Pornography Actors: A Qualitative Analysis of Motivations and Dislikes

By Griffith, James D.; Adams, Lea T. et al. | North American Journal of Psychology, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Pornography Actors: A Qualitative Analysis of Motivations and Dislikes


Griffith, James D., Adams, Lea T., Hart, Christian L., Kruger, Sharon Mitchell Alex, Phares, Bekah, Forbes, Randy, Finkenbinder, Ashley, North American Journal of Psychology


Issues regarding the production and consumption of pornographic materials continue to be an intensely debated social topic. As with most controversial topics, there are fervent advocates on both sides of the debate regarding the effects or non-effects of pornography on the viewers, as well as the actors and actresses who appear in adult films. Women involved in the adult entertainment industry are typically of more interest than men because anti-pornography advocates have focused on the effects of pornography as it relates to women. For example, some writers (e.g., Dworkin, 1989; MacKinnon, 1993) have asserted that female porn actresses are in desperate conditions and are coerced into participation. Another view is that pornography is used by men as a guide to hate and abuse women (Jeffreys, 1988). Thus, the controversy regarding pornography has largely focused on women as victims and men as the perpetrators both within and outside of the pornography industry.

It is common to use the assumed motivational, psychological, and behavioral characteristics of individuals in the adult entertainment industry as a foundation for judging the many facets of pornography. Evans-DeCicco and Cowan (2001) demonstrated that negative views regarding pornography are associated with negative perceptions of the performers who act in X-rated films. What is known about actors in the adult entertainment industry largely remains speculative at best because the actual characteristics of porn actors have not been reported and the majority of the available reports focused on porn actresses (e.g., Campbell, 1990; Gittler, 1999; Lovelace, 1980; Strossen, 1995; Wilkenson, 1994), and was anecdotal in nature. Data on the characteristics of male actors in the pornography industry are very limited, but nevertheless are important because they are a necessary component in the production of adult films. In essence, it is of interest to examine the views of pornography actors to determine if they were motivated to become porn actors for exploitative purposes and if they think the adult entertainment industry is exploitative in nature.

One question that has plagued researchers is to determine why someone would become involved as an actor in the pornography industry. Evans-DeCicco and Cowan (2001) examined attitudes toward porn actors and actresses comparing across gender. One finding reported in the study suggested that the assumed motivations for pursuing a career in pornography for porn actors ranked in descending order were the money, liking the work, fulfilling a fantasy, sexual liberation, lack of employment opportunities, and coercion. Although this was an interesting finding, the results were based on public perceptions of why individuals would pursue a career in pornography. The main obstacle that has deterred researchers has been gaining access to this population (e.g., Abromovich, 2005), as pornography is an industry that is generally not open to outsiders. Several case studies (Faludi, 1999; Stoller & Levine, 1993), however, have reported that pornography actors were not accepting of social norms, lacked employment opportunities, and came from backgrounds involving childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The most extensive research on porn actors, to date, was completed by Abbott (2000), who conducted interviews with 19 male actors. Abbott's study focused on the motivations associated with entering and staying in the adult entertainment industry. Based on her interviews, reasons for choosing a career as a porn actor included money, fame/glamour, freedom/independence, opportunity/sociability, and having sex. Although she provided an important step in understanding this group, the sample size was fairly small, which restricted generalizations. The frequency of responses remain unknown, thus one was unable to rank the importance of various motivators, and domains other than motivation were not explored.

At present, there is very little known about the actual characteristics of porn actors because there has been only one study that has been conducted on this difficult-to-access group of individuals. …

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