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Author Topic: Why don't they?
Gwaihir
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Just a few musings on the plights of porn stars. .

I know women in most mainstream porn and the sex industry are depicted in horribly mysoginist ways and they're often in that position out of desperation, having nowhere else to go. . but we all know the general public seems to think women take these jobs because they want them, so they must deserve what they get, and other ridiculous notions.

I'm wondering, why don't these women ever come out and talk about these experiences and write about them in books? Tell the truth about what it's like to work in a sex industry dominated by men? If all of them did that, we'd have their stories out there and there would be much less doubt (I'd hope) cast on the toxicity of the porn industry.
Why haven't they done this? Even if someone were to go around just interviewing these women and publishing their findings, why hasn't it been done?
. .. or are there already books and interviews and other writings on this by women who are or have been in the sex industry and I just don't know about them. .

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Est. In 1984
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I have seen a couple of interviews w/ female
Porn *'s on T.V. talk shows (ie: Tyran Banks is one that was recent). All the women that were there from the impression that I got were in this business by choice. They actually spoke of how they like what they do and how fun and exciting it was. They see what they do as a business and a job. I'm not saying all Porn star women love what they do but I do belive it's a choice and they are not being forced to this type of work. I haven't seen any books telling their stories.

[ 01-22-2007, 04:20 PM: Message edited by: HealedHeart ]

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listlesslise
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Well, I for one have certainly heard stories of women being abused, and threatened very heavily with telling anyone about the way they were treated. My cousin was on an internet site for a while because she was realy desperate for the money, and she was repeatedly threatened and harrassed into keeping quiet (she did manage to tell her family though and a few friends though). Obviously, this isn't the case with everyone working in the porn industry, and some people genuinely are there because they want to be. However, this forcing them to keep quiet probably has something to with why there arent too many testimoneals, at least not too many negative ones. If you want to learn more aobut it, try reading Gloria Steinam's piece on Linda Lovelace

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Gwaihir
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Were these particular women on the show young, HealedHeart? I'm guessing they were, since young women that get involved in the sex industry seem to be from my perception naive and in a society where basically the only way a woman can really get noticed is by how pretty she is, how much skin she shows and so on, it's the only type of "power" women are really ever allowed, and that's what many young women tend to thrive on, so of course they'd say they like it.
Also, these women that work in the sex industry that were on the show were probably hand-picked very carefully to ensure that the answers they gave were the type of answers everyone wanted to hear.

Listlesslise, I had an idea that sadly might have been the case with this situation: women being threatened into silence. [Frown]
And I definitely will have to read that book.

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PenguinBoy
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I bet it would ruin how they're "meant" to be depicted. As unintelligent sluts.

The successful ones are some of the richest people in the world and live their lives completely on an aesthetic basis and have been part of that world so long that all that is important to them is how good it looks how big it is, It appears to me that they become the characters that initially they were acting. And there's so much money around them that everything else really does become irrelevant because of how much it is taken for granted. They're just left with sex, their bodies, and allot money to spend.

In the huge amounts of cheaper porn, operations are run by people heavily involved in strip clubs and prostitution. And I can imagine most of the women dragged into that porn will not have the type of emotional bravery needed to speak out against their aggressors. I don't think this type of people live a glossy life.


I have actually seen a few documentaries on the porn industry, which obviously set out to expose it. But the problem is that it is always on really late at night. So I've only ever seen glimpses.

I think censorship is one of the reasons it isn't discussed, or hasn't been discussed, and now that it has become so established as the silent money machine, it's not actually new news. People like my parents will
1 not like to acknowledge any sexual thing full stop and
2 Not care about the feelings or emotions of porn stars, because they're in the eyes of many people "sluts and whores who do not respect themselves and are hardly even human and so do not deserve human rights."
3 Because there's so much money going there.

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Gwaihir
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I know, it's so depressing how these women are thought of and treated and no surprise at all that they would be too afraid to speak out, if that's the case. That's why I think a situation where a huge diverse group of women working in all aspects of the sex industry are interviewed and asked to give all their thoughts on what they do, the choices they make, etc, and have all this published while their identities are kept private.
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Heather
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There IS this material out here, and from far more important sources than big media junkets: from independent publishers and independent authors.

And -- unsurprisingly -- in venues like this, the experiences and opinions are diverse.

One good one I'd suggest is "Live Nude Girl," which is a group anthology. My friend Audacia also publishes a by-sex-workers for-sex-workers independent magazine called Spread. Not that easy to find, but bookstores who don't carry it can special order it.

As well, know that in the broad volume of this work that is available, it is also diverse depending on the type of sex work we're talking about. Mainstream American porn stars who work with the few actual studios are the vast MINORITY of sex workers, so even among that diversity of experience, it's important to bear in mind that taking any of that as a representative experience of all sex workers would be folly.

And in that same vein, bear in mind that the most marginalizes workers are not on the talk show circuit: part of being marginalized is that being heard is exceptionally difficult. There are a GREAT many women and girls in the world -- the statistical majority -- who by no means are happy and stoked to do sex work, and who either do not have choices or do not have good options all around.

A request in conversations like this?

quote:
The successful ones are some of the richest people in the world and live their lives completely on an aesthetic basis and have been part of that world so long that all that is important to them is how good it looks how big it is, It appears to me that they become the characters that initially they were acting. And there's so much money around them that everything else really does become irrelevant because of how much it is taken for granted. They're just left with sex, their bodies, and allot money to spend.
Please don't speak for someone you are not. Statements like that are excruciatingly unfair, and while that may be true for some, it certainly is not for all (nor most, per sex workers I talk to or read from), and one really great -- and easy -- way to help empower women in sex work, whether it's choice or not, whether they like it or not, is not to force them to the margins even more by speaking for them or about them uninformedly or without actually having listened TO their words in person, or in contexts without bias or with little of it.

(Also? There are maybe the smallest handful of female porn actors who are obscenely wealthy. I can maybe think of five. Even those who work for the studios often live pretty modestly: far, far more so than Hollywood actors who net the same amount of work, and with far less risk.)

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Menthol
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I know a porn star personally. Well, a former porn star. She expresses the very opposite opinions on the matter... and she is very smart.

I'll show her this thread later and copy+paste her first-person reaction.

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Gwaihir
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Wow. That's quite a lot to think about. See, I don't know anything about the sex industry and when I say "mainstream porn" I pretty much meant that particular type of sex that is presented, IE: degrading and exploitative (if that's even a word. .er) of women. I definitely had women who are strippers and impovershed street walkers.
I didn't know American porn stars were in the minority, though.

I don't particularly trust what comes from big media junkets either, but sadly, it seems to me that most of the general populace does and they might take more notice if something like what I described in my previous posts came from real women out through a huge media outlet. . .or maybe it wouldn't. I don't know.

Thanks for the book recommendations though, I'll see if I can find them.
I guess the whole point I was trying to make with this post was that I wish there was some way for the marginalized abused women that work in the sex industry that don't get a voice to be GIVEN a voice.

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Menthol
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quote:

Mabbie: It's not really like that at all.
Mabbie: I mean, sure, there's always the exception. I'm willing to wager that Max Hardcore or Zoliboy aren't as accomodating to their actresses as others may me.
Menthol: Heh, I don't know who either of them are.
Mabbie: It's not worth your time to check out, either. Max Hardcore makes me feel slightly ill.
Menthol: Why is that?
Mabbie: He likes to pretend he's doing minors.
Menthol: O
Mabbie: Anyways. As a general rule, women are better paid. They are calling all the shots. They get to decide if they want to perform with this actor or not; if they want to get DP'ed or not.
Mabbie: The men, however.
Mabbie: The general opinion seems to be that getting to have sex with a beautiful woman is payment enough. I think that's unfair and sexist, myself.
Menthol: And you don't feel at all objectified or vicimized?
Mabbie: Well, of course you feel objectified.
Mabbie: Because you ARE being objectified.
Mabbie: But it's fiction. It's just entertainment. Most people with any sense take it as such; the same as any movie in the theatres.
Menthol: And you don't feel victimized?
Mabbie: Who's the victim? Me, for getting paid $300 to sit on some guys face for an hour
Mabbie: Or the guy paying $2.99 a minute to watch my fatass?
Mabbie: lol
Menthol: lol



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PenguinBoy
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I really should constrain the way I say things when hypothesizing. Sorry :S. I only meant to suggest a possible reason for some porn stars, not enforce it as fact... which is what I appeared to do.

Reading that conversation.
It is quite hard for me to actually fathom this strange job of a porn star. It seems like a completely different world. Also I understand that it is quite vast. So it's not really possible to draw conclusions that apply to the whole scope.

I'm happy to see that there are some I don't know what the proportions are, that appear to live healthy happy lives.

But again, it's so abstract to me.

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Heather
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Just to make one thing clear though, that pay equity in porn is about more than the actors per male/female.

One of the real issues is that often production and marketing folks -- who are a mix gender wise, but most of the time, the highest-ups are male -- often make more money overall than the actors -- those taking the most risks -- do, and tend to have better benefits.

It's also important to recognize that actors in Hollywood have unions, guilds, protections that actors in porn do not: actors in Hollywood films have many critical differences in their work, the way it's done, how they're viewed, how it's managed, and the realm and variety of non-pornographic film varies WAY more widely than that of pornographic film, so when we're talking about representations of women in fiction per the two media, it's also a tricky comparison to make, at best. So, comparing the two can be really precarious in many regards.

[ 01-23-2007, 02:47 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
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While I'm still thinking on it, per the original question asked, it's also important to realize that like with a lot of issues when it comes to women and sexuality, often women who do sex work or work in porn are locked into a Mdaonna/Whore situation per speaking out.

In other words, often trapped into only being allowed to either say they were terribly victimized (and now want to 'go straight" and redeem themselves, etc.) OR to applaud the whole situation and industry full-stop, saying everything, everything is great and wonderful. Again, as is often the case with addressing complex issues, period, more often we're talking about a LOT of shades of grey, about diverse experiences, and about complexities that don't make for good sound bytes, or which people just aren't interested in hearing, because it makes them have to think too much and in this case, often have to re-evaluate the way they think about women, about sexuality, and about the way culture views women and sexuality and commodity.

So, much of what you see out there are the serious extremes. But as I said, there are books and other sources where you can get a better view of things, where a wide array of voices are heard and allowed and not diluted to the lowest common denominators.

There's also the extra issue of the fact that for those who plan to do anything other than porn with their lives, or are living in some sort of stealth, speaking out no matter WHAT you say about it, good, bad, or anything in between, creates a visibility plenty of sex workers don't want or just plain can't afford. And if you have bad experiences and you're still wanting to work in the industry, you have to be pretty careful what you say, just as is often the case in any other industry.

[ 01-23-2007, 03:02 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
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And, before I shove off, a bigger reading list for you with lots of different perspectives, Gwahir, if you still want one:

The book I'd mentioned before is Real Live Nude Girl, by Carol Queen.

I'd also suggest Whores and Other feminists by Jill Nagle, Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry by Frederique Delacoste, Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor by Wendy Chapkis, Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition by Kempala Kempadoo, The Other Hollywood : The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry, The Lusty Lady] by Erika Langley and [i]Naked Ambition edited by carly Milne.

Most of these are more about first-person woker perspectives. Obviously, that's only part of the issue, but I believe it's the part you're most curious about.

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hunnybunny888
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I'm a bit confused...this thread is making it seem as though a lot of women are forced into the industry and are not allowed to back out.
It was to my understanding that in the vast majority of cases it is always the individuals choice whether or not they want to be in porn. There are other ways out there to make money if they are desperate, perhaps not as much, but they can sacrifice it if it bothers them so much, there is wellfare, etc, etc.
I don't know alot on the subject but it seems to me it's simimlar to the celebrity who hates paparatzi and media attention. It most definately has its negative aspects that can be extremely degrading and harmful, but at the same time it is the individuals choice to go into the industry, and they know what comes along with it.

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Heather
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quote:
It was to my understanding that in the vast majority of cases it is always the individuals choice whether or not they want to be in porn. There are other ways out there to make money if they are desperate, perhaps not as much, but they can sacrifice it if it bothers them so much, there is wellfare, etc, etc.
Well, first of all, you have to determine if you're talking globally or only in the states. Because if you're talking globally about sex work, then no: it's not apt to say the majority of women globally can fully choose to opt into sex work. Not by a serious long shot.

In the west, this is more often the case, but again, none of this is simplified this easily. For instance, if you have two kids to feed, no other parent, if you have a very limited schedule of when you can work and still care for your kids, then when no other job allows you that flexibility or pay, how optional is it? Or, if your education is very limited, what are your options? On the other hand, there ARE also women who have other options and how 100% willingly choose to work in porn and other sex work. It's a range, and thinking that it's not is fallacy.

(Also? I gotta say that it's SO easy to say there are a million ways to pay your bills before you really have to, and if you have a lot of privilege. Even once you do it yourself for a few years, pay ALL your own bills, look at how economics work with cost of living and such, it becomes a little more clear that a lot of the time, work options are a lot more limited for most people than teens or young adults tend to think. This is always even more the case the poorer you start off. And no one can live on welfare completely: welfare in most areas can HELP an income, but by no means can it provide enough to live on, even very poorly.)

quote:
this thread is making it seem as though a lot of women are forced into the industry and are not allowed to back out.
And I'm not really sure where you're seeing that in most of the posts here.

[ 01-23-2007, 03:34 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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bettie
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Heather asked me to stop by this thread to offer a first person account. I used to volunteer here at ST. Some of you may remember me. I am a sex worker activist and have 8 years personal experience as a sex worker - specifically in commercial pornography.

In terms of online work, especially if you are working for yourself on a webcam network, as a performer you can call the shots. You can decide whether to do a certain act or not, take a certain client or not. Unless you work for a studio you are working for yourself. The majority of cam girls who work for studios are outside of the USA (eastern europe is very popular right now for a bunch of reasons - I can go into that later if you want). Regardless, the acts tend to be solo stuff and have minimal physical risk.

However, when it comes to being a hired model or performer for a production company, be it for the web or for DVD, the experience can vary quite a bit. For the most part you have to take a gig as is. You do not get to negotiate. There will always be someone who will do more for less. And as you age, which happens very quickly in the sex industry (by age 25 you are over the hill), there will always be someone younger and fresher than you to be the star.

I have heard many a producer boast about getting a gal to do more for less or to compete with another performer in order to get them too push their limits and pay them less. I also know of producers who are thoughtful, respectful and considerate. Sometimes you just luck out on what ad you answer.

Why do people do it then? The money can be good if you think about it from a per hour basis. $300 for a 2 hour shoot. $1000 for an 12 hour day of sex. Typcially in cash. But when you consider just a few other aspects of the work it may not be the windfall you think it is.

- health risks (i.e. STI's, vaginal/anal fissures, constant BV infections)
- lack of work opportunity afterwards (what do you do with a resumé with a very blank section of time?)
- amount of money it costs to look the part (even on a minimal level it costs a fair amount of money to be presentable for the camera)

Still people get into the business because the money is quick. There can also be a sense of empowerment. To be a sexual star can be very intoxicating. To be the girl who will do more than any other girl can be ego-boosting. Without any worker rights or protections you may be totally unaware of the negatives or how to deal with them until you experience them. You may just focus on the money or how being a porn star is supposed to make you feel.

But back to the idea of calling the shots. If you produce your own content you can decide who you want to shoot with and under what conditions.

These kinds of options are not so easily found if you are a hired performer. In heterosexual mainstream porn productions (the LA scene) condoms are not the norm and only a few performers have the clout to demand them. Testing is the norm which is not a bad thing, but still not foolproof.

In smaller productions done for the web there seems to be more condom use. I think this is because often the producers are also male talent and want to protect themselves (as well they work outside of the industry testing area).

I haven't even touched on the expectations for certain sexual acts. Lots to say. I will come back later and share some more.

[ 01-23-2007, 03:50 PM: Message edited by: bettie ]

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Gwaihir
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These are some great and informative posts. . and thanks for the booklist, Heather, I'm planning on doing a major book-buying outing in a few days. [Smile]
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KittenGoddess
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From the academic front, there is also literature base looking at sex work. I believe much of it comes from fields like sociology, women's studies, and communication. One specific example that I'm thinking of right now was Ronai (1992) A Night in the Life of an Erotic Dancer (I can't remember which journal that appeared in). That particular article is an auto-ethnography where the author discusses her experiences as an exotic dancer while she was in college. I don't have any other citations on me at the moment, but if you search academic databases and journals, I guarantee that you can turn up quite a bit of information that looks at the experiences of sex workers. Much of the work in that area as well is done via ethnography and interview...so it is getting the stories from those who are living them. At any rate, if you're looking for that kind of discussion do know that it is going on in the academic arena as well.

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