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Manufacturing Sex: Careers and Culture in Pornography Production


This Dissertation examines the career experiences and institutional decision-making processes of performers in the California adult film industry. Specifically, it explores how performers navigate a field typified by contingent, stigmatized work at the intersection of culture, health, gender, sexuality. Drawing on qualitative interviews with stakeholders in the California adult film industry, as well as an original quantitative dataset detailing the performance histories of adult performers, I develop three substantive chapters exploring different aspects of the adult film industry and how they advance theoretical areas in sociology. Chapter Two of the dissertation uses a unique quantitative dataset I constructed by scraping the performance histories and demographic information of over 140,000 adult film performers and directors and their roles in over 180,000 adult films, allowing me to examine differences in career length and trajectory between performers by sexuality and gender. The next section of the dissertation focuses on how workers experience non-standard or precarious labor markets. Chapter Three uses interview data to explain how adult film performers—as a type of non-standard worker—coped with a sharp decline in adult film production beginning in 2007. Chapter Four of the dissertation explores the case of HIV prevention in the California adult film industry, and the extent to which HIV prevention methods are embedded in the economic and cultural landscape of gay and straight adult film production. Taken together, these chapters illustrate the general ways workers experience contingent employment and the ways cultural meaning can intersect with and drive institutional health choices.

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