Public Identity: To Come Out or Not?

I'm at a big crossroads right now.

Given how much I've been talking about it, you probably know that I'm writing an honors thesis on porn for my Women's Studies bachelor degree. It's going to be fifty pages and the culmination of a year's worth of research, as well as many years of thinking about sex, porn, and feminism.

There are so many ideas floating around out there about porn and so much conflict, especially within feminism, over what kinds of visual or cultural representations of sex are okay. I'm making a real effort to absorb and integrate all this information and if I can do it right, I'm hoping my paper will present a moderated view of all the venom on the issue. I really want to make a contribution to this debate.

I face a very serious dilemma, though. I don't think it would be ethical of me not to include the fact that I'm a sex worker, specifically a stripper, in my paper. It colors my opinions on the whole topic and gives the reader some (however inaccurate) idea of where I'm coming from. I don't believe in objectivity or removing oneself from one's academic work. There is always bias and I think the only way to counter it is to admit it and try to be as transparent about it as possible.

However, if I admit to the academic community at large that I'm a stripper, I face the very serious probability of stigma and rejection. Although attitudes towards sex workers are better than they used to be, I know that I'll face some discrimination because of my work. If I try to get a job outside the realm of sexuality and it's public knowledge that I've been a sex worker, it could severely hurt my chances. It also makes it less likely that my academic work will be taken seriously.

There is the possibility that I could use a pseudonym, at least for now. I'm getting to a point where I need a public persona (beyond a blog name of papercutsandplastic) to do my work. I could make up a name, protect my given name for a while in case I change my mind about what I want to do and who I want to know about it.

The good thing about being in the closet is that I can come out at any time. I can always change my mind. I don't have that option if I out myself now.

On the other hand, it really is me doing this writing and doing this work. I don't want to encourage the idea that it's a fake person or an assumed personality. Whatever name I use, it's backed up by a real person. I have a history, I've had education, I have feelings.

I think one huge drawback of the common porn and sex work practice of using pseudonyms is that it makes it easier to pretend or assume that we're not real people. It's making our objectification that much simpler. Nena Cherry (one real and stereotypical porn name) is obviously not a real name, so she's obviously not a real person. It's bullshit, but I think the attitude is there in porn consumers.

I could really use some advice about this, actually, from someone who's had to make the decision her/himself. I don't think people who haven't experienced the Pink Ghetto of sex-related work are equipped to help me decide. It's a special kind of stigma, and one that I could use support to navigate.

*Edit* I just looked and realized this was my 100th post. Woo! I don't think that means anything, but it makes me feel accomplished. :-D

My Music and Attitude at Work

I had a really good shift at work the other night. It's funny, because I'd had a migraine the night before and was pretty tired when I got there. I wasn't expecting to do well at all; stripping is very much a job where you get out of it what you put in. If I'm tired, my profits are tired.

On Friday and Saturday nights we always go onstage with a partner, and the woman I was paired with this week likes to dance to heavy metal. In the past, I've been able to dance to the hardcore stuff but not that well. I did better with slow, sensual songs. It was easier for me to get people to stage by seducing them gently than by having a lot of energy and and getting their attention whether they wanted to give it or not. The latter is what the more successful dancers do.

Well, I've realized that now I have a lot more fun when I dance to hardcore music. It's really high energy and last night I felt like I could just go up to the tippers and be ridiculous.

I'm usually a little too reserved, a little too nice, but last night I felt perfectly comfortable being insolent and grabbing their heads or licking their beer bottles (which got a really fun reaction). And I could do all of this without feeling like I was being serious, being actually sexual or bitchy. It felt like I was being ridiculous and it felt like I was having and making fun.

I wonder what this says about my attitude towards stripping. Like I said, the more veteran dancers tend to do better to higher energy, more aggressive music. They're more aggressive with the customers. I just experienced that for the first time. I suppose I'm getting better at the job (I did better monetarily than I have in a while) but also that I've got more of a "stripper," or performative, mentality.

I've thought a lot about this in the last week, and I'll write more on it soon. I think it's time for a reevaluation of how I feel about my work and why I'm doing it. Time to just check in with myself and see how I'm doing.

Dan Savage on The Colbert Report

Alright, I have mixed feelings about Dan Savage. In case you don't know, he's an openly gay and partnered sex columnist for Seattle paper The Stranger.

On the one hand, he is hilarious as fuck. I've read his column frequently and he's really funny. He's great on some issues, like gay marriage and being understanding of people's kinks. He even gives some good advice sometimes.

On the other hand, I think he often strong arms issues that need a more sensitive treatment. I don't want to be a mushy female feminist (sigh, stupid stereotypes), but in his quest to always be funny, he sometimes becomes a bit misogynistic. He makes no secret of his distaste for women. I mean, "he's gay so whatever," but I think it does affect the quality of his advice.

That said, I absolutely LOVE his recent appearance on The Colbert Report. He is delightfully funny and I think he even made Colbert a little speechless. If you've been paying attention, you'll notice that he says something similar to what I did about the old folks who voted for Prop 8. (He's not as nice.) Makes me feel kind of vindicated.

Go you, Dan Savage.

The Shit Feminists Say About Porn

I'm writing an honors thesis on porn.

I've mentioned this before, and I've said a few things about it. You probably have some idea where I'm coming from, especially since I'm a stripper. That gives you some prepackaged ideas about who I am and what I think.

I don't know, though, how to engage with all the shit (yes, shit) that feminists say about pornography.

Everybody is so concerned with taking a side. We must all be Pro-Pornography! or Anti-Pornography! and there is so little room allowed for having an opinion that's in between. It's yet another fun incarnation of the good ol' virgin/whore dichotomy.

There's so much vitriol on both sides:

"Those who oppose pornography are anti-sex! They continue the oppression of women by oppressing our sexual expression! They take away the agency of sex workers, taking away the agency and independence of women! Pornography should be encouraged as a sexual expression and an education tool!"


"Those who support pornography are anti-woman! They continue the oppression of women by encouraging representations of violence against women, perpetuating the myth that all women want to be dominated and abused! They ignore the economic and social coercion of women into sex and sex work! Pornography should be illegal and stigmatized!"

For heaven's sake, you're both right.

I think, actually, that Ariel Levy has a good idea of what's going on. Her book Female Chauvinist Pigs is immensely popular, especially with the anti-porn set, but if you read carefully, she's in the middle of the debate. She doesn't actually think that all porn is terrible (as the anti-porn activists want us to think), but she's not unequivocally accepting of porn and what she calls "raunch culture" either.

Here's an excerpt from an email conversation she had with Susie Bright about her book and what it means for "sex-positive" or "sex radical" feminists:
OF COURSE I don't think you & co. are responsible for this...the whole point of sex radicals is to explore new and different and more creative ways to represent— and to have— sex. I'm all for creativity. I'm all for exploration. I'm just not for the incessant reiteration of this one incredibly dull shorthand for sexiness... Wet t-shirt contests! Implants! Brazilian bikini waxes!

It's pathetically limiting. I'm tired of hearing about how liberating and empowering "raunch culture" is. I think it's the easy way out... as if when we buy a thong or a t-shirt with the Playboy bunny on it, then we don't have to question or face our own complicated desires. (But then you miss out on all the fun!)

You have always been about encouraging women to investigate what they really and truly want from sex. Raunch culture, on the other hand, is about performance, not pleasure. That's my objection.
Let's try and find a middle road here, people. We all want the same thing, ultimately. We want women and men to be equal to each other. We don't want these gender stereotypes and privileges to rule our lives. We want to preserve sexual freedom for both sexes. We want to make sure that no one ever has to give in to a sexuality that's harmful to them. It's a noble goal. We should work towards it together.

Hipsters Suddenly So Hip?

I've noticed this trend lately. I'm not sure if I'm just making shit up, but I think more and more people are starting to present themselves in "queer" or "alternative" ways.

Maybe it's just an instance of the mainstream starting to adopt an underground culture as it always does and this is the first time it's a culture I've identified with. I'm at an age where what I think is cool is going to be what trendy culture thinks is cool. Also, the trend that's coming into popularity is the hipster thing. It's perfectly bred to work in the mainstream. It's consumerist, focused on music, slightly pretentious.

It's not just the hipsters, though. I've been seeing a lot of girls who I'm pretty sure are straight presenting themselves in blatantly gender-variant ways. You know: lesbian pant syndrome where they're a little baggier because you just don't care or a prevalence of baggy, plaid, button-down shirts or a short shaggy haircut. It's everywhere now, I swear.

And it's confusing as hell! My gaydar is all messed up. I mean, it's probably a good thing. If mainstream culture is adopting queer ways of expressing itself, that could mean queer identity is becoming more acceptable. I think it's already a lot less stigmatized among people my own age. (The over 65 vote was definitely a huge factor in the passage of Prop 8. Is it bad for me to want the bigots to die of old age already? No violent deaths, I don't want pain for them or anything, just passing on peacefully in their sleep to the heaven they're so avidly awaiting. Is that mean?)

It is really strange, though, to be a part of something that's mainstreaming and to feel my identity as less my own. It's so external and silly to base how I feel about myself on superficial things. It's a little foolish to identify strongly with one subset of people, one way of dressing, one box in the identity column. I'm young, though; I think it comes naturally until you're ready to live simply in your own skin.

Has anyone else noticed this trend? Am I blowing smoke rings?


I don't know why these days happen.

I woke up and I don't feel like myself. I'd never really been this version of low before this school year, where I feel like nothing is real, but it's been happening more and more in the last month or two. I'm so dissociated.

There's so much for me to do, endless tasks and things I want to accomplish. I love it most of the time, but it gets so fucking heavy. I've been feeling overwhelmed lately, more than usual, and I'm reaching a point where I can't cope.

And it's either that, the pressure and the to do list, or this crushing sense of dissatisfaction. And I can distract myself and even sometimes soothe myself with video games or long hours in coffee shops talking about nothing or drinking to excess late at night. I just can't take a breather or it's all right there.

So I'm sorry I haven't been posting a lot. I either see this blog as work (which I love and sometimes don't have the energy for) or as something that should be more personal than it is and I just don't have access to that part of myself right now.

And of course my damn therapist couldn't meet the last two weeks, and the rescheduled meeting last Thursday had to be a "brief check-in" because she was sick. I needed more than that, but I'm too new with her to be like "No, it's not okay, I need a real session," when she asks. And being pissed at your therapist is about the least helpful thing on the planet.

I will hate this post later, but I also want it to be here. If I'm going to be honest about being depressed (and oh, how I hate labeling that when I'm actually feeling it) then why not let the reality show? Why not call it what it is? I'm having a depressed episode, and I'll come out of it eventually, but yes it sucks right now. It might be time to just feel that.


I got all my porn in the last three days!

As I've mentioned before, I'm writing an honors thesis on feminist porn. All my DVDs have arrived finally, and I'm really excited to watch them all. As I do, I'll review them here.

The funny thing at this point is that I just want to sit and watch them and masturbate. I mean, this is the kind of thing I get off to. That's part of why I chose it to write about. I freely admit it.

On the other hand, my goal here is to write about these films from an intellectual, feminist standpoint. I know I can do that if I've already jilled off to them, but part of me wants to wait to watch them. I've got a schedule for when I'll be responding to them and maybe I should stick to it.

I'm the kind of person who doesn't even like to look at a page in a book that's ahead of where I'm reading. I'll inevitably read something on the page and then I'll have skipped ahead. Heaven forbid!

But fuck it. I want to masturbate, and I've got 12 (12!) awesome porn flicks at my disposal.

Now the real dilemma: which one first?


I just don't know what to say or feel about the election.

I'm so so so so so so so so so so so excited that Barack Obama won. I'm just speechless about it. He's the first black president and the first Democratic president I can remember taking office. I was alive when Clinton made it, but I was small and I don't remember it that well. I'm a young person; the only elections I remember well were ones where George W. Bush won. This has been such an experience for me, and I'm so happy he's our new president.

I just can't even express it. It's huge.

And then there's Proposition 8.

As of right now, it looks like it's going to pass in California, adding discrimination against gay people to our state constitution.

Which is just devastating. Devastating.

I can't even convey how awful it is. It feels like the state which I count on to take care of me, to be a home when so many other places will reject me for my sexual orientation and my "lifestyle," is rejecting me, too. I really did think that we'd be better, that we'd be more accepting, more fair than the rest of the country. It's so sad that it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

I have no idea what's next, where we go in fighting for the rights of queer people. It's so important. We are PEOPLE, we do not choose our orientation, it is a part of who we are and doesn't affect other people AT ALL. It is simple hatred and homophobia that lead to this kind of legislation.

I have so much more to say about this, about how sexism ties into homophobia and how ballot initiatives in California are problematic. Right now, though, I'm going to celebrate for Obama and cry for California and go to bed.

There's time for our next move in the morning.

P. S. Proposition K probably won't pass either, and I'm sad but not surprised. I saw the way the rhetoric was going, and it wasn't in favor of sex workers' rights. Also more on this soon.

Visible Panty Lines

I wonder why we don't eroticize visible pantylines?

Thongs, pantyhose, girdles, and all those other "shapewear" items are meant to give a woman the appearance of complete smoothness under her clothes. I mean, girdles and shapewear also literally force women's bodies into more socially acceptable shapes. Covering up panties or making them so tiny you can't see them anyway is part of that. None of these things are comfortable.

Panties are sexy, though. AND comfortable. I mean, god forbid we don't make women contort themselves to look beautiful. Then they'd have time to think about, I dunno, equality and shit.

Why shouldn't the visible bit of the edge of a pair of panties under a tight pair of pants or skirt be sexy, though? Maybe its lack implies that she's wearing no underwear. Mmmm, implied sexual availability, sexual objectification, I guess men love that.

I find that even men tend to like lingerie better than no lingerie, though. A lot of them have made jokes to me about unwrapping "the present." I've noticed that when I wear a very low-cut shirt or dress, it's sexier if I have a pretty bra showing underneath it. Maybe changing what we eroticize is a little compromise, a step towards letting women do whatever they want regardless of what men think.

And frankly, what they think doesn't matter that much. Let's forget it for a second and have a little agency in our own lives and clothing choices. I feel sexy when I'm wearing a nice pair of panties. Especially if they're pretty AND comfortable. It makes me feel good.

So why not? This can be sexy:

And it's a whole helluva lot more comfortable. I'll take my cute cotton underpants over a stiff, lacy thong any day.
On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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