How Much Money Do Porn Stars Actually Get Paid for Sex Scenes?

By Aurora Snow
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Ask a porn star about sex and you’ll be inundated with every dirty detail—unless you ask how much it pays. That’s when the conversation becomes awkward. When discussing pay rates, XXX performers are just like everyone else, and equally as private. Earnings are often exaggerated (the few performers willing to speak about rates inevitably claim to be on the higher end of the scale).

Twenty-six-year-old Ariana Marie recalls how little she knew about the pay structure when she first entered the industry, and how heavily she relied on her agent. Marie’s starting rate for a boy/girl scene was $1200, which is the higher end of today’s standard range. However, her booking agent’s 40-percent commission was not. Most XXX agents take a 10-20-percent commission, but a new performer wouldn’t automatically know that. “Anytime I was on set I started asking other girls, ‘How much does your agent take?’ They’d say 10 or 15 percent and then I started asking, ‘Well, why does mine take 40?’”

Marie’s next agent seemed a little better—at first. His cut was standard but it wasn’t long before they were haggling over her rates, which he called “too high.” Apparently, that agent was offering buddy deals. “The agent was friends with some of the companies and he’d lower my rate for them,” says Marie. “His excuse was, ‘You’ll work more,’ but I was already working a lot.”

With over a million combined social media followers, Marie’s elite fan base often justifies a company’s decision to pay more.

Mean Bitches CEO Glenn King doesn’t balk at paying a performer more than his standard company rate if the math makes sense. “It’s a business equation. If I’m going to pay someone $1200 instead of $1000 then I need to be relatively confident that I’m going to make an extra $200 off that scene, but the performer has to be popular. Does she have the fan base and following to justify paying her extra?” says King. “I look at her rankings, Twitter followers, Instagram. It’s not about the extra $200 that one time; if you’re shooting this performer in 8 scenes a month, it’s an extra $1600 a month. You have to come up with a viable rate.”

“What’s important now is social media engagement—a lot of girls get hired or don’t get hired by how many followers they have,” says porn super-agent Mark Spiegler. “Instagram is really big. That’s one of the pitfalls because Instagram has it out for adult performers.”

A number of social media platforms have been known to purge adult-oriented accounts, even if there’s nothing naughty posted. Due to the business impact, many porn stars preemptively create backup accounts.

Spiegler has a reputation for consistently booking his performers at above-average rates, which he was more than willing to specify. “The minimum boy/girl is a thousand dollars, minimum $1200 for anal but most are more than that and for DP [double penetration] our girls start at $1500 and go up,” says Spiegler. “We charge everyone the same. Some agents or some girls [agents always blame it on the girls] will charge more money for IR [interracial]. We don’t do that unless it’s a first IR but that’s like a first anal or first anything else.”

So what do porn stars actually get paid for sex?

According to conversations with various companies, agents and traditional porn stars, rates can be as unique as the performer, however industry standards do exist.   

Female Performer Average Rates (one-time flat rate per scene, zero royalties):

Girl/Girl: $700-$800, Girl/Girl Anal: $900-$1100

Boy/Girl: $900-$1000, Boy/Girl Anal: $1100-$1200

Double or triple penetration: $1200-$2500

Threesomes, Foursomes & Orgies: base rate + $100-$200 per additional performer

Male Performer Average Rates (one- time flat rate per scene, zero royalties):

Newbies boy/girl (anal or non): $300-$500

Proven performers boy/girl (anal or non): $500-$1200

Threesomes, Foursomes & Orgies: base rate + $100-$300 (not always per performer)

Women entering the industry command higher rates as their first scenes are in demand. For men, it’s the opposite. Companies get nervous about hiring a new guy; wood problems are costly for the entire set, especially when locations are rented by the hour. So the rate for a reliable male performer has nearly doubled in the last 10 years (women’s rates have seen only a marginal increase).

“Standard rates for male performers are $300-$400, until you find your grounding. You work with the smaller companies to get your foot in the door but you can double that fairly fast within the year if you’re a solid performer,” says Isiah Maxwell, the reigning 2019 Xbiz Male Performer of the Year.

“I’ve been raising my rate consistently every year, but winning the Xbiz award legitimized my rate,” says Maxwell. “I don’t like to talk about my rate; I don’t want to have an ego conflict on set. No one’s going to tell you how much they make and show you their check after a scene, it’s a little ego-driven. You may deserve a certain rate but you gotta earn it as well.”

2018 Xbiz Girl/Girl Performer of the Year Darcie Dolce agrees, you have to earn it. “I put on a good scene. I come to set looking good, my skin looks good, and my nails aren’t all fucked up. I’m professional, on time, easy to work with, so I think I’m worth the money,” says Dolce. “With some girls, it’s like a Louis [Vuitton] bag: you’re just paying for the name not the purse.”

Dolce echoes the sentiments of virtually the entire industry when she says, “I’m not comfortable telling you my rate. Rates are private. It’s nobody’s business—unless they’re the agent or the ones paying.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.