The Whorearchy

I remember the first time I caught of a whiff of the concept of The Whorearchy. I was posing nude for websites like GodsGirls and RazorDolls—competitors to Suicide Girls and Burning Angel, one of which had specifically sprung up in response to Suicide Girls’s well documented dodgy labor practices. Some of the other young women on one of the sites were referring to themselves as models in a way that seemed, well, uppity.

As in, “I’m not a whore, I’m a model,” or “I’m not doing porn, I’m a model.”

I thought, what the hell do we think these website customers are paying something.99 a month for, then? RazorDolls had hardcore, definitely-porn next to the photosets, something I later participated in for work. GodsGirls was at least indirectly funded by a traditional porn company, which was an open secret at the time. 

I started asking this question out loud. 

Someone—who knows whether it was a stripper, burlesque dancer, pro-domme, fetish model, softcore model, art model, or porn performer from Philadelphia, or someone online from one of these communities, or even a fellow GodsGirl or RazorDoll, filled me in: society treats us like garbage. The easiest way to feel less like human trash is to pass the judgement on to someone further down the ladder. It doesn’t help the problem, but it helps the individual human in a toxic band-aid sort of way.

My point here is that I have no date for the coining of the term or concept of whorearchy, but that it predates my own career in the naked human business, which started in the mid 2000s. Perhaps the second wave of politically active sex workers remember where it started. Perhaps attribution of credit and date of coalescence are recorded in some book from one of those second wave women that I haven’t yet read.

For the unaware, the whorearchy centers around the idea that sex workers and sex-adjacent workers can be ranked into a hierarchy, the least vulnerable and least judged at the top and the most vulnerable and most judged at the bottom. I encourage you to do a web search yourself, since different people have different opinions about who belongs where.

Here’s the problem: It isn’t that simple, and it currently serves to justify in-fighting.

Most of us who stay in sex-related work for more than a couple of years end up working in more than one kind of job. Escorts go into camming or stripping when they need a break or to diversify in the wake of something like FOSTA. Porn performers dip their toe into professional domination, escorting, or working at one of the legal brothels when they need a break or when scene work dries up. Strippers become porn performers because the celebrity associated enables them to become feature dancers, earning more and using their bodies less.

This is further complicated by the global nature of the internet and the national and local nature of laws. Societal judgement and legal status are tangled up with each other. Is a legal brothel worker in Nevada or New Zealand higher or lower in the whorearchy than your average porn performer based in California? How about Florida, which has less infrastructure and no definite legal status? Where does a high profile cam performer rank next to a brand new porn performer without industry status or a good agent?

You may notice that I’m only speaking about the middle and upper class of sex work. That’s because I’m limiting myself to the areas around my expertise, and if you’re noticing: good. Maybe you’re starting to see us as a complex group with differing concerns and interests.

Meditating on the privilege of people you feel are above you, especially when you have no concept of the issues they face, can easily turn into objectification and occasionally flat-out hatred. Hatred doesn’t attract allies. Gentle, direct critique changes minds.

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

-Stoya

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June 19

On the plane I finally read The Argonauts. I’ve been meaning to for at least two years. I suspect I’ll need a second or even third reading to really wrap my head around it. I think I like Maggie Nelson’s brain quite a bit. Being a poet, her prose is a bit, well, poetic for my tastes, but reading outside one’s tastes seems like a great way of staving off that whole feedback loop mess. Mostly I appreciate the total absence of shock value in her story.

———

As we land the two young women next to me express uncertainty about what the airport will be like, saying they haven’t seen it in almost a decade. I tell them it’s still quite small, that customs is very quick, and that they should have plenty of time to get to their connection. I say something jovial about border control being polite and organized compared to, say, JFK.

The young woman closest to me says “I’m hoping the US doesn’t decide to put Bosnia on the banned list before I get back.” She doesn’t seem jovial at all. She has startlingly blue eyes. I rattle off some comforting geopolitical babble, saying the US would have major egg on it’s face if we changed our tune regarding Bosnia now. Leaving out the part where the Trump administration doesn’t seem to care what metaphors it might have on its face.

I hope the two women get where they’re headed, and return home without any hassle.

———

The sky above Nikola Tesla airport is grey. When I exit customs I see one man holding a card with a friend’s name on it. I should text them and see if they’re in town. 

Another man walks up and asks if I need a taxi. I know better than to take a random driver waiting outside the baggage claim, but I’m in Belgrade. I know the city well enough to tell if he’s screwing around with me. I can get out and order myself a new taxi if necessary. So I agree to have the man drive me.

His name is Zoran. He dives into the fact of his two sons and asks how close they might be to my age. Then he points out that we’re all in our thirties with no family decided on yet, that he already had children at twenty-five. I’m struck by how closely this mirrors a US headline I saw last month, something about the millennials taking longer to buy houses, to produce children. 

From this angle our generational concerns appear global.

———

I don’t want to waste the money on an extra night at the place I’m renting for the first couple of weeks, so I loiter on the sidewalk until the restaurants open, using my suitcase as a stool. The sky gets lighter but remains overcast. The leaves seem extra bright against the gathering clouds. I open Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple’s Brothers of the Gun. 

After a couple of hours I move to a second restaurant. A few more hours pass. I return to loitering, this time on the stairs of the building I’ll be staying in, waiting for somebody’s son to come let me in. I finish Marwan and Molly’s book. The son appears. I begin to really feel the lack of sleep.

But the sun is up, and I know if I allow myself to rest now my sleep schedule will be utterly out of control and require a hard re-set. So I move on to the fourth book of Laura Antoniou’s The Marketplace series. I’m partially into the fifth before bedtime becomes reasonable. 

I wouldn’t recommend The Marketplace for anyone who is trans or queer and going through a rough or extra-sensitive patch. I would absolutely recommend the series—especially the later books—for anyone who wants to think about BDSM and power. And Brothers of the Gun requires a self-bracing, a preparation to vicariously experience horror. But generally I just recommend that you read.

x

Stoya

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Sex Workers Town Hall

Someone in what looks like one of Francois Sagat’s fractal head shirts with the sleeves cut off weaves through the crowd, their purposeful movement marking them as part of the event’s organizational team. I’m at the first town hall for sex workers, held in Queens, NY with Suraj Patel, a candidate running in the Democratic primary for Congress.

I got my period last night, which means my upper body is curled over in an attempt to protect my abdomen from jostling. No amount of PMS is going to prevent me from missing this moment, from being in this room. I’m hoping my over the counter pain medication kicks in soon, though, because I’d like to be able to follow the conversation.

Partway through the opening panel—comprised of sex workers rights activists, advocates, and community service providers—Ceyenne Doroshow reminds us to watch each other’s backs, to check in with and keep track of each other. Applause breaks out, possibly the loudest so far. In a way, we’re voting with our hands.

Suraj dives into the subject of harm reduction. Lorelei Lee, the beautiful blonde seated on the same couch as I am, leans forward. I suspect we all want to hear what the politician has to say. The PMS fog obscures memory and I haven’t started taking notes in earnest yet, but the clapping indicates that we like what we hear.

Someone asks how Suraj wants to end the stigma around sex work and the people who do it—something he’d mentioned earlier. He says he intends to continue listening to and amplifying the voices of the community. He moves into some of the intersections at play: mass incarceration, economic hardship. Ending these problems would also lessen the potential for exploitation in sex work. He points at events like this Town Hall being a display of our power to push back, be heard — and actually listened to.

Another person asks about sex work and disability. Suraj shows humility in acknowledging how he himself neglects to include that in the conversation, and moves into a call for every citizen’s basic healthcare needs to be met.

A community organizer reminds Suraj that he is the face of anti-FOSTA, whether he likes it or not. Laughter rings around the room. They ask what he’s going to do for our community if he loses the election, what he’s going to keep doing to fill the responsibility he’s taken on—championing our rights. He jokes he’ll keep fighting but will take a month off first.

He answers seriously that he’ll figure out what he did wrong, engage in self care, and points out that he’s in his early thirties and isn’t going anywhere. He says “I’ll be right here with you guys, the whole way through. That’s a promise.”

Lorelei stands up to tell Suraj she hopes he does continue to listen and to learn. She thoroughly describes how great the things he’s doing are, and then explains that it isn’t enough. Reducing the penalty for prostitution to a ticket isn’t decriminalization. It isn’t enough.

Lorelei says that protecting the rights of those of us who love our jobs is too flat, too headline-y. She points out that many of us who’ve been in sex work for a long time have worked under many different conditions, that we’ve loved and utterly hated our jobs at various times. She says she needs to hear that he’s here for those of us who don’t particularly love our jobs, or don’t love them right now, even if that’s complicated.

The furthest Suraj goes is to say that the argument for decriminalization is “very compelling,” but also promises he will continue listening to the community as he forms an opinion. Then the event is over.

On my way out Suraj thanks me for coming. I tell him I’m quite happy with what I heard.

An activist behind me says “Only quite happy?” I respond “I want a bolder response on decrim. I understand the likely political reasons he can’t give one, but I don’t have the patience for this slow and steady.”  She tells me to tell him that. I smile and say “He knows.”

I’m far from all in, but if I lived in NY’s 12th congressional district I’d be voting for Suraj on June 26th.

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Brazil

I don’t know anything about Brazil.

Ok, I know they mainly speak Portuguese, and evolved from a Portuguese colony. I know that in Civ 5 the Brazilian player gets extra culture from jungle tiles. I know they just had a religious holiday of some kind, and that they were recently protesting something regarding gasoline.

But that’s it.

———

I’m so far out of my element here. I don’t know the history of this place. It’s lovely. I can simply absorb the beauty without seeing it through six different lenses of politics. Like a vacation. And, fuck, is it ever beautiful.

Photographers refer to magic hour. That period as the sun sets where the light is gorgeous and the photos go from good to stunning. You may have heard people talk about the light in Los Angeles or Greece. 

The sky in Porto Alegre is exquisite when it’s cloudy. I haven’t seen the sunshine yet.

———

Lazar and I are here because the Fantaspoa festival is screening Ederlezi Rising. The organizers are very family style… I was picked up at the airport by a representative of the show instead of a hired driver, there are group lunches and activities, and the organizers are always willing to walk us from point A to point B.

My main contact, Joao, is tattooed all over with artwork from the festival’s history. He took us to a bar where the walls are covered in genre film posters and at least one table sports a layer of tasteful Playboy nudes.

It’s a joy to be around people who love what they’re doing so much. Who celebrate the creative work they love so thoroughly.

———

Depending on the geographical area, you might greet a person by hugging, kissing cheeks one to three times, or some combination of the above. Even a stranger. They aren’t forceful about it, but isn’t it nicer their way? Warmer than a handshake.

There’s something grounding about being embraced multiple times throughout the day. And these aren’t shoulders-first air hugs, either. The physical warmth and ease with contact reminds me of Serbia.

I don’t know anything about Brazil. But I know the people here are human and welcoming.

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May 24th

On Monday I was informed that our applications to Visa and MasterCard had just been submitted. I thought that was weird, since I’d paid the associated fees a couple of weeks prior. I felt frustrated, because our planned launch date (May 24th—today) was approaching quickly and Visa approval can take up to 21 business days.

When I still hadn’t heard back from my main contact at the payment processing company the next day, I called asking to speak to their boss about having a new contact assigned. By the end of the day our existing contact was calling with the news that Visa had approved us. 

I considered texting Mitcz, attempting to frame lucky coincidence and the processing company’s speed at resolving our issue as evidence that the 24th was, in fact, an auspicious day—which I promise to explain at some point.

———

Hi. Mitcz and I are launching a thing called ZeroSpaces.com. It’s a website. It contains videos that depict explicit, hardcore sex. It also contains galleries, and something a bit unusual: articles. We’re incorporating the roots of pornography—a word with roots in an ancient Greek one meaning depiction of harlots or prostitutes, depending on who’s doing the translating—and revisiting what it means to depict human sexuality and sexual workers professionally.

———

On Wednesday I forwarded Mitcz an email from the company’s lawyer, asking for confirmation that the Mitcz-devised language in our privacy policy about how it’s fine to make up a display name like JoeBobMcChickenHead is, in fact, original to the… um… originator. It was.

I finished uploading trailers for the library of archive videos, and scrambled to get creator profiles as complete as possible before the launch. Attribution of credit is important, and we’re working to make finding the online presences of the artists and workers involved as easy as possible so you can learn more about them and where more of their work is available, including places outside our walled garden.

Most of my work on ZeroSpaces in the last month has been dry bureaucratic stuff—organization of w9s and 2257s, work-for-hire and payment processing agreements. I’m looking forward to beginning work on the second issue, getting back to the creative end of things.

———

ZeroSpaces is using an issue-based format. We’re releasing batches of all sorts of content—yes, videos, but also erotic fiction, profiles on luminaries of the sex work community, and both documentary-style and editorial visuals—all tied to a single theme. We have videos and galleries available for individual purchase, but encourage you to choose the full experience.

———

I’m heading to the airport today, the suitcase already out and packed. It’s nerve-wracking to be launching a new project just before getting on a long flight—what if something goes wrong? But I’m not the programmer or the social media manager, so maybe it’s not so bad for me to be out of the metaphorical kitchen for a big chunk of the day.

Back to the 24th of May. On this day in 1844, the first telegraph message was sent from the United States Capitol. It’s also Saints Cyril and Methodius day, venerating the pair who inspired the Cyrillic alphabet and widely celebrated throughout the slavic-speaking parts of the world.

You can see why I feel today is so appropriate for launching a project that has to do with language, communication, and the transmission of media, right?

-Stoya

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Free Time

Belgrade to NYC to Paris to NYC to Malibu to NYC to Belgrade.

There was a feature film, a short film, a Sex Lit event guest starring Joanna Angel, and at least one photoshoot in there. No video pornography yet this year, but… stay tuned.

I’m in Belgrade for the premier of Ederlezi Rising. No details yet on when it’ll be released for general viewing, but… well, everything is stay tuned and jet lag right now.

With eight hours between checking into the hotel and needing to be dressed, I went down to the spa. They told me to come back in a swimsuit. So I came back in a long sleeved crop top and a pair of panties with a cartoon cat on the butt. Nobody said anything to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean my outfit was acceptable.

Less than five minutes after entering the steam room I met someone who knows First. Randomly meeting people who know First is a regular occurrence for me in Belgrade. If there are more than ten people in a room, one of them probably knows him. I’d have stayed for a lengthy chat but the heat started to get too intense for me.

I managed to while away another hour reading a paper on Emma Goldman and the perversion of the Russian Revolution, sent to me by a follower on ismygirl.com. It feels a bit pompous to charge people a monthly fee to message me, but it’s cut down drastically on the amount of garbage I encounter daily and greatly increased the quality of the messages I actually see.

How the fuck did capitalism put the fun back in the Internet?

Meanwhile, Steve Prue approved my dress for the premier (courtesy of Yang Li, no less) and my press day outfit, so at least I’m not stressed about what to wear. Maybe that’s where all this free time is coming from.

-Stoya

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Sex Lit: Joanna Angel’s Night Shift

Last year we did three editions of Sex Lit—a book club, meeting in Gowanus, Brooklyn. We started with Story of the Eye, continued with The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, and closed with Story of O.

Some books on the list for future events:

Laura Antoniou’s The Marketplace

Nicholson Baker’s House of Holes

J G Ballard’s Crash

Colette’s The Pure and the Impure

Guy New York’s The Island on the Edge of Normal

Henry Miller’s Under the Roofs of Paris

Anais Nin’s Spy in the House of Love

Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands

The next Sex Lit will feature adult performer and porn company owner Joanna Angel’s Night Shift—a choose your own adventure erotic novel. The author will appear for a q&a during the event.

=========================
BOOK CLUB: 2/18
=========================
House of Scorpio
presents
Sex Lit: Stoya’s Book Club
with special guest Joanna Angel
Sunday, Feb 18*, 6-9pm, $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
The body’s largest sex organ is the brain. Come stimulate yours with a rousing discussion of an explicitly erotic book led by pornographer Stoya. Drinking encouraged throughout, and mingling will follow the talk.
Your book for this edition of Sex Lit is Night Shift: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy penned by Joanna Angel, founder of adult company BurningAngel and award-winning adult actress and director. Joanna herself is also our special guest for the event! She will participate in the discussion, with Stoya as moderator, and stay after for photos and signing.
Book summary: After graduating college, Taryn finds herself lost and uncertain of what to do next. With a self-imposed friendless and sexless life, Taryn unexpectedly winds up working the graveyard shift at Dreamz, a seedy sex shop. Your mission: in a sketchy world filled with tissues, gallons of lube, sex toys, tiger print, and swinger parties, help Taryn choose her way as she learns what happens in this small, unexpectedly kinky town. From butt plugs to cross-dressing truckers to being held-up at gunpoint over dildos, experience this fun and sexy journey along with Taryn, as she goes from shy and sweet to skilled and empowered— but how she gets there is up to you.
This should be obvious, but: read the book before joining the book club! In this case, the book only gets released on Feb 13, so you may want to pre-order for fastest delivery.

Icons

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.]

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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