The body of porn star August Ames, 23, was found in a park near Los Angeles on this day five years ago (December 5, 2017).
Her cause of death was ruled asphyxiation from hanging, but the reason for her suicide is less clear cut.
Canadian-born Ames was vastly successful, having performed in over 270 scenes and been nominated in several categories at the AVN awards – porn's equivalent to the Oscars.
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The controversy surrounding her death centred on her refusing to film with a male porn star who had been in gay porn in the past, arguing that there was a higher risk of STIs.
On December 3, just two days before she took her own life, Ames tweeted: “Whichever (lady) performer is replacing me tomorrow for @EroticaXNews, you’re shooting with a guy who has shot gay porn, just to let cha know. BS is all I can say… Do agents really not care about who they’re representing?… I do my homework for my body.
“NOT homophobic. Most girls don’t shoot with guys who have shot gay porn, for safety. That’s just how it is with me. I’m not putting my body at risk, i don’t know what they do in their private lives.”
Many didn't agree with her attitude, arguing that it was emblematic of a false stereotype of gay men as seedy.
Fellow porn star Jessica Drake tweeted the next day: “Performers, by all means, f*** who you want to f***…but if you’re eliminating folks based on the fact they they (sic) may have done gay or crossover work, your logic is seriously flawed. reality is, WE DON’T KNOW who does what with whom when there are no cameras.”
Pansexual performer Jaxton Wheeler wrote on December 5: “The world is awaiting your apology or for you to swallow a cyanide pill. Either or we’ll take it.”
Ames was deluged with similar tweets. Her final tweet read: "F*** y'all."
Close friends and colleagues laid responsibility for her death firmly with her trolls.
Porn star Jenna Jameson toldThe Blast: "I am also shocked and dismayed at a few FEMALES that attacked and helped fan the fire against my friend August. Her blood is on their hands."
However, there has been a revision of the idea that Ames was led to suicide by the backlash, especially as she'd previously spoken about battles with depression and bipolar disorder.
A podcast series titled The Last Days of August saw journalist Jon Ronson investigate Ames' death after her husband, Kevin Moore, encouraged him to look into the cyberbullying he claimed was responsible.
Moore explicitly blamed her death on Drake and Wheeler but Ronson came to a different conclusion, working out that Wheeler's cyanide pill tweet was actually sent after she'd taken her own life.
Instead, Ronson pointed to her final porn scene, filmed weeks before, as the real trigger. She'd also survived childhood sexual traumas.
Ames' last scene was with Russian star Markus Dupree, known for his rough style. She was "verging on tears" by the end of it, according to the podcast.
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Ames also told a friend that Dupree went "full on War Machine", a reference to Jon 'War Machine' Koppenhaver – a porn star serving a life sentence for beating up his ex-girlfriend.
“What we were watching in that moment was the moment that she decided to die. That’s what we were watching and it’s awful,” Ronson told The New York Post.
“That was the truth of it, that was the moment when she reached the point of no return. The Twitter bullying may have been the icing on the cake.”
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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