Financial Horror Stories From the Porn World (and What They Say About America)

0
14
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast; Getty

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast; Getty

In Stanford’s famous marshmallow study, scientists offered children two or five treats. If the children chose to wait longer, they could eat five instead of two. Some kids chose the immediate goody; others decided to stay. Researchers then followed the children as they grew up, and those who chose to linger showed better financial skills later in life.

Scientists have since cast some doubt on the marshmallow study, but if I had to guess, I’d bet many of my porn industry peers would have chosen two sugary marshmallows over waiting 15 minutes for five.

I have witnessed financial horror stories throughout my time in the industry. These range from the mundane (buying a car without negotiating because they “didn’t feel like bargaining”) to the vulgar (does anyone need to buy all their girlfriends Birkins on their birthdays?). Others simply didn’t know how to invest their six-figure income because, for some reason, talking about money is more taboo than jacking off to stepmom porn. But if we talk about the issues with the bank accounts of the porn stars everyone loves, we can get people interested in talking about broader financial matters in America.

The Rise of Chloe Cherry, the Porn Star Stealing Scenes on ‘Euphoria’

One of the biggest problems is performers refusing to invest in the basics. Just look at where they live. Most porn stars pay $10,000 a month, renting a fabulous home with a pool and San Fernando Valley views. For a mortgage payment less than they pay in rent, they could buy a home, which they could likely sell at a higher price. According to a Bankrate analysis, median home prices increased 30 percent over the past decade. Meanwhile, median income only increased 11 percent. In other words, porn stars are burning cash and leaving easy money on the table. If they were negotiating with Brazzers over a fee for a film, they would fight for top dollar. But they don’t invest in making themselves more than they could ever earn on OnlyFans.

Yet they see worthless luxury goods as items. One time a girl told me a Chanel bag was an asset. Another, a girl insisted that a Lamborghini retained its value because a salesman told her. But a car always depreciates. Who needs a Lamborghini? Some girls argue they don’t need a Lambo, but they can afford to want a Lambo. After all, they’re pulling in half a million a year. Can’t they buy a new car every spring?

No, they cannot! If they were a top-of-the-line accountant, sure, they could. (It would still be a dumb purchase.) But most porn performers’ income declines after five years or, in many cases, one year. Some performers seem to believe their careers are never-ending. They live paycheck to paycheck purchasing luxury goods, ordering endless Postmates and weed delivery instead of investing. They learn the hard way that, unlike other wealthy people, we are not in jobs that last for 59 years. For most of us, we make all the money we’ll make in a lifetime in less than a decade. And because of the social stigma, we are far less likely to find employment after we stop shooting adult content.

If you want to see what happens when an adult performer spends all of their money, you can watch any of the anti-porn documentaries on any streaming platform. (I don’t want to give them attention so am declining to name them.) They’ll show a woman in a shitty one-bedroom apartment surrounded by designer purses, discussing how she owes the IRS hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is performers forgetting or neglecting to pay their taxes. I know at least ten adult performers who never paid taxes. They believe they’ll be fine, but I’ve seen others neglect to pay taxes, then years down the road, find the IRS down their throat. Some performers I know went bankrupt.

All that remains of these performers’ earning years is a pile of debt-collection notices, Louis Vuitton suitcases, and Chanel cocktail dresses. The documentaries claim porn did that, but porn didn’t do that. Performers mismanaging five years of income did that.

But who can blame them? An employer’s payroll company automatically removes worker bees’ taxes from their paychecks in traditional jobs. Payroll holds their hands. Porn stars have to set aside taxes and pay the bill themselves. Most people would struggle like porn stars if someone didn’t automatically remove their taxes. Heck, if most people weren’t employees, the government would go under because so many people would screw up their taxes. We don’t teach people about these issues. Schools and parents might instruct you in arithmetic, but they don’t teach you about three of the deadliest letters in life: IRS. Most people can get away without knowing this, but we don’t baby business owners. And if you’re self-employed, that’s what you are: a business.

Once upon a time, porn stars were one of the few self-employed demographics. Now, influencers and athletes deal with these scenarios, but it’s not just famous (or infamous) people struggling. According to Business Insider’s report on a Pew study, the number of self-employed people has increased 0.9 percent from its level during the second quarter of 2019. Thousands of people are quitting their jobs to work for themselves. This April, many of them will likely end up in the same position as porn stars who forgot to save for taxes.

I don’t believe the percentage of pornographers that fucks up will be worse than the number of self-employed YouTubers, copywriters, or delivery men. But I hope newly self-employed people can learn from our industry’s financial mistakes.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast’s biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast’s unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.