The following feature was first published in the Saturday Magazine.
“A few years ago, locally-made pornographic movies were ridiculed for their bad production, terrible sound and physically off-putting actors.
But with the market demand growing, local porn manufacturers and consumers have become more sophisticated. Search statistics show that Kenyan pornography accounts for 45 per cent of our country’s Internet search requests for porn.
Cindy, 28, is one of hundreds of young girls in the major towns around the country who are starring in locally manufactured pornographic movies. On a regular working day, though, between 9am and 5pm, you can find Cindy at her office in Nairobi’s central business district, making sales calls for her employer. She has a college diploma and a day job, and with her aggressive nature, she can claw her away up the corporate ladder. So why choose the sex trade? “Rebellion,” she says.
“We grew up in a time when a parent’s words were law. I have two siblings but I was the child who was always getting punished for speaking up. You can call me my family’s black sheep. I grew up continuously trying to prove myself,” she explains.
At some point, she got tired of continuously trying to get people to look at her a certain way and plunged right into the down and dirty world of adult entertainment.
Her first ‘professional’ outing was as a dancer at a private party six years ago. For four years she did several short stints as an exotic dancer.
Then, two years ago, a male ‘friend’ who was visiting the country for a few weeks from Europe asked her if he could film her while having sex. He paid her Sh15, 000.
“I liked it. I wasn’t bothered about what he was going to do with the footage at the time. But whenever I was broke over the next few months, I would think about how easily I had made that money. Eventually, I asked around from friends at the strip club and I acted in my first blue movie. I have done a handful of them since,” she says.
All through, she has maintained a series of day jobs as a marketer. “There is money in the industry but it is flooded with middle-men seeking to make money out of it. I don’t think one can survive only on the acting. You need a second job,” she says.
At the top of the food chain are the producers. Some producers of local movies and television shows also double up as producers of blue movies. Then there are the pimps who seek out the girls to act in the movies. Male actors, I am told, are never in short supply. Once a troop has been assembled, the producer sources a location. This can be anything from a hotel, a residence or a swimming pool to cars and even shopping malls in the night. The location will depend on the movie budget. For high budget movies that often find their way to European counties, an actor can make up to Sh20, 000 per scene in contrast to as low as Sh1, 000 in a low-budget production.
Like any job, there are parts of being a porn actress that Cindy doesn’t like. “There was a producer who lured me to his production with the lie that he would get me a spot in a local television show that he produces.
There are also those ones who promise to pay with proceeds from sales only to turn around and tell you that the movie failed to go through.”
Once shot, the movies are distributed via a number of avenues. Essie is a self-made porn actress who conducts her business on phone and laptop. She will send you a sex video of herself for Sh200 and naked photos for only Sh100 via WhatsApp. A willing client can easily purchase locally manufatured porn in various dialects. There are no hard statistics on the expanse of the industry but a spot check reveals that it is deep-running.
There isn’t a single profile that can fit the Kenyan porn star. There are prostitutes, university students seeking to make some easy money, confused young women giving away parts of themselves in an attempt to please the men in their lives, and a few professionals running parallel careers. Mostly, it is about the money and sometimes about the fame for those women who believe that any kind of attention is good attention.
Cindy has heard of instances of beastiality and bondage and submision plays, especially with Caucasian men, which pay more and says that how far down the rabbit hole a woman goes, all depends on her dignity. She admits that she doesn’t have the healthiest love life, having jumped from relationship to relationship.
Her family is aware that she doesn’t keep the best company but they do not know the details of her activities. After some thought, she says that if they found out that she was shooting porn, she doubts that they would be surprised. “I have done a lot of things,” she says.”
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