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Ex-Porn Star Tells the Truth About the Porn Industry

Last Updated: February 15, 2024

shelley lubben

This article is a guest post by Shelley Lubben. Shelley, an ex-porn star, was the founder and president of The Pink Cross Foundation from 2008-2016.Through the Pink Cross, Shelley was a missionary to the sex industry, reaching out to adult industry workers offering emotional, financial, and transitional support for those who want out of porn. Her heart was to share the truth about porn and expose the darkness of it.


Chatsworth, California produces 85% of the world’s adult content. All of the top female talent agencies are located in or within the Chatsworth local radius. Female performers are flown or fly to Chatsworth to work in the adult industry. All of the world’s top male talents live or travel to Chatsworth California for work. Every major and minor adult DVD Company is in the local Chatsworth radius. 

The California pornography industry is a destructive, drug-infested, abusive, and sexually diseased industry that causes severe negative secondary effects on female and male adult industry workers as well as the general public. I am confident of the above because not only was I a stripper, pornographic performer, and escort in the California pornography industry from 1986 to 1994, but I have also counseled with or spoken to over 300 female and male workers in the pornography industry as well as those struggling with pornography addiction. 

I have been working with adult industry workers since 2002, when I began volunteering as a teacher and counselor at local rescue missions and prisons in the State of California. I have worked at Madera Rescue Mission, Bakersfield Rescue Mission, Central California Women’s Facility Prison, and Valley State Prison for Women and have traveled throughout the United States as a speaker and counselor on the negative effects of pornography at various churches, recovery programs, and secular organizations. 

General Statistics on the Porn Industry 

In my daily work of assisting women and men recovering from the pornography industry, as well as those struggling with pornography addiction and gathering research over a period of several years, I have learned significant facts to prove that indeed the California pornography industry is causing severe secondary negative effects on adult industry workers as well as the general public, which is involuntarily exposed to pornography, especially children, whose average age of first internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old. 

According to pornography statistics: 

  • It is estimated that there are 4.2 million porn websites—12% of the total amount of sites—allowing access to 72 million worldwide visitors monthly. 
  • One-quarter of the total daily search engine requests, or 68 million, are for pornographic material, where 40 million Americans are regular visitors. 
  • According to comScore Media Metrix, 71.9 million people visited adult sites in August 2005, reaching 42.7 percent of the internet audience. 
  • The United States adult film industry produces 4,000–11,000 films a year and earns an estimated $9–$13 billion in gross revenues annually. 
  • An estimated 200 production companies employ 1,200–1,500 performers. Performers typically earn $400–$1,000 per shoot and are not compensated based on distribution or sales. 
  • Lobbyist Bill Lyon told 60 Minutes that the porn industry employs 12,000 people in California and pays the state $36 million in taxes per year. When 60 Minutes first spoke to Lyon, he was running the free speech coalition, a trade organization that represents 900 companies in the porn business. 

Porn Workers Frequently Receive STDs 

Adult film performers engage in prolonged and repeated sexual acts with multiple sexual partners over short periods of time, creating ideal conditions for transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). All the more concerning, high-risk sex acts are on the rise. 

At the same time, condom use is reportedly low in heterosexual adult films—approximately 17% for adult performers. In 2004, only two of the 200 adult film companies required the use of condoms. Performers report that they are required to work without condoms to maintain employment. 

These practices lead to high transmission rates of STDs and occasionally HIV among performers. After four performers contracted HIV in 1998, Sharon Mitchell, a former adult film performer, founded Adult Industry Medical, a clinic to counsel and screen performers monthly for HIV. 

The current practice of periodic HIV and STD testing may detect some diseases early but often fails to prevent transmission. In April 0f 2004, three performers who had been compliant with monthly screening contracted HIV. At that time, a male performer who had tested HIV negative only three days earlier infected three of 14 female performers. 

What the Performers Say About STDs 

In statements I have received from females and males working in the pornography industry and those who previously worked in the industry, at least 80% admit to catching an STD while working in the California pornography industry. 

  • I personally caught the non-curable disease Genital Herpes in 1994 and was not given any information or help from porn producers or the adult industry. 
  • Jan Meza, a former porn actress who left the porn industry in October 2007, publicly shared of late that she discovered she has Herpes. She is totally devastated in that she caught a non-curable disease. 
  • Belladonna, a well-known pornographic performer states: “99% of the porn industry has herpes.” 
  • One male pornographic performer, Rocco, 600 films and 3,000 women later, says: “Every professional in the porn-world has herpes, male or female.” 
  • Tanya Burleson, formerly known as Jersey Jaxin, caught Chlamydia her first year working. She exclaimed, while speaking with me, “I don’t believe I worked with one person who didn’t at one time have an STD.” Tanya made over 200 movies in her three-year career. She also says, “Performers have to pay for their own testing, their medicine, and lose at least eight days of work every time they catch a sexually transmitted disease.” 

Sexually transmitted diseases are highly prevalent in the pornography industry. Among 825 porn performers screened in 2000–2001, 7.7% of females and 5.5% of males had Chlamydia and 2% overall had gonorrhea. Dr. Sharon Mitchell confirms the STD prevalence in an interview with Court TV, in which she states: “66% of porn performers have herpes, 12-28% have sexually transmitted diseases and 7% have HIV.” 

Why Some Porn Stars Also Work at Escort Services 

Pornographic performers and adult industry workers also often engage in prostitution through escort agencies such as Body Miracle, Dreamgirls, and Porno Star Escorts, where they not only risk sexually transmitted disease but also HIV and hepatitis C infection. 

Pornographic performers usually prefer escorting because the pay is much higher and sex acts are not as degrading or physically demanding. They receive approximately $100 an hour for working in pornographic films or $1500 an hour for escorting. Adult industry workers who are also pornographic performers get paid higher than other adult escorts due to their celebrity status and can book 2-3 hour appointments and make approximately $3000 a day. Agents also lie to women in the adult industry and lure them into prostitution. Porn performer Erin Moore says, “Some agents lie to the girls and tell them they are shooting a scene when instead they set up prostitution acts for them.” 

While I was a pornographic performer in 1993-94, I was flown to different parts of the United States by porn companies where consumers of pornography sometimes paid me thousands of dollars to spend a weekend with them where we engaged in unprotected sex. During one appointment with a man and his wife, we engaged in unprotected sex and I passed the disease to both of them. Pornographic performers and adult industry workers definitely spread sexually transmitted diseases to the general public. 

The Prevalence of Drug Abuse in the Porn Industry 

Another secondary negative effect of the adult industry is the exposure to drugs and drug addiction. Porn actress Erin Moore admits, “The drugs we binged on were Ecstasy, Cocaine, Marijuana, Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and alcohol.” 

Tanya Burleson, formerly known as Jersey Jaxin, says, “Guys are punching you in the face. You get ripped. Your insides can come out of you. It’s never-ending. You’re viewed as an object—not as a human with a spirit. People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they’re being treated.” 

One male porn star says on his blog on January 28, 2008: 

“Drugs are a major, major problem in my business. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you. I can’t tell you the number of girls who have disappeared and dropped out of the business because of their drug problems. It is unbelievably sad to think about, and seeing some of them fall into a downward spiral hurts me more than others. But I think we all can agree that a huge majority of drug users will never change unless they get professional help. 

I have seen all manner of drugs on set, at parties, in cars, everywhere. If I had to guess, I would put marijuana use at 90% of ALL people involved in the industry (performers, directors, crew, agents, drivers, owners, office workers, etc.). 

I have been on a set where a girl has passed out during a sex scene with me (she was abusing oxycontin). Just recently a girl overdosed on GHB (a party drug that is a clear odorless drug that doesn’t mix well with alcohol) on set. I have seen a girl win a prestigious AVN Award, not show up to accept the award, and then fall into the throes of drug use that caused her to lose at least 50 pounds and drop off the face of the earth. 

Why is drug use so prevalent in our business? Well, let’s figure that out. 

First of all, remember that the business is populated largely with girls aged 18-21. And the majority of those girls are uneducated (many haven’t graduated high school). Add to that the fact that many come into the business because they have no money and are working at menial jobs like fast food places. So you have young girls who are uneducated with very little money entering the business. 

Once they are in the business, they are now making ten thousand dollars a month and working maybe five hours a day 10-15 days a month. There are predators out there that can smell these girls and prey on them like sharks. Young, uneducated girls with lots of money, lots of free time, and very little supervision. This is a really bad equation (unless you are a drug dealer of course).” 

All Porn Industry Workers Experience Abuse 

In addition to prevalent drug use, degradation and abuse are rampant in the pornography industry. In one study, 100% of the strippers reported some kind of verbal or physical abuse on their jobs.

Verbal abuse by customers is extremely common with 91% reporting incidents. They were routinely called degrading names. 

Besides the verbal abuse, all endured some type of physical abuse on the job. Despite the fact that it is illegal to touch a stripper, strippers reported that customers: 

  • Grabbed them by the arm (88%) 
  • Grabbed their breast (73%) 
  • Grabbed their buttock (91%) 
  • Pulled their hair (27%) 
  • Pinched them (58%) 
  • Slapped them (24%) 
  • Bit them (36%) 

The strippers are often attacked in front of the strip club bodyguards and other audience members. 

Former pornographic performer Alex Devine shares her violent experience and writes: 

“Donkey Punch was the most brutal, depressing, scary scene that I have ever done. I have tried to block it out of my memory due to the severe abuse I received during the filming. The guy, Steve French, has a natural hatred towards women in the sense that he has always been known to be more brutal than EVER needed. I agreed to do the scene thinking it was less beating, except the ‘punch’ in the head. If you noticed, Steve had worn his solid gold ring the entire time and continued to punch me with it. I actually stopped the scene while it was being filmed because I was in too much pain.” 

There is a very heavy emphasis on rougher, more sadistic sex, with slapping, spitting, violent hair-pulling, and scenes of extremely abusive hardcore sex acts. In one film, the man forces the woman’s head into a toilet during the final scene, a technique that seems to help him achieve climax. 

See Porn and Sexual Violence: 7 Important Facts.

Safe Workplace Laws Aren’t Enforced in California

In California, every employer is required to ensure that employees have a safe working environment. In 1973, the California Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted to assure safe and healthful working conditions for all California working men and women by authorizing the enforcement of effective standards, assisting and encouraging employers to maintain safe and healthful working conditions, and by providing research, information, education, training, and enforcement in the field of occupational safety and health. 

Employers in the California porn industry are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees, even pay the costs of a health and safety program, and yet this is not the standard in the adult industry. 

Currently, employers in the California pornography industry completely ignore the laws of the State of California to protect adult industry workers. This causes severe secondary negative effects on workers by subjecting them to physical and emotional abuse, major degradation and violence, illegal drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and entrapment into prostitution. This is the standard of the California pornography industry. Any adult industry employer or worker who tells you differently is blatantly lying and does not value human life, but is rather destroying human life for the gluttonous love of money. 

Get More Facts About the Porn Industry and Its Impact on Consumers

The porn industry has a dark side for porn workers, but porn has some strong negative effects on consumers too. Learn more about the harms of porn and get the latest statistics on the porn industry in our free ebook Porn Stats.  

  1. PhotoBob

    First off I can’t personally say anything as to Shelley since I didn’t know her she quit before I started working as a cinematographer, however if you type her name in Google search and put scam behind it you can find all sorts of things. That being said not all adult studios are the same or have the same practices in place, half of the story is BS and the other half taken out of context or misconstrued for example female actresses are not paid a hundred dollars try adding a zero, female actresses are paid more than male actors and they are the ones who should be complaining because they start at 200, some female performers do strip webcam and prostitute what they do in their personal life should not be reflected on a porn studio in any manner it’s their choice to engage in those activities nor is it the studios responsibility for what bad things happen as a result to their own misconduct. California laws have been enforcing the industry for years certain studios no longer exist because of their breaking of laws. The top four studio’s have the highest and strictest STD policy’s in place for everyone involved including the production crew’s. Yes occasionally there’s a problem and production is shutdown and the problem is usually solved. Metaphor of you purchased a brand new car and you find out there is a recall on a part it’s your choice to take it back to the manufacturer or go to a mom and Pop car shop and get it fixed if that shop screw up your car that was your fault not the manufacturer’s problem. It always amazing to me female and male performer always seem to talk bad about the industry when they have been fired or retired for other health reasons that really had nothing to do with the industry. I’m a retired photographer but it’s my eyesight that is the problem not the industries fault I have stigmatism and none of the anti porn actresses ever confess to the fact that they willingly engage in said acts in the first place the biggest misconstrued concept is the porn you are watching is real in the first place it’s acting every detail is faked you just don’t see it because a editor cut it out of the actual taping. Even casting calls are fake sex doesn’t happen in a casting call maybe solo masterbation but not sex. It’s a business and no business is going to willfully jeopardize themselves by having sex with a amateur performer with out testing and other legal things in place. Performers on drugs like marijuana are subject to testing but that is again not a studio problem marijuana is now legal in California we can’t enforce not using it.

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