I never set out to be a sex worker, but I became one all the same. I didn’t even realize it until long after the fact. What do I mean? Well, let me explain.
I make porn. I sell clips of myself (and other people) having sex. To promote those clips, I write an adult blog and share lots of nude pictures of myself. The thing is, I never used to think of what I do in those terms—production, sales, and promotion—because I’m fortunate enough that I never needed to, because I don’t rely exclusively on porn for my living. I just never had to think about what I do in that way. I usually tend think of my porn as my secret art project, my hobby, my guilty (in a good way) secret, my life-saving outlet. And those things are all true. But it’s also sex work, what I do. I’m a sex worker.
Just a Blogger Who…Writes About Sex…and Makes Porn Clips…and…
Conversationally, I would normally describe myself as a blogger who also happens to makes adult clips. The way I usually think about it, the blogging comes first, then the photos, and the clips pay for all the hosting and gear, with a little bit left over, which I usually reinvest into the process. In pure work terms, however, it’s the opposite. I’m a clip producer who builds community with her blog and pictures.
As I learn more about sex work and sex workers, I have come to understand that, to the extent that I make, sell, and promote porn, I’m a sex worker. What I do is most definitely work, and it’s most definitely work about sex.
Forums: My Gateway Drug
Just as I didn’t set out to be a sex worker, I didn’t set out to make porn, either. I was just looking for some people like me, for a feeling of community, and for some advice for discovering a sex life I could enjoy. At the time, that mostly meant forums. Eventually, I just started sharing pictures on forums that inspired me, as way to contribute to the community and, ideally to pay forward the incredible gift of sexuality and education I was receiving.
From there it went to sharing little clips, and then doing a little writing, and then starting my own blog, and then setting up a little clip store, and then buying my own real equipment and then, finally expanding my pool of people I worked with beyond solo clips and clips with my boyfriend.
I think that, even more than getting paid a bit for a clip or two, the first time work with people you’re not in a relationship with is the classic divider between hobbyist and performer.
What Even Is Porn Now?
And so suddenly, I’m a porn producer. I mean, I’ve never made “big-budget” studio porn, and I’ve barely done any boy-girl shooting at all, but I’ve made close to 100 adult clips and I’ve posted thousands of erotic-or just plain pornographic-pictures online over the years. I’ve got a hundreds of posts on my blog, probably adding up to over 100,000 words, a blog that has had millions of views over the years.
These days, that’s increasingly what porn is, I think. The days when you weren’t really in porn unless you had a contract with Vivid or something like that are long gone, that’s for sure. I’m not dragging the people who make or made that kind of studio porn. But the fact is, the vast majority of the porn that I see people consuming these days get made by people like me. People who started small and built up their own teeny-tiny porn empires.
The thing is, though, because of the way I just sort of slipped into it, and especially because I do it anonymously, I never really thought too much about the implications in the way that you might if you went from nothing to having your face showed up on DVD covers in shops around the world overnight.
Baby You’re Star
I always used to think that sex work meant prostitution, and I told myself, I’m not doing that. Not that I looked down on prostitutes—not at all. I only know a few in person, but the ones I know are bold and clever and brave. The same is largely true of the ones that I know online, too. I’ve never been against the idea of sex work or sex workers. I just didn’t consider myself one of them, didn’t consider myself to be like them—whatever that means. I didn’t consider myself a “real” pornstar, anymore than I was prostitute or a stripper or a camgirl or any other kind of sex worker.
In fact, my site’s name, Rikochanpornstar, was originally meant to be a kind of self-deprecating humor, a joke at my own expense. As if I could really be a pornstar! Not! In my mind, it was a way of acknowledging that I wasn’t really pornstar material, but I suspect it was also a joking way of separating myself from sex work. Why?
I always thought I was outside the world of porn and the stigma that’s attached to it, since I never had to suffer it. I thought that by existing on the margins of sex industry the way I do, I could somehow not become a part of it, but that’s magical thinking. I felt that I was something else, and I also secretly felt guilty that I had what I perceived as the benefits of sex worth, without any of the cost.
Secrets Are Stigma
But then someone asked me recently why if I love my porn so much, I it anonymously, and I realized, I am affected by the stigma. That’s why I hide this incredibly important part of my life away and separate it from my daily life. I do it because I know that that stigma is just hanging over me, looming but at bay…for now. And that’s because no matter what I think of what I do and why I do it, at base I am also a sex worker, and the world at large despises and is deeply afraid of sex workers. When I started to be honest with myself, I realize that it’s exhausting and frightening to be something that society hates so much, even if you’re only living at the fringes of it.
Whereas my alter ego used to be a gleeful secret that separated me from other people, with that feeling of “I know something you don’t know, and knowledge is power,” now I suddenly had a new and altogether different feeling, too. Whereas before I was different from other people because of what I knew, and that secret made me powerful and happy, now I was also different from other people because of what I was, and that secret kept me safe.
I hadn’t really changed, of course. But my understanding of myself and how the world would see me had. I still do what I do for the same reasons: because I want to, because I enjoy it, and because it fills parts of me that would otherwise be empty. Yes, for all those reasons. All those reasons that are sort of almost nearly socially acceptable. Right? I mean, this is the language of creativity and art, and, well, I could argue that because I do what I do for those reasons, what I do is erotica, not porn. Not sex work.
But I’m not just doing it for those reasons.
Business Is Business
I’m also doing it to sell clips. Not because I need to, economically; this isn’t survival work for me. Rather, it’s because because I am good at it, and it’s very satisfying to make something and sell it. Business is very satisfying. Success at making and selling things is satisfying. That is not to say that doing sex work for survival is a terrible thing. It’s a great luxury I have, that I don’t need to do it, and that I love it; many people choose to do sex work to stay alive and many I’m sure, wouldn’t do it if they had some other opportunity. I understand. That’s the reality of work, sexual or otherwise. The stress of the job I do stay afloat was quite literally killing me before I found the outlets of exercise and sex work. It’s still taking years off my life, I’m sure.
Because I hate my straight work so much, I was desperate for this new thing not to be work. Yes, I used to tell myself that because I plowed nearly all the profits back into the production of my clips it wasn’t really a job, it was a hobby, or maybe a collaborative, crowdsourced art project. Sure, that might be true. But it’s also work. I like sell porn, because I like knowing that people enjoy my work so much that they are willing to pay me for the pleasure of jerking off to it.
If I’m being honest with myself, the fact that I am able to be successful at it adds a whole extra level of satisfaction to the pleasure I always let myself understand I was getting, that of exhibitionism, pleasing myself and other people, educating people, and broadening the world of porn to include people that look and think like me. All those pleasures are still there, but I’m also letting myself understand that this is work, and work that I enjoy for the sake of the work itself. I always enjoyed the sex part of being a sex worker; I just never realized until recently that I also enjoy the work part of being a sex worker.
A Sex Worker Are Workers; Sex Work Is Work
I don’t have particularly clever conclusion about about the meaning of sex work or the hypocrisy of society’s attitude toward sex workers. It’s clear to me that sex work is work; it’s the moral panic that surrounds it that makes it such a charged scary thing for so many people. That moral panic and the stigma and laws that force it underground are what makes it a dangerous, undesirable job for so many. Yes, trafficking is bad, but most sex workers don’t want or need to be rescued–except, quite often from law enforcement and the rescuers themselves.
I’m stunned at the way my understanding of both sex work and myself has changed just lately. I honestly don’t know what this will mean for my blog and my clips. I’ll keep making them, that’s for sure. Maybe now that I’m thinking about it more clearly, with fewer delusions and less confusion, I’ll do more, and do better. I don’t know; we’ll see. Like I said, these are new thoughts for me. I’m not really sure where they’ll take me.
If you do want to read some clever people with deeper, better developed and clearer thoughts about sex work here are a few places you can start.
Books by People Who Know Much More About Sex Work Than I Do
Of course, there are thousands—millions—of sex workers out there who know more about sex work than I do, from the escorts, to the pornstars, to the strippers, to the clip makers like me, to the dominatrixes, to the sex bloggers, to the bodybuilding session girls (be still my heart) to the cam girls to the I don’t even know what. I could never hope to list them all! That would be another much bigger story. What I can do is give you a list of authors whose books on the subject have influenced, inspired, and educated me lately.
The first book I ever read about sex work was Naked Online: Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing in on Internet Sexploration, by Audacia Ray (@audaciaray on Twitter), a great writer who also did sex work. Even though it’s 10 years old now, it’s still a fascinating and inspiring (literally, to me) read. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Ray’s book basically gave me the confidence to get started in online sex work. Even though I only got to go a few times, her readings series, The Red Umbrella Diaries, also introduced me to sex workers in person for the first time and showed me they were just regular people doing their jobs.
For a powerful, funny, heartbreaking, thoroughly unromanticized, yet also wildly romantic look at what it’s like to navigate relationships while being a sex worker, you should read the amazing book Prostitute Laundry by equally amazing Charlotte Shane (@charoshane on Twitter) based on her own confessional Tiny Letter about her life as a sex worker.
For an fascinating, unsentimental view of the lives of the migrant sex workers, the novel The Three Headed Dog is a great read that is free of the usual moral panic from the so-called rescue industry. It’s by the brilliant academic Laura Agustín (@LauraAgustin on Twitter), whose important book scholarly book on the subject Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry. I am now slowly making my way through. Slowly because I’m a slow reader, not because it’s a slow book!
For a very clear-headed examination of what it means to be a sex worker, and above all how to do it without losing yourself, the new book Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry. It’s by an amazingly positive and uplifting woman who lived the life, Lola Davina (@Lola_Davina on Twitter)
For an incredibly funny but also very informative and incisive look at the stripping side of sex work the fabulous Jacqueline Frances (@JacqTheStripper on Twitter) has a great novel called The Beaver Show, the Crass and Inspiring Saga of an Enterprising Megababe, as well as a book of excellent cartoons called Striptastic! A Celebration of Dope-Ass Cunts Who Like Money. Someday I will see her onstage, whether it’s stripping or doing standup!
I don’t know if this post will make sense to anyone but me. But I hope it does. I hope at the very least a few people will click the links and discover some new books that give them a new view on Sex Work. There are so many great books on the subject. If you have a favorite or a suggestion for me, please let me know in the comments.