A pornographic actor or a porn star is somebody who appears in pornographic movies, live sex shows or peep shows. Many actors/actresses may appear nude in films (usually rather briefly) or on stage but even if they depict sexual behavior they are not considered erotic actors. To be considered an erotic actor or actress, one must appear chiefly in porn movies and be filmed in explicit sexual acts, usually with close-up shots of the genitalia during sexual acts and where explicit nudity is involved. Most erotic actors use stage names.
The first porn star with name recognition was Linda Lovelace who starred in the 1972 feature, Deep Throat. The success of this movie, which grossed hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, spawned a slew of other films and pornographic film stars such as Marilyn Chambers (Behind the Green Door), Gloria Leonard (The Opening of Misty Beethoven), Georgina Spelvin (The Devil in Miss Jones), and Bambi Woods (Debbie Does Dallas). This was followed by what is called The Golden Age of Porn in the early and mid-eighties. Such legendary performers as Seka, Ginger Lynn Allen, Annette Haven, Veronica Hart, and Hyapatia Lee became well known in this era. The biggest name in porn today is Jenna Jameson.
Attempts in the 1970s to outlaw pornography in the U.S. by prosecuting erotic actors for prostitution failed, as the courts made a distinction between someone who took part in a sexual relationship for money, and the act of portraying a sexual relationship as a performance for money.
The ability for people to view adult movies in the privacy of their own homes, due to the popularity of the VCR (and now DVD) created a new adult market that could not be ignored. The production values of adult films declined dramatically in the attempt to create product for ever increasing demand. As a result of this, there are hundreds of adult film companies today, releasing tens of thousands of shot-on-video titles annually.
A frequently asked question concerning erotic actors is that of how much money they make. Male porn stars generally earn somewhere between USD$250-500 a day. There is no definitive answer when it comes to female porn stars; some claim that women are paid anywhere from $500-700 a day, whereas higher estimates are between $1,000-1,500 per day. Still others claim that women work per scene and make between $300-1,000 per scene. In addition, pay rates may also vary for same-sex movies (for example, an all-male gay production, or a lesbian-themed movie), where other factors besides gender are taken into account.
There may or may not be additional payment for still photography for box covers and/or advertisements for the film. Contracted actors and actresses, typically called (for women) "contract girls" or (for men) "-studio name here- exclusives" generally make somewhere between $100,000 and $2,000,000 annually. Porn stars do not receive residuals, royalties, or extra money when scenes are reused and re-released in other features.
Pornographic actors and sexually transmitted diseases
Because of the nature of their work, usually involving sex without condoms, pornographic actors are particularly vulnerable to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
In the 1980s, an outbreak of AIDS led to a number of deaths of erotic actors. This led to the creation of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, which helped set up a system in the U.S. adult film industry where erotic actors are tested for HIV every 30 days. All sexual contact is logged, and positive test results result in all sexual contacts for the last three to six months being contacted and re-tested.
This resulted in low rates of HIV transmission, and hence low rates of infection among erotic actors: it has been reported that not a single HIV test was positive in the four year period prior to 2004.
In 2004, a male performer, Darren James, tested positive for HIV, and there is currently an urgent search for other potentially infected partners to prevent another HIV outbreak. One fellow erotic performer, Lara Roxx, was identified and tested positive for HIV. James apparently had contact with 12 other women since his previous negative HIV test. Following the release of this information the (straight) porn industry voluntarily reduced their workload for the next 30 days, as various contacts with both individuals, as well as others within the industry, re-evaluated and expanded upon their original programs dealing with this possibility.
- Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (http://www.aim-med.org/faq.html): Frequently asked questions