Have managed to have watched porn, while some have been awesome, others have been awful.
There are as many genres as there are human beings, and the quality of work varies enormously.
Even though some performers love what they do and take justifiable pride in their work, others embrace the fear that the porn industry simply creates opportunities for exploitation of women.
Award winning porn star, Zahra Stardust speaks to The Debrief in an exclusive chat on her experience as a Pornstar.
The former Penthouse Pet, stripper, PhD candidate and feminist, provides answer to all these questions: ‘How much do you get paid? Do you fake your orgasms? And what happens if you have sex just before a big shoot?’
Establishing yourself as a porn star don’t come cheap
‘Working costs a lot of money. I spend a fortune on hair extensions, make up, bordello heels, aerial equipment, training, nails and sex toys. Website billing and hosting costs are big for solo producers. Competitions are expensive – there are props, sets and custom-made costumes. You need to be working regularly to justify the expensive upkeep.
I don’t have sick pay or annual leave.
‘I bought a one-bedroom townhouse with my savings from sex work. It’s my investment for the future. There have been times when the money was seductive – hailing cabs, dining fancy, fabulous new work outfits; and many others that are less glamorous – taking public transport, working part-time jobs, cooking at home and budgeting my last few dollars for the week. The money doesn’t last forever, but the memories do!’
My co-workers are my best and closest friends
‘It becomes frustrating dealing with their titillation, fascination or desire to save you. It can be hard to find things in common. People in the industry understand the stigma, the difficult conversations, the navigating of relationships, the hectic work schedule, the hopeless work-life balance, the obsession and passion and workaholism, the vital discussions about colour co-ordination or brand of stiletto. The bonds are intense, and they are long-lasting. Sex work is a community. We have camaraderie. We’re a family.’
Insisting on wearing condoms can cost you a job
‘One of my first porn shoots was scheduled with one of the biggest names in the business – Ron Jeremy. I was new and working overseas, away from my peers and unsure of standard practice. I had made it clear in the lead up to the shoot that I would only be shooting with condoms.
‘On the day, a few hours before the shoot, the company (not Ron) insisted that condoms didn’t fit the theme of the set and that I would need to be professional and go ahead without. After much distress, pressure and cajoling, I declined. I was devastated to miss the opportunity, but felt relieved that I’d maintained my working boundaries.
I always use condoms, dams and gloves at work. There is a big move to make safer sex sexy. I have pink latex gloves, black nitrile gloves, vegan organic lube and my toys are medical grade silicone for safety. Safer sex supplies should always be available on set and there should always be a genuine option to use them.’
You have to be prepared to defend what you do to strangers – a lot
‘When I started, I was evangelical about the industry. I wanted to tell everybody how awesome my job was. I’m now more cautious. Managing stigma on a daily level means that I have a photographic database – bibliography, footnotes, policy messages, statistics – burnt into my brain that I can never afford to switch off. If I’m out as a porn star, I am forced to be reactive, defensive, to justify my work to the most remote of strangers. It’s exhausting.’
Just like a sports star, you have to remember to save yourself for the big game
‘Sometimes, before a shoot, I want to save up my liquid so I can put on a good squirting show for a film. Or, I don’t want to have too many orgasms the week prior, so I’m more likely to come under pressure on set (I’ve never faked an orgasm).’
It’s possible to be turned on, and thinking about the camera angle, at the same time
‘I absolutely get turned on at work. I experience pleasure from physical sensations (lactic acid, endorphins, sweat, carpet burn, whipping hair, a double-ended dildo angled against my G-spot, real orgasms), but also from the thrill of voyeurism (exhibitionism, cameras, being naked in front of thousands of people).
‘Pleasure comes from creative aesthetics (coordinating colours, angles, props and shapes). I consider that pleasure a genuine part of my own sexuality. Sure, it’s work – and I’m also thinking about framing, timing, my performance – but work and pleasure aren’t mutually exclusive.’
You can’t go onto a porn set with a hickie
‘I have to be careful about where I have marks – I can’t have hickie, hand prints or teeth marks, if I’m filming. These things do impact on my sex life. But they’re not insurmountable.
‘I take my work home and I take home to work. I come home and share stories of my work with my lovers, who support, listen about, benefit from and sometimes participate in my work (as co-stars, photographers and editors). I am very lucky to have had loving and supportive partners who are proud of me and know that porn is an indivisible part of me.’
The standard rate is $320 for a 20-30min X-rated strippergram
‘But I also do pub shows, which might pay $120 for 3 x six-minute topless shows over a period of two hours. Other days, I might do a girl-girl film shoot for $600-800, or a photo set for $250, or I might perform for free, but retain shared copyright of the content for my own website. I might eventually receive $1,000 for a nude photo spread in an adult magazine for a set I shot six months ago.’
Porn can is a way to control the means of production
‘I had many experiences in the past shooting photos for men’s magazines where my armpit hair was airbrushed out, my labia was digitally trimmed, my piercings had been removed, or my interview had been distorted. Porn is a way for me to have further creative licence over the content and how I represent my body, my femininity and my sexuality. I love being independent. It means there are a lot of overheads, and you are constantly sourcing work opportunities, marketing and running a small business. But I am accountable to myself. I get to liaise directly with other performers and it takes out the ‘middlemen.’
Porn stars in Australia have their own national body!
‘Scarlet Alliance is the Australian Sex Workers Association which is the peak national body representing sex workers. Scarlet advocates for law reform to better protect our rights. In my state, I also have SWOP NSW, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, which provides free condoms/dams/lube, outreach services and free counselling.’
Pregnancy doesn’t have to mean the end of a porn career
‘I’m looking forward to falling pregnant in the next few years, and making pregnancy porn – observing how my body changes over time; documenting the different stages of pregnancy, sexuality and maternity; and exploring orgasm for pain relief. Porn Star and artist Madison Young is one of my idols – she made breast milkshakes after the birth of her daughter – and Belladonna is another inspiration of mine who continued to work while pregnant.
‘I look forward to going to art school after I finish my PHD and working on performance pieces and installations that explore the body, sexuality, plasticity, femininity. I also plan to write and continue working in academia, policy and international human rights law.’