Imagine this: You’re butt naked and lubed up on a busy porn set, trying desperately to keep your erection throbbing as a director breathes down your neck, instructing you to bend into countless positions with a co-star you just met.
Sounds stressful? Buckle up — this is only the photo set, a prerequisite on mainstream porn sets that comes before any actual fucking takes place.
“That whole process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on where you’re working,” explains Dominique Rystan, a trans lesbian porn performer who now predominantly creates her own content for OnlyFans. Even if you stay hard throughout the photo set, you then have to sustain your erection throughout hours of filming, sometimes with partners you’re not remotely attracted to. “A lot of us in the business aren’t really turned on when we’re working,” she continues. As with the photo shoot, it’s hard to stay horny when you’re constantly adjusting angles, switching positions and thinking about what looks good on camera.
Throughout her eight years in porn, Rystan has only met one guy who can stay hard consistently without drugs. “It’s a real point of pride for him,” she says, pointing him out as the exception, not the rule.
So, how do the pros stay so hard for so long?
When Rystan became more serious about her porn career a few years ago, she tried a generic version of Viagra before later switching to Cialis, which she says had “much milder side effects.” Whereas someone with erectile dysfunction would usually be prescribed between 1 to 5 milligrams per day, Rystan would take 20 to 40 milligrams on-set. “I was never really aroused, so taking medication meant I could stay hard in the moment,” she explains.
It’s a pretty common practice for porn stars with dicks, but those aforementioned side effects can range from headaches and dizziness to more extreme issues, like priapism (basically a permanent, painful boner that can cause long-term damage). In fact, when former porn star Danny Wylde quit the industry after a 10-year run, he cited a dependence on Viagra both inside and outside of porn as his rationale.
For Rystan, ED medication became less effective as she began her hormonal transition, and the side effects worsened. “The focus [on erections and orgasms] can be a big issue, because a lot of trans women have to come off of their hormones to even have an ejaculatory orgasm,” she explains.
Gas Station Dick Pills
Sold over-the-counter at gas stations and sex shops, Rystan used these pills when she first started shooting porn. In a nutshell, they’re herbal medications that use ingredients like ginseng and Yohimbe extract to rouse up rock-hard erections, but they’re plagued with side effects of their own. For Men’s Health, a particularly brave journalist took five different varieties and experienced everything from explosive, burning diarrhea to non-stop nausea.
Just a few weeks ago, the FDA issued a warning that “hidden ingredients are increasingly becoming a problem in products promoted for sexual enhancement.” Naturally, these disturbingly neon-hued pills aren’t regulated or approved in any way, which means porn stars — or anyone, really — who takes them are essentially gambling with what they’ll get.
Pumps and Rings
Some people wear cock rings simply because they look hot, but they also slow the blood flow back from the erect dick, keeping it harder for longer. Rings are usually cheap, easy to use and made of a diverse set of materials that range from soft and stretchy to hard and metallic. Beyond leaving them on for too long, they have a mercifully low side-effect profile when compared to erection pills — just make sure you lube up to get them on and to remove them if they start to hurt.
Rystan says penis pumps are also pretty common on-set — they use suction to draw blood to the dick, but only for a couple of minutes max. “I know some trans women who don’t take any pills, and they just use pumping to get a little bit of encouragement before a scene,” says Rystan. The thing is, while great for a quick boner spruce-up, they’re ultimately a solution with a pretty short shelf-life.
Some erectile dysfunction medications like alpostradil can be injected directly into the base of the dick (usually, it’s sold under brand names like Caverject and Edex). These keep you hard for hours without any need for actual arousal, but again, they can be pretty dangerous and involve stabbing your dick with a needle.
In 2016, porn performer Rico Strong shared some pretty gnarly photos of his dick covered in bloodied bandages, two needles sticking out of the tip. In his case, Caverject had caused a 19-hour long priapism. These injectables have been commonplace in the industry for decades — in 2012, a stagehand for a gay porn company sued his employer for emotional distress and anxiety, claiming he was forced to inject performers’ dicks with TriMix.
Finally, “fluffers” are pretty commonplace in porn. In a nutshell, they’re people (sometimes partners or lovers) employed to stay on-set and give a helping hand when erections start to drop. “Basically, there have been shoots where I would hop off-camera and go over to my lover, who would pleasure me off-screen,” says Rystan. “Then, I’d go back when I was aroused. I remember thinking, ‘This is great — I’m actually turned on!’”
Along those lines, Rystan recalls an anecdote she overheard on a gangbang set. “Everyone was having a bad time, the guy being gangbanged was super tired. No one was really feeling it.” Still, they couldn’t wrap until the guy being fucked produced a cum shot, which proved elusive for hours. Luckily, Rystan says, “His wife was on-set, and she managed to get him aroused enough to finish — everyone was so relieved they finally got to go home.”
When fluffers aren’t available, it’s not unusual for performers to take a break and watch their favorite porn on their phones — whatever it takes to stay hard.
Change the Culture of Porn
Boner pills and injectables might be commonplace in porn, but there are enough horror stories to indicate that there should also be alternatives to rock-hard, jackhammer fucking. Some studios do offer this: Pink & White Productions, the horny brainchild of Shine Louise Houston, is known for its relaxed approach — stars can choose to work together, list what turns them on and shoot in an environment ultimately geared toward actual sexual pleasure.
To that end, Labryssa, a black trans woman currently fundraising for lower surgery, says she’s learned not to give a fuck about staying hard — and when she shot for Pink & White, she did so in a relaxed, “low-pressure” environment which made the resulting fuck so much hotter. “There’s such a variety of sex that doesn’t center or even require an erect penis,” she explains. “I’d love to see and create more porn that represents that.”