Our editorial position is that the voices of sex workers and adult community members are the essential ones in matters relating to their well-being, rights and livelihood. Toward that end, and in the interest of telling the news honestly, TRPWL does not censor Op/Ed material to conform to its own philosophical views.
“Thank God for granting me this moment of clarity, this moment of honesty, may the world feel my truths.” ~ Jay-Z
I am a 26 year old male and I have been in the adult film industry on and off for the last 5 years. Fans know me as gay porn star, Ricky Larkin. I’m writing this to share my personal experience and my reasons for walking away from the gay porn industry. I am not speaking for anyone other than myself, but I also hope to educate some of the young men who are either new to or considering a career in porn of the dark road that lies ahead. I want to tell them they have options and that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do – regardless of what some may be telling them.
The topics I plan to address include the pain that goes with the “porn lifestyle,” the agents who are paid to promote us but often do more harm than good, and the risks and dangers associated with (but not openly spoken of) that go along with being a gay porn star.
I may not be the most well known performer, but my resume includes shoots for PRIDE studios, Gamma Ent, Kink.com, Venetian, HPMen, Falcon Studios, Men.com, Gay Room, Raging Stallion Studios, Channel 1 Release, and Rock Candy Films. Although I have met a few great people in the adult industry with a lot of quality behind their character, unfortunately the majority have been egomaniacs, “bad apples,” and fakes. Having quickly recognized this, I never looked at the porn lifestyle as glamorous. I became a gay performer out of financial necessity; not because I thought it was cool or it boosted my ego.
In fact, like many performers I’ve suffered permanent psychological damage from my years in the sex trade. Porn almost always leads its young performers down a path of prostitution and moral self-destruction. I view the sex trade as similar to the war in the Middle East: a bunch of young, ignorant to-the-facts men and women being used as pawns for corporate gain. Big dollars are being made at the physical, mental and emotional expense of men and women who more often than not turn to drugs and alcohol to mask their hatred of themselves and what they’re doing. Or, in a growing number of tragic cases, who decide their problems have become too overwhelming and suicide is the only escape.
If you’re new to the adult industry, one of the most important things you’ll need to watch out for are the pimp-minded individuals who call themselves “agents.” These guys prey on performers who are young and naive. They preach glamour and lots of money – followed by bullying and intimidation tactics. They urge you to sign bullshit contracts that have no legal authority and then scare you into thinking if you break the contract you’ll face legal action. But the only penalty you’ll truly face are vicious attempts to destroy your credibility both personally and professionally.
Agents pretend to be your “friend” so they can gain knowledge of your personal life and use it to attack you if you try to part ways with them. (One former agent contacted my 15 year old brother through Facebook under a fake profile and messaged him links where he could see me performing gay sex acts.) I’ve sat in agents’ offices and listened to them make back room deals with directors where they conspire to short-change young, inexperienced men on their scene rate and split the difference – cheating us out of getting ahead. Its sick that these people view us as their property or employees when in reality we hire them to work for us.
Agents may also encourage you live in their house under the pretense of “helping you out,” or invite you to come stay with them when you have multiple shoots over a short period of time. They are not offering this to help you but only to gain knowledge and control over what you’re doing and to pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do. (This is especially true if they know you can’t fly home or get yourself into a better situation until you do your shoots.) I can’t even begin to tell you how many times an agent threatened to cancel my shoots if I didn’t bow to his demands, and unfortunately I folded just like almost everyone else does. At the end of the day you’re either fucking your agent, or they’re fucking you out of work. Don’t trust these people, they are the worst of the worst in the industry.
Before I approach my final topic, I want to apologize in advance if I offend anyone for what I’m about to say. But I find it outrageous and disturbing to see the number of HIV+ gay porn performers who, by using privacy laws designed to protect against social and workplace discrimination, avoid disclosing their HIV status to their sex scene partners. Yes porn is a “workplace” too, but it’s a workplace that involves having sex, so your partners are entitled to know if you are putting them at risk for a life-threatening disease.
If I had a common cold, before you shook my hand I would tell you that there’s a chance I could pass the cold to you – just as there’s a chance you won’t catch the cold at all. When I hear numbers like “70-80% of gay porn performers are HIV+” but they don’t have to reveal their status to their scene partner, it horrifies me. I don’t think HIV+ performers should be excluded from performing, but I feel strongly that their scene partners should be informed and given the chance to decide whether they want to do the scene.
I see gay performers tweet daily that HIV is “nothing to be ashamed of,” but if that’s the case why conceal your status from your scene partner? Despite that many performers are HIV+ there are many others who still view HIV as their worst nightmare. We’re forgetting how many lives this virus has claimed and continues to claim on a daily basis. For any young men (or women) reading this who are still considering a career in porn, here are some things to remember if you want to avoid the industry pitfalls described above:
1. Attaining super-stardom and financial riches are highly unlikely. Unless having sex on camera is something you truly enjoy doing, either don’t do it, or get out NOW, before its illeffects descend on you and crush your spirit. I’m haunted by memories of how I sold myself short so many times, and risked my life for no gain other than a mediocre-at-best paycheck. Not to mention the fact that Im viewed as a “gay-for-pay” prostitute by my entire family and hometown. My power-lifter friends wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew about my double life, but more than likely they’ll eventually find out, too. My career in porn is not going to go away because I’m retired; the movies I made will be available for years to come. This is something I will struggle with both internally and in my community for the rest of my life.
2. Represent yourself. Social networking sites like Twitter have made it easier for talent to connect with studios and directors directly. By choosing to represent yourself and be your own agent you can negotiate your own scene rates, shoot on your own terms, and keep your money where it belongs: in your pocket.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for a tested partner, even in a “condom” scene. Producers are always happy not to spend the extra money for STD testing, but most will agree to give you a tested scene partner if you request one in advance. And for producers who won’t, why would you even consider shooting for them? Value your health and peace of mind more than a quick paycheck, boys.
4. Make the money – Don’t let it make you. So often performers get a little bit of money and feel the need to flaunt it. You’re a porn performer, not an A-list celebrity. Lifestyles of the rich and famous are for … THE RICH AND FAMOUS. Put away your money. If you need new clothes, shoes and sunglasses every time you shoot, why don’t you re-evaluate what your doing ? It’s obviously not good for your self-esteem if you’re blowing your checks on material goods in search of peer recognition. DON’T live a lie to cover up the pain inside – trust me, I know this first hand – it’ll eat you alive.
5. Don’t Abuse Drugs or Alcohol and Beware of the Porn/Escort Overlap. Some performers think they’re just using “recreationally,” but it can very quickly become a dangerous – and expensive – lifestyle. No performer I know is able to pay their bills from their porn income alone, which is why many turn to escorting to support their drug habit and lavish lifestyle. For some reason, escorting is not frowned upon by the adult industry even though it’s illegal. But if you’re arrested and convicted for prostitution you’ll become a registered sex offender and that information will be available to anyone running a background check on you down the line.
Don’t Put Yourself in High-Risk Situations: The “one time” you get high or drunk and have bareback sex with a hot stranger from the club, or a fellow performer off-camera, may seem like no big deal but it could permanently change your life. Stay in control of yourself and your environment at all times. The philosopher Plato said that “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” So even though I won’t be in front of the camera anymore, I will continue to use my voice to push for condoms and testing in adult films because its the right thing to do. I encourage all adult industry performers to take a stand and adopt a proactive approach to the politics of the porn industry to make it a safer, healthier place for each other and the next generation of performers. Stay in control of your life, your career, your health and your choices, or choose to walk away like I did: happy, healthy, and humble.