In this interview, Sarah Vandella demystifies and destigmatizes the adult entertainment industry. The adult entertainment industry is a subculture that most of us know little about or understand. When viewed from the outside, people tend to stigmatize and condemn it.
She talks about her 13 years of experience in the adult entertainment industry, offering some thought-provoking insights into sexuality, sex education, and relationships.
In this Interview:
- Sarah’s Childhood
- Getting into the Adult Entertainment Industry
- Coming out to her parents
- De-stigmatizing the Adult Entertainment Industry
- Preventing the Negative side of the Industry
- Differentiating between Personal and Professional Life
- #MeToo In the Adult Entertainment Industry
- The life of a Male Performers
Let’s get right into it!
Sarah’s Childhood and Life Before The Adult Entertainment Industry
Sarah grew up with the freedom to choose her passion. Her parents never forced her into a particular career path, but instead encouraged her to find her own interests. And if one didn’t suit her, she moved on until she found the “perfect” fit.
Therefore, her childhood included various extracurricular activities, such as soccer, swimming, theater, and even guitar. These experiences shaped her creative side; she was never one to live a “9 to 5”, cubical lifestyle. Sarah is not someone who could commit to a strict schedule, something she inherited from her father.
She did, however, go through most of the education system. Sarah graduated from high school, followed by a few months at a SUNY college in upstate New York, but quickly became bored. She wanted more out of life. And so, in her early 20s, she left school, went back home, enrolled in community college, and started working part-time, between retail, managerial, and secretarial jobs. But even that couldn’t quite satisfy her curiosity and interest.
Earliest Lessons in Sex Education
Sarah grew up in a Reformed, Jewish, liberal home. Nothing was hidden there, everything was discussed. When it was time, her father took her to the library for the classic “birds and bees” conversation. A memory she remembers very clearly.
Sex was just explained as a scientific means for reproduction.
Like all parents, Sarah’s had set the ground rules – no staying after curfew, no boys in the house, but they didn’t shy away from sex. She was never shamed for exploring herself or being a free spirit. Sarah wasn’t a promiscuous girl, and it wasn’t until her early 20s that she really started to feel sexy or realize the power of a woman’s body.
Getting into the Adult Entertainment Industry
Sarah, like many others, wanted to be independent, but she was unhappy with the mundane and ordinary. So she slowly started dipping her feet into the world of adult entertainment, she started as a dancer in a strip club. When she applied for the job, she had a subconscious inkling of the “extras” available, and that’s how it all began.
Sarah worked there for about 4 months and for most of that time she was fine, making good money and safe. But soon she felt the itch for something more.
Sarah wanted to legitimize herself. She didn’t want to be an illegal sex worker on Long Island, that wasn’t her dream and not someone she wanted to be. So she set to work finding legal brothels in Nevada.
In 2006, she flew to Las Vegas in search of 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 a pretty good one at that. On her first trip there, she made $15,000, and her cut totaled $30,000.
During her job there, she learned a lot, like how to build a client base, but even that wasn’t enough. Sarah wanted more. She wanted to secure a future with choices, and she always wanted to be in film.
Sarah’s ultimate goal was to get into porn, but she made sure not to rush it, and that was important to her. She didn’t want to just do porn, she needed to make sure it was the right path for her in terms of her interest and passion. She worked in sex work for a year before starting in the adult entertainment industry. When she started 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 starting in the industry, Sarah researched as she would any other career path, one of her colleagues from Sheri’s Ranch even invited Sarah to her set to get a feel for the atmosphere. An experience she had long dismissed as a cop-out, however.
On set, she was taken advantage of by a director, but she didn’t let it define or shape her. In fact, she began filming professionally two weeks after the incident, in 2007, and has been ever since. Today, she describes the entire experience of her career as encouraging.
Coming out to her parents
Unlike many “coming out” conversations, Sarah’s was quite different. While others have come out as part of the LGBTQ+ community, she came out as a porn star. Fortunately, her parents were very open-minded. After years of square jobs, leadership positions, and school, her parents realized Sarah was unhappy.
Her career path was a gradual one; she didn’t start doing porn overnight. And throughout her rise, she was open and honest with her parents. When she started working at the strip club, Sarah explained her goal of self-employment and her aversion to strict schedules.
I want to do something creative and free, and I want to be a performer.
She believes her honesty has been a great help every step of the way – as sex work rather than something to make a quick buck. At first, her parents weren’t mad, but worried. They didn’t want her to get into a situation where she would cause harm or trouble, but they eventually understood. That was another big reason for Sarah’s quest to legalize 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 Entertainment Industry
When you see an artist working across your screen, they have performed and everything that has happened up to that point is legal. The paperwork has been signed, the tests have been reviewed, and the directors have gone over the scripts.
This is a professional business, everyone is a taxpayer and the industry is a real career. The decision is not made overnight. Personally, Sarah doesn’t think porn is an industry for 18-year-olds. She thinks the cutoff should be 21. She didn’t get into the industry at 18, she got into it at 23.
Her message to de-stigmatiz the Adult Entertainment Industry
Not everything is for everybody, sex work is extremely personal.
There is an element in sex work called caregiving which refers to giving comfort and love to another person, a considerable amount of emotional support, whether or not sex is in the equation. When Sarah worked at Mustang Ranch, most of her dates were those of caring.
People who want to do sex work for real reasons feel compelled to either give or provide care, 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.
With the covid 19 pandemic, they haven’t filmed in months. And while there are rumors of filming resuming in California, they haven’t done any testing. Personally, Sarah doesn’t feel comfortable going on set until there is either a vaccine or legitimate testing.
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 Adult Entertainment the Industry
Sarah thinks 18 is too young to start doing porn, and that’s the first problem. Girls who just turned 18 and are trying to make money and get out of the house. Maybe they’re coming from a bad situation, they have a criminal record, or they’ve gotten into trouble and need some quick cash. These situations are what Sarah says often lead to problems, anything can be dangerous. They can be exposed to pimps, sex trafficking, rape and assault.
She says people are responsible for themselves, she doesn’t blame them, she blames the process. If there was a better screening process for inclusion in porn to protect these girls, the industry would be safer.
She believes that at 21, people have a better sense of their future and themselves. That being said, Sarah advises anyone looking to get into the industry to do their research thoroughly.
Do what she did. Take your time and get your feet wet. Ask around and do your research. Don’t listen to that one “jerk” who says he can make you a star, go online. We live in a world today where information about virtually anything is available at the 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 view porn as a form of sex education. To this, Sarah openly counters that it is never the purpose of porn to educate. It’s 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 parents sit down with their child and have the classic “birds and bees” conversation. Teach them about sex.
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.
Sarah has had a boyfriend for three years now. She didn’t date before him, she was careful about the people she let get close to her, and was never primarily attracted to gentlemen in her line of work. You can tell a person’s motives by examining and sifting through them, just like with any other relationship. Similar to ‘ordinary’ people, Sarah doesn’t take her work home with her, when she goes to her boyfriend, she is herself – Sarah, not ‘the Sarah Vandella’.
Sarah has never dated a porn star. She’s never felt a personal connection to one where she wanted to date them. But she could imagine that when dating someone in the industry, you have to be sure of yourself and trust the person you’re with to distinguish that it’s just a job.
This is our job. It’s not who we are.
#MeToo In the Adult Entertainment Industry
Sexual Assault in the Adult Entertainment Industry
People in the industry can sometimes be taken advantage of. Sarah’s experience in the industry wasn’t perfect, it had its ups and downs. She believes that you have to be incredibly strong and thick-skinned to get back on the horse and keep riding.
Recently, some ladies have been speaking out on Twitter about sexual assault in the industry, and Sarah has had her fair share. In fact, she had never been raped until she started doing 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’s done in porn is more manipulative than what’s often shown in Law and Order, where a guy throws you against a wall and rapes you. It’s done differently in porn, it’s a different kind of predator.
For example, when Sarah was new in the business, for about 3 years, she was done shooting a scene at Vince Vouyer ‘s house and was changing in the bathroom. He came in and attacked her, honestly all she remembers of the encounter was him “touching and groping her.”
That’s just a small example of how it goes in the industry, they were shooting at his house, he had free rein in the area.
The #MeToo movement is often seen as a hoax. For many in the industry, speaking the truth often leads to being blacklisted or having their agent complicit. There are three different tiers of agents in the industry: Low-Level, Medium-Tier, and Spiegler (High-End). The higher the tier, the more protected you are. If you have a low-tier agent, they often don’t share information about the people involved with the talent because it could 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 Male Performers in the Adult Entertainment Industry
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 Unmistakable
Sarah believes that what makes one unmistakable creative is their history, their story. Who they are, you can not mistake that.
Listen to the full interview with Sarah Vandella
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