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Porn Stars Are Happier Than You Are

Alex Heigel takes note of a new study:

A longstanding cultural assumption holds that pornographic actresses arrive at porn via a history of emotional damage. After all, nobody who wanted to have sex for a living could possibly be all right in the head, right?

But a new study, published in the Journal for Sex Research, suggests that the so-called Damaged Goods Hypothesis (or DGH, which posits that “female performers in the adult entertainment industry have higher rates of childhood sexual abuse, psychological problems, and drug use compared to the typical woman”) is flat-out wrong. Female porn stars experienced no more abuse than a matched sample, and they were found to enjoy sex more, have higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality.

This will come as a big shock to a lot of people. For years, people have attached negative stigmas to porn actresses: a 2001 study from the same journal revealed that porn actresses were universally perceived to have come from more dysfunctional families than their male counterparts, and that porn actors were attributed more positive motivations for their work than actresses. A 1996 survey of college students (from The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality) found that porn actresses “were viewed midway between movie stars and prostitutes — more positively than prostitutes but more negatively than movie stars and the average woman.”

This new study is one of the first positive, academic repudiations of what’s basically been decades of negative publicity for the porn industry. Linda Lovelace famously decried her time spent as a porn actress, to the point that journalist Hart Williams coined the term “Linda Syndrome” for “porn stars who seek acceptance from ‘overground’ society by disavowing their porn past.” That Lovelace was actually abused as a child and adult, and had her share of drug and alcohol problems probably went a long way towards establishing the DGH — she was one of the first nationally-visible porn actresses.

Society loves when the Damaged Goods Hypothesis gets reinforced, because it validates the shame we associate with sex in general. It’s refreshing for us to see that these people were unhealthy or unhappy during their time as porn stars, because we’re taught to believe that enjoying sex — which is what porn stars do for a living — is wrong, and so the people who make them must be wrong in some way. It’s a comforting narrative: we get skittish around people who enjoy sex too much — even when those people are ourselves — and so we just love hearing how that enjoyment was a mistake, and that we’re much better now, thanks.

It really wasn’t until porn moved online that we started to get alternate opinions. We learned that Asia Carrera is card-carrying member of Mensa with an IQ of 156, who earned a full ride to Rutgers and coded her own website. And obviously there’s Sasha Grey, arguably the first Web 2.0 porn star — we know more about her, and her relative personal stability (she is in an industrial band), than any other porn star prior. Gradually, we’ve started that all women in porn aren’t damaged, or flawed, or coerced. Most of them are just people.

The first question I have is who does these studies and what should I have majored in order to be doing them?

H/T Andrew Sullivan

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal 10000 says:

    The first question I have is who does these studies and what should I have majored in order to be doing them?

    Sociology. Not worth it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    Can we please then have a national commitment to more pornography?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Female porn stars experienced no more abuse than a matched sample, and they were found to enjoy sex more, have higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality.

    I don’t know about that other stuff, however I’m pretty sure that they … “were found to enjoy sex more…”

    Also, I’d probably be happy if I was Sasha Grey too – making great money having sex on camera, and getting good crossover roles in mainstream Hollywood too (on “Entourage”, in a movie by Steven Soderbergh).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Yes, it’s true. I am happier than all of you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I don’t know about that other stuff, however I’m pretty sure that they … “were found to enjoy sex more…”

    I don´t know. Many Porn Stars become Lesbians because they get tired of having sex with men.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. MBunge says:

    Haven’t we learned from all the times science has told us “Don’t eat that! Okay, you can eat it”, that the results of one study really aren’t all that determinative? Is not the fact that this study is EXACTLY what pro-porn folks desperately want to believe something of a warning signal?

    I’m quite willing to believe that porn stars may not necessarily be all that screwed up, but better adjusted and happier than normal folk?

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Porn Stars Are Happier Than You Are

    Well, no duuuhhhh!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Franklin says:

    @MBunge: All true, BUT … this is one of the arguments people use when they advocate banning porn. The assumption that all these women are abused just took a bit of a hit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. MBunge says:

    @Franklin: “The assumption that all these women are abused just took a bit of a hit.”

    I would wonder if the mainstreaming of porn, though, isn’t going to skew any analysis. Getting into porn in the 70s or 80s was a quite different thing than becoming a porn girl in 2012.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. J-Dub says:

    @MBunge: Science was right about not going ATM.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. An Interested Party says:

    Yes, it’s true. I am happier than all of you.

    Wow, if you only make around $40K doing that, you must not be doing something right…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0