A few years ago, Bree Olson was on top of the world. She was a Penthouse pet and the star of hundreds of adult movies. She'd made headlines for being one of Charlie Sheen’s live-in “goddesses” (though the relationship ended, as most of Sheen’s relationships do). When she retired in 2011, her success in porn led her to achieve the type of elusive mainstream success that most porn stars aspire to, with supporting roles in films like The Human Centipede 3 and her very own webseries.
In most respects, Olson has had the career that most porn girls dream about. Which is why it came as something of a surprise when she posted the following admonition to aspiring porn stars on Twitter:The note has since been retweeted by a number of adult performers past and present. Many applauded Olson’s message:
Although Olson insists that she has no problem with the porn industry itself, and that her experiences there were largely positive, she says that the worst part about doing porn is the discrimination that women face after they leave the industry. For instance, she says that once she reached out to an underwear company that had sponsored one of her YouTube projects by sending a polite email expressing interest in modeling for them. She thought she might have a shot, as she described the company as "chill" and very "open."
“In many of their photos on their Instagram their models are even topless,” she said.
Yet the company responded by telling her that they didn’t think she was a good fit because her Instagram was too “inappropriate”—despite the fact that she is fully clothed in the vast majority of her photos.
“They don't like that I did porn. That's it,” she said. “I can give you so many examples. Almost daily. But it happens all the time.”
Olson’s right—sex workers are frequently the target of discrimination, even long after they’ve left the industry. Even in an age where porn and sex work are considered “mainstream,” a number of teachers have been fired from their jobs after their porn pasts were discovered, such as Stacie Halas, a California teacher who was fired by the Oxnard School Board after it was discovered that she’d performed in 11 hardcore sex scenes.
The former porn star Gauge was outed at and subsequently fired from a job as a surgical technician, despite the fact that she was at the top of her class. For years afterward, she was unable to get work, forcing her to return to the industry.
“I ended up just getting so fed up with the way I was being treated,” she told Salon in 2013. “I have a family now... I’ve exhausted all my avenues and the only thing left is the adult industry.” The worst part is, under discrimination laws, sex workers have no legal protections—meaning they have no recourse if they’re harassed at or fired from their jobs.
Olson doesn’t take issue with the fact that sex workers have no legal protections. “I made a choice. I chose the sex industry,” she says. “I honestly feel like there’s not enough of me for there to be a group that [requires] legal protection.” But she’s still frustrated by the fact that porn actors are shunned and relegated to the margins of society, long after they choose to leave the industry.
“[I can’t] go back to school and get my nursing degree,” she said. “Who will the hospital hire? Becky Lou from Arizona State that practiced in band or ex porn star Rachel Oberlin/ slash Charlie Sheen's Goddess Rachel Oberlin/ AKA Bree Olson?...I know how to capitalize from my name and will always be able to work for myself in some form so I'm not concerned, but that doesn't mean I think it's okay. It's not okay, [and] women that have done porn are not lesser than.”
Photo via Bree Olson/Twitter