sim, the company’s U-turn on banning explicit content is a good thing for many — but I’ve also been attacked online by other sex workers when I talk about the clear downsides of working as an adult model or stripper
A few years ago, when I saw a mom of my eight-year-old son’s friend at the grocery store, she asked, “I saw your yoga pose photo on Facebook. You’re so flexible…Were you a dancer?”
Shame surged through me — I never know what to say.
“Kind of,” I replied, with a shrug.
I wanted to answer the question honestly, but correctly. I don’t like to be misleading.
sim, I was a dancer. Just not the kind of dancer she was thinking. She had images in mind of a ballerina in a tutu, but for anybody who knows my past, that’s not the kind of costume I wore.
I never know how someone will react to me having made money by taking my clothes off, so it’s better never to go into the specifics.
I started stripping when I was 18 anos. As an actress, I didn’t think it would be a big deal to take off my clothes and pretend to be a stripper, so that’s what I did. I thought I would finance my move to New York City to become a famous actress. Surprise, surprise, but I ended up stripping much longer than I thought I ever would, and I never became a famous actress, although I did earn my living doing it for a few years.
When I was dancing, the only way to earn extra money was to put out in the private rooms or during lap dances, which put me at a disadvantage because I wanted to do everything legally. I did a few risqué photoshoots on the side, and I was never the one making the money off the photos that were taken of me. I would receive an hourly wage and then that was it — someone else owned my images. They owned a piece of my ass. When I look at what sex workers are able to achieve in terms of control and autonomy on sites like OnlyFans these days, I’m jealous.
The simple fact is that sex work is hard, and often not very nice — but a lot of sex workers don’t want to talk about that. When I published my first article about the difficult aspects of stripping, a few sex workers online reprimanded me that it wasn’t good for for people like me to talk about the negatives — that I should only write about the positives of stripping and sex work. We should only show the empowerment side of it, not the negative, otherwise we were doing an injustice to our fellow women in the industry.
It felt odd to be chastised by other sex workers who wanted to dictate my experience and how I expressed it. Why not show the truth of the world we inhabit? It felt like they were saying the only way to be able to make peace with sex work is to say that it is all good and empowering. But that was not my experience — although I have tried to reframe it for myself that way many times.
Don’t get me wrong. There were positives about stripping: cash pay, the ability to set my own hours, and sometimes a sense of power and glamor. But the experience wreaked havoc on my personal life. To say otherwise would be dishonest.
In the past few days, news broke that OnlyFans will reverse their decision to ban explicit material, at least for now (http://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/25/onlyfans-says-it-will-no-longer-ban-porn-after-backlash-from-users.html). I celebrate this decision and believe everyone should have the ability to be in control of their choices. But there are consequences to the ease of OnlyFans as well. There’s bound to be a new crush of young women who decide to strip and sell nudes of themselves in order to allay a financial crisis. Many of those will be chasing the “empowerment” they’re promised by sex workers who are already in the industry.
At this point in history, I think you would be hard pressed to find a convincing argument about how a woman should não be allowed to make her own choices about what she does with her body. It is easy to see how feminist ideals can be framed so that it can be seen as empowering to take off our clothes and earn money for it. But it’s also important to be honest. I owe young women today that honesty.
Before OnlyFans and the ability for sex workers to be in control of their imagery and safety, most of the stages that real-life exotic dancers performed on were not like the New York City Scores stage from the movie Hustlers, where I also performed in the early 90s. And pole-dancing only existed in the big-city “gentlemen’s clubs”, not the sleepy, small-town dingy bars where most dancers earned a living. Instead of thousands of dollars earned a night, many dancers performed double shifts to go home with a few hundred dollars, aching muscles, and shattered self-esteem from the difficult working conditions.
OnlyFans gives sex workers another option and more ability to be in control of their experience. But just like strippers, models will also get used to the easy cash, and the feeling of online adulation. Few will think about how society might react to them as they get older, or how they might get trapped in a career they don’t want to do forever. It still does not seem cool to say to another mom that I was a stripper.
I always said I was never actually a stripper; I was only acting the part. She was not who I was. But for a little while, I really did think that Kirea — my stripper alter ego — was who I was or who I should be. I lost myself in that identity. I would hate to see a whole new slew of young women look for their identities in others’ opinions of them because of the glamorized easy money they are hearing is possible on OnlyFans.
Pode ser Hustlers and all the positive talk about being sex workers will help us to openly say what we are, what we were, and show the truth of it tudo — not just the easy money, but the underbelly of possible damage to a young woman’s true sense of self and power.
I want individuals thinking about going into sex work to know that they are more than just a body, that they are valuable, and that if they do make the choice to be a sex worker that they can do the work consciously and in a healthy way. There are good things and bad things about the industry, and I’m proud that I survived it. I now realize it is OK to say that Kirea estava e é a part of me. Equally, she’s not the only part.