Vanna White talked about how 30 years ago she posed for Playboy magazine and regretted it immediately. “I wasn’t on there because I wanted to be…” is how her interview started off. She explains that she was embarrassed to ask her dad for rent money, and that she wanted to do some lingerie shots for extra money. Her friend, Hugh Hefner, told her that he would put her on the cover and she told him it would ruin her career. He did it anyway and now they don’t talk anymore. She felt nervous to pose for the pictures in the first place and wishes she didn’t ignore the voice in her head telling her not to do it. White’s Playboy cover is still able to be purchased, and everyone purchasing it is purchasing something that was done without the subject’s consent. This makes me think: how many women has this happened to? They wanted to do some modeling but were put on the cover without their consent.
Vanna White, who was around 20 years old at the time of the photo shoot (Hefner got the pictures a decade later), was pressured to pose in lingerie like many other young women. Lisa Rinna claims that Playboy empowers women to make the choice to pose nude, but I believe it does the opposite. It pressures women to pose nude in order to make more money.
Lisa Ann of The Stashed wrote an article about the careers of porn stars. The average life expectancy of an American is 78 years old, but the average life expectancy of a porn star is 37 years old. Overdoses, suicides, car accidents and murders are among the leading causes of death. Most of Ann’s coworkers that she made movies with in the 90s are now dead. Ann is outraged because murders of porn stars are often swept under the rug because of who the victims are, and many times murders happen due to victims being booked illegal jobs.
Jennie Ketcham, who is also a former adult film star, discusses the industry. A quote from her is below. Ketcham left the industry after 8 years because she became addicted to drugs and alcohol.
“I thought it would validate me, so I did nude modeling, the gateway drug to hard core porn. I didn’t realize that validation can come from inside. Nothing about what I did gave me skills to live in the real world.”
Ketcham discusses the difference between average and exceptional. Average represents men and women who look like most people and are a majority of the actors, while exceptional are actors who are in high demand and are a small amount of the population.
“Average females” are porn stars that are not in high demand. They are very easily replaceable and their careers often do not last longer than a year. They can make about $88,000 a year doing two scenes a week or 162 a year. The “average male,” whose careers have more longevity at an average of five years, can make comparable income but must perform about four scenes a week.
“Exceptional females,” or those in very high demand, can make their careers last closer to 10 years at $249,600 a year, doing about four a week or 192 a year. “Exceptional males,” who can make their careers last the longest at 15 years, will make slightly more, about $268,800 a year, but have to perform almost every day at about 336 scenes a year.
For an industry that is supposed to be empowering for women, I see nothing empowering about these statistics. Women make less, have to deal with brutality such as anal, being hit and spit on, have shorter career spans, and cannot do as many scenes as men due to injuries on the job. Ketcham says, “I have a friend that has been in the business for seven years and just did her first anal scene for $10,000. Tomorrow it will go back to the regular rate of $1,300 and now that people expect it, they want you to do it now.” Women are pressured to do harder scenes to make more money and it becomes expected of them. The average female is 18-19 years old and her average career is 18-24 months.
Although many people blame linear causality, saying it is their family or societies fault that they joined the industry, Ketcham does not subscribe to this theory. She said circular causality, thinking she needed the money to support her drug habits and constantly buy more drugs, was closer to the truth. The real reason, however, is equafinality, meaning that there are several reasons that people make decisions and they often lead back to feeling the need to match others expectations of themselves, she said.
Refinery 29 also discusses some interesting information. Male porn stars are paid at a fixed rate (salary) based on their reputation, while female porn stars are paid based on their star power and the sex act.
For example, an unknown performer filming a girl-on-girl scene might make as little as $300, but if a popular star is involved in double penetration, she can rake in as much as $4,000. Men earn between $500 and $1,200 for the same scene, with the big stars maybe hitting $1,500.
To me this does not scream equality and empowerment for women. A male porn star will always earn more than a lesser known female, so females always have to prove themselves more than men do. The most powerful people in the industry are all men. Mark Spiegler, a powerful porn agent, says there are more women than available opportunities. 70% of porn stars are women, 18-24 months is the average career span, and the most prolific stars are men. All male porn stars have to worry about is maintaining an erection (which can be helped with viagra), while women’s appearances are more important. Many male performers are ugly, but if they can perform they make big bucks. If a male can perform a money shot, he’ll always get hired over a female, statistics show. Due to the internet, women are competing for roles because of amateur porn and illegal porn. Due to the piracy online, the average female porn star earns $40,000 to $50,000 a year, nearly half of what they earned in the early 2000s. And men still earn more! Only 4-5% of directors in the industry are women, who tend to be kinder to the female performers.
All this information is ironic considering that women like Lisa Rinna and Kim Kardashian are outspoken supporters of posing nude. When you post a naked picture online you’re not making money and are turning yourself into a sex object, but when you make money you earn less than a man does. So how is this empowering for women? Besides, amateur looking women rarely are compensated as they post online for free or they earn less than exceptional actresses. So before you watch porn, look at nude amateur or exceptional women, or contribute to the industry in any way, think to yourself that you’re contributing to the wage gap, competitiveness, drugs and alcohol, and you’re forcing these women out because they aren’t as exciting as more famous porn stars.