What It’s Really Like Working In Porn

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“Just to let you know we are an adult entertainment company. Are you okay with that?” my recruiter asked.

“Not a problem,” I responded. I had no clue what I was getting into, but I knew I would be good at it. That’s not to say that I wasn’t taken aback to see naked breasts on the screen during one of my first meetings there (my boss was giving me a tour of the website).

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Social media is my jam, and, after a few years as a burlesque performer, I can confidently say that I’m not a prude.

These are the things that have stood out in my first five months working as a social media manager for a porn brand:

Instagram hates sex workers

I’d say the toughest part of my job is trying to stay on Instagram’s good side. Mind you, I’ve seen naked bums and hefty cleavages on verified influencers (who aren’t sex workers), and, according to the platform, that’s okay. Those posts will even make it to your explore page.

But, a sex worker will take a selfie, and it’ll get taken down for solicitation. I’ve seen it happen. A picture I posted on one of our accounts got taken down. It was literally a portrait of one of the performers we work with. I had to contest it, and, then, they put it back up. On another occasion, the app disabled my ability to comment “to keep our community safe.”

I get it, Instagram, there are children on the app. But, why is it okay for them to see an influencer’s rear end and not a sex worker’s face? Sex workers are a part of society, and as long as they’re not soliciting on the platform, they’re not making anyone unsafe.

There are legit porn fans

Before this job, I had never met anyone who was a hardcore porn enthusiast, i.e., someone who has a favorite actress and who writes scene critiques — without being paid to do so. As part of my job, I also manage our members’ area, and the comments are brutal.

I’ve seen it all: Comments on performers who gain or lose weight, comments on shaky camera work or poor color correction or a boring plot, and comments chastising a female performer for getting plastic surgery. They LOVE porn and want the scenes to go down exactly the way they want them to.

I myself have come to appreciate porn as art. So, as I do when viewing a Hollywood movie, I too pay attention to acting, editing, plot, and sound quality. Seriously, there is some really good content out there.

Black performers are discriminated against

I’ve written about how Black sexuality is viewed in Western societies. Yet, I wasn’t expecting a deluge of racist comments on Black male performers’ scenes. We’ve blocked the culprits, so our site is a much more pleasant place now. As for scenes featuring Black female performers, the comments always mention their Blackness.

An example: “Black [demeaning word for vagina] matter.” I cringe. Then, there are the requests for Black female performers to be gangbanged by White men. We can have a debate about racial fetishization in the comments section of this post; I’m just not down with that practice. But, back to my job. As social media manager, I make it a point to feature Black performers, although I know their posts get fewer likes.

There is a stigma surrounding crossover actors

There is a stigma associated with bisexual male performers, also referred to as crossover performers. Things are slowly changing for the better, but male performers who do gay or bi scenes are seen by many to be at a higher risk for HIV transmission.

So, some agencies won’t hire them for straight scenes, and some female performers won’t want to work with them (the same stigma applies to transgender performers). In an interview with Paper, Chris Zeischegg, a former crossover performer said:

“A lot of people on the straight side felt that if you did gay porn or had sex with men, due to CDC statistics, you were putting everyone else at risk for HIV […] I got a call from a prominent agent, because I had been dating one of his girls, and he said, ‘Hey, I got this email from another agent that you and a handful of other guys are on a list of at-risk people for disseminating HIV within the porn community and they recommend that no one hire you.’”

As for the company I work for, we do cast bi actors in straight scenes, but our members aren’t always happy with that choice, and they express it loud and clear. Some members say it’s hard for them to put themselves in the male actor’s shoes since he does gay scenes, or they say he looks effeminate. Essentially, just like in “regular life,” some people struggle with the idea of a man who is sexually fluid.

Watching a lot of porn can desensitize you

Let’s do the numbers. I work 7.5 hours a day, five days a week, skimming through scenes, coming up with promotional strategies, and filling the content calendar with safe-for-work images for Facebook and Instagram, and not-so-safe-for-work content for Twitter (among other things).

With that in mind, is it that surprising that I had sex dreams every night when I first started working there? I couldn’t watch porn outside work (because I wanted the dreams to end). Maybe I’m odd, but, to me, there is such a thing as too many sex dreams.

At this point, I’ve watched more porn in the last five months than I have in my entire life. So, the sex dreams have stopped, and I can watch scenes with a critical eye — without getting aroused.

I can now watch porn in my regular life, but I’m far pickier than I once was. Some scenes just suck (pun intended)!

Butt holes can really, really stretch

Call me sheltered, but I didn’t know what the term “pegging” was until I started working in porn. Pegging is when a cisgender woman puts on a strap-on and penetrates a man’s butthole. No biggie. But, what is a biggie is two entire fists finding a home inside one single butt hole (forearms included).

Not my cup of tea, but I won’t yuk anyone’s yum. I just didn’t know a butthole could do all that. Fun fact: In order to do any kind of anal play, it’s common for performers to get ready by giving themselves enemas and sometimes fasting for the day.

Sexual assault happens

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I need to stay on top of things, as we do not want to work with sex offenders or promote their former scenes. Sexual assault can happen at any workplace, but, offenders take advantage of the fact that authorities do not respect sex workers.

Porn stars are just like everyone else

“As a sex worker, it’s impossible for me to make a general statement about sex workers as a whole because I see them as individuals. What I can say is that not all sex workers are the stereotype people want to believe. Many of us are college-educated, feminists, and absolutely love what we do.” — Casey Calvert

Porn stars are just like everyone else? Duh. Still, I feel like it’s worth mentioning considering how society views and treats sex workers — especially those of the female persuasion. Like everyone else, there are some aspects of their job that they enjoy, and others they do not.

Some performers are politically conservatives, while others lean more towards the left. Some performers are monogamous outside of work, and get married and have children. Others are polyamorous, and get married and have children. They have sex. We all have sex. They just get paid to give us a good show.

I’m definitely not claiming to be an expert on adult entertainers. And, I realize that my job enables me to be close enough to the industry without dealing with any of the stigma attached to it— although I did get some friendly recommendations from friends not to share what I do for a living, and some of my coworkers keep their job a secret from loved ones.

That said, I’m happy my job has allowed me to have exchanges with the performers we work with (I organize social media events with them).

A career in porn isn’t “the easy way out”

Sex work isn’t “mindless” work. Certain performers have niches, and they learn the tricks of their trade. As an artist myself, I have found it particularly interesting to see how certain performers have developed a strong brand for themselves.

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Furthermore, just like with mainstream films, there are award shows, such as AVN and XBIZ — which incentivize performers to deliver their best performances.

There are ups, and there are downs.

The internet’s favorite dirty stepmom Cherie Deville wrote an article about anxiety for The Daily Beast.

She writes:

“Porn doesn’t cause mental health disorders, but the stigma surrounding porn can exacerbate pre-existing conditions. If you suffer from anxiety, you might grow more anxious when your job can lead to family tension, judgment from friends, and difficulties with romantic partners.”

Considering that, seeing tweets like this makes me happy. We love to see a supportive momma bear.

Porn is a profitable industry because most of us watch porn. You can blame our mirror neurons, brain cells that activate when an action is performed or observed, for that. In other words, our brains respond to porn as if we ourselves are having sex. Fun. 

Since watching other people have sex is enjoyable for most of us, why pretend as if we’re above the ones bringing us that pleasure?

I’ll end with this: If you enjoy porn, consider paying for a membership at an ethical porn site and/or supporting your faves’ OnlyFans. A lot of work and money goes into making such content available. My new job has already taught me a lot. In a way, it has further normalized sex work for me. I’m grateful for that.

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Magda Erockfor Ayuk is a Montreal-based jazz singer and writer. Her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Richest, and PRSUIT. You can find her on Spotify or Instagram. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.