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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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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