by Rich Moreland, February 2014
This is the second installment of my interviews with the girls of Digital Playground at this year’s Adult Entertainment Expo.
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Thursday, January 16
The singular most divisive issue in porn is escorting. Some girls prefer not to talk about it, some get indignant when it is brought up, and others acknowledge it in passing. No one claims to know exactly how many adult models are escorting; I’ve heard guesstimates from about half to everybody. My feeling is that over half is correct, but “everybody” is not. There are performers who definitely do not escort.
Looking for some upfront answers in my Digital Playground interviews, I decide to weave my way into escorting through a discussion of Measure B, the new ordinance that requires condom use in filming. Some California districts, most particularly the city of Los Angeles, are dealing with implementation now. This legal dictate is considered so onerous that rumors of the industry’s move to Nevada are always in the wind. A not so awful alternative, some porn people have quietly observed. The lower cost of living and affordable property values complement an already attractive desert welcome mat that features Nevada’s legitimate brothel industry.
Before delving into the safer sex issue, one more point needs mentioning. The Digital girls choose not to shoot the high risk behaviors that pervade much of porn today. As a group, they avoid anal, double penetrations, gang bangs and heavy fetish, particularly BDSM. Though no one said it directly, this fact may influence their views on safer sex. To put it bluntly, advocating condoms is much easier if a well-endowed manhood isn’t headed into a girl’s backside for extended hard work. In other words, most models who do anal will quickly complain that condoms are abrasive.
Lastly, adult film performers are a closed and tested community. Currently, the fourteen-day test is evolving as the standard. Before a shoot begins, paperwork is checked all around to make certain everyone’s blood work is updated. In theory, if everyone kept their sexual activity within the performer community, condom use would be redundant and superfluous.
Just Me Being Responsible
Though she fully understands the safer sex push, Jesse Jane personally doesn’t like condoms.
“I can’t have sex with a condom. It hurts, I don’t like it, it doesn’t feel good and I’m not going to wear one and make my performance horrible,” she says with conviction. Then Jesse dips into the political cauldron by adding that condom use is a matter of choice, a personal freedom she has a right to exercise. But the film vet tempers the idea of choice with an added layer of protection. She works with the “same people” year after year and considers herself to be very fortunate to do so.
A cautious Selena Rose supports condoms. “We are very sexually active people,” she states, mentioning that she prefers her partners get tested the same day she does. In fact the Miami resident offers that if a medical person, such as a nurse, were on set the day of shooting, everyone could be tested “real quick,” thus closing the window between testing and shooting.
This idea gets my attention though I know many companies would balk at the extra expense.
The careless off set activities of “unprofessional” people unfortunately endangers everyone, Jessa Rhodes says.
“I’ve never had an STD in my life,” the twenty-year-old says, “so it’s not hard to stay safe.” She is vigilance personified. “I stay in tune with who fucks who, whose been doing what, and what they do in their private life.” Though it may sound like snooping or gossiping, it’s Jessa’s most efficient way to “know if something is questionable.” If it is, “I don’t do it,” she says. After all, it’s her health that is on the line.
Civilians (non-industry people) may intellectually understand the risks performers take, but they often don’t emotionally. It’s not their livelihood that’s under the gun. What’s more, a director once told me porn performers sometimes think civilians are cleaner than industry people, as odd as that sounds. The idea is nonsensical. There are no guidelines for civilians to get tested should they party with a porn star.
Lay on Your Back for Money
Jesse Jane sadly admits that ninety percent of the porn industry escorts and many of the escorts are men. She illustrates the logic of paydays beyond the set for those girls who escort. “I’m already having sex for money so why not make some extra cash and nobody knows I‘m doing it,” she says. But the Texas native brings up a darker scenario, the part that “sucks.” “More power to you,” she says to girls who hook, “if you are comfortable having sex with strangers” because the possibilities of bad things happening multiply. There’s always a risk the “john” is a weirdo or a misogynist and getting beaten up or killed is a tragedy that should never happen, Jesse says, and she feels for girls who put themselves that that situation.
Incidentally, Jesse words are scenarios. She personally does not, and has never, escorted.
At this point Jesse reminds her co-workers that being careful should be a given. “We risk our life working with each other and trusting [that] everybody in our industry [will] take care of themselves,” she says. In short, “we are taken care of because we take care of ourselves.”
Her statement is a hope, an encouragement, and a thank you.
Jesse adds a final thought. Hinting that condoms should be a part of escorting, she references HIV, “You have the responsibility to keep yourself clean before you risk somebody else’s life in this industry.”
Selena Rose and Jessa Rhodes are upfront that they do not escort. Condoms should be a given in escorting, Selena says, because a civilian, unless he is a boyfriend, is not that important to a girl. So, she asks, “why would you risk yourself like that? To me it kind of shows that you don’t love yourself.”
Jessa is unforgiving and possesses a commanding presence that easily backs down her critics.
“I don’t escort, I don’t hook and I don’t agree with the girls that do,” she says. Speaking of performers who are out the night before and come to work the next day, Jessa is equally as adamant. “I don’t know who you fucked last night and I don’t approve of it and I don’t agree with it!”
She is appalled at the lack of responsibility and professionalism among some of her fellow performers. “If you want to go lay on your back for money go do it, but this is a business. I make movies and entertain people for a living. I am not a prostitute and I am not a whore.”
Obviously, condoms are an absolute necessity in escorting, Jessa implies, because girls who hook on the side put everyone at risk for infection. She does, however,
Jessa Rhodes has porn street smarts. Her boyfriend is in the business and has undoubtedly offered her a veteran’s wisdom. But Jessa has learned to assert herself, to stand her ground. A large contributor to her well-balanced approach is her mother who home schooled her. “My momma raised me right,” she says.
I ask if she knows Dana DeArmond who also lacks formal education but has forged an iconic career in the business. “I do!” Jessa’s face lights up. “I firmly believe that knowledge is something you can get for yourself if you read and you experience life. That is the best education you can get.”
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Though I have no solid evidence to reach definite conclusions about any of the Digital girls, there are indications where they are now in their careers. Selena Rose has the advantage of living away from the LA hotbed of rumors, parties, and agents who are not always licensed, flying in for business when she is booked. And of course, Jesse Jane is quickly reaching legend status and has over a decade (a lifetime in porn years) to guide her decision making. To reinvigorate her mental health, she can spend time away in the southwest.
In branding her name and pushing her career forward, each of the Digital girls demonstrates that success in porn requires an empowerment not always found in the civilian world.
I wish them well.