If you search for “UCSD Famous Alumni” on Google, one of the first people you will see is Evelyn Lin, a well-known pornographic actress who first made adult entertainment films while visiting UC San Diego in the late 2000s .
Lin isn’t the only UCSD student in her profession. While there is no official data on the subject, I came across a number of colleagues on campus who have supplemented the cost of tuition and other expenses by participating in the adult entertainment industry, be it through startups like OnlyFans or more established outlets like PornHub and Brazzers.
The UCSD students I contacted declined to be interviewed. The respondents stated that they had to keep their profession a secret in order to evade the judgment of their colleagues.
The stigma of adult entertainers is nothing new as Western society has historically maintained a certain level of sexual conservatism. While recent praise for music videos like “Cyber Sex” with singer Doja Cat as a camgirl and films like “Hustlers,” a film about strippers, reflect a departure from that cultural mantra, the vast majority of adult society is still negative about animators . This is a problem as this stigma is demeaning to those who work in the industry.
Miriam Weeks, a Duke University graduate, experienced this stigma firsthand. Weeks, who chose to create pornography to pay her nearly $ 50,000 in tuition and fees, faced an onslaught of criticism and threats when her secret was revealed.
“People said I deserved to be raped and murdered,” Weeks said in an interview with The News and Observer. “I’ve had people who threatened to run over me in their cars. Probably the most hurtful thing was that there was a website running a suicide countdown for me where people would place bets if I would succumb to all the harassment and kill myself. “
No one should experience this level of hatred, and personally I have difficulty understanding where this disdain for the industry comes from. Whether you work in the industry to pay your way through college or just to make a little extra cash, what these workers do to their bodies should not be under the control of others as their actions have no impact have one beside themselves.
In an op-ed for Cosmopolitan, an anonymous surgeon general explained her decision to become a stripper to pay for her way through medical school. The context in which she chose to become a stripper reflects the experiences of many UCSD students. She said she initially tried to work full-time in a traditional occupation but saw that her academics suffered from the lack of sleep she experienced in keeping work and school balance. The decision to become a stripper made sense in her situation as she made enough to get by on a limited number of hours of work. However, she was unable to communicate this decision to her classmates.
“I would definitely have been judged if other people had known,” she wrote. “Medical school, and forgive me for saying this, is full of cliché kids. Her father and grandfather were surgeons, they have a summer home in the Hamptons, they got a new car for their 16th birthday and they backpack Europe every two years. That was about 85 percent of my senior year. “
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic limiting the number of jobs available for students, some understandably have turned to the Camwork to pay for their college expenses. Since the epidemic began, OnlyFans has reported a 75 percent increase in registrations. This increase in participation, however, has not reduced the overall stigma of adult entertainment.
A more subtle form of stigma is making fun of the job and saying it is “easy” and a way to cure “quarantine boredom.” Gwen Adora, an adult content creator, explained in an interview with Vice how jokes and fetishizations add to the industry’s stigma.
“Our community deals with so much and it ranges from stigma to murdered people,” Adora said. “When people joke like,” Oh, ha ha ha, sex work is so fun, let’s start an OnlyFans, “they don’t acknowledge the seriousness of our situation.”
Adora’s argument shows how even subtle scars harm adult entertainers. Especially for those in college who are already trying to balance their job with school and daily life, the damage caused by the stigma can affect both academic success and mental health.
For you Tritons who are struggling to make ends meet and have decided that the adult entertainment industry makes financial sense, I salute you and support your decision. This is both a difficult decision and a personal one.
As for those of you who wish to criticize your fellow adult entertainers, I ask you to take an introspective look before commenting on the matter. Does your classmate’s involvement in the industry have any impact on your personal life? Most importantly, do you have the privilege of not having to make such a stigmatized decision at all?
College is difficult, and those difficulties have been compounded by the ongoing pandemic. We have to support each other instead of tearing each other apart. We all face a number of difficulties that are unique to us and none of us is better than the other.
Artwork by Anthony Tran of the UCSD Guardian Art Department.