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Theme Warning: Religion, Alienation

Someone said, the other day, that hell is isolation. That hell is disconnection from the universe.

A friend and I went to the Museum of Yugoslavia. As we were walking back to the bus or trolley—can’t remember which—I understood something.

I understood another part of my fascination with the Sveti (Saint) icons. They’re representations of people—people who had real, complicated lives and have been turned into stories.

I’m far from a saint, but I have a real, complicated life. And I have been turned—numerous times—into a story. Sometimes I participate. Sometimes it happens without my input or permission. It’s a side-effect of micro-celebrity.

Note the absence of qualitative judgment.

It is what it is, and I’m not ready to give up on my work yet—neither the porn or the being human in public, not that one doesn’t stem from the other. But sometimes whatever people dump in my lap won’t wash off as easily as I’d like.

People frequently see me as a two-dimensional representation and twist my timeline to suit the narrative they have in their heads. They project their shame or their need for inspiration onto me. Sometimes with a disconcerting amount of hatred or worship in their eyes. It’s dehumanizing. It’s part of the job.

When I was a guest on the Guys We Fucked Podcast, I described this as being on a pedestal in a garbage can.

Women tell me that they absolutely adore [insert fairytale idea of my life or quality so incredibly not me that I wonder if they’ve got me confused with another performer.] Men bring me their bad behavior or their burning desire to be “good” and ask me to bless their actions, like some kind of whore priest.

This projection and desire for absolution must serve some basic human need, otherwise it wouldn’t continue. Otherwise I wouldn’t be so frequently objectified this way. We need something greater than ourselves to hang our hopes and hurts on.

In the west we’ve replaced pagan and Greco-Roman pantheon gods with the Abrahamic religions’ one-true-God, that God with kings, kings with actors and musicians, and now we’ve added reality stars and the occasional porn star to the mix.

(I’ve been told Nietzsche talks about this, but I haven’t read much of him. Maybe when I’m done thinking on religion I’ll turn back to philosophy.)

We call these entertainers icons when they reach a certain level of prowess or fame within their field. I’ve been called an icon, by members of the press and by people I considered peers until they put me on that pedestal.

When I feel so alienated that I wonder how much longer I can bear it, the saints of the Orthodox Church help me feel less weird and alone in a way that no friend or therapist can.

Sometimes, when I can herd my thoughts into something resembling a linear path, the meaning turns out to have been staring me in the face the whole time.

-Stoya

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Trigger Warning: Christmas

I got my period on Gregorian Christmas, thank Petka—the saint protector or small god of women.

Three days ago I woke up feeling fine, and then a bit after noon I suddenly felt scattered and jittery. I texted this exact thing to a friend, so I have the time stamp. The next day I found out there’d been an earthquake in Montenegro, of a magnitude and geographical proximity likely to have been felt by me and medium sized mammals.

When I’m in LA I know to look at Cal Tech’s SCEDC if that rattled feeling comes on suddenly. Especially if nobody else in whatever room I’m in felt it. My internal earthquake monitor has never been incorrect. In the Balkans, I didn’t think to check and wouldn’t have known where to look anyway. A friend’s neighbor told me about the Montenegrin quake the next day, and I was so relieved to know the cause of the previous day’s random malaise that I melted towards the floor on my knees.

She, the neighbor, had felt it too. She said we’re both sensitive, a little like cats. This feels true. Later she told me that many of her friends are Muslim. I told her the story of that one time I went to Istanbul and hundreds of Turkish men DM’d me pictures of their cats. It was a nice break from the poorly lit dick pics and the demands to “fukx me” sent by douchebags of all nations and faiths.

(I will never fukx you. I will also never fuck you. No, not even on camera. I prefer to work with professionals and to recreate with people I already know. Please do feel free to share more cat pictures though.)

———

Julian Christmas Eve day was spent with a few people from a semi-secret society (i.e. they don’t immediately pop up on google) that I will refer to as the BPC. We flew drones in a park. I entertained someone’s baby with various animal impressions. It was the kind of day I would like to have in my life regularly.

In the evening First, who is more like a brother at this point than anything else, took me to his parents’ home. His father, being an Orthodox priest, engages in fasting. Пост (post) is a bit like intermittent vegandom, without the lectures on meat being murder or the side-eye at my leather pants—which keep my ass warm and have lasted longer than three pairs of jeans combined. Пост food is also delicious when done reasonable well.

First’s father was full of jokes and hilarious stories, which I could catch a word or two of as he told them. Then I’d wait for First to translate the rest. His father doesn’t speak English, but he had a preternatural ability to understand what I was saying. Priests and pastors tend to be eerily perceptive, in my experience. I suspect it’s because they spend so much time studying and speaking with people.

I don’t know what the father was responding to, or if he was responding to any words at all, but he said that he has seen people change. This struck me—not because I doubt my own ability to change, but because I’ve been doubting whether I should have made more punitive choices in the past. What he said renews my hope.

-Stoya

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[Edited to fix that thing where I mixed up which one was Julian and which one was Gregorian–big thanks to Igor for notifying me of my mistake.]

Trigger Warning: Religion, Science

You might have heard this before, but I grew up with a lot of christianity around. It’s part of the US south, it was part of my family, it was part of my childhood. These things—environmental factors—have a way of sticking with you, shaping you one way or another.

You might have seen how, in a rough spot, I dig for the core of what god is. I think that belief in the christian god is about as valid as belief in the 10-dimensional universe. I believe that belief itself has a way of changing the world, has a way of giving people the strength to persevere long enough to do more than stand against entropy. Of course, I also believe that the moon makes people act a bit crazier than usual.

People used to ask whether I believed in a religion, try to tell me I was an atheist if I said I wasn’t sure. I was waiting to collect more life experience. I was pretty sure there was something, whether you want to call it a force, or an omnipotent God, or a bunch of small gods more like super-humans. For a time, I stopped dealing with religious people at all.

[I wonder if, later, some mixture of the remains of Trump’s reality career and Star Wars will be dug out of time and taken as historical fact, starting a new religion in which golden televisions are worshipped and bits of circuitry are carefully eaten.]

Religions are a way of soothing the longing for some organization or sense in the world. Science soothes in the same way. Compressing the complexity of reality into a headline or a paragraph can help, too, whether you’re on the writing or reading end. The life-optimization-hippies call this journaling.

For me, I can’t write into the void. I have to be addressing myself to a person who once asked a question, even if it’s years later and something they’ll likely never read. Or communicating to six people who all expressed curiosity about the same thing.

The one functional substitute I’ve found is the serbian orthodox church’s slava system. Unfortunately, nobody remembers who Great-Grandpa Draggy’s patron saint was. You could call this a quest opportunity.

-Stoya

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Trigger Warning: My Inbox

Last week was a rough week. Some people assumed Serbia was the issue, so I now feel a need to explain myself further:

The issue is the US. The issue is things that are happening in the US, and the way that western men react to these things—perhaps not all men but literally every western man I’ve spoken to for more than three minutes this month.

The issue is also the way that women in the US media email me about these things, asking for commentary—like I haven’t publicly stated that I will move on with my life, and will simply retire if the media refuses to allow that to happen while I remain in the public eye.

I am fortunate to be in a place where I don’t need Ritalin to do my work at the level expected of me. I am fortunate to be in a place that helps me feel stable, where many of my friends are available last minute for a coffee or dinner and we can share our issues as opposed to steam-rolling each other with them. I am fortunate to be in a place where I am able to have my feelings as they happen, process them, and write about them if they’re organized enough. I am fortunate to be in a place where I am treated as a human above all else.

If I had been in New York last week, I’d still be in a funk. I’d be exhibiting physical symptoms of depression and hypervigilance. I’d most likely be experiencing a domino-like cascade of flashbacks.

But I’m not in New York. I’m in Belgrade. Where my only insecurity stems from the fear that I won’t be allowed to stay here. Where I can move freely through the city, where no one has ever interrupted my dinner to demand a photo, where no strange man has ever put their hands on me inappropriately.

God save me from men whose default mode is to make assumptions, please. God save me from feminists who forget that I am human too.

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Trigger Warning: Cats

There’s this building I stayed in when Ederlezi Rising was being filmed. It’s got a backyard, with a restaurant kitchen on the other side. A feral cat colony lives there.

Every other day or so I would sit with the cats and feed them tuna or sardines. When the woman handling catering on set heard about what I was doing, she would save any leftover fish and send it home with me for them.

The night before I left, the big tom hopped up in my lap and started purring. It was beautiful.

So now sometimes when I’m in Belgrade I go through the building, into the backyard, and feed the cats. Especially if I have leftovers for them. I grew up being told it’s a shame to waste. I still believe that. You might have seen one of the kittens on my instagram feed.

It’s been a rough three days. Partially because of events I’m only hearing about third or fourth hand, and partially because I’m in some kind of extended, still bloodless PMS. It feels insane to be begging my body to hurry up and menstruate.

Tears started rolling out of my eyes when the owner of the language school I attend told me that the laws regarding language visas had just changed. They came faster the more he talked, and when he started doing math I couldn’t contain myself anymore, apologized, and left.

I went to Sveti Petka and sobbed. Churches are one of the safer places to have emotions. Someone said Petak is named for Petka, like Vendredi in French is named for Venus, like Friday in English is named for Freya. Female gods. Protectresses of women. Someone said Petka’s church has been a site women go to when they need help since before Christianity.

I need to bleed. I need to be able to feel safe. Unlike the last church I cried in, there were no tourists pointing me out to their children. It was warm, and somber, and beautiful.

Then I went to feed the cats. The older cats got up when I pulled the tuna tins out of my bag. The kittens didn’t, because they’re dead. These moments are the downside of caring.

Someone said Mercury is in retrograde. Someone said not to make any decisions until Sunday, when it passes. Someone else has said retrograde Mercury interferes with communication.

Maybe posting this is a mistake. There is still no blood.

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Loop

It was still there, years later. That immediate magnetic comfort. When I did pull away from our hug I didn’t pull away by much. Our faces stayed close together for long enough to wonder if they might kiss me, if we did kiss whether it would still feel like inhaling some kind of balmy cloud. The attraction hadn’t waned at all.

———

I’d thought he might kiss me after the show. I had my arms wrapped around his neck, we were swaying gently, his eyes looked so large because his face was so close to mine. He didn’t.

I’d thought he might kiss me when he came into my apartment. I’d also thought he might kiss me two hours in, with my leg draped over his and my face snuggled into his neck. Finally, four hours after he’d arrived, he kissed my cheek and made a move towards my mouth. I held his head in place with both hands and met his lips with mine.

His tongue thrust into my mouth. I flattened my own tongue against the bottom of his, enjoying feeling so open. Or maybe the feeling was opened. Every muscle in my body relaxed, towards him. I thought “This is the kind of kiss you dream of capturing on pornography.”

He said something about how he remembered that weekend so vividly. I said “What weekend?” and immediately regretted it. I could see in his face that he’d thought I was serious. “I’m sorry—I shouldn’t have been flippant. I remember the weekend you’re talking about relatively well.”

———

We’d spent every possible hour together, outside of work and a wedding. We’d hooked up, had sex, lounged talking with skin pressed against skin. He’d found it romantic, the way I was bouncing from hotel to hotel. I’d felt near-disastrously irresponsible—what gainfully employed adult can’t manage to secure long term housing quickly?

I’d written about it afterwards, around the time I started taking capitalization seriously. It was the first—but far from last—time I zoomed in on the joys of all the kinds of touching that aren’t directly sexual. It was the first time I tried to pen in with words that gravitational pull of ease.

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To Roll an R

“Radno Vreme,” said the sign on the front of the shop. I assumed it meant something about hours of working, from context.

“Vrlo rado,” said my brain, which insisted on drawing a connection that isn’t really there. Many words that have to do with work begin with “rad” but not all words that begin with “rad” pertain to work. A big chunk of them pertain to rejoicing.

My mother used to warn me not to take out a map on the sidewalk in any city. The concern being that I might as well shout “I’m not from here, take my wallet.”

That particular issue hasn’t occurred since the spread of smartphones and high data speeds, but I did one better yesterday; I pulled out a thick hardcover English/Serbian dictionary on the sidewalk to look up ‘vreme.’

It means time, in case you’re curious.

———

I have a list of projects I intended to think on while I’m here. I had all these plans of sitting down and carving out structures, marketing plans, feasibility projections.

Now that I’m in Belgrade, all I want to do is, well, be here. I’m sure this is complicated by the fact that I’m off my ADHD medication, due to the way the US handles controlled substances and the amount of time I’m out of the country for. Without those pills, I struggle to maintain a linear thread of thought.

Of course, without them I also have an appetite and am better hydrated. And I lived without them for over 30 years.

———

Anyhow, I’m here, I’m happy, and my Serbian language skills are atrocious. Off to register with the Serbian workshop my friend Carol recommended I go.

-Stoya

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Acting

I’ve always had a thing about the term “porn actor.” The phrase never felt accurate when applied to my work. Sure, some of the on-camera talent in pornography thinks of what they do as acting, but I don’t. I think of my day job as performing.

Yes, many of the scenes I’ve done during my career contain what we refer to as “set-up” or dialogue. This precursor to sex is usually treated as secondary and the more vocal consumers often express derision for it. The shooting conditions rarely allow for more than a handful of takes per angle. There’s no rehearsal.

The actual sex scenes are easiest to do all in one take. Every pause or stop reduces the energy. They’re more like a feat of athletic prowess. The bulk of the story—a very simple one that focuses on physical sexuality—is told with the body, not the mouth. This makes performing in porn more like dancing to me than acting.

So then why am I talking about acting? I’ve done some.

———

A couple of years ago I went to Serbia to make a movie. (Lazar Bodroza and Dimitrije Vojnov’s Ederlezi Rising, releasing 2018) I’d agreed to do the project based on a five-page treatment. It sounded like a challenge, and I like Serbia.

Securing the funding took years. There were rehearsals and coaching and screen tests before the actual shoot, and the actor I’d initially worked with was replaced.

Just before we began principal photography, we had another week of rehearsals. We tried each scene multiple ways, with different sets of blocking. I had to learn a few simple martial arts moves, and how to safely perform them, so we drilled that all week as well.

We shot an average of two scenes per day. When we thought we’d gotten the shot, everyone would gather around the monitor to watch it. One time I noticed that my hand was contradicting both my statements and the rest of my body language, so we re-did the scene.

Days were almost exactly twelve hours. There was a single instance of overtime at the request of both the lead actor and I, and we were only granted one more take, so only a few minutes. Everything was precise.

———

From late October to late November, I was in a play. (Ian W. Hill and Dean Haspiel’s Harakiri Kane or Die! Die, Again!!) It started with a reading in Phil Cruise’s living room so Dean could hear the play out loud. Then Phil asked if I’d participate in a public reading. Apparently these things are useful for feedback.

Later, around the time Ian decided to direct the show, they asked if I’d be interested in doing theater. It sounded like a challenge, and by this point I liked the people who were involved.

I read with potential lead actors during casting. We did another private reading and rehearsed. About a week and a half before the show opened we did a run-through as a group. That was when I realized I was about to be in a play, in New York City, with a bunch of experienced and well trained people. I started to get nervous.

See, there’s no doing it over or checking your script in live theater. There’s no “let me try it a different way since the timing didn’t quite land on that one.” There’s no “oops, when do I talk?” You have to remember your lines, blocking, which emotions change at what points, and—the most difficult for me—to project your voice.

A few minutes before the house opened for the first show I started to feel the physical symptoms of nervousness—the dizziness, pounding heart, sweat. They stopped when the show started. Weirdly, they came back about 15 minutes after I got home. Like the adrenaline of showtime had given me a pause but not a reprieve.

I started to relax around halfway through the ten show run. The last show, of course, is where I did my best work.

———

It turns out there’s a commonality with all three types of work (pornography, video acting, and stage acting) of being in the present moment, in the little bubble contained by the viewer or lens. If they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

I was surprised by the differences between video and stage acting. Stage is much more difficult, but the sense of accomplishment is stronger and occurs after every show. There’s a stronger connection to the audience and there’s immediate feedback. Both can be very fun with the right people.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I don’t tend towards flowery speeches of gratitude. I am grateful to every person who came to see the show. A full house that is engaged with what they’re seeing makes the experience of performing that much better. An audience that participates—gasps, cringes, laughs—is the best reward.

Thank you.

-Stoya

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Gravity

“You have a siren-like effect on me.”

“Good thing you’ve also got a self-preservation instinct.”

Actually I’d had no idea. They’ve always got this air about them when they leave, as though they’ve turned their gaze to the next thing and are striding purposefully towards it. Instead, it turned out to be a glimpse of the discipline it takes to tear themselves away and handle necessary tasks.

The amount of time we’ve spent ruefully sharing feelings we’d thought were obvious is significant. Two people, both assuming the other is far less invested, trying to avoid appearing too eager.

———

The previous night they’d referred to me as the center of gravity.

There’s a mountain of comments stashed somewhere in my brain, some accusing me of behaving like the center of the universe, others going to far as to call me a goddess. This gravity metaphor felt like neither. It felt like a refreshingly appropriate way to romanticize a human, from earth.

A humanizing glorification, if you will.

———

There’s a terrifying responsibility that comes with being an important part of someone’s life. To disappear abruptly is to cause pain. Non-matching speech and actions stirs up fears related to attachment.

Withholding emotions or life events says things, like a speech act does, and sometimes the things said are not what we mean. We communicate so much with our bodies and our silences.

(And I’d rather be a fish-woman or part of physics than a myth or an astral feature.)

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Photo Orgy

We had a bit of a photo orgy yesterday.

Sweetpea was in town from the midwest. Steve had her over for a photo session, and I asked if I could jump in with my camera. Sweetpea graciously agreed, and Steve asked if he could roll video.

Things you should know about Sweetpea: She has long pointed fingernails that Widget has fallen in love with. She’s an encyclopedia of early queer/dyke culture and art. She’s hilarious in an ambient, accidental sort of way.

Since I already had makeup on (thanks to a last minute loan of foundation from T the previous night—why does that stuff expire so quickly?) we figured we might as well do a set of nudes together. It’s been a long time since I had the opportunity to shoot with another woman.

I pulled out some strappy stuff Marika Vera sent from her most recent collection. Sweetpea commented on the total demeanor change that occurs when I step in front of the camera to pose: toes pointing, back arching, facial expressions intensifying.

More things to know about Sweetpea: Her skin smells like lemon mixed with olive oil, which I associate with off-duty strippers for some reason. This makes sense, since she’s a burlesque performer.

Later Steve photographed her on the floor covered in non-dairy coconut ice cream.

As Sweetpea was waiting for the instax to be scanned Steve regaled us with an act he’d seen at Hellfire where the performer cooked a breakfast bagel on stage. It was a good day.

Meanwhile, the Sex Lit: Story of the Eye event went so well that we’re doing another in October. Details below:

House of Scorpio presents Sex Lit: Stoya’s Book Club

Sunday, Oct 15*, 6:30-9:30pm, $20 (limited tickets), 21+ (25+ suggested)

Gemini & Scorpio Loft in Gowanus, BK – see site for address

No PAL or dress code requirement, but HoS Code of Conduct always applies

Rules, RSVP & location: http://www.houseofscorpio.com

Tickets: https://sexlit.brownpapertickets.com

FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/364666787299654

FL: https://fetlife.com/events/593531

The body’s largest sex organ is the brain. Come stimulate yours with a rousing discussion of a classic sexuality book led by pornographer Stoya. Drinking encouraged throughout, and mingling will follow the talk.

Stoya’s Book Club, a teaser: http://bit.ly/2uQRzvh

Your book for this edition of Sex Lit is Ann Rice’s “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty.” The Sleeping Beauty Quartet is a series of four novels written by Anne Rice under the pseudonym of A. N. Roquelaure (The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty’s Release, and Beauty’s Kingdom). They are erotic BDSM novels set in a medieval fantasy world, loosely based on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. Highlights include both maledom and femdom scenarios amid vivid imageries of bisexuality, homosexuality, ephebophilia and pony play.

This should be obvious, but: read the book before joining the book club!

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