Tag Archives: Playboy

Mia Kalifa, The Porn Industry, And Why Her (Lack Of) Earnings Matter

mia-khalifa

Imagine that you’re young, low on money, and in need of a quick buck. You do a few side-gigs, like drive a taxi or do some yard work. You make some money up front. You’re grateful for it. You wish you didn’t have to do it, but you still did and you’re ready to move forward with your life.

Now, imagine that same work you did ended up making someone else a boatload of money that continues to flow in, even though you’ve long since finished your part. Maybe while mowing the lawn, you discovered a priceless artifact under a tree stump. Maybe while driving a taxi, your car became the site of an infamous crime. Anyone with a white 1993 Ford Bronco SUV can attest to that.

With those ideas in mind, let’s talk about Mia Kalifa. If you don’t know who that is, just ask any straight man with an internet connection and a suspiciously large supply of tissue boxes. You might not get an honest answer, but rest assured, she’s a known public figure and not just because she has over 15 million followers on Instagram.

One of the reasons why she has so many.

She’s worth talking about, but not because she’s a former porn star who still garners a great deal of popularity, despite having not worked in the industry for years. Recently, she made the news after revealing that, even though she was one of the most popular porn stars in the world for a time, she made a total of $12,000 for her entire career.

For someone who was that successful in an industry that’s already exceedingly crowded by an abundance of content, that just doesn’t seem to add up. Most working people make more than $12,000 in a year, even if they’re paid minimum wage. They even get to keep their clothes on. What’s going on here?

There is a context to that story. By her own admission, she was in the industry for about three months. She only got paid a flat rate of about $1,000 for each scene she did and, given how few she ended up doing, it’s still more than minimum wage. She basically made $12,000 for approximately two weeks of work. Ignoring, for the moment, that the work involved making porn, it’s not a terrible rate.

However, what stands out most about her story is that she continues to generate money for the companies that initially paid her. To this day, those scenes she shot still generate traffic for popular sites like PornHub and that traffic still makes its parent company, MindGeek, some additional profit.

Most people don’t know, or want to know for that matter, that the most popular porn sites and studios are owned by MindGeek. Think of any site your significant other won’t admit to visiting. Chances are, they own it. They’re basically the Amazon of porn. They’re so big that there really isn’t a close second.

It’s because they’re so big that Ms. Kalifa’s story isn’t unique. Most people who enter the porn industry, be they male or female, have to go through MindGeek in some form or another. They’re basically a monopoly and because of that, they can get away with shady practices, such as underpaying workers or short-changing them with fine print.

Listed above are sites few will admit to knowing.

Most porn performers, including Ms. Kalifa, only get paid a flat rate per scene. They basically function as independent contractors, which means they’re not salaried employees who get benefits. They’re basically Uber drivers, but with sex. Unlike Uber drivers, though, the top performers can actually make a lot more, but they’re the exception and not the norm. Most performers are in Ms. Kalifa’s situation.

It’s not a situation unique to porn. Other elements of the entertainment industry have used similar practices for years. The music industry has plenty of examples of successful artists who sell millions of albums, but still go bankrupt because most of that money went to the companies they worked for rather than the artists themselves.

It even happens in the comic book industry. Few individuals have created and drawn more iconic character than Jack Kirby, but because he was a work-for-hire, he didn’t technically own his creations. The companies he worked for, both Marvel and DC Comics, owned them. As a result of this, there were some lengthy legal battles with Kirby’s estate. Not surprisingly, the companies won.

Think of any industry that involves performing or creating some kind of art. There’s a good chance that there are cases where someone creates something that becomes successful, but the creators themselves don’t profit from it. Only the companies profit.

Again, there’s a context to that. In industries like music, the top one percent of performers earn over three-quarters of the revenue. Most creative endeavors fail to turn a profit. As someone trying hard to break into the publishing industry, I can attest to how common failure and rejection are. These industries, as shady as their practices might be, need to make a profit and that often requires enduring many losses.

That’s exactly why Mia Kalifa’s story matters. It doesn’t just shed light on the less glamorous aspects of the porn industry. It highlights how the actual people behind popular media don’t reap as much of the benefits as we think. For porn stars, current and former, that’s made even harder by the stigma and taboos surrounding the industry. Ms. Kalifa endured those unpleasant elements more than most.

It’s a system that’s only getting worse. There was a time when porn stars could make considerably more money and even earn some residual income from the booming DVD market. Thanks to the advent of streaming media and excessive piracy, that’s no longer the case. It’s why many porn stars are turning to escorting or licensing products.

Given the dirty nature of the business, few politicians or advocates will loudly proclaim they want to help the people in the porn industry. The last few years have been very difficult for anyone in the sex industry. Laws are making sex work more restrictive and more dangerous to everyone involved. Performers will end up with the stigma, but the companies will get most of the profits.

To some extent, what happened to Mia Kalifa’s career is a microcosm of what’s happening to entertainment in general. We’re currently in an era where big companies are acquiring as much intellectual property as possible. Companies, be they major movie studios or porn producers, have a vested interest in controlling the content at the cost of the performers.

Since so few entertainment products turn a profit, these companies have too much incentive to short-change performers and creators. There’s no law that requires companies to give performers a small percentage of future earnings. There’s no law that stops them from exploiting the content created by performers, even if those same performers don’t want to be associated with the work anymore.

Given the money and influence of these companies, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. However, Mia Kalifa did us all a service by making people aware of this very flawed system. The fact that she did this while fully clothed and being brutally honest in a world that lives in alternative facts might be her best performance to date.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, human nature, media issues, outrage culture, political correctness, prostitution, sex in media, sex in society, women's issues

In Memory Of Hugh Hefner And The Sex Positivity He Inspired

On September 28, 2017 the world lost a true champion of all things sexy. Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy and a sexual pioneer who helped loosened the panties of an uptight world, is dead at 91. Everyone from strippers to gigolos to sluts to studs to aspiring erotica/romance writers are all in a state of mourning.

Playboy may not be as prominent or taboo as it used to be, especially in the era of internet porn, but it’s impossible to overstate its influence on the sexual landscape we see today. Compared to where it was and the world Hefner grew up in, what he accomplished is almost as impressive as the number of hot blondes he slept with.

My generation, the latte-loving, overly-sensitive, debt ridden millennials, will likely never appreciate Hefner. As I write this, there are probably a few young people out there just shrugging their shoulders, surprised that Hefner hadn’t died years ago. I hope they’ll take a moment to appreciate how Hefner changed the culture around them. Without him, they might think being horny is a symptom of a brain tumor.

There’s a lot I can say about Henfer, but the outpouring of celebrities and former Playboy Playmates has already said it much better than I ever could. I’ll even admit that I probably still have some old back-issues of Playboy magazine gathering dust in my closet. I might just open them up again, if only to pay tribute to the man who dared to think that sex could be a positive thing.

That, more than anything, including hot blondes and working in pajamas, should be part of Hefner’s greatest legacies. It’s a legacy that allows aspiring erotica/romance writers like me to believe that it is possible to craft hot, sexy stories that will titillate others for all the right reasons. Sex, be it an erotica novel or a nude centerfold, can be a good thing.

Considering that Hugh Hefner grew up in a conservative, Methodist family, it’s pretty remarkable/ironic that he became the visionary for a sexual revolution that went beyond the free-loving hippie movement that burned out. He lived long enough to see the rise of hippies, the decline of pubic hair and the porno mustache, and the mainstreaming of internet porn. The man saw a lot, but lived a lot too.

Between the sexy parties he threw at the famous Playboy Mansion to the careers he launched, including sexy icons like Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson, Hef lived a life that embodied an ideal. Like a superhero for the horny, he dared to make a man’s sexual fantasy a reality. Whether you’re disgusted or envious of that life, there’s no denying that Hef liked to enjoy himself.

He lived that life knowing that there would always be a certain contingent of angry, uptight prudes who see anything sexy or fun as a ghastly affront to all things good and decent. These people, be they religious conservatives or humorless politically correct asshats, will never be able to say they lived as interesting a life as Hefner. They’ll also never be able to undo the sex-positive movement that he helped inspire.

When I talk about sex-positivity, I’m not just referring to the counterpoints to those who favor the sexual morality espoused by celibate priests or certain female superheroes who embody that spirit. I’m referring to a mindset and a cultural attitude that sees sexuality as something healthy, positive, and good.

That’s something society needed back in Hef’s day where anything that didn’t match the sitcoms of the day was considered deviant. That’s something we need today when certain segments of society seem to be getting more sexually uptight. That’s something our species needs, as a whole, if only our evolutionary inclinations to survive and reproduce.

Sex and how society treats sexuality had a long, sordid history of taboos, trends, and panics that can lead to some pretty disturbing attitudes, as John Harvey Kellogg demonstrated.  It will likely continue to be controversial, whether it’s overly sexy ads or advances in sex toys. What Hugh Hefner did was focus on the positives of sex, showing just how beautiful and fun they could be.

I don’t doubt that, over the course of the next few weeks, there will be people claiming that Hefner deserves no praise. They’ll blame him for advocating a hedonistic lifestyle, denigrating women, promoting toxic masculinity, and making baby Jesus cry. These people are entitled to their opinions, but not to any credibility. If they prefer to live in an unsexy world enforced by Vatican decrees, that’s their business.

That doesn’t change the fact that Hugh Hefner made the world a sexier place. He made it okay to admire the beauty of the female body. People forget that it wasn’t that long ago that the female form was looked upon with disgust. Some parts of the world still do. Some are even trying to regress us back to a periods where the sight of a sexy woman provokes outrage.

Those efforts are destined to fail in the long run because Hugh Hefner, as outrageous a lifestyle he lived, understood the power of sexuality and the inherent desire to celebrate its beauty. Our desires, lusts, and passions aren’t going away anytime soon, no matter how much the religious or politically correct asshats whine about it.

Moreover, Hefner understood how to convey those sex-positive attitudes in a way that shattered taboos and overpowered the shame that those same asshats had used for centuries. It’s telling when famous models like Kendra Wilkinson will come out and praise Hefner for giving women a chance to celebrate their beauty and become stars in their own right.

“A lot of women, so many women, thousands of women are so appreciative of Hef,” the Playboy model, 32, exclusively told Us Weekly in May 2016. “They are so happy that Hef gave them their chance and became who they are because of him.”

There will still be radical feminists and celibate religious officials who cry immorality or oppression. It doesn’t make the sentiments of those who knew and loved Hef less sincere. The man lived life to an extent that exceeds the wildest fantasies of the horniest men. For that, he deserves respect and praise. He will be missed dearly.

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