A Former Adult Film Star’s Difficult Lessons


Former pornography star Bree Olson—who’s also known for her stint as one of actor Charlie Sheen’s former “goddesses”—left the adult film world behind in 2011. But five years later, the now 29-year-old still struggles profoundly with the stigma of the onscreen work she pursued beginning at age 19. In fact, she’s not sure if she’ll ever completely recover from the ongoing negative influence that her decision to participate in porn still exerts over her life.

Olson talked openly—and at times tearfully—about her current perspective on porn for the Real Women, Real Stories project. In a video titled “Bree Olson: Her Untold Story” posted on the group’s Facebook site, Olson began by saying she feels like she’s now wearing the 21st-century equivalent of the scarlet letter.

“So, when I go out, I feel as if I’m wearing [the word] ‘slut’ across my forehead. The names that people have called me—it’s as if you could take out those names and print them and put a ribbon around my whole body of all the names and things that people say to me on the Internet, that’s how I feel  when I walk outside the door. … So I have really gotten to the point where there are days to weeks at a time where I don’t leave my house because I don’t feel like facing the world. … It’s really easier for me just to stay inside my house and not put myself out there for [getting] hurt.”

She goes on to say that it’s not just the words or judgments of strangers that she has to endure, but that it often impacts potential new friendships as well. “I get so disappointed when I go out and I meet a new friend, and then it turns out they don’t want to be my friend anymore.” Later, she adds, “People treat me as if I am a pedophile. They don’t treat me like an ex-sex worker. They treat me like I would somehow be damaging to children.” When asked how she would like to be treated, the tears come, and through them she says, “I wish that people would treat me how they would treat a married registered nurse with 2.5 kids in Indiana. That’s how I wish people would treat me.”

Near the end of the video, Olson voices her advice to teens who might think that participating in pornography is viable career path. “I send a very strong message to young girls: Don’t do porn. … I understand it, you want to embrace your sexuality. You wanna say screw the Man, screw whatever, like, I can do whatever I want with my body. But you’re just gonna have a life of crap in front of you. … You can never work with children after you do porn. You can never work in a medical field after you do porn. And these are things that teenage girls don’t think about.”

As clear-eyed and sober as she is about the aftereffects of engaging in pornography, however, Olson still can’t bring herself to criticize the industry that she readily admits has been so damaging to her. The problem, she says, isn’t pornography itself, but how people respond to knowing that she’s been in it. “You think that you’re a teenager, it’s fun, you’re making money—and that’s the truth, it is, and there’s nothing wrong with porn—but how people treat you for the rest of your life, it’s not worth it.”

In an article for dailydot.com, Olson reiterated a similar message, saying, “The money isn’t worth the pain of what society will put you through forever. Porn didn’t hurt me. The way society treats me for having done it does.”

I applaud Bree Olson’s courage for talking so personally and candidly about the high costs of pornography for those who try to establish a more “mainstream” (a word she uses elsewhere in the video) life afterward. She’s absolutely right to warn young girls that they can’t even begin to understand the possible consequences they’ll have to endure down the road if they choose a path similar to Olson’s.

For all that, though, it’s still troubling to me that she feels compelled to say “porn didn’t hurt me” when its legacy in her life—by her own admission—so obviously has. I’m well aware in writing those words that Olson would likely categorize me as part of the problem she’s talking about here, just another of the many voices who’ve hurt her. That’s not my intention.

But I think Bree Olson’s admissions here can be a powerful springboard to the question of who porn does hurt, and why. In culture drowning in sexualization and sensual imagery, those are important issues to keep grappling with. And as Christians who believe that God has created us with profound dignity in His own image, who believe that sexual expression between a husband and wife is one of his greatest gifts, and who understand why it’s so damaging when that gift it used out of its intended context, we have something important to contribute to that conversation.

Bree Olson’s sad but powerful story reminds us both of the importance of our participation in that conversation, as well as the need to do so with as much gentleness, grace and compassion as we possibly can.

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seraph_unsung More than 1 year ago
I was watching her Real Women, Real Stories video on YouTube a few weeks ago, and I saw a massive amount of comments denying her human dignity.  Yes, she made decisions I won't defend.  No, that does not mean that every ill treatment she gets afterward, she "deserves" or is merely receiving as a consequence like I've seen some people try to state.  Another person was bragging about watching that video and one of her pornographic videos at the same time while people were laughing.  It was not a pretty thread.  I wish her the very best, and as far as I'm concerned, alienating people who are at least somewhat looking for a way out of their old life isn't doing them any favors.  Thank you for bringing attention to her situation.
Missy Wang More than 1 year ago
We have to be so careful as Christians to practice what we preach. I know for one if Bree was in my path and wanted to be my friend I would. Honestly I can say that. She needs us in her life. One who can show her Jesus and that he loves her despite the porn. Sounds like she is on a road that might lead that way. Praying and hoping people come into her life and show her that Jesus can heal her heart. Never have been in the porn world but I know what stereo typing can do to ones heart, mind and soul. Jesus is that answer. Praying she gets to that point. Porn does hurt and it has a ripple effect that stems so far out into the world then one realizes. Great topic and great story. It atleast shows she is searching and that is always a good sign. 
Charles Scheid More than 1 year ago
Celibate people on college campuses are often put through quite a bit of pain. But you wouldn't say that celibacy caused that pain. So you shouldn't go around saying that porn caused the pain that society heaped upon Ms. Olson.

You might want to say that all sexually transgressive women deserve such pain. Or you might want to follow Jesus' admonition to not cast stones, to look to the log in your own eye, to judge not lest you be judged. 

Perhaps you should be pointing out that so, so many members of that society that are judging her are porn consumers, especially Christians. And more especially Mormons. (Thanks to the magic of the Internet, researchers know just who is looking at what.) That's a whole lot of people with logs in their eyes.

And please, let's not fall into the "sinners suffer on earth while saints flourish" fallacy. The Bible, history and reason all say that this is not true.