by Furry Girl
I had two conversations in the last week that involved talk of memoirs. I still get asked sometimes if I'm planning to write a memoir about my experiences in sex work, and my answer is no. The reason why has changed over time, however.
I seriously thought about it several years ago, read a couple of books on getting nonfiction published, and talked to people who have written books (that weren't self-published). The conclusion I made was that the effort simply wasn't worth the money. Unless you're already famous and can secure a good advance, you write a memoir for personal satisfaction, not because you want to get paid. I was told that I would be lucky to get $5000 for a first time nonfiction book, and that was maybe 5 years ago. Even with borrowing already-written material from my blog, let's say that writing new material, doing research, and revising would be a full-time project for 6 months. (And then all the time that goes into promoting a book once it's released.) $5000 for 6 months of work? Nope, my time is worth more than that And since my end game with sex work was never to write a book about it, the bragging rights didn't offset the financial loss of taking time away from work that pays decently to do work that pays poorly.
My reason for not wanting to write a memoir is also about the pointlessness of such an endeavor. Let's get real: there are already too many sex work memoirs written by intelligent white chicks in their 20s and 30s from major cities in the English-speaking world. We are not beautiful and unique snowflakes. We as a civilization already have sufficient "I was a sex worker, but here's the big twist! I am also smart!" books. There is no stone that has been left unturned. Even though yes, I think I have my own slightly different spin on things, I'm self-aware enough to know that my views are not so unique that I could possibly truly break new ground.
As someone now working in science, there's a process one goes through before starting any project. It's called a literature review, and the point is twofold: to familiarize yourself with the existing knowledge and methods in an area so you know the norm for the field, and so that you can justify that your project will be doing something new and noteworthy that someone else hasn't done before. Otherwise, what's the point of spending years on a project if someone already published what is essentially the same thing? Science (and its limited funding) forces one to do some ruthlessly honest introspection and ask, "is my clever idea actually that special?" I wish that same level of rigor was applied by people who are considering doing anything. Few sex work books pass this test in 2016.
I remember 10-15 years ago when there were only a handful of books in the genre. I devoured memoirs, anthologies, and nonfiction excitedly back in the day when it was as easy task to read all the books written by and about sex workers. Times have changed, and for the better. Sex work is no less interesting, but holy fuck, we have enough contributions from people like me. I hope that other white middle class (former) sex workers from major cities will step back and realize their stories have already been told. Ad nauseam. I hope to read more memoirs from sex workers who don't fit the cliche of "sex work memoirist." Those are the stories that I want to see told. Not mine.
by Furry Girl
I rarely update my blog now that I am no longer in the jizz biz in any shape or form, but I'm planning to keep it online for now. I am glad that people still find value in some of the content and appreciate the nice emails I receive, and I'd also hate to delete my blog and have my detractors take that a victory. I launched this blog in 2009, making some of the content 7 years old at this point. While I'd love to have the free time to make my blog a dynamic living masterpiece that I can update, expand upon, revise, and improve, my writings are a snapshot of what I was thinking on a particular day. I occasionally receive email or comments on Twitter where someone tries to throw a "gotcha" question in my face which demonstrates their inability to notice the publication date on the post they're currently angry about. Since I was not a time traveler in my younger days (alas!), and since I rarely revise or update a post, my writings do not address things that had not yet happened at the time of the posting. This goes doubly so for the "if only you'd read [new dumb feminist book], you'd think completely differently!" comments. One of the benefits of leaving the sex industry is knowing I'll never again feel obliged to waste my time reading the latest recycled drivel so that I can rebuke it.
by Furry Girl
The first sex work I did was a solo porn shoot for a big "naughty teen" company based out of Los Angeles. That photo is from my very first shoot, taken in a park in LA that I've since recognized in many movies and TV shows as a generic "wooded area". (We worked fast, because the photographer would have gotten fined if he'd been caught shooting there without a permit.) I've seen the park several times in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it always makes me laugh to see it. "Hey, look at Picard and Riker on the alien world/holodeck where I first dropped my panties for cash!" I've never really written about my first experience in porn because it's embarrassing, tacky, kinda gross, and not very interesting. And besides, memoir-y shit isn't really my thing.
That first day of porning was in 2002, when I was freshly 18 years old, and at a time that I would have been a senior in high school had I not dropped out years earlier. (High school porn star!) I'd started exploring the idea of working in the jiz bizz when I was 17, browsing "amateur teen girls" web site for casting calls, trying to get a handle on how much money I could make in the sex industry. Porn seemed like a good balance - far safer seeming than prostitution, but still paying a hell of a lot more than the jobs I was qualified for. I wouldn't say that I was "financially coerced" - that term is silly and obtuse, but feminists love it because they thrive on denying agency to other women. I made a choice for a job I found far less repellant than the idea of community college or waiting tables. I was comfortable with my body, ballsy, exhibitionistic, and "sex-positive" before I'd been aware there was a label for it. I was going to find a way to have a cool job in the sex industry, make money, and have lots of free time.
I'd spent my last two "high school" years bouncing around the west coast after my violent nutball mother kicked me out when I was 15. There were great times, like when I cobbled the money together to rent a rustic cabin on a river in the middle of nowhere for a couple of months. And then there were times when I just stayed up all night, wandering around and cold because I had no place to go, listening to music on a Sony Discman CD player. Everything worked out in the end, I learned a lot about the world and read a ton of books, and the one time I ever felt in real danger while hitchiking, the guy was too drunk to chase me after I fled from his car. I accepted at a young age that we are totally alone in the universe and can't depend on other people. That the sort of radical self-accountability I felt was both terrifying and liberating. It's because of my teenage background that I always found "naughty teen" websites to be especially absurd in their portrayals of "teen life."
After emailing various companies, and getting some rejections, I found a company that wanted to hire me for the day. Much to my happiness, I learned that hairy pussy is actually appealing to some porn consumers, so I wouldn't even have to shave. Bonus! The rate was $750 for 20 photo shoots, which was all done in an insanely long day where I looked exhausted and pissed off by the end. I've always hated it when someone recognizes me from that web site, because the photos aren't very good. "Hey, aren't you ____ from _____!?" I'd get it occasionally from cam customers and web site fans, since the hairy pussy market is small enough that you might actually be able to remember the models.
As a photographer, I shoot many more photos than I need, whether I'm shooting myself or other people. Then I delete the ones that aren't good. I think that's how basically every photographer operates. My first porn photographer - a balding, profusely sweaty, middle aged white dude whose photo should have been in the dictionary under "creepy pervert" - shot only the minimum number of photos required by his boss for a publishable photo set. He'd count to 80 or 100 (or whatever it was) and then we'd stop and set up for a different shoot. Oh, how embarrassing it was to see some of the things that made it online. I didn't even save the worst ones because I was ashamed of how bad I looked, but here's one example:
There were so many unflattering photos: of me blinking, looking tired, looking angry, or mouth agape oddly because I was in the middle of speaking. By the time we got to the following set on his balcony, I hadn't eaten in 8 or 9 hours, and I just wanted to leave so badly. Isn't that the face of a teen who desperately wants your cock? Look how horny and excited she is!
That's why I describe my first foray into porn as an "anti-sexual" experience. I wasn't oppressed or molested or anything exciting, but it was just so tedious to go through the poses the photographer requested, all while he kept asking me, "Why aren't you wet yet? Are you wet now?" Yes, so wet. So horny. The photographer reminded me every so often that "most" of the girls he photographed got so excited being naked that they just had to give him a blowjob. Yeah fucking right, weirdo, I thought to myself.
One thing that embarrasses me to this day is the fucking panties the photographer required me to wear. I'd brought a bag of my own clothing, but he declared almost all of it to not be what a teen girl wears, so in most of the shoots, I'm wearing these hideous floral granny panties. I was also wearing one of the gross photographer's shirts in several photo sets, because yeah - a large men's polo shirt and granny panties is totally a normal outfit you'd expect of an 18-year-old. It still creeps me out that he saved the ugly panties from each shoot as his trophy from each model. I wish I'd gone and caught scabies before the shoot.
He tried to talk me down to $600 at the end of the day even though we agreed to $750, but I held firm, and he acted like I was the one being rude. I googled the photographer just now, and it looks like he's still employed by the same porn site, still taking the same old photos of bored young women. [Update: in looking for an email from someone else, I found this message from my photographer from 2011: "furry girl, you want another shoot? can get you $1000-$1200 for 2 short easy days you still hairy etc.." Wow, what a deal! I could make less than I did the first time! I like how he considered having a sweaty dude pester me to get wet while trying to get me to suck his dick as a "short easy day". I never replied to his email.]
My first day as a sex worker was long, boring, and fairly uneventful. I realized, though, that this was not what I wanted to do for a living. Maybe I would have gone into mainstream porn if I'd had a better first experience, rather than being in some weird dude's ugly apartment all day hoping he didn't try to stick a finger inside me. I started researching how to build your own porn site, and decided to go that route. I taught myself everything. It worked out pretty well for me, and I don't regret it. I built a rad little business that sustained me for over a decade. I'm proud of what I accomplished in the porn industry.
Yesterday, I concluded my porn career. I didn't even plan for it to be the last time, so there was no big blow-out sale on my pussy. After I stopped updating my porn site regularly so I could focus on building my second career, I'd pop in and do some cam shows when I had the time and needed the extra money. But, as time went on, and I logged in less frequently, so disappeared my regulars, and therefore, my reliable income. (My websites are staying online for now, since there's no sense in not receiving a trickle of residual income.) I'm currently between jobs for a month before things really kick in with my awesome new career and consume my life (in a good way), and I planned to spend a bunch of time camming. Things had been going slowly, and I wasn't making much money. On my final night on cam, I had one guy gush about how he was excited to see me, tell me how much he loved my web site, and he thanked me for blazing trails for unshaved porn. There were half a dozen forgettable striptease sessions, and one with some pushy prick who signed off, "FUCK YOU!" because I wouldn't comply with his requests. Fairly uneventful, just like my first time. I meant to log in again tonight, but I just couldn't do it. I don't want to spend my last couple of weeks of free time entertaining other people for barely more than minimum wage. I want to read some books, binge watch some TV, ride my bike around and enjoy the springtime weather, and do basically anything that's not sitting at my desk being flirty and cute for spare change. I sat down and wrote this blog post instead, and now I'm going to go enjoy some wine and Netflix with my cat.
Don't worry, internet, I'll be your naughty cheerleader (in the world's ugliest panties) forever.
by Furry Girl
Like many other things of major cultural significance - Hooters, War Games, and My Little Pony - I'm turning 30 this year. As a December baby whose birthday was always overshadowed by Christmas, I now celebrate my momentous occasion for the entire month. So, happy 30th birthday to me!
I can't say I feel old quite yet. I definitely haven't "mellowed out" over time, but I have spent less time blogging about sex work related topics. After a decade in the industry, every "new" debate/issue that comes up feels like a rehash of something that was argued about years ago. I feel like I've covered every angle of these debates myself, dozens of times, and it gets boring, even though I still feel engaged by a desire to improve life for sex workers everywhere. At the end of the day, you either believe that humans must be free to make their own choices that fit their individual needs and circumstances, or you believe that people need to be herded like cattle and subjected to violence for moral/ideological noncompliance "for their own good." (Which is a major source of why I just can't identify with the left as I get older. Too much of the intellectual foundation of the left is based on an imperialist attitude that "we enlightened" need to "help" and take control of the lives of "victims"- notably women, especially those in developing countries, whether they want "help" or not. Mistress Matisse phrased it best in a 2007 blog post when she said, "sometimes help is just the nice word for control." A chasm almost always exists between genuine solidarity and what outsiders think of as "saving" others.)
I'm still working on career two, a challenging field that combines my interests in both science and helping others (in an effective and constructive way). I think I'll probably completely retire from the jizz biz in a couple of years, though I plan to keep all of my sites online forever. I've learned a lot of awesome new things, and every time I'm trusted to do something more skilled or important, it feels like such a big step forward. My supervisor praises me for being such a meticulous and organized person, which is great, considering that I have no formal training at anything I'm doing. If you've been an independent sex worker/small business owner, that tenacity and work ethic will carry over into other lines of work, even if you have a radically different skill set to master. I really believe that successful sex workers are people who have the ability to be successful at anything. If you can make it work in such a weird and stigmatized industry where so many cards are stacked against you, relying on your own creativity, cunning, and boldness, you can do all sorts of things.
My mate and I are going to Fiji for a scuba diving trip from mid-December to New Years. I'm really excited to get away from cold rainy Seattle, even though it's during the busy holiday travel season. (I'm getting accustomed to planning around the fact that most jobs only let you get away with taking significant time off around Christmas.) I spent a lot of time rounding up the best budget hotels to stay with great reefs nearby, including a day at Beqa Lagoon, which is supposed to be one of the best shark dives in the world.
If you miss me from the peak of my blogging days, I still tweet a few times a day, often with news items you'd find interesting. And plenty of stupid funny shit, too.
I'm planning to spend some time camming from January 2-5, because I don't need to work and will feel cute after getting getting a good tan in Fiji. If you've been missing naked me, that's your next chance to catch me live.
Want to wish me a happy birthday? I have an Amazon wishlist, and I would especially love anything marked "highest priority," like the SeaLife underwater digital camera, or if you want to be crowned my best fan ever, the $1400 underwater housing for my DSLR camera. (I'd love to get into underwater wildlife photography, but I can't justify spending that much on a hobby when I'm making so little money right now.) You can also help me while getting something great for yourself by buying closeout items - like lube, books, candles, washable menstrual pads, and strapon harnesses - from my sexy store. And since SWAAY is still running at a net loss that I'm closer to erasing, you could also buy a pro-sex worker shirt or cute stickers from that store as a present to yourself or your favorite friends.
by Furry Girl
This little scene from Half Baked has played in my head many times over the last year.
by Furry Girl
"Famous" former sex worker Melissa Petro has thrust herself back into the media again this week, and seeing her re-tell her tale of woe with increasing levels of dramatic self-pity hits a nerve for me. It also reminded me of the serious need for a project that I've been meaning to announce as I transition out of sex work myself.
I must preface this post by declaring that self-pity is utterly repugnant to me, in part because it's the chief byproduct of white, over-educated, first world ennui, and in part because it's about denying that one has agency in their lives. The amount of options and privileges one has is irritatingly proportional to the amount of time one spends whining about one's life. I was volunteering in rural West Africa last summer, interacting with people who didn't have the greatest options, but I recall not one iota of self-pity from any of them. Self-pity disgusts me, which is why I recoil so strongly when I see it.
For those of you who don't remember Melissa Petro - and you're in the vast majority of Americans, since she's not actually all that famous - she was a public school teacher in New York City who was fired for coming out as a former sex worker. She wrote a piece in The Huffington Post (one of the most popular web sites online) about her experiences as a prostitute (her choice of term) during grad school, and then reacted in exasperated shock that there are people who don't want an ex-prostitute working with children. Petro was briefly a local scandal as her story spun out of her control in tabloids, and "hooker teacher" headlines appeared in gossip rags that published photos of her without her permission. The situation sucked, it was unfair, and being a (former) sex worker shouldn't mean that can't be trusted to be around kids. On this we can all agree.
Since her little scandal in three years ago, Petro has been on a pity tour of writing essays for seemingly any web site that will publish her, each iteration of her story gets more and more sad and self-pitying, all the while reinforcing The Big Lie told by visible ex sex workers like herself: that sex work is something from which one can never move on. This lie reinforces so many stigmas, stokes the fires of so much shame and uncertainty for sex workers thinking about leaving the industry, and sends this horrible, cruel, completely inaccurate message to current sex workers: you can never escape a naughty past, you are doomed! Doomed for life! Forever tainted and shunned!
That's fucking bullshit.
I am so sick of the Petro and others like her acting like their choice to wallow publicly in self-pity is the only option for former sex workers. Petro is just an upscale, liberal version of anti-porn ex-porn star Shelley Lubben, but rather than overtly attack the sex industry and campaign against it, Petro is far more insidious. She isn't calling for the end of the sex industry, or for further criminalization of sex workers. She's "one of the good guys." She just wants sex workers to know that there's no hope of ever living a normal life again, and that it will cause your life to spiral out of control and destroy your soul. And for this, Petro is a hero to white, feminist, educated (former) sex workers who also plan to stay firmly rooted in their pasts.
I refuse to give Melissa Petro the pity she craves. After all, she was the one who purposefully sought out attention from the press, and did so under her legal name. As much as I deeply, angrily disagree with social stigmas against having done sex work, the fact remains that we live in a world where they exist. If you work with kids (and there are doubtless many teachers out there with sex work pasts), and you value keeping that job, you don't run to the media with your story about being proud of having been a law-breaking, cash-for-sex prostitute. Is this Madonna/whore dynamic fair? Not at all, but sometimes, it's not about shame, it's about discretion.
Call me wacky, but if I desperately wanted to escape the fate of being known as a former sex worker, I'd probably stop writing articles about how I used to be a sex worker for major media outlets.
So, with the announcement of disgraced prostitute-patronising politician Elliot Spitzer getting back into politics, Petro has flagged down the media again and reminded them that she exists. She published a piece this week about how unfair it is that "we" "allow" men to move on with their lives after a sex scandal, but that women "like her" aren't "allowed" to move on. Allowed by who? It's a laughable premise. Petro has spent three years hollering and waving her arms wildly at anyone who will listen so she can tell them that while she is a former sex worker, she doesn't want to be thought of as a former sex worker. Those are not the actions of someone who's trying to turn a new leaf.
The reason Spitzer is successfully moving on from his past is because he's moving on from his past. He hasn't spent several years penning sob-story op-eds about how sad he is that he was caught being a client of an escort service. Spitzer did what people do when they actually want to move forward in their lives, and that's to move forward. It's not sexist oppression, it's not the patriarchy, it's not even whorephobia. Petro actively refuses to move on with her life, and actively tries to become better-known as a "famous" former sex worker, and then blames society, sexism, and sex work for the fact that she apparently has no life skills other than self-pity and seeking out media attention. I've followed her story from the sidelines, and even I don't think I would recognize her if I had a casual interaction with her. She's not so famous that she has no choice but to not move on, she doesn't have so recognizable a face that she can't walk down the street without attracting throngs of attention. (As someone who has spent 10 years making a living in porn precisely by getting my photos seen by as many people as possible, I hardly ever get recognized in public.)
At the end of the day, Melissa Petro is only person who thinks that Melissa Petro will never be able to move on from her titillating past. And that's her problem, it's certainly not emblematic of the experiences of all sex workers.
There are a ton of sex workers out there, and the vast, vast majority bow out quietly, without press releases or book deals. Sex work is a rather transient occupation, one that a person may do during college, or during a period of unemployment, or until they age out of their part of the industry. Most people don't stay in it for life, yet somehow, we forget that sex workers don't die or disappear upon retirement, they move on. You interact with retired sex workers every day of your life, you just don't know it because they choose to not make it the focus of everything they do for the rest of their lives. Despite the big lie pushed by former sex workers like Petro, you're not actually branded with "whore" on your forehead as you collect a final paycheck and clock out for the last time. (The exceptions are sex workers with criminal convictions, of course. Those really do stay with you life and hurt your abilities to get jobs and housing. But thankfully, most sex workers come out without any baggage that comes up in a credit report or search of court records.)
What I'm annoyed with is not just Petro's latest cries for attention, but the fact that within sex worker activisty and blogging circles, the only visible former sex workers are white, educated, middle/upperclass women who are now trying to make careers out of talking about how they used to be sex workers. They may not want to be held as representative former sex workers, but they're all we have, so they become the de facto standard.
It's a sad catch-22: the only visible former sex workers are people who want to be known for being former sex workers. If you're an isolated sex worker without a lot of friends or community support, you don't have anyone to talk to about the process of leaving the sex industry for something else. There are no good role models for retiring sex workers who don't want to be memoirists, naughty media personalities, or work for sex work-related NGOs. Which means there are no easy-to-find role models for the 99.999% of sex workers who will one day start a truly new chapter in their lives. Sure, if you want to write the 62,958th book about how you used to be a stripper in college, there are tons of people to look up to. I regularly see former sex worker-led workshops advertised to teach you how you can fulfill your dreams of writing about your experiences as a sex worker, but what if you don't want a book deal? (Or, what do you do when the whopping $3000 you got for that precious book deal is all gone?) What if you don't want to be famous as a former sex worker? Where are the people for you to turn to? Where's your support group and success stories?
And that's exactly the gaping void I want to address with the final project I want to do as a part of the sex workers' rights movement, and as I transition out of the industry myself. I want to create a resource for people leaving sex work for a life that isn't all about how they used to be a sex worker. Stay tuned!
by Furry Girl
There's been a distinct annoyance that has subtly and not-so-subtly been plaguing me since I decided to start moving out of the porn industry and into a new career. There's a new belief held about me by my family, and even a few of my acquaintances.
I'm talking about the belief that I'm finally getting my shit together, as evidenced by the fact that I'm becoming an adult and getting a real job. No longer am I frittering away my talents and intellect on something as stupid as porn, I'm now working on making something of myself.
I don't think anyone has phrased it quite like that, but there's been a pervasive, condescending sort of encouragement (very loudly from family members) that can really get to me at times. My dad and two of my cousins think it's awesome that I run porn sites, but the rest of my family has always had varying degrees of quiet embarrassment about the issue. During the holidays, I might have been asked in an obligatory manner, "So, how's that, uh, business of yours?", but I know they don't really care about the answer. Today, though, everyone seems proud of my big decision. I'm a big girl now!
This "support" is part of our cultural narrative that says sex work is a career of last resort, laziness, and above all, a refusal to "grow up." I ran my own successful small business for a decade, traveled the world, and even bought a home, but these typical markers of middle-class American success aren't considered sufficient evidence that my job was "real." No, it's only real work if it doesn't involve taking off your clothes. I didn't magically win the lottery, I've worked hard for what I have, and I'll always be incredibly proud of that. The flexible schedule and freedom that comes with being a sex worker is treated not like something I earned through tenacity and smart business planning, but is somehow emblematic of a refusal to make serious decisions.
I have grown to loathe the stereotype that leaving sex work means that you're getting your shit together, because for me, it's so hilariously ironic. Starting over at the bottom, learning an entirely new set of skills, taking a pay cut, stressing out about money and career opportunities? To me, that's not getting my shit together; leaving sex work is letting my shit completely fall apart. I know that mine is the right choice and that all the grunt work now is going to pay off well in the long-term, but I don't like how my decision is framed (both by family and society) as mature and responsible solely because I'm moving from a sexual related career to a nonsexual one. I don't like having this extra moral dimension projected onto my transition, one that I certainly wouldn't attract were I switching from being a chef to a librarian, or a lawyer to an investment banker.
This isn't to say that it's wrong to be happy for a sex worker friend who has made a decision to switch a new career. Be happy for them, be supportive, be encouraging - just be conscious of how you frame that support. Respect that for many sex workers, each of our careers are equally awesome and valid, and that our leaving sex work shouldn't be treated like breaking free from a harmful habit or childish diversion.
by Furry Girl
Yesterday, I went out to lunch with one of my nerdy friends from my new "straight life." (He's the only person in that sphere who knows that I've been working in porn for the last decade, a "big reveal" that I decided to allow to organically manifest itself in conversation as though it were nothing bizarre or noteworthy.) On our break, we lamented how frustrating it is to have to work with people you can't stand, or to make smalltalk about the weather because that's considered polite.
"I went to a big university, so if I didn't like someone, I'd never have to interact with them again. I could completely choose who was in my social circle."
"I've spent a decade running my own business, so I haven't been forced to spend time with people I don't like. I can jettison anyone, and it didn't matter to my bottom line. Now, I'm making an effort to not rock the boat because I'm the lowest person on the ladder and I need the good reference for later."
"It's so frustrating..."
"...now that we have to have to completely relearn our social skills."
We laughed, but it's true. One of the things I've been dealing with as I've been moving out of the sex industry is a longing for the shocking degree of freedom one has as a sex worker. Even if you're not fully running your own business the way I have been, sex workers generally have the ability to reject clients, to move to another strip club, find a new escort service, work for a different studio, and overall, set a much greater number of boundaries than your average worker. While that statement seems bizarre - how can you have "boundaries" if a stranger can see your naked body or is even having sex with you? - boundaries come in more forms than ones based on chastity.
With the vast, vast majority of jobs, a worker has very little control over their working environment, boss, coworkers, and upward mobility potential. A typical waitress doesn't show up to shifts only on days she feels like working, bouncing between various restaurants depending on which she prefers at the moment, the way a stripper might. A nurse knows he'll never be able to start his own hospital and declare himself its chief of surgery, unlike a porn star who works hard and invests his money in starting his own production company. For all the endless criticism lobbed at the sex industry for being a measure of last resort and misery, there's a huge and unrecognized amount of freedom in it, both freedom of association and the ability for your hard work to propel you upwards. The sex industry is the true "American dream," in that tenacity, hard work, and creativity can take a person (usually with no formal training and little startup capital) from poverty to the middle class more easily than any other industry.
One of the things I've been thinking about more lately is the issue of "association privilege," both how I've been lucky to have it as a sex worker, and how it remains perhaps the most invisible privilege. When framed in that way, it makes obvious a particularly strong correlation between the shrill lefty feminists who rail endlessly about how everyone is too "privileged," yet themselves possessing the privilege to choose their work environment, bosses/editors, and business/activist contacts. (I've long maintained that nothing is more indicative of privilege than spending all day on the internet picking fights with strangers about how privileged they are.) If someone wants to refuse to associate with anyone who isn't also a socialist feminist wannabe-academic that adorns their virtual spaces with Audre Lorde quotes and Foucault references, they can easily live in such a bubble. There are plenty of such bores in neighboring regions of the blogosphere. (Where all of these people make money remains a mystery. While I know that two big names in the sexy feminist scene have secret rich male partners/husbands who bankroll their lifestyles of being internet pesonas, I don't know how the others do it. NGO jobs? Sporadic paid writing gigs? Trust funds? Secret sex work?)
It all reminds me of a favorite section from a piece in The Atlantic a while back, which perfectly sums up the completely un-checked privilege that runs rampant among those who have declared themselves the enforcers of privilege-checking.
According to [UC Berkeley sociologist Neil] Gilbert, the debate over the value of women’s work has been framed by those with a too-rosy view of employment,
mainly because the vast majority of those who publicly talk, think, and write about questions of gender equality, motherhood, and work in modern society are people who talk, think, and write for a living. And they tend to associate with other people who, like themselves, do not have “real” jobs—professors, journalists, authors, artists, politicos, pundits, foundation program officers, think-tank scholars, and media personalities.
Many of them can set their own hours, choose their own workspace, get paid for thinking about issues that interest them, and, as a bonus, get to feel, by virtue of their career, important in the world. The professor admits that his own job in “university teaching is by and large divorced from the normal discipline of everyday life in the marketplace. It bears only the faintest resemblance to most work in the real world.” In other words, for the “occupational elite” (as Gilbert calls this group), unlike for most people, going to work is not a drag.
As an impolitic creature by nature (or hateful cunt, depending on who you ask), I've greatly enjoyed being in the "occupational elite" myself. As I shed this awesome privilege in order to start over, I wonder how many people in the world I'm leaving - both sex workers and/or feminists - realize the degree to which they hold this significant privilege themselves. Enjoy it while it lasts, because you'll miss it like crazy when you're making obligatory workplace smalltalk with people with whom you have little in common.
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.
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