While there are exceptions — John Holmes and Ron Jeremy come to mind — guys are typically treated as props by everyone from the talent to the producers to the fans. While Jeremy has enjoyed perpetuating the myth that if he can do it anyone can, he is the prototype for how years of relentless self-promotion can pay off — and don't underestimate the power of having a cute nickname like "The Hedgehog."
For most guys it's an uphill battle getting a modicum of respect in the adult industry. The vast majority of the fans (as well as the adult press) consist of men, and most of them spend their viewing time trying to imagine themselves in the guy's role. No, it doesn't bode well for men looking to make a name for themselves. It's difficult, but it's not impossible.
Alec Knight made his first move into the adult industry in 2003. While he kept his day job as a graphic designer for much of that first year, he has been fulltime in the adult industry for more than four years. His workload averages out to around 15 to 20 scenes every month. A few hundred scenes later and still Knight is relatively unknown.
"I think as far as getting my name out there, my look is very average," Knight said. "I get a lot of roles as the normal, everyday guy. I don't have a lot of tattoos, I don't have the whole rock 'n' roll look, I don't do a lot of the parties, I'm just kind of that laidback guy."
Maybe it's a family thing. His wife, Mika Tan, has suffered the same fate, even winning the inaugural Underrated Starlet trophy at last year's AVN Awards.
"Mika and I are pretty separate from the whole industry gossip thing or hanging out with people," Knight said. "We just do our own thing. She doesn't seem to get very upset about it. It would be nice to be recognized, but it's not on top of our lists. We're not out trying to brand our names. We don't pursue it too hard. I just do my job and hope people keep calling me for work."
Just how many scenes does it take before a guy gets recognized? Mick Blue is well over the 500 mark and is one of the more recognizable male faces in the industry. Still, the name, catchy though it might be, is not on the tips of the tongues of today's porn fans.
Not that there aren't perks. Blue did get free ice cream once in Slovakia because the ice cream man recognized him. And he said he is often recognized in Canada. In the U.S.? Once.
"[Self-promotion] is something I'm still trying to figure out," Blue said. "It's politics with companies, being friends with everybody and then you get more support from people. Another good promotion as a guy is the girls. If they like to work with you and you are kind of on the top of their lists, that's going to promote you as well."
Blue has considered getting a publicist, but he splits his time between Europe and the U.S. and he doesn't think that it would make sense to have someone promoting him when he spends so much time out of the country.
"Maybe if you have a PR guy that would help a lot. Or you need to do everything yourself, and that takes a lot of time," he said. "Going between America and Europe, it's kind of tough because you are not reachable for everything."
The performer's schedule can be a killer, too. Blue said that he shoots "30 scenes a month, maybe 40," which doesn't leave a lot of time for promoting oneself. He is one of the few guys who has a website, but even that hasn't been updated in more than a year.
Blue said that directing is one way a guy can increase his presence, and that the titles he's shot for Zero Tolerance have not only made him a better performer, but it's changed the industry's perception of him.
"People see you in a different way," he said.
When Czech native Jerry came to Porn Valley for work in 2004, he wasn't looking for fame.
"I started doing this for fun, not to be recognized," he said. "Later it became a fulltime job."
Today that full-time job has him averaging five scenes a week, a pace that has him in a few hundred titles. And yet, he is aware that his name does not spur a flood of images into the average porn fan's mind.
"Maybe I picked the wrong name," he joked. "It doesn't matter. I'm working enough and everybody in the industry knows me and knows I'm going to do a good job, so everybody hires me. Maybe I should do all the conventions and stuff and I could make more money, I don't know."
While unconcerned, he is thinking of starting a website, which could help raise his profile among the masses. Until then, Jerry just keeps on working.
"I do my job and go home," he said.
In the end, the ceiling for male performers remains lower than it is for their female counterparts. So long as the work keeps coming, maybe that's enough.
"I'm just there to do my job," Knight said, "to keep my dick hard, open up for the camera, give the director what they want and that's what keeps me busy. I don't really have an ego about it. I just like to work. It's just a job for me. If [becoming more famous] happens, I'd welcome it, but it's not really something I'm striving to do."