They Shoot Porn Stars Don't They

On an otherwise unremarkable evening in the Valley last October, a light-skinned, mixed-race, twenty-something male wearing a satin Los Angeles Dodgers jacket over a bulletproof vest appeared on the set of an adult movie. On the stage, cast and crew were preparing to bring to life the latest perversity to have sprung forth fully formed from the twisted mind of Jim Powers, “American Gokkun 8.” The gokkun video series is the bastard cousin of the bukkake video series. The idea of gokkun is simple. In bukkake, the men masturbate onto the woman. In gokkun, she swallows. Ami Emerson, a 25-year-old strawberry blonde from Placerville, California, who has clear blue eyes the color of Windex and who got into porn to pay off her student loans, was the night’s star attraction.

In the front office, the intruder put a handgun to Johnny Thrust’s head. “Give me the money. In the drawer. Now.” Apparently, the gunman knew where cash earmarked to pay the performers and crew was stashed. Thrust handed over $3,750. The gunman fled.

Thrust ran out onto the stage. “I just got fucking robbed!” he wailed. “They put a gun to my head!” The LAPD was called to the scene. Powers offered a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. Some speculated it was an inside job. How else could the gunman have known about the money drawer? One of the gokkun guys was seen texting somebody right before it happened. Maybe it was him. But a suspect was never located, and the gokkun robbery remains an unsolved mystery. As Powers told an industry reporter that night, “It just goes to show we’re in a recession and people are taking desperate means.” It was one more sign that hard times had hit Porn Valley.

That didn’t stop the shoot. Powers had a new idea that he wanted to try out. Nowadays, porn has become one more extreme sport in an increasingly competitive market where novelty rules. Some 70 money shots would be collected in a cup—then fried in a saucepan. For the climax, Emerson would eat the concoction.

The day I visited the house on the hill, that particular gokkun scene was the subject of much discussion. A photographer for an adult magazine had shown up with a copy of the issue in which photos from the gokkun set appeared. Emerson, who has a devilish, lopsided grin and pale skin sprinkled generously with orange freckles, looked over the gokkun pictures of herself with rapt fascination.

“I’m an attention whore,” she informed me. She enjoys partaking in extreme sports, whether that means having sex with a double-headed, motor-driven dildo—an endeavor she tackled with unabashed relish and from which she appeared to reap at least a modicum of pleasure—or consuming large quantities of semi-cooked human sperm. As for the “sperm omelet,” as everyone referred to it in awestruck tones, that was Jim’s idea, she told me. (The next day, I asked Powers about it, and he told me it was her idea.) I asked Emerson what the experience had been like. She took a moment, then replied matter-of-factly, “I like that I set the cum omelet eating record.” After a minute, she added, “It pays the bills.”

Since business fell off, there are less opportunities for women to get work in the adult movie industry. But a young woman who’s willing to do what others won’t has the potential to get more work, despite the risks. For the following week, Emerson had already booked two shoots: a five-guy gangbang, for which she would be paid $1,900, and an eight-man oral sex “blowbang,” for which she would earn $2,400.

“I’m really excited,” she enthused. Including a side-gig dancing at a local strip club—where, she said, clearly taken aback, she’d had to audition against some tough competition—she estimated her take for the week would be in the neighborhood of $6,000.

Besides paying her student loans, she’s got her heart set on becoming a Hollywood actress. “I’m doing this to afford my starving actor lifestyle,” she told me, and smiled.


This June, a porn star tested positive for HIV. The performers with whom she worked were informed of her status and tested. To date, none of her costars is reported to have tested positive for the virus.

Being a porn star is risky business. Most production companies do not require performers use condoms, although most require performers present proof of having tested negative for the virus within 30 days.

For a time after the incident came to light, the mainstream media trained its spotlight on the industry. California State Occupational Safety and Health representatives got involved. Since, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has called for state legislation that would require adult performers to use condoms in all adult productions.

Soon, though, the attention died down, and this notoriously difficult-to-legislate industry went back to the sticky business of making hardcore movies.

In the Valley, everyone with whom I spoke agreed porn was going through a difficult time. What they couldn’t agree on was what the future held.

When I suggested to some that porn stars might one day become extinct and the Valley a vanished relic of days gone by, the performers replaced by spinning constellations of flesh-colored computer pixels capable of rearranging themselves into humanly impossible sexual positions with the click of a key, I got blank stares.

This is the flesh business, their thinking goes. How could technology possibly replace a living, breathing human being having sex?

It reminded me of the early days, when the idea that anything—much less the then-plodding, wobbly World Wide Web—could threaten their livelihood was a hilarious impossibility. Until it wasn’t.


They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They? Words & photos by Susannah Breslin. Logo & design by Chris Bishop. Copyright 2009 HOME CREDITS