When was the last time you took a moment to pity the plight of male porn stars? Though pornography's famous sexism and objectification of women may draw a tear of sympathy for its female actors, the men in adult entertainment are more conventionally thought to be objects of envy.

Susannah Breslin, writing at Salon, says that shouldn't be so. Breslin is responding to the death of porn star Stephen Hill, who committed suicide after allegedly slaying another actor with a samurai sword. A freelance journalist who has several times covered the adult entertainment industry, she argues that those who think male porn stars are the exploiters, not the exploited, have it all wrong.

Reams of text have been written about how porn supposedly victimizes the women who work in this branch of the sex trade, but inside the straight porn industry, it's the female performers who have the greater power, higher status and bigger paycheck. (The gay porn industry is a different beast altogether and to compare the two is to compare apples and oranges.) So-called woodsmen are paid significantly less than their female counterparts, for their efforts are treated like props on the movie sets where they perform near Herculean sex acts of which most men can only dream ("Get it up, get it on, get it off" is the woodsman's mantra), and more often than not end up as decapitated, frantically thrusting tubes of meat in this industry's final product. Due to the hardcore nature of the porn business and the toll it takes upon all its workers, the porn industry functions as a meat grinder for the human condition, and men are its offal. They may score bragging rights as professional cocksmen, but the reality is these are the working stiffs of a business that has virtually no interest in the men it employs and all the interest in the world in the women with whom its movies are forever preoccupied.
To add to the underlying misery of the profession, the recession's tendency to hit men harder than women has extended to the porn world as well. "Hill's story," concludes Breslin, "is that of one more mentally unstable man knocked even further off-balance by the recession, who, facing unemployment, went on a deadly rampage."