The Quiet Struggle Of Male Sex Workers

January 8th 2016

Laura Donovan

Some people think that male porn stars have a dream life because they get to sleep with attractive people all day long, but the job isn't always a picnic. Some porn actors have to depend on Viagra, Cialis, and other erectile dysfunction medications to maintain erections on set. But while this is common, there is still a social stigma surrounding this medicine, and overuse can be damaging to one's health.

Last year, former porn actor Danny Wylde told writer Tracy Clark-Flory in a piece for The Fix that almost all of the male porn actors he knows take these medications to do all of their scenes, which take hours to shoot and can be extremely physically demanding on the body.

When he first started working in the industry, Wylde said he didn't use ED medication. But because his erections never lasted long enough, and that limited his scene ability, he was referred to a doctor who gave him samples.

This isn't unusual in porn. Producers and directors may ask porn actors to take these medications. In some cases, this can have legal consequences.


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A couple of years ago, a stagehand named Ronald Baker sued Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network for firing him after allegedly forcing him to inject porn actors with TriMix, an injectable medicine to treat ED that arrived via mail without prescriptions. Baker said he was terminated after poking his thumb with a syringe during a shoot.

In 2012, Baker was pressured to give porn actors these injections despite having no medical training, Baker's attorney, Elisa Stewart, told the Huffington Post. He reluctantly agreed. When he hurt himself, "the company had no protocol on how to handle the situation," Stewart said.

"Defendants require employees, who are not models and are not trained or certified in any manner to give injections, to inject controlled substances for erectile dysfunction using a hypodermic syringe into the model's penis," Baker's complaint read.

"The model can then maintain an erection for multiple hours in duration, during which time substantial shooting of the film can take place at one time without lengthy breaks to ensure the actor maintains an erection. After months of refusing directions and pressure by his employer to inject models with TriMix, plaintiff followed the directions of his employer and injected TriMix into a model's penis. While replacing the cap on the syringe, the tip of the syringe pierced the cap and plaintiff's thumb."


There can be serious side effects to erectile dysfunction medications.

Porn Set

For his part, Wylde said that he wound up in the emergency room after taking four times the recommended daily maximum of Cialis while working in porn. His erection lasted 12 hours; any longer could have permanently damaged his penile tissue.

Wylde's sexual health and career as a porn actor were at stake. A doctor warned him that he could lose his ability to get an erection if he continued abusing the medicine, which he regularly used for nearly a decade, so Wylde said he decided to leave the porn industry. “That's when I kind of freaked out,” he told The Fix. “I'm not going to give [sex] up at age 28 so that I can do porn for a couple more years."

Many men in the field take these medications to perform well during shoots, but on straight porn sets, "guys try to hide it a little more because of machismo, or they think some girls are uncomfortable with seeing it and knowing a guy has a medicated erection,”  Wylde told The Fix.

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“Male performers are not going to take ED stuff around other male performers, you should know that," the performer said. "What guy wants to admit that he isn't a naturally sexual stallion?”

Porn actors aren't the only young men using these medications.

Despite stereotypes that they're only for old men, a quarter of new patients with ED are younger than 40, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Other research has shown that 21.5 percent of men between ages 18 and 30 have used Viagra recreationally, with nearly two-thirds of them using it more than once.

There are many reasons why young men might find themselves suffering from ED. Smoking, a lack of exercise, alcohol, overeating, and opioid painkillers can bring on ED, among other things.

ED issues may also be psychological. If a man is struggling to become erect, he might feel bad and obsess over it, ultimately making it difficult for him to have an erection. Anxiety hormones can have a major effect on a man's ability to get an erection, Tobias Köhler, chief of the Division of Male Infertility at Southern Illinois University, told Men's Health last year.

“A lot of men may have an off night, and then that sticks in their head and hurts their performance for a few weeks or months,” Köhler said.

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