The Reign of the Jewish Porn Star

January 8, 2014
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Perhaps my last name and overall features might give it away, but in case you’re wondering, I’m not Jewish. As a comedian, though, I have idolized and followed closely the lives of many Jewish comics and entertainers and familiarized myself with some of the idiosyncrasies of their religion and, perhaps most importantly to me, the tremendous cultural impact they’ve had in the last century. Some of my best friends in life are also Jewish, and even though none of them is very devoted at all, I’ve been lucky enough to share a lot of experiences that a lot of gentiles aren’t usually exposed to. I’ve been to my share of Passover dinners; I once fasted over Yom Kippur (I was dating someone and trying to be supportive, and feel included at the same time.) I even sat Shiva once. Some would say I’m mishpocha. And some would say I used this whole intro as an excuse to drop a Yiddish word gratuitously. Both sides would probably be a little bit right.

Jewish stereotypes have been around for centuries, yet one that doesn’t seem to come up very often is that they’ve absolutely dominated the adult industry more than any other group, and a good number of porn legends are actually Jews.

Nina Hartley
Nina Hartley. Image by Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

Now, some of you might be saying: “I can’t even think of one Jewish name, and I know a lot of porn stars!” Well, settle down, impatient porn fan. As you might have heard or suspected, most performers opt to use different names when they join the adult industry, so the chances of running into a Schlomo Silverstein as the star of your hardcore flick are not particularly high.

Sure, people would expect Jewish entrepreneurs to test the waters of adult cinema, behind the camera. After all, self-made business ventures were a distinctly Semitic feat that everyone seemed to accept without shock. And of course, just like in the mainstream side of film, there was a profit to be made in the porn world.

The sad reality is that, historically, Jewish people have been relegated from most societies. When you’re persecuted for thousands of years, the survival instinct kicks in at all times. You do whatever it takes to make it in the environment you find yourself in. Even if that means getting your hands dirty.

Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about Orthodox Judaism here. They’re definitely still very strict about sex, and would judge vehemently on all the shiksa-fucking. Most of the secular Jews, though, are very sexually open and are usually less morally oppressed than other more uptight religious groups. Most Jews I know identify with their background culturally, yet the religious aspect tends to be a lot lighter. This is definitely the case with the porn stars.

Jennifer White
Jennifer White

Ron Jeremy, probably the most famous porn actor of all time, is an obvious example. He grew up in an upper-middle class Jewish family in Queens, New York, and has appeared in thousands of movies over the past four decades. Ron is of the opinion that “Jews have always been considered to be the more liberal group when it comes to (sexual freedom and expression.) They never do the old ‘You’ll burn in hell. Don’t do this, don’t do that.’”

You might be thinking Ron is the exception and not the rule, but if you go back to the golden era of porn (and you should, as a fascinating series of reviews awaits for you,) you’ll find that a lot – if not most – of the biggest male porn stars are Jewish. Some of them have been the most prolific and successful male talents in the business for decades: Harry Reems, Jamie Gillis, Herschel Savage, Mark Stevens, Ed Powers… The list is long.

Ron Jeremy
Ron Jeremy. Image by s_bukley/shutterstock.com

Even nowadays there are great examples: James Deen, perhaps the most successful current male porn star, who has also managed to crossover into mainstream film, is not only Jewish but quite proud and outspoken about it.

It’s odd how this has gone largely unnoticed and the stereotype we all have of Jewish men is just the wimpy and neurotic type. Hey, perhaps because it’s part of the charm. As a comic, I can tell you that often playing into a self-deprecating stance is such a useful tool, that acting more confidently seems like a betrayal on your skills, and in this case, maybe your heritage.

There are a lot less female Jewish starlets, but several have made their marks, including legendary performers like Nina Hartley, Robin Bird or Gloria Leonard. Currently, big names like Joanna Angel, Jennifer White or Sarah Vandella are some lovely Jewish girls that have been getting a lot of attention.

James Deen
James Deen. Image by andersphoto / Shutterstock.com

Some argue that the Jewish dominance comes from an anti-establishment point, and maybe it’s a pride thing, and all about not letting others tell you what to do. Al Goldstein, the publisher of Screw magazine, once said: “The only reason that Jews are in pornography is that we think that Christ sucks. Catholicism sucks. We don’t believe in authoritarianism.”

But perhaps it’s even bigger than just rebelling against authority. Something that’s always been very clear to me about Jewish culture is that it tends to encourage the desire to ask questions and strive for knowledge, more so than most major religions. That might sound a little too noble in this context, but isn’t this the kind of thing that pornography as we now know it has helped overcome? We love the idea of being able to explore our sexuality and having the freedom to watch whatever we want, whenever we want it. Hang-ups are something dragged on by thousands of years of misplaced guilt and repression and, relatively speaking, we’ve been trying to change that in a rather quick timeframe. Maybe it just took certain kind of people to really break the taboo. Maybe it only takes a quick glance at Ron Jeremy’s old smiling mug to accept the unquestionable fact that this is one of the chosen ones.

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