Trigger warning: The following post contains links to articles that contain triggering images.
Porn performer Casey Calvert has had nearly every request you could think of. A bit of dirty talk, close up body shots, and costumes are the tame ones. She follows her customer’s submitted requests while filming herself perform, and then delivers a personalized porn video to indulge their fantasies.
Besides custom content, Calvert runs her own website, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pornhub model page, each with thousands of followers. Other performers have similarly joined multiple social media platforms to tweet jokes in between sexual quotes or post travel photos next to suggestive images, all in an attempt to build a following and make her seem like a “real” person.
This is the new average life a struggling, often starving porn performer.
Since “tube” sites decimated the old studio system through piracy and endless free videos, everyone in the porn industry has been scrambling to make porn somehow lucrative again. Performer’s wages on set have decreased while expectations became all the more extreme, and so many have gone freelance.
Welcome to 2018, where porn performers are now a new kind of social media influencer.
The age of the influencer
As many of us know, Instagrammers make money with branded content, showing off a new smart watch, “Detox Tea,” or vegan leather shoe, but porn performers market themselves. To build an audience and attract loyal consumers, they open up about their personal lives or comment on current events, whichever suits their brand better. Some performers view it as the “boyfriend” or “girlfriend experience,” or an experience to make viewers feel a synthetic sense of being closer and closer to being with an actual person.
All the while, every profile links to a performer’s paying services. For Calvert, it may be her custom videos. For others, it may be their “clip site,” which is a similar idea to Patreon where subscribers pay a monthly fee for access to an artist’s (or in this case, porn performer) content.
And they claim it’s successful. Casey said she sells about 15 to 20 videos a month ranging in cost from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars. Not to mention a major perk is the unlikely chance her videos will be pirated to free sites. She said paying customers feel like the videos are intimate and special to them. “You can’t pirate someone saying your name.”
The key to success for these freelance performers is in direct communication with fans. As one performer described her Twitter presence, “We go from unattainable fantasy to real people.”
But while authenticity will boost a following, nothing has changed how the nature of porn—even when customized—is still a synthetic fantasy. Yes, performers are real people, but they are still unattainable, and they’re cashing in on gullible, often lonely consumers who will pay them to feign interest in them and their kinks.
The fantasy of the “ideal”
Some people may wonder what could possibly be unhealthy with synthetic sex, especially if a person isn’t in a committed romantic relationship. To that, we say the science and research show two main concerns worth considering.
Firstly, research shows how watching and engaging with porn warps a person’s ideas about sex by cutting out key communications like consent, actually listening to a partner, and being willing to bend desires to fit with a partner’s. Eventually, porn leads to the objectification of both men and women as they are always portrayed as the “perfect partner.” always willing, and always aroused. No one can or should have to live up to what someone once saw in a porn video, whether it was customized or on the front page of a tube site.
Secondly, from 2D porn to virtual reality, custom videos to cam girls, and sex robots, it seems technology is constantly being used to take the place of real human relationships. Of course, the advancements that made these products possible aren’t all negative. Like in the case of virtual reality tech where there is a wealth of potential to benefit the medical field, even though VR is making its name in porn.
But while sex tech can never be a true replacement for eye-to-eye and skin-to-skin human relationships, it’s excellent at driving deep wedges between all types of relationships.
Dr. Gail Dines, anti-porn activist and professor of sociology, put it this way: “We know from study after study that human happiness relies on community. And what pornography is going to do is destroy any form of community and any relationships between women and men.”
Healthy sexuality and human connection is based on authenticity—much more than you can get from Instagram—mutual trust, and real love, not synthetic sex.
No amount or type of porn can give you what so many feel like they’re missing: the desire to be truly desired. So love something—or better yet—love someone who can love you back. Porn performers will never be influencers for all the things that are worth really fighting for.
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