Whore Next Door: Methods of Production

“When I say 'Wu,' you say 'Tang,'” Method Man bellowed into the microphone.

The crowd of lanyard-clad conference attendees obeyed. To the left of the poolside stage, hired go-go dancers in sponsored merchandise twerked against the speakers, where the most enthusiastic audience members were smoking and nursing plastic cups of alcohol. I was frantically sending SnapChats to my friends back home, anxious to share the news that I was breathing the same air (and smoke) as the hip-hop legend.

This scene went down in Tempe, Ariz., at the Phoenix Forum, the online adult industry's leading trade show, where the shrinking number of people who still make serious money in porn come together.

The legendary Beastie Boys DJ, Mix Master Mike, was also on the roster, scratching turntables on a makeshift stage while the audience of a few hundred adult industry professionals — who had probably been in high school when these two artists were popular — lost their minds. Unlike industry events I've attended in the past, consumers and fans are not permitted at this event, and the focus is entirely on helping the attendees network and do business. The day is peppered with panels that address different issues facing the industry, such as piracy, and ill-informed government regulations, but the extracurricular programming doesn't disappoint: naked dodge ball, Speedo contests, and black-light parties galore.

Long ago, when the idea of working in porn was still just a fantasy for me, I imagined that it would have included more lavish parties with hip-hop legends (and less DIY hustle).

I entered the adult industry in 2010, years after the Golden Age of Internet porn when producers could still make buckets of money through cut-and-dry pay sites, video on demand, and DVD sales. But in a world where most consumers expect porn to be free via pirated torrents and tube sites, it's become more difficult to turn a profit — especially as a content producer. These days, porn isn't so much about content, it's about web traffic. So the real money is in hosting, affiliate marketing, and even online dating.

Now I see that the people who do get to live lavishly off porn aren't the stars. Those behind the curtain are.

While it's nice to know that there is an oasis in the wasteland of pirated content and diminishing returns, I realize I'm still quite a long way from joining the future cast of Real Millionaires of Porn Valley.

There was only a handful of talent at this year's event. Back home, my boyfriend was shooting DIY fem dom porn in our tiny Oakland apartment while I sat sipping martinis and dining on surf-and-turf with industry millionaires. I felt like I had grown up shooting porn in District 12, and finally I was sitting at the Capitol.

My six-year career in adult entertainment has afforded me a comfortable lifestyle. I earn more money in a year than either of my parents ever did in their working lives — and what more can one really ask for in terms of the American dream?

Even so, I don't feel as though performing in porn is worth the money — unless you love it. As a performer, there are few options to collect residual profits after shooting the initial scene (unless you own the content). But the internet never forgets, and as long as the stigma surrounding sex work is informed by laws that criminalize sex between two consenting adults, those brave enough to forever exist in cyberspace as second-class citizens rarely see more than $200 to $1,000 to perform in one-to-three scenes.

While my community hustles to pay rent in a seemingly never-ending crisis of housing and jobs, those who own the content, pirate it, or profit from the sharing of it will make money off the talent's sexual labor until the end of time.

I hope the future of the adult industry includes more space for those bearing the brunt of that stigma to access more of the wealth.

At the very least, I think that all porn stars have a right to one poolside Method Man show during their careers. It's only fair.

View Comments