The Business of Pornography
Most of the outsize profits being generated by pornography today are being earned by businesses not traditionally associated with the sex industry
Some women are drawn to the sex industry because they're exhibitionists who love the sex and the stardom. Most are attracted by the money. One well-known porn star put herself through law school by acting in hard-core films; others have saved their earnings, invested well, and then quit. But many are drawn to the industry by drug habits and self-loathing. For these women, hard-core videos become a permanent record of the most degrading moments of their life.
There is a constant demand for new talent, and few actresses last more than a year or two. Hartley warns new performers to avoid overexposure. A woman's pay is largely based on her novelty. Hundreds of women are constantly entering and exiting the industry. As in Hollywood, the demand is greatest for actresses in their late teens and early 20s.
Sexually transmitted diseases are one of the industry's occupational hazards. Performers are now required to undergo monthly HIV testing, and their test results serve as a passport for work. A number of producers insist upon the use of condoms during especially high-risk activity; the majority of producers don't. A leading actor with AIDS could in a matter of days spread the virus to many other performers. Because such an epidemic has not yet struck the porn community, many performers question the prevailing wisdom about AIDS and how it is spread. Behind these doubts lies a great deal of fear, denial, and wishful thinking. Drawing upon her experience as a registered nurse, Hartley has published a set of "Health and Hygiene Tips for Adult Performers."
Attempts to form a union for sex workers have met with little success. Most of the performers, according to Hartley, are "eighties kids" who want to be rich and pay fewer taxes: "Solidarity? Brotherhood? Sisterhood? Ha!" Verbal contracts are routinely made and broken, by producers and performers. Checks sometimes bounce. The borderline legal status of the industry makes performers reluctant to seek redress in court.
The highest-paid performers, the actresses with exclusive contracts, earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year for doing about 20 sex scenes and making a dozen or so personal appearances. Only a handful of actresses--perhaps 10 to 15--are signed to such contracts. Other leading stars are paid roughly $1,000 per scene. The vast majority of porn actresses are "B girls," who earn about $300 a scene. They typically try to do two scenes a day, four or five times a week. At the moment, there is an oversupply of women in Southern California hoping to enter the porn industry. Overtime is a thing of the past, and some newcomers will work for $150 a scene.
The dirty dozen. The actors in hard-core films serve mainly as props for the female performers. Leading actors earn less money than the top actresses but enjoy much longer careers. Most enter the business in order to have sex with a large variety of women. The men are valued primarily for their ability to perform on cue. Perhaps a dozen men consistently display that skill; some have now appeared in more than 1,000 hard-core films.