From Porn Performer to Porntropreneur: Online Entrepreneurship, Social Media Branding, and Selfhood in Contemporary Trans Pornography
Drawing on ten months of ethnographic field work in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, this article reflects on how transgender pornography performers navigate various economic, technological, and social changes confronting the industry. From the fracturing of the production landscape and the rise of social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, porn performers today operate in a vastly different environment than just two decades ago. Because they can no longer rely on big studios to provide them with a stable income, performers are much more productively thought of as entrepreneurs, or as I call it, porntropreneurs who are harnessing social media to earn income from a diverse range of erotic and sexual services that are based on a carefully curated personal brand. This personal brand extends into various aspects of their lives and shapes decisions from friendships to surgery. My research suggests that the most successful porn performers today embody a unique brand distinct from their competitors, often so all-encompassing that it can cause alienation. Reflecting on how transgender performers act as active agents situated within these technological, economic, and social structures can help us better understand subject formation in the context of 21st-century neoliberal internet capitalism.
Keywords: transgender, pornography, online entrepreneurship, social media, personal branding.