PVV – more on “Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis”

Earlier this month, I wrote an extensive breakdown and commentary on the recently published “Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis” study.

The study is seated in psychology and was published in the Journal of Sex Research. In a nutshell, researchers maintain that, compared to a matched group of women (age, ethnicity, and marital status):

“Porn actresses were more likely to identify as bisexual, first had sex at an earlier age, had more sexual partners, were more concerned about contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and enjoyed sex more… In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group. Last, female performers were more likely to have ever used 10 different types of drugs compared to the comparison group.”

These findings did NOT support the “damaged goods hypothesis,” which “posits that female performers in the adult entertainment industry have higher rates of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), psychological problems, and drug use compared to the typical woman.”

Put simply: according to the findings reported, women who work as porn performers are not “damaged goods” – awesome!! (and thanks, no kidding, Captain Obvious)

Nothing, however, is without flaws; and there were a few methodological and epistemological sticking points embedded in this work. In my view, these issues were not the product of poor research so much as they were about lacking in-depth understanding of the adult industry’s structure and culture. But that’s why we do research – to learn more!!

Ultimately, this work is positive and productive and provides a platform for some women working as performers in the adult industry to share some of their perspectives. You can read everything I had to say in great and grievous detail right here.

And, if that’s not enough, I recently had the opportunity to weigh in further with Alex Henderson. Alex is a reporter and writer who works to further social justice for the entire adult community (and thus, humanity) by engaging sex, sex work, law, and politics. His awesome work is all over the internet, and he has his own really interesting site – SeXXXandPolitics.com

My thoughts on the “Pornography Actresses” study are up alongside considerations from the likes of Angie Rowntree (Shhh.com), Colin Rowntree (Wasteland.com), Barbara Nitke, and Rachel Kramer Bussel – quite an honor.

You can read Alex’s piece “The Sexperts Weigh In: Barbara Nitke, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals and Wasteland.com Founder Colin Rowntree Discuss Groundbreaking Study on Female Porn Stars“ incorporating insights from the five of us right –> here <–

I am also pasting the comment I contributed in full below – enjoy!!

In my view, though it is far from perfect, this study accomplishes some significant, positive things.

This work provides evidence that some women who work as adult performers are more well-adjusted in some respects relative to some “typical” women. It also contributes to a greater, more nuanced understanding of the adult industry by authenticating what is essentially commonsense knowledge – just like not all firefighters are X and not all college professors are Y, not everyone from a population as large and diverse as women adult performers are “damaged goods.”

But this study is also very disconnected. Though what we have on paper is a solid team of psychology researchers, a high-profile industry insider, and access to members of the community, what we get are methodological flaws that stem from researchers not knowing enough about the adult community… and representatives from the adult industry not knowing enough about research.

In spite of some missteps, the researchers clearly know how to conduct a rigorous social science-situated study. Other mistakes, however, point to a lack of in-depth understanding of the adult community and individuals therein. I assume that involvement of key people within the AIM organization was intended, at least in part, to help address some of these issues. But that didn’t happen, at least not to the level it could have.

Ultimately, this study is a positive thing – it brings a “healthy” performer voice into scholarship via a useful comparative framework. But some of the finer points (including how the data was analyzed and reported) should have been done very differently. Many of these issues could have been reconciled with a more in-depth understanding of the industry going in.


Read my full breakdown and commentary on “Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis” right –> here <–

And check out this review of Barbara Nitke’s beautiful photography in American Ecstasy (2012) (guest review on PVV written by Catherine Gigante-Brown).


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Visit Dr. Chauntelle at ChauntelleTibbals.com and on Twitter at @DrChauntelle!!

You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”

PVVOnline – Critical Commentary on Adult Production