I recently saw a documentary about a self-help workshop. On the first day the founder instructed everyone to take their clothes off and introduce themselves to the rest of the group. You could see the timidity of everyone. Some even looked tearful in anticipation of exposing themselves. I was amazed how strongly this affected most of them. I could not imagine being so afraid to take off my clothes that I cry. The purpose of this task was to strip themselves of what they’ve established as their identity and have the others meet them in a state where they were most like themselves. Clearly “most like themselves” was terrifying. I wasn’t a fan of the documentary or the workshop however it gave me an opportunity to observe a group of people who wanted to find who they truly were, and they accomplished this through nudity. Stripping made this group feel vulnerable and being vulnerable is a powerful tool to exposing fears and forcing people to take a look a themselves from an unfamiliar perspective.
While watching, I imagined all those workshop goers as porn stars and realized this method would have absolutely no affect on us. We would all take our clothes off and not be impressed because we’ve already seen each other naked. There would be nothing to explore or no feeling of intrigue or curiosity. We’d probably be bored and give the instructor a “what now?” look. Everyday we spread our legs underneath lights so bright they expose every possible imperfection. We don’t have an opportunity to be insecure about our bodies. Yes, we are human and aware of inadequacies, but for the most part we have no qualms about running around naked. So what do porn stars hide behind? What do we have to strip out of and expose our vulnerabilities? The answer is our character.
Every established porn performer has a character they play. Unlike mainstream actors who play various roles, we play the same role, and in fans’ minds we are always that person from the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed. Yes, we put on different costumes and say different things in scenes but ultimately we have a character always portrayed to varying degrees in everything we do. These characters are sometimes an extension of who we really are – exaggerating the characteristics of yourself that are most attributable to porn. However, some of them are completely made up. If you took away these characters/personas, some performers may feel very uncomfortable. These personas make a person stand out and make them different from who they otherwise thought they could be. In porn you can be anyone you want to be.
It’s not a secret many of us are different people when we go home. We drop the persona at our front door steps and become the person people often don’t see. We all have insecurities, and we all have ways of hiding them. Unfortunately for us we can’t simply take our panties off and suddenly feel exposed enough to recognize who we really are. We have to dig a little deeper to find what makes us uncomfortable and for many of us doing what we do has actually helped us find ourselves and become stronger, more open-minded individuals. Sexuality and body image are both the most common platforms for insecurities, and without those, we are able to focus on other aspects of ourselves. I often consider myself lucky when I see people struggle so much with sex and body image, and I’m sure other performers feel the same.
So what happens when one of us adult performers sheds the person we create to protect us? Like those at the workshop who had to face their neighbors naked, we too have to introduce ourselves to people completely stripped of the person making us somebody. In a culture that still remains rather sexually conservative, it is sometimes frightening to expose our real selves because unlike the workshop goers who can forget about their clothes and feel no attachment to them, we don’t have that luxury. We are not able to strip down our material identity and have it be disregarded by others. We have to continue to hold “our clothes” in our hand. It’s easy to put on your porn star persona and explain what you do because you love to fuck, but it’s much more difficult to drop that persona and explain to a conservative world why you do what you do as the person you truly are. As a porn star, even when you are comfortable with yourself, people will scrutinize you. Regular citizens fear they will take their clothes off and someone will look at them and judge, but this is just that, a fear. It is, however, inevitable for us; we take our clothes off and show people who we are, yet they will not easily forget what we once were wearing. To them, those clothes will be absolutely indicative of who we are underneath. It’s interesting that some of us sex workers have been able to master an act many are too uncomfortable to even attempt, yet we continue to be looked at as insecure.
Fortunately, the times are slowly changing, and thanks to amazing educators in our industry, people are starting to realize the importance of being sexually secure. Porn is simply entertainment and fantasy, and many of us have a lot of fun entertaining our fans. Can porn be used in a negative way? Unfortunately, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the root of the evil. Giving people a platform to explore themselves sexually is what we enjoy doing, and soon we won’t be rejected but rather admired.