Episode 10: What Counts as Sex Work?

What “counts” as sex work? When you hear the words “sex work,” what image does that bring up in your mind?

In this episode, we discuss forms of sex work that most people don’t think about when they think “sex work,” and we talk to “Andrew,” a former male sex worker. Andrew (not his real name) has some insights to offer about the differences between sex work as it’s experienced by male and female sex workers.

Transcript below.

Franklin: Hello! Welcome to a new episode of Skeptical Perverts, the podcast where we look at human sexuality through an evidence-based, skeptical lens! I’m your host, part-time mad scientist, and token cishet guy, Franklin!

Joreth: Hi! I’m your co-host and Renaissance cat, Joreth! I’m kinky, solo polyamorous, on the ace spectrum, chicana, feminist, my gender identity is “tomboy,” and my pronouns are she/her but I use masculine titles.

Eunice: And I’m Eunice, your friendly neighbourhood queer, kinky, demisexual, grey-ace cis woman, bringing my genteel East Asian British viewpoint and a good strong pot of tea. We’re still on our sex work mini-series and this episode, we’re discussing “what even is sex work anyhow?” 

Joreth: Yeah, so … we started out thinking this would be one episode, and now it’s morphed into, what, like 4 episodes? And we’re going to take one very huge chunk of that topic and try to distill it down to a single introduction. We are attempting to break some of this down into their own episodes throughout this series, but today is the broad overview on what sex work is and what “counts” as sex work, and to whom.

Eunice: Just as a warning, this is going to be a long one, so buckle in and maybe get some refreshments cos we’re gonna be here for a while. Tea is good, I recommend tea.

Franklin: Sex work! It’s like quantum mechanics or pornography: everyone thinks they know what it is, but talk to two different people who aren’t physicists or legal scholars and you’ll get three different definitions. So let’s talk about what we mean when we say ‘sex work.’

I mean, hell, a lot of people struggle to say what “sex” is. It all depends on what your definition of “is” is, right? If you can’t recognize sex when you see it, recognizing sex work might be a bridge too far.

Our last episode about sex work mentioned the Sex Worker Outreach Project’s definition:

“Sex work is any type of labor where the explicit goal is to produce a sexual or erotic response in the client. Sex work includes prostitution, but it also includes a bunch of other things like erotic dancing, pro-dom/pro-sub work, webcam work, sensual massage, adult film, phone sex, being a sugar baby, etc.”

Other organizations use similar definitions. Open Society defines sex work this way:

Sex workers are adults who receive money or goods in exchange for consensual sexual services or erotic performances, either regularly or occasionally.

Eunice: Do ‘goods’ include dinner, by any chance? I mean, I’ve had some really expensive dinners where we split the bill, are you telling me I should have gotten that for free? Wait, hang on, maybe that counted as mutual sex work instead!

Joreth: So when he makes me breakfast the next morning, does that mean I just engaged in sex work? I mean, my last boyfriend was a really good cook. I’d be willing to say that was a fair value comparison.

Eunice: Mouthgasms are named that for a reason, right?

Franklin: You people and your food! Things get a little stranger when you look at definitions of sex work offered by conservative groups, especially conservative religious groups. Many conservative religious organizations struggle to tell the difference between sex work and sex trafficking. A-21, a religious organization founded to fight sex trafficking, says this about sex work:

A commercial sex act occurs when the sex act is exchanged for anything of value.

Joreth: Um … exchanged for ANYTHING of value?

Eunice: Like … say, a wedding ring?

Joreth: I don’t think they really thought out the logical progression here.

Eunice: I’ll be honest, I’ve been in relationships where an additional few hours of peace to read my book would have been a fair exchange.

Joreth: I mean … getting them to go off and do something in particular or just be elsewhere isn’t a bad trade. I’ve sat through hours of basketball games in exchange for them doing something specific for me. That was certainly more tedious than offering, say, a blow job for something of equal “value”.

Eunice: I sat through 4 hours of the film Gettysburg, I think I damn well deserved my reward sex after that!

Franklin: I agree. The Family Research Council says:

There are many organizations that push for legitimizing sexual exploitation as “sex work.” Sexual exploitation is nobody’s job. Sexual exploitation is a horrendous violation of people’s physical and psychological health and safety. The elements of sexual exploitation which is often paraded as “sex work” include: “routine verbal degradation; threat of physical assault and a wide array of physical injury; extreme risk of sexual assault and rape; being groped, pinched, licked, bitten and breathed upon by people who pay to use you; serial utilization of one’s orifices as a receptacle for male genitalia and other objects; likely acquisition of drug/alcohol addiction; likely acquisition of post-traumatic stress disorder; likely acquisition of any number of (potentially incurable) STDs; and possible premature death as the result of homicide.” Sexual exploitation is abuse and should not be raised to the level of “work.”

Joreth: “The libberals say that sex work includes physical assault!” Um, yeah no, pretty sure nobody is saying that. Nice straw man you got there buddy. The way some of these conservatives get really really detailed in their descriptions of things. “Serial utilization of one’s orifices as a receptacle for male genitalia and other objects”? You are spending an awful lot of time thinking about this, sir.

Eunice: Thing is, they are so, so close to a reasonable point here. None of their examples of exploitation are acceptable behaviour. We should seek to prevent that from happening. What they’re missing, that sex workers are telling us from direct experience, is that exploitation is far more likely when you criminalise sex work. Consensual sex work doesn’t, and shouldn’t, include any of that abuse. And yes, a lot of that behaviour is abusive. You know what makes clients feel able to do that stuff without fear? Making it so risky to legally do sex work that sex workers are terrified to report abusive behaviour to the authorities for fear of being arrested themselves. Or being raped by the police, and then arrested. According to the study “Associations between sex work laws and sex workers’ health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies” which looked at data from 1990 to 2018:

“Repressive policing of sex workers was associated with increased risk of sexual/physical violence from clients or other parties, HIV/STIs, and condomless sex. The qualitative synthesis identified diverse forms of police violence and abuses of power, including arbitrary arrest, bribery and extortion, physical and sexual violence, failure to provide access to justice, and forced HIV testing.”

Joreth: Sooo… criminalizing sex work leads to … more dirty cops?

Eunice: Surprise. I know no one can see this, but I have on my “very much not surprised” face right now. Another quote from further in that same study says:

“Evidence from decriminalised settings suggests that sex workers in these settings have greater negotiating power with clients and better access to justice.” 

Also not a surprise. And I should point out, some of the abusive behaviour they mention as part of sex work? That exists in ongoing heterosexual monogamous relationships, including marriage, too. Marital rape is a thing, and it’s not even actually illegal everywhere.

Joreth: What?! How could that possibly have happened in a culture that makes sex transactiona… oh, wait.

Franklin: And finally, Concerned Women for America says “we’ll see your bonkers sex-work-negative hyperbole and raise you this:”

[Stormy] Daniels was a “successful” star in pornography and is continuing her run next week with a cover shot on Penthouse along with a nude photoshoot. This is the kind of modern day feminism Planned Parenthood loves, where women shed their dignity and damage their souls in exchange for money and power.

The connection between the porn industry, sex traffickers, and Planned Parenthood is well documented. Porn is often used to groom sex trafficking victims so they can learn what they are expected to do. When sex trafficked victims become pregnant as a result of their abuse, they are often coerced into having abortions. Planned Parenthood has been caught on film helping pimps obtain abortions for their victims, including minors.

Joreth: Oh the connection between sex trafficking, porn and Planned Parenthood is well documented, is it? I would like to see that documentation please.

Franklin: Someone needs to make a browser plugin that lets you tag Web sites with a Wikipedia-style [Citation Needed]

Eunice: Could I get that for real life too? Like, just pasted over people’s face when you’re talking to them? But yeah, there are so many tall leaps to conclusions here, I’m getting vertigo.

Joreth: You know the last time I heard about videos “catching” Planned Parenthood, those videos both did not show them doing anything wrong and were also fraudulently edited to suggest that they were so … I’m gonna reserve my blind acceptance on the statement that PP has been “caught on film helping pimps obtain abortions”.

So, in addition to there being a classification of things that do and do not “count”, there’s also a hierarchy of sex work from less respectable to … well, not “respectable” exactly, but less offensive?

Eunice: Or maybe, easier to hide? Less risky and stigmatised? Better paying? More likely to be undertaken by higher income cis white women? All of the above?

Joreth: OK, so, a hierarchy of sex work from risky with no social capital or power, to less risky with some social capital or power. What do we have then?

Franklin: Belle Knox wrote an article about the “whorearchy” in Jezebel. She says:

The whorearchy is arranged according to intimacy of contact with clients and police. The closer to both you are, the closer you are to the bottom. That puts “outdoor” workers, ie street-walking prostitutes, at the foundation. They are disdained by “indoor” prostitutes, who find clients online or via other third parties. They are disdained by the strippers and escorts who perform sex acts for clients, who are disdained by those who don’t. At the top sit sex workers who have no direct contact with cops or clients, such as cam girls and phone-sex operators.

Even within porn there is stratification. Women who engage in specifically interracial or edgier scenes are viewed as somehow “lower” by other performers. I was marginalized within the industry for my work on a rough sex website. I’ve witnessed colleagues receive racist epithets for their work on interracial productions. Gay or trans performers are particularly ostracized by the mainstream due to the AIDS stigma attached to their work.

Eunice: This is a really important point here, that not all sex work is treated equally, even by sex workers. So we ran a little poll to see how people think about sex work —- not scientific at all, just to kind of gauge the wind, as it were — and we asked the question “How would you rank sex work from most definitely “counts” as sex work to “counts least” or “doesn’t count” as sex work?”. Then we asked people to order them from “definitely counts” at the top to “counts less” down to “doesn’t count” at the bottom. We didn’t get very many responses, so take this with a grain of salt, but what we did get matched what we expected. You can find the link to the full data set at the show notes.

Joreth: Yeah, we all seem to have a very similar set of ideas on what our culture tells us “counts” as sex work, and the poll reflected that. As expected, people felt that their backgrounds taught them that “street prostitutes” and “brothel workers” counted the most as sex work while the various forms of dancers and erotic writers counted the least.

Franklin: Yet unquestionably erotic writers are paid for creating a sexual experience for the reader. By the first definition we read, erotic writers count.

Eunice: Yeah, but there’s a long history of classic erotic writing, which has left it with some classist overtones—Lady Chatterley’s Lover, or Fanny Hill, or the Marquis de Sade, anyone? 

Joreth:  Song of Solomon in the bible?

Eunice: And we already know that the higher up that privilege ladder you are, the less likely it is that the things you do will be stigmatised. We’ve had whole discussions on the difference between ‘porn’ novels and ‘erotica’ novels, when really it’s all a matter of personal opinion and taste.

Joreth: Erotic writers are just *writing*, they’re not actually performing or interacting sexually with anyone, so that’s not, like, “real sex work”, right?

Franklin: I wonder if some of those conservative Evangelical Christian groups we mentioned would see it that way.

Joreth: I bet some of those conservative Evangelical Christians *write porn* under pseudonyms.

Franklin: I bet you’re right, and I further wager it isn’t very good.

Joreth:  *cough*50 Shades*cough* (fucking Mormon Twilight fanfic) oops, did I say that out loud?  Excuse me.  Anyway, our little poll reflected what Belle Knox said in her article.  It seemed consistent with her rule of thumb that the closer one is to both cops and clients, the lower on the whorearchy the job sits.

So, what does that mean for sex workers? What does this tell us about sex workers and how our culture treats sex workers?

Franklin: Human beings are social and hierarchical animals. We evolved that way, so it’s not surprising we would impose a hierarchy in pretty much every kind of social interaction we do. If you have a hierarchy, you have someone on the bottom, and as they say, shit rolls downhill. Part of the function of a hierarchy is to tell you who it’s okay to be mean to.

Given how many societies think of sex as something dirty and yucky to begin with, surrounded by walls that clearly specify what kind of sex is permitted and what kind isn’t, it’s not surprising that so many societies see commercial sex as transgressive and taboo.

Eunice: And given that’s the case, it’s no wonder it’s often done by some of the most marginalised people in a society. Our poll didn’t separate out gender, orientation or race among sex workers, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised to find out that if you are gay or trans or a person of colour, that will also affect your position on the whorearchy, relative to straight, cis, white counterparts. In many ways, it’s a just microcosm of the way that many privileges function in mainstream, wider society.

Joreth: Right? Like, I bet it wouldn’t be all that hard for our listeners to re-take that poll but then imagine what if the various sex worker category was for a *trans* person doing it, and if they’re answering based on what they feel that person’s place is in society (not their own personal feelings about the sex worker), I’m pretty sure most people would rank gay or trans or POC sex work as “definitely counts as sex work” much higher than if a straight white cis person was doing. it.

So, like, if I said “does escort ‘count’ as sex work”, and y’all put it wherever you put it on the scale of society thinks “definitely” to “nope, society doesn’t count it”, and then I said “what about a GAY escort?” or “what about a TRANS escort”, I’d be willing to bet that a lot more people would say it “counts” a lot more as “sex work” in the culture of their upbringing.

Franklin: In the Jezebel article, Belle Knox does say that part of what she calls the “whorearchy” is about the people doing it as much as what’s being done, which sounds about like what we’d expect from, you know, people.

Eunice: And another group who often don’t really jump to mind when it comes to sex work, but who are definitely part of the whorearchy, is male sex workers. 

Joreth: Men and sexism in the sex industry is weird. Like, if we ask Westerners to imagine a porn performer, or a sex worker, or an escort, they almost always immediately think of women. Well, if they think of porn, they might think of 2 men: the first is Ron Jeremy, and the second name will basically tell you how old they are based on who they come up with. But otherwise, the image of the industry revolves around women.

Eunice: Yeah, whenever you think about sex work, whether it’s porn, erotic dance, full service sex work, whatever, it’s usually an image of a woman, right? The woman is the one you want to see or, well, whatever. And that’s reflected in the pay too. According to the US Census in 2016, there are very few jobs — including special-education teachers, counselors, and TSA screeners — where women earn more than men. That list should also include porn stars, although as you can imagine the US census doesn’t like to mention that.

Joreth: From an article on Refinery 29:

“Men are paid a fixed rate per scene based on their reputation (gay male porn has a separate pay scale that, for sake of brevity, isn’t explored in this story), while women earn different wages based on their star power and the sex act. … data journalist Jon Millward conducted the largest study of porn actors thus far by using a sample of 10,000 performers listed on the Internet Adult Film Database. He found that 70% of performers were women and the average career span of a porn actress was between six and 18 months. He also found that 96% of the most prolific performers were male.”

Franklin: We wanted to talk to someone who doesn’t fit the stereotypical idea of what a sex worker looks like, so we’ve interviewed a male performer and cam model. We wanted to get a new perspective that’s a bit outside what most of us think of as what a sex worker looks like.

Joreth: We had the opportunity in the previous episode on OnlyFans to have a text exchange with one sex worker and an audio interview with another, but both of them are perceived as women, which is what most people think of when they hear the term “sex worker”.

We wanted to talk to someone with a different sort of experience, so we asked Andrew, who identifies as a straight man, if he would be willing to tell us about his experience in the sex work industry.

Eunice: Hi! So we have Andrew with us who was a sex worker. And Andrew, ould you like to introduce some of the stuff you did? What were you doing and how did you get into it? 

Andrew: Well, I kind of fell into it because I was out of work and looking for a way to make money. Actually I had a young family at the time and I needed a way to make money quick and I had the right assets for porn work. And so it was just something that I kind of fell into because I needed work. And I ended up doing porn work for about six months to fill in the gap between having another full time employment. 

Eunice: Cool! So was it just porn or were there other types of sex work you were doing as well? 

Andrew: Well, it started with just porn. I think like most people that dream of being a porn star. The first thing they think of is, you know, starring in their own feature length film. So I started with that, but I found that there was very little of it being filmed in Florida at the time. 

So after making several trips to South Florida and then to Tampa, and still finding work pretty scarce, I ended up learning more about doing Webcam shows, which were very popular at the time, so I found that I could make a lot of money just doing cam shows. 

So I turned to that and did that, like I said, for most of six months. And while doing the cam shows, I ended up, like I think many people do once they get into sex work, doing other things on the side. You know, doing meets with fans for money. So I would have adoring fans that would be willing to pay me several hundred dollars just to go down on me, and I would go and meet them. And I did that a few times until one such meet went horribly south, and at that point I broke it off and didn’t do it again. 

And around that time I found another job, so it worked out pretty well. 

Joreth: That’s like everybody dream when they think about it as getting a feature length film. 

Eunice: Impressive that that’s what you start with . 

Andrew: Now that’s that’s the dream, and so that’s what everyone wants to start out doing. But what I quickly discovered was that the only way for that to work, practically speaking, was to move to California. At the time, there just weren’t enough films being shot in Florida, so I ended up going into webcam shows and then as a way to extra money, oing live meets with people until an experience went horrible with somebody that I met agreed to meet with and I was all but kidnapped. And around that time, luckily I found another job because it scared me and I got out of the business. 

Eunice: Yeah, that sounds incredibly tough and unsurprising that you chose to leave after that. 

Andrew: Yeah, it was a very very bad experience. I don’t necessarily want to start with that. It’s something I haven’t really thought about a lot since it happened. But, you know, I was so desperate for money at the time that instead of fleeing a bad situation, which I should have done, I stuck around, allowed myself to be basically held captive all night, hoping the person would actually pay me. And finally they did pay me some money and I left, and then the next morning they contacted me on Facebook because I had managed to let slip my name while I was there, and they declared that I was closeted homosexual and that I needed to come out of the closet. And he was going to help me do that by contacting all of my contacts on Facebook and letting them know that I was secretly gay, and that way he and I could fulfill our love affair that we were destined to have. And I immediately blocked him and luckily never heard from him again. 

So I think I managed to block him before he was able to contact anyone on Facebook. Or that could have just been a threat to try to, you know, coerce me into meeting him again, which is what he wanted. 

Franklin: Wow. Wow.

Eunice: That sounds terrifying. 

Joreth: Yeah. You say you were doing porn. You were doing gay porn but you don’t identify as gay, is that correct? 

Andrew: Yes. I mean it’s a little more complicated than that. I started out doing straight porn, and the feature-length films that I did were straight porn, but I ended up being offered money to do a gay film and I did it. And so yeah it was interesting as a straight man to have my first homosexual experience be behind the camera.

But I don’t think it’s actually that unusual. Once I was in the industry, I found that you really didn’t know the orientation of a sex worker or an actor based upon the type of film it was. They literally contact you ahead of time and ask you what kind of—how should I put it—stimulation materials you need to get ready to go onstage. So they’ll ask you your orientation. They’ll never assume based on what kind of film it is, what your sexual orientation is. 

Franklin: How many people who do gay male porn would you say, in your experiences, don’t identify as gay?

Andrew: Based on my experience, and again I well I didn’t do that many feature length films, but I would say about 1/4, let’s say about 25%. 

Franklin: Huh, interesting.

Andrew: But that’s just one little anecdote. 

Joreth: And you said you did about three straight films before. 

Andrew: I did. I did three straight films, and then I did the one gay film, and then I did some sex toy modeling for a website so they would do little intro clips introducing their sex toys. That was a place out of Tampa, so I had sex with different cock rings and with fake vaginas, Fleshlight and the like. 

Franklin: Yeah, it’s interesting that you say that because that’s something that I think a lot of people probably wouldn’t call “sex work.” And yet, if you think about it, it really is. You know, by the definitions that we’ve been using on the podcast that totally qualifies as sex work. 

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. I would agree. And then that was the point which I discovered the webcam website and started doing webcam shows. 

Joreth: So the webcam stuff, this was before Onlyfans was a thing, wasn’t it? 

Andrew: Oh, I would certainly think so. I didn’t hear about it at the time. This was about…wow, how many years ago was this? 13, 14 years ago. 2008? 

Joreth: So pretty early for getting into the webcam stuff. That was a fledgling section of the industry. 

Franklin: When you were doing webcam work, did you have any way to track the demographics of your audience? Were your audience primarily, men, primarily, women, primarily couples or anything? You know, do you have any of that information? 

Andrew: There was—obviously there’s no way to know for sure, but I learned very quickly that my audience  was primarily gay men. I think that my body type just seemed to work for that. I have what they would call swimmer’s build—very thin, muscular build—and with a large cock that’s very disproportionate to my size. 

So my audience was primarily identifying as male on the webcam sites, and so I took them at their word that they were primary male. 

Eunice: So did you know, like, many other male sex workers? Was there a community or was that kind of isolated? 

Andrew: I think there was a little bit of a community. I did make a few connections, a few friendships, but I mostly avoided that just because I was a family man. Married with kids with a very conservative extended family. So I was very much trying to keep this separated from my private life. 

Eunice: Got you. 

Joreth: Now, how did your spouse feel about this? 

Andrew: Well, I was out of work with a mortgage and children and so, you know, she wanted to be able to pay the mortgage. So I think that due to very practical motivations that she was supportive at the time. 

In fact, she even came to the films that I shot in South Florida. And after the first one, which was a complete nightmare for me, she served as my own personal fluffer and then by the third shoot she was fluffing half the men in the building. So she was…I would come off of a set and she’d be in the hallway with literally penis in her mouth and one in each arm, one at each hand I should say, fluffing the other members of the cast. So she definitely got into it by the third film. 

Eunice: And her own, like, it kind of became a bit of a family business. 

Franklin: Yeah, that’s interesting because that’s the first actual, like, documented occurrence of a fluffer I’ve ever heard of, because all the time that I’ve ever been on set watching porn being filmed, there was never anybody to do that. 

Franklin: But of course this was always post-Viagra, and so I’ve always sort of thought that fluffers were kind of an urban legend. And I guess maybe that’s not the case. 

Andrew: Yes, well, there there was Viagra at the time, but I gotta say that at that time Viagra was harder to get ahold of, and very expensive. So there wasn’t the generic Viagra that you see now, which is very easy to get ahold of. So it definitely was around. But it was harder to get your hands on. And nothing beats a live person outside of a set. 

Joreth: So then, with your wife being so accepting of this, can we assume that you had some form of a nonmonogamous marriage before you went into porn? Or was this the introduction to it? 

Andrew: Yes, absolutely. We we were non-monogamous, we were swingers. I didn’t know what polyamory was at the time, but we had been swingers for a couple of years before this happened. So I do think that helped a lot with the transition to this kind of work and with the acceptance of my life and. 

Andrew: And yes, she wasn’t just, you know, a  one-man woman that had had no experience with group sex suddenly thrust on the on a set serving as a fluffer for three practically random strangers. That wasn’t the case. No, we had done a little bit of swinging, it so it wasn’t that new to her. But she was much appreciated by the cast, I mean that sincerely. 

Joreth: So did you have a chance to have many conversations with any other sex workers and maybe to discuss the differences between what it was like as a man in the industry versus the women in the industry? 

Joreth: Or did you have any observations? You know, did it seem any different being a man in the industry?

Andrew: Well, I felt like it was very different right from the start. For, you know, the first set that I ever showed up on. The woman was in makeup for about two hours after I arrived. And it was a gangbang scene and there were, I think, five of us men waiting around for…it was at least two hours, and that was after I arrived. And I heard she had already been there. So she was getting her makeup and hair and everything done for several hours while we were sitting around waiting for her. She was paid approximately 10 times as much as each of us was paid. 

So I I definitely felt like that in porn, the women were the stars of the show and we were just extras. Now, part of that was obviously because of the type of shoot it was, being a gangbang scene, but I definitely felt that way. 

Joreth: How did it feel when you switch to the gay film? What were some of the differences being on set for that when there were no women around? 

Andrew: Oh, it’s a lot different. It’s like night and day. And I do think that that’s one of the reasons that porn actors, whether gay or straight, male actors I mean, will transition to that. Because it’s different when there isn’t a prima donna having her makeup done for two hours while you wait around like extras. It’s definitely a different world. 

You know, it’s interesting since we’re we’re talking about  my first shoot, it was a very shocking experience, but going to my first video shoot I thought that they would be simple and easy and I thought that I would just go in there and just blow everyone away with my sexual prowess and my giant penis. And being on that set the first time was completely different than I expected. 

For one thing, getting erect on a set where you have, you know, someone with a camera, someone holding up lighting and other men there…it was very difficult to get aroused. It was very difficult to get an erection. And even when I got an erection and I I started to  getting into the scene and having sex, it was as if there were no nerve endings in my penis. I literally felt like it might as well been skin on my arm and not my penis, but I I literally couldn’t feel sensation. So I don’t know if that’s nerves or or what, but I literally lost sensation in my penis. And so so yeah, I was completely shocked by how difficult it was. Nothing like what I imagined going into it. 

Eunice: With it being, like, so different than people imagine, and actually so much tougher than people imagine, do you think, like, what’s the turnover rate? Did you see lots of new faces? Or did you, you know, see sort of the same people consistently each time? Did people leave and, you know, new people enter frequently? 

Andrew: Absolutely, for the a low budget film like that that I was shooting doing a gangbang scenes with a theme. They were themed gangbang scenes where you had, it was interracial, where you had multiple male or white men with one black woman. That was the theme of the of the video.

And for those scenes, they would literally hire two or three extra men than they needed for the scene, under the assumption that about a third of the men were not going to be able to get erect and perform on set. 

Joreth: Oh wow.

Andrew: So absolutely the rate of failure is very high, and they build that in to the men that they bring on set. They absolutely expect beginners like that to fail at a high percentage. 

Joreth: Did they have any backup women? 

Andrew: *Laughs* No, absolutely not. Again, the woman was the star. She was paid about ten times as much as we were, and I mean that literally. I think she got 3000 for the scene and we got 300 for each scene. 

Joreth: Wow

Andrew: So like yeah I know there was only one woman. And yeah it seemed like a gangbang scene is the kind of scene that they bring beginners in for. They assume there’s going to be a high failure rate. 

Joreth: That’s interesting. Did you continue to do gang bangs or did you do different types of shoots as you went along? 

Andrew: I didn’t do a lot of films. So I did three films in South Florida, and yeah, that was, you know, the beginner kind of work you could get. So yes, I did a lot of that. And then did the the gay film with someone who was an established actor that was looking for people. You know, new talent, ’cause he branched out. Going on his own. He started his own website, which I guess was the thing back about ten years ago. People were just starting to try to do that. There was no OnlyFans. But they were trying to start their own websites to get a higher percentage of the profits.

So there was someone that I met who had been a one of the cameramen from one of the other films I did. I made contact with him, I guess old fashioned networking. And he contacted me and said that there was a gay film for someone that was, you know, starting his own site, and would I be willing to do that? And the money was a lot better and I I don’t honestly remember what the money was anymore, but it was a lot better than what I was making doing the straight porn. So I gave it a shot and actually did quite well. 

I think that it was, a lot of ways, easier, because it was a smaller set with only a few people there instead of the films in South Florida where there were a dozen people, probably, on set. 

Joreth: So it sounds like you got in like right around the cusp of when porn stopped being a big studio market, and people started branching out on their own and maybe even the amateur started to rise. 

Andrew: Yes, I actually think that is what was going on at this time. About 12 to 14 years ago. I do think that’s what was going on. 

Andrew: I think I was seeing the beginnings of that. Porn actors starting to say, “why are we letting the studios make all the money?” It’s not that hard to have your own website and start their own sites. And it was a great experience doing a film with an established actor. 

Franklin: You said that you were making a lot more money doing the gay porn than with straight porn. How did that compare with how much money you were making when you were doing webcams? 

Andrew: Well, doing webcam work is an entirely different scenario. It’s more like a nine to five job, and the work is a lot steadier. So it’s difficult to compare, but it’s a lot more steady income. I mean, it’s really hours you put in is going to be the amount of money you make, and I was very good at it. I was able to make a lot of money by putting in a lot of hours. I was actually with a large website. One of the, there’s two or three that dominated the industry, and I was with one of the larger ones. And I was able to be the, you know, webcam guy of the week, I think my second or third week there, meaning I made more than any other male actor for the site. But it’s a different kind of money. It’s nice, steady money, hours and hours out. 

Andrew: Of course, it had its own problems. I had some serious problems doing the webcam work. It’s not easy work either. 

Joreth: What kind of problems? 

Andrew: Well, the problem with doing webcam work is staying erect. The hours you put into it is going to determine how much money you make. But we’re talking about hours being erect in front of the camera masturbating.

So in order to stay erect for hours and hours and hours, I started turning to Viagra. I started trying to find something better than Viagra, and in that case, in my case, it was the shots. I don’t know if you’re familiar with they have shots that you can inject directly into your penis to create an erection, so I was able to find a couple people that had prescriptions for that. And to begin with, after that the one week, actually the week that I was the webcam performer of the week, I had to take three days off because my penis was purple. It was literally purple and swollen and I didn’t know what I had done to it. 

Joreth: Oh no!

Andrew: I’d never seen anything like that. It was terrifying, but after about three days it it was fine. And then a few weeks later I ended up injecting too much of the chemical erectile dysfunction drug, and I had to go to the hospital because the erection wouldn’t go away. So I had an erection I don’t even remember anymore, but it was probably 3 hours, I think before I went to the hospital.

Joreth: Wow. 

Eunice: Oof, that sounds uncomfortable. 

Franklin: Yes, yes it does. 

Eunice: Right?

Franklin: Oh man, that makes the eyes water. 

Andrew: It was actually so much worse than uncomfortable, you can’t imagine. When you have an erection that long, and there’s no circulation, the pain becomes absolutely unbelievable.

Joreth: Oh no. 

Andrew: It feels like someone is crushing your testicles. That’s what it feels like. And it’s constant. It becomes constant after about two to three hours. This constant sensation of having your testicles crushed. That’s what it feels like. And I was told that what I was experienced is the blood literally starting to rot and you can get gangrene and lose your penis if they don’t do something about it. Which is why you have to go to the hospital. 

Joreth: And now every listener of ours who has a penis right now is crossing their legs, wincing. 

Franklin: Yep, I’m crossing mine. 

Andrew: Yes, I I definitely don’t recommend it at all. I think it’s called a priapism. It’s been so long I may be saying that or remembering that wrong, but there is a word for it. And I’ve managed to get rid of the erection after about four hours at the hospital and lived happily ever after. Still have a fully functioning penis with no side effects, but yeah, that was absolutely terrifying. Even worse than when my penis was purple and swollen for three days.

Franklin: Yikes. 

Joreth: So there are some risks to doing this dream job. 

Andrew: Yeah, it’s definitely not a dream job. That’s the funny thing. Yeah, anyone that glorifies the idea of doing sex work is not understanding what it’s really like. There’s definitely drawbacks with every part of it. And in this case, doing webcam shows, if you want to make the money, you’ve got to masturbate over and over and over again, and I don’t think our penises are really designed for the amount of work that someone like an ambitious webcammer like myself, was putting it through. I don’t think they’re designed to for eight to 10 hours of masturbation a day.

Joreth: Constant stimulation. 

Franklin: And it’s kind of ironic if you think about it that women get paid more than men for sex work, and yet it’s actually physiologically easier work for women than for men. 

Joreth: Yeah, as long as we have Lube we can keep going. 

Andrew: Yes, I would agree. 

Franklin: I’m looking at Eunice as we’re recording this on the video and she looks horrified. 

Andrew: Yes, I I’m sure there are many other ways in which the psychological effects are similar or the same. But when it comes to the anatomy, there’s definitely an advantage for women. 

Joreth: Yeah, I mean we can’t keep going indefinitely. There’s muscles involved and, you know, it gets sore after a while. But if we have lube, we can go longer than the interest is there, if necessary. But people with penises, I think, have a little bit harder in that area. 

Franklin: I see what you did there. “A little bit harder.” Yuck yuck, yuck. 

Joreth: Pun intended. 

Eunice: Do you think it’s likely that any of that will have changed in the sort of decade decade and a half since you were working in the industry? Or would you say that you know on the ground for like any individual porn actor, it’s fairly similar. 

Andrew: I think that the industry economically has probably changed a lot. I think that the actors are getting probably a larger share of the pie now because of the changes that were already beginning to happen 14 years ago when I was in the industry. But I think that some of the  physical challenges, like with a man doing webcam work, have probably not changed. I can imagine trying to put in eight hours of masturbation in front of the camera is still about the same as it was then. 

Joreth: You’ve mentioned some risk before, and part of the risk is that sex work is not really seen as a legitimate form of work, so, you know, if there’s any danger that happens… You know, like, if my coworker harasses me at work, I can go to HR and have this taken care of, right? But you don’t necessarily have that option doing really any part of sex work, either from porn all the way down to street prostitution. 

So how do you think that manifested, for instance, as a man, like what recourse might you have had? Or do you feel like maybe you didn’t even have any recourse if things had gone wrong, if you had never gotten any money? And do you think there are any differences between the genders in when there’s risk involved? 

Andrew: I think that’s that’s a great question, and I think that there’s obviously less risk for a man. For example, if he goes out like I did on several occasions to meet with fans to make extra money like I’m thinking, it’s absolutely easy money, right? Go meet with a fan. He plays with your penis a little while and you make a whole bunch of money. And I’m taking the risks are almost nothing, and they’re not, they’re not almost nothing, there’s definite risks there, but the risks for me are mostly social risk. Like in the case where  that went south for me, the risk of him trying to contact my family, trying to out me as a sex worker, or in this case as being homosexual, even though I really wasn’t, and these are the risks for me. I’m not as concerned about my physical safety. I’m very good at defending myself, but the social risks I think are pretty much the same.

But physically, I think it’s definitely more dangerous for women. For me that the biggest danger is destruction of my family life. For a woman, there’s more danger than it’s a destruction of her actual life being, you know, raped or killed by someone. 

And it’s not to say that that danger isn’t there, wasn’t there for me as well, and isn’t there for men as well, but I do think that there is more risk to their personal safety for women than for men. 

Joreth: Yeah, and then, if anything were to happen, of course there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, right? I mean, maybe you could go to the police if you were doing something legitimate like porn. But you know, maybe you can’t, right? If, for instance, if you hadn’t gotten any of your money on a shoot or something, like, what is there that could be done about that? 

Andrew: Yeah, I I agree, I never felt like there was recourse from the authorities from the police or from the courts for anything in porn, because by doing that, I would be outing myself. And again the real danger for me was having a very conservative extended family, and not wanting to risk my family and social life. 

Joreth: It just seems like it’s a much riskier type of job than most other jobs because of the under the table nature of it, right? There’s not a whole lot you can do if things go wrong. 

Eunice: And the stigma from everyone outside of the industry itself. 

Andrew: Yes, I would never have dared to go to the police or to the courts to try to get recourse. And that’s why I felt on the one occasion, the last time I did any sex work, what I felt like I was being kidnapped by someone who refused to pay me unless I spent the night, it was my own poverty, was my own need for money, mt that point, my own need to make a mortgage payment, or at that point it was probably a rent payment. I think I’d already lost my house. At that point, my own poverty was holding me captive. I felt I had to do what he asked because at that point I was so desperate to make that payment. That’s why I met with him. I didn’t want to leave without the money, so he was able to hold me captive by holding out the money. 

So yeah, I’m sure that’s the same danger that any male or female has sex worker who who is desperate for money the same position they’re in. 

Joreth: Right, ’cause like I’m a freelancer and you know I’m constantly having to chase down employers for my paychecks. Because as a freelancer, they conveniently forget to pay us. In fact, I have a client right now who is now about 45 days out from a job who still hasn’t paid me. So I’m chasing that down. But you know, eventually I could take him to court over this, because this is in above-the-board type of job, and we had, you know I have a text message agreement for the money and that’s not something that your industry really has. 

Andrew: Yes, correct and even if it did I would be afraid of outing myself. I wouldn’t even access it if it was there. I would be too afraid of my family or friends finding out that I was doing sex work. 

Franklin: Thank you so much for being on the show. That is absolutely awesome. And I really appreciate the fact that you know most people when they think “sex work,”” the first thing they think, of course, is female sex workers, and so it’s particularly nice to get an opportunity to talk to a male sex worker, because it sounds like your experiences with the industry are quite different from the experiences that women have, you know, doing porn. 

Joreth: Did you have any other points that you wanted to make sure that we got out that weren’t addressed Andrew? 

Andrew: I think that the main message that I would want to convey is that it’s real work.  Just having the right equipment, in other words, a large penis, is not enough. You have to think about the real challenges involved and those are maintaining an erection for long periods of time. And yeah, it’s it’s real work, it’s doing this. Having sex in front of a bunch of people, it’s not as easy as it sounds. 

Joreth: And a lot of time involved too, right? It’s not like, you know, if you’re having sex with your partner, you could just have a quickie, but you don’t get to do that on camera, right? 

Andrew: No, no. 

Eunice: Yeah, really physically demanding, time consuming work. 

Andrew: Yes, absolutely. It’s it’s very physically demanding, and that’s the part that I don’t think most people think about when they think of going into sex work. 

Franklin: All right, thank you so much for being here! This has been awesome. 

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: Yeah, really interesting. Yeah, thank you so much Andrew. And for sharing so much information with us as well. 

Andrew: You’re welcome. 

Franklin: I was struck by the fact that when Andrew did gang bang porn, the male performers didn’t do AIM testing.

Eunice: I mean, it makes sense when you think about it. They’re already expecting a certain number of the male newbie performers to just not be able to get it up once in front of the camera. So, if a bunch of them aren’t even going to get near being, well, in their female co-performer, financially there’s just no point in doing AIM testing for all of them, really. Budgets are tight enough as it is on a porn shoot. Every dollar saved is a dollar they can spend elsewhere!

Franklin: Condoms are pretty effective against HIV, but I would still feel a lot more comfortable with testing if I were one of the people there.

Eunice: Oh for sure, me too. Mind you, it’s been a very long time since I’ve been involved in group sex, for obvious reasons. 

Joreth: Well, I mean, condoms are what the porn community used before AIM. And if *she’s* been tested, and everyone else she’s having sex with is using condoms, and everyone else she’s having sex with has a penis, and STDs typically have a harder time going from vagina to penis, and all those penises are in condoms … 

Franklin: I mean, sure, as long as none of them breaks!

Joreth: True.

Eunice: And I’m glad that we got to talk about how difficult and challenging a job it actually is. Sometimes that aspect of it does get de-emphasised, when people who are SWer positive are thinking about the industry, right? We talk about people who are doing it because they do love their job, or at least find it a lot less effort for significantly more money, than other types of work like retail or being a carer, but the underlying pressure to make enough money to survive is still the same. There’s exploitation in all industries, but this is one of the ones where it’s particularly hard to protect yourself. Like we mentioned before, the stigma makes it easier for those in authority to continue the exploitation with very little complaint from the general public.

Joreth: Right, we want to de-villify the industry so that we can legitimize it in our culture, but *because* it’s still not considered legitimate, there are still some risks, even for buff, hunky male sex workers. It’s a gamble, financially, emotionally, and physically. I mean, lots of jobs are, but that’s the point, isn’t it? That it’s still a *job*, even if a lot more people than one might expect enjoy it.

Franklin: A big thank-you to Andrew for appearing in this episode. That was an awesome interview.

Joreth: Yeah, I really enjoyed that one, and Andrew has LOTS of stories from his short career. I bet we could get him back on here to tell more tales, perhaps as some Patreon content?

Eunice: Ooh, yeah, I’d be up for that! Trust us, some of his stories are just comedy gold. Let us know if you’d like that, folks!

Joreth: Yeah, we’re all rolling over here when he told us some of them!

Franklin: So that’s what we’ve got for this episode! In our next episode, we’ll talk about some of the history of sex work in various ancient cultures. And as always, if you have any ideas, comments, or suggestions for future episodes send them to contact@skepticalpervert.com. Know someone else who might enjoy this podcast? Give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can also visit www.skepticalpervert.com for show notes and links to the transcript. And don’t forget to become a patron of the show by joining our patreon, which is linked on the website. The Skeptical Pervert is copyrighted and produced by Franklin Veaux, Eunice Hung, and Joreth Innkeeper, edited by Joreth Innkeeper, and the website and show notes are maintained by Franklin Veaux.

Joreth: Don’t forget to tip your Sex Workers, folks!

Eunice: Obligatory note to remind people that tipping culture is a scam, but yeah, tip your workers and entertainers! I mean, including us if you fancy. Does it even count as a tip when you’re not paying anything else? Hmm, I think that might be a philosophical question now… 

Joreth: The Skeptical Pervert … will work for tips. Just the tip.

Eunice: Nah, I’m looking for the whole shaft. Ooh, did I say that out loud? Whoops!

Franklin: Everything I can think of to say here is unspeakably crude.

Eunice: Hang on, isn’t that our brand at this point?

Joreth: That wouldn’t have stopped me.

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