About the author: SexArt member BlackWing has a Bachelor of Science in Health and Safety Education, minor in Physiology, and a Master of Science in Computer Science, Network Engineering Concentration. BlackWing is also a fully qualified and experienced paramedic and personal fitness trainer who enjoys outdoor activities, running, martial arts, teaching, mentoring, and hacking.
Part I of this series (published November 30th 2015) examined the cultural, etymological, and societal definitions of erotica and pornography. Part II of this series examines the potential differences between these two as it may or may not apply to the professionals working in each industry. The reader should be aware that although this information is drawn from statistical analysis and data that is clearly published, and although there will be generalizations drawn, in no way is the information provided here intended to stigmatize, define, and/or stereotype any one group or person(s), or industries as whole. The purpose of this article is to open a healthy debate regarding the differences and similarities between these two subjects.
In 2012, a study refuted various claims of the so-called “Damaged Goods Hypothesis,” which is often cited by those who seek to denigrate the Adult Industry. The results of this study suggested that: “Porn actresses were more likely to identify as bisexual, first had sex at an earlier age, had more sexual partners, were more concerned about contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and enjoyed sex more than the matched sample, although there were no differences in incidence of CSA [child sexual abuse] … porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group.” i
The reader should take note that the abovementioned study was published in The Journal of Sex Research, which is a peer-reviewed academic journal. As such this research and subsequent analysis lends significant credibility to the findings of the study. An analysis of this study by Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals is quite illuminating: “…Some women who work in the adult industry are more adjusted in some respects relative to some ‘typical’ women. This study never once suggests ALL of anyone about anything and goes so far as to out-and-out declare that its findings are NOT representative of ALL porn performers. This is good.” ii This statement by Dr. Tibbals is key for two compelling reasons: upon reading the research it is clear that the numbers debunk the myth that most, if not all, women who work as porn actresses are “Damaged Goods,” but equally importantly, clearly state that the researchers are in no way making sweeping claims as to the universality or otherwise of evidence that suggests that porn actresses are more well adjusted than women who are not in the industry – meaning there are no false, unscientific, quintessential claims being made by the researchers regarding porn actresses and those who are not porn actresses.
Furthermore, there is substantial, anecdotal evidence from Erotic Film Professionals themselves to support the claim that the relationships built in the Adult Erotic Film industry are caring, supportive, interactive, and professional; not to mention the fact that many of the professionals who participate in said industry appear, on the basis of this and a few other studies, to have a better, more well adjusted view of sex, sexuality, and the expression and enjoyment of both – albeit such studies are few and far between, possibly due to the stigmatization of the Adult Film Industry as a whole.
There are issues with the study, as Dr. Tibbals and the researchers themselves point out. The study is not generalizable, meaning that while there were a significant number of women included in the study, their numbers were relatively low in comparison to the numbers who work in the industry as a whole. The second issue pointed out by Dr. Tibbals is that there was no clear definition as to what criteria constitutes a porn actress and what criteria does not. Finally, as the researchers themselves point out: “…some of the measures were problematic. Some measures used for sexual behaviors and attitudes were single-item indicators with unknown validities and reliabilities. As an example, participants were asked if they were victims of CSA without further clarifications or definitions. Thus, it is quite possible that a given behavior in a particular situation may have been perceived as CSA by one individual but not by another. Another issue with regard to measures is that education was not examined. Education has been found to be related to a variety of sex-related constructs and would have been a sound matching variable, and its inclusion should be strongly considered in future studies.” iii
This statement by the researchers is telling. Sexual attitudes and behaviors were single line items and thus could be confusing when the questionnaire was administered to the participants, (i.e. does this mean that?), and most significantly, the level of education of the participants was not verified nor taken into account; as Dr. Tabbals points out, this is quite an “amateurish mistake,” given that many of the study’s participants are either in or just leaving college. The question is, why does any of this matter? It matters because of the initial findings of the study: “porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group.” The next question is, if this is even partially correct: why is this the case?
A possible explanation for this fact could be that the industry as a whole is undergoing a tremendous and significant change. This change is characterized by the introduction of diverse groups of individuals who bring into the profession their own cultural, moral, ethical, and world views, and this change is largely driven by the emergence of more female directors. For example, just recently (as of this writing) an article by writer Nikki Gloudeman appeared on the Huffington Post blog site titled “4 Female Adult Film Producers Talk Porn For Women.” iv The Directors interviewed – Angie Rowntree, Anna Frolicme, Jacky St. James, and Erika Lust – all agreed that for them, filming, directing, shooting, and producing Adult Film is about “Being able to explore our sexuality and our fantasies in a variety of ways, especially through film, [that] can be helpful in our own self discovery and sexual development,” (James). By bringing the female perspective into the production, casting and directing of Adult Film, the industry as a whole is raised to a level of professionalism that is beneficial to both men and women. Additionally, while all four Directors have various opinions on the subject of erotica verses porn, all four agreed that while the line between what is Erotic Film and what is Pornographic Film is extremely blurred and in some cases nonexistent; in their personal and professional opinion as summed up by Frolicme, Erotic Film “…offers more story depth and plays upon the fantasy aspect, encouraging the watcher to imagine themselves involved in the scene….” She goes on to state that, “I simply wanted to create arousing sexy films that illustrate women having their wicked ways and men adoring their women, treating them with the respect and pleasure they desire and deserve, and try to bring real passion back into our view of sex.” If this is the case then it helps to explain why there does now tend to be an increase in individuals who are beginning to enter the industry of Adult Film on a voluntary basis as a chosen profession. Which reiterates the question raised in the first part of this article: Do the professionals in both industries, (meaning the performers), see a difference?
Enter professional photographers Paulie and Pauline, who published the photo documentary called “Off the set: porn stars and their partners, by Paulie and Pauline,” v which may shed some light on this question. In the early to mid 2000s they began documenting professional adult models and their partners through photography. In mainstream media, where most if not all Adult Film professionals are stereotypically categorized as “jaded, emotionally detached individuals who live in a hedonistic blur, void of any real intimate relationships,” they discovered that the individual couples they worked with and met were deeply committed couples who shared higher levels of intimacy, thrived on the strength of their relationships, and “explained that their performances were an extension of their own kinky sexuality.” In the course of this photo-documentary it became apparent, again and again, that far from the meaningless and mindless sex sterotypically expected of the adult film industry, “There are definitely more people now who are producing scenes and videos that reflect individuals, rather than bodies. The sex may still be explicit, but there is an increasing focus on real chemistry between partners and real pleasure…” This chemistry is clearly visible in the films produced which prize illustrating, depicting and mirroring human sexual interaction through physical touch as a means of affection, support, friendship and tenderness, as well as desire, passion and a yearning for the physical closeness of a safe (and I use this term loosely), sensual, sexual encounter between consenting individuals.
Given this information, are we now at a point where we can begin to differentiate between what is Erotic Film and what is Pornographic Film? That the individuals and the professionals who help produce these sensual, sexual, cinematic features care deeply for each other as committed couples and friends? What about the consumers? Do the consumers actually see a difference? Does this matter?
 Griffith, J., Mitchell, S., Hart, C., Adams, L., & Gu, L. (2012). Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis Journal of Sex Research, 1–12 DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2012.719168
ii An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis (2012), Tibbals, Chauntelle, Dr., http://www.chauntelletibbals.com/damaged-goods-hypothesis/#.VkQRyIR_fiC
iii An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis (2012), Tibbals, Chauntelle, Dr., http://www.chauntelletibbals.com/damaged-goods-hypothesis/#.VkQRyIR_fiC
iv “4 Female Adult Film Producers Talk Porn For Women,” Gloudeman, N., www.huffingtonpost.com. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nikki-gloudeman/4-female-adult-film-producers-talk-porn-for-women_b_6148252.html
v Off the set: porn stars and their partners, by Paulie and Pauline, http://www.co-mag.net/2010/paulie-and-pauline/