Queer Career?

Every now and then I get an email, comment, or a tweet or a myspace or facebook, fetlife, ourchart, digiromp, etc… etc… etc… message from someone wanting to move out to SF to start a career in queer porn. As talent.

Fuck. I can’t keep it a secret any longer.

The truth is, there’s not much money doing queer porn. (If you’re surprized, then we’ve been doing a good job at raising the industry standards.)

There’s shit for pay. Like, very very very little. Like, you probably don’t want me to actually tell you how much I made doing some films because it might make you sad. Note: it doesn’t make ME sad, because I do it for the passion of it all. (Of course, I’d always do it for MORE money, but that’s not where the industry is at right now — I have hopes that with a growing market, yes, one day we will all be able to be queer pornstars. And make a living off having sex on camera the way we want to without having to shave our armpits – let alone our ass hairs.)

Queer porn has come a long way. Pink & White Productions pays, as far as my experience goes, the best in the industry. Even their website CrashPadSeries.com pays adult industry standard, when you consider how little time is spent on set for sex, and how really frickin’ flexible what you’re expected to do sexually, or look. For example, one could get a standard Girl/Girl gig — that is, if one didn’t identify as trans — and have to shave all their body hair and do exactly what the director wanted, which could be even worse if their co-star let them know as they met before the scene that “just so they didn’t get any ideas, I’m not a gay”. Uh, yeah. THAT’S worth the money. (Note: Not a personal experience but one that I’ve heard many times.)

Other companies pay okay. I’m gonna be completely transparent about this because I think it’s telling, and people have a right to know. Some film companies have not paid me yet, granted, the scene was shot 2 years ago and has yet to be produced. I’ve even been approached to work with start up websites in other cities, where the owners wanted me to send in photo sets that I would have to arrange, for free, so that they could get their websites going. Um… Other companies have amazing work ethics and treat their models with respect. Madison pays the same for her films as CrashPadSeries.com pays for their website. However, with CrashPad I have an affiliate program so I make a cut everytime someone signs up through my site, sorta like royalties. Some other talent do affiliate programs as well. But most of us also have 1 or 2 day jobs. Especially in SF, this city is expensive.

I don’t want to rain on folks who do porn as a living, who do Girl/Girl as a living. I’m not out to shame them or invalidate what they do. I’m just saying that it’s not MY thing, and I’m lucky to know the directors I work with. I wish for the day when there is so much work being shot, so many films being released each week and so many websites featuring queer talent that I can actually work each week and make a living doing what I love. In the meantime, there’s the occasional AWESOME film or website shoot that comes around, and I’m thrilled to participate. And maybe in 5 years, this will be true. And at least in my case, I wouldn’t have had to retire.


  • Ian Sparks

    Yeh, that is a dirty little not so secret. Trannywood pays about the same. I do know that some companies don’t pay the day of shoot…which both Pink & White/Crash Pad and Trannywood are committed to do.

    I technically don’t make a salary from Trannywood, for all the work I do behind the camera…like you said, I have other reasons to do it. I do get paid for my on camera work though.

    What am I saying….hmmm, you can’t really make a living as talent in SF with queer/alt/indy porn, but you can live in SF and be talent for queer/alt/indy porn.

    And thank you Jiz, for showing us the way : )

  • Christophe

    The sad truth is that it is hard to make a reasonable living in Los Angeles doing mainstream porn, and the money is significantly better (because the movies have much wider distribution), and the work more regular. Of course, the politics there are horrible, and the working conditions are much worse, and the chance of getting (financially) screwed by a company are much higher…

  • Cand86

    Good post- kind of sad, but I definitely feel the hope at the end. I mean, compared to what it used to be, there’s relatively a lot of opportunities for queer porn, if not an actual self-supporting career. I do trust it’ll get better, and you won’t have to retire!

    Anyways, thanks for the much-needed grounding.

  • Pappi Razzi

    Thanks for this post, J. I got involved with PW Inc b/c I was extremely interested in the concept and the make-up of the company. As a queer woman it was inspiring to be able to do what I love (photograph) for a queer owned and operated porn company. However, there are some days where I feel really down on how it’s impossible to make a living doing what I truly love. Like you said, I too am not doing it for the money. But as a photographer especially I sometimes just feel like a gun for hire. However, the bigger problem for me is that with PW Inc and other companies (non porn) I’ve worked for, the only way I land the job is if I give up my copyright. As a creative person it really hurts me to do that. But the trade off is that I get to do what I love. Sigh, it’s just one of those catch 22s.

    To end on a happy note: Shine is hands down the nicest person I’ve ever worked for, and regardless of how I’m feeling about my day job or my night job or my side job, I always look forward to shooting on her set!! Like I said, I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it for the community!!

    Pappi Razzi

  • Jiz Lee

    Ian, I know the cast of Trannywood’s films value every second and every cent they have working with you. What you’ve done for Trans representation in film is groundbreaking.

    Christophe, it’s true, and kind of relieving to acknowledge that even the ‘mainstream’ is a hard angle to break as a little fish in a big ocean.

    Cand86, Yes! And I wont need to retire because Queer Porn will love me with aging (for folks here who question that they’ve rarely seen older talent in their favorite queer films, a little known fact is that most companies will TOTALLY hire older models… but they have to apply!)

    Pappi Razzi, You’re one of the best things about Pink & White… and that shows in your work! I also love being on set with Shiner — and totally agree that she’s the nicest person ever. I’ve shot test shoots before with her for free because I get so inspired with her work and her vision. I’m sorry to hear how you feel about your copyright — to do such a great job and to have no one know it was you. Do you have a website? If having your name tied to pornography doesn’t ruin your other business, I’ll promote you like crazy! Let me know.

  • Pappi Razzi

    thanks for the kind words! it’s not something that keeps me awake at night, it’s just a fact of life. and you’re totally right, having your name attached to porn is a strange thing sometimes. shine and i have an agreement for a documentary essay i am compiling about the topic, so in the long run things are working out fine. for the time being i have been going by my porn name… but if the photo essay ever gets published (like, in documentary editorial or gallery setting) it will have my name with “courtesy of pink and white inc” attached to it.

    it’s just too bad that a) people can’t do the stuff they love without ridicule from friends, family, and without threatening potential other jobs, and b) that there’s not enough money in this world to finance sex positive, pc, hot queer porn! there’s plenty of dough out there, we just have to pry it out of the clammy white skeletal hands of corporations and recirculate it to the proletariat….

    hmm. revolution, anyone?
    happy thanksgiving!

  • Essin' Em

    It’s sad, but it’s true. When people hear someone works in porn, they assume they make a six figure income. Sadly, it isn’t so.

    But on the other hand, even in the past 5 years, queer porn has broken down so many societal boundaries. I was talking to F about shooting with P/W (by the way, we’ll be in San Fran the 14th-20th of Jan – can I cash in on that drink you once offered me?), and I told her that for me, it wasn’t about being in porn, or being a porn star, and it was definitely not about the money (which will barely pay for my plane ticket). To me, it’s a statement. Queer bodies (and larger bodies, and disabled bodies, and non-white bodies, and trans bodies and _____ bodies) can and are hot, and sexy, and we don’t have to subscribe to any cultural ideas of what ‘good sex’ is in order to have it. Maybe it’s my sociology/feminist and gender studies background. Maybe it’s being the black sheep in so much of what I do. But to me, queer porn seems to be more of a movement than a career. And while I wish everyone could get paid enough to live, I am so glad that there is something like that which exists at all.

    < / soapbox rant

    Happy Turkey Day!

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