If there’s one scene people remember from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – other than the part where Christopher Lloyd murders a cartoon shoe, and I peed myself a little – it’s Jessica Rabbit cooing, “I’m not bad; I’m just drawn that way.”
Out of the entire cast, Jessica’s the only one who isn’t a complete moron. She is also, arguably, the most selfless character. But she’s unabashedly sexual, and everyone regards her with suspicion and distrust, when clearly they should be focusing on the crazy guy who murdered a shoe!
This is pretty much the same case for people who work in the sex trade. Porn is the black sheep of the entertainment world, and while I won’t say the industry is without its faults, the willful, socially accepted malevolence directed toward porn actors is baffling. The critics rarely make salient points, instead coasting on the idea of “You’re a sex worker; there must be something wrong with you.”
Except, it turns out, there isn’t. The stereotype of the pornstar as a psychologically scarred outsider is unfounded. In the new study “Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis,” a comparative sample of 200 actresses in the adult film industry compared with 200 “regular” women, found that, overall, pornstars don’t report higher incidences of childhood abuse or psychological problems. In fact, pornstars reported higher levels of self-esteem and overall satisfaction with their sex lives. Admittedly, the pornstars were more likely to have used drugs, but for most of them, said “drug” was actually just weed. Gasp! Those hooligans!
So let’s review here: pornstars are comparatively normal. Happy, even! So then where does the stereotype come from? The obvious answer is that, by and large, society still isn’t exactly sex-positive. The idea of someone having sex for any reason other than marital obligation still isn’t as widely accepted as it should be. The idea of someone having sex for money, however, is goddamn mind-blowing.
But here’s another hypothesis: the only time pornstars ever make the news is when they fuck up spectacularly. I refer to this idea as the Stupid Assholes Get Headlines Principle, which is . . . exactly what it sounds like, actually. Pornstars, or anyone else, for that matter, don’t make the news for being shining examples of humanity. They make the news for being stupid assholes. Sure, Gus Mattox may be a talented musical theatre actor, but who cares when we can hear about Sebastian Young being arrested for the one-billionth time? For the most part, you’re only ever exposed to the worst parts of the industry.
I think Camille Paglia put it best when she wrote in her book of essays Vamps and Tramps that a sex worker is “an outlaw who controls the sexual channel between nature and culture.” But allow me to put this in my own words: not everyone with a sex tape is Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton. We’re not all terrible.