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Money Can’t Buy an AVN Award: How the Year’s Sexiest Adult Film Stars Are Chosen

Asa Akira, left, celebrates at Tao after having been named Female Performer of the Year at the 2013 AVN Awards. She's with, from left, Chanel Preston, Keiran Lee, Kirsten Price and Alexis Ford. Photo by Al Powers.

Asa Akira, left, celebrates at Tao after having been named Female Performer of the Year at the 2013 AVN Awards. She’s with, from left, Chanel Preston, Keiran Lee, Kirsten Price and Alexis Ford.
Photo by Al Powers.

Peter Warren is the Price Waterhouse Coopers of the AVN Awards.

Warren, the senior editor for DVD news at AVN Media Network, is one of only three people in the world who knows the names of all the winners that will be announced January 18 during the 31st annual AVN Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

So how do judges choose among the many deserving candidates in categories from Best Oral Sex Scene to Best Fem-Dom-Strap-On Release? I sat down with Warren and AVN’s senior editor for pleasure products, Sherri Shaulis, to find out.

“It involves a lot of arguing and drinking,” Shaulis laughed.

The process gets rolling in September, when adult film companies submit their “pre-noms,” which are added to a running list of standout scenes, films, and performances that have caught the attention of AVN staff throughout the year.

This year, the list totaled a whopping 120 pages, a printout that was thicker than a book and was then divided among nominations committee members according to their areas of expertise. Shaulis, for example, was tasked with reviewing the pre-nominations in all the oral sex categories, a process that involved “hours and hours” of watching porn.

The committee meets daily for about six weeks to hash out the final list of nominees. There are debates, arguments and sometimes even tears. “There will be times when a room is divided,” Shaulis says. “You get so passionate about a porn scene or movie, and you want others to think it’s as spectacular as you do.”

Warren acknowledges that while there are companies that lobby on behalf of a particular performer or film, “if we don’t like it, we don’t like it.”

“People think you can buy an AVN award, but you can’t.”

He describes the nominations process as “grueling, exhausting, surreal and bizarre.”

“I was having porn stress dreams for a month,” Shaulis adds. “I was going on stage naked and forgetting awards for entire categories.”

Once the nominees in all the categories are nailed down, the list is sent to about 25 voters, including the nominations committee, reviewers and other, established members of the industry.

Although it is difficult to quantify what it means in dollars and cents to win Performer of the Year or Best New Starlet, nabbing an AVN award can be a major boost to a performer’s career.

“I love that winning an AVN Award means something [to people]. It’s one part of my job every year where I get validation, from in and outside the industry,” says Shaulis. “My job is like a frat boy’s wet dream. It’s the coolest job in the world.”

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