Former adult actor talks to The Independent about leaving the industry on health grounds after using erectile dysfunction drugs too much

Christopher Zeischegg performed under the alias Danny Wylde for roughly 10 years, during which time he featured in approximately 600 scenes.

Zeischegg landed himself a career in porn essentially because he needed a job while he was in school. After trying his hand at nude photography as an “art model” he saw a listing for a porn shoot which he tried for a “crazy, one-time experience”.

“I was naive enough, at the time, to believe that the extreme, BDSM nature of the shoot would prevent my family members from stumbling across it,” he told The Independent.

After a former girlfriend introduced him to various adult producers and directors in Los Angeles, Zeischegg was able to carve out a successful career for himself in the industry. 

Starting out earning around $300 per scene (£245), he could eventually command between $500 - $700 per scene and landed a year-long contract with a production company who paid him $4,000 per month (£3,300) despite having only to work six days out of the month (This was perfect for me, being a full-time film student.”)

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Former adult actor Danny Wylde (Christopher Zeischegg)

Women typically make more money in the adult industry, usually around $1,000 for a standard male-female scene, but they can receive significantly more for various scenes  - especially if they are doing them for the first time - as agent Derek Hay previously told The Independent.

Zeischegg says that despite the disparity in pay between the sexes, he thinks men still have the upper hand financially as they are able to work more. 

“There's much less work than there used to be, and so many more performers. If we're talking about straight porn, the guys can work for the same company over and over again. While the women may have to wait months, or even a year, before they can shoot for the same company or website.”

Zeischegg says some members of his family had a difficult time accepting his career choice, which soon became his main source of income but aside from this he rarely felt stigmatised especially by his friends.

One area where he did experience stigma was because he also performed in gay porn in the earlier stages of his career. 

“I hadn't yet learned about the stigma of 'crossover' male performers (those who have done both gay and straight porn),” he says. 

The source of such stigma, he says come from the different rules about condom use and STI testing explaining that most straight porn requires frequent STI testing but no condom use, whereas gay porn requires condoms but no testing – although there are exceptions to both these rules. 

After participating in group sex videos with both men and women, where he says all performers were tested, he claims he almost got blacklisted from working with girls from several agencies.

“When I listened to many people talk about why they were against 'crossover' performers, it seemed to have more to do with homophobia than anything else. But whatever. People have the right to have sex with whoever they want. If my attraction to men bums someone out, we don't have to have sex,” he says.

Zeischegg ultimately left the adult industry on medical advice after he landed himself in hospital for priapism (a prolonged erection) because he had become reliant on the use of erectile dysfunction medication – something he says is very widespread in the industry.

“Over the course of an eight year career, I ended up in the emergency room three times. All for priapism. After the third time, a doctor said to me that if I kept using the drugs, I could cause some serious long-term damage, like scar tissue build up in my penis, which could lead to impotence. I quit performing in porn the following day,” he says. 

Was he addicted to these drugs? “I don't think that I had a physical addiction. There were no side effects when I stopped taking the drugs…. But I do believe that, towards the end of my career, I was psychologically addicted to Cialis (a drug to treat ED).”

Zeischegg experienced performance anxiety when he knew he had not taken the pill for a couple of days and started to realise it was an issue when he took the tablet before going on dates.

“I was still in my twenties. There should have been no reason that I needed to do that. But I had developed this idea about myself, and I didn't want to let my partner down, or make them think that I was anything less than a 'porn star' in bed.”

It took him a few months after quitting the industry to be comfortable “with my body and with my sexuality” without the help of the drugs.

Now, aged 31, he is out of the industry – an industry which is very hard to have an informed opinion of if you have not been in it – Zeischegg says he feels “ambivalent” about it. 

“I think that porn gets a bad rap from both right-wing, religious moralists and left-wing anti-porn feminists, who equate sex trafficking and rape culture with the adult industry. So there has been this reactionary push from within the industry to speak up, and louder, about how porn can be so great, and how it's empowering, and all of this. The reality is likely more middle-of-the-road and mundane.”

He has now turned his attention to film and video production (of which around 60 per cent of his clients are from the adult industry), writing and co-founding a hot sauce business.

He enjoys working with people from the industry, who he says are usually a lot easier to get on with than those from a corporate background, but has found some difficulties in navigating a new career path for himself.

“My difficulties are probably not that unusual, at least, for anyone who has spent a lot of time in one industry and who wants to transition. In any field, people often give work to their friends and business associates. It is hard to develop those types of relationships when I spent nearly a decade having sex for a living. It is kind of like starting over from the bottom.”

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