In this interview, Sarah Vandella demystifies and de-stigmatizes the adult film industry. The adult film industry is a subculture that most of us have little knowledge or understanding of. Looking in from the outside, it’s something that people tend to stigmatize and judge on.
She talks about her 13 years of experience in the industry while sharing some thought-provoking insights on sexuality, sex education, and relationships.
In this Interview:
- Sarah’s Childhood
- Getting into the Adult Film Industry
- Coming out to her parents
- De-stigmatizing the Adult Film Industry
- Preventing the Negative side of the Industry
- Differentiating between Personal and Professional Life
- #MeToo In the Adult Film Industry
- The life of a Male Performers
Let’s get right into it!
Sarah grew up with the freedom to pick her passion. Her parents never forced her into any particular career path but instead encouraged her to find her own interests. And if one didn’t suit her to then move on until she found the ‘perfect’ fit.
Hence her childhood involved various extracurricular activities, like soccer, swimming, drama, and even guitar. Those experiences are what shaped her creative side; she was never someone who could live a ‘9 to 5,’ cubical lifestyle. Sarah is not someone who could be tied down to a strict schedule, something she gets from her father, a Lights Salesman.
She did, however, go through most of the educational system. Sarah graduated high school, followed by a few months in a small Suny college in upstate New York, but got bored quickly. She wanted more from life. And so, in her early 20s, she left, went back home, enrolled in a community college, and started to work part-time in between retail, managerial and secretarial positions. But even this didn’t quite hold her curiosity or interest.
Earliest Lessons in Sex Education
Sarah grew up in a reformed, Jewish, liberal home, so nothing was hidden, everything was discussed. When it was time, her father took her to the library to have the classic ‘birds and the bees’ talk. It’s a memory she remembers quite distinctively.
Sex was just explained as a scientific means for reproduction.
Like all parents, Sarah’s had the basic rules in motion — no staying past curfew, no boys at home, but they didn’t shun sex. She was never shamed for exploring herself or for being a free spirit. Now Sarah was not a promiscuous girl, and it wasn’t until her early 20’s that she really started to feel sexy or realize the power of a woman’s body.
Getting into the Adult Film Industry
Sarah, like many, wanted to be self-independent but she was miserable doing the mundane and ordinary. So she slowly started dipping her feet into the adult entertainment world, she started as a dancer in a strip club. When she interviewed for the position, she had a subconscious inkling of the ‘extras’ available, and that’s how it all started.
Sarah worked there for about 4 months and for most of the job she was doing great, earned good money, and was safe. But she soon started getting the itch for something more.
Now, Sarah wanted to legitimize herself. She did not want to work as an illegal sex worker on Long Island, that was not her dream and not someone she wanted to be. So, she put in the work and found legal brothels in Nevada.
In 2006, she flew to Las Vegas looking for a job, and everyone she asked pointed her to Sheri’s Ranch. That was the beginning of her legal sex work career, and it was quite a good one at that. On her first trip there she made $15,000 her cut, which was $30,000 in total.
During her job there, she learned a lot like how to build a clientele, but this too wasn’t enough. Sarah wanted more. She sought to secure a future of choices, and she always wanted to be on film.
Sarah’s ultimate goal was to get into porn, but she made sure not to rush into it and that was important to her. She didn’t want to do porn to ‘just to it’, she had to make sure it was the right path for her, in regards to her interest and passion. She worked a year doing sex work before she started adult film work. Going into it she kept her name, she wanted to keep things authentic.
What you see is what you get, with my performance it’s all authentic.
Before she started in the industry, like every other career path, Sarah did her research, one of her colleagues from Sheri’s Ranch even invited Sarah to her set to get a feel of the atmosphere. However, the experience was one that she had written off as an excuse for a long time.
On the set, she was taken advantage of by a director, but she didn’t let that define or shape her. In fact, 2 weeks after the incident, in 2007, she started filming professionally and has been ever since. Today, she describes the entire experience of her career as empowering.
Coming out to her parents
Unlike many ‘coming out’ conversations, Sarah’s was quite different. While others came out to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, she came out as a porn star. Fortunately, her parents are quite opened minded. After years of square jobs, managing positions, and school, her parents realized Sarah was unhappy.
Her journey into the career was a gradual one, she didn’t start doing porn overnight. And throughout the entire climb, she was open and honest with her parents. When she started working in the strip club Sarah explained her goal of self-independence and distaste for strict schedules.
I want to do something creative and free, and I want to be a performer.
She believes her honestly each step of the way — as sex work and not something that would make a fast buck — was a huge help. At first, her parents weren’t mad, they were concerned. They didn’t want her in a situation that would cause any harm or trouble, but they eventually understood. That was another major reason for Sarah’s search for legalizing her career.
I felt lying and hiding my desire to want more would have harmed me more, and I never felt that judgment from my parents.
De-stigmatizing the Adult Film Industry
When you watch a performer work through your screen, they’re performing and everything up to that point has been done legally. Paperwork has been signed, tests have been checked and directors have gone over the scripts.
This is a professional business, everyone is taxpayers and the industry is a real career, the choice is not one made overnight. Personally, Sarah believes that porn is not an industry for 18-year-olds, she thinks the mark should be set at 21. She didn’t enter the industry at 18, she came in at 23 years of age.
Her message to de-stigmatize:
Not everything is for everybody, sex work is extremely personal.
There’s an element to sex work that’s called “caregiving,” what this refers to is providing comfort and love, a significant amount of emotional support to another human, whether or not sex is in the equation. When Sarah worked in the Mustang Ranch, most of her appointments were that of caregiving.
There’s a draw here. People who want to do sex work for real reasons feel compelled to either care give or perform, provide a source of entertainment.
It’s our job, it’s not who we are. We don’t go around having sex with people that are dangerous or whatever. We are tested every two weeks.
Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, they haven’t filmed for months. And although there has been talk of resuming filming in California, they don’t have any testing in place. Personally, Sarah does not feel comfortable going to set, until there is either a vaccine or legitimate testing available.
I understand if you judge us. I understand this might not be your choice career for a daughter, sister, or friend, and that fine. But please know that most of us, that are in this career, it’s our choice and it’s on our terms… We are legal sex workers and do deserve respect.
Preventing the Negative side of the Industry
Sarah believes that 18 is too young to start porn, and that’s the first problem. Girls that just turned 18, trying to make money and get out of the house. Maybe they come from a bad situation, have a record, or got into trouble and need fast money. Those situations are the ones Sarah finds often lead to trouble, anything can be dangerous. They can be liable to pimps, sex trafficking, rape, and assault.
She states that people are accountable for themselves, she doesn’t blame them, instead, she blames the process. If there was a better screening process for getting into porn, to protect these girls then the industry would be safer.
She believes that when one is 21-years-old, people tend to have a better sense of their future and self. That being said, for anyone looking to get into the industry, Sarah advises to do your due diligence.
Do what she did. Take your time and get your feet wet. Ask around and do your research. Don’t listen to the one “schmuck” that says he can make you a star, go online. Today we live in a world where information on virtually everything is available at a click of a button, use that to your advantage.
Use your millennial resources to get that background layer of information you need to protect yourself… Do. Your. Research.
If you think the industry is the right path for you, take your time, do not rush into anything, take a step back, and ask yourself why? What are your real motives?
If you just want to make fast money, or up your escorting rate, those are not the right reasons. If you want to be a performer, be valued, and respected them Sarah would recommend getting a good agent and building your brand.
Thoughts on Porn as Sex Education
People often look at porn as a form of sex education. To that, Sarah openly states that it is never the job of porn to educate. It is not okay to turn a blind eye to a child watching porn.
We are not performing for your child. We are performing for people that are 18 and older. So if your little Timmy is watching Brazzers that’s on your watch, cause we are not here for them And I will be the first to tell you, “if you are under 18, I do not want you watching my porn.”
She recommends parent to have a sit down with their child and have the classic ‘birds and bees’ conversation. Teach them about sex and how it’s reproduction.
Differentiating between Personal and Professional Life.
Unlike the common misconception, one can draw the line between what is personal and what is professional while being in the industry.
This is our job. It’s not who we are.
Sarah has a boyfriend for 3 years now. Before him, she wasn’t one to date, she was careful of the people she let in and was never primarily attracted to gentlemen in her industry. You can tell one’s motives, by vetting and screening a person, like any other relationship. Similar to ‘common’ people, Sarah doesn’t take her work home, going to her boyfriend she’s herself — Sarah, not ‘The Sarah Vandella.’
Personally, Sarah has never dated a porn star. She’s never felt a personal connection with one, where she’s wanted to date them. But she would imagine that when it comes to dating someone from the industry, you would have to be secure with yourself and trust the person you are with to distinguish that it’s just a job.
#MeToo In the Adult Film Industry
TW: Sexual Assault
People in the industry can sometimes be taken advantage of. Sarah’s experience in the industry hasn’t been perfect, she’s had her ups and downs. She believes that one would have to be incredibly strong and thick-skinned to be able to get back on that horse and keep riding.
Recently some ladies came out on Twitter on the sexual abusers present in the industry, and Sarah has had her fair share. In fact, she has never been raped until she had started porn. But that doesn’t mean her entire experience in the industry is bad, it just means that yes, there is a possibility of rape, but you can’t let that define you.
The way it happens in porn is more manipulative than what’s often portrayed on Law and Order, where some guy throws you against a wall and rapes you. In porn it’s done differently, it’s a different kind of predator.
For example, when Sarah was new in the business, about 3 years in, she was done shooting a scene at Vince Vouyer’s house and changing in the bathroom. He came in and assaulted her, honestly, all she remembers from the encounter was him being “touchy and gropey.”
That’s just a small example of how things are done in the industry, they were shooting in his house, he had free reign over the area.
The #MeToo movement is often seen as a joke. To many in the industry speaking out often gets them blacklisted or their agent is complicit. In the industry, there are three different tiers of agents in the business: low-level, medium-tier, and Spiegler (high end). The higher tier you are the more protected you are. If you have a lower-tier agent they don’t often disclose any information to the talent about the people involved because it potentially cost them money. Therefore, these agents are complicit.
The unfold of all this is that there are different parts people are playing, and until everybody really gets honest and is accountable for the part they play, I feel like this abuse is just a cycle.
The life of a Male Performers
Male performers are f*cking superheroes.
For a female performer to shine and do her best, she needs a solid male performer. A good one knows when to push and when to pull. Sarah states that as the “ security blanket” of the industry, they’re incredible. Some of them are doing two scenes a day, being put in positions that many wouldn’t understand (in terms of working perfectly with the female talent).
They are often bent over backward for hours and hours on end, without any complaint, especially for VR. Sarah believes that male performers in the industry do not get enough credit.
Sure there’s a good and bad in every walk of life and every industry. But these guys, the solid ones in the business, they’re really really good and special. And they support us.
They know how to comfort and create that connection of chemistry for the performance. Often times they’re seen as “stunt cocks” but Sarah believes they deserve more respect than they get.
Sarah’s thoughts on what makes someone an Unmistakable Creative
Sarah believes that what makes one unmistakable creative is their history, their story. Who they are, you can not mistake that.
Connect with Sarah:
The Unmistakable Creative Podcast is hosted by Srinivas Rao, where you get a window into the stories and insights of the most innovative and creative minds who have started movements, built thriving businesses, written best-selling books, and created insanely interesting art.
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