The porn industry has never been worth more, but it’s also never been in more financial trouble. Crazy, right? Free porn sites have completely dismantled the industry from the inside, forcing performers to do more extreme acts on camera for more money, or do prostitution on the side to make ends meet.

Porn, it probably won’t surprise you to learn, is everywhere. What used to be confined to adult theaters and magazines, videotapes, and DVDs is now available at the fingertips of anyone with a phone, tablet, computer, and internet connection. So the people performing in porn, making porn, and selling porn must be rich, right?

Not exactly.

With the rise of so-called “tube sites”—free sites where tons of content is available with a single click—making money off of porn has become increasingly difficult, according to a story published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A porn producer, who we’ll call M.S., interviewed on the CBC radio show “Day 6” and gave this overview of what’s happened in the porn industry:

“We had a goose that was laying golden eggs at one point in time. We were going around collecting the eggs, but we didn’t really protect the goose.”

That loss of revenue—the end of a steady stream of “golden eggs”—has changed the porn industry in major, and probably irreversible, ways. Most porn used to be produced by major studios, but now those studios are all but gone, marginalized or put out of business entirely by the increasing amount of free and self-produced content. Increasingly, says M.S., performers are producing and publishing their own content online via subscription services that allow for more interactivity and control of the product.

RelatedFueling Exploitation: The Problem With Paying For Porn And Watching For Free

“The future of pornography,” according to M.S., “is the [performer who] makes [their] own product and markets it to [their] own audience.”

At least, in theory, this provides performers with increased control, and means they don’t have to share their profits with any studios or agencies.

The Other Side Of The Coin

This sounds like a good thing for everybody, right? More independence and control mean safer working conditions, better income, and the right to decide for oneself whether porn is actually what they want to be doing. To an extent, that’s true—M.S. says that the personal subscription-based services give performers the ability to avoid the increasingly destructive product produced by the traditional porn industry.

“It seems the [studio-produced] product has gotten more aggressive [and] violent,” he says. “[It] portrays sex in a manner I’m not comfortable with.”

RelatedThe Problem With Saying “If You Don’t Like Porn, Don’t Watch It”

Yes, self-control allows performers to do only what they’re comfortable doing. But the porn industry’s shift away from its studio-based roots hasn’t been as beneficial as it might seem initially. As studios have become increasingly obsolete, many performers have found themselves out of work, out of money, and without any good alternatives. That’s led more and more, according to M.S., to involvement in prostitution just to pay the bills—whether by choice or not.

“When I came into the business in 1992, we were very tight-knit,” he says. “Nobody in the industry was prostituting and if they were, they were keeping it way, way under the radar. Nowadays, I can actually count the number of girls who don’t prostitute on one hand.”

But Why Do They Do It?

Obviously, porn performers being forced into prostitution by circumstances beyond their control isn’t a healthy thing.

Fading though it might be, the traditional porn industry is already closely linked to violence, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking, things that no person should ever have to face. Since the idea of self-produced porn is pretty new, there aren’t a lot of facts and figures to demonstrate that it’s substantially better or safer than the traditional model, so claims that it is are largely unproven. As with anything, it’s likely that more problems will become clear as this model becomes more popular and more performers end up taking the self-produced and distributed route.

Already, some potential problems are becoming clear.

Related: Hall Of Fame Porn Star Speaking Out After Being Stomped/Choked On Porn Set

“The future of pornography is the girl who gets with her husband and makes her own product and markets it to her own audience,” says M.S.. Yikes. Having that amount of control can be safer than getting abused by a studio or getting trafficked, but it’s also putting people into a position in which their personal relationships can be the subject of, or at the very least deeply affected by, porn. As are most porn-saturated relationships, actually. There’s endless evidence suggesting that porn and relationships don’t mix, so this isn’t a path that anyone should have to go down just to make a living.

And not to mention that a performer fueling the demand for more sexual exploitation by exploiting their personal relationships isn’t exactly healthy, or ideal. After all, when you watch porn, there’s no way to know what kind of “consent” the actors have given. You can’t assume, just because someone appears in a porn video, that they knew beforehand exactly what would happen or that they had a real choice or the ability to stop what was being done. This is true for the industry as a whole, including self-produced content.

Related“You’re Gonna Be A Star”: The Day I Was Raped On A Porn Set

And even assuming all the content is consensual and safely produced, it’s still a toxic product that fuels the demand for exploitation elsewhere.

Think of it this way. The more the adult entertainment industry flourishes, even if the model changes to “self-produced” content, the bigger the opposing globalized black market for porn will become. So the higher the demand for porn, the more sex traffickers will want to profit from that porn demand, and the more they’ll exploit vulnerable people to get there. And that’s not good for anyone.

Why This Matters

And as always, one of the biggest questions is, “What next?” A porn performer’s career generally has a very short lifespan, and performing in porn doesn’t often set them up well for a different career—in fact, being associated with porn can have catastrophic consequences for performers who try to find jobs outside of the industry.

Related: Why Fixing the Porn Industry Won’t Fix Porn

Suggesting that the new trends in the porn industry are somehow a cure-all for these problems just isn’t true. It’s important to remember that porn, no matter how it’s done, isn’t a recipe for success, and encouraging performers to participate because the new models are “better” and “safer” just isn’t right or responsible. Because there’s no such thing as “ethical porn” or “healthy porn.”

Research is continually showing how much porn is damaging to viewers, their personal relationships, and now, society. Sexual exploitation, no matter how it’s produced or packaged—by studio, by screen, by in-person services—is unhealthy for both performers and viewers. This is why we fight to stop the demand for sexual exploitation, and fight for real, healthy relationships.

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Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with an obsession or addiction to pornography, you are not alone. Check out our friends at Fortify, a recovery program that will allow you take a step toward freedom. Anyone 17 years and younger can apply for a free scholarship to the program, and it is an inexpensive fee for anyone 18 and older. There is hope—sign up today and start getting the help you need at your own pace.

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