, pardon the pun) when money was flowing. More performers competing for fewer shoots means that everyone’s frustrated — financially as well as sexually, even in an industry that is built on sex.
Personally, I think it’s hypocritical to be a performer in the adult industry and then expect their life partner to not “give away anything so important and valuable.” Saying “I’m off to shoot a scene with a hot xxx performer, but you can’t do the same because for me it’s work, for you it means you’re cheating,” implies a double standard, which often results in industry relationships falling apart.
Is there drug use in the industry? Alcohol abuse? Of course. Is it more or less than drug and alcohol abuse in other business sectors? I’m not sure. I know of enough lawyers and stockbrokers who are on cocaine to stay awake to do their jobs, and enough blue-collar workers who abuse alcohol, and varying degrees of that scattered in between. It’s an escapist methodology that doesn’t stay restricted to the adult industry – and to say that it is limited to that line of work is narrow-minded and shallow.
What about the statistics surrounding STDs and the adult industry? Anyone who says that STDs do not occur outside of XXX, and that XXX is responsible for the spread of STDs is, again, narrow-minded. Blaming any industry that an outsider doesn’t understand is nothing new — it happens in religion, politics, and mainstream business all the time. The adult industry requires testing of its performers — something that isn’t required by most men and women in the dating scene. There is no desire in common society for a couple who is just starting to be intimate to check each other’s sexual health history. The implication is that it’s rude to ask, and presumptuous to assume that the other person might have an STD. As a result, people get infected on a regular basis outside the industry. At least we’re regulated in that regard.
Does the industry attract people who are “weak minded”? Perhaps, at one time. Perhaps, even now, within a certain segment of the populace. It’s an industry that showcases barely-legal performers in sexual situations, and to an extent, capitalizes on the rebellious nature of teens finally out of their parents’ rule. Yes, it attracts the desperate. High school dropouts who became single moms, who turned to stripping, who turned to porn as a means to put food on the table and a roof over their heads – you hear that all the time.
However, the industry is no longer LIMITED to those with no education and a dead end life. With the recent recession, the industry also saw older performers and college graduates enter the adult workforce as a means to ride out the economic turmoil. Of those who did come from educated (whether in life or in school) backgrounds; many performers were also sexually open, and used the industry to experiment and explore their own sexual boundaries. So the assumption that those who perform in the industry are “weak minded” no longer holds true.
My response to Chris Hedges would be this: he assumes there is no socially redeeming value to adult entertainment because he already has preconceived notions about the industry (and other aspects of society) prior to his writing. Everyone is different. Everyone has a different kink. Having, as you noted, twenty-five guys masturbate all over a girl may be a sexual turn-on for some, not limited to the viewer but to the performer as well. For some, it’s not. It’s all about perspective. No one is forcing the girl to sit and take that sort of treatment (unless she has a pimp, which is another conversation altogether). The girl CHOSE to be in that position, and these days, it’s not only because she is being lured by a paycheck (with the decline of the industry, pay for scenes isn’t what it used to be) or being forced to by a pimp. If that isn’t empowering, I’m not sure what is. Assuming that something that YOU find perverse or a turn-off would be the same for the rest of the world is, as I said before, narrow-minded, shallow, and self-centered. Do all women have to conform to only being allowed to enjoy sex in the missionary position with a certain number of strokes before the man ejaculates? Is it bad that a man/woman actually enjoys him/herself in the throes of rough sex? Anal play? Bondage? Does that make him/her evil? Or does that allow people to accept their own private proclivities without feeling as if they themselves are a social outcast? Does it allow people to wonder if something really is enjoyable, and explore their own sexuality with themselves or with a partner? Does it ultimately help us accept and be more tolerant of each other’s differences?
Personally, I feel that your time on this planet, regardless of industry, is what you make of it. I entered the business as part of an emotional sabbatical after a traumatic breakup — I CHOSE to work with tested talent in scenes that I agreed to because, in all honesty, I felt it was safer than going to a nightclub or a bar, or even answering a personals ad. I’d had enough bad experiences with civilian people that I thought were honest with me, who turned out not to be. If there is anything that could be said about the adult industry, it is that at least the parameters were roughly, bluntly, shamelessly laid out. You and your scene partner are paid to perform in front of a camera in a sexual situation. Sometimes there is chemistry, sometimes there is not. You agree to the scene, positions, and dialogue in the scene prior to performance. When the scene is done, people are paid — and you may never hear from them again. You may not see them for months, until you are both hired again to be in another scene. The cycle repeats. There’s no deceit nor pretense as to whether or not the scene is truly romantic. It’s a job.
Getting into the adult industry may have been the single-most boost to my self-esteem in my life. I’m a larger girl, categorized in the industry as a BBW (big beautiful woman). Like most bigger girls, I was teased through most of my childhood. Society doesn’t portray bigger people as sexy or beautiful — we’re supposed to be funny. Comedic. Acceptable to be made fun of. As an adult performer, I not only had a hair/makeup person tending to me, but fans who would take the time to tell you how beautiful, sexy, attractive, desired you were. My experience may be different from other performers, but for me, it was uplifting.
My time in the industry was not a career choice; it was a sabbatical. Perhaps that may be the difference between performers who are bitter and those who are not; I never intended for my time in this industry to be a life-long career. I got in while I was in my mid-thirties, not when I was “barely legal”. I picked what scenes I wanted to do and turned down projects that didn’t appeal to me. Over time, performances have slowed (as they do for most performers, as new girls constantly come in to take your place), and I found that I no longer want to perform as much as before. Perhaps my “sowing of my oats” period had come to an end, but I was ready to date again, and was lucky enough to find someone in the industry who I adore spending my time with. There’s no judgment; trying to date someone outside the business comes with its own set of problems due to social norms and assumptions of whorish behavior, and I don’t have to deal with those issues with my partner.
In time, I know I will stop performing altogether. Understanding that youth and beauty fade, and with that, the amount of work diminishes, is something that those who enjoy their time in this industry understand. I’ve already started to take the steps to have a career that doesn’t rely on performance — and I’ll be able to look back at my time in the adult industry as something that was exciting, titillating, and an interesting life experience.
Anyhow – that was probably an incredibly long response to your email. Please feel free to ask me any questions, if you need more info on any particular part of what I have written.
With adult performers such as Sasha Grey and Tommy Gunn appearing on mainstream shows such as Entourage (and you KNOW the drama that is upcoming because Vincent is dating a (gasp!) pornstar while up for a Stan Lee production), the perpetuation of assumptions about the industry is bound to continue.
I’m not sure to what extent my diatribe to the writer will be used, but I hope that perhaps it’ll be enough to make people question their assumptions about the people who choose to make sex their business.