What’s killing America’s porn stars?

What’s killing America’s porn stars?

SexFebruary 01, 2018 By Lindsey Kline

In the past three months, five adult film actresses have died devastatingly young.

“This has become a crisis,” says Kevin Moore, husband of performer August Ames, who took her own life on December 5th, at 23 years old.

Last weekend at the AVN adult entertainment expo, widely considered the “Oscars of porn,” Moore stood before tens of thousands of adult entertainment insiders and addressed the elephant in the room: something is terribly wrong in the pornography industry.

The losses of 35-year-old Shyla Stylez, 31-year-old Yurizan Beltran, 23-year-old August Ames, 20-year-old Olivia Nova, and most recently, 23-year-old Olivia Lua, demand explanation. Although the approximate causes of death are either unconfirmed, overdoses or suicides, many believe there must be deeper issues at play.

So far, the most pervasive accusations point to social media and the toxic hostility among fellow porn performers. These issues became the centerpiece of the debate in the face of August Ames’ suicide, shortly after she’d become the victim of widespread cyber-bullying.

After Ames posted a Tweet implying that she wouldn’t want to work with male performers who’d appeared in gay porn, she was berated by her colleagues.

“Treating someone as a biohazard simply because they’ve had homosexual sex is HOMOPHOBIC AS FUCK. Shame on you,” read one such criticism.

Fellow porn star Jaxton Wheeler also responded to Ames comment: "The world is awaiting your apology or for you to swallow a cyanide pill. Either or we'll take it."

In an essay describing his wife’s suicide, Moore says, "I write this to make it crystal clear: Bullying took her life.”

Porn performers admit that social media can be incredibly damaging to their mental health. Maintaining a massive following is essential, however, if porn stars hope to sustain the type of following essential to their careers. Unfortunately, it also makes them the target of endless attack.

There’s an illusion of strength and power in porn performers, explains Aurora Snow, a former pornographic actress. It takes a real lack of inhibition and a level of bravery to use your body as a tool and intimately expose yourself to the whole world, over and over again. Despite their appearance of fearlessness, these actors and actresses have a habit of hiding how fragile they truly are.

“Whether it’s hate mail or hate tweets, porn stars are verbally assaulted every day, and not everyone can just ‘get used to it.’ For some, it confirms their deepest, darkest insecurities; a battering ram to one’s soul that is virtually impossible to ignore,” Snow says.

If onslaughts of insults are an occupational hazard, many argue that therapy could offer a solution. Unfortunately, finding a mental health professional is no simple task when you’re a porn performer.

If an adult film actress turns to a counselor for help with, say, depression or addiction issues, the go-to diagnosis would likely be her career — and until she fixes this underlying problem, there’s no need to pursue other treatments. If therapists are under the assumption that no one can be happy in the pornography industry, that’s a serious disincentive for performers to seek their help.

In a podcast recorded months before her death, Ames admitted that she struggled to find counseling due to her role in the porn industry. That’s why when her husband stood before the crowd at the AVN adult entertainment expo, he took the opportunity to announce The August Project, a support system that will make mental healthcare more accessible for adult performers.

The sincere hope is that women in the adult film industry can begin opening up about their mental health struggles, because social media — both the display of their happiest moments and the source of their most painful criticisms — often hides the truth. No one’s life is as perfect as their social media profile would have you believe.