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
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
I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles
by Lily Burana
A few weeks ago, I was doing a purge of my Amazon wishlist. When I came to Lily's Burana's I Love a Man in Uniform, I thought to myself, "Yeah, I liked her book about stripping and her legal fight against stage fees, but I only have so many hours in my week, and it's not like being married to someone in the military is something I'll ever need to know about." I almost deleted it, but figured I'd go ahead and read the book if someone else bought it for me.
Days later, I ran into a guy who I hadn't seem since we had a one-weekend stand in San Diego the spring of 2003. (We hooked up a few days after the US invaded Iraq for Gulf War 2.) As it turns out, he'd recently moved to Seattle, and had even gotten cuter in the last 9 years. We went out to dinner, where he revealed that one of the things he'd been up to since our tryst was that he'd been in the military. I laughed, and I assumed he was joking. What kind of sassy punk street artist willingly signs up for the US military? (I'd seen An Officer and a Gentleman - since when did the military even allow you to join if you have tattoos?) The guy's reasons and experiences are his story to tell, but overall, his intentions were good. I've seen a couple of photos of him from his enlisted days, and it's still hard to believe it's him in the fatigues, sporting a Forrest Gump haircut.
After our date, which lasted until 7 or 8 in the morning when we finally fell asleep, I ordered I Love a Man in Uniform, laughing at myself about how I'd assumed its contents would never even remotely apply to any situation I would find myself in. (This is not to say that I've found love at second sight, and am now plan on marrying my retired military fuck buddy. Don't worry, dude, I haven't gone all bunny-boiler on you! I do, however, like to put effort into learning about the people who share my bed.)
Lily Burana (@lilyburana) is perhaps best known as the author of Strip City, a memoir of her experiences as a stripper and peep show performer, including a legal battle in San Francisco against stage fees. At the end of the book, she has retired from sex work and fallen in love with a cowboy in Wyoming whom she plans to marry. I have always appreciated her fairly contented parting with sex work and activism, and ability to go forward knowing that she'd made a small dent, even if she didn't change the whole industry.
In this second memoir, I think Burana was able to make her specific scenario as "punk stripper turned military wife" universal, and I'd argue it speaks to plenty of aging sex workers like myself and those who are in some way moving from or between a "weird" life and a "normal" one. Here's a passage about Burana's failed relationship with her Wyoming fiance which deserves highlighting:
He wasn't a bad person by any means. He just wasn't in love with who I am; he was in love with who I used to be. I couldn't forget the time he referred to me as his "sexy Playboy model." It was 2001. I had modeled for Playboy in 1996. I was in Playboy in the previous century. If he'd built his esteem for me on something I couldn't possibly sustain, then where could we go from there? There's no such thing as an eternal vixen, even the dorky, alterna-girl variety. You get bored. You burn out. You turn thirty. The job description includes built-in obsolescence. I didn't want to be some post-stripper ghost-bride -- forever toting the shadow of my old self with me through my married life, stunted and soured by my own over-reliance on my past. It would mean living as a twisted Dickens heroine, wedded but locked into the persona I had already outgrown, becoming more snarled and diminished by the day. Miss Havisham of the pole.
There's a lot to like about Burana's writing and her life story, but my big gripe with this book is that "I Love a Man in Uniform" isn't just a title. Her uniform fetishist-level attention to detail for her husband's war paraphernalia takes up a sizable chunk of the book. Many pages are spent gushing about how sexy her man is in his uniform, how sexy his patches and rank insignia are, and how sexy sexy sexy it all is - and with the assumption that of course, readers share this enthusiasm. Burana spends a good bit of time cooing about how military men are so strong and chivalrous and know how to fix things and open jars for women, as though such a list of cliche masculine traits are possessed only by male members of the armed forces, and the rest of us are stuck dating a bunch of sissy boys who burst into tears at the thought of manual labor or dealing with a spider. (In contrast, my own physically strongest and most stereotypically manly-man friend spent his younger days as a member of Queer Nation and participating in anti-nuke civil disobedience.) Burana's occasional reminders to readers that she doesn't support the war or abuses like those at Abu Ghraib are diffused by being intermingled with long passages about how everything to do with the military is just so sexy and so impressive and so manly. (She notes later in the book that she's had a lifelong issue with compartmentalization.) It also annoys me that much is written that suggests that only those serving in the military know the meanings of sacrifice or loyalty, like the rest of the world is filled with useless flakes who have never made any hard decisions or endured difficulties in the name of their ideals. For Burana, the US military embodies all that is sexy and noble in the world.
But here's the thing: if you're decidedly anti-war, and don't get whipped into a heightened state of arousal at the mere sight of camo, you're not going to be buying a book called I Love a Man in Uniform in the first place. A good writer knows their audience. With cover praise from a military publication, and Amazon reviews from people who found the book at their base's commissary, it's clear that this book wasn't written for someone like me.
It's not as though I believe everyone connected to one of the tentacles of the military is an evil person. My father and both of my grandfathers are veterans. A number of people in my social circles work for defense contractors. One of my most silly and joyous friends does nerdy stuff for a company that also makes cluster bombs. And then there's my new ex-military fuck buddy. The thing is, I care for and appreciate these people in spite of their work for the military, not because of it. I'd never say, "Hey man, can I lick the corporate logo on your paycheck from Raytheon? I'm going to picture that when I'm masturbating tonight."
But, even with all the book's girlish squealing about how sexy and manly military men are, Burana does have a solid and serious journey underneath that I enjoyed reading, including her time in therapy to deal with PTSD from childhood abuse. My favorite chapter, of course, is the one where Burana explores her prior life as a sex worker now that she's had years of distance.
When pondering the complexity of how who I was squares with who I am now, men tend to laugh, but women tend to get agitated. It taps directly into a basic female social anxiety: that a woman's past will cost her a future. Indeed, in some cases, that does happen. (Hi there, Miss Lewinsky!) I did worry that someone might snub me when they found out, and though he assured me that it wouldn't, I worried that it would reflect poorly on Mike. In the face of those fears, I tried to be Teflon Annie. Sometimes it worked.
Still, I didn't fret too terribly much, because I was learning that military people are sophisticated-- more so than civilians assume. They understand what it's like to be judged unfairly. Sex work and soldiering are both flash-point vocations-- rife with public misconceptions and stereotypes.
Then, Burana reminds me of some things I've been thinking about a lot lately:
I don't miss the hustle. When I danced, I thought of the dough in aggregate terms-- two hundred, three hundred, five hundred, a thousand dollars a shift. Only after I quit did I ever break it down: On a two-hundred-dollar night, ten guys paid me twenty dollars each to sit in their lap. Yet if a man at a bus stop had offered me twenty dollars to do the same thing, I would have spat in his face. Context becomes another form of compartmentalization.
Over the weekend, one cam client was particularly annoying, and I only netted $8 from our five minutes of paid time together. It's one of those moments when you step back and go, "What the hell just happened? Why did I put up with someone so rude - who got to see me naked - for less than the cost of a plate of pad Thai? Why should I feel this intruded upon for eight fucking dollars?" Making a couple hundred bucks from the comfort of home is greatly tempered by the realization that it was earned in such a piecemeal fashion. I wonder for how many sex workers that sort of realization is one of the things that inspires them to leave.
And Burana's big question, explored in much of the book,
The stripper life is far behind me and recedes more and more in the rearview mirror day by day. It is, literally, not my business anymore. But the threat of sex-specific scorn wakes me up, reminds me of where I've been. When I hear or read attacks full of fuming generalizations and analyses that are basically little more than finely honed hate, I feel moved to defend my fallen-angel comrades. These are people I know. These are people I love. On their uniform sleeve, combat veterans wear the patch of the unit with which they fought, even decades later. In a less visible way, I do the same: Hey, haters, I served in the porno trenches with these people. Deal. But if I didn't belong there, and I didn't belong at West Point, then where, exactly, did I belong?
Lily Burana ultimately found her sense of belonging in the West Point world with her husband. I'm genuinely glad when anyone from Team Ho finds their true place in the world, whether it's inside or outside of the sex industry. A married life in the military is certainly not the sort of happy ending that I want for myself, but despite that, I think we can all see Burana's tale as a success story.
Buy the book through this Amazon link and a portion of the sales price will go to SWAAY.
by Furry Girl
With all the talk last month about Sucker Punch, and negative and offensive portrayals of sex workers in general, I wanted to write an ode to a different action movie from 15 years ago. I realize I've been doing less "weighty" blogging in the last couple of months, but this post isn't as shallow as it might sound. How sex workers are represented in both the press and popular fiction is a subject that interests me, as these are the representations that influence the public - for better or worse.
Action and horror movies do tend to have a greater representation of sex workers as non-victim characters, but none of them have really resonated with me. For example: I remember how excited I was when I read that George Romero's Land of the Dead would have a zombie-killing hooker as a main character. But, of course, it is revealed that she was only a sex worker because the dictator of her post-apocalyptic society forced her to take that job, and she actually wanted to be in the militia protecting the city. Thus, the character is redeemed to the audience for her whore-y sins, since they were not her choice.
I recently tweeted about how I'm not aware of a mainstream movie with a more positive and non-sensationalistic portral of a sex worker as the 1996 action hit Independence Day, and I wanted to expand on that. Its director, Rolland Emmerich, is known for over-the-top absurdist visual spectacles of destruction with overbearing musical scores, such as in The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. Yet, in Independence Day, he created the most normal sex worker character I've ever seen in a Hollywood film: Jasmine, played by Vivica A Fox.
Jasmine is a stripper who lives with her boyfriend Steve, a pilot in the US Marines who dreams of working for NASA. She has a young son, and they live in a house in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Her job as a stripper is treated as pretty much like any other job, and there's no dramatic scene where she's gang-raped and then made fun of, and her story is not one of being rescued from her work by a man. She expresses zero desire to "escape" the sex industry, nor does her partner ever ask that of her.
Jasmine's job doesn't even really come into the plot, aside from a couple of of key moments: Steve's friend making a disparaging comment about the respectability of marrying a stripper, and Jasmine telling the First Lady (whose life she tries to save) that she's an exotic dancer, not a ballet dancer. (These scenes can be found at 4:29 and 11:05, respectively, in my clip video posted below.) The fact that this is not a "sex worker movie" makes it all the more cheer-worthy to me. It's an action movie with a heroic character who just happens to also be a stripper. It's very normalizing, despite being set in a movie about an alien invasion, filled to the brim with explosions and aerial fight sequences. Independence Day was one of the highest-grossing films of all time when it came out, so it's not some art house flick with progressive themes that no one would ever see.
I went through and clipped all the Jasmine scenes from the movie, boiling it down to an 18-minute look at her and her relationship with Steve, the main hero of the film, played by Will Smith. (I think it's fair to say that this is the primary romantic relationship of the movie. The audience is meant to be rooting for them.)
Click the screenshot or click here to view or download my re-edit in Quicktime (.mov) format, which is 25 mb. (I recommend watching the entirety of Independence Day on a regular basis anyhow.)
What this movie tells the audience about Jasmine and her life:
* Sex workers can be loving parents.
* Sex workers can live in normal houses in normal neighborhoods.
* Sex workers can have loving relationships with a partner who is not a pimp, sleazebag/loser, or a customer trying to rescue them. (I think this one is especially awesome and important to note.)
* Sex workers' partners can catch flak about their jobs. There is stigma to loving a sex worker, but if you're a good person, you won't let that stop you.
* Sex workers can care about each other.
* Sex workers can outrun explosions.
* Sex workers can be tough survivors.
* Sex workers can be capable leaders who take initiative.
* Sex workers can be discreet when dealing with famous people.
* Sex workers can be compassionate.
* Sex workers can be unashamed of their jobs and and tell people what they do for a living without making apologies.
* Sex workers can be on the hero team, rather than being caricatures, victims, and villains.
by Furry Girl
I was feeling angsty and sad one night over the weekend, ranting to New Boy about my issues with Old Boys. Poor sweet New Boy, he listens so patiently, even though he's no doubt sick of hearing me bitch about this topic.
Like every other sex worker - whether they'll talk about it openly or not - some of the people I've dated/fucked have treated me un-awesomely, to one degree or another, due to my occupation. Earlier this year, I was involved with two men who had argued that it could screw up their careers if it was found out that they were linked to the likes of me - as though I'm some kind of wanted Taliban operative who plays target practice with babies in my spare time. I think both of these guys were just using the work excuse as a bullshit cover for not have to deal with the risk of personal embarrassment over sleeping with a girl who takes her clothes off for money. (This sort of issue is not confined solely to sex workers; see Violet Blue blogging about her similar experiences as a sex writer here.)
I recently posted a half-serious ever-so-web-2.0 relationship/friendship definition on Twitter: "It only exists if it's on the internet and indexable." This year, I've gotten increasingly stubborn about the idea that I am done hooking up with anyone who makes a show out of the importance keeping things off-the-grid.
Part of me wants to declare that we sex workers should all stand up for ourselves and our dignity and stage a big boycott of dating/fucking people for free who are too cowardly to associate with sex workers outside of the bedroom. But, I realize that's impractical for a lot of sex workers (such as the ones who are still in the closet themselves), and I'll probably break my boycott someday anyway, since I'm lousy at dogmatism. But still - imagine if more sex workers did make that decision right now and stopped enabling people to reap the rewards of sleeping with sexually skilled partners, while refusing to "give back" by being our most intimate of allies. A partner who exhibits behaviors to let you know they are ashamed of you is inflicting a form of emotional abuse, plain and simple.
I'm a fairly public person who lives on the internet and blogs and Twitter. I am not saying I have no sense of privacy or discretion when it comes to my personal life and the wishes of my partners, but that's a whole different matter than being curtly confronted about how I am not allowed to tell people that we've slept together.
The guy I refer to as Mr Personal Assistant had his employee relate to me that "his career is just too important right now", and that "with the media all over him", he just couldn't be linked to a sex worker. I wanted to scream at him - had he had the nerve to actually tell me this himself - "Who the hell do you think you are? One article about you in Wired Magazine does not mean the media is 'all over you' like an insatiable swarm of tabloid paparazzi, eager to catch you in a headline-making sex scandal." (For those of you know know who I'm talking about, you are no doubt laughing hysterically right now.)
While not a single photo ever existed of that asshole and I - whether on our iPhones or the cover of Us Weekly - it's a different story with the long-term ex. He wasn't a legendary douchebag like the other guy, but his more subtle behaviors still chipped away at me. We both love photography, and took plenty of photos of each other. When we went on vacation, for example, there were many "us in front of this thing" touristy images, candid glimpses we'd catch of each other, or just photos of us making silly faces at each other when we were bored. I knew, without needing reminding, that photos like these were not pieces of my life that I could upload to my Flickr account.
Being a sex worker has meant knowing exactly how many times I've appeared in publicly-viewable photos with a person I've dated/fucked. And that answer is often "zero".
With the long-term ex, the one with a camera ever-present around his neck, I know where all six of his photos of me are. Two are at a conference, two are at a large party, and two are from our vacation. All of these photos imply that I'm just some person who happened to be in the same place, perhaps a casual acquaintance, or the back of the head of a tourist who obtusely wandered into the frame of his perfect shot. Never, ever, is there a photo of us together, and gods forbid, certainly not a photo that implies we were "involved". If you're someone who knew us, and looked at his prolific photo-taking, I would think it actually stands out that he has oodles of photos of all of his friends, including other women he's been involved with, except for me. That still stings. (It reminds me of the scene in The Village where one character informs another that he knows a certain man is very attracted to her. She asks him how he could be so certain of that. The answer? "Because he never touches you".)
This summer, I've been trying to up my game on my "scare 'em away plan" of sorting new potential mates. This weekend, I disclosed to New Boy that I had been testing him a bit. When we met, I liked him right away, so I immediately set about trying to seduce him - and, of course, see if he was going to be scared away.
On the first night we were getting to know each other, a friend took a photo of us together at a club, which I found in her Flickr stream. Throughout the coming weeks, I kept at it. I not only stood next to him in photos, I put my arm around him! I exhibited body language that suggested sexual attraction! And, New Boy passed this simple-but-vital test of mine with flying colors. He uploaded these photos alongside all his other photos, like there was something totally unremarkable and non-shameful that his friends, family, and coworkers would be able to see us together. This sounds trivial to civilians, but after my last year of problematic mating, it makes me feel stupidly warm and fuzzy. No one knows if or where things will progress with New Boy, but he's certainly set the bar high for everyone who comes next, just by being sane and normal towards me, rather than acting like he's an evangelical preacher cheating on his wife and I'm an underage gay hustler.
After the end of the conversation wherein I revealed my photo test to New Boy, I was curling up in bed, and texted him my closing thoughts for the night: "Thank you for treating me the way I think I deserve to be treated."
And thanks to all the other slut-lovers and ho-lovers out there for simply acting like we are regular human beings, not plague-infected, career-ruining embarrassments. You all rule.
[Edited to add: I worry this post comes across like I'm throwing a major pity party for myself and that my love life is completely shitty. It's not at all, and I also recognize that I have had much, much better luck with the dating scene than many other sex workers. It's just that this last year contained some notable unpleasantness in my personal life for me, and two guys who represent different ends of the spectrum of how partners of sex workers can react poorly to our work. One, overtly, one, more subtly. While I still really want to punch Mr Personal Assistant in the face, I only harbor minor resentment towards my longer-term ex, who was, in most ways, a really awesome partner.]
by Furry Girl
"My lovely friend — I’ll call her Ophelia. We both realized that we'd been through bad breakups simultaneously, and clinked glasses. I told her about what ended the relationship with toxic boy; about him seducing another woman in front of me and walking in on them in bed together. That I dated him for two months but no one knew; he told me not to blog him, he kept out of public photos with me, didn't want his photo on my blog. That he'd give me little presents related to my life/work but I couldn’t blog that he gave them to me — even once told me to lie and say they were from someone else. I told Ophelia about all of this, and she understood. She especially understood why I let this happen to me; her situation was identical, having dated someone who wanted to be with her, but then wanted everything that made her *her* to change.
Ophelia is an icon in her realm; while I’m a sex blogger, a sex writer, sex educator, and a very public one at that. And we both *get* boundaries. But I write about my life *and* my life's work — which is to normalize sex and change the cultural conversation about sex, at least in my generation. And I’m not ashamed of what I do.
I told Ophelia, it's as if these boys — they're attracted to the persona, the passion for sex culture, the attention, the notoriety, the outspoken and frank nature of the way her and I relate sex to the world, the openness — that's the spark. I live and breathe sex and blogging and everything that goes with it. It's oxygen. Ophelia and I are both public sex personas, which is what attracts people, but then they want to get rid of that. A killing jar is designed to preserve the insect's appearance."
-- Violet Blue, in kiss me to the ground on tinynibbles.com
(This one is probably my favorite post on Violet's blog.)
by Furry Girl
[The title for this post is a quote from Lee Harrington, from the amazing relationship roundtable titled "Your Girlfriend SUCKS!... for Money!" The context of his quote was among commentary on those of us with the overlapping traits of being sex workers, kinksters, and polyamorous/non-monogamous.]
It's no secret that my spring was really shitty. I had two bad splits from people I was involved with, and wasn't feeling motivated to do much of anything besides sleep. My summer, however has been amazing: filled with travel, good friends, excellent food, partying, sex, and seeing inspiring people fighting for various issues. If I was a low-IQ midwesterner, I'd label the season "chicken soup for the soul", but since I'm a city-dwelling vegan rationalist, I prefer "come shots for the sapient."
At the end of July, I spent 10 days in Las Vegas - which is the most loathesome place in the entire world - and ended up loving pretty much every moment of it. I was there primarily for the Desiree Alliance conference, but as coincidence would have it, the 2010 whorecon overlapped precisely with a couple of nerd conventions that I've attended in the past. I don't think I'll ever have more people I love occupying the same city at the same time.
Thank you so much to the Desiree Alliance conference organizers, volunteers, speakers, and attendees for carving out a wonderful place to be in Las Vegas for a week. I liked that an over-arching theme in so many presentations (I was mainly interested in the business tract, mind you) was the importance of working independently, and how empowering it is to be calling your own shots. I couldn't agree more.
One of the things I want to praise is the conference's expectations form, which all presenters and attendees were required to read and sign at registration. This policy was apparently based on an agreement from Dark Odyssey, at the suggestion of Sarah Sloane. It's a kick-ass statement on the rights and responsibilities of participants at a sex-positive event, so I'm quoting it in full. (Same list of expectations for attendees as for presenters/volunteers, just different titles for each form.) Readers know that I've long had a huge bee in my bonnet about people/conferences not being real allies to sex workers. Consider this a starting point for making your events safe spaces for sex workers.
Our Expectations of Presenters and Volunteers:
Our presenters and volunteers are the public face of Desiree Alliance, and we ask that all presenters and volunteers agree to support the following ideals during their time at the conference:
A) As a presenter or volunteer, you are in a position of trust regarding attendees' identities & levels of privacy. In order to protect all attendees, we ask that you:
-Respect that some attendees have separate identities for separate parts of their lives; do not disclose personal information about them without their express permission.
-Do not share with people outside of the Desiree Alliance conference any information about who is and is not in attendance.
-Identify them at the conference with the name that is on their badge, even if you know them by another name.
B) You understand and agree to practice the principles of Desiree Alliance including diversity, respect, tolerance, acceptance, openness, and non-judgmental support. You understand and agree to not make any assumptions as to the sexual orientation, partner choice, physical ability, race, spiritual affiliation or belief, class, kink or sex work interests of any attendee.
C) You understand and agree to practice a gender neutral policy. Desiree Alliance is committed to being a safe, inclusive, welcoming, and positive space for people of all genders. We ask that you do not make any assumptions about someone's gender identity, genital configuration, or the pronouns they prefer. Please respect everyone's self-identification. If you are unsure about how someone would like to be referred to, please just ask them.
D) You will take your role as presenter or volunteer seriously and professionally. Know that you are a representative of Desiree Alliance. You will not use your position to practice or promote classist, sexist, racist, homophobic, or other kinds of bigoted behavior. You will abide by the rules of the conference which include local laws and hotel policies.
I was involved in a couple of presentations, both of which seemed to be quite well-received.
The first was one I did was titled "Solo girl: An introduction to operating your own porn site". I was nervous about being able to condense all the material I wanted to cover into a 40-minute time slot, but amazingly, I did so, with 4 minutes to spare. I skipped out on all the personal storytelling, and went at things point-by-point, hitting the most useful and practical advice I could think of for aspiring indie pornographers. I will not be posting my slides or notes for this presentation online. It remains my opinion that if you're serious about starting a business, you can be serious enough to travel to an industry conference for your new chosen profession.
The second was a panel I did with Amanda Brooks, Dr Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour), and Alex Sotirov, titled "Safety for Sex Workers Through Personal Privacy: Digital and Real-World Techniques For Safeguarding Your Identity and Your Life". I believe that a recording of this panel will be made available soon, and I'll post that once it appears. Brooke and Alex are also planning to expand a bit on the material they covered at the conference, and I'll post their notes here. (Not sure if Amanda plans on posting her materials on her own blog, but she highly recommended the book "How To Be Invisible" by JJ Luna.) I'll also post a separate entry covering my portion of the panel. This topic could have easily been a half-day workshop, but I think the four of us did a kick-ass job of narrowing things down to the most important basics that every sex worker needs to know.
To get a feel for what else went on at the conference, see the schedule here. Personally, my favorites were Dr Joycelyn Elders' keynote, Kimberlee Cline and Mariko Passion's talk on coming out to friends and family, Kirk Read's keynote (watch video), Serpent Libertine and Bebe's ethical sex worker discussion, Nina Hartley's keynote (watch video), and the roundtable on sex workers and relationships.
I especially liked the relationship discussion because it's a subject that's been extra-present in my life this year, and it's good to be amongst other people who've experienced similar issues at some point or another. I had been with a primary partner/dominant I was in love with, but no matter how happy I was at any given moment, there was always an unspoken expiration date on our relationship. What he was really looking for for a girl who restrains her kink to the bedroom, her weirdness to an annual trip to Burning Man, and was, overall, a person with a non-embarrassing occupation with whom he could have a litter of children in the suburbs and share a mostly heteronormative life. That is not now, or ever will be me.
The transgressions I've made against traditional society (as a sterilized, clamorous, out-and-proud sex working pervert) aren't things that most people can deal with. They're not piercings you can remove, tattoos you can cover, funny-colored hair you can dye back to normal, or the occasional tab of acid you can plausibly deny ever having taken. They're not surface-level personality quirks purchased from Hot Topic - they're the things that define the core of who I am as a human being. Through the experiences with my main ex, along with having another guy ditch me solely on the grounds of my being a sex worker, I've been coming to realize how deeply and permanently totally fucking aberrant I am in the eyes of society, and that I need to work even more diligently at repelling mates who aren't okay with who I am. (I already knew I was weird, and tried my best to warn people of that, but I'm apparently not working fervently enough at this task.)
My contribution to the relationship discussion was pointing out that those of us who are sexually different in some way or another are basically in two camps when it comes to finding mates. You can try to gently ease people in - such as another person's suggestion that one start out by telling a partner that they used to be a dancer and see how the they react, and then consider telling them the whole truth from there. This has never been my strategy, because it means hiding who I am by default, and the whole dynamic seems designed to put sex workers on the defensive about the lies and omitted truths upon which they founded their relationships. It's too sneaky and dishonest for me. My strategy is one I flatly referred to as the scare 'em away plan. I am upfront with anyone I consider dating or hooking up with- I want them to run away, as soon as humanly possible, if they know they aren't going to be okay with me making a living taking my clothes off for strangers. I don't want to build a sexual and romantic relationship with someone - pulling a bait and switch, essentially - and tell them the truth only after they've gotten attached to me. Such a dynamic seems doomed to fail and hurt all parties, although it does work out for some sex workers.
And anyway, why would I want to fuck someone who might be anti-sex worker? A few years ago I had a brief tryst with a guy whom I later learned to be a homophobe, and I felt so icky that someone like that got to have his dick in my mouth. I can't imagine wanting to set myself up for such potentially disgusting and hurtful discoveries every single time I got involved with anyone. I don't want to fuck or love people who might despise me if they actually knew the truth about me. So yes, please- let them run screaming, because I'd be running away screaming, too.
Dating/mating as a sex worker isn't easy. I wish we could have a weekend retreat or unconference on this subject, open to sex workers and their partners. I wonder if there would be many takers for such a thing if I tried to cat-herd people into doing that at some time in the future?
by Furry Girl
"My generation saw in The Graduate that there is one romantic strategy to use above all others: persistence. This same strategy is at the core of every stalking case. Men pursuing unlikely or inappropriate relationships with women and getting them in a common theme promoted in our culture. Just recall Flashdance, Tootsie, The Heartbreak Kid, 10, Blame it on Rio, Honeymoon in Vegas, Indecent Proposal.
This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn't Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl. Many movies teach you that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you've treated her like trash (and sometimes because you've treated her like trash), you'll get the girl.
Even if men and women in America spoke the same language, they would still live by much different standards. For example, if a man in a movie researches a woman's schedule, finds out where she lives and works, even goes to her workplace uninvited, it shows his commitment, proves his love. When Robert Redford does this to Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal, it's adorable. But when she shows up at his work unannounced, interrupting a business lunch, it's alarming and disruptive.
If a man in the movies wants a sexual encounter or applies persistence, he's a regular, everyday guy, but if a woman does the same thing, she's a maniac or a killer. Just recall Fatal Attraction, The King of Comedy, Single White Female, Play Misty For Me, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and Basic Instinct. When men pursue, they usually get the girl. When women pursue, they usually get killed."
-- Gavin de Becker, in his book, The Gift of Fear.
by Furry Girl
"Wait - didn't he know what you did for a living before hooking up with you?"
That's the confused, am-I-missing-something-here question almost everyone has interrupted me to ask as I explained the first of my two nasty splits from the last two months.
The answer is that yes, he knew exactly what I do. He knew before our first drunken makeout session at a party last summer, before our first date last fall, before he ever put his dick in me this spring. In fact, he went on and on, profusely about how much he supported my decision to be a sex worker and how people ought to treat us with more respect. He told me that my then-boyfriend was "classless" for having asked me to go with him to a work function as a "web designer" rather than a "pornographer". He once even used the phrase "honored to help" when presented with a way to do something for the sex worker community.
You can tell where this is going, right? It's like waiting for the punch line in the latest news story that begins with, "One of the nation's most prominent evangelical anti-gay activists was recently caught..."
This guy made himself officially my first split based on my job! I can't believe it took me 8 years in porn to find - and copulate with - a guy to drop me like toxic waste for no other reason than fear of personal embarrassment about my work. (I've seen other sex workers cycle through these assholes more regularly.) I got the full bullshit parade. "Look at me! I adore and respect sex workers! I'm such a good guy! I can't lie to anyone! I respect you and think you're wonderful!" Until, that is, a couple of weeks after our long-distance half-year flirt-fest was sealed with several days holed up in my place fucking. Ohhh... so that's what it feels to have a guy manipulate and lie his way into your vagina!
Here's the real punch line, though: the guy had his personal assistant do the dirty work rather than tell me himself. Aspiring yuppie douchebags take note! A girl will never forget that special first time when a man's personal assistant calls to lecture her about how his career is just too important right now for him to risk being publicly associated with a girl like her. Kicking a girl in her most sensitive areas via text message is so lower middle class. A true gentleman has an employee do it.
Or, if you like cruel jokes with two punch lines: he later did bother to tell me himself that he hoped we could still be "good friends" in spite of his decision. Since we were never "together", I'm taking "good friends" to mean "I'd still like to put my penis in your holes when I'm in Seattle." Honey, if you want to fuck sex workers, but don't want to be connected to them in broad daylight, that's not referred to as "close friendship". It's calling being a paying customer.
Sigh. And I was doing so well. I'd only had one other asshole in the last three years, which feels closer to 30 in a sex worker dating years.
Split two was with the boyfriend, which was a more complex situation. It was my longest relationship. We'd been in this weird grey area for 6 months leading up to the final breakup in May, when I just couldn't handle dealing with his problems any more. It called to mind an image of a dangerous attempt by a non-pro to rescue a wildly thrashing drowning person.
Both splits hit me hard enough to knocking the proverbial air out of me, but in different ways. Thinking of suitor number one makes feel me angry and used. Thinking of suitor number two makes me feel exhausted and sad. It's resulted in my neglecting work and focusing on tending to myself, which means in an already recession-plagued economy, the last two months have not been too profitable.
One of the things I've heard many sex workers say over the years, as another is going through a breakup, is "invoice him!" It seems to be one of our fallback jokes. I've had half a dozen people implore me of that lately. But, it's not the sex I want to invoice them for. I wish I could invoice them for the less tangibly quantifiable degrees of emotional distress and subsequent distraction from work they'd both put me though this spring. I wish I had something to show for it all other than being wiser in mate-selection in the future. You can't take that consolation-prize sentiment and spoon it at night, or pay your bills with it.
I needed to get some fresh air.
I headed off to Mexico for 8 nights - unfortunately, though, not at the expense of either of the boys. (I believe that people who drive you to necessitating stress-related vacations should be responsible for at least half of the cost, like an abortion.) I'm now settling back in at home, but I had a lovely time on the beach in a rural part of the Yucatan.
I still can't really take much comfort in chalking it all up to experience, but at least I got a tan and some time to disconnect.
by Furry Girl
"Straight people are encouraged by culture and society to believe that their sexual impulses are the norm, and therefore when their affairs of the heart and loins go wrong (as they certainly will), when they are flummoxed, distraught and defeated by love, they are forced to believe that it must be their fault. We gay people at least have the advantage of being brought up to expect the world of love to be imponderably and unmanageably difficult, for we are perverted freaks and sick aberrations of nature. They - poor normal lambs - naturally find it harder to understand why, in Lysander's words, 'the course of true love never did run smooth'."
-- Stephen Fry, in a beautifully-written letter to himself, Dearest absurd child, on guardian.co.uk
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