Justice

This Taboo Stereotype About Porn Stars Needs to End

December 3rd 2015

By:
Laura Donovan

Sex work comes with a great deal of social stigma, which is what initially stopped former adult actress Tori Lux from coming forward about being sexually assaulted by porn star James Deen. After porn actress Stoya claimed she was sexually assaulted by Deen, Lux alleges Deen assaulted her as well and wrote that social stigma surrounding porn can make some people think negatively of porn actors.

This particular social stigma has also fueled the stereotype that female porn stars must have been molested to willingly enter the sex industry, but the truth is more complicated.

It's known as the "damaged goods hypothesis," which attests that "female performers in the adult entertainment industry have higher rates of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), psychological problems, and drug use compared to the typical woman."

But a 2012 study in the Journal of Sex Research found that women outside the porn industry are only slightly less likely to have been sexually abused as children than women who work in porn. Surveying female porn performers and females at airports and universities who haven't worked in porn, the study findings didn't support the "damaged goods hypothesis."

RELATED: Adult Film Star Stoya Accuses Ex-Boyfriend James Deen Of Rape

The study, which was co-authored by former porn actress Sharon Mitchell, found that 36 percent of the surveyed porn performers reported being sexually abused as kids compared to 29 percent of women outside the porn industry. According to research conducted by David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, who did not participate in the previously mentioned study, one in five girls and one in 20 boys has experienced childhood sexual abuse.

ALSO: More Women Come Forward With Allegations Against James Deen

As Slate writer Amanda Hess previously put it, "[f]emale porn performers aren’t significantly more likely to have a history of sexual abuse; it’s just that we tend not to ask insurance agents and mainstream actresses about molestation on live radio."

Porn actress Kimberly Kane expressed a similar sentiment in a 2012 interview with Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory, "I’ve found that everyone is damaged no matter what line of work they’re in."

The research also found some personal benefits for workers in the porn industry. While they were more likely to have experimented with drugs and abused alcohol, the surveyed female porn actresses had "higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group," according to the study. They were also more likely to identify as bisexual and have a higher number of sexual partners in their personal lives.

ALSO: These Porn Companies Are Dropping James Deen

"They do have to be comfortable with themselves in order to engage in intercourse in front of other people on camera," study researcher James Griffith told Live Science of the paper.

Mireille Miller-Young, an associate professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote in a 2013 New York Times column that porn can be very empowering for women in the field even though many say it can be degrading and exploitative. She argued that a diverse range of women can work in pornography as a way to take charge of their lives and careers, a freedom many of them do not have prior to entering porn.

"As a researcher of the porn industry for the past decade, I have interviewed dozens of performers and have found a much more varied picture of pornography in women’s lives than characterized by antiporn activists," Miller-Young wrote. "Women from all kinds of backgrounds — soccer moms, single mothers, college students — are filming themselves living out their own pornographic fantasies, and they are broadcasting these images to the world. My interviewees show that pornography is an industry with both tremendous potential and powerful constraints."

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