Porn Stars: The Death of a Sex-Industry Profession
Feb 28, 2012 4:45 AM EST
A few years ago, the figure of the porn-star-as-mogul had become integrated into mainstream pop culture. Now, they can barely get work. Richard Abowitz reports.
In recent years, if not exactly mainstream, the porn star became a recognizable popular culture figure. She was a raunchy symbol for a debauched time. Placed on a pedestal, the porn star was OK with us gazing up her skirt. During the aughts, porn stars penned bestsellers and helped stock cable-reality-show casts. Even in suburban malls “Porn Star” T-shirts were ubiquitous. There were Jenna Jameson, Tera Patrick, and Sasha Grey: all were well known in mainstream pop culture. They appeared on magazine covers, hosted nightclubs in Las Vegas, and starred in music videos by popular bands.
Then the moment passed.
As if to underline the lack of star power in porn these days, at
the AVN (Adult Video News) Awards in Vegas last month, three of the nominees for Crossover Star of the Year were primarily known for encounters with Charlie Sheen (Capri Anderson, Kacey Jordan, and Bree Olson). And the winner of Crossover Star of 2012? Fifty-eight year-old Ron Jeremy.
The veteran Jesse Jane (who appeared on the cover of Drowning Pool’s disc Desensitized in 2004) remembers when things were different. With almost a decade making movies, Jane is one of the few stars left from porn’s pre-recession, golden crossover years. “I came in at the perfect time when people still cared about stars,” she says. “Now, no one has a fair chance at what happened for Jenna, Tera, and me.”
“It’s a permanent change,” says Alec Helmy, publisher of adult industry trade publication XBIZ. “It is similar to what happened to radio jockeys.”
There are certainly still plenty of big names known to porn fans, including Jessica Drake and Asa Akira. But the days of porn stars gaining ubiquitous success have come to an abrupt halt.
In the industry, no one is exactly sure why. The theories offered by agents, performers, and directors vary. Steve Javors, of another adult trade publication, AVN, thinks porn stars are victims of the economy. “What is happening to porn stars is the recession,” he says. “Companies don’t have the money to market stars that they did a few years ago. Porn stars will come back.”
But others in the industry think the brief period when porn minted celebrity has passed for good. One constant mentioned by all interviewed: the near unlimited number of women who are willing to do scenes. These days, the term “porn girls”—as opposed to “stars”—has started to gain currency reflecting the more vocational quality of a contemporary career in porn.
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