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A former Playboy porn producer is calling into question the results of a study released last week claiming that women who star in pornographic sex films report higher levels of contentment than other women.
“I’d … question the methods used for this supposed ‘study,’” Donny Pauling told LifeSiteNews, “because the facts remain that when someone sticks a camera or microphone in a person’s face, that person is going to say whatever they think the interviewer wants to hear.”
“I’ve seen girls I personally know who are interviewed on TV talking about how great their life is in porn, only to call me the very next morning telling an entirely different story, excited because she is now ‘so popular I won’t have to ever work with guys again!’” said Pauling.
“If life was as great as the previous night’s interview, why the aboutface just a morning later?”
Pauling spent nine years producing video and print pornography, making millions in the process. He ultimately quit the business after seeing what porn did to the women he recruited and experiencing a spiritual conversion.
The recent study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, sought to explore what researchers called the “damaged goods hypothesis,” which says that actresses involved in the porn industry come from backgrounds of abuse and are prone to psychological problems and high rates of drug use. The researchers claim they found that porn stars actually report “higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality” than women not involved in porn.
The study was conducted by researchers at Shippensburg University, Texas Woman’s University and the now-defunct Adult Industry Medical Health Foundation (AIM Medical) – the infamous San Fernando Valley clinic for pornographic actors that closed last year after repeated legal scandals. The researchers studied 177 actresses who had starred in at least one pornographic film and compared them to a sample of women matched for age, ethnicity, and marital status.
“Some descriptions of actresses in pornography have included attributes such as drug addiction, homelessness, poverty, desperation and being victims of sexual abuse,” the researchers said.
“Some have made extreme assertions, such as claiming that all women in pornography were sexually abused as children.”
The researchers say this isn’t true. They say the porn actresses reported the same rate of childhood sexual abuse as other women.
But Pauling told LifeSiteNews he’s not surprised by that aspect of the study. “I’ve been saying the same thing for years,” he said.
“These aren’t broken girls who enter the business: they are all someone’s daughter, someone’s mother or future mother, someone’s grandmother… just people. Society today makes porn okay, so people from all walks of life get involved.”
Pauling said that regardless of where the women come from, the industry takes its toll. “Even those who were not broken to start with would start to be broken down by the business,” he said. “I’d watch the lights go out in their eyes.”
The study’s researchers did find that porn actresses were more likely to report recreational drug use. They were also more likely to identify as bisexual, first have sex at an earlier age, have more sexual partners (an average of 75 per actress in addition their on-screen partners), and were more concerned about contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
All of the statistics were self-reported by the porn actresses and other women studied.
Given AIM’s spotty legal history, Pauling questioned their involvement in the study. “Adult Industry Medical is a joke,” he said. “They’ve been shut down more than once for dodgy practices.”
Heartbreaking stories about porn actors and actresses whose lives have been destroyed by the porn industry aren’t hard to find. Former porn actress Shelley Lubben runs a website called The Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn. The site features numerous pornographic actors and actresses sharing stories of abuse and degradation, diseases and drug abuse. One of these is Becca Brat, who wrote that during her four years as a porn star, “I hung out with a lot of people in the Adult industry … Everybody has the same problems. Everybody is on drugs. It’s an empty lifestyle trying to fill up a void.”
Another actress, Belladonna, who is still active in the porn industry, agreed. “I’m not happy,” she said. “I don’t like myself at all. My whole entire body feels it when I’m doing it and… I feel so — so gross.” While being interviewed by Diane Sawyer for an ABC Primetime segment on pornography in 2003, she famously became very emotional. Sawyer asked her, “You keep describing these awful things that happened to you. Yet, you keep smiling. Why?” Belladonna’s smile faltered and her eyes filled with tears. “It’s so I don’t start crying,” she said.
Former porn star Neesa wrote, “The truth is I let my lifestyle get the best of me. I hate life. I’m a mess. A disaster. I’ve attempted suicide many times.” Poignantly, she added, “No one cares about a dead porn star or stripper.”