I had to think for a hot second about whether it made sense for me to write about the topic or porn stars escorting and how that related to health and safety on my personal blog, because I’ve been a porn star who also escorted, or on the consent culture blog, because it reflects a social and cultural judgment around physical autonomy, consent, and agency. I decided that ultimately it made sense to cross post it, because I feel strongly enough about the topic of stigma and how it affects self care, personal health, and financial stability. So please bear with me if you follow both blogs and see it twice.
The Salon article “When porn stars become escorts: Lucrative new trend could also be risky” came to my attention via XBiz, actually. As I haven’t been a mainstream porn performer, or ever had a taste for LA, most of the news of XBiz doesn’t usually snag me but when it comes to sex workers spanning multiple areas of the business, I tend to perk up my ears a bit more.
I’ve certainly heard fellow porn performers question whether they should supplement their income with other types of work, considering porn jobs aren’t consistent and the industry can be feast or famine. Stripping is a classic choice for many, though the hours can be long, the shoes killer and the stage fees often exorbitant. Others might choose private cam shows if they have a space available, though at least in my experience with camming a lot of time is spent being politely flirtatious to men who don’t want to pay for your time but want to try to get you naked anyway. Some become sex coaches, which can also offer another type of dvd opportunity and in-person work that can be particularly helpful when you no longer want to work in porn itself. And some become escorts, because at the end of the day, sex for money is sex for money. I figured this article was going to talk to a few performers about the pros and cons about that decision making process, probably discuss the various disease transmission cases that had happened over the past few years, and maybe ask the question if porn stars who escorted were, actually, a greater risk than those who didn’t.
But no, that’s not really what I found. Instead, I found it to be pretty problematic, and likely something that’s going to get picked up and waved around by people who want to show that porn stars are, in fact, reckless secret sexual lepers who will end up infecting us all.
The issues I have with the premise of this article are countless. First, this is not a new trend. Porn performers have supplemented their income with other types of sex work, including “working private”, as long as porn has existed. In fact, if I recall correctly, many of the original pornographic performers in the first films were prostitutes- I mean hell, the WORD itself was coined to mean a depiction of a prostitute or of prostitution, even if that’s not the popular usage today. So porn performers escorting or escorts performing in porn, not really a new thing. Being open about escorting? I don’t know, maybe that is new compared to, say, fifteen years ago. But I think that more likely, the ability to Google such information to find out if a performer escorts, or to trace a photo, means that it’s a hell of a lot easier to find out if a porn star is escorting now than when most adult ads were in print. I think it’s as common as it ever was, but like with everything else, we hear more about it now, because we hear more about everything now.
Actually, on that point, I think it’s also worth mentioning that because of that access to so much intimate information (which you have to provide, because it’s marketing when your body is your business), it’s also pretty impossible to erase a porn career once you’ve had one, which means that you might not have many other options if the porn jobs aren’t paying what they used to. I just saw a story about a guy being refused to perform boylesque because he worked in porn (I mean are you fucking kidding???) never mind the ongoing stories of kids being kicked out of school, women losing their jobs, their kids, their families, their lives, etc. I mean, newsflash, we are living in some damn hard economic times. But that’s not really what this blog post is about. ::deep breath::
I have a problem with the people they spoke to, particularly the two prominent voices in the article- Michael Whiteacre (I can only find direct links to him, which I refuse to do) and Mike South, both men who pen their own porn “news”/gossip sites and both of whom have, at various times, been actively emotionally abusive to sex workers. Why on earth Salon would consider these two men authorities on this topic, I have no fucking idea, but it really pisses me off. Whiteacre is the sort of man who finds it perfectly acceptable to post private conversation screencaps to gaslight abused women, and South’s attitude of “better for you to confess your sins to me before I expose you” is no better than the assholes the two of them fought to hard to shut down years ago, Porn WikiLeaks. I’m really disappointed at the laziness of this research and the overwhelming potential for harm it can do, particularly when these two men make their careers off of fostering gossip, fear, and shame.
Additionally, I want to confront this idea right now that porn stars who escort are greater health and safety risks. I have not seen any data to support this claim, and as far as I can tell, none of the porn moratoriums were sparked because of a porn performer escorting on the side. As far as I know, Mr. Marcus? Not an escort. Cameron Bay? Got it with her lover. Derrick Burts? Got it on set. So I’m confused (and if you have some info, please comment below, I’m happy to update this!).
I mean… there is risk inherent in having sex. I get that. And yes, I think that a porn set should be a safe workplace- frankly if I had my way, the way the mainstream would work is that porn performers would feel free to ask for whatever safer sex supplies they wanted to use on set, and everyone would get an STI panel paid for by the company, rather than out of pocket, because I think pay-to-work models are shitty. But it sounds like, as far as I am aware, people are not actually in real life being infected because of porn star escorts.
Though, I mean, we all know how prostitutes never use safer sex or get tested and are totally reckless while people having sex for reasons that aren’t direct cash exchange are always monogamous couples who are sober and using all the safer sex techniques all the time properly 100%. /sarcasm
To be fair, Salon does link to this article on Forbes where Susannah Breslin breaks down what porn performers do when the porn industry shuts down, which I think actually details many more voices and is in many ways more informative. Adahlia says it perfectly:
“In my escorting work, I have always felt much safer and protected because I am able to choose what kinds of safer sex practices I wish to utilize, and I don’t lose business by choosing to be safe.”
I think she speaks to a greater issue – losing business by choosing to be safe. Let’s be real, money is fucking TIGHT, especially for people on the edges who are already struggling. Shit, I’m barely scraping by, I just found out our rent is going up another $50, and there is not a job to be found. I want to acknowledge that when financial stress is high, this is often survival sex we’re talking about here. So compromises get made that wouldn’t otherwise get made- faking an STI report, working with a company that doesn’t have as stringent policies, doing types of sex acts you’re not comfortable with, doing bareback escorting, whatever it might be. Because rent has to be paid, food needs to be bought, the car needs to keep running and god help you if you have any medical bills or debt.
But ultimately, even that desperation and those choices-that-aren’t-really-choices are not really about the porn industry. That’s working under capitalistic patriarchy (an argument I actually make here in the New Internationalist).
And what I saw resonating throughout that article was “this is why we need better worker representation, and why we need sex worker rights”.
Basically, I don’t want porn performers to read that damn article and freak out that they aren’t booking enough shoots and they were considering other types of sex work but maybe they’d be shunned for life or instantly drop dead. It is OK to do what you need to do. That mainstream porn industry is floundering because it’s not adaptable, it’s scared of change. But us sex workers? We’re chameleons, baby. We’re survivors. We’re fierce.
And Salon, next time, can you at least try to talk to current sex workers about sex worker issues?
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