Full Disclosure: Why Porn Stars Are Real People Who Provide Real Value
I’m a comedian. I frequently hear and say things that outside a comedic context many would find offensive. But the job of the comedian is to be incisive and shrewd – to have a point of view and further that point of view through laughter. Where we get into trouble is when that point of view isn’t incisive and it’s not funny. Then you just look like a dick.
I recently listened to a popular podcast hosted by a comedian friend of mine (Comedian A), who happened to have on another comedian friend of mine (Comedian B). At one point they discussed Punch-o-Vision, a joke concept about being able to punch any character in a movie. When Comedian B was asked who he wanted to punch, he responded, “Anything with Sasha Grey in it.” If you’re not familiar with Sasha Grey (huh?), she is a wildly popular porn star who’s also seen a fair amount of crossover success in the entertainment industry.
As I continued to listen to my friend talk, I became more and more infuriated. He was passionate about what he was saying, and it was without irony or humor or modesty. This is when my comedic ear turned off and my own self-righteous indignation set in (we comedians are very narcissistic people). It became evident that his issue was not one specific to Sasha Grey, but rather an overarching vitriol towards all porn stars.
To be clear, I’m writing about this to make a point about how porn stars and sex workers in general are viewed. I consider this comic a friend, and we’ve spoken since and he’s retracted much of what he had said. But I believe it’s important that I respond to his initial comments, because it speaks to how sex workers are so easily dismissed as human beings. And as a result, the lack of future job opportunities, the violence against sex workers, etc. is very palpable.
- “Sasha Grey is kinda emblematic of this new breed of porn stars that expect to be like patted on the back for being exploited and like being porn stars and shit, whereas my baseline opinion is you pretty much shouldn’t be able to just like be a porn star. You’re cheating at some level, and you’re getting away with some shit, but don’t expect us to congratulate you for it, that you have this grift, this like easy lifestyle.”
A few things here. First: the notion that porn stars are being exploited more than any other profession isn’t true. You know who’s being exploited? Every person in the entertainment industry, ever. Every tech employee being overworked and underpaid by their employer because “it’s cool, we have beer in the fridge and dinner at night so we never have to leave!” Most porn stars want to be doing porn, and there are pretty meticulous testing standards, work conditions, contract agreements, et al. that production companies must adhere to (here are some interviews with said stars). Yes, Kink.com has a Human Resources department.
And no one in porn is cheating at anything. If porn were easy, there’d be a helluva lot more people doing it. In order to be successful in the porn industry, you have to be tenacious, exceptionally business savvy, a relentless self-promoter, and constantly having your intelligence, self-worth, and personal life scrutinized and deemed less-than by mainstream society. There is nothing easy about it.
- “Whenever she’s trying to be serious, whenever she’s trying to be respected, and an adult, just punch her … I would love to be able to just objectify [porn stars], but [they’re] subjectifying [themselves] by having all these like blog posts.”
There seems to be some contradiction from the previous statement here. On one hand Comedian B is saying “you shouldn’t be able to just be a porn star”, while simultaneous complaining when porn stars engage in other fields of work. And as far as objectifying porn stars – that’s fine to do for their characters within a movie – just as it’s fine to laugh at and think of Will Ferrel as the perennial man-child boob while he’s in character. But if you think that outside their movies these adult performers are nothing more than cum-guzzling nitwits without families, PhD’s, and hobbies like gardening and programming, then perhaps you’ve never seen them outside that medium, and maybe you should read some of their blog posts.
I’ve hated every job I’ve ever had that involved me working for anyone else. But just because I used to work in the marketing department of a fruit cup company that slinged high-fructose corn syrup and diabetes to families all across this great nation doesn’t mean that I let that job define who I was outside of the office. You’d be amazed at the darkness that your poetry can generate when you come home smelling like canned peaches.
- Comedian A (referring to porn stars building a social brand outside porn): That’s what you have to do when your industry is sort of declining in market share overall.
Comedian B: Is learn a real skill? Learn to provide real value to people?
Value is an amorphous concept at best. How is there value in watching an entertaining movie and not in jerking off to an entertaining movie?
To reprimand porn stars for being valueless would be like throwing a bottle of hot oil at a massese after she just spent 30 minutes working on your shoulders, and then shouting at her that she’s worthless.
There’s a serious problem when we’re so easily able to write-off the worth of those who provide the services we so desperately clamor for. And are porn stars the problem? Are they the workers of America who are getting away with robbery without actually providing much of any value?
I feel far-less swindled every time the Carl’s Jr. employee on Market swipes my ATM card than I do when BofA does.
- “I’m very sad for them.”
Don’t be. They’re doing just as well as the rest of us. Which is to say, feel sad for all of us. We’re all a little fucked right now.
FREE porn pick of the week (NSFW): Another Gangbang!
Full Disclosure podcast Episode 49: BDSM Follow-Up & Drunken Arrest (You read that correctly. This is a good one.)
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