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Porn Stars Turned Escorts: The Risky and Lucrative New Trend

In ailing porn industry, actors turn to prostitution with higher health risks.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ileela

 
 
 
 

In 2007, the former adult performer Mariah Milano returned to porn after a seven-year hiatus from the industry. A voluptuous brunette with a passing resemblance to “Millionaire Matchmaker’s” Patti Stanger, Milano shot her first adult film in 1998 when she was 18, appearing in 240 movies before retiring two years later. When she returned to porn in the mid-aughts, a co-worker approached Milano with a query she had never heard during her first few years in the industry: how much she charged as a private escort.

“At first I was like, ‘What? This is weird,’” says Milano, who retired for good in 2011. “But then girls would text me all the time being like, ‘Hey, Mariah, what’s your rate?’ I’d get hit up on Twitter, through email, asking how much. People were just assuming that I escorted.” Even her agent at the time, she says, approached her to see if she was interested.

When Milano first entered the industry, an adult performer openly escorting was relatively rare: “Escorts were considered dirty, bottom of the barrel. Nobody was open to admitting they did it.” Yet by the time she returned less than a decade later, the industry had changed drastically: the talent pool was larger, the number of available roles much smaller, and the advent of digital piracy had driven performers’ rates down. Escorting, or “working private,” has become one of the most lucrative ways for adult performers to supplement their flagging incomes, with many earning up to thousands of dollars for a single booking.

Because escorting is illegal in the state of California, the trend is rarely openly discussed outside industry circles. Yet the rise of escorting is something of an open secret in the San Fernando Valley, where an estimated 90 percent of porn is shot. “If you look at the escort sites, pretty much every porn star is on there,” the adult performer Houston told me a few months ago. “I think pretty much everyone is doing it now.”

Stormi Mountain, the spokesperson of adult entertainer directory Eros.com, sees the rise of performers escorting as a reflection of a greater shift in the industry. While performers have previously focused on offering prerecorded content, the advent of camming and social media have increased the emphasis on interacting with fans.“A new type of adult star is emerging,” she says. “Before, you just had to look good on film. Today’s bigger stars are more comfortable with that type of interaction, and that sometimes means they’re more willing to go on paid dates.”

The practice is also cause for concern for a handful of industry insiders, who view the prospect of performers having bareback sex with “hobbyists,” a slang term for those who frequent escorts, as a potential health risk. “On the surface, you don’t really hear about [escorting], because it’s not something that the [adult industry lobbying group] Free Speech Coalition or any of the big agencies or studios are gonna bring front and center,” says Mike South, a former adult performer who runs the gossip blog MikeSouth.com. “But when you talk to the performers and the people most at risk, the whole escorting thing is one of the really big issues when it comes to transmitting STDs on set.”

The issue of escorting is fairly divisive among performers, in part because it’s a relatively new phenomenon: While some performers have presumably been covertly working private for years, the practice was largely stigmatized within the adult film community until recently. “It used to be that [performers] who escorted, if that was known, weren’t hired, because they were considered a higher risk factor w/ STDs,” says adult performer Kayden Kross, who entered the industry in 2006. “No one wanted them on their set.”