What for Feminism, Humanizing Women in Porn, and Getting and Holding Attention for our Good

As a disclaimer, I am sure this post will spark some thoughts or controversy of your own, but please respect the space and feelings and opinions I hold. That is all I ask of you.
Also, this entry was re-worked for submission into Exhibit at UCI's 2014 Issue, which can be viewed here.

Within the past two or so years, I’ve been becoming quite the feminist. Though, I am very reluctant to admit so because the word ‘feminism’ itself tends to be associated with thoughts of crazed women or rebellion; but, it would be shameful of me to ignore the good these so-called ‘feminist ancestors’ of mine have done to allow me the freedom to enjoy the rights I have today. I don’t advocate or go against any such behavior, but, I do advocate for the goodness of all hearts. I’ve always been an open and sympathetic person and, as women in history have come such a far way, acknowledging what they have done can make you feel grateful for where we as women stand today.

I think I first started to get interested in all this feminism stuff as I grew older and went to college. Of course, with age and as a woman who has experienced numerous events of men trying to make advances or take advantage of my womanly assets, I grew sensitive to it. I started to feel uncomfortable. Luckily, I’ve grown up with good role models enough to allow me to come to terms with my own morals, values and beliefs–to embrace the limits I felt true to me (about knowing and standing my own ground).

The moment that sticks out to me that first inspired my interest into accepting the seemingly most degrading line of work women may involve themselves in, is when I stumbled on an article I saw on Yahoo’s frontpage entitled, “Porn Stars Without Makeup: Before and After Pictures by Melissa Murphy.” I couldn’t get over how real and sometimes beautiful these women looked, naturally. These photos humanized them. Behind society’s assumptions of those involved in that industry, I found, can lie entirely strong and empowering women (of course, when you find the right ones). I’ve held my own assumptions about porn for many years, though, it was at this time that the women who willingly involved themselves in that industry interested me even more than porn itself.

As sexuality and intimacy is one of the most blessed and beautiful acts that is natural to our bodies to express love to a partner, the porn industry seems scary. It seems to make this entire private act into something doggedly intrusive and mortifying. But, reading and watching interviews from stars who share their thoughts on this industry–from how they got involved in their line of work to expressing the politics behind it–I’ve found that there are totally respectable women in this industry. Veteran performers like Samantha Ryan and Stoya have actively participated in interviews and other social medium to convey thoughts on women and workers’ rights in the industry.

image

Image from Porn Star Vignettes.

In a 2012 video-series with Julie Meadows called Porn Star Vignettes, a series of interviews aimed at humanizing workers involved in the industry, star Samantha Ryan, who entered the industry at the age of 26, reveals that she had the chance to figure herself out before going into the industry. She expresses, “Give yourself a chance to figure yourself out and, if this is what you want then fine! … For me, I had the chance to go through those years, to struggle, to try and figure myself out.” Earlier in the interview, she said, “You know, when I worked as an engineer, I had bosses that were complete idiots and never knew the value of my work because they didn’t understand the work that I was doing.” She smiled, continuing, “So, it didn’t matter I was Valedictorian and had straight A’s in my school and I was the only girl in my class and kicked all the boys a*ses and wrote the final for the last class.” She mentions, “They all went out and got 100k+ jobs and all my teachers thought I was gonna do well and I couldn’t find a job to save my life.”

Finding women as level-headed as Samantha Ryan in the industry is very rare to find. With a good mind for grass-root politics, she openly expresses:

“I honestly feel [this industry] should be 21 and over. We all think when we’re 18, 19, 20 that we know everything. And, again, it’s why I’m so good at understanding and seeing things in other people because I’ve been every single one of those things. I was that naive person, I was that person at 18, 19 that thought I knew everything. I was that jealous person, I was that insecure person, so I recognize all of those qualities in other people and see, you know, realities for what they really are.” [Source]

Image from Porn Star Vignettes.

Perhaps experiencing some of the negative ramifications in the industry herself, she mentions, “I made up this song because there’s a mainstream producer that wants to f*ck me, so I’ll do a role for him. And I won’t do it.” Choking up throughout her piano-playing, she adds, “You know, all my songs are just about my life and the fact that I haven’t been a really hard worker and really smart, and, I just haven’t gotten a break.” She takes a moment to catch her breath. “So, I write about it, and think about it, and hope that maybe that’ll help me make those dreams come true,” tearing up and smiling, as if to hide her embarrassment.

With conviction, she goes on, “[This] is still an industry that you have to navigate. It’s tough and you will deal with not so great people and, you do run into the girls that are doing the drugs because they don’t know how to handle it.” She pauses, “That shouldn’t be how it is. If you’re having to drink alcohol or take Xanax or do this to do a scene, you should not be here.” She stresses more importance on establishing a union, saying, “Teaching the girls [that] there’s nobody protecting them [is important]. The agents see them as fresh meat! They know the industry. They know that the majority of girls are in-and-out in a year. So, what’s gonna be most beneficial to my pocketbook? Getting that girl to do everything that I can in that year. But, in a sense it’s like, well, you’re building up the exact reason why girls only last a year.”

On Stoya’s article on VICE.com entitled, “So You Want to Perform in Porn,” she also forewarns those interested in porn, writing, “Decide whether the chance to have sex with that one particular performer or have that professionally videotaped gang bang is worth the potential that every single person you know now or ever will know in the future will see it. Your parents will find out. Your employers will find out. Your friends, acquaintances, and the people you have romantic relationships with will find out.”

A knack for sarcasm and dark humor, she adds:

“Even if porn is just an adventure for you, remember that it is a job. You will frequently be expected to show up on set appropriately groomed and showered before 9 AM with a valid STI test and at least one form of ID. (…) You will need to be able to memorize and deliver at least a couple of lines of this dialogue, preferably in a somewhat convincing manner. (…) For female performers, the ability to confidently run over gravel in ill-fitting platform heels somehow turns into a job skill, as does pretending you aren’t freezing in skimpy outfits or sweltering in five layers of wardrobe.” [Source]

Pointing some of the negativities to themselves, what struck me most about these two women was how intelligent and aware of their professions they are. Apart from their Hollywood camera-ready looks, they have hearts-of-gold who openly express their rights as a woman worker and are aware of the line of work they involve themselves in–talking about young girls needing to educate themselves, know their rights as talent, and be aware of both the physical and emotionally-taxing toll this job can take on someone.

Before I get too deep into defending and legitimizing porn workers’ line of work, I want to backtrack to that idea of feminism. Although work such as this seems extremely degrading, what is degrading is how you use and view their line of work.

image

Image from Hysterical Literature.

In the attempt to normalize and humanize notions of sex work and to produce the same effect without showing any ‘indecencies,’ a friend of mine introduced me to this project called Hysterical Literature. At first a bit uncomfortable watching porn stars be pleased up until their climax, I admit I was a bit intrigued. I had respect for this project. Not only were these women reading passages from novels of their choice, they are living representations of women involved in sex work who embrace their femininity, but also feel strongly about it so as to empower women. So much that embracing that women still have the power to enchant a man and hold his attention, enrapture him with whatever spellbounding abilities we hold, just to express our own stance and hold ourselves up as women of our own, without even showing any of our junk…

It’s genius.

I think I’ve always looked up to women who work in any line of entertainment because, not only do they inspire my own creative and artistic work, they also have intriguing personalities and good hearts who are aware of their own appeal, but use it to their own good. That attention and attraction can be used to inspire good in others–of life and the world’s suffering, to share in that suffering, to offer hope and help, and to advocate and make aware of world issues to increase our worldly compassion. Projects like these help to diminish negative views on women’s work, while also humanizing them and voicing the good they can stand for. It’s a woman’s innate nature to love and nurture. Rather than comply, we ought to speak up.

It’s too easy to put-down what we see as discriminatory or degrading in our society that we too easily neglect to focus on what we can do with that power to prove a point. Whether it involves issues of racism, stereotyping, or genderizing, the idea of being a ‘minority’ or ‘lesser-thought-of-person’ allows us the ability to surprise. Have you not realized that when a woman speaks up to a room full of men, she tends to turn heads as men turn their interest to the woman at hand, seeing if she can prove herself? How about when a lesser-known ethnic race enters a room full of majority-white people? We as a people are naturally interested in what is different to us.

That ought to be the way we behave towards other things, I feel. To use our ‘minority’ clutch to say something greater than ourselves.

Getting their attention is the first step. The next is in holding it.

~

To close, I will add this statement Stoya asked her followers on twitter, in response to, “What’s interesting about following porn stars (in general, not just me) on social media/reading interviews with them?”

For you tumblr readers, here is my link to this post: http://rachelannc.tumblr.com/post/64439291677 I’d love to hear your thoughts.

11 responses to “What for Feminism, Humanizing Women in Porn, and Getting and Holding Attention for our Good

  1. Great article.
    “Finding women as level-headed as Samantha Ryan in the industry is very rare to find.”
    If you continue to look further you will find many others. Their stories are just not that interesting for the sensationalism of the majority of the media … That’s why Julie Meadows’ (former adult performer) interviews (the Vignettes or the On-The-Couch series) are so valueable. Or the work of Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals @ http://pvvonline.com

    FYI, from http://hystericalliterature.com/faq
    «Are the readers porn stars?
    One reader is an adult performer and writer, one works in fashion, one is an actress and comedian, several are artists and filmmakers, one is a burlesque dancer and model.»

    • Thank you for reading! I was a bit nervous to post about this sort of controversial stuff, especially since people don’t really see it coming from me, but everyone’s reactions to it are so comforting. I admit I haven’t looked too into critical commentary on the adult industry, but that’s a great reference site. I’ve just been intrigued by Samantha and Stoya, which is what drew me to them. And thanks for the extra info on Hysterical Literature! I absolutely adore the project for both its appeal and art… Its whole concept is so interesting.

  2. i read your article. i liked it. i had to google image stoya though to put a face to her name. i like her too. lol

  3. Fabulous article Rachel, thank you for writing &sharing it.They say change happens slowly, we must keep trying

  4. Hello, my friend. Your writing skills are as great as ever.

    And again, you have an eye for detailing the humanity from society. But may I suggest you take a step higher.

    All human beings have dignity. Porn actor or not. But it is irrational to admire a person who does not see the sins in their work. Just as it is for the tax collector, the executioner, or the devil himself.

    A person may possess likeable qualities, like the hero in John Milton’s, “Paradise Lost.” Here we see God’s most beloved angel. An angel who simply desired to be more autonomous. Self-reliant. He was very sure of himself. Displaying qualities of confidence that was unshakeable as God himself. Surely we can admire him. Right?

    But that angel’s name was Lucifer. Satan. The fallen angel. The one who was too sure of himself that he turned from God, and chose not to follow him.

    What we do with our qualities is what truly defines us. A good man uses his strength to fight against evil. An evil man uses his strength to take from the good. Yet, surely both men possess strength.

    How do you use your strength? Do you use it fight against evil? To do evil? Or maybe perhaps, turn a blind eye to evil?

    It’s a talent to read between the lines, but it’s an even greater talent to read what the lines actually say. And we must not forget–truth is not an opinion. Morality is not relative. And justification does not make something correct.

    I encourage you to do a bit more reading. From where you read is just as important, if not more important.

    Some of these are the women who I truly respect and admire:

    https://www.shelleylubben.com/
    http://www.jackiefrancois.com/blog/
    http://catholicwriter.wordpress.com/2007/04/16/the-problem-of-pornography/
    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/pornography/the-harmful-effects-of-pornography/

    P.S. What you are becomes what you say. Always choose the greater purpose. Always seek the greater message.

    God bless you, my friend.

    • This thought has really been lingering in my mind… I’m really intrigued into doing a little self-searching to find my own attitude towards this all.

      Though I do find that I am sensitive and perceptive to human issues, I become very adaptable to my surroundings. Not in the sense that I lose my integrity, but that I sometimes forget to look into how this plays into conversation with myself.

      I did a little researching just now, just because I was looking for thoughts on this. I found this little comment that totally resonated with me.

      I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this later, but, how do you personally feel about this?

      “Jesus never asked anyone about their goodness or morality. He was too busy loving them to think about it.” – Jacob Miller’s comment (http://www.ted.com/conversations/5183/if_someone_is_a_good_person_wi.html)

      • 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. – Matthew 4:35 NIV.

        I understand where you are coming from. I know, firsthand. I used to think about many things. Mainly, to justify my thoughts and feelings. I did not want to feel guilty.

        But guilt is a good thing. It is a sign of knowing goodness.

        Your quote certainly is pleasing to the ears. It is reassuring. It lets people think to themselves, “I’m OK, because Jesus still loves me.” But this is the world’s way of twisting the Gospel to only help themselves.

        We are not to condemn one another. But the man who says that Jesus never asked anyone about their goodness or morality is incorrect. Be careful who your sources are: a man who speaks to defend his guilt? Or from the sacred traditions and beliefs of the church?

        Below is the scene where Jesus Christ, does indeed, question people of their goodness and morality:

        8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

        2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

        But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

        9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

        11 “No one, sir,” she said.

        “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” – John 8:1-11 NIV.

        Jesus Christ meets Mary Magdalene, just as people are about to stone her to death. Jesus questions their goodness, and he permits them to cast their stones for as long as they are without sin.

        He also poses the question of their goodness to Magdalene. He demonstrates that it is through him, and by him, that their sins were made evident. However, he did not condemn.

        In the very same scene, Jesus Christ reveals that adultery (or modern day pornography) is a sin. Otherwise, he would not tell her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

        Make evident the sins of the world, and cast them away.

        The Catholic church clearly explicates that pornography is a sin. Not Jacob Miller, not Samantha Ryan, not even myself. But the Catholic church. The very church that Christ himself founded by appointing St. Peter as his rock–our first pope.

        You may choose to listen to those who need to justify every wrong they do to relieve themselves of their guilt, or you may choose to know what is right from wrong from the source itself.

        If you seek evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, you will surely find it. If you seek evidence to prove that you are not wrong, you will surely find it.

        But if instead you seek God–that is, truth, virtue, love, and all things of creation and not of destruction (death, fear, hate, lust, etc.)–then you will certainly find it.

        Find God. Not the world.

        I encourage you to research, not through pharisees who alter the teachings to adhere to their own desires and lifestyles, but through Jesus Christ, who is the teacher. Anyone who truly follows Christ carries Christ in himself, and consequently, does the work of Christ. Such as with St. Paul, the one who was lost in the world, who condemned those who followed Christ, but eventually was chosen by Christ to be another one of his successors:

        13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

        16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

        19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

        22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – St. Paul to the Galatians (Galatians 3 NIV).

        The flesh is weak, the spirit is strong.

  5. I, myself, do not condemn you for any of your thoughts, opinions, or feelings. Instead, I intend to reveal to you what Christ teaches. Not what I teach, not what I feel, not what I think. But what he teaches. And of what his students have taught us.

    Earlier I said, “I know firsthand.” I was not merely saying so.

    I have struggled with the addiction of pornography since I was 12 years old. I know firsthand.

    Up until now, I fail to resist the temptations of lust. I have turned to pornography even in recent days. Because my flesh is indeed, week. But my spirit is with God, and I know for as long as I keep fighting against my demons, God will save me

    I am certainly, impure. But by the grace of God, I know the truth of the matter.

    • I’ve had some time to really take in your thoughts. It is true. I may find to find truth and love and safety in humanity, but what’s more important for me is to find the truth and love of that higher power–and remember to live my life for Him, not in the cheap satisfaction of everyday life.

      I admit, we all grow too easy falling in love with loving our lives and our selves–especially in college, where we are encouraged to be independent beings.

      I guess, at face-value, the point I wrote this article was to rid of skewed perceptions and misunderstandings of women who work in pornography. Perhaps I’ve grown too sympathetic and sensitive to all people–I too easily look for the good in all (which may be a good or bad thing, I’m not sure!).

      I’ve long often strove to be simply “a decent person in an indecent world.” I’ve sought to openly love and take others in–show them goodness and kindness. But, perhaps there isn’t much value in that if I’m forgetting who and what I’m even living for.

      Of course we’re all flawed and I’m sure He doesn’t expect us all to be perfect and impure. But one thing you said that resonated with me was,” Find God. Not the world.” I’ve grown so focused on loving the world around me and becoming someone who can move and change minds, that I’m forgetting to–in a way–look into myself… To really love myself, and love the love I have for people in His name. Hmmm…

      P.S. Loved the links of women you referred to. I wasn’t necessarily supporting pornography–just simply humanizing those who find themselves in it. Good things to think about, though.

  6. Pingback: RE: 12 Things Every Woman And Girl Should Know | beauty within·

  7. Pingback: Can Porn and Feminism go Hand-in-Hand? | beauty within·

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