Monday, September 24, 2007

Sex Work and Entrepreneurism

Last night Monk told me of an article he had read in Rolling Stone, about men in the gay porn industry. It was mainly about the murder of porn producer Bryan Kocis. But apparently it also touched briefly on how a lot of young men in gay porn don’t make very good money, although many of them hope to. However, their dreams of stardom and riches are frequently dashed – much like a lot of women in the porn industry.

Why am I not surprised by this? Probably because my experience of sex work is pretty vast, and regardless of gender, if you want to make good money in the sex industry, then you need to do two things. One: get in the room with the client, and two: eliminate the middleman.

That means that any form of sex work you do which does not place you in the room with a client should be viewed as temporary and prone to marked fluctuations. Nice extra money, but not to be exclusively relied on to make you a steady, long-term living. So, phone sex, modeling, peep-shows, cam sites, and yes, porn videos – that kind of work can provide a continuous small trickle of money into your pocket, or it can occasionally inject a large wad of cash into your budget. But while I know a lot of people in the sex industry, I don't personally know anyone who has made a decent living exclusively from such avenues for any long period of time.

(And no, the photographer who pays you to model for commercial publication is the not the client. He’s a middle-man. The guy who buys the magazine or joins the paysite is the client.)

The money in those gigs is a bit better if you own the venue. There was a window of time in which mom-and-pop porn sites could do pretty well. But unfortunately I think that era is over - between the federal government regulations, and the expansion of the corporate porn industry, a lot of indie porn sites have been muscled out of business, or at least out of the black.

The women I know who have done best with not-in-the-room sex work are very smart, extremely organized and ferociously self-disciplined. My pal Lydia, for example. I’ve known her for almost ten years. She does a lot of modeling and video work, and has done better with it than many. It doesn’t hurt that she has one of the most naturally beautiful bodies I have ever seen in my life. But that gorgeous figure would not pay like it does unless Lydia had the brains and the drive to make it happen, year-in and year-out. It’s my observation that not so many people have that. And even Lydia does private pro domme sessions.

No, the real money – money to live comfortably, buy a house, create a retirement fund, build some security – comes from establishing relationships with your clientele. So you gotta get in the room with them. Whatever else you do or don’t do with them, you have to look in their eyes, talk to them, and really be there with them. If you can’t do that, then I predict you will never make a good full-time living doing sex work.

And most of the time, you also have to run the business yourself. (I have known some strippers who just danced in clubs and made good money over the long term, but I think they’re the minority.) A lot of people want to just punch a clock, so to speak, and not have to take any responsibility for the success of the operation as a whole. You can find places where you can do that, but the sex industry is the wild wild west. It’s largely unregulated, and the people you’ll be working for are interested in one thing and one thing only: money. They are not interested in your safety or your happiness. That’s just the way it is. It’s like gambling in Vegas – the odds are always in the favor of the house. When I see people in the sex biz fussing about employment conditions or unfair treatment, I always sort of shake my head. I mean, sure, it would be nice if the toilets in strip-club dressing rooms always worked, and porn producers shouldn’t pressure performers to do more extreme scenes than they agreed to. But – that’s not how this industry works. If you want sparkling-clean working conditions and supportive management, go apply at Starbucks. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s just how it is.

So if you want to make a good living in the sex industry, my advice is: Set up your own shop, run the business yourself, and deal with your clients directly and personally. Don’t be fodder in someone else’s money machine.

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