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Adult film stars are speaking out about the abuses they face in the adult industry. Here's what we know about the industry.

Why exactly are female adult film stars treated so badly?

As more adult film stars speak out about the abuses they face in the adult industry, it’s natural to ask ourselves why this is such a toxic environment. After all, pornography has been around for about as long as we could carve things into boobs. Even the early days of pornographic films are relics that more closely resemble the carvings of nude humans than they do the porn we watch today, so what changed? 

Sex work and adult film stars have always been in a gray area

As one of the oldest professions in the world, sex work has always been a grey area in society. Because there’s a reluctance from the general public to have anything to do with sex workers and adult film stars, most governing bodies have either tried to ban it or outright ignore sex work. Banning sex work is counterproductive because people will still find a way to get what they want, but ignoring it is simply unacceptable.

How are adult films seen by the U.S.?

Currently in the U.S., porn can be classified as “indecent” or “obscene”. If an adult film is considered indecent, then under federal US law it is legal to produce and therefore is protected from regulation by the government. If an adult film is considered obscene, then the film is illegal on a federal level and sellers can be prosecuted. This creates an accountability problem in the adult industry.

Where do most of our adult films come from?

60% of the world’s porn sites are hosted in the U.S., so a large portion of the porn that we have access to is a result of how U.S. laws handle porn. Because legal porn falls within the “indecent” classification it is only legal to produce it because the government is not allowed to regulate it. The fact that porn doesn’t have regulation in the U.S. may be part of why female adult film stars are treated so poorly.

Without regulation, it’s hard to enforce rules and standards that can protect workers. As a protected worker, if you’re being paid below the minimum wage, or asking you to perform unsafe tasks you can pursue legal action against your employer. Because the porn industry is not regulated, there is nowhere to go when an adult film star is forced to do something they didn’t agree to, which is almost always the case.

But don’t female adult film stars choose what they want to do? 

Many female adult film stars have spoken out about the bait and switch practices that agents and producers employ in the adult industry. An adult film star might agree to a certain scene, or to work with a certain person, and when they show up to the set they’re coerced into doing scenes that they didn’t originally agree to. If adult film stars say no to the scenes they risk losing a contract or future work with those clients. 

When an adult film star is coerced into doing work that they didn’t originally agree to, there are not many people they can turn to. There are associations that claim to protect adult film stars, such as the Adult Film Association of America, but their main focus is on defending the industry as a whole and fighting against censorship laws that would reduce their profits. 

Without a proper governing body to oversee porn, adult film stars are left to fend for themselves against exploitative practices and coercive individuals. In most people’s eyes, the fact that adult film stars have chosen to make a living doing porn means that they are also fine with the terrible conditions they have to face. The truth is, those conditions are only bad because no one is doing anything about it.

Regulation can’t be the only thing encouraging bad treatment of female adult film stars?

Not only will an adult film star be criticized and ostracized for refusing unsafe work, but they will also be making their boss and agents less money. Since more and more porn is consumed in short bursts on our laptops, phones, and tablets, the shock factor needs to be heightened enough to grab our fleeting attention. The more offensive and aggressive a video is, the more likely you are to click on it.

Much like the click-bait titles of many articles, porn also needs something that shocks and offends you so that it elicits a response. Strong reactions increase traffic and clicks, which incentivizes companies to create more and more offensive content to increase clicks. Like most content in the digital world, profitability is almost directly linked to how many people click on something. 

Extreme content begets more extreme content

Extreme content desensitizes people and makes them crave even more aggressive and abusive content. This situation creates a cycle that is incentivized by traffic driven profits and supported by the lack of regulation from outside bodies. Some adult film stars have moved towards creating ethical porn, but it is hard to keep up with the demand of ever jaded consumers.

Female adult film stars are treated badly for other reasons too

Of course, there are other considerations to be made as to why female adult stars are treated so badly. The industry is generally run in a sexist and toxic way so that those in power can easily take advantage of financially strained and would-be adult film stars that might be too young to know better. 

Most of the adult industry encourages sexism and a demeaning attitude towards female adult film stars so that profits can be maintained. 

As long as no one is going to stop the adult industry from exploiting its workers, and our tastes continue to veer towards increasingly abusive and exploitative content, then it’s no surprise that female adult film stars are still being treated so badly. Makes you wonder if you should close those “research” tabs you’ve got opened up.

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  • Speaking of female actresses being treated badly, ever heard of Harvey Weinstein? How about Jeffrey Epstein? How about all the other agents, directors and casting agencies that have been accused of sexual assault or harassment on mainstream actresses—or actors? Obviously, this shouldn’t be happening in adult, but it’s also happening in mainstream.

    July 7, 2020
  • Thanks for the great article. I’ve tried to conduct public conversations about pornography and the truth is no one wants to talk about it. Even the (unusually human) pope francis still calls the porn industry filth. The average person wants to feel good about themself and so they agree (yes, it’s filth)—but continue to watch porn. The way it’s marketed is trappy, for sure. But still, these are real people who are doing this job for a reason, and we want it. Cant we face it!?

    October 27, 2020

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