Why do some companies have such little respect for our industry’s talent? That topic came up in my private conversations at EXXXOTICA Expo last week.
Events like EXXXOTICA provide a vital space where those of us who work in adult entertainment can gather and promote our services directly to fans; they also provide a space for us to network, grow our bonds of friendship and swap adventure stories.
All this matters.
These events also provide a chance to realize a simple truth: we’re all part of something that’s larger than ourselves. Many of us feel a sense of depression when these shows are over and we’re forced to tread back into the more mundane “civilian” world, but we’re comforted by the thought that the next show is just around the corner.
On the second evening of the Chicago show, I found myself sharing a drink with a male colleague. This guy’s what I’d call the genuine deal; he doesn’t work in front of the camera, but he’s an advocate for our industry’s talent. He expressed frustration that the good ideas of veteran performers are so often dismissed by the companies that rely on creators – and this dismissal comes despite their valuable firsthand experience and their intimate understanding of what fans enjoy.
Why does that happen?
Some of it just comes down to plain old sexism, so let’s get that one off the board right away. Sexism doesn’t just affect talent though. Women who make up the ranks of our industry’s business executives, marketing professionals, sales teams, tech/IT workers, etc., they all know something about that fight. None of this is unique to porn, but we’re certainly not immune to it either.
What else? How about the persistent nonsense that people wouldn’t work in front of a camera if they had the skills to work off-camera?
If you believe that, you haven’t spent much time with our industry’s talent.
YNOT as a company devotes a lot of time to hanging out with models, creators and adult actors – partly because we just dig artists, but also because we need to understand how we can do our part to help everyone reach their best potential in this business. Without a thriving artist community, we have no industry. Full stop.
We were the first (and I think only) company to build a professional development summit for models and creators, and we called it YNOT Cammunity because we believe strongly that our industry is best when we work together as a community, when we lift each other up.
Although I’ve worked in adult entertainment for close to 25 years now, my passion for my work has never been higher than it has been since we launched YNOT Cam, YNOT Cam Awards and YNOT Cammunity. It’s deeply rewarding to meet so many truly wonderful people who work in front of the camera, and to get to know them all as people – not just their industry personas.
This week in Chicago, I had a great conversation with one performer who spent years working in search and rescue before finding his home in adult. Another who I met for the first time previously worked as a certified schoolteacher, and another is a pilot!
Several told me about the websites they built from the ground up, and we discussed the technical challenges they overcame to build the site they envisioned for themselves. Another cam model I really admire performed ballet in New York before camming, and two I know from recent collaborations are currently studying UX design. Yet another is a high-level martial artist.
I could go on and on. Today’s models/creators remind me of certain sectors from the “adult webmaster” crowd of the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, but with additional on-camera skills that the webmaster group clearly lacked. Successful performers have compelling personalities their fans find attractive; so, in addition to the time they spend shooting content, running websites and implementing their marketing plans, cam models and creators have fans constantly clamoring for their attention.
Think maybe all this is worthy of your respect?
If I could offer some advice to the performer community though, it’d be this: be careful which companies and individuals you help build up.
Here’s a hard truth – not all executives in adult truly respect talent, even if most of them try very hard to appear as if they do. The trick is to pay extra special attention to what companies and their top executives actually do, not just what they say they value and do.
How do I know this? Well, because I’ve spent time networking with almost all the major adult companies in this industry, and some of them are downright proud of their disdain for models.
This isn’t most companies, thank gawd, so I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. But there are quite a few who have a toxic internal culture – and some of them project to be powerful and influential. Think of the most disrespectful men you’ve met online, then imagine them running companies that you feel a need to cooperate with. Not ideal.
I remember one meeting where an executive – whose business completely relied on talent, mind you – said this of his performers: “I’m surprised these girls don’t wake up in the mornings with their heads glued to the carpet.”
We’ve heard stories of executives who call for “business meetings” with performers, only to try and coax them back to their homes. You know, to “help” their careers. Fucking gross.
I remember a good friend trying in vain to get his boss, who runs a very well-known adult industry brand, to put some resources behind helping sex workers. The response he got? “Why do you care about these people?”
That boss owns a company that many sex workers use, and I see talent pushing that brand often.
Given all this, it truly sucks to watch performers, unaware of these toxic companies, building them up and making them powerful. When we’ve tried to get a good understanding for why this happens, it usually comes down to a belief that these brands can make the difficult task of finding fans and making sales just a little bit easier. Given this, toxic companies sometimes invest in projecting BIG, BIGGER and BIGGEST!!! As if they think: just say it (when it’s not true), the models will believe it.
Look, this isn’t all that different from the mainstream world. Take the company Microsoft, for instance. You may know them for their software, but there’s a huge ecosystem of small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) that hover around Microsoft in hopes of a partnership scenario with the tech giant that will lead straight to the promi$ed land.
It usually doesn’t work, especially not in the long term. Microsoft benefits greatly from having all these companies pushing its brand, but if any of them stumble on a business model that generates a lot of income, it’s pretty high risk that Microsoft will just launch their own solution and (waves magic wand) take those customers away in a hurry.
In adult though, we have a unique environment; many of our companies and brands, a majority even, are existing in adult because the teams behind them just love this industry and the opportunities it brings. You know these guys because you’ve seen them at shows, you’ve talked to them yourself and felt that genuine energy. You see it in how they run their companies, and how accessible their top executives are to talent. They devote resources to your success.
The others? Well, you’ve probably heard rumors. Maybe it’s stories you keep hearing from other talent, bad experience stories that keep adding up, getting harder and harder to ignore. Maybe there’s something just overtly phony about their marketing, their approach to business, like they think you’re just too stupid to see through their nonsense. Listen to your heart, no matter how badly you want to believe otherwise. You truly do not need them. You have plenty of good options.
Most adult brands these days rely a great deal on talent to thrive, which means there’s an incredible amount of power in the collective choices of our models, creators and actors. Prop up the wrong companies and you’ll find yourself dealing with a monster who wields power like a dangerous weapon, instead of a beneficial tool. You seriously don’t want that because it means the people whose platforms matter the most to your success actually respect you the least.
You want adult executives to respect you, and to listen to your needs. So make them learn this: if their culture is toxic, if they aren’t truly about mutual success, then talent will abandon them at the drop of a dime – no matter how much they insist only they have the traffic and fans you need to succeed.
And don’t forget the flipside. If you see a company working hard to build up a positive community, one that cares not just for their own profits, but for the collective health of our industry, get behind those brands. You’ll know them when you see them.