Until late last year, I didn’t know August Ames. One day in early December, I was checking in on the trending topics, and clicked her name. She was a porn star who met her untimely demise at the age of 23. Cause of death: suicide.
In the days leading up to her death, August had stirred up controversy on the Internet for allegedly refusing to film pornography with an individual who had previously done homosexual pornography. The hate and anger that was directed at her was intense. She had been diagnosed with bipolar depression and multiple personality disorder. News reports indicate that she disclosed sexual abuse by her grandfather while she was a minor. Her mother was also bipolar. She spent time in a group home before her teenage years and shared that she had a terrible relationship with her father.
If you’ve read any of the personal stories of those who have participated on-camera in the pornography industry, August’s story doesn’t really stand out. She fits the profile.
It is well documented that the pornography industry preys on a certain demographic for talent. The average female porn star is young, with a strong history of depression and substance use disorder. In many cases, she was the victim of sexual abuse as a minor. These women are vulnerable, and are lured with the promises of easy money and fame. Their life is anything but easy.
And if they don’t fit the profile when the go into the industry, they will by time it spits them out.
August, her real name being Mercedes, was in the pornography industry for four years. During that time, roughly from age 19 until her death last year, she amassed credits in upwards of 290 scenes/films. Running the numbers, that means videos of her were released, on average, every five days for the past four years. Data from PornHub, one of the most ubiquitous free pornography sites on the web, says that her videos were viewed a mind-blowing 415 million times, or 1.43 million times per video.
After news of her death broke, a major pornography studio, Brazzers, announced that they were delaying the release of Mercedes’ latest scene until a “more appropriate time.” That’s right, they’re releasing a pornography video exploiting a deceased person.
Since news of August’s death broke, there has been a steady drip of new deaths. Most, if not all, have been confirmed as suicides. While the banner headlines proclaim that the porn industry is at a loss as to what’s causing these deaths, there’s nothing mysterious about it.
We’ve been lying to ourselves for a long time, America. We’ve been telling ourselves that porn is victimless, that everyone is a willing participant, that it’s free speech and that free porn really costs nothing.
I have trouble reconciling the degree of free consent a person can give to having their sexual encounters recorded and distributed 290 times, with countless partners. I have trouble reconciling how a commercial company can reasonably obtain consent from a person who could be put into receivership. I have trouble reconciling how someone can consent to having their videos watched, shared, and sold after their death. I have trouble reconciling the fury in recent weeks over the sexual misdeeds of celebrities and politicians and no one has said a damn thing about the single greatest driver in the dehumanization of sexuality
Mercedes’ death is a tragedy. How many more of these broken people end their lives in anonymity?
Pornography is an affront to the dignity of the human person and civilized society.
There is zero place for pornography in a society that in any legitimate and meaningful way seeks to appreciate, respect, and empower women.
Until we’re willing to come to grips with the absolute damage that the pornography industry does to it’s participants, consumers and society at large, we will never stop this daily march of Harvey Weinsteins. We will never stop reading about teachers sexually assaulting their students. We will never stop. It will never stop.
Sex is a loving act between spouses who surrender themselves totally through self-donation.