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social sciences

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Sex Work and Prostitution: Male  
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The sexual activities that take place on the porn set during filming are subject to many interruptions in order to capture the sexual activities from several different angles. Lighting must be constantly adjusted. During the post-production and editing process the illusion of an "authentic" and complete sexual performance is created. The finished movie is the combined product of the sexual performances of the actors, the director's skill in motivating and preparing the actors to perform the sexual acts filmed, and the success of post-production editing in sustaining the credibility and coherence of the sex portrayed.

Porn stars operate in a national arena in a way that most other sex workers do not. Most hustlers, escorts, and strippers work in a particular city or region. Traveling around the country dancing in gay clubs and burlesque theaters allows porn stars to demonstrate and exploit their appeal in markets outside the gay meccas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

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Nevertheless, it is difficult to earn an adequate income as a porn performer. For most performers, acting in porn is not a full-time job. Performers typically earn between $500 to $2,500 per scene (depending on the actor's popularity, the sexual acts to be performed in the scene, and the prestige and wealth of the studio). Smaller companies generally pay much less--i.e., closer to $500 per scene. Even if a performer were paid $2,000 a scene and made a movie every month (which actually is quite a lot), his annual income from pornographic acting would be $24,000, a nice supplement to income from a regular job, but not in itself a large income. Some porn actors do perform more than 12 scenes a year--they may "star" in a movie and perform in more than one scene (though this is not very common) or they make more than one video a month, but for the vast majority, the money earned in porn is supplemental.

In order to earn higher incomes, many porn stars also work as escorts. "I don't think that porn stars really make a living doing porn, they have to have some kinds of other income," notes director Kristen Bjorn. "They just cannot make that much money. So those who are totally into just doing porn movies are, basically, prostitutes who use the porn movies as publicity for what they really do."

If a porn star decides to pursue work as an escort, his relationship to making porn and to working as a stripper changes; it transforms his work in porn and as a stripper into adjuncts of escorting. Escorting is much more lucrative and doesn't necessarily require a forty-hour work week. Porn movies then function as infomercials, and the dancing and stripping on the gay club circuit become a modern triple-x version of the traveling salesman.

The Internet Revolution

For spectators and other potential customers, many fantasies are generated through interviews (sometimes completely fabricated) with their favorite porn stars in soft-core porn magazines. However, interviews in local gay magazines and newspapers (when the porn star is in town dancing at a local club or promoting his latest film) also feed the fantasy of connection.

Recently, the Internet has come to dominate the way in which sex workers attract customers. Websites for escorting agencies and for individual escorts abound. These websites typically include information about the escorts' appearance, endowment, sexual roles and interests, and rates. There are even websites in which the sexual performances of escorts are reviewed and discussed.

In addition, the proliferation of chat rooms, web-cams, voyeur sites, and interactive websites allow fans to engage in conversations and have contact with amateur performers, escorts, and porn stars. For example, on one website that offers 1-on-1 sessions, fans can purchase "exclusive" time with the performer, interact with him, and together enact a fantasy scenario--while voyeurs, who pay a lower fee, can watch the performance but not interact with the performer. This is the cyber-fantasy equivalent of an escorting encounter.

Thus, increasingly, the Internet has taken the place of face-to-face contacts, interactions, and marketing for male sex workers.

The Retrogressive Dynamic

A constant demand for "new faces," "fresh meat," and new people is integral to most markets for sexual services and most forms of sex work. In the 1930s, sociologist Paul Cressey formulated the theory of retrogressive life cycles to explain the careers of young women who worked as taxi dancers ("dime-a-dance" girls). The young women who sought work as taxi dancers typically had left their families and communities to work in an occupation that was closely associated with prostitution. At first the young women found it exciting, but the longer they worked as taxi dancers the more difficult it was to compete with the newer and younger women who followed. Usually, the longer each woman worked, the less money she made and the seedier the venues in which she worked.

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