Stigmatizing Your Own Sexuality
*I wrote this as a foreword to clinical psychologist Dr. David Ley‘s new book Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure. If you are interested in pre-ordering the book, click here.
“Are you addicted to sex?”
Feeling deflated, I looked at the young college student who asked me this question, and I simply replied, “No.”
I had spent the last hour and a half discussing the stigma and discrimination porn performers regularly face. I talked about my background growing up in Alaska, and how close I remain with my family despite my chosen career path. I mentioned being a founder and the president of a nonprofit organization which aims to help protect the rights and safety of performers. There was a discussion about the legislative work the organization is involved in and also how much we focus on educating performers about work ethic and professionalism, building a successful business, navigating personal relationships, and even how to do taxes. Lastly, I explained to the students why I chose to be in porn. I told them being in porn has given me the freedom to explore myself sexually in safe and comfortable ways. I also have had the opportunity to see the world from the perspective of a unique albeit marginalized community, and being in porn introduced me to the current issues the U.S. faces regarding sex education. These are the topics I love to talk about and the problems I fight against every day, so it was no surprise that when the student asked if I was addicted to sex, a dispirited “no” was all I could muster. Even after all I addressed in my speech, the stigma surrounding those who choose a career in pornography remained.
Often I am asked to speak at universities and colleges. Talking about porn and sexuality is one of the things I enjoy most about being a pornstar. When I step into a classroom, I look forward to debunking myths, challenging stereotypes, and demystifying the world of sex. Sadly, I am always disappointed in how little the students know about their sexuality, and it concerns me to know valuable education about sex is being withheld. This information would give students the tools they need to protect their health and their safety, succeed in interpersonal relationships, and avoid inaccuracies the media (and even porn) perpetuates about sex. These students are not children; they are adults who are out on their own and making choices for themselves. As sexual beings, they deserve to receive more knowledge about sex. This lack of information contributes to why, after talking for a lengthy period about misguided beliefs about porn performers, the student still wondered whether I was addicted to sex because of what I do for a living.
When it comes to sex, people regularly make erroneous inferences, not only about pornography but also about themselves. Men and even women ask me what it means when they like to watch porn or when they like a certain type of sex. They lack knowledge around their sexual thoughts and desires, and this is dangerous because misunderstanding your sexuality can lead you to reach invalid conclusions about who you are based on nothing except fear. So, when these people ask me, “What does it mean?” I usually smile at them, and as they prepare for a pornstar fantasy analysis, I casually say, “Nothing.”
They are sometimes confused, but I reinforce it by saying again, “Your fantasies probably mean nothing.”
They look back at me, and I think I can read their minds. How could this be?! Fantasies invoke such strong feelings in me! These desires are things I would never do in real life! These fantasies must mean something! I explain to them, “People think about things they would never do in real life ALL the time, and they don’t believe they mean anything significant. Why would sexual fantasies be any different?”
To better understand fantasies having no significance I have to go to a place that has nothing to do with sex, but I promise it will only be for a moment. Think about all the times you have experienced strong emotions whether it’s anger, fear, or sadness. Now, think about all the times during those moments of emotional influx you thought about something you would never do in real life. Maybe someone made you angry, and you thought about punching them in the face, or maybe you imagined driving someone off the road because they cut you off. We accept these thoughts as normal because we know that in real life the majority of us don’t conduct ourselves in this way. We know if we were to punch someone in the face or drive someone off the road, there would likely be less than desirable repercussions. In the comfort of our own mind, we omit the realities of these actions because it is much less satisfying and much less fun to fantasize about consequences. Fortunately, due to our ability to reason, we can discern between fantasy and reality. Why, then, do people struggle to apply this to sexual fantasies?
Our sexual fantasies do not recognize the boundaries that we normally function within every day, so it is no surprise that you may find yourself fantasizing about something that seems out of character, weird, or even illegal. If fantasies followed the same rules we follow in our everyday life, then they would not be fantasies. If you do find yourself thinking about things that you would not do in real life, feel comfortable knowing that the safest place to explore these fantasies is in your head. And if you do find that you want to explore outside of your head, then there are plenty safe ways to do so. One of these ways is through pornography. Porn is essentially a visual representation of what is already in our minds. As long as we can discern between fantasy and reality, exploring fantasies visually is absolutely okay. As a performer in pornography, it is my job to create what is in your head. Even if it’s morbid, strange, scary, or boring, I create these fantasies because I know they exist, and through porn people can safely explore their desires. So, instead of asking yourself what your desires mean, simply ask yourself what your desires are, then accept them, and then explore them. After all, as a pornstar, I love what I do most when it makes people feel good, not guilty.
Now, I am not a psychologist, and I did not utilize scientific method to reach conclusions that fantasies mean nothing because for a small number of people they do. But just as you wouldn’t assume you were going to become the next Son of Sam because you thought about throwing your neighbor down the stairs for playing loud music at three in the morning, you shouldn’t assume your sexual fantasies are a sign that you are a horrible and doomed person. Our minds, as well as our sexuality, are both fascinating, and sometimes confusing cognitive and biological systems to navigate, and sadly, most of us have not been given tools to do so. Without the necessary tools to understand and navigate sexuality, it is easy to believe in fallacies and create illusions about what our desires mean. The book, Ethical Porn for Dicks, can be a tool for you to see your sexuality from a different perspective. This perspective does not involve fear, and it does not involve shame. It involves exploration and understanding and also recognizes that fantasies, no matter how absurd, are normal, and finding ways to explore those fantasies in safe ways can be satisfying without the looming confusion and guilt people can feel after watching porn.
It may be difficult to view your sexuality from a more positive framework because most of our lives we have regularly been told about all the horrible things that happen from sex unless it occurs in a traditional and orthodox way. But this can change, and it should, because sex is a natural part of who we are, and policing our thoughts and desires only serves to hinder our development. We all have sexual desires, and because there is very little open discourse about sex, we continue to fear that our desires are different than others, when we are all actually very similar in this regard.
I know the underlying theme may seem like I am advocating for the use of porn, but I am not. I am aware that porn is not as entertaining to some as it is to others, and I understand and respect that. What I am advocating for is the pursuit of pragmatic and comprehensive introspection of our sexuality, and if that means popping in a porno and watching me tickle balls in a French maid costume then so be it. It is my job as a pornstar to visually create your fantasy, and I genuinely have a blast doing so.
After speaking to a class of students, I find that many of them seem relieved when they accept that they can change their views on sex and pornography and still feel like a normal person. Many of them saunter out the door questioning all they thought they knew about sex, but not all of them; some students continue to see their sexuality as something that needs to be contained. When the one student raised his hand to ask me if I was addicted to sex, I doubt he knew how much that question would reveal about himself. People don’t realize how much their assumptions reflect the narrow parameters they place around their own sexuality. Although the student meant no harm by his question, I knew that if he easily made this assumption about me, then he probably just as easily makes assumptions about himself. As a young man who has sexual fantasies and has likely seen porn, I knew that he would never feel entirely comfortable with either of these until he can expand the boundaries of his limitations around sex.
If you believe people can only be in porn because of an addiction to sex or assumptions of the like, then you will never respect our choice to be in porn, and if you don’t respect our choice to be in porn, then you will never respect yourself as a consumer of porn. Not respecting the use of pornography as sexual entertainment reflects a widespread misunderstanding that pornography is created from a place void of dignity and personal agency and is seen as a product of shameful indulgence. It is time to start looking at porn differently, and it is time to start looking at ourselves differently because it is possible to watch porn and maintain a healthy sexual psyche, and it is possible to have outrageous fantasies and maintain a healthy sexual psyche. The sooner you recognize that your current beliefs about sex and porn are possibly products of misconceptions, fear, and confusion, the sooner you will see your fantasies and porn-use as less of a burden and more as a normal part of who you are and a perfectly healthy way to explore your sexuality.