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Pornographic actor
Names Pornographic actor/actress, porn star
Activity sectors Entertainment/Sex industry
Competencies Physical appearance, ability to have and maintain erection and ejaculate on cue (male), acting ability
Fields of employment Film
Related jobs Actor
Average salary see Pay rates
Porn star
Jenna Jameson has been called the world's most famous porn star.[1][2][3]

A pornographic actor/actress or a porn star is a person who appears in pornographic films. Most actors 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 lesbian sex, bondage, strap-on sex, anal sex, double penetration, semen swallowing, teenage women, Interracial or MILFs.

Some legal jurisdictions consider commercial pornography a form of prostitution, though most commercial sex film performers do not regard themselves as prostitutes for various reasons, but rather as artists. Most notably these performers are not paid directly by their sexual partners for the sex, but both are paid through a studio.



Performers have appeared in sex films since photography began. Many "penny arcades" of the early 1900s had hand-cranked films and rotoscope (Holmes-style Stereoscope) glasses that featured nudity. These penny arcade attractions depicted topless women, full frontal nudity, and even sexual coupling. Performers in these early photograph and film recordings usually chose to remain anonymous. Else, they could face legal sanction and social approbation.

Linda Lovelace, an American pornographic actress of the early '70's, is often seen as the first modern porn star with appreciable name recognition outside her genre. Lovelace starred in the 1972 feature Deep Throat. However, in 1971, Casey Donovan starred in the very first mainstream pornographic hit, Boys in the Sand,[4] nearly a year before Deep Throat debuted. Nonetheless, it was the success of Deep Throat, which grossed hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, that encouraged the ascension of more such stars and the production of more such films. Examples include 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).

The 70's have been called The Golden Age of Porn, a time when pornographic films were shown in public theaters and accepted (or at least tolerated) for public consumption.[5] This "golden age" lasted, approximately, from 1971 through the late-70's or early 1980s. Sex films of this era had specific storylines, plots, and promotional budgets. Performers became celebrities. Such performers include Peter Berlin, John Holmes, Ginger Lynn Allen, Porsche Lynn, Desiree Cousteau, Juliet Anderson ("Aunt Peg"), Lisa De Leeuw, Veronica Hart, Nina Hartley, Harry Reems, Seka, and Amber Lynn.

Once people could watch adult movies in the privacy of their own homes, first on VCR and later on DVD, a new adult market developed that far exceeded the scope of its theater-centric predecessor. More recently, the Internet has served as catalyst for creating a still-larger market for porn, a market that is even less traditionally theatrical.

The production values of recent adult films are said to have declined. The market for these films, it is claimed, is a nearly insatiable public appetite for them --- creating an incentive to produce a constant flow of new films, regardless of their quality.

Others argue that sex films are merely becoming more responsive to their customers' only real demand, the chance to watch people having sex.

There are hundreds of adult film companies today, releasing tens of thousands of productions, recorded directly on video, with minimal sets. Of late, web-cams and web-cam recordings are again expanding the market. Thousands of pornographic actors work in front of the camera (and still thousands more behind the scenes) working to satisfy pornography consumers' demand.

Legal challenges

Attempts were made in the 1970s to outlaw pornography in the United States by prosecuting porn stars for prostitution. The courts in California were where the case was initially made, and stopped short of advancing the case to the United States Supreme Court for a final decision. It was this decision and acceptance to let stand whereby the California Court made a legal distinction in the case of People v. Freeman between someone who took part in a sexual relationship for money (prostitution) versus someone who takes on the act of merely portraying role where a sexual relationship was engaged in on-screen act as part of their acting performance. It is this specific legal distinction between pornography and prostitution in California law that has allowed California to become the porn center of the United States.

At present, no other state in the United States has either implemented or accepted this legal distinction between commercial pornography performers versus prostitutes as shown in the Florida case where sex film maker Clinton Raymond McCowen, aka "Ray Guhn", was indicted on charges of "soliciting and engaging in prostitution" for his creation of pornography films which included "McCowen and his associates recruited up to 100 local men and women to participate in group sex scenes, the affidavit says."[6] The distinction that California has in its legal determination in the Freeman decision is usually denied in most states' local prostitution laws, which do not specifically exclude performers from such inclusion.

In some cases, some states have ratified their local state laws for inclusion to prevent California's Freeman decision to be applied to actors who are paid a fee for sexual actions within their state borders. One example is the state of Texas whose prostitution law specifically states:

An offense is established under Subsection (a)(1) whether the actor is to receive or pay a fee. An offense is established under Subsection (a)(2) whether the actor solicits a person to hire him or offers to hire the person solicited.[7]

Female performers

According to actor-turned-director Jonathan Morgan, "The girls could be graded like A, B and C. The A is the chick on the boxcover. She has the power. So she'll show up late or not at all. 99.9% of them do that."[8] Less successful actresses are more likely to perform more extreme acts such as 'double-anal'.[8] If an actress is willing to perform more extreme acts she will receive more offers of work.[8] Older or less attractive actresses are more likely to perform such acts in order to get work.[8] According to Morgan, "Some girls are used in nine months or a year. An 18-year-old, sweet young thing, signs with an agency, makes five films in her first week. Five directors, five actors, five times five: she gets phone calls. A hundred movies in four months. She's not a fresh face any more. Her price slips and she stops getting phone calls. Then it's, 'Okay, will you do anal? Will you do gangbangs?' Then they're used up. They can't even get a phone call. The market forces of this industry use them up."[8]

Some film studios encourage their actresses to have breast implants, and offer to pay for the procedure.[8]

Male performers

Ron Jeremy was ranked by AVN at number one in their "100 Top Porn Stars of All Time" list,[9] and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Appearances in Adult Films".[10]

While the primary focus of heterosexual sex films are the women in them, 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 ejaculate on cue.[11] In the past an actors' inability to maintain an erection could make the difference between a film turning a profit or a loss.[8] However this problem has been solved by the use of Viagra.[8] If an actor loses his erection, filming is forced to stop for about 45 minutes whilst the drug takes effect.[8] Using Viagra can make the actor's face noticeably flushed, give him a headache, and make it difficult to ejaculate.[8] According to director John Stagliano, using Viagra means "You also lose a dimension." "The guy's fucking without being aroused."[8]

Ron Jeremy, John Holmes, and Rocco Siffredi are considered by AVN as the top male performers of all time. Adding to his fame, Ron Jeremy has been a staple in the industry since the 1970s and has become something of a cultural icon.[9].

Pay rates

Most male performers in straight porn are paid less than their female costars. Ron Jeremy has commented on the pay scale of women and 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.[12] "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."[13]

Some state that gay male porn generally pays men much more than heterosexual porn; a number of male performers, including Peter North, have appeared in both heterosexual and gay pornography.[14] Ostensibly, men who perform in gay pornography but identify themselves as heterosexual, most notably Wolf Hudson, 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 producer Seymore Butts who runs his own sex film recruitment agency, as well as producing sex films; "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".[15] It was also noted in an interview conducted by Local10 news of Florida that individuals were offered $700 for sexual intercourse while shooting a scene of the popular series Bang Bus in 2004 [16] According to Videobox, a porn website, actresses make: Blowjobs: $200–$400, Straight sex: $400–$1,200, Anal sex: $900–$1,500, Double Penetration: $1,200–$1,600, Double anal: $2,000. For more unusual fetishes, women generally get 15% extra. [17]

In 2001 actress Chloe said of pay-rates; "In Gonzo, you're paid not by the picture, but by the scene. So it's girl-girl: $700, plus $100 for an anal toy. Boy-girl: $900. Anal: $1,100. Solo: $500. DP: $1,500."[8]

Pornographic actors and STDs

Because of the nature of their work, usually involving sex without condoms, pornographic actors are particularly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. Data suggest that pornographic actors have a higher rate of STDs (except for HIV) than the general American population. Among 825 performers screened in 2000–2001, 7.7% of females and 5.5% of males had chlamydia, and 2% overall had gonorrhea. These rates are much higher than in patients visiting family planning clinics, where chlamydia and gonorrhea rates were 4.0% and 0.7%, respectively.... Between January 2003 and March 2005, approximately 976 performers were reported with 1,153 positive STD test results. Of the 1,153 positive test results, 722 (62.6 %) were chlamydia, 355 (30.8%) were gonorrhea, and 126 (10.9%) were coinfections with chlamydia and gonorrhea. Less is known about the prevalence and risk of transmission of other STDs such as syphilis, herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, hepatitis B or C, trichomonal infection, or diseases transmitted through the fecal–oral route.[18] According to actress Chloe, "After you've been in this business for a while, you have herpes. Everyone has herpes."[8]

In the 1980s, an outbreak of HIV led to a number of deaths of erotic actors and actresses, including John Holmes, Wade Nichols, Marc Stevens, Al Parker. This led to the creation of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, which helped set up a voluntary standard[19] in the U.S. adult film industry where erotic actors are tested for HIV every 30 days.


  • Candy Barr AKA Juanita Dale Slusher, Candy Barr, 2009 (ISBN 97809818220)
  • Zen and the Art of fucking Pornography, Harold Johnson, 2008 (ISBN 1438204302)
  • Per amore e per forza, Ilona Staller, 2007 (in Italian)
  • The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz, Ron Jeremy, 2006 (ISBN 0060840838)
  • Porno - Ein Star packt aus, Kelly Trump, 2005 (in German)
  • Secretos de una pornostar, Celia Blanco, 2005 (in Spanish)
  • How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, Jenna Jameson, 2005
  • J'assume, Nina Roberts, mai 2005 (ISBN 2350120201) (in French)
  • Sex Star, Clara Morgane, 2003 (in French)
  • Traci Lords: Underneath It All, Traci Lords, 2003
  • Raw Talent, Jerry Butler, 1990 (ISBN 087975625X)
  • Hard, Raphaëla Anderson, 2001 (ISBN 2253154490) (in French)
  • Lights, Camera, SEX!, Christy Canyon, 2005 (ISBN 0972747001)
  • Penetrating Insights, Peter North, 1994 (ISBN 1885591225)
  • The Secret Lives of Hyapatia Lee, Hyapatia Lee, 2000 (ISBN 1587219069)


  1. ^ "The (Porn) Player". by Matthew Miller, Forbes magazine. July 4, 2005. Retrieved February 1, 2007. 
  2. ^ ""Jenna Jameson's Forbidden Desires"". by Vanessa Grigoriadis, Rolling Stone magazine, August 11, 2004. Retrieved February 1, 2007. Reprinted as "Jenna Jameson: Girl On Top", by Vanessa Grigoriadis, The Independent. September 05, 2004. Retrieved February 1, 2007. 
  3. ^ "A Star Is Porn". by Dan Ackman, Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2004, Page W13. Online at author's web site. Retrieved February 1, 2007. 
  4. ^ "40 Years of Gay History: the Early Seventies". Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  5. ^ Second wave: Feminism and porns golden age. Radical Society Oct 2002 by Loren Glass
  6. ^ "Webmaster Ray Guhn Arrested in Florida". Retrieved 2006-06-26. 
  7. ^ "Texas Penal Code, Chapter 43: Public Indecency". Texas Legislature. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Martin Amis (2001-03-17). "A rough trade".,4273,4153718,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  9. ^ a b "AVN: The 10 Top Porn Stars of All Time". Adult Video News. January 2002. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2006-12-24. 
  10. ^ "Product Description". Being Ron Jeremy., Inc.. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  11. ^ Jameson, Jenna; Neil Strauss (2004). How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-053909-7. "(Y)ou have to be able to get it up at will. You have to keep an erection, go a long time without coming, and then come on command." 
  12. ^ Ron Jeremy: Penetrating society since '78
  13. ^ Jeremy spoke in class today: An exclusive interview with porn movie legend, Ron Jeremy
  14. ^ 'The Bigger the Better' (1984)
  15. ^ "How to become a porn star and get in the Porn business". Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  16. ^ "Porn Bus Shoots Sex On The Move". WPLG. 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Grudzen, Corita R.; Kerndt, Peter R. (2007-06-19). "The Adult Film Industry: Time to Regulate?". PLoS Medicine. Public Library of Science, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Archived from the original on 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  19. ^ "Porn stars at L.A. convention defend HIV tests". Los Angeles Times. 2009-06-13.,0,4356396.story. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 

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