By Alex Olivares
Underneath the burning studio lights, 24-year-old Cindy Starfall strips down in front of a group of men she has never met. She drops to her knees and sizes the four of them up as they surround her. For the next 47 minutes, the men have sex with her in every way imaginable. This may seem taboo to most people, but for Starfall, it’s just another day on the job.
“I’ve seen a lot of penises,” she says laughing.
The Orange County porn star has skyrocketed into fame since she began this line of work in 2012, starring in more than 80 titles for companies including Evil Angel and Wicked Pictures. Her work has already garnered a nomination for Best New Starlet of 2014 at the Adult Video News Awards, the Oscars of the porn industry.
She’s even releasing a line of T-shirts this year.
“One day I was at a swinger’s party, and I met this guy who worked for Hustler,” explains Starfall. “He introduced me to Larry [Flynt], and he featured me in Hustler magazine. That was my first adult work. After that, my agent found me and it just happened so quickly.”
But off screen and away from industry professionals, Starfall hides her job from others, often telling new acquaintances that she is a student or model.
[quote]“I’m not the type of porn star to go out there and broadcast to everybody that I’m a porn star,” she says. “If they happen to recognize me then I just go with it.”[/quote]
She does this to avoid the sense of judgment she sometimes receives from people. Not even her parents know about her work.
“I want people to know more about me,” she says. “I want people to know my personality.”
Although the porn industry is massive, with estimates of its annual revenue in the billions, female performers endure a stigma surrounding their jobs that affects them both in public and in their personal lives. Despite the industry’s emergence into the mainstream, respect for women working in it is still far from becoming a reality.
“The adult film industry is booming. It’s undeniable,” said Alondo Campbell, a professor of sociology at Santa Ana College. “But there’s a contradiction: on one hand, we are interested and entertained by it, and on the other hand we discriminate against those who bring it to us.”
Societies develop scripts, or expected behaviors, for individuals based on class, race and gender, according to Campbell. Any behavior that deviates from these expectations must be done in secret at the risk of becoming an outcast.
People outside the industry perceive gender roles in porn differently.
“It’s traditional for men not to be monogamous,” says Lindsay Fawcett, a Santa Ana College student.
But women go against what is deemed acceptable in adult films while men are fulfilling archetypes.
“[Porn] actresses are going against traditional values,” adds SAC student Emanuel Guerra. “But if a man is in porn, he is accomplishing something.”
The double standards that Fawcett and Guerra point out come from the reality that men’s societal scripts don’t limit their sexual behavior, but women’s societal scripts do.
“[A male porn star] won’t walk around and catch all kinds of ridicule because [they] went against the grain,” Campbell says. “Those things were set up to control women. That grain was never there for [men] anyways.”
But for women in porn, their very careers depend on breaking societal norms. In the realm of dating, that means having a difficult time finding a partner willing to look past their line of work.
“When it comes to dating, that’s a hard one,” Starfall admits. “I don’t tell [my dates] at first.”
Accepting a partner’s promiscuity is a difficult thing to do as it is, says Todd Creager, a marriage and sex therapist from Huntington Beach. But when a wife or girlfriend has worked in the sex industry, these issues become much more complicated.
“Most people do have a sexual history,” Creager says, “but when a person is very promiscuous, like a porn star or a prostitute, it can bring up negative feelings, even repulsion. [Their partner] thinks, ‘Wow, I’m not very special. Look at the other people that they’ve had sex with.’”
Oftentimes for a woman like Starfall, relationships come to an end with the revelation of their careers.
“If later on I decide to tell them and they don’t like me for what I am then I just have to move on,” Starfall says.
While some of the backlash they face may be passive in the form of lost relationships, the reaction porn stars receive from the public can border on violent.
Belle Knox, a 19-year old Duke University student, was working in the adult film industry to pay off her expensive tuition. When a member of a fraternity recognized her in a video and confronted her about her identity, she confided in him, thinking he would respect her privacy.
He didn’t. The frat boy spread word on campus of her work, and Knox faced threats of rape and death from complete strangers who would have otherwise ignored her. The harassment caught the attention of the media and her story received national attention.
“We’re a culture that is rooted in violence,” Campbell says. “[We think], ‘There’s some kind of morality that this person violates and I must attack her, purify the race.’ Most of us are enjoying this stuff privately but in the open we push ourselves from it so that we look innocent.”
American society still has a long way to go in granting women in the sex industry respect because sex itself is still so taboo, Creager said.
“We’re still pretty repressed,” Creager says. “When you compare us to Europeans, who are just much more comfortable with sexuality and with nakedness, there’s definitely a more relaxed feeling.”