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Clear Your Search History: An Analysis of Modern Pornography

By: Trey Crisp

Pornography is considered one of the largest industries in the modern world and rightly

so. Pornography reaches an incredibly large market and is consumed by many adults on a regular

basis. It is said that up to 70% of American men watch pornography at least once a month

(Bancroft). While another statistic based off of a survey of 3000 women said that 31 percent of

women said they watched porn every week (Women in the World). These numbers should not

astound you though, as pornography is one of the most profitable industries in the world today.

According to ABC News, pornography has grown into a $10 billion industry and is bigger than

the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball combined (ABC News). Let it be said, this paper

does not aim to take a moral stance on whether pornography should be legal or not, or if it is

good or not, but to illustrate how pornography operates as an industry and reveal information

about wages, treatment, and other related aspects of pornography.

A History of Pornography:

Pornography has been around longer than most people would think, just in different

forms. The ancient Romans and Greeks often had sculptures and paintings that depicted sexual

acts and nude forms. One of the oldest man-made depictions of the naked body is the Venus of

Willendorf statue that is said to date back over 25,000 years (Weisman, Carrie). There was

even an exhibit dedicated to antique erotica in the ancient city of Pompeii.

As technology improved, pornography shifted, being found more often in literature.

Books of sensual and arousing images were published and eventually erotic novels started being

produced. In 1749, one of the first erotic novels ever written, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
or Fanny Hill, was published by John Cleland. He and the original publisher were arrested and

jailed immediately after the books publication (Weisman, Carrie). The book covers a variety of

topics including bisexuality and voyeurism but it was banned in the United States. It was not

until recently, in 1966, that the book resurfaced and was allowed in the United States.

As photography was invented, pornography shifted to the visual medium. Professor

Joseph Slade suggests, in a paper he wrote in 2006, that the first pornographic daguerreotype

(an early version of the photograph) surfaced in 1846 (Weisman, Carrie). After photography

came film, and pornography was quickly integrated into the use of the technology. Thomas

Edisons The Kiss was made available in 1896 and depicted the first on-screen kiss. By the early

1900s a sector of film known as stag film started being produced. Stag film relied on

disjointed narratives and vivid depictions of raw sexuality[and] asserted the authenticity of

human sexuality (Weisman, Carrie).

Though these films were illegal to produce and distribute, they remained popular enough

to justify the creation of the X-rating in 1951. Entering into the modern era, pornography hit its

stride in the 1970s, which are referred to as The Golden Age of Porn. This is because of the

landmark case Miller vs. California, in which the [Supreme] Court decided to redefine its

understanding of obscenity (Weisman, Carrie). After this case, the VCR was invented and the

reach and accessibility of pornography expanded even further. As private viewing was now

possible; pornography sales increased.

Then, in 1991, the internet was invented. The pornography industry was completely

revolutionized. Since that time, production and consumption of pornography have increased

nearly exponentially. Xvideos was the largest porn site in 2012 with 4.4 billion page views per

month (Weisman, Carrie). It was reported that the site was three times the size of CNN or
ESPN, and twice the size of Reddit with only websites like Facebook and Google being larger

(Weisman, Carrie). As pornography has grown and become more accessible, more and more

people share their opinions on the industry.

A Portrait of Public Opinion and Viewpoints:

Pornography, given its nature, has been the topic of much debate. Many of the advocates

of porn say that pornography is providing people, specifically women, with the ability to be

sexually expressive. Advocates of the industry also point out that pornography promotes values

of sensual self-expression, sexual experimentation, and sexual choice and variation while also

teaching sexual skills and presenting women as erotically aggressive, as lusty individuals who

can and should pursue their own sexual fantasies (Seidman, pg. 239).

Some other advocates go as far as even saying that pornography can provide women with

the ability to become successful by giving them an opportunity into the business and production

aspects of the industry. While another sector of pornography advocates see it from a free speech

perspective. They are less concerned with the morality issue of pornography and judging whether

it is right or wrong. They say that what one person chooses to do in their home is their business

and that censoring pornography can potentially lead to higher censorship on other things like

television, music, and literature.

The opponents of pornography make a variety of claims. Conservative opponents of the

pornography industry claim that porn is a form of moral violence and separating sex from the

emotion behind the act lowers sex to an animalistic level, to a mere physical sensation

(Seidman, pg. 239). Many opponents are people concerned with the fact that pornography in the

online era is easily accessible for children who should not be viewing it. Feminists that argue
against the pornography industry say that porn is about violence toward women and that it

paints the picture that women are designed only to pleasure men (Seidman, pg. 239).

It is often said by critics of pornography that pornography is the theory and rape is the

practice (Seidman, pg. 240). Anti-pornography activists also assert that pornography producers

are using the actors and that they are both poorly paid and provided with very few benefits, if

any at all. Opponents and advocates of the pornography industry make compelling points with

some well-articulated arguments. It is important to consider the view of each side before making

a judgment on pornography as an industry.

Recently, it seems that public opinion regarding pornography has become more

conservative. In a study done by the Pew Research Center 41% of people surveyed agree that

nude magazines and X-rated movies provide harmless entertainment for those who enjoy it,

while 53% disagree (Heimlich). The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that is

dedicated to informing the public about the issues and trends taking form in America and


Despite this trend toward conservative views of pornography, the 2016 election in

California saw Prop 60 fail to pass in a 54% to 46% vote. Prop 60 would have required the

producers of pornography to provide condoms to the actors on set, required adult film

performers to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. Required producers to pay for

performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations. Required producers to post condom

requirement at film sites (Ballotpedia). Even though people seem to view pornography more

negatively, or conservatively, they are still voting down regulations on the industry.

Regulations and Restrictions:

Pornography is rather unregulated compared to other industries. As modern pornography

started to grow into the industry it is today, the only explicit regulation on it was that people

under the age of 18 were not allowed to be performing in the videos. As time went on,

regulations have begun to increase and have been proposed, but most proposed regulations have

been met with heavy opposition from the pornography industry.

The only two places that it is actually legal to produce pornography are California and

New Hampshire because they have protected pornography under freedom of speech. Many other

states have obscenity laws that do not allow for pornography to be filmed there legally. That

being said, while it is illegal to film pornography in many places that does not stop many

production companies from filming in places like Florida, Nevada, and New York.

One of the reasons that porn production companies feel they need to film in places where

producing pornography is illegal is because of the regulations imposed in those states who have

explicitly legalized pornography. In California, there is/was a regulation put in place that states

that all pornographic actors have to wear a condom during filming. I say is/was because even

though the regulation, known as Measure B, passed in 2012 LA County declined to enforce the

Measure (Free Speech Coalition). The proponents of this regulation, including anti-porn activist

Michael Weinstein (President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a longtime maverick in

gay activist circles), sued, leading many countersuits to be filed (Dembosky). On March 29, 2016

a settlement was reached among these lawsuits in which Weinstein is blocked from harassing

LA County with further lawsuits related to the Measure and the Measure is still realistically

unenforceable (Free Speech Coalition).

The previously mentioned Prop 60 was also funded and pushed for by Michael

Weinstein. Proposition 60 would have made it possible for anyone in the state of California to
file a lawsuit against the producers of pornography and the actors in pornographic videos if they

did not like the material that they were producing. It also would have allowed for lawsuits to be

filed against people who made sex tapes in their own homes. Prop 60 was the only question on

the California ballot in 2016 that was opposed by the California Republican Party, the California

Democratic Party, and the California Libertarian Party because of how poorly the language in it

was drafted.

Many pro-porn activists say that the regulations are put in place by anti-pornography

groups so that they can start to control and then dismantle the industry as whole, and it appears

that there is a grain of truth to that argument. There is a lot of push back from those within the

pornography industry that feel regulations are unneeded and that their internal systems work far

better. This seems somewhat strange because all of the regulations are, in theory, designed to

help protect the people who need it the most, the actors. In practice though, these proposed

regulations would often make it easier for outsiders to affect the livelihood of the actors and


Health Factors to Consider:

As with almost anything in life, there are risks involved with having sex too frequently

and with a large amount of partners. These risks are there for anyone who has sex too often or

with many partners but considering the nature of pornography, the actors in the industry are at a

much greater risk than the average person. One of the biggest risks for women in pornography is

getting urinary tract infections (UTIs). As female actors in pornography can have sex with

multiple partners a week, they are at an increased risk of contracting UTIs. This is because

when you have a lot of sex in a short period of time, it can make you more susceptible to these

infections (Gueren). Women are also more likely to develop cervical cancer from having sex
with multiple partners and having sex with lots of different partners increases your chances of

coming into contact with a person who is carrying the HPV virus which can lead to cervical

cancer (Go Ask Alice).

The risk factors for men in the pornography industry are slightly different. Some include

loss of sensitivity to the genitals, hair loss and difficulty climaxing. Men in the pornography

industry put themselves at even greater risk by taking erectile dysfunction (ED) pills even though

they dont need them. This is quite common as off-label use of prescription drugs is a norm in

the adult industry (Clark-Flory). While proper usage of ED medications is considered safe, male

pornographic actors often abuse them, some even using injections directly into the penis to

maintain an erection and end up putting themselves at risk of permanent damage to their


The most obvious risk that many people think of when they think about pornography is

the risk of contracting an STI. Though the pornography industry has rather strict screening

standards for STIs there is still a chance that the actors can contract them. The pornography

industry only relies on urine-based testing for STIs and in a study conducted by the American

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association they found that of the 47 [people] who tested

positive for Gonorrhea and/or Chlamydia, 11 cases had been detected through urogenital testing

alone (Rodriguez-Hart). This leaves the majority of cases to get by without detection because

the diseases are so often contracted at different sites. In fact, the mouth was the most common

infection site of Gonorrhea, which was the most common STI. They recommended that condom

use be enforced in the industry for safety reasons. The problem is that other health risks can arise

from frequent sex with a condom. Lance Hart, a long time pornography actor and producer, said
that condoms can cause microscopic tears in the vagina which he compared to sandpaper


Another thing to consider when thinking about health risks in the pornography industry is

that different sectors of the industry have different STI testing criteria. In straight pornography,

most actors do not wear protection but the STI testing is rigorous (Evans). Whereas in gay

pornography they wear condoms for anal sex scenes which means that their STI screenings are

less intense.

How The Pay Scale Works:

The most interesting thing about pornography is range of pay that the people who are in it

make. As pornography is most often targeted at men, women are often the drawing factor in

pornography. The obvious assumption is that they are going to make the most money out of

anyone who is doing pornography, but this is not always the case. According to Mark Spiegler,

one of the top talent agents in the pornography industry, women in the industry can vary greatly

in what they are paid. The average female performer ten years ago would make about $100,000

a year, whereas now the average female performer can make as little as $50,000all while

juggling responsibilities such as social-media outreach and personal appearances (Weisman,


These are the average performers, meaning that there are many women who make even

less than that and a few that make substantially more. According to Spiegler a top, in-demand

female performer can be pulling in upward of $350,000 a year, while top male performers can

make more than $100,000 annually (Weisman, Aly). This figure is different for men who work
in the gay porn industry. Many straight men have even started working in the gay porn industry

because gay porn pays about three times as much as straight porn (Pulley).

The pay scale for pornography is relatively straight forward in regards to how much a

person will make based off of what they do. Men and women who are willing to do more

adventurous or extreme sexual acts are going to get paid more than a person who will only have

traditional sex. Another factor that has to be considered when thinking about pornography is

popularity. Those top performers that Spiegler mentioned can make as much as $1,500,

occasionally $2,000 for a traditional sex scene while average performers range from $800 and

$1,000 (Morris).

The newcomers and those who have a particularly bad reputation within the industry can

earn as little of $300 per scene. There are many factors that play into the pay of a pornographic

actor and while some, who have made it a true career, are making rather exceptional money,

many of the young women that enter into porn are being underpaid for the work that they do.

Another thing to consider is that people who are making good money in the industry also do a lot

of other work, like make toys, do private web shows, or go on tours where they dance at

gentlemens clubs.

While the actors pay is incredibly variable and largely dependent both on the popularity

of the actor and the level of extreme sex that they are willing to have, the agents of these

pornographic actors have far more stable incomes. Depending on the agent they take anywhere

from 10 to 15 percent of what their client makes on a shoot and many agents can rake in

around $250,000 a year (Weisman, Aly). The reason that the agents have more stable income is

because despite the large amount of women and men in the pornography industry most of the

well-known agencies control a majority of the talent. This means that one agent can have a large
number of clients to take that 10 to 15 percent from. Another important thing to keep in mind

when considering these incomes is the actual time a performer spends in the industry.

Many females in the industry are performing in the industry for around four to six

months (McCoppin). In the documentary Hot Girls Wanted, a documentary that follows

amateur porn stars in Miami, one of the male performers said that worst case scenario, a girl is

in the industry one or two months, while on average women are active in the industry for six

months; he went on to say that best case scenario, a girl is in the industry for a year (Hot Girls

Wanted). On a long enough timeline women could potentially make good money in the industry

but the fact is that many women do not make pornography into a career which can skew the

numbers on their income.

Treatment of Workers and Culture:

Treatment of workers in the pornography industry is far from ideal. A large number of

women stop working in the industry because there seems to be a culture of systematic abuse of

performers both physically and psychologically, and that can take forms like forced sodomy,

assault, and transmissions of sexually transmitted infections (Bancroft). The general consensus

among former pornographic actors is that abuse is incredibly prevalent in the industry, as well as

drug and alcohol abuse, sexual transmitted infections, and a feeling of disappointment or disgust

because you are having sex with people you normally would not have sex with. In a serious of

interviews done by Fight The New Drug one former actress recounts a film where she stopped

the scene while it was being filmed because [she] was in too much pain (Fight The New Drug).

A reviewer of this specific scene even called it one of the most morally repugnant pornographic

movies I have seen (Fight The New Drug). It should be added though that Fight The New Drug

is one of the leading anti-pornography groups in America.

There is also a culture of partying and irresponsibility that seems to be present throughout

the pornography industry. The money that these performers make is squandered very quickly.

One of the girls who was the focus in Hot Girls Wanted said that she spent approximately six

months in the pornography industry and made around $25,000. When she left the industry she

had approximately $2,000 in her bank account. The money is often spent on alcohol and drugs,

along with agent fees, and the STD screenings they are required to get. In an interview, former

porn star, Shelley Lubben, said when she exited the industry she had PTSD. [She] had all kinds

of disorders, serious traumas (van Maren). Shelly Lubben is the Executive Director of the Pink

Cross Foundation which focuses on outreach to those wishing to leave the pornography industry.

There are many types of pornography that exist on the internet. Everything from

traditional sex to foot fetish to BDSM to torture porn. This variety of pornography contributes to

some of the mistreatment that women face in the industry. There is a website, discussed in Hot

Girls Wanted, that is dedicated to videos of men having extreme oral sex with women to the

point that they throw up. There is another website that is dedicated solely to rape fantasies.

Women are sometimes slapped, choked, or spit on during scenes. It is websites like these that

cause the biggest problems for the pornography industry. Sites like these and other extreme sites

create staunch opposition to pornography because some people are so rough that the female

actors are to abused to the point of lasting sickness or injury.

When the gay pornography industry and straight pornography industry get compared, we

see that those who work in gay porn are often treated better. In 2010, USC held a panel called

Gay for Pay in the Porn Industry which featured some straight men that work in the gay porn

industry. Reese Rideout, an actor in the gay pornography industry said he prefers working in

gay porn because the directors and producers are more respectful of the men and its actually a
more comfortable setting. Youre treated more like an actor and less like a prop (Medrano).

Since Rideout has worked in both gay and straight porn, his statement implies that those in

straight porn are sometimes treated like props. All the panelists agreed that the transition from

straight to gay porn is not strange and that nothing is forced upon them (Medrano).

While it may seem that actors in straight pornography are widely mistreated and

disrespected on a regular basis this is not always the case. There are many women in the

pornography industry that are making it into a profitable and fulfilling career for themselves.

People like Jessica Drake, Angela White, Kelly Madison, and Tasha Reign, who all own their

own production companies and create their own content so that they can control who they work

with, when they work, and the conditions in which they work.

Jessica Drake, a well-known actress in the industry, writes and directs adult content

started a line of instructional DVDs and also teaches sex education workshops (Masi). She is

one of the people within the industry that is making an effort to make content appropriately and

educate people. Kelly Madison, who works exclusively with her husband and has her own

company, is considered one of the most financially successful independent web stars ever

(James). Women like these should have bigger places in the industry and more decision-making

power. Pornography can be a great platform for those who wish to do it when it is done by

people who care about their performers. Unfortunately, sometimes those producing the content

do not have their performers best interest at heart.

For every well-meaning pornography producer or agent there are multiple profit-obsessed

people who do not take into account their client or performers interests. In Hot Girls Wanted,

multiple amateur female performers are followed who are all represented by the same agent, a

man referred to as Riley, who also serves as male talent in some of the films. That means that
these girls have to pay Riley to get them a job where he may very well be the person they have

sex with. In some cases they essentially have to pay him to have sex with them. The pro-

pornography activists consider Hot Girls Wanted to be pornsploitation and that it paints an

inaccurate picture (Snow).

While there are a lot of people in pornography like Riley, there are good agents that exist

in the industry as well. One agent, Jack Spade, says he even talks to the girls about their goals

before having them do any movies because if she says shes halfway through nursing school, we

say dont do it, itll ruin your future, for example (Snow). There is great potential for

pornography to be a legitimate industry with some changes to the culture that seems to surround


In an Ideal Industry:

Ideally, pornography would be reformed so that the industry would be made safe, fair,

and profitable for everyone involved. Regardless of the moral debates surrounding the industry,

pornography is one of the most prolific industries in the modern world and it is not going to go

anywhere any time soon. Thats why it is necessary for the culture surrounding the industry to

change so that those who are involved in it can be better taken care of. STI screening

thoroughness should be increased to reduce the chance that the actors will contract an STI.

Actors STI screenings should be paid for because they should be afforded the same safety

standards other industries have. Women should be given a more vocal role in what they do so

that they can avoid mistreatment and agents should always have their clients best interest in

mind. As pornography continues to grow as an industry, more steps need to be taken to make

sure that it is a sustainable way of life for those who choose to be a part of it.
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