To porn or not to porn?
February 7, 2010 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of posing nude for a niche pin-up site, but before I do it, help me think of all the ways this could backfire.

I'm trying to be objective as possible about the ramifications of posing nude online for money. I'm not looking to make bank, I already have a full time job, but I've been told by a respected site owner that I could make $400 for about 240 photos and 6 videos. It's a (probably) one-time thing. I know once it's out there I have no control over where photos end up, but I feel like this niche (BBW, FWIW) is pretty far removed from my normal social and especially professional and family life. I'm more interested in how this might affect my personal self-image. I'm good at assessing and caring for my own mental health, so I have to admit that I am pretty stressed over money and career goals, currently getting over a recent break up, and not had the best self-esteem since winter set in. (Great body image, however, which seems to be the most important factor here.) My feeling is that this might give me a much needed sense of accomplishment and creative fulfillment. In fact I'm really excited by the creative aspect as photography is a passion of mine, and I've already brainstormed tons of ideas for doing this with/for a partner.

I am desperately saving money for an upcoming expense, and thus scraping up every red cent I'm worth. (Mo' money, mo' existential crisis.) I flirted with the idea of posing for this site a few years ago when the money was much less of a factor, but since it was at the suggestion of a pretty controlling boyfriend I decided that wasn't a great starting point and haven't thought about it since.. Now I'm once again intrigued, independent, and have the extra impetus of needing money. I'd never do it for the attention or self-validation, though I'm not philosophically against people who do. I've always supported sex work and sexual expression in general, especially when it challenges the status-quo. I just don't know how to reconcile that with my previous ethos that my sexuality was something shared only with my partner (or if with others, at least in a way they were comfortable with). I guess I'm trying to remember that it's sharing an expression of my sexuality - not my actual body or sex. In that way, it's on a similar level as going out and shaking my butt in a mini skirt and revealing top, right?

Sites I'm considering are very softcore and have strict "No Open Legged Nude Shots, Sexual Action Shots". Basically just smiling, winking and eating cake. I do those things often, for free and with gusto. For background, I've posed nude for figure drawing classes and classmates' portrait photography in art school. Obviously this is a few worlds apart, but I think I am comfortable enough with my body to be able to ignore criticism. Ideally I'd like to be completely cut off from my audience insofar as communication, but I know they encourage at least answering e-mails.

Could this turn out to be just as innocuous as selling plasma, whoring myself in retail hell on the weekends, and everything else I'm doing to make extra cash right now?

Sorry I'm rambling but I have almost no one to talk to about this, and I want to do it in the most healthy way I can. Feel free to give 3rd party advice. But especially for anyone that's done any kind of porn, I'm really looking for anecdotal cases. How do you compartmentalize? Has it been a benefit or determent to your mental health? Is there anything you regret? How do you deal, indirectly or directly, with your audience? Did you encounter people who perceive it as a character flaw and treat you with less respect? What about reactions from future lovers and partners?

Obviously this can be a pretty private subject, so feel free to e-mail me at pornornot at gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know much about this, but $400 for 240 pics and 6 videos sounds like pretty crap pay. I'd negotiate for more cash if you're going to do it, what the hell.
posted by crazylegs at 6:27 PM on February 7, 2010 [27 favorites]


Red flags for me are that you seem primarily motivated by money, and you admit to being in a self-esteem valley right now. Think about whether or not this is the best timing. Also (and I've never done this myself, but I have taken photos of nekkid people, and I've been photographed clothed)-- be in a position where you know you have it in you to walk away immediately if something doesn't feel right about the photographer, the people on set, the poses you're being placed in, etc.
posted by availablelight at 6:29 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing to consider is the advance of technology. There is a great deal of research going into face recognition and visual search engines. A future in which someone right clicks on your facebook profile photo and can "search for other photos of this person" might not be too far away.
posted by centerweight at 6:36 PM on February 7, 2010 [20 favorites]


I don't know anything about the porn industry, but $400 seems like nothing to me too, especially given that the pictures would be Out There forever.
posted by gerryblog at 6:36 PM on February 7, 2010


First, that doesn't seem like much money for what you are doing.

Having said that, I think this can absolutely be done in a healthy way. But don't count on being able to compartmentalize it. In my experience, and I'm not a porn star but was photographed nude for a website, I was able to do what I did because I enjoyed it-everything about it. It wasn't about money-it was fun too. Yes, people will perceive it as a character flaw. And some future lovers and partners will be revolted by the idea, no matter how tasteful the photos are. So if the decision is all about money (or maybe not feeling so good about yourself right now), I think you will regret it later. If the decision is based on a true desire to do this, then it's easier to own it later when someone asks you what the hell you were thinking doing something like that. It almost seems like you are trying to justify this to yourself and that's probably not the best way to make this decision.
posted by supercapitalist at 6:39 PM on February 7, 2010


Ask yourself if you are comfortable with the idea that every single person you know now, and every single person you may know in the future, will be able to see these pictures. You will never be able to un-ring the bell, so to speak. No matter what you might decide to do down the line, these pictures will follow you. You think it's pretty far removed from your personal and professional life but I wouldn't be so sure about that. They may be beautiful photos and you might cherish and celebrate them for the next 50 years. And then again, maybe not. Is $400 enough to make this decision for you?

Personally I think there are easier ways to earn that kind of money, without the chance of lifelong regret.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:52 PM on February 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Two things:
A) You're not picking up very much money for what you're putting down. $1.50/pic & $3/vid?
B) This has huge potential of you later saying something like, "That was a very different time in my life. I was stressed, had low self-esteem, and was struggling through a breakup. I was also naive about the industry and had no control of the TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY photos and SIX videos I signed away my rights to. If I could change things..."

Seriously, you can't put the kittens back in the cat. Imagine if you posted this to AskMe non-anonymously? If you do this gig, at some point later, I guarantee it, something will come up that will give you the equivalent feeling.

Personally, if I were you, I would take your great body self-image and go nuts with it...privately. Create and explore a huge, mysterious and playful world of debauchery and sexiness. Then one day when other things all come together for you, let an awesome person into this great big secret you've got going on. Or maybe bring it out into the world later, when you've got it figured out a bit more and won't be such a source of stress for you (should I do this, should I not, can I handle it, etc.). You're in no rush, right? And it sounds like you've got no shortage of things to worry about right now (breakups suck and the only way is through, low self-esteem is an energy zapper, and doing something else takes energy away from actually figuring out your career goals). Also, you're moving soon. Why take on another new, potentially stressful thing? It sounds like the whole proposition could be stressful for you. It sounds like it already is. Yikes.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:57 PM on February 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ask yourself this: would you do it if you weren't getting paid? Your answer may help you decide if you're doing it for reasons you can live with.

I wish you good luck.
posted by inturnaround at 6:59 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


...but I feel like this niche (BBW, FWIW) is pretty far removed from my normal social and especially professional and family life.

This is a big assumption. You may be surprised by how far not removed this niche may turn out to be.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:06 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I feel like this niche ... is pretty far removed from my normal social and especially professional and family life.

The niche may be removed from your professional and family life. But you, naked, is not removed from your life. Just because it's unlikely that someone close to you would go looking for this material doesn't mean it will find its way back to you.

The Internet never forgets.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:07 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


ugh. don't do it. you'll regret it. and you'll regret it even more when you realize what you traded away was worth WAYYYYYYYYYYYYY more than $400 bucks. self-worth and accomplishment have no value.
posted by elle.jeezy at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Err ... doesn't mean it won't find its way back to you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2010


I'm not sure what city you're in, but you could make $400 in an overnight sleep study instead. Any large university will have researchers looking for subjects to participate in psychology and and medical studies...PM me if you're interested in contacting researchers in New York or London. Good luck!
posted by aquafortis at 7:12 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


The actual pay seems good to me (I'm not in the business at all) for softcore, I'm assuming it's a lower pay rate than hardcore.

I remember, but can't find now, a site where USA female porn stars (ie. a name that would be known to fans) could be hired by anyone with a credit card as a 'private 2 hour bedroom escort' for... $350 sticks in my mind, but it was certainly below $500.

From wikipedia According to notable producer Seymore Butts who runs his own sex film recruitment agency, as well as producing sex films; "depending on draw, female performers who perform in both straight and lesbian porn earn more than those who do normal sex (Boy/Girl) usually make about US$200–800 while those who only do oral sex (blow job) usually only make about US$100–300 for the scene"
posted by selton at 7:12 PM on February 7, 2010


$400?! Not worth it.
posted by halogen at 7:12 PM on February 7, 2010


I feel like this niche (BBW, FWIW) is pretty far removed from my normal social and especially professional and family life.

1) You don't have any idea what your professional and family connections get up to.

2) Am I crazy, or did you say you got onto this site through an ex-boyfriend with whom it sounds like you had a rocky relationship?! I mean you realize he continues to look at that site. Any, ah, bad blood there?

Are you truly willing to own these as part of who you are - which is to say at any time it could become an element of common knowledge among those who know you that these pictures are out there? $400 is a week and a half of minimum wage. The money sounds ridiculous to me unless you are really okay with having nudie pics be part of your resume.
posted by nanojath at 7:19 PM on February 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


If everyone you knew saw the pics would you be cool with that?
posted by LarryC at 7:27 PM on February 7, 2010


Something to think about: You're doing this for the money, so what are you going to do when they offer you a little more money to be little more hardcore?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 PM on February 7, 2010


All I know is what I've randomly encountered in Random Internet World, but that does seem like very low pay. Like, "10 pics and no videos" low. Those dudes make a zillion dollars off of this stuff. Keep in mind that "niche" means it's a specialist thing that people pay more for.
posted by rhizome at 7:38 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel like this niche (BBW, FWIW) is pretty far removed from my normal social and especially professional and family life.

Anecdote: A while back I was writing the newsletter of my then employer, and one of the topics was "look what I found on the Internet." Boss flagged a kinky site I wrote about not because it was kinky, but rather because "you can't be certain which of our clients is a member, and this might seem inconsiderate."

The takeaway is that more people than you know will be watching, so if that is a deal breaker I'd reconsider.

Related: What centerweight said.
posted by monocultured at 7:41 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's not much money for the potential future social or even economic costs. Do you ever want a career in politics or in any arena where nude photos could cost you a job? I've never heard of anyone not getting hired/elected/getting fired from posing nude for artists sketching or painting, but photos are a totally different realm to people.
posted by ishotjr at 7:57 PM on February 7, 2010


$400 is waaaay, too low. And yeah, are you willing to risk that you won't be a target at one on the chans who will then make sure to email the pics to your mom, your boss and your grade one teacher? If you do this, own it and show everyone you know the pictures FIRST, before they hit the web. If you don't feel comfortable showing your co-workers now, how comfortable will it be when they see it without you knowing? I'm not heavily into porn, but guys I know can view several thousand pics an hour.
posted by saucysault at 8:16 PM on February 7, 2010


Are you comfortable with everyone you have ever known or will ever know, including your kids if you have any, seeing these pictures? If so, go for it. If not, don't. Just know that there are no take-backs and no do-overs when it comes to naked pictures of yourself.
posted by squorch at 8:54 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's telling that you chose to post this anonymously. If you're not willing to discuss the possibility of this with your name attached, I can't imagine you would feel great about actually doing it and having these pictures out there with your actual face attached. Honestly, if you had submitted this question under your own handle, I would have considered that this might truly not be a bad thing for you. But since you're worried about advancing your career, and you're uncomfortable even discussing this, I doubt strongly that this is the right move for you. This will get back to everyone you know one way or another, and it doesn't appear that you're ok with that.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:56 PM on February 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have no idea if $400 is a lot of money to you or if it is "worth it". You are the only one who can make that decision although it sounds as if it is worth it if you are still considering it. The part that bothers me is not the nakedness. It is the future association with the niche. I think that will be the harder part to live with especially if it is not a niche in which you participate. I would make a large wager that someone you know will find it and recognize you. It may not be soon, but one day you will be found. If you can live with that 10, 20 or 30 years from now, go for it. I think the part about the future that would concern me is any future mate and children. Or, worse, is your children's friends who find it with the face recognition software mentioned above. It can create ramifications for others besides you that you may not want. Children getting teased at school for something their parents did could be real difficult.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:09 PM on February 7, 2010


I'm with nanojath--"I flirted with the idea of posing for this site a few years ago when the money was much less of a factor, but since it was at the suggestion of a pretty controlling boyfriend I decided that wasn't a great starting point and haven't thought about it since."

I would assume this jerk still looks at the site and I would NOT like the idea of someone like this having access to naked pictures of me. Also, $400 isn't enough (in my opinion.)
posted by Neofelis at 9:24 PM on February 7, 2010


it's not as removed as you think it is. they will turn up unexpectedly, often in galleries that have nothing to do with the niche(s) listed, and there will likely be strange questions from people who may or may not actually know you as a person from time to time.

perhaps more of interest: shots that don't fit the particular site are highly likely (as in virtually guaranteed) to be offered to OTHER sites, precisely because of the original niche(s), meaning pics that not only show you in the buff but not even in a flattering light will be out there on far more general interest sites.

one more: ever seen the "flavour text" that accompanies pics in BBW mags and sites? more unflattering than bad face distributed around the world. any semblance of dignity or image control swept away in someone else's twisted idea of why a plush chick would show her assets. and i do mean twisted.

voice of experience, mine and direct associates. none of that may be a dealbreaker for you, but i know several for whom one or all would have been if they'd any idea beforehand.
posted by batmonkey at 9:55 PM on February 7, 2010


The amount of money you're being offered is ridiculously low. As comparison, Suicide Girl models get that amount PER SHOT.

Do it or don't, but don't sell yourself that cheaply. That's insultingly low.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:24 PM on February 7, 2010


It's something you have enthusiastically considered doing privately and you have a particular interest in the artistic element of it. So far so good. But in regard to your concerns about what people might think of you and how they might treat you, one thing to consider is that the people who will consume this product for the next couple of decades don't care about art. They want to look at your picture and masturbate. Of all the people in your personal life who find out about this, I would be willing to bet that most will view you through that lens, not your intended artistic one. The people who view the pictures for sport won't be thinking, "What a fulfilling accomplishment of creative expression that must have been," or, "what nice composition." They'll be thinking, "Chubbies with caaake, tits tits tits, uhhhhooohaaahh..." Don't fool yourself on that one.

You brought up the word whoring in regard to your retail work, but I believe many people will view this as much closer to the literal definition of the word. That's not saying they're necessarily right, it's just a fact that many people will think that or something in that ballpark. I think that a high percentage of people who enjoy looking at porn also have contempt for the people who do it - see them as messed up, desperate, tawdry and defiled (while seeing themselves as just fine). They'd never take someone like that home to mom or hire them over someone else. That'll vary from social stratum to social stratum, of course, but there are substantial portions of society in which that is Just Not Done, and you're persona non grata in perpetuam if you do.

Imagine any future boyfriend's mother. Her whole life she has dreamed of a wholesome and sweet young lady to love and cherish her son forever, but instead she finds out she's got one who posed nude for a fetish site for a quick few hundred bucks. When you think about how this will affect people's view of you, think about that, the disappointment, the revulsion. Think of the HR team with 30 resumes in the inbox. They're just looking for reasons to winnow down that pile, any reason at all. If by some random chance your name gets tied to your picture and that comes up in a background check, you're out. Both of those situations seem unlikely, but that's the risk.

A friend of mine found out accidentally recently that a girl he knew from high school was arrested for prostitution. He wasn't even looking for it - it was just the metadata for a related link online but there it was. Now his friends know. Word's getting around and now she's no longer who she was - she's a whore and is out of decent society. Softcore shots aren't the same thing, but that's the mechanics of it. And just in terms of people in your life, you'd be surprised what people choose to look at when they go home. Maybe nobody ever sees your photos or videos and maybe they do. I've wondered that about porn models - aren't they worried someone they know will see it? These days it just seems like the connections are too many. Eventually it gets discovered, maybe by someone you care about or who makes decisions about your future. It's a roll of the dice.

You mentioned having low self esteem lately, being stressed, getting over a break up, and that you're wary of mental harm, etc. Maybe at least for those reasons, erring on the side of caution for now would be wisest. Once you're back up to full tank, maybe that would be a better time to consider it.

Also, $400 for your soul sounds horrible. You could make that much in a couple of weekends mowing lawns. Googling around, however, it does not sound atypical, and that's including people who get down and dirty. I had no idea people made so little money from this. I was going to guess $5,000 minimum and maybe more like $8,000, but nope. The exploitation argument makes a lot more sense now. You mentioned you were desperately saving. I wonder if the reason the pay is so bad is that people usually only do it when they're desperate, and so that means that the price of this mostly fungible product stays very low because there's always somebody more desperate.

Good luck.
posted by Askr at 10:44 PM on February 7, 2010


I know a friend who tried to be a model, and ended up doing a small bit of pornography under an assumed name. Several years later, just before getting married, she elected to tell her fiance that she'd done it. He didn't make a big deal out of it, and she didn't give him the assumed name -- but did ask that he not go out and look for the videos.

Fast forward half a decade, and things between them start falling apart. She finds out that he has found the videos, and has had them for a couple of years. She finds this out when he shows them to her parents in an attempt to get them on his side as to how she's possibly an unfit mother for their child.

So, yes, this sort of thing can absolutely backfire, in shocking ways.
posted by davejay at 12:06 AM on February 8, 2010


and $400 for that? I wouldn't let someone take that many pics/videos of me clothed for $400!
posted by davejay at 12:06 AM on February 8, 2010


As comparison, Suicide Girl models get that amount PER SHOT.

That's completely ridiculous. Look at the modeling page on the SG site or the modeling FAQ: SG pays $500 for a published set, $1500 tops. At your rate a typical Suicide Girl shoot of 50 pics would cost them $20,000 for soft porn images of an unknown talent. Nobody does those kinds of numbers.
posted by jedrek at 2:11 AM on February 8, 2010


Sorry I'm rambling but I have almost no one to talk to about this

This jumps out at me. You don't have any support system at all, or you can't talk to anyone who you know in person about this?

If it's the second, I think that's telling.

If it's the first, that's problematic on its own.

I'm really all for people posing nude, and while I think there are potential pitfalls I think they're less great that many people give them credit for; I sometimes have a hard time figuring out where I know someone from if i meet a work person at an unrelated event. The potential to not connect a naked person I saw in passing on the internet - and there's so many how do you not see all of them in passing? - to someone professionally is pretty big.

But if you can't talk comfortably to anyone in your life about it? I think that means something.
posted by phearlez at 5:37 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


That kind of money is total crap pay and not worth it. If the site is Suicide Girls, be aware that they control the rights to the images and you wouldn't be able to use them later.

If you want to do this, shop around. See what kind of sites you can work with. Be aware that often the model has to pay for the photographer, so $400 really comes to nothing at all if you have to hire a professional (which you will). Go for a site that has their own photographer in your area (who make take a modest, but not sizeable cut). Preferably, go for a site that lets you retain the rights to your own work so you can sell the pics again if you want.

$400 is not enough for this. Not nearly. Erotica for pay is worth doing, but you need to be very smart about controlling the rights to your images - not so that they don't "get out," but so that you can sell them again. If you can't re-use the images, you've got to make sure you're getting a decent cut of what the site is going to make off of them.

(Suicide Girls models get paid very little - I was accepted as a model, but ultimately turned it down since what they were offering for a new model wouldn't have covered the photographer necessary to do the shoot.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:00 AM on February 8, 2010


BBW is not exactly a small niche, so I would expect your pics to get picked-up and redistributed all over the web where such fans congregate. You state you are stressed over career goals, so I am very surprised you don't address the very real possibility that either an employer or co-worker could discover your pics. How would you feel about everyone in your workplace seeing the pictures? Are you in a field where having nude pictures of you out on the web wouldn't adversely affect your standing?

In this day and age I can't imagine too many positives that would outweigh the negatives of doing this.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:26 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


jedrek: "As comparison, Suicide Girl models get that amount PER SHOT.

That's completely ridiculous. Look at the modeling page on the SG site or the modeling FAQ: SG pays $500 for a published set, $1500 tops. At your rate a typical Suicide Girl shoot of 50 pics would cost them $20,000 for soft porn images of an unknown talent. Nobody does those kinds of numbers.
"

I stand corrected. That's what one of the girls who models for them told me she makes. Perhaps she has some sort of sweetheart deal or something.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:31 AM on February 8, 2010


You can ask for a contract that states what use this is for. At least then you have some legal oomph if it winds up photoshopped, all over the place, or sent maliciously.
posted by stormpooper at 6:40 AM on February 8, 2010


I invoke Haddock's Law:

"If you are consulting AskME on an anonymous basis before you do this, you should not do this."
posted by aimedwander at 6:53 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


$400 is not enough fo rthe future impact pictures will have. Why not just do more posing for drawing / art classes at a local college?
posted by WeekendJen at 8:33 AM on February 8, 2010


I feel like this niche (BBW, FWIW) is pretty far removed from my normal social and especially professional and family life.

It is exactly one mouse click away, potentially. Don't kid yourself about this. Even someone who knows you and doesn't wish you harm in any way might tell someone else who knows you, just because it's too good of a story to keep to themselves, and so on and so forth until it reaches someone who does have a grudge against you. And then it's all over.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2010


I have to admit that I am pretty stressed over money and career goals, currently getting over a recent break up, and not had the best self-esteem since winter set in.

Don't do it in this state.
posted by micawber at 10:31 AM on February 8, 2010


If your old controlling boyfriend was a fan of this sort of photography and wanted you to do it, it gives the impression that he dated you because you fit his fetish, not because he had any regard for you as a woman, an individual, and someone worthy of love.

You are valuing yourself way too low, and I don't mean just the $400.

If you need to think up another reason not to do this, imagine the year 2025. You're happy with yourself, have a career you love, you have no memory what you spent your $400 on, and the kid who bullies your chubby, slightly-depressed thirteen year old son finds your cakeshots.
posted by Sallyfur at 12:43 PM on February 8, 2010


A friend of mine used to be a phone-sex operator, and liked it, and was good at it, and isn't sorry she did it, but: she did wistfully say to me, once or twice, during the height of a US election season, "It does sort of suck that I can't ever really be a senator now."

Do you think you might ever want to be a senator? Or any job where part of the process is gaining the approval of huge numbers of assy moralistic strangers?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:44 PM on February 8, 2010


I'm in the 'don't do it' camp. this is why: my friend very secretly (only told 3 friends) did a similar thing - more like a dozen photos and one or two videos, behind a paywall and so on - and a few years later my brother gleefully informed me that he had seen them and asked if I knew about it. So please know that if you do this you have to be prepared for everyone you care about to see them!
posted by Lucie at 12:49 AM on February 9, 2010


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