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Our pornography expert listeners have written in to elaborate upon the origins of the money shot. Dennis says:
In a porn film, it’s called the money shot not because it cost the most but because unless the male star ejaculates he doesn’t get paid; they will then call on a ‘stunt cock’ who will knock one out and claim the money. Hardly seems fair, but all male porn stars know this when they sign on.
‘Money shot’ has come to mean a scene that is disproportionately expensive to the rest of the production. When studios make use of a ‘stunt cock’ where an actor finds he cannot deliver, it raises the cost of that final scene due to the extra expense of the ‘stunt cock’. You actually get more money for the moment of ejaculation than the rest of your contract, as it is after all what the audience is paying for.
Stunt cock sounds like a wonderfully edifying career with great security and plenty opportunity for personal growth.