Coming Out Like a Porn Star

I read Jiz Lee’s Coming out Like a Porn Star over spring break and was so happy I finally had some time for pleasure reading. This book totally delivered on being thought-provoking, insightful, and providing diverse and unique perspectives from a wide range of people, and reignited my thoughts about my own coming out questions related to dancing. If you’re looking to expand your understanding of what it means to work in the porn industry and how workers negotiate and navigate the coming out process (to family, friends, lovers, kids, straight jobs/employers, the world) I highly recommend this anthology.

For me, I think about:

Who is safe to come out to as a stripper? Do I have a sense already of their sex work politics? How risky is this? What is the likelihood that this relationship is at risk if I come out?

When does someone deserve to know, or when have they earned the intimacy in their relationship with me to know?

What are the potential consequences, negative and positive, of coming out? And in what domains- professionally, socially, romantically, mentally, emotionally, etc?

What are my values? How does coming out fit in, or not, with my values?

Largely my coming out experiences have been positive (socially). Academically and professionally, my experiences have been mixed, with a heavy dose of awful (if you’ve been reading my blog for years you know the story). Some family knows (some because I told them and some because they found out through my blog), and some family doesn’t (as far as I know). It’s a constant negotiation I process of who gets to know when and how and why and for whose benefit and at what cost, and certainly reminds me of my coming out process as queer and poly (and I can imagine may be similar to a trans person’s coming out process).

💖

Patronage & Empowerment

Two pieces I recommend this week related to sex work:

‘Insatiable’: One Woman’s Love Affair With The Porn Industry

and

Erica’s latest awesome comic on being a good strip club patron

Thursday night I worked (danced) and it was a rough time for me! I was so tired at 12:30am- and still had at least an hour and a half to go. It didn’t help that a group of guys came in who barely gave me any energy or money; it wasn’t enough to go off of and forget that I was as sleepy as I was. And yet, I kept smiling and laughing to myself: I’m so tired, I have to get up in seven hours for my other job, these guys are boring and making me even more tired. Why am I doing this? And the answer kept coming back: because I love this job. I love performing, I love getting naked, I love making awesome money doing it (ha, not from those particular guys, but in general).

One unexpected interaction I had was with a young guy (just turned 21) who moved out here not that long ago from Florida… because his ex stabbed him. He disclosed this only after I told him what I do for my day job. “I guess you could call me a victim of domestic violence,” he said. He cried. “The cops just laughed at me.” It’s not your fault. Thank you for telling me. That’s fucked up. I’m so sorry that happened. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship. There are some certain interactions I can count on working in a strip club, and even though I don’t count on interactions like this one, I am thankful I have the ability to navigate them.

2014-07-22stripclub

Control & Support Groups

I have been fairly pissed the past couple of weeks, because for some strange unknown reason, the manager at my club just stopped scheduling me. I’ve worked there almost two years! The first week was the week that made me most mad- it was my regular shift I signed up for, and I have a really limited availability since I work during the week. I was frustrated all week about it, and primarily because my manager just did not communicate with me about why I wasn’t scheduled. He just didn’t tell me anything about it. If it was a mistake, that’s fine- tell me. If there’s a reason, that’s fine- tell me. No communication is just immature, unprofessional, and disrespectful. And then this past weekend, I sent in my shift request late and it was for a shift that I never work, so I expected not to be scheduled. Still, when I wasn’t, I was frustrated.

But it finally gave me a kick in the pants to move beyond my comfort zone and go audition at other places. I auditioned at one new place this past week, and it was exhilarating to be in a new space with new people. I’d like to audition at a few other places and ride the energy of exploring new places. I am such a creature of routine that it usually takes me getting pretty upset or frustrated with something before I try to change it. So here’s to some change!

And I realized why it got under my skin so badly. It reminded me of my experience with school this past year, and someone else controlling how and when and where I use my body. My professor told me, in essence, I needed to choose between education and stripping. And the manager at my regular club told me, by not scheduling me, that I was not going to strip at his club. The lack of agency I felt was overwhelming. Now that I recognize that that was the underlying drive and feeling, I have been more relaxed, knowing I can find another place to dance if need be.

Similar to the constraining feelings of control- this piece on Stripper Economics was recently published by the Portland Mercury, and delves a little bit into the independent contractor versus employee issue. It’s a little flat, but decent coverage of how the work environment is in Portland clubs. It doesn’t seem like the reporter talked to many dancers, which is unfortunate.

In other sex work-related news, I am starting a sex worker support group through SWOC and my work. I am stoked about it! I have had some interesting conversations with various people about it, and I am really excited to have my first one in just over a week. If you’re in the Portland area, 18+, and currently working in the sex industry, feel free to get in touch if you’d like to attend.

This is Belle Knox’s most recent article; it’s fabulous. I love the term “whorearchy.” The sentiments she discusses are spot-on and exactly what I’ve felt the past couple years working in the industry myself. It’s also something I am wary of as I begin the support group: I want to make sure workers of all stripes feel included and respected within the group. Ideally I want the group to be a space of understanding and solidarity. Hopefully that’s what it becomes.

End of Week Links

Honorary degrees for legendary pornstars

St. James Infirmary: I am in awe of this organization. I wish I had known about it sooner! It is an occupational safety organization for sex workers. They have an amazing handbook for workers, they employ workers on their staff, they do harm reduction and outreach services, and provide free healthcare to workers… all in SF. It would be so amazing to have something like this in Portland.

Beware the Kerkeslager Effect

What Happened When One Woman Had Her Picture Photoshopped In 25 Different Countries

Happy Summer Solstice!

Today feels worthy of celebration. The longest day of the year, sunshine, warmth, earthly goodness. I love summer time in Portland.

Last year I was celebrating by having a threesome with my girlfriend and J. It was spectacular! I wrote about it here. It has taken me a long time to release the frustration and resentment I felt toward her after our break up, but I finally feel like I am free of most of the yucky stuff. I am thinking back on this night last year with fondness and little sadness.

My energy has totally ramped up this past week. I’m feeling so much better about myself, despite my weight gain. I’ve been turned on all the time. And do you want to know something?

I watched porn by myself for the first time today. Lesbian porn. I wanted to see tits, and I wanted to watch another woman enjoy tits. It was crazy good! And yeah, I can’t believe I’m 26 and watched porn for the first time (by myself- I have watched different porn with J a number of times).

And I danced today, and it was a great shift. I had fun, and my new focus of it as a part time job has helped immensely. It’s not a hobby. I have fun shifts and less fun shifts, but it’s a job. I do it to make money. And I made good money today.

And now, J and I are sitting, and we are going to enjoy each other’s company.

How are you celebrating the light?

Kyriarchy

I feel a little late to the feminist table: why hadn’t I come across the word “kyriarchy” before? I don’t know, but now I have. This post does a good job of explaining the difference between kyriarchy and patriarchy. It may seem simply like semantics, but I think the difference in definitions is important to understand.

Kyriarchy is about examining all systems of oppression and privilege, and not just the system of patriarchy and the power that men hold over women. I love this piece from post I linked to:

“Kyriarchy is more descriptive of the approach I try to take to feminism. The word considers all parts of the oppressive structure we live in evenly – no one oppression is worse or better or more important than another. We are all subject to kyriarchy, and we all benefit from kyriarchy; we all share the burden and the blame in different measures and proportions.”

And, she goes on to quote a scholar, who mentions:

“When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy.  When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy.  When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy.  It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid.  At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.”

Does that make sense? We all embody varying degrees of privileged and marginalized identities, and how we experience privilege and oppression changes depending on context. I’ve understood this phenomenon to be true, but I just never knew there was a word to describe it.

I love this concept because it helps, for me, to explain why I can experience oppression and privilege in the system of a strip club, and why I can experience both oppression and privilege walking into an academic setting or my work setting. It helps explain why a strip club customer embodies both oppression privilege. It helps me breathe a sigh of relief because our world is not so neat and tidy as being able to say “sex workers are oppressed people” or “white people are privileged people.” (Yes, I do think that most of the time in most contexts white people hold far more power than people of color- and I’ve never personally experienced a time in my life where I have felt noticeably less powerful than a person of color. But, I do think there are situations and contexts in which the power dynamic shifts).

For example, this post ventures down this path and I appreciate the writer’s analysis of kyriarchy. My beef with her post, though, is her extension into what kyriarchy means for sex workers. She immediately starts talking about workers in trafficking or abusive relationships with pimps, and discounts the experiences of workers who choose their line of work. So, I would agree with her that it is kyriarchical of her to analyze sex workers’ experiences as she does (“But, and maybe this is kyriarchal of me, when people claim that sex workers derive power from their work, it gives me pause.”)

I appreciate this article on The Guardian, and this particular passage:

“Perhaps most importantly, kyriarchy exposes a sin within the women’s movement itself: that of feminist-perpetuated oppression. (I can already hear feminists hissing at me as I type. But don’t worry – I’ll hiss at myself in the mirror later for perpetuating the stereotype of internecine cat-fighting.) When feminist commentators and charities working to “liberate” sex workers relate their tales for them, rather than letting them speak first-hand, that’s kyriarchy. It’s also kyriarchy when minority male feminists are forced to veto voting rights in equality action groups because they are male.

Kyriarchy has the potential to settle the age-old argument about “privileged” feminism once and for all. Perhaps that’s why it’s so frightening to those that balk at the term, and will dismiss this as yet another example of woman-eating-woman. It may feel counterintuitive, but recognising your own privilege doesn’t make the struggle for gender equality any less credible: it makes it more so, by allowing feminists to see that advantages – such as being born to a semi-prosperous family or being well-educated – don’t necessarily protect against, say, rape.”

Reading all of this makes me feel so much better since I have been stewing for the past month or so about the anti-Belle Knox coverage (you can’t be an empowered feminist and a porn star: the Belle Knox brand of feminism is so totally not feminism). It all seems like a bunch of bullshit (and probably because I identify with Belle Knox and think she is rad)- you certainly can be a feminist, recognize the power and privilege you engender as a young and hot woman, profit off that power, and also recognize the oppression that brought you, as a woman, to porn in the first place- and, say that you wouldn’t want to continue in porn forever. I really don’t understand why complicated motivations and identities are so scary to people. This kind of experience doesn’t hurt the feminist movement: it enriches and enlivens it,  allows us to delve into the complexities of our lives, and speak up for minority experiences.

What do you think?

kyriarchy

Score!

An old house is full of treasures, and this pile of porn J found stored in the crawl space under the living room is absolutely no exception.

We’re just trying to figure out when it’s from. Obviously before the Internet; I don’t know anyone these days that would pay $34.95 for a video.

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… just looked at the backs. They’re all from the early 2000s 😀