career

6am starts and 16-hour days: Jessica Drake on the stark reality of being a top porn star.

It’s easy for other jobs to sound appealing when you’re flicking through the careers section or hunting on an app. But what is it really like when you clock on? In this career series, Mamamia looks beyond the three-line job descriptions and explores the reality of working in some of the most popular/bizarre/in-demand industries.

This week, one of the world’s most famous porn performers, jessica drake (so famous she doesn’t bother with capital letters), shares how she followed a unique career path from adult films to sex education and what she learned along the way.

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Jessica drake came to pornography later than most. She was in her mid-20s, had some life experience under her belt and what she believes was a relatively realistic grasp on the industry.

“I came in with a really awesome group of people that had the talk with me about, ‘look, this can be a great opportunity for you — you could have a lot of fun, make a lot of money — but the reality is, you’ve got to live with the stigma for the rest of your life,'” the Texas-born woman told Mamamia.

Watch: An expert explains how you can have better sex. Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

“I have a very small family and didn’t really feel like I had much to lose. I wasn’t much concerned with people’s opinions of me. So I did my research, and I saw an opportunity to not only do something that I really enjoyed, but to also experiment in what, I feel, is a controlled environment and to be a creator.”

After shooting her first film in 1999, jessica went on to become one of the most successful women in the business. Now 45, she has taken home more than 20 awards, been inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame (one of the adult entertainment industry’s highest honours), and has remained exclusively contracted to adult movie studio, Wicked Pictures, since 2003.

“I’ve always approached [porn] as a career, I’ve always known that it’s something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But at the same time, I love it. It’s afforded me some really incredible, unique opportunities as far as travel. I think I have 28 countries under my belt. But to be fair, I can’t speak for the entire industry; I can only speak from my own experience, and I know that I’m super lucky to be where I am.”

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In recent years, jessica has eased away from being in front of the camera — she only performs in three or four films a year. Instead, she’s turned her attention to sex education and advocacy.

She’s a qualified sex educator, a member of AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists), and speaks at seminars and conferences at universities. She’s also created a series of instructional step-by-step videos, called jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex, that touch on everything from basic positions to female masturbation and sex for seniors (on which she collaborated with a 75-year-old sex educator).

jessica on the set of her educational film, Guide to Wicked Sex: Senior Sex. Image: Supplied.

"Around 2009/2010, I realised that I was having more and more people come to me, asking me questions about anatomy or some basic functions of the reproductive system. It made me step back and zoom out and take a broader look at what's missing from this equation," she said.

"We're lacking basic, shame-free, non-judgemental, consent-aware sex education. So what ends up happening is when people see porn and they don't have a solid foundation of sex education, it's their first experience of sexuality. And they are not able to navigate that.

"And I think the onus definitely should not fall on pornography to educate. Because porn is a polished fantasy, porn is meant for entertainment, as an add-on to your relationship. But between schools not teaching proper sex education or parents being too embarrassed to talk about it, we're just not having the appropriate conversations along the way."

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A day in the life of a porn star.

"The films I do for Wicked are generally bigger-budget features that require a lot of preproduction. So, for me, making the movie doesn't just start the day that I walk onto the set; it starts quite a bit before that. So in the weeks leading up to a movie, we do wardrobe, we do script rehearsals, maybe even go and scout locations.

"By the time I am ready to be on the set, the day usually involves me getting up super early, around 6am, and making sure my wardrobe and whatever else I need for the entire shoot — however many days that is — is ready.

"Then I go to the set and spend a few hours in hair and makeup, run dialogue with whoever is on the set, and then it's basically shooting all day. Generally, we do 14-16-hour days.

"We have a shoot schedule that says what we need to shoot and in which order... Everybody has their own shot list that we need to accomplish at each location on each day, because once we shoot all of the exteriors at one location we won't be back there. So we have to get that shot.

"But depending on how everyone is doing, you can never really say for sure if a sex scene is going to take an hour or four hours.

Listen: Porn star Madison Missina explains how we can consume porn ethically.

"When shooting wraps, I help everybody pack up, I help wrap the set, load up. Then depending on what time it is, I'll go to a 24-hour drive-through and get a breakfast sandwich, some fries or something. And then I go home and have a jacuzzi or a steam shower to decompress from the day.

"I'll think about everything that I have to do the next day, and if I'm still working on a feature movie I go over my script and I repack my bags. I also think about what I could have done differently in my performance. Like most creators, I can be self-critical, but the older that I get, it's become easier to let stuff go and just be like, 'Oh well, I did my best.'

"So from the time that we wrap, it's at least a few hours before I calm down and go to bed. Then I do it all over again the next day.

"It's pretty rigorous. But still people I meet say to me, 'It's just porn. Why do you take it so seriously?' [I say] Because it takes an effort to produce high-quality bigger-budget adult entertainment, and people are still willing to pay for it."

jessica will be appearing as a headline guest at SEXPO from November 8-10 at Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre. Tickets available via the SEXPO website.

You can find out more about 'jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex' series via her sex education website.

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