Society’s obsession with porn can’t be hidden, but people try. As much as adult videos have become more acceptable in some circles, there’s still a bit of a stigma that comes with them. Being publicly excited about a particular sex video is still kind of frowned upon. It’s not commonly well received if we share our excitement about pornography and the stars who take part in it.

Celebrities, though, are in a league of their own. We consume the lives of those in the spotlight on a daily basis. Actors, musicians, professional athletes, TV personalities, even politicians. We, as a society, can’t seem to resist hearing about them. Even when we’re not interested in the slightest, something will drag us with it anyway. A part of me feels pressured to keep up with certain things; we can’t isolate ourselves from popular references. We live in a system where, regardless of what we might want, we’ll always find out about the Mileys and the Justins of the world. It comes with the whole not-being-a-hermit thing.

celebrity sex tapes
Paris Hilton’s sex tape ‘1 Night in Paris’

It’s when the porn and celebrities collide that the world seems to stop for everyone. Literally hundreds of sex tapes have been made by celebrities all over the world; some of them leaked by themselves to further their careers; some of them by the – usually less famous – other person in the video; and some of them by third parties who found a quick way to make a buck.

Of course, it took technology to develop an affordable way for regular people to record video to get this phenomenon rolling. So until the 80s, celebs were safe from being publicly exposed through accidental porn. Nonetheless, it only took the appearance of commercially available video cameras to have some creepy dude asking his girlfriend, “Hey baby, wouldn’t it fun if we recorded us having sex?”

Probably the first famous person in the United States to have a sex tape leaked was Jayne Kennedy, a model, actress and TV personality who became a sex symbol during the 70s and 80s. The former Miss Ohio USA had national endorsements, was the first African-American to be featured on the cover of Playboy (even though she was clothed,) and was also the first black female broadcaster on the sports show ‘The NFL Today’. It was a much more conservative society back then, so when a homemade video featuring Jayne and her ex-husband, blaxploitation actor Leon Isaac Kennedy, was stolen and released to the public after their divorce, her career took a quick dive.

Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe. Image by s_bukley /

Another big scandal during the 80s was the Rob Lowe video, which presented him having sex with two girls, one of them underage. Although he could prove he didn’t know her age at the time, another part of the tape showed him having a different threesome in a hotel room in Paris. It pretty much plummeted Lowe’s career and kept him out of the spotlight for over a decade.

Knowing what we know now about celebrity sex tapes, it’s odd to think of them as a detrimental thing for the careers of the people in it. Granted, some markets will be off limits after a leaked sex video, but society’s hunger to see famous people fucking is larger than anything nowadays. Back in the 80s and early 90s, though, these tapes wouldn’t be more than hand-to-hand bootlegs for years. It wasn’t as easy to obtain them at the time, something that would change drastically with the arrival of the Internet.

Arguably the most famous celebrity sex tape ever, the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee video was leaked by pioneering internet porn company IEG, in 1998. It was recorded during their honeymoon and featured a lot of intimate moments, both sexually and personally. It was clear that the tape was for themselves, which is not a statement easily said about most of what is leaked in recent years. A lawsuit followed and, because millions of people had already purchased it, was eventually settled with the power couple taking a large chunk of the video’s profits.

One could argue that some of these celebrities were big stars in their own right at the time, and the appeal of seeing them have sex was too hard to resist. In 2003, though, the Paris Hilton tape hit the Internet, and a new way of obtaining overnight fame was created. Hilton, a young rich socialite, was basically only known for being the heiress to the prominent hotel chain that has her name. Still, being a somewhat public figure and with a soon-to-be-released reality show in the making (‘The Simple Life’ with Nicole Richie,) the later-dubbed ‘A Night in Paris’ was a smashing success and made her one of the biggest names in the world, even if the scenes in the video leave a lot to be desired. It wasn’t about the quality of the sex, but about seeing a hot famous person having it.

Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson. Image by Everett Collection /

Kim Kardashian, another rich socialite, followed with her own tape. Filmed in 2004 with then-boyfriend, singer Ray J, Kim was actually the lesser known of the two back then. After the video went viral, everyone knew her name, and not only her but her entire family got a reality show with such a successful outcome that generated a seemingly endless amount of spin-offs. The whole Kardashian clan has become one of the most famous families in the world, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened without the sex tape.

The formula became a staple for fame-starved or struggling Hollywood celebrities. Female wrestler Joanie ‘Chyna’ Laurer used it to eventually segue into an adult film career. Respected actor Tom Sizemore did one to revive his own after his struggles with drug addiction. Limp Bizkit front-man and professional douchebag Fred Durst did one. Even Dustin Diamond (Screech from ‘Saved by the Bell’, for most people) recorded one in a desperate attempt to make some cash.

The message was clear: Sex sells, and famous people being involved in it guarantees attention, even if it’s gross, or clumsy, or poorly lit, or cringe-worthy. People want to see other humans they’ve heard about fucking on camera.

Timing is everything, though, so whenever a washed-out celebrity comes out with an anonymously leaked sex video, you can bet everything you have they’ve got a movie, show or album coming out soon after; the unknown participants might get huge, or just enjoy mild attention through a reality show or book deal; and the world will keep on spinning, until the next celebrity sex tape comes out, of course.


  1. I bet an obama sex tape would make big bucks

  2. Zoë Standish Herman

    I wonder if Zooey Deschanel has a sex tape somewhere….