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The Silence of the Plebs: The exploitation of women in the porn industry

There's a fringe band of activists in the feminist movement who are campaigning against pornography and the degradation of women that it portrays. It is perhaps one issue where conservatives and feminists will find common ground.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

Mia Khalifa recently revealed on Twitter that during her brief spell in the porn industry, she earned merely $12000 despite being one of the most famous porn stars. It caused other problems for her as well since it made it difficult for her to get employed even after she had quit that job.

Mia clarified that she was not promised a lot of money, nor did she expect it. She was just clearing some misconceptions she believed people have about her.

Even years after quitting the industry, and despite the fact that she worked in it for only 3 months, Mia continues to remain one of the most searched porn stars on the internet. Thus, it begs the question, if someone of her fame earned so little, how must others be faring in the industry?

As it turns out, not very well. Despite the fact that the porn industry is estimated to make a profit of more than $13 billion per year, the women in the industry do not receive a fair share for their work. There are certain ‘ring-leaders’ in the industry, a fancy name for a pimp, whose primary job is to lure women into porn, who make the most money out of it.

There also appears to be a common theme in the market. In most cases, women were lured into the business when they were in a financial crisis and were looking to make quick bucks. As one journalist noted, “When it comes to women joining the sex industry, most are approached by predators who aim for women who are young, naive, and in financial straits.”

Unfortunately enough, while they are paid a significant amount of money for a shoot, the expenses are so large that they never have enough when they get out of the industry. “Being a porn star was very expensive,” porn star Tressa says in the documentary Hot Girls Wanted. “Rent, nails, makeup, food, flights, and then 10 percent for Riley. I only made $25,000 in four months. And after I got out I had $2,000 in my bank account,” she said.

There’s a more disturbing story underneath the veil. Sexual abuse and rapes are rampant in the industry. On many occasions, contracts are violated. Women are promised one thing in the contract and when the camera turns on, the script is thrown out of the window.

Porn star Corina Taylor recalled, ”When I arrived to the set I expected to do a vaginal girl boy scene. But during the scene with a male porn star, he forced himself anally into me and would not stop. I yelled at him to stop and screamed ‘No’ over and over but he would not stop. The pain became too much and I was in shock and my body went limp.”

The women involved often felt that it was too late for them to refuse. They felt compelled to go ahead with the scene after considering that should they refuse, they will never be given another opportunity to work in the industry and they will lose the opportunity to earn some quick bucks.

“It was a really, really, really rough scene,” said porn star Miriam Weeks about her first tryst with porn adding that she wasn’t prepared for how rough it would be. “I was scared,” said adult film star Rachel while describing her ordeal to a roommate after a ‘rough’ scene. “I didn’t know that I could tell him no, or the fact that we had already recorded fifteen minutes that I could f***ing leave . . . then what? Then I understand that that’s how rape victims feel.”

“It was torture for seven years,” stated one former adult performer Brittni Ruiz. “I was miserable, I was lonely, I eventually turned to drugs and alcohol and attempted suicide.” “People in the porn industry are numb to real life and are like zombies walking around,” said Jessica Jewel. “Everybody is on drugs,” she continued. “I became horribly addicted to heroin and crack. I overdosed at least three times, had tricks pull knives on me, have been beaten half to death…”

“There were times on set with people where I was like, ‘This is not a good situation. This is not safe. This girl is out of her mind and we’re not sure what she’s going to say when she leaves here,’” said Lisa Ann in an interview with The Guardian, a woman who had worked in the industry for two decades. “Everyone’s a ticking time bomb, and a lot of it is linked to the drugs. A lot of this new pain comes from these new girls who have to do these abusive scenes, because that does break you down as a woman.”

Porn star Alexa Milano said while recounting her experience, “My first movie I was treated very rough by 3 guys. They pounded on me, gagged me with their penises, and tossed me around like I was a ball! I was sore, hurting and could barely walk. My insides burned and hurt so badly. I could barely pee and to try to have a bowel movement was out of the question.”

Another woman from the industry said, “I got the shit kicked out of me. I was told before the video — and they said this very proudly, mind you — that in this line most of the girls start crying because they’re hurting so bad. I couldn’t breathe. I was being hit and choked. I was really upset, and they didn’t stop. They kept filming. You can hear me say, ‘Turn the fu***ng camera off,’ and they kept going.”

There are numerous other such horrific accounts by porn stars that can be found on the internet. Their experiences do make for horrific reading. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, the plight of these women is hardly ever picked up by any mainstream politician or journalist. Although an argument could be made that they found themselves in that situation due to poor judgment and greed, no one deserves to suffer rape and torture merely due to it. Especially considering the fact that many of these women, if not most, were in desperate circumstances when they were targeted by predators.

Undeniably, the content of porn featured aggression disproportionately targeted against women. One research stated, “Of the 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. Perpetrators of aggression were usually male, whereas targets of aggression were overwhelmingly female. Targets most often showed pleasure or responded neutrally to the aggression.”

Despite the tremendous amount of abuse they suffer, it is quite evident that an overwhelming majority of them do not make money that could possibly justify the torture they had to endure. While many of them enter the scene looking to earn some quick bucks, they leave disillusioned and often, as broken women.

There’s a fringe band of activists in the feminist movement who are campaigning against pornography and the degradation of women that it portrays. It is perhaps one issue where conservatives and feminists will find common ground. Both sides can acknowledge the fact that no woman deserves to suffer such misery merely due to poor judgment and greed. Both sides can also agree that predators should not be allowed to get away with exploiting vulnerable women. Perhaps, both sides can work together on this issue to find a solution to the menace.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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