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10 Top Facts and Stats from a Study of Over 10,000 Porn Performers

For the last four decades, 22 has been the average age of female performers. Men have dropped almost 5 years—from 29 to 24—since the 70’s.

Most of us think we have a general idea of what goes on in the porn industry—who the performers are, what they look like, and what kinds of things they do when the camera’s on. It seems like it would be pretty basic and straightforward, right?

It turns out, there’s actually a database for all this information. It’s called the Internet Adult Film Database (IAFD) compiled by Dutchman Peter Van Aarle—also labeled as the “Wikipedia of porn”—and it contains facts on over 120,000 porn films and 115,000 porn performers. Based on this information, which includes basic stats on porn performers like their heights, weights, birthplaces, ethnicities, scenes performed, and films completed, we can get a pretty accurate idea of what’s really going on in the porn industry.

Knowledge is power. The more we understand about the porn industry and those who work within it, the more we can talk to others about the proven harmful effects from a fully informed perspective. To sum it up, here are 10 facts from a study by Jon Millward that extracted information from the IAFD, all about the average porn performer, based on more than 10,000 performers.

And remember—no matter who appears on screen, research still shows the end product is still harmful to consumers, relationships, and society. It has been shown that mainstream porn sites that host content from well-known porn production companies often also host content that features trafficked individuals, child trafficking victims, and other nonconsensual content.

Related: What Causes People To Choose To Go Into The Porn Industry?

1. Porn is entirely fabricated fantasy, including the performers’ names

Nothing in porn is real. Not even the performers’ names, a lot of the time. For example, according to the report, “Nikki” is the most common name for female porn performers, but it’s a pseudonym.

Porn performers’ names are pseudonyms, chosen strategically. For women, they are typically “sweet” and “sexy,” while male performers tend to choose ones that are “stronger” and more “masculine” sounding. Often, the names they chose aren’t common household names, and they’re usually chosen to match the “side” or attitude the porn performer is marketing. This is all part of the synthetic, often exaggerated persona they sell.

Related: Joshua’s Story: Why I Left The Porn Industry After Winning Awards And Performing In Over 1,000 Films

2. California is listed as the birthplace of about 30% of all porn performers, though many performers aren’t actually from there

California is reportedly home to the highest number of porn performers, according to the report. This is no surprise, considering that at one time, over 90% of American porn was made in the San Fernando Valley.Pitman, Joanna. On Blondes. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.COPY  Or, “Porn Valley,” as it’s often called.

Florida, New York, and Texas follow Cali. Though it appears to be the hub of porn many performers call home, it’s worth noting that some performers may claim to be from California to avoid drawing attention to their family or friends, or simply because they live there now.

3. A vast majority of female performers have done anal sex at least once on camera

While some porn stats aren’t too wild, there are some stats that show just how much porn doesn’t reflect the reality of its consumers.

According to the report, The Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that almost three decades ago, 16% of women had tried anal sex. About twenty years later, also according to the Millward report, that number had doubled to 32%—women are trying it sooner and more often, while it’s still below one-third of women.

Related10 Popular Ex-Porn Stars Share The Raw Reality Behind Their Most Popular Scenes

Can you guess what percentage of female performers have done anal on camera at least once? 62%. This also poses the question about how much porn influences mainstream culture and sex practices, especially as we’ve seen how research shows porn affects attitudes regarding sex, and normalizes otherwise extreme and painful sex acts.

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4. “Teen” is the most common role mentioned in porn film titles

Here we enter some concerning territory. We’ve shown before how the demand for porn involving younger-looking girls is extremely high, and how that has led to cases of minor exploitation, or in other words, child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

Ironically, while “teen” is overwhelmingly the most frequently mentioned role in porn film titles (over 1,000 more than the second most frequently mentioned), the Millward report states that “MILF” and “wife” are in second and third on the list. Concerningly, “daughter,” “sister,” “schoolgirl,” “hitchhiker,” and “runaway” made it to the top 15.

5. Films with “wife” in the title most often involved sex with someone other than their spouse

That’s right. According to the Jon Millward research, following the list of most frequently mentioned roles above, titles including “wife” are “without exception…revolved around the concept of a man having sex with a spouse who wasn’t his own,” according to the report.

This is another example of harmful or risky situations porn normalizes. The scenes in porn that glamorize or fetishize unacceptable behavior don’t match up with their real-life consequences of broken relationships and worse. Cheating in relationships is not a fantasy, it’s a nightmare so many people experience.

Related: Is Secretly Watching Porn Cheating On Your Partner?

6. Of performers who have starred in the greatest number of films, 96% are men

Perhaps this isn’t as surprising, considering pornography is primarily a male-produced, packaged, and consumed industry.

Or, this could be because males have a longer lifespan in the porn world. After all, unlike women, they often don’t perform sex acts that can permanently injure them.

7. Male performers get more roles and perform more sex acts on camera than women

Tied in with the last statistic, we see that men have sex on camera way more than women. Why is that? Reportedly, a greater number of women enter into and leave the industry, while there is a constant and limited rotation of men who perform in the majority of films.

Compare female performer Nina Hartley and male performer Tom Byron, for example. Both have performed in the greatest number of films for women and men, respectively. And even though Bryon debuted only two years before Hartley, he has performed sex with over five times the number of people.

Related: Porn Performers Do Not Deserve The Abuse Many Of Them Experience, Here’s Why

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8. At least 53% of female performers do three or more films

This one is a somewhat controversial statistic that doesn’t fall in line with many other reports, but it’s worth noting. It’s been said that a majority of girls who enter the industry leave after one video because they are horrified by their experience.

For example, porn industry columnist Luke Ford has infamously said, “Most girls who enter this industry do one video and quit. The experience is so painful, horrifying, embarrassing, humiliating for them that they never do it again.”

Related: How Shaming And Victim-Blaming Porn Performers Adds To Their Mistreatment

However, Millward’s study reveals only between 10-30% of girls leave after their first video.

Whatever the number is, we are still talking about at least a third of women who go into the industry. And those who stick it out for a few more videos? Well, there’s no guarantee they do it because they enjoy it. In fact, porn performers who speak on their experience say their biggest incentive is money—not because they willingly love the job.

Financial desperation can often be a driver of performers to agree to more extreme scenes for more money.

9. The average age a woman enters the porn industry is 22, and they stay for 3 years

For the last four decades, 22 has been the average age of female performers. Men, on the other hand, have dropped almost 5 years—from 29 to 24—since the 70’s. And as the world of porn gets smaller while its reach grows ever larger, the industry shelf life of both men and women has dropped significantly. For men and women, respectively, it’s decreased from 12 and 9 years in the industry, to 4 and 3 years since the 70’s.

This is likely due to the extreme sex acts performers are expected to do on camera repeatedly, sometimes involving serious bodily harm.

10. The porn performer racial breakdown is reflective of the United States

In some aspects, porn performers’ data matches national data on the same measures. For example, the average height of performers, 5’5″ and 5’10″ for women and men respectively, is right on the national average, though the weights are significantly less in the porn world.

Despite the fetishized topic of interracial sex in porn, the proportion of races represented is about the national breakdown in the US. Almost 75% Caucasian, 14% Black, almost 10% Latino, and 5% Asian. It shouldn’t be ignored, however, that many actors who are not white are typecast in racist and stereotypical roles in porn.

Related: Why Does The Porn Industry Get Away With Racist Portrayals Of Black People?

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What does all of this mean?

There you have it. Ten facts and stats that reveal perhaps some surprising insight into the mysterious but highly normalized adult industry.

While porn is all about creating exaggerated fantasies, the people behind them are as real as you are, and they never deserve to be abused or exploited.

Related: If A Porn Performer Is Abused During Filming, Where Do They Report It?

But no matter the performers’ fake names, how many humiliating or painful scenes they’ve done, or any other stat above, one fact remains the same: porn is harmful, and research is proving it.

Thanks to decades of research from major institutions and countless personal stories, society can now know how pornography is harmful not only to the performers who create it, but also to the consumers who watch it, their relationships, and our society at large. This is why we exist—to educate on these harms and empower people to make their own decisions about porn.

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