by Furry Girl
Much has been made over the years of feminist academics' use of images of sex workers without their permission for the purposes of belittling the featured sex worker and campaigning for their criminalization and public shaming. I found out that a photo of me has made it into an academic's lecture slides, but not in a class on navel-gazing feelingsy bullshit.
A friend of mine recently sent me a slide from a class on genetics he's taking, but asked me to not post the details about his school. (I told him that rather than seeking anonymity, he should have hollered out, "I banged that chick!" during the lecture.) Maybe I should be offended that I'm not credited, but I find it amusing that I am being used as an example when discussing human body hair growth patterns. (If I'm going to make it into the halls of academia, better a scientific example than a target of feminist hatred.) I'm pretty sure that's not my bush, I'm just the armpit example.
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.
by Furry Girl
by Furry Girl
"The ["fake"] women are loud, hyper-real versions of the femininity to which we are all supposed to aspire, and the disdain with which our culture drenches them is a telling indictment of its own narratives.
What we have is not a war against fakery, it is a war against that which displays itself as fakery; we're all supposed to be pretending that we're naturally wide-eyed and soft-skinned and blushing and blemish-free. Women are expected to be photorealist portraits of femininity, not expressionist canvasses; lies are tolerated only in so far as they are told convincingly. But when we start being too overt about the fabricated status of natural femininity, there's a lurking danger that we might start to question their absurdity, or realise that we can invent altogether new images in radical moulds.
Style and beauty are produced, discarded and reinvented with startling rapidity and, in such a climate, the very notion of the natural can be seen for what it really is: just another aesthetic category, its signs every bit as carefully fabricated as the most flamboyant artifice."
-- Shona McCombes, In defence of fake beauty on thefword.org.uk
People are often surprised that I'll be the first person to speak out in defense of makeup, shaving, and cosmetic surgery. They shouldn't be, though.
It really bothers me when some of my male fans and clients assume that my own unshaved crotch means I must have a pathological hatred of women who choose to shave. For almost a decade now, I've been greeted at least a dozen times each week with comments like, "Thank god you're not one of those disgusting fake bimbos," with the unthinking assumption I am in complete agreement about said bimbo's supposed disgustingness.
Why don't I shave? Because I'm kinda fucking lazy. I'm a tomboy-ish chick who doesn't generally put a ton of work into my appearance, and I personally don't feel like the effort and itchiness and pain and money that goes into removing hair is worth it. I never advocate that others join me, I'm not out to convert and save follicular souls.
I wish all of my Furry Girl fanbase understood that I don't hate women who shave, and it's always disturbed me that some of them start an interaction with me by assuming we have a shared hatred. Not a shared fetish or interest, but starting off a conversation or email talking shit on women who are not me, and I don't find this the least bit flattering. It's totally cool to have whatever body hair preference or fetish, but stop projecting your angry shit onto me. (I'm angry about plenty of other things, but I don't give the slightest damn as to how other women groom their crotches.)
I realize that it must be frustrating if you have an uncommon sexual interest that most women do not want to cater to, but that doesn't mean those women are low-IQ monsters. Writing them off with nonsensical personal attacks such as saying they must be "incapable of thinking for themselves" because they won't indulge your kink is not a demonstration of how "sexually liberated" or "appreciative of real beauty" you are. Sexual empowerment is about everyone making their own choices with their bodies, not pushing for some kind of fascist society where all women are forced against their will to look a certain way for the amusement of a small group of men. That's everything that I am against, not what I support.
by Furry Girl
Throughout my life, I've often felt like I'm in the middle. (Which is a positive way of phrasing that I don't fit in well anywhere.) I have too many fiscally-conservative views to be a proper leftist, but I'm not cheering for the uninsured to be left to die like some libertarians. While I have an unshaved crotch and don't have a mainstream LA porn appearance, I lack the tattoos and rainbow hair to demonstrate that I'm "smarter than your average porn star," as one popular alternaporn site marketed its collection. I also don't mesh perfectly with the American subculture of "empowered" sex workers, whatever that's supposed to mean.
There's this profile tacitly promoted by current sex workers' rights activism of how exactly one should look and behave if they are truly empowered: it's a movement for punks and anarchists, for feminists, for people devoted to deconstructing gender, for people with liberal arts degrees, for sex radicals and kinksters, for Pagans, for artists, and most importantly, for people who don't fit mainstream beauty standards. In short, the typical person drawn to ho activism is the typical person drawn to any sort of activism: one who constructs their identity around to how they are not like the rest of society. As a person who straddles the weird/normal border, I don't always feel like I fit in with American sex workers' rights activists, so I can only imagine what it's like for someone whose only "non-normal" trait is their occupation. I have no solution to the problem of the over-representation of "lifestyle outsiders" other than to do my best to encourage more typical sex workers to step up and claim their stake in their own movement.
Inspired by Annie Sprinkle's Anatomy of a Pin-Up, I thought I'd make an Anatomy of an Empowered Sex Worker.
Do you have what it takes to be empowered?
by Furry Girl
"I realize that talking shit about strippers might make you feel better about yourself, or justify to you why you think you are a better person/girlfriend/mother/whatever. We can hear you, and it's dehumanizing. Believe it or not, comments like, 'That one's so ugly,' 'Ugh, my boobs are so much nicer,' 'At least I don’t have (xyz flaw),' etc. do hurt girls. This is my body. I do hear nasty remarks that are made by women, even when you think you're being quiet. It's hurtful in a deeply personal way. I am not a flawless body… I'm a human being."
-- Piper, in Women Customers on strippr.tumblr.com
by Furry Girl
"Then I became a sex worker. A new identity took over the old one. Another wave of liberation washed over me the first time I danced topless around a pole at the Gold Club in San Francisco in 1999. Hours before my audition, I plucked out my armpit hair and pulled out the most femme dress I owned, a not so shapely silver rectangle with straps that nevertheless got me my first job in the industry. Within a week, I had rediscovered all kinds of long repressed gender specific elements that my newly acquired income was now allowing me access to. [...] I became a high femme in no time. I had always had an eye for clothes and fashion, but had been rejecting notions of constructed femininity for the last two years, wearing mostly men’s clothes and nothing on my face but lip liner pencil which I used to both line and shade my lips. I was a heterosexually identified femme in high school but started to morph into something more androgynous because it seemed to me that femininity did not and could not equal power in a man’s world. Suddenly, as a new stripper, femininity now equaled power and money. I became even stronger and more confident. The color pink represented this new found power to me and it has been my favorite color ever since."
-- Mariko Passion, in Professional Bisexual on marikopassion.wordpress.com
by Furry Girl
I've never given blog space to one of my favorite dystopic tales of all time, a short story that is both clever speculative fiction, and applies to parts of the porn debate.
As a precocious 12-year-old in the smart kid English class, I was introduced to Kurt Vonnegut in the form of Harrison Bergeron, a short story from the 60s. Vonnegut was one of those authors I read at just the right time when I was growing up - alongside Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell - folks who crafted tales that resonate so perfectly with how awkward outsider kids feel about the world.
Vonnegut's story begins,
The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
In this future, we have finally achieved the feminist/liberal dream of equality through by punishing and handicapping those who are beautiful, strong, and intelligent for the heinous crimes of making others feel insecure. In effect: affirmative action taken further down its slippery slope, this time, to equalize out any and all "unfair" advantages which no one must be allowed to possess in life.
After all, if one person (like a feminist or unattractive woman) reacts to another person (like a supermodel or porn star) with insecurity and jealousy, the only way to solve this "problem" is to punish and criticize the attractive party, and try and pass laws to prevent the delicate party from ever being "forced" to feel insecure ever again.
I highly recommend reading Harrison Bergeron, which isn't terribly long, and will perhaps cause you to ask interesting questions about "equality."
by Furry Girl
"By the time I began stripping, I knew what a sex worker activist was: a lesbian vegan living in San Francisco who didn’t shave (let alone wax) and was often very overweight. She had a useless degree in philosophy or women’s studies from Berkeley (unlike my highly-useful photography degree!). Sex worker activists were overly-represented in my readings about sex work and they never, ever described me or any other strippers that I knew. I remember emailing Jill Nagle and complaining that Whores and Other Feminists was not representative of all sex workers, I wanted stories from sex workers who looked and sounded like me and my co-workers, workers who walked in our shoes too. I never heard back from her.
Maybe because I and the sex workers I knew looked mainstream. [...] Everything I read told me activists discounted you if you looked mainstream sexy, as though they believed a sex worker with implants or blonde hair has nothing of value to add (just like everyone else in society)."
-- Amanda Brooks, in the invisible majority and the pc exclusion factor on texasgoldengirl.com
I've quoted folk on this general topic before, as it's a big irritation for me, even though I'm in a not-"alt"-or-mainstream limbo so far as my own appearance goes. Superficiality is a major problem with how lefty/liberal people discuss ethics and sex work, especially porn. If the performers are plus-sized and/or have tattoos and/or blue hair, it's just assumed that the porn was created under ethical conditions by empowered and happy people - whereas porn featuring blonde, thin, mainstream-sexy women is dismissed as probably created under oppressive conditions. No feminist punk rock slut could ever let her badass self get taken advantage of by evil men, but those plastic bimbo Barbie girls must have been pressured into sex work by their coke head boyfriends, right?
by Furry Girl
"The punk rock subculture has done a grave disservice for women; it had made us devoid of sexuality. It's not punk to be sexy. It's not punk to try to be hot, or feminine. I wore my boots, spit, burped and was donned, 'Bundy.' For the last 12 years I've been fighting my 'god given right' to be a fucking sexy bitch. It's only been within the last few years that I've been breeching this sexy tip. Recently I discovered that I had a wonderful opportunity to explore my sexy side. Every time I work it's all fake eyelashes, sexy panties, perfume and hot motherfucking outfits. I'm discovered what it means to be hot and sexy. Although I do feel fucking sexy all sweaty with a tool belt and a skill saw in my hand, this is a different kind of sexy. This is sexy to the masses. This is so completely new to me… and I love it.
My flirting has gone from a PBR belch and a coy look across the room. Fucking with my eyes, that's what I call it. It's my bread and butter. Now when I walk into a room and people stare at me, my initial thought isn't that my fly is down or that I've got a booger; it's 'maybe they think I’m attractive.' Sure I still have issues with my body, but women with body issues are like fish in a barrel. Stripping has brought me to realize that what is shown in magazines isn't what most people want.
People tell me all the time how refreshing it is to see a real woman with a real body. If I'm parading around in my skivvies, or writhing around like I’m being fucked, I can say whatever I want to, make whatever face I want to, do whatever I want to and no one cares. I'm still sexy. I'm still cool. I'm still smart. My thoughts are who I am; my body is how you see me. I will always be me, so who fucking cares if you think I'm an idiot. When I realized that, it was my own personal emotional, intellectual, psychological, spiritual revolution. The walls came down and now more than ever I am able to be me, and find out who I want to be."
-- Ananda, in "My thoughts are who I am…", reprinted from the stripper zine Swear Words by Kat on katstories.tumblr.com
Furry Girl: legs now closed for business.
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
Vaguely similar 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
- Women Against Feminism