Slow Newscast

The porn headmaster

The porn headmaster

In the internet age, anyone with a camera can make and sell porn. But what happens when a shoot goes wrong? In the second episode in our #PornPlanet series investigating online pornography, we look into the world of porn production

Warning: this podcast refers to instances of serious sexual abuse.


Transcript

Marco: “Hi there, and welcome to Dominated Men. I’m Marco, known online as the boss…

Alexi Mostrous, narrating: This is the story of a man called Marco.

Marco: I’ve been into man on man domination for quite a long time before setting up my website, I used to do it on a personal level. Make homemade videos, hook up with guys, and experiment with bondage and kink. 

Alexi, narrating: He’s a porn producer, posting clips to sites like Pornhub where they get millions of views. 

His speciality – if you can call it that – is humiliation. 

He offers everyday guys – not professional porn stars – about £200 to appear in grainy amateur looking videos. Some of these men are straight. Many haven’t appeared in porn videos before. 

You can see their discomfort, their embarrassment on tape.

Marco: I think it’s time for your first punishment. I’m going to strap you to the bed in a minute. Do you understand?

Yes boss.

Marco: And how do you feel about that?

Okay.

Marco: Okay! Right…

Alexi, narrating: It is not just unsettling, it is hard to watch.

Marco: “I film them signing the contract and we talk about what’s going to happen. I tell them you are being exploited, you are going to be used, you are going to be made to do things for the enjoyment of others and they still happily sign the contract and do it. Some people wonder, if it’s consensual, and they’re not enjoying it, how come they force themselves to do certain activities? Foot worship is a classic one. Well male pride is a wonderful thing and I think they’d rather force themselves to do it than chicken out, because once they’ve signed that contract they know full well that whatever they do I’m going to show it.

Alexi, narrating: The content on Marco’s videos isn’t that unusual in the world of fetish porn. In terms of sexual practices – what he shows is actually quite mild. But Marco seems to be pushing boundaries in other ways. 

Marco’s insistence that he’ll publish a porn video even if a performer changes his mind – well that’s legally questionable. And for one man, that hardline attitude has had a devastating impact.

Stephano: I made several attempts to take my own life. I am living a nightmare everyday. I am ashamed of what I did and I am very scared of the moment I get found out.

Alexi, narrating: I’m Alexi Mostrous and this episode of the Slow Newscast is the second installment of our ongoing investigation into the world of online porn. 

It’s the story of Marco – an amatuer porn producer – and Stephano, a guy who had hit rock bottom. 

But it’s also a bigger story: about how the internet has transformed porn to allow anyone with a camera to take part. 

Because you don’t need to be a big studio anymore to make a porn film. There are no barriers of entry. And that shift has been both democratising… and dangerous. 

In May, we published Hunt for the Porn King – a podcast about how we tried to track down the secretive Bernd Bergmair, the owner of MindGeek, the world’s biggest pornography company.

Alexi: Please don’t walk away, please answer my questions…. Mr Bergmair… how did you get into Mindgeek sir? What do you think about all the allegations against Pornhub? Do you have anything to say to the women? To the victims? No? Okay…

Alexi, narrating: But behind that story was another one. Who was supplying Pornhub in the first place? Who was responsible for the huge amount of porn generated every day and funnelled into the free sites? 

Nobody had looked at who the porn producers are, or how they had behaved. Until now…

So this is the story of two men – Marco and Stephano. But it’s also the story of an industry working on the edges of society and far away from public view. 

This is the story of the porn producers. 

And, it is the story of Marco’s big secret.

********

Alexi, narrating: Here’s a typical video of Marco’s: An ordinary looking man is asked to guess the colour of Marco’s underwear. If he fails, he has to perform a dare – like walking naked around a public swimming pool. 

Generally, Marco goes on to have sex with the man and performs other fetish activities like whipping and belting. Sometimes, other men are involved. But there’s one consistent truth about Marco’s videos.

The faces of the men in the films – the ones paid to perform – often look embarrassed or uncomfortable. 

Marco: “I’ve actually started doing prank medical scenarios where before the shoot a guy turns up to what he thinks is a medical centre, to have a physical examination… and it’s actually a set up by me. The set is really convincing and guys believe it’s real. And I secretly film them getting intimately probed by a “doctor” who’s usually me.”

Alexi, narrating: This is Marco explaining one of his specialities: the “fake medical exam”. 

Taken on face value, what he’s describing – a fake clinic, a fake doctor – is deeply problematic. It seems like sexual assault. There are other troubling sections of his website as well. 

On one, Marco boasts about a young performer who signed a release form “without reading it properly”. 

Now – Marco would maintain that this is all bravado. He’d say that it’s all a game designed to titillate his viewers. 

Then again, elsewhere on his website he says explicitly: “there is no acting…everything is real.” 

Marco: “Just bear in mind that it is real, that guys aren’t being asked to act, they haven’t rehearsed what’s happened even though they would have signed up to it. And they’ll have an idea of what’s involved, but it’s certainly not scripted. We don’t have takes and retakes. What you see is very much what you get.”

Alexi, narrating: So in Marco’s case it’s not clear what’s true and what’s a game. 

And in fact many porn sites play with this idea of consent. You’ve got to trust the producer that they’re acting responsibly: that it is all just a game. 

The problem is – no-one seems to be checking

One man, a man we’re calling Stephano – whose testimony here is read by an actor – found this out the hard way. 

He lost his job after the financial crisis in 2008 and came to England to seek work. At first he crashed on his brother’s sofa. But his family struggled to support him and eventually he had to move out. 

Stephano: “For a period of about three months, I was living on the streets. I started to use drugs.”

Alexi, narrating: Stephano started begging; mainly so he could buy heroin. And it was at this point – when he was at his lowest ebb – that he met Marco. 

Stephano: “He asked if I would agree to participate in an erotic video, on my own for cash. He told me to complete a short application form on his website which I did. I was high on drugs and depressed; I acted on impulse and was not thinking clearly.”

Alexi, narrating: Two days after filling in Marco’s application form, Stephano’s phone buzzed. 

A message told him to travel to Isleworth, a town on the outskirts of London. 

Marco was waiting. 

Stephano: “I met Marco at the Isleworth Leisure Centre in Hounslow. An hour or so before I had taken drugs. The moment we met, he told me to walk around the changing rooms naked and he examined me with his eyes. At that time, unbeknown to me, he had videoed me doing this.” 

Alexi, narrating: Let’s leave Marco and Stephano where they are for the moment – on the damp grey changing room floor of Isleworth Leisure Centre and Library. 

Because porn was not always like that – not very long ago, it almost went mainstream. 

 ********

Alexi, narrating: For 15 years between 1969 and 1984, porn went through a golden age. 

Think Linda Lovelace’s soft focused performance in Deep Throat

[Clip from Deep Throat]

Or Blue Movie – the 1969 erotic film directed by Andy Warhol. 

This period was known as Porno chic. 

It was a time when the glamour of Hollywood and the New York art scene embraced pornography – and gave it a legitimacy it has never had before – or since. 

Even in that glamorous period there was a dark side though. Linda Lovelace – possibly the world’s most famous porn star – has since claimed that she was forced into making Deep Throat

But by 2021, even the superficial glamour had disappeared. Today there are still big studios – but they’re not making porn for mainstream audiences. 

And alongside them – you’ve got thousands of smaller producers making porn a bit like Marco is – in leisure centre changing rooms or in dirty hotels. 

What exactly happened to porn to bring it to that place? 

Pierre Woodman: “A long, long time ago I was the police. Then my life has changed, I became from a very crazy story, fisherman and magazine photographic, kind of petty journalist…”

Alexi, narrating: That’s Pierre Woodman. A former cop turned porn star, Woodman has been on the front line of the industry for almost 30 years. 

He’s is one of porn’s biggest figures. And if anyone has been a witness to porn’s fundamental shifts, it’s him. 

Pierre: “Beginning in 1970, 72, there was something huge with a regular cinema director trying to do something bone, but we have a certified millimeter camera. You know, it was it was something serious with a script. It was a gold American period, and then in the beginning of the nineties, the 1980s arrives the video. So the video was destroyed completely this period because it was so cheap so people jumped on that and that killed the cinema period of the porn industry.”

Alexi, narrating: In the 1990s there was a renaissance in porn production: studios started investing in good quality cameras. 

Woodman started making porn films to sell on DVD. In the early noughties, there was still a strong demand for the DVD format because the internet wasn’t fast enough to play more than a few seconds of video. 

And then – all of a sudden it was. In March 2007 an amateur sex video was posted on a site called Pornhub.

Fast internet had opened the floodgates. 

A tidal wave of free porn swept away the DVD industry. The days of high budgets and expensive cameras were over. 

Even in its golden age, porn had a seedy side. But as the number of producers shot up, so too did the potential for sketchy practices. 

And unlike before, where an actress like Linda Lovelace was so well known that her complaints would be listened to, if something bad happens on a porn set today, it often stays behind closed doors. 

There’s just too much content to regulate. 

And that’s the dynamic at play with Marco and Stephano in Isleworth leisure centre. 

When he had finished secretly filming Stephano, the two men went back to a local hotel. Stephano was told to lie on a bed and a camera was positioned close to his face. His reactions were filmed while Marco carried out various sexual acts before having sex with him. 

Stephano’s face in the video – which you can still find online – is confused and uncomfortable. 

His account of what happened in that hotel room comes from a witness statement he later prepared. 

I warn you – it’s not an easy listen. 

Stephano: “The video included the insertion of various objects to my anus. This is something I have never done before and the Defendant knew this. It was far beyond what I even imagined was going to happen in the filming. The entire experience was highly shocking, intrusive and traumatic for me and it is being played in my head constantly ever since. I can still feel the physical pain inside my body every time I remember the incident.”

Alexi, narrating: Shortly after they finished, Marco asked Stephano to sign a contract and then handed him £180 in cash. 

Think about that for a minute. £180. Not much for having sex on camera for the first time.

A few hours after signing the release form, Stephano started having second thoughts. 

Stephano: “Approximately two hours after filming, I sobered up and realised what I did. I immediately contacted the Defendant by telephone to say that I no longer wanted him to publish the video and that I would repay him the money plus any expenses that he incurred.

He hung the phone up on me.”

Alexi, narrating: Eventually Stephano got through by withholding his number. 

Stephano: “I explained that I did not want him to publish the video as I was a married man, desperately seeking money and couldn’t believe what I had done. He laughed and closed the phone on me again.”

Alexi, narrating: But Marco published the video anyway. 

On Pornhub it attracted almost 200,000 views. Not only was Stephano’s face clearly visible, but in the description, Marco boasted that Stephano had “tried to get me not to publish the video” and had “known for months that this dreaded moment would come”. 

Distraught, Stephano tried to move on with his life. He slowly began to repair his relationship with his wife but he struggled to shake off the fear that someone would recognise him on Pornhub.

Eventually, the pressure got too much. 

Stephano: “I made several attempts to take my own life. The last time was just before I contacted my solicitor. It is difficult to explain the way I feel. I am living a nightmare every day. I am ashamed of what I did and I am very scared of the moment I get found out by my family.”

Alexi, narrating: Stephano was at his lowest point. He couldn’t see a way out, but he had to try something. So he contacted a lawyer called Yair Cohen.

*******

Yair Cohen: “No, you know, it’s better to do it because you know, I’m always busy and it’s getting kind of busier, you know…” 

Alexi, narrating: That’s Yair.

He’s probably Britain’s leading lawyer for internet abuse. In 2018, Yair represented a woman who was the victim of the longest running case of internet trolling in the UK. 

Yair is not your typical corporate lawyer. He’s got long curly hair, for one thing, and he used to be in the Israeli army. I really like him. He’s definitely one of the good guys. 

Yair: “We have known each other for, for, I think over 10 years now, since, since, since the very first case, the very, the very first significant case of internet law, where it was the first, the first ever Facebook injunction that was intended to reveal the identity of internet trolls.”

Alexi, narrating: In the last few years, Yair’s attention has switched to porn. And he tells me that the reason why he switched focus was that people kept contacting him alleging they had been taken advantage of by porn producers. 

Yair: “First I will give you a little bit of an introduction to the porn industry in the UK. At least from the legal side of things, is that it is completely unregulated. So anyone could be a porn producer. Anyone can invite, transport, publish, seduce men and women to the property, whether it is their home property or could be a hired studio, or it could be some industrial estate.

So anyone anyone could, could, could bring people to those venues and start filming, pornography. And that means that there are no, there’s no oversight of perhaps a criminal record that porn producers might have. There are no rules that are intended to protect the people who act, the actors in those films or the performance in those films.

There are no health and safety, minimum requirements. There are pretty much no identification or requirements that are being enforced. So the rules are pretty liberal. I would say, I would say it’s, it’s kinda wild west, of the internet.”

Alexi, narrating: Yair has spoken to dozens of young men and women who say they’ve been abused on porn sets. Often, he says, producers will lure them in with the promise of a modelling contract only to pressure them into going further when they are physically in the studio. 

The potential for abuse has rocketed since the internet, Yair said. The major porn studios had to abide by strict rules. Now producing porn is like driving for Uber – anyone can do it. 

Contrary to what Marco believes, signing a release form doesn’t sign away all your rights. Here are some of the questions Yair will ask: 

Was the person too young to give consent? Were they under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Did they speak enough English to understand what they were signing? Were they falsely told that the movie would only be available in a foreign country and never on Pornhub?

And then Yair tells me a story of a real case that he recently dealt with. He says it’s typical of the allegations that he hears. Again – I warn you – some of the details are quite shocking. 

Yair: “A girl agreed to have sex with two guys. That was the basis in return for 250 pounds or so. She was taken to a location.

And in, she was given, she was given some wine, in, after, after, she had sex with the two guys, she, she asked for her money and asked to be driven back home. but then she was asked to, to stay there and five or six other guys just turned up, off of the street and she was told that in order to be paid she’s now going to have to have what they call a gang bang. 

You know doing the thing with eight of them, or six of them. She could have said no. But, but she did it because, she felt that, she, she felt intimidated. She was a little bit scared. She just wanted to get out of this.

She wasn’t in the mood. She’d just been through a trauma. She wasn’t, she wasn’t really, it was the first time. And she wasn’t really in the right state of mind to make a decision at the time. She didn’t feel she could leave the studio freely. Also she was told she wasn’t going to get paid and all of it so she did that and after she finished they allowed her to leave or give her a ride to the train station. So, so under those circumstances, there are question marks about consent.”

Alexi, narrating: When I heard that story, my immediate reaction was: this woman was raped. Yair agrees.

Yair: “When I spoke to her, she didn’t really understand that she was actually raped. But she was, you know, raped and you’re having this conversation, you say, you realise that you were actually raped and, and, and, and, and, you know, suddenly there’s this realisation that if anything, like this was happening on the street, you know, you know, not in a, in a private studio, it would have been a definite rape.

You know, if somebody went to the police and say, you know, I had, I was with my boyfriend the other day, and they locked me in the room and we had some wine. And before I realized there was like seven, seven guys, like pick them off the street, you give them a 10er reach. And, and I had to have sex with all of them. I mean you know can you imagine…”

Alexi, narrating: In only a tiny proportion of the cases Yair has dealt with has the victim gone to the police. They’re too vulnerable, often scared of the producers and the burden of proof in a criminal setting is too high. 

Yair: “Look the reality is that if you go to the police, you need to give them name and address and who the person is and where they live and who they are and what happened and where happens and all that. And then the likelihood that the police will actually follow it through is so low anyway. And if the police did follow it through then you’re looking at standard of proof which is really beyond reasonable doubt which is really unrealistic.”

Alexi, narrating: Even going after a civil remedy – like getting the video taken down – is hard. Many of the production companies operate under opaque corporate structures making it tricky to find out who really owns them. 

In 2019, six men working for a US porn site and production company called GirlsDoPorn were charged with sex trafficking and coercion. The men tricked girls into having sex by falsely telling them that the videos would never be released on the internet. 

When the scandal broke, porn industry lobbyists passed it off as a one off. But Yair is emphatic that abuse in the industry is common. 

Yair: “My belief is that it is widespread, it is very very common. It is very common. It is very very common. Now I’m not suggesting that everybody involved in pornography is a victim of sort, I’m not, but it is very common.”

******

Alexi, narrating: When we published our first investigation into online porn – about our hunt for Bernd Bergmair, the man behind the biggest porn company in the world – we got a bit of push back, mainly from inside the porn industry. 

Some sex workers said we’d made generalisations and that we’d included voices of people who wanted the whole porn industry shut down. 

And it made me wonder if I had a bias against porn. Was I looking at online videos showing rough sex – for instance – and automatically assuming that someone was getting hurt? 

What did sex workers themselves think differentiated the good producers from the bad ones? 

Emily Right: “Like I’ve said I’ve had companies that I’m like, I would shoot for them over and over any day of the week, but then at the same time, I also have completely stopped working with smaller companies because oftentimes it is a lack of accountability onset without, you know, the safeguards in place.

And it’s just too sketchy for me anymore to want to really be a part of.” 

Alexi, narrating: That’s Emily Right. She’s a porn actress in Los Angeles. And she basically told me: yes, you were right to question your assumptions.

Because some porn studios do act responsibly, she said. Even rough sex scenes with hitting and choking are planned out meticulously in advance, with checklists showing what performers will and won’t do. 

Some studios on the other hand – especially the smaller ones – are much more likely to cross boundaries, she said.

Emily: “A lot of the smaller companies, my personal theory is that they, they don’t do things like that because they kind of thrive in the grey area of, oh, well, you know, if I can get away with this, I’m going to.

But I do think during the pandemic, these smaller producers and things have been just coming out of the woodworks and, kind of thriving off of the, you know, the naivete of just the younger girls and a lot of girls started during the pandemic and it’s been kind of pushed towards a lot more of your own personal content, but a lot of the bigger sets have been shooting less, et cetera, et cetera.

So it kind of pushed us more into this market of the smaller films, which unfortunately is where these creeps thrive.” 

Alexi, narrating: Now what I’m not saying here is that rough or extreme porn isn’t problematic. 

Many people believe that hardcore porn is in itself unhealthy, even if the participants are consenting.

There’s quite a lot of evidence to back up that view – although there’s also plenty which suggests otherwise… But that’s a bigger debate for another day. 

What I’m focusing on now is a narrower issue: it’s about safety and consent. And what Emily was telling me was that some porn studios acted safely towards performers – and some didn’t. 

And the more I learnt, the more I realised that performers didn’t have much control over which type of experience they had. 

Sometimes agents lied about which studios were reputable for instance, and other times studios covered up when a performer had crossed the line. 

The whole ecosystem of porn was pretty much set up to avoid accountability.

Alexi: Do you get the sense that it’s not a very transparent ecosystem?

Emily: “Oh a hundred per cent, a hundred per cent. Because oftentimes even with the really big companies, you’ll shoot with you know, one of their smaller sites, because a company like mind geek has hundreds of brands of different videos and just different labels for everything.

So you’re not really quite sure the end of the day, what the company you’re shooting for is, and you really have to like ask around and ask questions and find people who know otherwise you never really for sure know who you’re working for or anything.”

*******

Alexi, narrating: But what happens if the person complaining about a porn studio isn’t a performer but another producer – and not just any producer, but one of the biggest names in the whole industry? 

Remember Pierre Woodman, the famous French porn producer? 

After his DVD films flopped, Woodman pivoted, setting up online. And he now runs a very successful porn site selling subscriptions. 

He’s a big player in the industry – but he’s a minnow compared to the man he’s picked a fight with. A man who runs the world’s most popular porn site. 

A man called Stephane Pacaud. 

If you think of MindGeek and Pornhub as Coca-Cola, then Picaud’s company – called WGCZ Holding – is Pepsi. 

Based in the Czech Republic, WGCZ runs more than 60 companies and websites, including XVideos, a porn site that is actually more popular than Pornhub.

If anything, Pacaud’s operation is even more untransparent and problematic than MindGeek’s. It too has been accused of hosting under-age videos and videos of abuse – and not doing enough to prevent it. 

But Pacaud doesn’t just own free porn sites. He owns production companies as well.

And one of those production companies is called Legal Porno. 

Legal Porno is a Czech-based studio that specialises in extreme porn. Its content is about as far away from a Playboy centrefold as it’s possible to get. 

Woodman is obsessed by this site: he claims female performers are suffering physical injuries through its extreme sexual practices. 

Pierre: “Pacaud has understood that if he was about to make something very extreme, that no-one else can do, he will of course get part of the market. It was a very dirty calculation.”

Alexi, narrating: According to Woodman, Legal Porno’s directors ask female performers to use lidocaine, a skin numbing cream, before sex. 

The cream enables the directors to record much rougher sex than they would otherwise – but can also prevent the women from knowing when their bodies have had enough. 

Pierre: “They strart to use the lidocaine inside the anus of the woman and immediately, of course you have some girl, 18 years old, even some of them never try anul sex in their lives, and of course some of them did it, many of them did it. But you don’t need to be a scientist to understand that, okay, you can make anaesthetic, if I cut my arm with an anaesthetic maybe I will not feel nothing but one hour after I will cry. And this is exactly what’s happened to many women have been broken”

Alexi, narrating: Not only did female performers use lidocaine, Woodman told me, but male performers injected erection-sustaining drugs before sex. The result is – according to Woodman – is that during some scenes at least, nobody on set can feel anything.

Pierre: “Everything was like a machine, they smashed flesh off everybody and no care, no heart, nor any respect.”

Alexi, narrating: At this point in the investigation, I was working with my colleague at Tortoise,

Kim Darrah. A few days after Kim and I spoke, Woodman, he emailed her a file.

And in that file were video interviews with 10 female porn performers.

[Clip of interviews]

All of them talking about their experiences with Legal Porno. 

Again – I need to warn you – this contains graphic descriptions of extreme porn. 

One Czech woman told Woodman that before Legal Porno she had only had anal sex with her boyfriend. When she was on set, however, the director immediately encouraged her to have sex with three guys. 

The sex was so rough, she says, that she began bleeding and had to stop.

Even though she was injured, this woman claims she wasn’t paid by Legal Porno because the shoot had to be cancelled. 

Before this happened, she also says the directors used anaesthetic to try and prolong the

scene.

Pierre: “Did she get some money? No money?”

Freya: “No money and for three days I never go… because I couldn’t control my ass.”

Translator: “And for three days, she didn’t feel her ass.”

Pierre: “Did they put anaesthetic also?”

Translator: “Did they give you an anaesthetic gel or anything?”

Freya: “You know what, they only gave it to me when I was in sheer pain – it burnt so much.”

Translator: “They give it her after, it was really painful. And after she was already broken so it was even worse because if this anaesthetic gets into the blood it’s very painful.”

Pierre: “Crazy…”

Freya: “I know. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be like that.”

Translator: “And she knew that it wasn’t supposed to be like that.”

Alexi, narrating: At this point I should also be clear – Woodman is not a neutral witness in this story.

Far from it. 

He’s currently fighting a court case with Stephane Pacaud, the owner of XVideos and of Legal Porno. It’s a fight that’s got personal – and very nasty. 

Woodman himself has been accused of acting abusively towards female performers,

including by Lana Rhoades, one of the most popular porn stars in the world today.

And finally – the testimonies he’s gathered – well they’ve come from his own casting couch interviews where the women go on to have sex with him. It’s not exactly a neutral setting. 

Woodman denies any wrongdoing strenuously. But taking all of that together – we knew we couldn’t just rely on him and what he was saying about Legal Porno. 

So we called Jakub Zelenka, a Czech journalist who has been looking into the online porn industry in that country. 

A few months ago, a woman got in contact with Jakub to tell him about a bad experience she’d had with a producer. 

Jakub Zelenka: “She describes how someone blackmailed her and hurt her during filming for Legal Porno.”

Jakub asked his contacts in the Prague porn industry about what they knew. They led him to four women and two producers who all alleged that female performers were physically injured on the Legal Porno set. 

Jakub: “Four women described their stories on the record… For example, one girl was hurt during the shooting and she even ended up in hospital. Some practices on Legal Porno were so painful, they used Lidocain, a local anaesthetic. After publishing her stories, police in the Czech Republic started an investigation into Legal Porno. We don’t know when they’ll finish it.”

Alexi, narrating:As you can hear, Jakub said that the Czech police opened an investigation into Legal Porno following his reporting, and that he’s been helping to connect the police to victims.

Legal Porno, for their part, has denied any claims of wrongdoing. They say Pierre Woodman is making it all up. Their lawyers told us that they’ve filed a lawsuit against Denik N, the news website that Jakub works for, for publishing unverified, false and misleading information. 

The lawyers also told us that the police investigation has now been dismissed for failure to prove the allegations. We asked the Czech police to clarify the situation but they declined to comment. 

******

Alexi, narrating: Back to the UK – and back to Stephano, the man who made a film in an Iselworth hotel with Marco, the amateur gay porn producer. 

When we left them, Stephano had called Yair in desperation: the video of his sexual encounter with Marco remained online and was attracting hundreds of thousands of views. He felt it was only a matter of time before someone recognised him. 

So Yair acted fast. He employed a private investigator to try and find out Marco’s real identity. 

Yair: “The first challenge was to identify those producers or the producer. Our client couldn’t remember exactly. He was disorientated. He was taken to a location, but he didn’t remember where it was. So we, we tried to locate, the producer, did a lot of investigatory work.

We have some great people who do the investigate online investigation for us, and we managed to locate, an individual at an address in Essex and all indications were that it was the right. It was the person who we’re looking for.” 

Alexi, narrating: And this is where we get to the secret – the one that Marco had been hiding. 

Because Marco had two jobs. 

By night he was a porn producer: persuading men like Stephano to humiliate themselves on film. 

By day… well, I’ll let Yair tell it. 

Yair: “Well what was very surprising about this, was that we also find through our online research that that same individual was in fact, a head teacher in a primary school.”

Alexi, narrating: Yes, you heard that right. Marco – when he was making these porn videos – was a headteacher at a primary school. He had been a head for about five years when he filmed Stephano.

Marco’s real name is Mario Rodgers. Rodgers resigned from a school in Essex a few years ago but until last month he was a governor at another school, with a specific remit to take charge of child safety.

Now, we’ve got to be clear here. There’s no rule that says that a producer of explicit porn videos can’t also be an excellent headteacher – although it might not be the first thing you’d look for on a resume. 

But the complaints against Marco – or Mario – aren’t that he runs a porn site and a school at the same time. 

It’s that, at least in Stephano’s case, he made a porn video using a vulnerable man under the influence of drugs – who may not have been able to consent.

And then refused to take down the video even after the man changed his mind. There are also questions about how he gains consent of men in other videos, such as the ones featuring the fake medical exams. 

When Yair’s investigators tracked the producer down to his home in Essex they sent him something called a letter before action. 

The letter outlined all the claims against Mario and demanded that he immediately take down the video of Stephano, as well as pay him compensation. 

A few days later, Mario replied. He agreed to all of Yair’s demands. He transferred copyright in the video back to Stephano and paid him £20,000 in compensation, plus legal costs. In return, Stephano agreed not to sue him in court. 

Last week we tried to ask Mario Rodgers some questions. But as soon as he received our emails, he removed all traces of his pornography business from the web. 

However, we had also briefed the Sunday Times about the story, and when they got in contact with Mario….they did receive a response.

Mario: “I deeply regret my actions,” he said. “I learnt from this and have deleted the

site. I would like to make clear that I was not aware of the person being under

the influence of drugs.”

Alexi, narrating: When I read Mario’s statement – I was a bit sceptical. Yes he had deleted his site but only a few days earlier, when I’d contacted him. 

He’d been happy to keep the site running for almost four years after Yair’s investigators managed to track him down to his home in Essex. It made me question whether Mario did regret the experience – or whether he just regretted getting caught. 

More importantly, Stephano is now in a better place. Since signing the settlement agreement at the end of 2017, he’s got a job in the NHS. His marriage is strong n and he has a great relationship with his young daughter. He’s happier than he’s been for years. 

But – and here’s the depressing thing. Even though the video was removed from Pornhub and the other big porn sites, it’s still available online for those who know where to look. We managed to find it in just a few clicks. Stephano’s face will never vanish entirely from the internet.

Stephano: “This persistent presence of the videos online means that I have been living all the time with dread, awareness and knowledge that the videos are online. I now want to move on with my life, be happy with my family, and I would also like to go to university. I feel that this has all be jeopardised and fear that I may never be able to escape from this nightmare.”

Alexi, narrating: So Stephano got a settlement – but the memories of his encounter with Marco will never fade.

But for me – the story is representative of a bigger problem. There seems to be a massive power imbalance between some performers on the one hand and the thousands of porn studios that operate with little rules or regulations on the other. 

Yair has heard plenty of stories from clients which – if true – would amount to criminal behaviour: including sexual assault and rape. 

And yet almost none of these ever reach a criminal court. 

Some people talk about porn having a MeToo moment – there’s a trickle of men and women coming forward with stories of abuse. 

That might be true, but from what I’ve seen, there’s still a long way to go. 

This story was reported by me Alexi Mostrous with additional reporting by Kim Darrah, Patricia Clarke and Xavier Greenwood. The editor was Basia Cummings, sound design by Tim Clay. The producer was Matt Russell.