by Furry Girl
One of the things I've stridently maintained when it comes to sex work activism and debate is that the voices of current and long-term sex workers should always be privileged over those of former sex workers and occasional dabblers. It's in that vein that I feel obligated to disclose changes in my own status: after 10 years as a full time sex worker, I'm transitioning out of sex work. Well, half way, for now. It's not the sort of rapid exit process I've seen others undergo, such as getting a new boyfriend/husband and suddenly deleting their web presence. Since I have dealt with stalker problems throughout my career, I'm not going to disclose the details of what I'm doing in the new "straight" part of my life, but I'm not going to leave you totally hanging, either. I'm still one foot in, one foot out, as I work on creating a second career for myself - it's the hokey-pokey method of leaving the industry. (I've wondered if this is more normal, or the sudden exit method? Do most sex workers start a second career secretly towards the end of their stint as sex workers, and just never mention it?) The only thing I feel like saying about Career B is that it involves using science to make the world a better place. Since this has been a big decision that I didn't make lightly, I thought I'd share my reasons and some things I've been discovering.
The big question: why are you leaving sex work?
First, porn simply doesn't pay very well any more. Even though I am a sexually open person and a natural exhibitionist, I got into sex work for the money. (I can be a pervert for free any time, though.) The money's just not there any more, at least in my part of the industry. It's been a struggle to come to admitting this to myself, but the golden days of internet porn are long over, and I'm not willing to continue with the stress and responsibility of running my own business - and one that could land me in prison! - for so little pay. Though I've given it a lot of thought, I'm simply too much a scaredy-cat to be an escort or dominatrix. I've dabbled in offline pro-domming, and had totally safe experiences, but I just worry too much about drawing the short straw and going into a hotel room with a dangerous person. No amount of screening makes you invincible, and while I have friends who've never had a violent client, I have also met people who have been raped, robbed, assaulted, or otherwise harmed on the job (sometimes by police officers). It shouldn't be that way, of course. We should have decriminalization, sex workers shouldn't have to fear reporting crimes against them, and sex workers shouldn't have to fear being robbed and raped by cops, but we're not in that world yet.
The second reason I'm starting to retire is that I feel like I have done everything I could ever possibly want to do as a sex worker. There's no room for growth, other than in quantity. I've done a fucking awesome job of going from being a high school dropout to having a successful small business that allowed me to make a middle class income so that I have free time for travel, adventure, learning, and taking on all sorts of hobbies. I don't exaggerate when I say that porn has been my dream job. I wouldn't do it differently other than make some smarter business decisions when I was younger, but on the whole, I am incredibly proud of my work. I feel like I have taken off every possible color of clothing in just about every way I could, and now I'm just repeating myself.
I came, I saw, I kicked ass, and now I'm ready for something new. I don't feel challenged by my work any more, and fully realizing that helped me make my decision to find a second career.
I have no intention of deleting any of my web sites.
I've spent 10 years building a number of awesome porn sites, this blog, and SWAAY, and I'm proud of them. Further, lots of other people have also put plenty of blood, sweat, jizz, research, and time into my web sites, and I'd hate to erase their efforts, too. And even if I did want to erase my past (which I do not), deleting my work only means that I am ensuring that I will never profit from my labor, even though images and videos of me will still be floating around the internet until civilization collapses. Unlike strippers or escorts who would never do porn because it exists forever, I enjoy that the products of my labor will exist forever and continue earning me residuals, even if it's not a lot of money. Residual income is rare in the sex industry, so I'm glad that 18-year-old Furry Girl picked a career path that came with a little retirement income. (On the official social security and payroll taxes front, as a self-employed person, it's damned near impossible to claim unemployment benefits, so while I've paid significantly more in federal taxes than your average worker, I am unable to access those funds to which I should be entitled. It's one of the many insults upon injury sex workers deal with when it comes to the US government.)
Moving on from sex work: the good
For the first time in a decade, most of the compliments directed at me have nothing to do with my appearance. This isn't to say that I think I've been "coasting on my looks" for a decade, especially since I know I'm not a major head-turner. People ignore all the invisible labor that goes into being a successful sex worker. If I shoot a particularly awesome set of photos, the praise I receive is invariably along the lines of, "You're so hot," not, "You're a hard-working photographer!" "Being sexy" is the smallest part of what goes into running your own porn site, but it's the only part that people acknowledge. (The same extends to other forms of sex work: the visible part of your work is always dwarfed by all the preparation.) As much as I stand by the fact that "being sexy" is a hard-earned job skill and that it takes smarts and ambition to be a successful sex worker, I have to admit that it's awesome to be praised regularly for my intellect or work ethic. (This isn't to say that there's something wrong with being a professional piece of ass: that's exactly the job we sign up for upon entering sex work. All humans are all "reduced" to one-dimensional beings by those with whom who we have only fleeting contact, but that fact has no moral component.)
I feel challenged. Sometimes too much! Ha. Seriously, it's awesome to have new things to do, even though some of them are tedious and annoying. While I've always had an array of interests, sex work and sexuality issues have been the focus of the last ten years of my life, and it's refreshing to give some of my other interests free reign and really see what I can do with them.
Just like my first career in porn, I've found a second career where I can make an interest into a paying job. I'm glad that both of my careers are the sort of things I could have written down on a typical high school "how to decide your career" quiz that asks, "If you had millions of dollars and didn't need to work, what would you do with your time?" That's not to say either porn or the new career is easy and always enjoyable, but both tap into my passions.
Moving on from sex work: the bad
Starting all over in building your resume, especially when you're almost 30. Ugh. While being smart, motivated, good with computers, and possessing an ability to learn new things are traits I bring to any job, the rest of my skill set doesn't transfer over. This also means I will not be making much money for a while, hence, staying a part-time sex worker as a financial bridge.
Waking up at a certain time of day. As someone who has been mostly waking up whenever I feel like it since I was 16, it's jarring to need to be somewhere precisely at a certain time. One of the biggest reasons many people choose sex work is the flexibility and ability to set your own schedule.
Working with other people who are not of my own choosing. I'm not the most enthusiastic team player. I can do it, but I am regularly examining my behavior to make sure I am doing it right. Running my own business from home for so many years has made me forget all the required social niceties we are supposed to engage in, like asking everyone how they're doing all the time, and them being required to say, "I'm good, and you?" no matter how they are actually feeling. It's so artificial, but it's apparently the lubricant that keeps society functioning. I've wondered, "Do I have a touch of Asperger's, or am I just kind of an antisocial weirdo?"
Not being out as a sex worker in all parts of my life any more. This one bothers me a lot. I'm used to being out out to just about everyone I interacted with, but I'm keeping that under wraps for now with Career B. It's not at all that I'm developed a sense of shame, but because I am the lowest-ranking member of a group, and because life is a competition, I don't want to do things right now that would prevent me from being given a shot at opportunities. (I'm also not out as poly, kinky, or pro-guns, so it's really about not courting controversy in any form.) I made the decision that I need to build up new "credit," and once people see that I am not a cliche sex worker stereotype of an untrustworthy drug addict who can't handle hard work or intellectual challenges, I can be open again. I'd rather demonstrate my competence and then surprise people later than start off by "making myself look bad" and then trying to fight an uphill battle of convincing people I'm capable, or not having a chance to try and convince them at all. It's not ideal, but it's not how I am going to live forever. For now, new folks know me as someone who ran a small web design company and has decided to switch careers.
Moving on from sex work: the random
I am not transitioning out of sex work for a man. Without trying to sound too judgmental, I have to say that it always bums me out when women leave sex work because they got some controlling, jealous boyfriend. I always swore that I would never do that (although that didn't spare me from dating some assholes who had problems with my job), and I'm glad I stayed true to that goal. (As a bisexual/pansexual woman, I will add that I would not have switched careers for a lady, either.) I do have an awesome dude in my life, but he's secure enough that he isn't reduced to fits of terrified panic at the idea that other men have seen me naked.
I am not transitioning out of sex work because I think I'm "too old." Without sounding vain, I think I'm aging just fine, and would have no problem continuing to work in the sex industry for years to come. Sure, I'm about 15 pounds heavier than I was 10 years ago, and I get occasional grey hairs, but I'm so far happy that I'm not one of those people who "hits the ugly wall" and suddenly ages 15 years in 6 months. (It pleases me that this category includes some of the "pretty girls" who bullied me when I was a youngster in school.) Also, unlike some cranky feminist sex workers, I haven't been exercising and eating healthy only because I am trying to cater to mainstream beauty standards to extract money from men, excitedly squealing upon quitting the industry about how I can't wait to get fat. I think people can be sexy at any size, but purposefully gaining weight (and increasing your risks of all sorts of health problems) just to say "fuck you, male gaze!" is as stupid as starving yourself to attract the male gaze. I'm hardly as athletic as I wish I were, but there are reasons to stay fit other than sex work. (Click see to two NSFW photos, one from the most recent photo update on my site, one from the very first.)
I'm not sure about my plans for SWAAY, but I'm not interested in trying to turn it into my career. The debate over whether to be agitators or paid mainstream NGO employees has long been going on in grassroots activist circles, and every scene has watched people lured away with the promise of a steady paycheck if they'll only tone down their rhetoric and get in line with the "proper" nonprofit establishment (ie, become less effective and more palatable to big donors). I know that a number of sex workers' rights activists are trying to turn (or have turned) their passion into careers as professional social workers with official tax-exempt charity statuses, but I don't want that.
I'm not quitting sex work so I can try to have a "real" writing career where I write puff pieces for HuffPo and ladyblogs about how I used to be a sex worker. Doesn't interest me.
I'm still maintaining my web sites, and will undoubtably still shoot new content sporadically, as well as continuing doing cam shows around my new schedule. I don't know when I'm going to stop doing anything new entirely, but I'm guessing in a couple of years. No sense in abandoning ship before the next ship is fully launched, and I'm giving myself a long timeline.
So what am I, a half-retired sex worker? And does this mean all sex workers are considered half-retired if they're starting a different career or going to school? (Because that's a sizable chunk of people in the industry.) I still think of myself as a current sex worker, but I feel like it's dishonest to say I'm a full-timer. I'm going to keep on being a supporter of sex workers' rights, and blogging/tweeting about these issues as Furry Girl, but the sexual politics world is definitely not my top priority any longer. It's a bit sad to think of that, but I am also excited about what's still to come. I have one final big project I want to do as "Furry Girl the sex work blogger chick," while I plan to announce soon.
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 14 years because I don't believe in exploiting and killing others for my own petty amusements.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
More of me online
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat