A pornographic actor/actress or a porn star is somebody who appears in pornographic movies, live sex shows or peep shows. Many actors and actresses may appear nude in films (usually filmed in explicit sexual genres). Most genres have specialists who achieve most of their recognition in a specific niche market such as bondage or pegging.
The first porn star with name recognition was Linda Lovelace, who starred in the 1972 feature Deep Throat. The success of this movie, which grossed hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, spawned a slew of other films and pornographic film stars such as Marilyn Chambers (Behind the Green Door), Gloria Leonard (The Opening of Misty Beethoven), Georgina Spelvin (The Devil in Miss Jones), and Bambi Woods (Debbie Does Dallas). This was followed by what is called The Golden Age of Porn in the mid to late eighties. Such legendary performers as John Holmes, Ginger Lynn Allen, Traci Lords, Veronica Hart, Nina Hartley, Seka, and Amber Lynn became well known in this era. In the DVD-dominated late 1990s, Jenna Jameson, Juli Ashton, Ashlyn Gere, Asia Carrera, Tera Patrick, Briana Banks, Stacy Valentine, Jill Kelly, and Silvia Saint emerged as mega porn stars.
Attempts in the 1970s to outlaw pornography in the United States by prosecuting porn stars for prostitution failed, as the courts made a distinction between someone who took part in a sexual relationship for money, and the act of portraying a sexual relationship as a performance for money.
The ability for people to view adult movies in the privacy of their own homes, owing to the popularity of the VCR (and now DVD) created a new adult market that could not be ignored. Additionally, the prevalence of the Internet has served as a catalyst for the sale of pornography. The production values of adult films declined dramatically in the attempt to create new films for ever increasing demand. As a result of this, there are hundreds of adult film companies today, releasing tens of thousands of shot-on-video titles annually. As a result, there are thousands of people working as pornographic actors to meet the demand for these films.
Male performers in heterosexual pornography are generally selected less for their looks than for their sexual prowess. This is not necessarily true of male porn stars performing in gay porn. Desirable traits include the ability to maintain an erection for a long period on a crowded movie set, as well as the ability to ejaculate on demand with maximum lateral trajectory. Ron Jeremy and Peter North are probably the most famous male performers. North is known for his ability to launch prodigious loads of semen at high velocity and Jeremy is known for his 9.75 inch penis and an appearance very unusual for a porn star (he is overweight and balding with copious body hair). Adding to his fame, Ron Jeremy has been a staple in the industry since the 70's and has become something of a cultural icon.
On the whole, male performers in straight porn are paid less than their female counterparts. Ron Jeremy has commented several times on the pay scale: "The average guy gets $300 to $400 a scene, or $100 to $200 if he's new. A woman makes $100,000 to $250,000 at the end of the year." Ron Jeremy: Penetrating society since '78 and "Girls can easily make 100K-250K per year, plus stuff on the side like strip shows and appearances. The average guy makes $40,0000 a year. The man gets like maybe $300 for a sex scene." Jeremy spoke in class today: An exclusive interview with porn movie legend, Ron Jeremy
Because gay male porn generally pays men much more than heterosexual porn, a number of male performers appear in both heterosexual and gay pornography. Ostensibly, men who perform in gay pornography but identify themselves as heterosexual are said to do gay-for-pay; that is, perform in gay movies only for the paycheck, not because of any attraction they have to other men. Many female performers perform in both straight and lesbian porn, which have similar pay rates. The primary audience for "lesbian" pornography (commonly known as girl-on-girl) is heterosexual men.
While some pornographic actors perform in a wide range of genres, most genres have specialists who achieve most of their recognition in a specific niche market such as bondage or pegging. With over 20,000 feature length films produced each year in the U.S. alone, many well known actors complete a film every one or two weeks.
While the primary focus of sex films are the women in these sex films, who are mostly selected for their on-screen appearance, there is a definite focus on the male performers who are able to fulfill the desires of the male watching audience as their on-screen proxies. Most male performers in heterosexual pornography are generally selected less for their looks than for their sexual prowess, namely their ability to do three things: achieve an erection while on a busy film set, maintain that erection while performing on camera and then to be able to achieve ejaculation on cue (and not prematurely).
Rocco Siffredi, Ron Jeremy and Peter North are probably the most famous male performers. North is known for his ability to launch above-average amounts of semen at notable velocity from his penis on-screen which most other male performers can not do. Jeremy is known for his 9.75 inch (25cm) penis and an appearance very unusual for a porn star (he is overweight with copious amounts of body hair). Adding to his fame, Ron Jeremy has been a staple in the industry since the 70's and has become something of a cultural icon.
According to some sources, most male performers in straight porn are paid less than their female counterparts. Ron Jeremy has commented on several times regarding the pay scale against the women and the men of the sex film industry: "The average guy gets $300 to $400 a scene, or $100 to $200 if he's new. A woman makes $100,000 to $250,000 at the end of the year." and "Girls can easily make 100K-250K per year, plus stuff on the side like strip shows and appearances. The average guy makes $40,000 a year."
Some state that gay male porn generally pays men much more than heterosexual porn, a number of male performers, including North, who has appeared in both heterosexual and gay pornography. However North strenuously denies that he has ever actively performed in homosexual acts other than his earliest times. Ostensibly, men who perform in gay pornography but identify themselves as heterosexual are said to do gay-for-pay; that is, perform in gay movies only for the paycheck, not because of any personal attraction they have to other men.
According to notable producer Seymour Butts who runs his own sex film recruitment agency as well as produces sex film "depending on draw, female performers who perform in both straight and lesbian porn earn more than those who do normal sex (Boy/Girl) usually make about US$200-800 while those who only do oral sex (blow job) usually only make about US$100-300 for the scene.
While some pornographic actors perform in a wide range of genres, most genres have specialists who achieve most of their recognition in a specific niche market such as bondage or strap-on sex. With over several thousand usually one hour long sex films produced each year from several countries, the most accessible usually made and released from within the United States, many performers will complete a film every one or two weeks. However, many of the highly regarded and thus highly paid performers, such as Jenna Jameson, only star in actual sex films a few times a year, due to the substantial pay rate they charge for their inclusion in film releases.
Pornographic actors and STDs
Because of the nature of their work, usually involving sex without condoms, pornographic actors are particularly vulnerable to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
In the 1980s, an outbreak of AIDS led to a number of deaths of erotic actors, including John Holmes. This led to the creation of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIMHCF, which helped set up a system in the U.S. adult film industry where erotic actors are tested for HIV every 30 days. All sexual contact is logged, and positive test results lead to all sexual contacts for the last three to six months being contacted and re-tested.
This resulted in low rates of HIV transmission, and hence low rates of infection among erotic actors: it has been reported that not a single HIV test was positive in the four year period prior to 2004.
In 2004, a male performer, Darren James, tested positive for HIV. One fellow porn star, Lara Roxx, was identified and tested positive for HIV. James apparently had contact with 12 other women since his previous negative HIV test, though some suspect that Lara Roxx is truly "Patient Zero," and started the epidemic, as she was previously working as a street prostitute (where she had sex without a condom) before coming to LA. It is also believed by some that James contracted it during a film he made in Brazil and was himself "patient zero" which is more likely seeing as when performers enter the porn industry HIV tests are done. Following the release of this information the heterosexual porn industry voluntarily reduced their workload for the next 30 days, as various contacts with both individuals, as well as others within the industry, re-evaluated and expanded upon their original programs dealing with this possibility.
However, accurate information about the extent of infection among those in the adult industry is unknown because no organization has ever done rigorous studies. The existing data suggest that pornographic actors have a much higher rate of STDs than the general American population. The Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation administered voluntary tests to a group consisting primarily of adult film workers. Of 483 people tested between October 2001 and March 2002, about 40% had at least one disease. Nearly 17% tested positive for chlamydia, 13% for gonorrhea and 10% for hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C.
- Internet Adult Film Database
- Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation: Frequently asked questions
- Adult Star Database