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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 March 2005, 15:33 GMT
An acceptable career?
Jo and Phil
Jo and Phil always work together
These days anyone can set up a website and become a porn star. With the internet fundamentally changing the industry, could pornography be becoming mainstream?

Pornography is one of the world's most profitable industries.

In the UK alone it is estimated to be worth 1bn, says the Adult Industry Trade Association. It even has its own trade show which attracts more visitors than the Ideal Home Exhibition, according to its organisers.

It used to conjure up images of backstreet sex shops and dirty, old men, but the rise of new technology has meant anyone can set up a website and - should they so desire - become a porn star. So is pornography becoming an acceptable career option?

Francesca, 59, lives in rural Oxfordshire and is one of the UK's most popular internet porn stars. She has her own website and is known as a BBW - a big, beautiful woman. She charges 15 a month for access to erotic photos and film footage of herself having sex with subscribers.

Freedom

Married for 33 years, she got into the industry when her husband and son died in quick succession seven years ago. While it was a painful period for her, being a widow gave her a new-found freedom.

"For the last 15 years of my marriage I wasn't happy. No one thought I was sexy or attractive or even worth bothering about," she says.

"A boyfriend suggested I get into pornography. He loved me the way I was and showed me other men did to. I didn't believe anyone else would find me attractive. We took six glamour shots, put them on an internet site and the next day I had 250 e-mails offering me work and from admirers."

Francesca
Francesca says she is seizing an opportunity
A month later she made her first porn movie and started her website 18 months after that.

The growth in the porn industry is criticised by campaigners, some of whom maintain that porn can lead to a rise in sexual offences. Others say it is degrading to its participants, while some believe that the easy availability of the internet can lead to children seeing pornographic images, whatever safeguards are put in place.

Francesca has no moral dilemma about her new career, arguing that porn has been around since time immemorial and always will be. She is just seizing an opportunity.

"I'm not hurting anyone, I'm having fun and am perfectly safe, so therefore what harm am I doing?" she says.

Changes in how porn is produced also means the consumer is no longer restricted to being a passive recipient.

Jo, who is in her 30s, meets subscribers for sex and puts the pictures on her site. She travels round the country, having group sessions with up to 20 men a week. Her partner Phil take the pictures.

'Exhibitionist'

The former marketing rep from the North East gave up her job recently to concentrate on her site fulltime. She says her new career is just an extension of a lifestyle she and her partner have chosen, which includes swinging with other couples and group sex.

"I'm used to selling, I like it. Now I'm just selling myself," she says. "If people don't like what I do they don't have to log on. I don't judge them, so they shouldn't judge me."

She says she is in control of her life and her business.

PORN FACTS
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

"You hear horror stories of girls getting into porn films and being pressurised into hard core stuff," she says. "I have full say over what I do, I make all the decisions. It is just me and Phil, no one else is involved."

Even though people pay a subscription to view the site, she does not consider herself a prostitute.

"It's just fun between consenting adults," she says.

Francesca's site is part of a network of amateur porn sites started about four years ago, which has about 80 women to chose from.

Site manager Adrian Smith says the pornography industry was one of the first to embrace the internet and see its potential.

"A lot of magazines are dying out now," he says. "Why have the embarrassment of going to a shop to get a mag when you can get everything you want more discreetly and privately on the internet.

"All you need to be a porn star these days is a camera and internet connection. It also helps to be an exhibitionist."

Streets Of Vice - Sex Lives & Video Tape was repeated on BBC One on Tuesday 19 April at 2305 GMT.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Porn degrades women - it's mainly run by men and revolves mainly around ideas of male sexuality. It serves to reinforce the women as a sexual object and it objectifies women to mainly being passive roles around a man's sexuality. How harmful it is remains to be seen - but it's a wider sympton of a society which treats women as second class citizens.
Jock, Blackwood, Gwent

Francesca has no moral dilemma about her new career because it pay so well. It's amazing how a bit of money can change your outlook. Would she have even considered it if it paid less than a desk job?
Matt, Hampshire

The sex industry has always provided a living, and in many cases a good living for many people, and from my point of view living in the middle of Britain's most prolific 'red light zone' I see the sex industry as being a perfectly acceptable way to earn a living as long as it's all consensual and furthermore is not exploiting anyone involved in it. Although not involved in it in any way myself I can see the possible attraction finacially.
Neil, Soho, London

The internet is what it is today thanks to the porn industry. Almost all of the technologies we take for granted (and even used on this very website) were originally created to get porn to the end user faster. I'm not defending pornography, but those who are against it online should look at the benefits it has brought the home user over the years. It's a bit like how the carnage of war helps to develop emergency medicine by exposing medics to situations they would never face in peacetime.
Vince Warrington, Leicester, UK

For the best part I find this choice of career completely acceptable. The problems come when women become open to exploitation, in an industry where standard workplace ethics/regulations cannot easily be applied or enforced. I think another danger area is when the goal of taking up such a career is to satisfy a desire to feel wanted or admired, due to low self esteem. Isn't this more likely to result in a 'quick fix' to the problem, rather than a deeper sense of inner satisfaction? Being admired on the outside is one thing, but to be wanted as a person is on a different level entirely .
LV, Edinburgh

Porn may do little short term harm, but the long-term effects are insidious. It promotes an attitude to sex and relationships of instant gratification, which has little or no relation to real life. Teenage boys who use porn often have problems with emotional development. I doubt we are going to see much of an increase in rapes, but we might see a lot of emotionally stunted, unhappy people.
Seb, London

This shows the complete lack of morals of many people in this world. Shame on this woman. Instead of spending her last years usefully and being of benefit to society, she is leading a decadent and useless life!!
Padma, India

Francesca may be in control of what she's doing. But she is not in control of the effects she is having on the attitudes of men who see or buy her product. And she is certainly not in control of what those men then do in expressing those attitudes to other women. That's not of course to say these men will go out and rape the next woman they see. Their failure to respect women as people will be manifest in much more subtle ways as harrassment and abuse both in the workplace and at home. The privacy of internet porn does not stop the affects on women in general.
Bill Pollard, Durham

I think that pornography is the product of a healthy and liberal society. I do think that it should be a requirement to show safe sex though.
Paul, Southampton

I wonder how many of the accepters of the industry would feel the same if their partner or children became involved in it, albeit willingly.
BK, Leeds

There's no doubting the truth in a lot of what has been said. However, the sad fact is that porn is now making the internet out of bounds for lots of people. It arrives unsolicited & indiscriminately in your inbox and search results. It is frequently deliberately targeted at minors. The onus should be on ISP's to have filtered servers as default and charge people who want to have access to porn an extra subscription premium. As it is I have to pay 22 per year to keep my PC porn free.
Peter, Bradford

Porn does not degrade women, if a woman wants to go and do that, then she should be able to do it. We all have free will at the end of the day, and if it suits you, then why not? if anything, it's the men that are being manipulated by women as they know what men want - and that's porn by the barrelfull! If she's happy then who is anyone to question that? Live and let live.
Jodie, Bristol

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