Conversations with porn stars: I’m a graduate, an A-student and a mother

Only those who have worked within the industry truly understand what it means to be an adult actor, yet their voices are often unheard in the debate. In a series of interviews, performers tell The Independent what they want you to know about their line of work 

Heather Saul
Additional reporting by Izzy Lyons
Tuesday 06 December 2016 17:52 GMT
Comments
Brooke
Brooke

Brooke is an adult performer who only goes by her first name. She’s also a graduate who finished at top of her class and wanted to be a lawyer. But Brooke was too scared to try and pass the bar because of a 'morality' clause in California law she worried would never allow a porn actress to work, however much she spent on her education. The porn star as academically accomplished and ambitious is a mental picture rarely painted in the minds of many.

Who they are, what their jobs are like and what they understand about the industry is overshadowed by stigma, misconceptions and the polarising opinions fostered by porn. This stigma forces Brooke to spend thousands on privately educating her child at a school where she doesn't risk being expelled because of her mother’s profession - after having first moved schools.

Her experience highlights an important issue with how adult actors are forced to carry the burden of porn's stigma well after leaving the industry.

Brooke had a six-year break from making porn. In that time she had a child, graduated from university and started studying at graduate school. Now she is back in adult films and working to develop a personal brand using her social media platforms.

Here, in her own words, she explains what it is like to be an adult actor.

Why did you decide to work in porn?

You know, that is the million dollar question. I don’t really have a solid answer for that. I came from a small town in California when I was 18 years old, living with my parents, and I just wanted freedom. And somehow I stumbled into this business. In 2001, I saw an advert in a newspaper when I was reading the ad section. There was just this small black and white ad that said ‘nude model needed’, and I was like ‘Ok, that’s something different.’ So, I went down there and met the people. It was in a crummy building with three men and three officers with huge books of photos of girls. They were the girls who had been around for 30 or 40 years or something. I took some polaroids for them and then a few days later they just called me and I had all this work booked. When I went and shot my first scene, I thought to myself, what am I doing? I left for five or six months and then I came back and went full force. I’ve never looked back.

How old were you when you did your first scene?

18. I think too young, personally.

Did you find some of the decisions you made and things that you agreed to do at that time were affected by how young you were?

Absolutely. Absolutely. Because I didn’t have the ability to understand the consequences of my actions, no matter if they were positive or negative because I was so young.

What was the turning point that made you think, actually, I’m not sure about this?

I’m not sure. Between 18 to 25 I was just kind of in a phase of denial. I was working so hard and I worked so many days and months that it was just this routine that I knew. Inside the bubble was completely normal, but if you take yourself outside of the bubble and go into normal society, it was extremely negative. So I just stayed in the bubble.

We need to talk about porn

To consume porn is normal, but to appear in it is completely taboo. Is that something you experienced yourself?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I am now just coming back from a break. I left in 2010, so I worked from 2001 to 2010 non-stop without taking a break. Which is a long time. I never shot anal or gangbangs, I stayed very vanilla. And to work such a long time was very abnormal. Then I left at 26 or something and that’s when I realised, wow there are a lot of people who just don’t get it. And this is America, it’s a very American thing. It’s not a European thing, because when I travelled and shot in different countries, in Europe, in Japan, in Turkey, in London, it’s a very different environment than here. We are just so much more shameful in the United States when it comes to women and our bodies and what we can do.

Brooke
Brooke

Have you found that in your social situations, and the people around you?

Yeah, people don’t get it. There is a lot of intrigue surrounding it, so people always want to get to know you, ask you questions and associate themselves with you. But then when it comes to standing up for you or defending you, they can’t do that. They won’t.

What about relationships with family?

It’s kind of the same thing, they didn’t really understand. I mean, I’m closer to my family now because I have been on this break, but I’ve just returned to shooting and I’m re-launching my website now because I’ve taken six years off and I had a child. So now I am raising a daughter who just turned four a few months ago. It’s interesting, the dynamic of how I am raising her [and showing her] how to be proud of her body.

During my break, not only did I have a kid but I went and got my Bachelors degree in psychology and now I am going to graduate school. I’ve gotten to do a lot of things that have helped me grow and process all the years of working in that industry.

Here I was, able to take my savings, put it into law school, pass the bar, and then California State could be like ‘well, because you were included in porn we don’t see you’. They call it moral character.

I thought I was doing everything right and fine, and then everyone around me thought I was doing everything really bad. So it’s weird to be young and trying to run a business whilst not being able to get guidance for that business, because people aren’t supportive. My parents … it’s an interesting dynamic, we just don’t speak about it. It's so sick, you just sweep it under the rug and don’t talk about it.

So how did they feel when you said you were going to come back to it?

They hated it. Very upset. They think it’s the biggest mistake of my life. Look, I love them and bless their hearts, but that’s so silly. Any working mum who left to have a baby would want to go back to her work. It's like a natural, human-nature thing to do. So I left, I went to college, now I am going to graduate school, I just had a baby - but really I just miss working. That’s what I learned from all of that. I miss the freedom. I miss being able to express my artistic energy through porn. I mean, I like sex.

Did you always think you would go back [to making porn]?

I didn’t put anything on it, I literally just woke up one day and said, ‘ok I don’t want to do this anymore’, so I called up my agent and cancelled everything I had booked and never went back to it. There wasn’t social media at the time as it was just starting out so I didn’t post anything. I just kept quiet. I just didn’t pay attention to it, I didn’t watch or follow it even though a lot of my friends were still in the business. I was in a different place in my life.

Did you stay in touch with your friends [in the industry] or did you completely detach yourself from it?

Some of them I’ve stayed in touch with, but others I have completely removed. Because there is a lot of growth when you’re in that environment, because most people just stay within the bubble. So to step out, and grow a little bit, and then to come back – it’s interesting.

I just shot my first scene for Zero Tolerance last week and I had so much fun, and I was so horny. And I was like, is this because I am 32 now? Is this because I am doing this of my own free will with no guilt or shame?

So do you feel that attitudes have changed a little bit?

Oh yeah. I feel no guilt and no shame. I’m definitely standing on my own two feet. I think all those years before, I would just come, work, leave, deny deny deny. And now it's like you are proud so it feels so much better doing what you want to do.

So it’s like you’ve got more control over yourself/career/circumstances?

Yeah, absolutely. I have no agent now so that means I really get to talk to the directors and owners myself and hear their ideas and say, ‘yeah that idea is great, but it simply won’t work for me’. Rather than an agent putting me on set without really knowing what you are doing until the morning that you are there. This way I can prepare, I can have wardrobes specialised for the stuff, I can have all the things you would need an agent to give you; mine, for all those years, never gave me the support that I needed to ensure I did the best that I could.

There are girls like me who like to be in the sex business and have it as an actual career - those people shouldn’t be going to jail. 

We’ve seen a few interviews with young girls who cycle out of the industry quite fast, and one of the biggest problems they were saying they had was they were being put on set without being told what the scene they had was. And then being asked to do things they didn't want to do. Was this something you experienced?

Erm, no. Yes I have had the pressure to do something that I don’t want to do and that awkward moment not knowing what to do. But I’ve always had such a strong personality and a very stern sense of ‘no’. I’m sure there are things I’ve done that I didn’t really want to do, like doing anal, but I’ve never broke my boundaries. I’ve only ever done what I felt would feel good while doing it. I didn’t want to be having to take drugs in order to get out of my mind to do my work, I wanted to be able to just do my work.

Was that something you saw that girls were doing?

I mean, I think we all enjoy a good party. I think that everybody’s job is stressful and everybody likes to let loose here and there. And every once in a while, it’s fine to go to work and party and have fun after work. It’s just that I believe in moderation. I believe in being able to control it.

Brooke
Brooke

I shot my scene on Friday and today is Monday and I am still sore. My whole body is sore. And my husband was like, ‘How many years has it been since you shot a scene? You go to the gym and you work out but your body hasn’t been through standing in heels for an hour and a half non-stop'.

That must be really tough on your body as well.

Yeah, well, I’m still sore. It’s been four days. But it’s a good sore, I have a refreshed attitude right now seeing as I’ve been gone for six years now. So everything is just a positive.

I interviewed Jessica Drake and she’s a star who has been in the industry for 15 years. Do you think it is something you can realistically do for a long time?

I don’t think so. I think you can do scenes as long as you have a sex drive and want to f**k. Realistically, women [have a sex drive] well into their 60s, 70s and 80s. I just learned that in college, that as you get older there is this presumption that your sex drive goes down, but really it appears that that’s not the case for women. I consider it a safe environment if you are using your brain to make your decisions and you are not driven by money or somebody else. I think it’s great, I think I can see myself associated with it forever. I don’t think, me personally, that I could be doing it forever. I want to do more, I want to take my brand further. Part of the issue I had was that I worked for all these years, but because I was in such a state of denial and I tried to keep it so quiet for the people around me that weren’t really affiliated with the business, I never really got to have my own fan base. And now with social media, I really want to do other things. So I think the scene is coming off a great relaunching pad.

I also really want to get into the prostitution problem we have in the United States. I want to get more into advocacy of legalising things that should not be illegal - for consenting willing adults of course. I’m not talking about sex trafficking, I’m talking about the elitist side to prostitution.

There are girls like me who like to be in the sex business and have it as an actual career - those people shouldn’t be going to jail. They’re paying their taxes, they are normal human citizens. I think there are a lot of things that I would like to have a voice on, and go and stand for. I think there’s a lot of performers that do some stuff, but there’s a lot of us that don't do some stuff that we really should. And I think that will help legitimise the business too; it’s this big, billion dollar business but yet we don’t take it so seriously. It’s really weird.

What do you think your plan will be when you do eventually stop performing? What do you see yourself doing afterwards? I feel something that is quite difficult for female adult actresses is transitioning into something a lot more mainstream.

Absolutely. When I left and went to school, I said I wanted to be lawyer. Law was something that I always wanted to do. I studied for and took the L-Sat. I did decent on the L-Sat and everyone was blown away, they didn’t ever think that I could. They were thinking, how is this possible that she’s going to go to law school? But then I found out that the State of California might never actually grant me my attorney licence based on [my work in porn]. Here I was, able to take my savings, put it into law school, pass the bar, and then California State could be like ‘well, because you were included in porn we don’t see you’. They call it moral character. It is a huge spectrum, and they can select anything on that spectrum. And a few of my attorney friends were like it’s your choice, it’s a risk because you would have to invest two to three years of school and a lot of money – it costs about $100,000 to go to law school in America, so stupid – so I decided that a Bachelors was a safer bet because I could turn that into anything. So, that is definitely one of the consequences of the industry. There I was at 18, wanting to go and make money and not listen to my parents. But then I get to 27, and despite being told that I am smart enough, you can’t. It’s like a scarlet letter, you already have the scarlet A, and it’s like, this is ludicrous. Why are you labelling me when you don’t even know what I am capable of?

So do you think that women should be allowed to be in porn when they are only 18? Or do you think that they should be a little bit older?

I think they should be older. I think 25 is a good age. I think, as a woman, between 18 and 25 you are just crazy. I know I was. I used to think that there has got to be something wrong with me. As I was going through college later on, I was like why was I that f**king crazy? But then I learned through school it’s your emotions and your hormones. You are learning so much and you have so much driving your passions as a female. We are so rebellious and so curious and so smart, and we are always a few steps ahead of everyone else around us.

I just think that it’s too young because you don’t know what you are getting yourself into. I mean, it doesn’t always cause a lot of harm. I’m fine, I went through therapy, I went to college. I’m a happy individual. I don’t cry myself to sleep, I love the business when it made me who I am. It built my confidence as a female. I entered that business not knowing who I am, and I left the business and came back to it knowing exactly who I am. So, I think that is very powerful.

I had never heard of the law thing, and I am really surprised by that. I think it’s even more crazy when you look into how many people in America, and around the world, consume porn.

But nobody will speak about it. It’s so weird. It’s so taboo.

Do you think it’s ever going to change?

I mean, I hope so. I hope the way that reality TV has taken off in America, in the way that we are desensitising everybody to stupidity.

And there was that naked selfie Kim Kardashian took. Many people were highly critical of it, but there were also many people who defended her right as a woman to be in control of her sexuality. Was it something you were quite happy to see?

Yes, absolutely. It’s sad to see the women that are still arguing, ‘you don’t have to do that to get ahead’, when the point is we know that already. Didn’t I just prove that to you all by leaving the industry and going to college and wanting to go to law school and then still choosing to go back to the business that I do not need to get ahead? I’m choosing [to working in porn] because I want to, because I only have one life and I don’t want to do the same thing for 50 years. I want to do 50 things. I want to look back at all the things I have done, not hurry up to work my ass off and work 60 hours a week to drive the same car and to live in the same house and do the same thing for 30 years. To pay for a pension and to have this mediocre life. F**k that. You might as well be a little minion. That is worse than death, that kind of life.

Do you think that has always been your motivation?

Absolutely. And I think I must have gotten it from my parents somewhere. Somewhere in there, they are hippies. I hope before their death bed that they relax a little bit. They are so high-strung and conservative and that’s because they are in this working society and I think they know the perception.

I think it is interesting how it changes by generation. You’re a mother. Do you hope that by the time your daughter is grown up that, [after] what you do and what you have done, she will be in a society far more accepting? So that it doesn’t affect her?

I hope so, I really hope so, but then you have Donald Trump running for President. [This interview was conducted while he was campaigning for the Republican nomination] So, we are not there yet. Maybe when she is in her teens and her twenties things will start to loosen up. But I don’t think we are there yet. I think we want to be there, I think we are trying to be there, but we have to get there educationally. Right now we are just there for the ‘wow’ factor, trying to get everybody’s attention, but it’s for the wrong purpose.

We need to do it from an educational purpose; so to our children we need to be more like ‘ok we know you are out there f**king and wanting to have sex’. Let’s start talking to them about babies, and where they come from. I’ve been showing my kid videos of birth. It just happened one day when she asked ‘where do babies come from?’ and I was like this ends now. I am not going to make up some stupid story, but I am going to educate my child and she can see it with what she will, and as she gets older she can take more and more from it. And hopefully my desensitisation to this taboo thing won’t be so taboo, and then she won’t be so curious, and then she will be able to solve her own wants and needs by herself. Rather than seeking the validation from everyone else.

So have you spoken to her quite a bit about your career and what you do?

No, I haven’t talked to her about me. She just recently asked what I did before I had her and I just said I was a model and an actress. I am more worried about her getting to school and repeating something out of context and there being an issue. We pay for her to go to her a private school for a reason.

So you would never send her to a public school?

I would never. I couldn’t subject her to it because I wouldn’t know how the children would react to it in this day and age with technology. The kids are learning things so much faster so she would find something out from somebody else before she would me in that kind of environment.

Have you spoken to the school about your concerns?

No, they haven’t approached me about it yet.

Do you think you’ll approach them?

I think I will eventually. I didn’t have to think about it until now as I am going back to work, and knowing I want to do some real work and put my name on things. So if I’m going to be so vocal, I kind of have to go to them and warn them. I think I owe them that respect seeing as they are taking care of my child.

It’s a studio school so a lot of the kids that go there have parents who are actors and actresses. We are probably the poorest people there, to put it in perspective. I pay more per year for her to go to this private school than I did for my college education. It’s crazy. And I went to a state university, I couldn’t even imagine going private. We definitely wouldn’t be able to afford to put both me and her through our education.

How old are you?

32. To me this is like prime; it’s the best time.

I know that Lisa Ann retired around 40, so is that the general age?

I don’t know because Julia Anna is performing again. I haven’t seen Jessica Drake in a long time either and she’s older, and Jessica James – she’s in her late thirties.

What I do want to ask you about, that I find quite interesting, is that you have come back at a time where it seems to be getting harder and harder for women to make a living out of porn. Is it possible? Can you be financially stable?

I don’t know, I hope so. I definitely saw that it was getting harder, but I never really did anything about the brand. Because I never really saw myself as a brand. But I went, worked, supported the lifestyle I wanted, and just got lucky enough to save some of my money. But had I not, I would have had nine years of nothing. I had nobody around me saying you got something going on here [so] let’s think about the next step.

A lot of people had said, ‘well I hope you are not coming back for the money’, and I’m not. I don’t want money to be driving me. I want my passion, how I feel and my body to be driving me. I just want to be able to break that third wall and be with my fans.

I’ve noticed that a lot of actresses, in order to make their careers last longer, are using social media to build a personal brand.

Yeah, it’s definitely a new thing, social media. I have like a bittersweet relationship with social media; I’m really good with Twitter, but I don’t feel like I have a grip on Instagram because I’m like, who am I? Who is my character on Instagram? It’s not like my real life because everything is edited. I don’t vocally say how I feel because that’s made for Twitter – Instagram is just for pictures. I don’t want to write a caption, I just want to post a picture. The whole thing is weird. So I think I am better with blogging and my website.

I hope I can drive my art through my website, where I can create scenes and ask my fans what they think I haven’t shot and what they want to see. Because I have shot so much stuff. During my break, I watched a lot of my porn and I was mortified. I would sit next to my husband and cry. Just because I would sit there and ask, who is that girl right there? She’s not present, she doesn’t want to be there, is it like the third scene of the day or something?

Did you feel you like you had people on set looking out for you, [or] asking if you were ok or if you needed a break?

Yeah you did. If I needed my agent bad enough, he would show up. If I called him up and asked him to come because I didn’t feel comfortable, he would come and protect me. But you also need protection from him. And that was the double-edged sword.

And this is one thing we are increasingly reading about. Because it is becoming harder to make money, the demands are higher, so they want more and more. The agent is taking a cut as well. So it’s in their interest to make you do these things that you might not want to do. Did you find yourself stuck between that?

Yeah, sure. There were, of course, times where I found myself not wanting to work, and my agent would insist that I did. But for a woman, that’s like f**k you. What do you mean go to work? F**k you, I will kick you in your face. That’s how it would make you feel. And then you would get angry and get into fights. And that’s what I mean when I talk about age, that’s why you shouldn’t be that young when entering the industry because you don’t know how to comprehend situations properly. Because, up until a point, your agent does have a point and he does have say, and yes he does work for you, but he is also there to keep you on your toes. Because you do need to go to work because if you don’t, you become irrelevant. The fact he kept me working for nine to 10 years without upping my anti once, when every couple of years I was raising my rate, so he did something. We just weren’t eye to eye.

[My return to the industry] is going to be quite quick; I’m going to do scenes for a year or two, going to get my feet wet and then head over to the advocacy. So my voice can be heard and we can help other people, because that’s really what we need to do in society. I want people to start accepting and respecting our business, not just using it for their own pleasure.

There are so many girls that have been in the business and left and hate the business; there are so many girls that have been in the business and left and loved the business; there are so many girls that have been in the business and left and are now coming back. For me, I think there should be an age increase. I think 18 is too young to make any sort of decision – I think 18 is too young to go to war. I think it’s too young to buy cigarettes.

So that’s your main takeaway from the business?

Yeah, that’s my main thing. Other than that, it's fine. I think there are things that can be harmful, sure, but I think there are things that can be harmful in any business.

Additional reporting by Izzy Lyons

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in