Being a porn star isn’t exactly the typical dream job. Despite that, thousands of girls voluntarily enter the porn industry every year and say that they like it.

Porn isn’t something that’s talked about a lot–not in articles, not in blogs, and not in conversations over drinks at a bar. There are, however, those “specialists” who pride themselves in the psychological and intellectual analyses of the industry. Some claim that porn is the bane of society, standing by the words of the famous Andrea DWorkin: “Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men; this is the essential truth of pornography.” Other’s believe that porn will ruin male libido, and “real sex” will cease to exist. While its promoters believe that porn is the liberalization of sex, and personal enjoyment–a right that our modern society should enjoy. They claim that sex is no longer a mystery, and porn is just one of the perks that comes with its newfound freedom. I am not here to discredit any of these statements–all are rooted in interesting and creditable arguments. But, these debates are simply pointless. That’s quite a brave thing to say, I know, but they essentially come to no unanimous conclusion.

Porn remains a subject hidden in the shadows of people’s iPhones and laptops. A subject shied away from, and in many cases regarded as taboo.

But how can a $13 billion industry not be discussed? Porn sites bring in more viewers on the daily than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. 25% of all daily searches on Google are related to porn. PornHub alone brings in 1.68 million views per hour. So how can America’s most profitable media industry get so little attention?

Despite America’s supposed sexual liberalization, we’re still a nation that gets uncomfortable when it comes to talking about porn. I’m not stating this in order to open discussion up on the effect of porn on American minds–that’s for another time and another article, but I’m rather opening up the discussion on the industry itself. Because it remains behind the curtains of our personal lives, the multitude of issues (the same issues that anti-porn activists attack) remain unchanged.

The lack of discussion on porn is exactly what feeds into the generalizations and stereotypes of the industry–especially into those of porn stars. It’s a widely accepted notion that girls who go into the industry are dumb blonds with perky boobs and tanned bodies who do it for the quick and easy cash. But in reality, most porn stars are your average “girls next door.” Some do it for the unpaid bills or unrealistic college tuition fees. Others do it to escape their mundane small-town lives–where they dream of fame and big cities, airplanes and convertibles, exciting lives, and new beginnings. Others long to discover their sexualities, reestablish self-esteem, and gain back something they might have lost growing up. Some are victims of abuse, their confidence has been crippled, and they long for it to be reestablished. Yet these supposed success stories are often flipped, and make for somber tales.

These girls enter with one idea in mind, and leave a couple of months later, disillusioned and jobless.
The average lifespan of a female porn star is 3-6 months. A year tops. There are always new, fresh faces, willing to go into the industry, so the competition is high. The job itself seems easy and profitable, $800 on average for a scene, but it is both mentally and physically draining. Porn stars shoot for hours daily. And 90% of the time, the scenes are done without condoms, reeling in a flood of STDs. Currently a reported 66% of porn stars have herpes. 1 in 4 porn stars have had gonorrhea or chlamydia, and new HIV cases are always arising. Most companies have no restrictions on the level of physical engagement, which can often lead to scenes of abuse or aggression. I’m painting a negative picture of the industry–but it’s true. It’s not the glamorous image most girls have going into it.

Yet it is rare that you’ll ever hear a porn star admit these things. Now that’s an odd juxtaposition. Most are abused physically and mentally, so why won’t they speak out?

That’s where the problem lies. Porn stars are ridiculed and shamed by society. Once a porn star’s short career comes to a close, they are forced to go out into the world and find a new job, only to be ostracized.

Recently, Belle Knox, a student at Duke University came out as a porn star. She was attacked with a plethora of scorn, public shaming, and threats. But instead she used the publicity she garnered as a platform to speak about the porn industry and to publicize her experience within it–both the good and bad sides.

The porn industry isn’t all the terrible portrait I painted–many porn stars start new lives. They find themselves (sexually, physically, or mentally), and gain the confidence they needed. Many stay in the industry and prosper, and others move on, building new and successful lives.

But people simply downgrade and slut-shame them, even though the attackers are probably the same people that cozy up in bed to watch a couple juicy clips every night.

The reality is that porn is here to stay. It’s embedded into our culture and our sex lives. We are a generation that has grown up in a movement of sexual liberalization, so why are we still confined to misconceptions and generalizations? Opening up the discussion on porn may very well be the only way to oust the problems within the industry–making everyone’s lives a whole lot better.