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Common Misconceptions, Answered

Common Myths About Porn, Debunked by a Porn Performer

"I love having fun on set. Can you imagine having sex in a way you really enjoy, with your full consent, and not responding like it’s positive? Also, you can’t fake a squirting orgasm."

by Dominique Sisley
05 February 2019, 1:49am

Misha Mayfair. Photo by Netti Hurley

The stigma that lingers around pornography is an enduring one. Over the years, porn has been linked to social ills ranging from human trafficking to sexual violence (in reality, the evidence linking both has been debunked).

For anti-sex work activists, porn is an inherently exploitative industry: even if the performers working in it have freely chosen to do so, and are not being coerced. What is certain is that the stigma around sex work dehumanizes those who work in the porn industry: leaving them fearful of being "outed" online, and often unable to access supportive services.

So what is the truth? Misha Mayfair, a former cam girl turned porn performer, hopes to clear that up. After working in the industry for two years, 25-year-old Mayfair still struggles with the discord between what she sees in the media, and what she experiences on a day-to-day basis.

“People really have this strange, falsified fantasy world that they think porn exists in,” she tells me. “They think it operates in this world where Taken has happened: they imagine that it’s all blonde girls who have been dumped into car boots and stolen by local Albanian men... It’s like: do I live in the same reality as everyone?”

Mayfair debunks some of the most frustrating myths she’s come across so far.

Myth: The industry is rife with sexual violence and consent violations

This whole idea that the industry is super-violent and that we [porn performers] don’t consent to things is very frustrating. People don’t see the part at the beginning when someone gives their consent, and the part at the end where people agrees that they consented to it, and it was fine. It’s something that people aren’t aware happens. You always have a consent form, and big studios tend to do an interview before and after filming just to talk through the scene and check you’re happy with what you’re about to do—especially if you’re doing kinky stuff. (By kinky, I mean anything from messy deep-throat in gonzo-style porn, all the way up to caning and restraints.)

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Misha Mayfair. Image by Netti Hurley

On set, the cast and crew are really nice and attentive. But of course, I have to caveat that there can be consent violations on set, like there can be anywhere. It’s difficult to exist in the world and not have people be shit occasionally. But in general people are very caring, and they want you to be okay because you don’t want someone to leave the set and be upset with you. At the bare bones, that’s bad business.

Myth: Women don’t genuinely enjoy themselves in porn, and almost all their orgasms are fake.

I love having fun on set. Can you imagine having sex in a way you really enjoy, with your full consent, and not responding like it’s positive? Also, you can’t fake a squirting orgasm.

I hate the dichotomy that you’re either enjoying it or you’re not. It makes it too black and white. Everyone’s different. Porn is work, meaning that like any job, it’s about how you approach it. You have to mentally prepare yourself, figure out what you and your co-star both like, and try to make a connection.

Myth: You can't have a long career in porn. Once you’ve made a few films, you’re thrown to the kerb.

I will say that the money could be better. It’s going down because people are pirating, but that’s why people are making their own content. Also, FOSTA/SESTA has resulted in the closure of websites that I have used in the past, and it's driving some US sex workers into much more dangerous work, especially migrant sex workers.

Now, more and more pornographers are moving away from studios and big companies because they don’t pay you as much as if you made your own stuff. If you make your content and have your own website, then you’re always going to make money.

You don’t make royalties out of porn: when you shoot it’s a one time payment and that’s it. But if you create your own content and then sell that through your own website, or through sites like ManyVids, then you make money forever from it.

Myth: The majority of porn stars are only in the profession because they have experienced trauma or sexual abuse in their past

There are no real statistics for this: there are no numbers, because people’s mental health and what they’ve gone through has no bearing on their work. It’s a way of discrediting what we do by dismissing us all as "damaged" people.

Historically, society has always treated women who are sexual as wrong, deviant, or mentally ill. Even the invention of the vibrator in the Victorian era was founded on the idea that female sexual desire was a disorder that needed treating by medical professionals.

Society doesn’t hold people in other jobs to the same level of scrutiny. Are we going to survey how many people who work at Starbucks have mental health issues?

Myth: It’s not possible to be a porn star and have a healthy romantic relationship.

You do have people that will fetishize you, who don't see you as a fully realized human, or something to be worked out. People think I might be averse to love and affection which is upsetting because I believe all humans crave that. I'm just like your friends, neighbours or family members, only I enjoy having sex on camera. I promise it's really not life-altering in the ways you assume.

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For me, there’s a difference between having sex with someone that’s work, and having sex with someone because you love them. It’s not a negative difference: it’s the same difference between having sex with a one-night-stand and having sex with a loved one.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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