I’ve always felt it was too easy for a person to be labeled a “porn star.”

The criteria seem to be that you have had sex, on camera, for the purpose of distribution, and that many people have seen it. But such criteria say nothing about one’s history, accomplishment or following. The real problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a linguistic distinction between the entry-level and the career-minded varieties of porn star.

Consider that, to be a movie star, you probably have to have at least one major motion picture out, maybe two, and you have to have been invited to appear, for that movie, on at least one talk show. To get that far, chances are good that you paid your dues: maybe a Lifetime special, definitely a rapist or victim on Law & Order: SVU. And that’s just by modern standards, where buzz is generated much more quickly, and the masses catch all their star news virally. When it comes to the classic star hierarchy, we’re talking about the A and B listers, and even then we’re dealing with maybe eighty people in the whole industry (two of which are Tom Cruise).

Becoming a rock star is a bit easier. One song on the radio will do, and really, if you get up on any stage, belt out a few notes, swagger around a bit and generally act sweaty, most people will give it to you as a kind of honorarium, as something you’ve earned by way of presence. “He’s such a rock star,” in the common vernacular, has come to indicate an attitude more than it does any kind of real success in the music business.

The label “porn star,” however, has the unique properties of being both literal and inclusive. That is, you must have been in a porn to be a porn star.  Cut and dry.  But once you’ve hopped that first gentle bar, you’re in for life, right at the top.  Even if the act was years ago, the distinction then becomes “ex-porn-star.”

The labeling issue is further confused when you consider the relative ease of getting a great many people to watch you in a porn.  Get a small part in an edgy indie movie, and a few thousand might see it. Write a song and some of your friends will be kind enough to listen. Take your pants off on camera and the world will click twice to see what’s going on down there.

Clearly, the title/suffix “star” has been too widely granted. We don’t yet have a good word for an “amateur porn star.” In fact, we stare the absurdity right in the face, because the proper terminology would be just that: “amateur porn star.”

Film critics offer a grim solution to this problem. Whenever the moniker “movie star” isn’t enough, they call an actor a “superstar,” or, ever more often, a “mega-star.

Porn-Mega-Star” has all the charm of an end villain in a Transformers spinoff, but at least it differentiates.

My solution?  Simplify things. We need to establish a base term for, um, entry level porn actors. Instead of “porn star,” we could call someone a “porner” (I also considered “smactor”). A “porner” is anyone who has been in a porn.

With a little effort and some skill in marketing, a porner could eventually work his way up to official porn stardom.  And so on. Such labels might even have the effect of legitimizing a career ladder which has long been dubious at best.

Now, if only we could figure out summer internships.

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THOMAS WOOD grew up in the nearly quaint, upscale town of Newport Beach, California, and left at nineteen when his father passed away. After traveling for a few years, he settled in San Francisco and got a degree in Philosophy from UC Berkeley. He lives with his beautiful girlfriend in San Francisco, works in medicine as a logistical coordinator for organ donation, and writes in his spare time, hoping to some day feel comfortable with the moniker, 'writer.' His personal blog is ModernSophist.com. You can follow him on the Twitter at Modern_Sophist

88 responses to “Too Many Porn-Stars”

  1. Amanda says:

    Heh. hehehehe

    Just the other day, a friend and I were comparing dating notes and she remarked, “Yeah, it’s no fun being in a relationship with someone who thinks they’re a porn star.” This conclusion being drawn, after we each ticked off a list of dudes and ladies we’d done it with over our lifetimes, who clearly were behaving/ performing like cameras were rolling. Or, who employed dialogue better suited for an audience than a one-on-one situation.

    As for the naming conventions…I agree…”star” comes with a certain amount of weight and judgment. So does publicly doing it, for money. In a way, it seems polite when talking about the men and women of porn, to bestow “star” without applying the general, non-sexy standards we would expect a “star” to measure up to in other fields.

    A titular “thank you” to those folks for baring their beavs and waggling their weens for our pleasure.

    • Thomas Wood says:

      Hmm, really interesting point. But then isn’t it a bit condescending? This reminds me of the proverbial “custodial engineer.”

      Of course maybe to some degree you’re right. Perhaps the industry itself perpetuates the stardom so as to attract would-be porners who want to aspire to such an immediate jump (plane-jane to porn-star).

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Thomas,

    I’m glad you dismissed “smactor.” It sounds too much like “tractor,” which would really confuse people and get, say, farmers coming to movies they didn’t mean to go to.
    Is this the kind of thing that you think about when you’re going to sleep or something?
    It’s a bit odd, is all.

    • Thomas Wood says:

      Guilty as charged on the oddness. I’m just a fan of words and common language. I’d like to think Carlin would have thought along the same lines.

      • Irene Zion says:

        I’m glad you saw the confusion involved in “smactor” though, Thomas.
        Picture a group of farmers out to see a tractor rally thing where they bash into each other.
        I don’t know what you call it, but they have it with trucks.
        It would certainly surprise the wife and kids, eh?

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      I don’t know – there doesn’t seem to be too much cross-over confusion now with certain terms. I mean, when was the last time you saw a group of befuddled and disappointed conductors and engineers milling about outside a place advertising “Watch so-and-so pulling the train!”?

  3. Irene Zion says:

    THAT’S it. Demolition Derby!
    You see the situation here?
    It could break up farmer families and we NEED our farmers!

    • Thomas Wood says:

      If I’m understanding you correctly, the fear is that if I had gone with “smactor” instead of “porner,” we might face total chaos as middle America descends on the the annual smactor rally and convention in Las Vegas. That seems plausible.

  4. Irene Zion says:

    Yup.

  5. Thomas Wood says:

    I may just as well throw out a general challenge to one and all:

    Please come up with a better basic term for one who participates in a porn:
    So far there’s the standard Porn-Star and my contributions, Porner, and Smactor.

    I’ll leave it to TNB’s creative collective.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Unfortunately, the only thing that comes (so to speak) to mind is “Not me”. Sorry – on several levels. I’ll try again after I’ve had a few drinks. *snort* A phrase, I’m sure, that’s been used by pornticipants a few times….

      Oo! Pornticipants! Pornicators! Taxpayers! Wait – scratch that last one. They get fucked a lot but not usually on film.

      • Thomas Wood says:

        I would pay money (less than I would pay for the actual porn, however) to get a look at some of the deductibles porner claim on their independent contractor W-9s.

  6. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I’d like to steal from P.T. Anderson and submit the term “Diggler.”

  7. Richard Cox says:

    Internships? You’re looking for someone to sponsor a young lady for an internship?

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      “What kind of business is this anyway, Mister ‘Cox’?”

      “I’m a plumber, baby. Lay a lot of pipe. Do a lot of rooting. Let me just get my snake….”

      Chicka-chicka-BOW-wow!

      • Richard Cox says:

        With a name like this, I should have realized my true calling a long time ago.

        I mean, really, Dad. You already had this name. Wasn’t once enough? Hahaha.

        • Thomas Wood says:

          Who said anything about a young lady. Then again, for that matter, I think I did.

          However, were I to sponsor a young gentleman, your name would go right to the top of the list, resume be damned!

        • Becky says:

          My husband once did some work for a person called “Pat DeCock.” No lie. He showed me the work order.

          Even you, Richard, can’t beat that.

          Er..NO! I mean TOP that. Top that.

        • Thomas Wood says:

          Wood & Cox. I smell a sitcom!

        • Richard Cox says:

          Not sure if I can top it, Becky, but I can get close. When we lived in Wichita Falls we lived next door to a CPA. This man’s first name was Richard. My dad got to know him and eventually retained his accounting services to file taxes every year.

          My dad’s name is also Richard, and he told me that whenever he spoke to the accountant, the guy always referred to him as “Dick.” My dad hated that, for reasons he didn’t mention but that were obvious.

          Apparently the accountant used that nickname because he preferred it himself. And I always wondered if he was too old to understand the slang meanings of his name, or simply didn’t care.

          Anyway, his last name was even worse than ours. It was Cocke. Pronounced just as you imagine it would be.

          He must have thought it was hilarious when we moved in. Richard Cocke and Richard Cox, next-door neighbors.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I knew a Mr. Cockram and a Mr. Rimmer once. They both lived on the same street.

          Having said that, I lived on ‘Head Street’ – That was always embarrassing when I told my teenage boyfriends my address. *snicker* *snicker*

        • Thomas Wood says:

          A good family friend of our named Gay married a nice man named D. Proud. Yeah, no shitting you. Gay Proud. Odd thing is I have never heard any of them, no family, no friends, ever mention anything about it. Not one comment. Makes me feel like I’m in a Twilight zone of lonely, immature jokes.

        • Becky says:

          When the husband and I got married, the proprietors of the cake shop we used were flamboyantly, obviously gay.

          I cringed when they asked for my address. It was on Fairy Falls Road.

        • Richard Cox says:

          No one in my family has ever said anything, oddly enough. I think the only way to go is embrace it. You know, become a writer and slap that name right on the front of the book.

          It’s always funny to introduce yourself and then watch as the person makes the connection. The ones I like to make fun of are the brainiacs who act like they are the first person to ever think of the joke in the whole world. “Holy shit, dude! Your name is–”

          Yeah, congratulations, Einstein.

        • Simone says:

          I work at a restaurant. A few months ago I was ringing up the bill for a table that I’d served. The guy handed over his credit card for me to swipe, I casually looked at the name printed on the bottom of the card and had to stifle my laughter until I was done with the transaction.

          The name: Wolfgang Dumfart. (I kid you not!)

        • Thomas Wood says:

          Dumfart is a very common name.

        • Simone says:

          I’d never heard of it before then.

  8. Becky says:

    What I was going to say before being distracted by Wood and Cox and Pat DeCock:

    What if amateur porn actors aren’t amateurs at all?

    What if they’re professional exhibitionists?

    Exhibitioners. Exhibitionators. Exhibitists.

    • Thomas Wood says:

      It’s a good point. I think, where porn is concerned, ‘amateur’ denotes more about the quality (ie. budget, script, etc) of the video than the professionalism of their career. Point in case, I used to have a friend who went on to do a number of amateur videos. I can’t say she made a living off of it, but I know she got paid.

      • Becky says:

        I think it gets more to the point of their motivations to call them professional exhibitionists. I guess I don’t really know how many fornipaiters are actually looking to get into fancy porn, and how many just made a video and sold it because, “Hey. We have us screwing on tape. Let’s sell it.” Or “Hey. I bet if we had us screwing on tape, we could sell it.”

        Maybe that matters. What is the intent of the low-quality porn? And what effect does that have on one’s location in the greater occupational porn continuum?

        • Thomas Wood says:

          Amateur porn usually isn’t amateur. That’s the first thing to note. There are some big companies making a lot of money off “amateur” as a look, not an actuality.

          As for the true amateur stuff. I’m guessing 75% of it is fueled by a male suggesting the filming and, eventually, thinking it would be pretty cool to have it displayed for one and all. The smart one’s at least get some kind of kickback for the content.

        • Becky says:

          Hmmm…so we have a need to define what actual amateur porn even IS.

        • Thomas Wood says:

          I’m not sure a definition would work here as the bastardized version has well become the norm. It’s very similar to how most “indie” films we’ve ever heard of or which have gotten much success have major studio backing and some top stars. I believe, for example, that “The Hurt Locker,” is considered an independent film.

          I doubt I and some friends could do as much, independently speaking.

        • Becky says:

          So what you’re saying is that we’re approaching a situation in which a subculture of indie porn snobbery is a real possibility.

          Will it have “sellouts” and everything? Please say yes.

          Yes!

          YES!

        • Thomas Wood says:

          Well, as opposed to cinema “independents,” I think ‘amateur’ in porn is highly sought after. It’s why so much big business is trying to catch onto it. Unlike with a real movie, it’s the authenticity people are after, as opposed to the setup.

          Snobby enough for ya?

        • Becky says:

          Really? I’m slightly confused. I thought porn was about fantasy and the way sex ISN’T. Not trying to make it look the way it is.

          Maybe it’s part of the “reality” TV zeitgeist?

        • Thomas Wood says:

          I can’t account for what turns everyone on but I think the trouble with your porn impression might lie in the word “fantasy.” Most of the time people think of fantasy in terms of fantastic, something a bit more unrealistic.

          I think the only fantastical part for most fellows (wont speak for women here, just yet) is their immediate chances of landing in such a situation with any girl. I think a lot of the most successful porn is the stuff that seems like something you might have done with a girlfriend, but I’ll leave it to the consensus of the other TNB gentlemen to decide.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          I’d be a little disturbed by an independent porn if it was entitled, “The Hurt Locker”. I’d probably still watch it at least once – just, you know, to see – but I would still be disturbed. In public, at least.

        • Becky says:

          It’s fantastic in the sense that all the wild vocalization and affirmation and gymnastic positions and enthusiastic dick-sucking are not the norm for regular long-term partner sex…

          And don’t even try to be macho about it, boys. Whatever you’re about to say… stop right there. Everyone knows you’re full of shit.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Well, just a…. I mean I…. Well, once…. Ah, fuck it. I’ve got a novel to finish writing. There are no sex scenes. Especially now.

        • Becky says:

          Sorry!

          Sorry fellas. Truly. I’m sure you’re all very adventurous in the sack. What do I know?

          (I don’t want to know.)

  9. Ryan Day says:

    Your right. Porn star does seem a bit grandiose. How about just saying someone’s been fornipaid…

    • Becky says:

      That would make them a FORNIPAITER.

      • Becky says:

        or fornipaiters. You know. Grammar just goes out the window.

        • Becky says:

          Let’s get married. All of us. I don’t cook, but I fold the laundry the right way.

        • Thomas Wood says:

          I’m inviting my Fiancée who can cook a mean pasta and is the sort of gal to not mind her man having spent the better part of the afternoon in an online discussion about porn.

        • Becky says:

          Excellent. I’m sure we’ll get along swimmingly. My husband cooks too, so we should be well-fed. Though this all leads towards the TNB commune idea that has been bandied about elsewhere.

        • Ryan Day says:

          Count me in. What is the right way to fold the laundry by the way? I’ll bring my girlfriend too, she may not mind the porn conversation, but you’ll both have to learn Spanish.

        • Becky says:

          I speak Italian and enough Spanish for it to occasionally interfere with my Italian. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

          All the better if TNB develops its own Spanish/Italian/English pidgin. Then we’ll know we’ve REALLY arrived as a culture.

        • Becky says:

          Oh. And the right way to fold laundry is my way.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          “All the better if TNB develops its own Spanish/Italian/English pidgin.” Brilliant! It’d be like Esperanto, only cool. I would suggest that we eschew gender and plural differences. Maybe tense, too. We’d be talking like frigging cavepeople but, to outsiders, we would sound absolutely elegant.

        • Becky says:

          It will incorporate all the Italian gestures, the English sense of entitlement, and the sultry Spanish undertones.

          We will be one sexy, expressive, snotty cult.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          God, we are just fucking amazing, aren’t we?

        • Becky says:

          I’m all bothered just thinking about it.

        • Ryan Day says:

          I’m all for the Italian gestures anyway. I’ve often wondered how Italians effectively communicate online… Are there wild hand-waving emoticons?

        • Becky says:

          They do have their own internet speak, actually. I think “X” means “per” (“para” in Spanish).

  10. Thomas Wood says:

    Eventually all of this will lead (if my subtle nudging of the comment unconscious goes as planned) to The Nervous Breakdown: After Dark.

    • Becky says:

      With the exception of my occasional wild-eyed political ejaculations, my entire TNB experience is TNB after dark.

      If there’s no potential for at least a fart joke, I’m pretty much not interested.

      I’m classy like that.

  11. Jordan Ancel says:

    This is hilarious! I love your solution: “…a porner could eventually work his way up to official porn stardom.”

    As if they need to start off with bit parts, maybe just some background nudity or even a nipple flash.

  12. Joe Daly says:

    Hilarious! This started out strong, and really picked up steam at: “…definitely a rapist or victim on Law & Order: SVU.”

    >>The labeling issue is further confused when you consider the relative ease of getting a great many people to watch you in a porn.<<

    Funny, but in music, artists run around shopping their demo to anyone who will listen. Writers do blogs, online columns, essays, etc. But what do up and coming porners do? Make a shitload of porn and send it off to all their friends: “This is just our first effort- would love some feedback on the double sided part. Thx! Miindii xoxo” Poor porners…

    • Thomas Wood says:

      Yeah, I’ve actually tried to find out about how girls get their start. I can’t figure it out and I think, honestly, it comes down to some guy saying, here’s $500 bucks. Everybody is doing it. Of course, there is always the gateway theory that stripping leads to porn. Might hold some water.

  13. You know the Aussies have all these great words for every imaginable sex act (ROOT, for one) surely they can give you a great name for porn participators. Pornicipators.

    • Thomas Wood says:

      My favorite thing about Australian naming is their tendency (though I may have completely made this up) to double up on funny words. “Juba-Juber” (entirely made up nonsense) would be as good an Aussie submission as any in my book.

  14. Great stuff… It’s so true. But you have to give these people something. They’re probably in porn because movies, music and even reality TV were out of the question. For whatever reason, they got stuck with displaying their genitalia in the public domain, where the only people not laughing at them are the guys jerking off.

    Even if you’re an extra (rapist or not) on a TV show or in a movie, you’ve probably got more bragging rights than a porn… er, actor?

    So I’m happy to keep calling them “stars.” It does make it a little hard (heehee) to differentiate, though, between the popular and unpopular ones. Perhaps we should use the prefixes “Actual-” and “So-called-“

    • Thomas Wood says:

      There’s a flaw in the argument of your first paragraph. I would argue that “the only people not laughing at them are the guys jerking off” comprises some 55% of the internet population, at least. That’s a whole lot of people not laughing.

      But someone else brought up this issue that “stars” is a kind of gimmie because we pity them. I don’t think so. Too condescending for my tastes. I’ll think on it more.

  15. Greg Olear says:

    Ha! And of course you’re absolutely right. One of myriad linguistic shortcomings of our native tongue. (Note: please ignore the double entendres in the preceding sentence).

    What will they call Lindsay Lohan when she makes her first porno? That will clear up a lot of things for us.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      “What will they call Lindsay Lohan when she makes her first porno?”

      Um. I don’t think “no-talent hack” sounds all that hot. Probably wouldn’t attract too many to the ranks.

      • Greg Olear says:

        I think she is talented. For real actresses, and certainly for the XXX crowd. She’d be the Meryl Streep of blue movies.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Well, having never seen her – *cough* – “perform”, I suppose I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. And, in case my wife is reading these comments, no, Greg, I do NOT want you to email me the details on any private screening. Especially not at the address in my bio. Right there. At the bottom. Last sentence.

    • Thomas Wood says:

      Well, considering there are nude photos of her in Playboy and some video floating around that claims to be her in the middle of some fellating, whatever they call her, the future is now.

  16. Simon Smithson says:

    Ah, the sweet constellation of sleaze.

    I wish, I wish, I could think of a clever portmanteau here. I honestly do. I’m racking my brain…

    Wait! Wait! Would women with fake breasts be racktors?

    • Thomas Wood says:

      Love it, except that it leads me to Raptors, which I then associate with my favorite pub-quiz go-to team name (I consider it ironic, but please don’t ask me to explain), which makes me wonder which country is the largest producer of potatoes. Potatoes are round, which get’s be back to breasts. Okay, Racktors works.

  17. D.R. Haney says:

    Are there really porn stars, still? I thought that notion was dying, now that so many people (well, so many men) watch online clips featuring anonymous performers, rather than DVDs (and in the way-gone days VHS tapes) with “names” on their covers to draw attention to them.

    Sorry that this is such a literal-minded comment!

  18. Marni Grossman says:

    In terms of standards, does one have to be a) a good actor, b) well-endowed, or c) sexually adventurous? And how do we quantify these things? Obviously, the industry is crying out for someone to do their due diligence on this issue…

    Laughed so hard, Thomas-

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