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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
'If anyone is exploited it is the men'
By Chris Summers
BBC News

This week the BBC News website is looking at people who do unusual jobs. In the fifth of the series we speak to a porn actress, model and presenter on an adult channel.

Michelle Thorne in the kitchen of her home in the West Country
Michelle Thorne finishes some housework
Many people argue that pornography is degrading and exploitative to women. But Michelle Thorne, who has worked in the porn industry for six years, does not agree.

"I have never felt exploited. If anything it's giving you power over men. The only people exploited, if anyone is, are the men who go out and spend their money on porn," says the 26-year-old from Bristol.

John Beyer, director of Mediawatch, told the BBC News website: "It may be true that some of the people who do this job enjoy a good living but the sex industry as a whole is exploitative and it's a way of life that undermines our dignity.

"Sex should be a private thing, not a spectator sport and the pornography industry is creating a climate which is very unhealthy."

Sex should be a private thing, not a spectator sport and the pornography industry is creating a climate which is very unhealthy
John Beyer

But Miss Thorne claims: "The people in this world who are really being exploited are those women in those countries where they have to cover up all the time and can't vote or anything. A woman's sexuality does give her power."

Six years after she signed a contract with Playboy, Miss Thorne is at the peak of her career, combining appearances in the magazine with a role as a presenter on the adult-only Playboy TV satellite and cable channel.

Script writing

She is one of the best-known faces in the British porn industry and one of the top actresses.

Michelle Thorne (do not remove logo)
A woman's sexuality does give her power
Michelle Thorne
Miss Thorne has also taken on a role as a producer, coming up with ideas for shows, developing them, writing the scripts and casting the actors.

She says she has turned down numerous offers to take part in "boy-girl" porn films.

Miss Thorne lives with her boyfriend Jason and has appeared with him in a couple of magazines.

Asked about the best part of her job, Miss Thorne says: "Meeting great people, getting to show off and going to great places, fantastic parties, nice hotels, all that sort of stuff."

And the worst thing?

"Sometimes you get asked to do silly things, like we had a shoot in Norway one time and it was December and minus 20 degrees outside. The director wanted us to do a scene outside. I said: 'Are you joking? We'll get ill'," she says.

UK porn industry worth 1bn - Adult Industry Trade Association
Global porn industry worth 30bn - Forbes
50%of UK population watch porn with their partner - Durex Global Sex Survey 2004
70% of internet porn traffic occurs during work hours - University Pennsylvania
Figures as of March 2005

But generally she loves the job and says: "Most of the girls are really friendly and we have a great laugh. Sometimes there are bitchy things said but it's usually by people who don't know you and once they meet you they're fine."

While she enjoys what she does Miss Thorne does not want to do it forever and hopes to go back to her first love - singing.

She is a classically-trained singer who used to sing in cabaret clubs around the country performing with the likes of comedians Bobby Davro and Joe Pasquale. She is hoping to get a big break on the ITV talent show The X Factor.

'Dubious at first'

Ultimately she says she would like to settle down and have a family and she admits she would not want her children knowing some of the things she has done.

"I have lots of pictures which I'm very proud of - shots which I did for calendars for example. I wouldn't lie to my children about what I did but I wouldn't want them to see the really rude stuff obviously," she says.

Michelle Thorne
I don't want to be one of those models you see who carries on far too long and people look at them and think 'How old are they?'
Michelle Thorne

Miss Thorne was expelled from school at 15 - "I was a tomboy, and a bit of a joker at school, and I did all sorts of stuff. Finally they had enough," she says. She then began singing professionally.

At 18 she got a set of publicity photos done and the photographer suggested she took some "glamour shots" and sent them off to an agency.

She began doing normal modelling and appeared in ads for High Street firms but soon moved into doing topless pictures for lads' magazines and then full frontal stuff for the top-shelf market.

The pay was poor to start with, but it gradually improved.

Parents disapprove

The money really started rolling in when she got into producing her own shows and three years ago she had made enough to put a deposit down on a house.

I used to raise chipmunks on a farm near Winchester
Rod Watson, Winchester, Hants

Her parents do not approve of her career, and her brother and sister also feel really uncomfortable with it but Miss Thorne says: "We are a very close family and we would never let it come between us."

Miss Thorne has plans to retire gracefully from the industry and says: "I don't want to be one of those models you see who carries on far too long and people look at them and think 'How old are they?'

"There are one or two who are in their mid to late 30s and are looking haggard and old. They have lots of plastic surgery and it's really just a freak appeal. It's so sad really," she says.


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