How the Feds, the Internet, and the recession killed the adult movie industry

October 13, 2009

"In this canon, the real subject is not human sexuality but humanity itself. The products that Jim produces are videotaped vivisections, studies in which homo sapiens lie upon the operating table, the director is the doctor, the camera is the scalpel, and the only question worth asking is, How far will we go if we are pushed to our limits?"

"They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?" A 10,000-word, self-published long-form investigation into the economic impact of the Great Recession on the porn business.

"Seven Great Stories About Paying for Sex and Being Paid to Have It." -- Slate 

"Unflinching and devastating." -- Longform 

"Bold and ambitious." -- Boing Boing 

"Brilliant." -- Warren Ellis

"Ms. Breslin has changed the way I think about the business of making pornography." -- Metafilter

An essay on the project, "The Numbers On Self-Publishing Long-Form Journalism," has been taught in Media, Politics & Power in the Digital Age at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Studio 20 program at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University.

Words & photos by Susannah Breslin. Logo & design by Chris Bishop.


Anonymous letters from johns, working girls, strip club patrons, cheaters, and porn-watchers

2008 - 2013

"One can try to hang a sign on us, the collective john, as perpetuating the global conspiracy of sex/slave traffic, and I'll grant that my Thailand trip may have/probably did contribute to some sort of thuggery. But in the end, I am ashamed of nothing I have done."

A five-year project in which men and women confessed their secret sex lives in anonymous letters.

"A new blog gives voice to guys who empty their pockets just to see naked flesh, and reveals a lot about male desire." -- Salon

"A Web site gives men a chance to write anonymously about the complicated reasons they buy sex. Their explanations may surprise you." -- Newsweek

"The project features a range of anonymous male perspectives and ultimately reveals that men go to strip clubs for much more than just naked women." -- CBC Radio

"The Projects: You Were My Studs" An essay on The Letters Project, including a timeline of how the project evolved, what we can learn from the letters, and a letter from a john on why he shared his story.


Behind-the-scenes photos of real life in the adult movie business

2001 - Present

"Since she got into porn a year and a half ago, Black has done between 200 and 250 scenes. In the makeup room, she leans towards the mirror and checks her skin. The makeup makes her face break out. I ask her if she was really having orgasms the half-dozen or so times she appeared to during the scene. She looks around to see if anybody is within earshot. Deen is in the shower. She cups her hand next to her lips and mouths: No."

The San Fernando Valley is where the vast majority of the world's porn is made. Here, starlets disrobe before cameras, woodsmen pray for wood, and directors demand money shots on the spot.

As the adult movie business struggles to reinvent itself, men and women compete to become America's next porn superstar.

Welcome to Porn Valley, USA.