Pornography Part One: Naked ambition, or just another way to pay the rent - why would any woman want to be a porn star? Eleanor Bailey reports
Men may buy porn and control porn and own porn, but the majority of the performers are women. In the sandwich of porn, men may be the bread and butter, but women provide the jam. What makes a woman go into the business? Some say desperation, others admit to an exhibitionist streak, and these answers reflect the spectrum of experiences that women have.

When 28-year-old Julie-Ann met her husband, Nick, a contact of her photographer brother's, she wasn't in the least deterred when she heard he made porn films from his house in Surrey. "I wasn't attracted to him at first, but I did want to get to know him because I thought he could be a good contact. I had always liked the idea of working in porn movies. I'm proud of my body and I always wanted to show it off. Nick immediately agreed to put me in one of his films - I think he was trying to impress me, he didn't know if I'd be any good. I was a bit self-conscious at first. I didn't do hardcore to start with, but then I relaxed in front of the camera and now I pride myself that I'll do anything as long as no one gets hurt.

"I don't get off on the sex at the time, there's a lot of stopping and starting and you're trying to please the camera not yourself, but I do find a camera following me exciting. I've made about 50 films and I've travelled a lot. I don't go on about what I do, but if my friends ask me, I don't lie, though I'm ashamed to say I tell my mother they're medical videos.

"It's liberating. No one's manipulating me, I'm not a victim. I'm sure there are women out there who feel trapped for one reason or another, but not me. I used to feel far more exploited working in a shop. The money's better. Last year I earned pounds 25,000 and I had a lot of holiday. The only downer is that at the end of the day, sex is the last thing I want with my husband."

Freedom, money and glamour is the side of the business that inspires the countless women who write to the film-makers and magazines desperate to make it as a porn star. Porn film-makers and magazine editors receive photos of naked women - and men - all the time. "Some of them just want to do it the once, it's like a fantasy for them," one film-maker says. "Others are serious and want to make a career of it. With most of them their families are right behind them. Often it's even the mother who sends the photo in, to see if her daughter has a chance."

For those who do make it into a full-time concern, the industry is surprisingly wholesome. The intimate nature of the work means that unwritten rules govern the behaviour. "Women are treated with respect," another film-maker claims. "Everyone's there to do a job. If there is a guy who is an idiot, or in it for anything other than professional reasons, he'll get a bad reputation and he won't be asked back."

But there is, inevitably, another side. Gean, 22, has been acting in porn films for four years. She slid into it by degrees, attracted by the money. Now, with an expensive drug habit to support and little to recommend her for conventional employment, she regrets it.

"I was doing an amateur beauty competition at Butlin's. Afterwards, the photographer came up to me and said had I ever considered professional modelling? I said that I was far too short - I'm only 5ft 3in - but he said that for glamour work you don't have to be tall. He gave me his card and said to give him a ring when I got back home. I was only 18 and unemployed at the time and I was very innocent. I thought it sounded really exciting. I knew it meant topless so I was quite nervous.

"It soon turned out that it wasn't just topless shots that were required. The first time it was just boobs. After the photo session he gave me a pounds 100 cash. He called me up afterwards and said there was more work for more money if I would take everything off. I didn't want to, but he persuaded me. He said it was going into magazines to go abroad and that no one would ever know.

"He introduced me to a glamour agency and they started booking me jobs. I just slipped into it. The money was always there on the day and it was impossible to say no. The next film I got booked for, I arrived at the shoot and it was made clear to me that it was going to be hardcore, no choice about it. I didn't know what to do. I really panicked. The guy I was working with offered me some coke because he said it made it easier to do. I was in such a state that I just took it. Then it was a lot easier to do.

"The next morning I felt really dirty, but when another offer came, I took it. I don't know how else to earn a living. When I think about it I feel really ashamed of what I do. But it just built up. I began taking a lot more coke as well, which meant I couldn't afford not to work - I'm still in debt. It isn't all that good money. There's quite a lot of competition and I don't think I'm anything special. I do a lot of stripping in pubs as well.

"I was in a real mess last year and I quit altogether for a while. I met a normal guy, but one of my old friends told him what I used to do and he dumped me. Apart from him I've only had relationships with guys in the business, but they don't value you much, most of them are just out on a bender all the time. I spend a lot on drugs, several hundred a week, I expect. One day I'm determined to get out but I can't see a way at the moment."

Women tend to fall into the business through doing glamour work. "A lot of porn stars are would-be fashion models," says Gary Steele, a freelance writer and cameraman. "Once they've accepted they're never going to be tall enough, they go for the next best thing. Then when they realise that there's a lot more money to be made in films than photos, they go into that side of the business. Some of the girls can't cope, some put all the profits up their nose, others have a great time - it's like any job, it doesn't suit everybody."

The main difference between the male and female porn star, in this country at least, is that male performers are harder to find. "There are probably five men in Britain who can be relied upon to have an erection when the director clicks his fingers," says one porn film-maker. So men can command fees up to double the girls' fees, perhaps pounds 400 for a day's filming.

And to start a career in porn? "Just write or ring the company on a porn video or magazine. There's no career structure. It's a word-of-mouth business. People think porn is a different reality. It's like there's real life and then this magical world of porn. It's not like that."