Photos by Molly DeCoudreaux

If you've never worked in porn, it probably seems like a pretty easy way to make a living: get paid hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars to spend an afternoon having sex, making a full-time wage with just a few days of work a month. Sure, the work comes with a stigma, but if you don’t mind dealing with that, it’s easy money, right?

But while some people get to live that dream, many more find that their porn work isn’t quite enough to pay the bills. A decade ago, it was relatively easy for most performers to consistently book multiple gigs a week; these days, even big stars can have difficulty booking a few shoots a month. Due to a combination of piracy and rampant free online porn, XXX sales are down by a large margin. And with less money coming in to production companies, there's not as much to spend on producing new content, which means less work (and less pay) for the talent who depend on porn to pay the bills.

In order to make ends meet, quite a few performers have taken up second jobs. Most of the time, moonlighting porn performers end up in side jobs in other sectors of the adult industry, like stripping, escorting, or dominatrix work, where some XXX notoriety can help raise your rates. But there are a handful of adult stars who end up in more mainstream gigs, where they’re not necessarily upfront about what they do in front of the camera. There are porn performers who teach yoga, who do graphic design, who handle PR, and—in at least one case—even deliver pizzas.

James Darling, porn star, also delivers pizzas.
James Darling, porn star, also delivers pizzas.

James Darling, twenty-six, was born and raised in Georgia to conservative, church-going parents. Growing up, he dreamed of escaping the South to move to a more liberal city like New York or San Francisco. When he found himself without a home, he decided to take the leap and see if he could make his dream come true, and after two and a half days on a Greyhound bus, he started a new life in the Bay Area.

The night before Darling left Atlanta, one of his friends showed him a porn movie called "The Crash Pad Series." The experience was eye-opening.

"I was so excited, I had to know more," James recalls. “I'd never seen such beautifully shot porn with diverse casting and I was blown away. I immediately wanted to be a part of it." It wasn't long before he finally had his chance. In 2009, a friend asked him to costar in a scene for the website that created "The Crash Pad Series."

Many of the friends Darling had made in the Bay Area were involved in the adult industry. He knew that he loved exhibitionism and wanted to meet more sex-positive people, so exploring the world of adult entertainment seemed like it might be a good time. Going into the experience, he wasn’t sure what to expect. But once he was on set, he was impressed by how respectful and caring everyone was, and was pleased to discover that he felt incredibly comfortable shooting porn.

"I fell deeply in love with porn," Darling says. "I have worked a lot of different kinds of jobs, but nothing resonated with me as much as sex work has."

Smitten by with the industry, he decided to shoot as many scenes as possible. Thanks to a burgeoning Bay Area porn scene, he quickly racked up a number of porn gigs, and the simultaneous explosion of social media helped him develop a sizable fan base. From there, Darling went on to launch his own website and even win a handful of awards (most notably, 2012 Heartthrob of the Year at the Feminist Porn Awards).

For most up-and-coming porn performers, the next steps would be simple: move to Los Angeles, find an agent, and start making the rounds in the numerous studios of Porn Valley. But James Darling isn’t like most up-and-coming porn performers. As it happens, he’s a trans man (meaning he’s a man who was born in a female body), and that greatly limits the amount of work he can get.

Trans women looking to perform sex work have numerous options, but for trans men, it’s a different story. Unlike “t-girls” and “shemales,” who’ve long been pornographic staples, trans men didn’t enter the porn world’s awareness until the early 2000s, when pioneering porn performer Buck Angel debuted as “the man with a pussy.” To this date, Buck is the only trans man to ever have been recognized by any of the major porn awards shows.

James Darling behind the camera, filming content for his porn site. (Photo courtesy James Darling).
James Darling behind the camera, filming content for his porn site. (Photo courtesy James Darling).

More than six years after Buck took home the award for Transsexual Performer of the Year, the number of porn studios willing to work with trans men is still in the single digits. Major porn studios don't know how to market transmale content, which appeals to an audience not targeted by more traditional genres of porn. The filmmakers who pick up the slack tend to be members of the queer community who are looking to create the content they're personally interested in seeing. Most, if not all, of those studios are indie ventures with small budgets and infrequent shoots, making it hard for Darling to pick up regular work. If he shoots once a year for the handful of companies that are trans man-friendly, that’s about four or five scenes—enough to establish a porn presence, but not nearly enough to make a living.

The dearth of XXX trans-man action was one of the things that led Darling to launch his own hardcore site, FTMFucker.com, in 2012.

“There are very limited opportunities for transsexual men in porn and I had a lot of concepts and ideas I wanted to explore,” says Darling.

FTMFucker has given him creative freedom, and allowed him to shoot scenes that might not have found a home elsewhere, such as one in which Darling gets gangbanged by four “cis”—non-trans— men in unicorn masks. But it hasn’t made him rich. Even with the money generated by his own website, his porn work doesn’t pull in enough money to cover the cost of living in the Bay Area. So Darling’s done what any intrepid artist would do to pay the bills: he’s picked up some part-time jobs.

Working as a pizza delivery boy is only the most recent in a long line of varied side gigs he’s taken on to pay the bills while still making porn.

“You name it, I've probably tried it,” Darling says. “My hustle has manifested itself in so many ways.” Some of the jobs are decidedly mainstream: he was once a combination dog walker/pet sitter/house sitter, and served as a home care assistant for a paraplegic man. Some have been behind the scenes of the adult industry, like the year he spent running live streaming webcam shows for a large BDSM company, or the safe rides service he provides, driving adult performers to and from their gigs. Some have been experiments in other areas of the sex industry, such as phone-sex work, cam shows, professional domination work, gogo dancing, art modeling, burlesque, and a gig as a professional house boy for a BDSM dungeon. These days, porn and pizza take up the bulk of his time; when he’s not busy with those gigs, he also works as a manager at a gay sex club.

Accessories in the interior of James Darling's car.
Accessories in the interior of James Darling's car.

Though Darling’s delivery boy work is pretty far from porn, he actually came to it through some of his adult industry connections. Last year, his webmaster’s husband opened up a small pizza place and found himself in need of a driver. Specifically, a driver who came with a car, something easier said than done in the public transportation-friendly Bay Area. Darling fit the bill.

Working as a pizza delivery boy has been a great experience for Darling. In past food-service gigs, he found himself turned off by the fast-paced, high-stress environment; in contrast, the pizza place feels laid back and enjoyable. And because his employer is already aware of, and comfortable with, both Darling’s trans identity and his work in porn, he doesn’t have to worry about getting outed and losing his job. In his delivery boy life, Darling is able to take a break from the pressures of being an XXX trans man and just sit back, relax, and enjoy unlimited free pizza.

But he can’t always keep his porn life from spilling over into his pizza life.

“Because of the kind of pizza place it is, a lot of queer people frequent the shop and I have been recognized a couple times,” says Darling. “Most customers usually keep it to themselves or they might allude to it with a vague ‘You look familiar’ kind of comment.”

There have definitely been a few moments that felt like a crossover between Darling’s two jobs: “I’ve delivered pizza to people in their underwear or [who were] clearly having a post-sex takeout moment,” he says. “I feel like I'm walking into a classic ’80s porn scenario.” Hopefully it inspires a future scene on his site.

Darling would love to be able to do porn full time, but for the time being, he doesn't see that as feasible. So much for the fantasy of getting rich quick through porn.

“My income is probably around 50/50 right now between porn and my other jobs,” he says. “I think pizza might pay slightly better than porn at the moment, surprisingly.”

*   *   *

Lux Alptraum is a writer, sex educator, and owner of Fleshbot.com, the web's foremost blog about sexuality and adult entertainment.

Molly DeCoudreaux is a freelance photographer in San Francisco with a focus on food, environmental portraiture, and local designers. She has a pit bull, collects animal tchotchkes, & lives above a music studio.

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