pornfriends

Bro Friendships on Porn Sets Are a Special Kind of Love

Making friends at work is never easy. But when it’s your job to have athletic sex for hours in front of 30 people, the term ‘workplace relationship’ can take on a whole new meaning

The bond that occurs between men who work on porn sets is a special one, and I’ve got just the Naughty America clip to prove it. Creatively titled My Dad’s Hot Girlfriend, the flick stars Damon Dice and Seth Gamble, a pair of real-life besties cast in a devil’s threeway with said hot girlfriend, Lana Rhoades. Right before she enters the scene, the two exchange some light, improvised dialogue over a game of fraternally appropriate pool. They’re supposed to be acting out a conversation, but you can tell from their genuine laughter and the tone of their voices that their friend chemistry is real. In fact, they’re so naturally chummy, you kind of forget you’re watching a porn at all.

In another scene, a hot-tub-themed MMF threesome shot for Bellesa, the two are at it again, this time with Adria Rae as the centerpiece. It’s not overly obvious, but if you watch closely enough, you can see them kind of, well, helping each other. In one tender moment, Gamble lightly pushes down on Rae’s shoulders to bounce her up and down on Dice’s dick, a move that reads as a thoughtful, sportsmanlike assist from one buddy to another (it starts at 6:40; you’re welcome).

Watching these clips, it’s almost kind of sweet to see how Gamble and Dice play off of each other. (Shit, even their names go together like some sort of cosmic, Vegas-themed twist of fate.) Once you know their backstory, it’s easy to see where their connection comes from: These two are old friends. They met on set about five years ago, and they’ve been the best of friends ever since.

Making friends at work is never easy, but when it’s your job to have athletic sex for hours in front of a team of 30 people, the term “workplace relationship” can take on a whole new meaning. This is especially true for men who work in the cast or crew of porn shoots, where the sort of delicate, unmentionable requirements of the job can lead to a very particular brand of male bonding and friendship.

But just what is it about working in porn that can transform a couple of dudes like Gamble and Dice from mere co-workers to lifelong friends?

Dice has a few ideas. For starters, he says, bro friendships that form on set tend to be a direct result of the role men play in the adult industry. “By and large, men in porn are just there to make the women look good,” he explains. “Because of that, we tend to get lower pay, less attention and lower recognition. Though that’s changing a bit, it creates this sort of unspoken bond, like this automatic ‘I get you.’ We understand what our value is to the industry, but we’re in it together.”

To be clear, Dice and the other men of porn aren’t complaining about their supporting roles — it’s just that they get what their job is, and 99 percent of the time, that job is maintaining an erection for far longer than the human body was designed to maintain an erection for. The sheer impossibility of that is enough to create at least some camaraderie, Dice explains.

While male porn performers don’t tend to receive the same amount of income or fanfare their female counterparts do, they also don’t have to deal with anywhere near the same level of competition. There are thousands of women working in porn — at a 7:3 female-to-male ratio (though Dice estimates it’s closer to 20:1) — and they tend to phase out fast, usually within a few months. This creates a sort of cutthroat, ever-changing landscape in which it’s difficult for female performers to make and maintain relationships with other performers or crewmembers. “It’s like a pageant,” porn star Tasha Reign tells me. “It’s so competitive that it’s challenging to make friends.”

The guys, however, have a bit more staying power. There are fewer of them, and they don’t have to contend with the same age bias female performers do. Porn actresses tend to quit or get phased out in their mid-20s and replaced with younger models, but men can get hired and rehired well into their 30s and even 40s. That means the same, small number of guys can stick around and work for the same production studios longer, creating more opportunities to reinforce their friendships. “There’s a small, tight-knit community of male performers in this industry,” says Dice. “We stick together. Those guys are like family to me, and I’d do almost anything for them.”

Actually, he has. Gamble and Dice’s friendship hasn’t always sailed as smoothly as it did in the hot tub that fateful day. It’s been through the ringer in a way not many friendships would be able to survive. It all goes back to when the two met and connected during Dice’s first shoot with Reality Kings, a blow bang with pornstar Sarah Luvv. “We were shooting for the same production company, and I was nervous as hell,” he says. “I felt like the new kid on the block. Seth, who was already kind of the top dog at the industry at that point, took me under his wing and showed me how things were done on set. He’d pick on me and give me pointers at the same time. After a couple of shoots, he became like a big brother. At the same time, he had a lot of darkness he was working out.”

For a long time, Gamble was addicted to drugs and alcohol, something he was always open about — too open, sometimes. According to Dice, he would show up to set blitzed on who-knows-what, a huge no-no: For safety and consent reasons, being inebriated on set is never allowed. Because of that, he was losing a lot of work and spiraling out of control. “It was difficult to watch,” Dice says.

Even so, he was always there to support his friend through his addiction, holding him accountable to his treatment programs and making sure he got back on his feet. After all, he knew better than anyone how fickle the porn industry can be. “With our industry, there’s no room for forgiveness,” he says. “If you have a bad scene, the word gets around and you’ll lose work. We have to be on the top of our game 99 percent of the time. We have to watch out for each other, because working in porn, especially as a guy, is a lot like being a child star. You get all this fame, attention and money at a very young age, and you don’t really know what to do with yourself other than party. It’s easy to get sucked into that world quick, then burn out just as fast.”

Thankfully, Gamble has been sober for about two years, and now speaks publicly about his sobriety. With the support of friends like Dice, Gamble was able to go from rock bottom to winning this year’s AVN’s best actor award. As seen in the Bellesa clip, Gamble and Dice have even starting shooting together again.

When I ask if that makes their friendship weird — I wouldn’t want to watch most of my close friends have sex — he’s adamant that it most certainly does not. “People always ask if it’s awkward having sex in front of your friends on set,” he says. “In this industry, it’s really not.” Even though his buddies in the crew spend hours watching him do some of the most intimate and vulnerable things known to man, there’s no sense of embarrassment. Guy friends on porn sets simply go to work, shoot a scene, watch each other’s genitals flail around, then go out and “talk about sports and shit.”

They do offer moral support, though. If he has a good scene, Dice says his director or someone from the crew will high-five him and tell him he killed it, a small gesture that actually really matters. “It’s nice to have that support, because a lot of what we do is hard work,” he says. “It’s similar to being a professional athlete. We have to have a lot of flexibility, strength and endurance — a lot of our scenes are 45 to 50 minutes long — and we have to be mentally in the game the whole time so we can stay hard and make sure the girl we’re working with is comfortable, too. It’s pretty intense, so having someone come up to you afterward and say you did a good job is really nice.”

That said, he and his porn star friends don’t exactly go to each other’s shoots and watch each other fuck, nor do they spend an inordinate amount of time talking about who banged who or what so-and-so’s butt was like. “It’s the same situation as any workplace: When you’re not working, you don’t want to talk about work,” Dice explains. “Plus, the guys I work with tend to be a bit older. We’ve phased out of those conversations a bit.”  

Instead, Dice says he and his industry friends talk more about the other stuff they have going on outside of their porn careers (Dice, for example, runs a sex education company called WearACondom). Conversations like those are refreshing because all his non-friends want to talk about is his porn job. “People think porn is our entire life, but it’s the opposite,” he says. “I honestly don’t talk or think about it that much outside work.”

On the other end of the friendship spectrum, there are times when people just don’t click. Dave (not his real name) worked as a director, producer and performer on an independent POV casting couch website for a few years, and says he honestly didn’t feel much friend chemistry with the other guys on set. “It’s really strange that I didn’t form more intimate bonds with them because I was watching them get naked and have sex all day,” he says. “You’d think that would lead to some kind of unspoken connection or mutual understanding, but the people I worked with just weren’t really that cool.”

He did make one significant friendship with a female performer, though, and the two ended up dating. In that case, he says their mutual connection to porn did play a large part in both their friendship and romance. “When you meet someone on set and hit it off, it’s usually because there’s a mutual understanding between you that you each have a certain level of sexual openness and positivity,” he says. “Outside of porn, you have to dig for that connection or you find out about it much later. With other porn people, similar views and attitudes about sexuality are an instant point of connection.”

Likewise, Julian, a Naughty America PA, grip and art department worker, bonded heavily with a girl named Kelly they met on set for the same reason (Julian uses they/them pronouns). The fact that they were doing a job few people understand and is almost universally seen as salacious and taboo was a major point of chemistry (as was trying to decode their cryptic boss). “If you’re not okay with nudity, sex or sex work, you’re not going to last in this industry,” Julian says. “It was genuinely nice to be around people like her who are comfortable with performing, recording and distributing sex.” Plus, they add, “We were a great vault for each other’s secrets. Co-workers are a weird, specific type of friend. It really is a form of trauma bonding.”

Of course, you could say the same about any place of employment — no one really understands you like your co-workers, and the shit you go through at work can glue you together for life. That brings up an important point, though: Making porn — and doing all forms of sex work, for that matter — really is work. Sometimes it’s great and you make money doing something you can tolerate long enough to pay off your Subaru Outback, but other times, it’s drab, stressful and kinda shitty. As Julian explains, “Everyone is there to work, and everyone is aware of what the work is, so it just feels like another day on the job.”

If you’re lucky like Gamble and Dice, you’ll meet someone who understands this and how it plays out in your lives. Maybe you won’t end up in a hot-tub threesome, but hey, at least you’ll have each other.