Where in the World is Carmen San DiStoya?

I left, for a safer feeling place, because I felt I was under some threat of invasion. Here, I’ll explain:

A few years ago I’d finished my shift at Exxxotica New Jersey and was being taken to my hotel by Steve—not the roommate Steve, a different Steve. A stranger, male presenting and much bigger than I am both horizontally and vertically, inserted themselves into my physical path.

It’d been a long day, so instead of “excuse me, I’m no longer on the clock” he got “I WILL HARSHLY BEAT YOU with my bag of super skin ™ orifices.” The other Steve let the whole thing play out because he was perfectly capable of intervening if necessary, but knew that most likely he’d just get a good show.

The strange man mumbled about whether I was scared of him or something.

———

I was in no shape to communicate this, but fuck yes I was scared of him or something. Life has taught my body that humans who are larger than I am are giant spike-y question marks. Like, they could be great, or they could do something physically or psychologically injurious on purpose. The only way to find out is to risk an interaction or watch if someone else decides to take that risk.

———

Molly Crabapple once interviewed me live, in person at the NYC SoHo Club. A guy waited through the whole interview—during which we discussed art, sex, politics, pornography, directing, and how it felt for me to be in charge. When question time started this guy put his hand up, and asked how I’d found being empowered like that.

I don’t think I literally spat, but I was suddenly almost entirely cat. I said: It isn’t the empowerment, it’s the fucking entitlement. Empowered feels as though that power can be revoked according to someone else’s whim. Entitled means it is far easier to believe that that power is actually mine.

He didn’t get it. At least not that evening.

———

Every public appearance takes a lot of preparation and recovery for me. I go into interviews and events as open as I possibly can. For me this is the way I must do my work in order to feel right.

If you ignore my “No” and ask again, I start to feel like someone is trying to push, so then I disappear. Understand?

Are You There God? It’s Me, Stoya.

Before Wonderlust started I had most of a day with nothing scheduled in Helsinki. Mitcz sent me a couple of lists of things to see. A Finnish burlesque performer named LouLou D’Vil reminded me that walking can be fun by pointing out how walkable Helsinki is. Steve Prue (my platonic domestic partner) emphasized the Temppeliaukio Church—I’m uncertain about whether he wanted to live vicariously or wanted me to see something specific there.

So I walked over to it. Even though the sky was intermittently pouring rain and hail. Perhaps because it was—when in Rome/when in Finland, yes?

The Temppeliaukio church is carved into rock. It’s Lutheran, which is a branch of Christianity I’m unfamiliar with. The ceiling is a giant coil of copper, ringed with windows. I laid on a pew to look up more easily.

My memory tossed up two things: Rebecca West’s descriptions of the underground worship spaces she reported as being Bogomil (bog is generally slavic for god, and the Bogomils were a Christian sect that was considered heretical) and the boisterous fire & brimstone church my family went to when I was very young.

———

That church practiced a form of the laying on of hands, but the thing is they didn’t actually touch people until they’d already begun falling backwards. Whole lines of adult humans would be gently guided onto the floor as they started twitching and babbling in guttural syllables.

Whether you believe in a god or not, what sent those people keeling over was the intensity of their faith in one. Other strong themes included our bodies as temples of the lord which should be cared for as such, and the concept of being called. If a member felt moved (by the hand of the lord) to the pulpit then it was believed they should preach from it.

———

Back under the copper coil, I wondered what the Lutheran God would think of my work and of the fact that I had felt called to it. Since the practice of candle-lighting in Catholicism always seemed like a way of attaching a high-priority flag to a message to god, and there were candles on the wall, I lit one.

———

As a child, I thought these adults flailing on the floor were driven by the same intensity that made me into a perpetual hyperactivity machine. School looked like a process of removing intensity, therefore adults must need somewhere that they could be intense, and this speaking in tongues must be it.

A few years later, sex sounded like exactly the same thing—a place where adults were allowed to get their intensity out. However, I would not have been able to articulate this at the time.

———

Back under the copper coil, I remembered being wrist deep in Jiz Lee a few years ago. I felt as though I was touching the inside of god. My hand inside Jiz in my memory was touching the inside of god, my body contained in the rock was inside a representation of god.

Because whether you believe in a god or not, I believe it is important to understand how powerful beliefs and intentions can be. Those two things with little else can create and destroy entire worlds. They can unite people, and turn us against each other. They can do things so incredible they might as well be magic.

———

Are you there god? It’s me, Stoya.

boop

A long, long time ago, in an internet that was… um… this exact one, there was a troll.

They seemed to keep to instagram, and devotedly told me whether they had been able or unable to fap to each of my posts. It was impossible to figure out what would be fapped to and what would be unfappable.

(Fuck, I’m having way too much fun conjugating fap.)

One day a journalist asked me about trolls. Generally, when journalists ask about trolls, it seems like they want to hear about the horror show in a way that feels uncomfortably close to that voiceless-pornstar trope that just refuses to die—the sex worker as unable to speak for themselves meme is more viral than cold sores.

(In case you’re uncertain: We aren’t voiceless. Some of the rest of the world just acts pretty earless when we’re talking.)

So instead of the horror show, I told the journalist about the “fapped to this/no fap” thing. Specifically, how hilarious I found it. I remember saying “What if they find out I enjoy it and that ruins the fun for them and they stop?”

Shortly after, they disappeared.

(This would be a great place for the sad trombone sound.)

I bemoaned this to my friend Chris Steffen, and he started leaving boop, no boop, and can’t boop—as applicable—on my posts. It makes me giggle every time.

Radley, for Russ

I’m guessing you read Ashley West’s tribute to Radley Metzger at the Rialto Report. I’d love to tell you about meeting Radley. It’s sort of a saga though, so I’ll start in the middle.

…of this party celebrating Catherine Robbe-Grillet and Toni Bentley, where a well-groomed British man walked over and asked if I’d like to meet Radley Metzger. The Image was one of Radley’s films, and he’d worked with Toni on a few things. He was still living in New York. And sitting on a couch in the next room.

After I began wondering how a person who is questioning the integrity of their reality testing might verify it, but before I’d gone too far down that rabbit hole, I said yes. A few minutes later Ashley had volunteered to coordinate lunch.

———

We met at a diner in midtown. Pretty shortly after we’d ordered, Radley told a story about filming in the former Yugoslavia. He’d had a crew from all over Europe and if the day went too far into overtime the set would become Tower of Babel-esque. (Or, you know, whichever Why We Have Many Languages myth you favor.)

Radley knew how to quickly find points of commonality and use them to develop a rapport. Trust between performer and director is integral to good work, so it serves a director well to start building it early on. His life had been so fantastical that he could dig up a personal anecdote for any occasion, and he shared those stories freely.

———

Mostly, though, we talked about arnica. It’s odd, I googled “radley metzger arnica” and didn’t get a single result containing all three words—but that man loved arnica.

Radley swore by it for inflammation and was quick to follow up with a reminder that inflammation is linked to stress and poor health in a sort of vicious triangle. I happened to swear by it for bruises—and abrasions when mixed in petroleum jelly.

(I’m going to go one step past “This is not medial advice” here and proceed directly to “you probably really shouldn’t go rubbing mildly toxic flowers and basically K-Y into broken skin and it’s a miracle I haven’t developed unsettlingly neon patches or something.”)

He’d either made or begun a documentary on arnica, and spoke at length about his visits to the European mountains the plant grows on.

———

Radley was active and lucid through his 80s, and while I’m sad to have missed the chance to work with him I’m happy to have participated in the fun he seemed to have thinking about it. And it may be for the best that he left before he felt like he had nothing else to give.

 

Surviving the Spraytanpocalypse, Part 3

Or: Whelmed and Overwhelmed and Force Majeure, Oh My!

My experiences are not the same as yours. The specific things I’ve dealt with in life are not the same. That said, I’ve learned some things the hard way and some of these things might be useful.

———

Learning how to leave space for force majeure has been the difference between “as whelmed as I want to be” and “constantly tipping into overwhelmed.”

I’m sure there’s a specialist in the Latin language somewhere who could (and would be welcome to) chime in with the precise definition and the evolution of the term, but force majeure in common use tends to mean “a huge destructive thing out of everyone’s control that might happen and totally derail someone’s ability to keep plans or fulfill commitments in a way that the-royal-we would understand.”

I mostly see the term in entertainment contracts. Probably because I actually read those, unlike most terms of service agreements.

My own personal force majeure-albatross is called a uterus and ovaries. Menstruation is so irregular for me that referring to it as a cycle feels kind of absurd, and from what I understand my periods are atypically vicious.

(If you’re thinking about suggesting I try _____ or _____ or _____, seriously thank you but I can almost guarantee I’ve already tried it. Since I’m only bringing my bloody angst up to use as an example, let’s skip all that and proceed to my point.)

After a certain amount of post-pubescent life experience, it became my responsibility to plan for the fact that my body will—with an unpredictable sort of regularity—do wacky stuff to my hormones (and therefore temperament) and sometimes make it impossible to, like, stand up.

———

Now for the “BUT HOW?”

I know that in two calendar months it is reasonable to expect between 2 and 6 “period events” of unpredictable duration and severity, and that I can expect to lose an average of three weeks to the total of those period events.

I keep a google calendar and a ribbon with a bunch of bits of paper pinned to it, both of which are visual representations of my schedule, and I make sure to leave three weeks worth of blank space in each set of two months. On my “good” days I make sure to do literally everything I can, so things are less likely to burst into metaphorical flames when I’m otherwise occupied.

(And when I say literally I mean Merriam-Webster’s #1 definition, not the exaggeration one.)

———

If you think I’m about to compare the Trump administration to an extra-awful case of PMS+cramps, you’re correct:

It has been 21 days since J20 (or, inauguration day) and a truly stunning amount of horrific executive orders have come down from the White House.

Whether you conceive of how much you can handle at once as a metaphorical plate, a bucket for containing bullshit, or a piece of ribbon with a bunch of bits of paper stuck to it, it might be useful to leave extra space for what can only be predicted as continued unpredictability.

———

This is posted under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Surviving the Spraytanpocalypse, Part 2

My experiences are not the same as yours. The specific things I’ve dealt with in life are not the same. That said, I’ve learned some things the hard way and some of these things might be useful.

———

We all know food is necessary to keep our bodies and minds running, correct?

Some people get hungrier when they’re stressed. Others don’t seem to have any appetite changes. Some tend to forget to eat or feel unable to.

(I’m not here to entertain qualitative judgement or anything that smells remotely like body shaming. Please respect this.)

I fall into the latter category: I’m prone to getting so immersed in a project or driven by the urgency of it that I don’t feel the hunger alarm going off. If an emergency interrupts my sandwich, I won’t remember the sandwich until the cats have dragged half of it all over the kitchen. During periods of extreme stress chewing starts to feel exhausting and anything I do manage to chew does that gluey feels-like-a-rock-in-my-abdomen thing.

This can begin to interfere with thinking clearly, and can start to perpetuate itself. But what can be done?

———

If you seriously can’t eat a meal, drink it.

Yogurt, soup broth, Ensure, Slimfast, Orgain, Soylent, those protein shakes body builders always seem to have around. Whatever you can find/afford. It isn’t ideal, it isn’t a sustainable lifestyle, but it is better than nothing.

Also better than nothing: a banana, three bites of an oatmeal bar—which you can totally wrap back up and shove in a pocket for three more bites later, and pretty much anything that isn’t coffee, candy, or booze.

But how do we try to prevent things from getting to that point?

———

Make sure to keep whatever semi-non-perishable things you can almost always eat stashed somewhere. Raw carrots and frozen pasta three times a day is better than drinking your meals. Or, you know, whatever your equivalent of that is.

Ask each other “what was the last thing you ate?”

(Fuck, I wish I could remember where I picked that one up from.)

See, “are you hungry?” requires that the person being asked be aware of sensations like hunger, or even have sensations of hunger. “Have you eaten?” is super easy to say yes to without realizing how long it might have been.

“What was the last thing you ate?” on the other hand, tends to get responses like “Oh fuck, one bite of a sandwich before the phone rang at like 10am and now it’s past sundown.” Or “thai food a few hours ago, but the rest is in the fridge and I’ll eat more of it the next time I get up from my desk.”

———

And for friends who are too slammed/overwhelmed/low on funds/exhausted to acquire and/or prepare food themselves: if you’ve got the cash to spare, most delivery apps will allow you to send food to other people—even in a different city. All you need are their dietary restrictions, the address they’re at, and their consent.

Surviving the Spraytanpocalypse, Part 1

My experiences are not the same as yours. The specific things I’ve dealt with in life are not the same. That said, I’ve learned some things the hard way and some of these things might be useful.

———

For over a decade, it has been part of my job to interact with the internet-at-large. For ten years I read all of my mail. I didn’t necessarily respond to it, but I read every myspace message, then every email and @ on twitter. I thought it was fair to give a stranger’s armchair diagnosis of debilitating dissociation the same amount of consideration I gave to criticism on language use from a member of my wider community. I believed that if I put words and thought out there, it was only right to hear out the responses. And, fuck, did that ever fuck me up.

Reading things that were sent maliciously—to hurt—isn’t the same as being stuck in the same physical space with someone as they scream the words at you, but it’s on the same spectrum. Eventually all those little comments pile up, especially when they’re coming in every day. Especially when they’re mixed in with important messages you need to see in order to maintain your work and have the money to pay your rent, to help organize protest, or to keep up contact with friends and loved ones.

Eventually this pile started to get to me. Eventually a nasty tweet from some random human on the other side of the globe who was almost certainly never going to act on their threat was able to poke at the scabs from threats of immediate concern or from my past. Eventually I found myself going into fight or flight mode every time I opened my computer or unlocked my cell phone.

People tried to help. “Haters gonna hate” was pulled out of storage and dusted off. Encouragements to ignore [blank] or to not think about [other blank] were given out like Halloween candy in a middle-class US suburb. Eventually my response was an extremely frustrated “I’D LOVE TO BUT HOW.”

Because, you know, that “don’t think about pink elephants” thing.

I tried imagining unresolvable concerns as clouds floating away, and picturing them as leaves falling into a stream before being carried off by the current. Then I bemoaned how ineffective this was for me to a partner who told me that they handle thoughts of things they don’t need to think about right now with a direct, internal ‘I don’t need to think about this right now.’ I was all “OK THANKS BUT THEN IT STILL COMES BACK.”

(It was a very all-caps period of my life, stuck between “Yes, yes, I need to take care of myself” and how the actual fuck to do that.)

To which they replied “Yes, and the trick is to accept that things you don’t need to think about will pop back into your head and then calmly address them again with ‘I don’t need to think about this right now.” Once I stopped getting frustrated with my inability to put a thing out of my head permanently, it became slightly easier—and far less emotionally draining—to put those things out of my head until something could actually be done about them.

Finally a friend introduced me to Rebecca West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.” It is not light reading and many grains of salt must be taken with it, but somewhere in those 1,200 or so pages was the most effective answer I’ve found so far to BUT HOW: instead of subtracting bad things, add good things.

Or: When bad things cannot be subtracted, protect the good things and turn to them as things to do thinking about and focusing on when you need a break from the bad things.

(An individual’s good things to think about/focus on will vary, as will what we each have access to. Here are some of mine: cats+laser dot, floating in hot water—which has a 50/50 chance of helping or exacerbating, fucking, sewing silly little things for friends out of remnants from larger projects.)

The ability to wrangle our brains into actually taking a break from stressors feels important because without rest—if we are constantly embroiled in skirmish after skirmish—it seems that much harder to find the stamina to win a war.

xo

Stoya

 

Free to Move

At some point between leaving the AVN/AEE floor in Vegas on Friday evening and arriving in Paris on Sunday morning, I connected through Moscow.

Upon landing, I went around in circles with an airport employee on the subject of where I might be able to smoke a cigarette. Eventually they suggested outside, but then immediately told me they couldn’t let me outside because I didn’t have a visa.

This was a reminder that with great privilege [like a US passport] comes great potential to forget [all kinds of stuff.]

———

When I landed at Charles de Gaulle I filed off the plane, got my passport stamped, and was all ready to breeze through customs before all the people who’d checked their bags started lining up. Except…

…the customs check was totally closed. This meant there was no immediate way into France proper, and no way back to flights elsewhere.

I wasn’t able to understand the voice through the loudspeaker, even when it was speaking English. The man next to me, who was French, told me they weren’t saying anything informative in any language. Then he waved his hand at the milling customs officers who were decidedly not opening up the check point and said “Anarche.” I joked “I thought y’all were all ‘fraternite, liberte, egalite’?” He said “Anarche!” again, this time a sneering declaration.

A babbling monologue started up inside my head about how it seems like anarchy’s fairest shot to date was in Ursula K. Le Guin’s sci-fi novel The Dispossessed, and there are some really interesting concepts in those schools of thought, and philosophies that prioritize individual choice might be super incredibly necessary in the world right now, and the motto of “No Gods, No Masters” seems like something both the US and France should totally be able to get behind, right? until my body interrupted with signs of panic and my mind switched to “DON’T PANIC.”

Which, of course, works about as well as “Don’t think about pink elephants.”

———

See, one of the worst things to do around officers who are on alert is panic. Then you might look crazy and—in my experience—looking crazy opens up a decent chance of being escorted to the little room and/or spending a significant chunk of time in a place that feels suspiciously like a cage.

What I’m saying here is that it is easy for me to get stuck in a fear-of-panicking feedback loop. Especially when a situation is mirroring earlier parts of life in which I was terrified for immediate reasons and thoroughly trapped. So I went to the bathroom and used the sink water to swallow some of my psychiatrist prescribed anti-anxiety medication, which is less chewable than Xanax but also supposedly way less addictive.

*shrug*

Approximately half an hour later, the loudspeaker voice explained that we’d been held due to a piece of unclaimed baggage and were now free to be processed through customs.

———

I’m aware that our movement is controlled by uniformed officers and subject to government whims, especially during air travel. But that control isn’t something I’m used to being immediately confronted with. That control isn’t something most US citizens are used to being immediately confronted with during travel—yet.

Regardless, that frightening little room is something the US has been confronting our visitors with for years in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Hello World

Hello World,

(Please, fuck, tell me someone out there gets the reference.)

I’d like to start by rewinding all the way back to my stoya.tumblr.com blogs. Many of those early writing-ish-things were titled “Stoya vs. ____,” a format stolen from Chuck–a show I used to like having on in the background while I sewed things to other things or glued rhinestones to various kinds of stuff. I learned a lot about how people who are sensitive to social justice concerns tend to interpret words and statements. I was also pretty clearly telegraphing the fact that life frequently felt like a battle to me, if not a war.

(I couldn’t see it at the time, but other people could.)

Later, people started asking me to write things for their publications in exchange for money. For about 18 months I took basically every gig that was offered. I learned a lot about how freelance writing works, about small scale exploitation under–um, neo-liberal?–capitalism, and why a good editor is worth at least 10x the weight of a publication’s prestige or traffic. My year freelancing for VICE gave me a crash course in the mad-and-looking-for-someone-to-take-it-out-on flavor of troll.

(Predictive text suggested “women” instead of “someone” in that last sentence. This feels accurate enough to mention in an parenthetical.)

Then came Graphic Descriptions. I was being told I needed a domain of my own, and I knew that my presence on any individual social media network or blogging service was subject to change at the whims of new ownership, founders responding to straw concerned-public demands, totally automated “inappropriate content” reporting systems, and evolving ToS’s. A (theoretically more stable) web presence required a name, so I did what I tend to do when I can’t find one that feels right: describe what it is.

And indeed, I posted blogs describing (in fairly graphic ways) the world around me and what I was up to. When these things were about a sex scene, I added links out. But I was never able to write *just* to get-and-send clicks to push porno. That’s a skill I wish I had, and an aptitude I know I don’t.

And then I stopped writing. Entirely. I could barely even email.

It took a few months for me to understand what the block was. All that previous writing had been addressed to the Entire Internet, and the Entire Internet had become a bit terrifying. Threats like “I’m going to fuck your spleen” were harder to laugh off, and some MRA group had posted something claiming to offer a bounty for putting this bitch behind bars. It took a whole damn year for me to find that one funny… and then it was hilarious.

Seriously though, the Internet felt scary enough to make the writing part of me freeze up.

Over the summer I tried a couple of things and managed to write two real pieces: A poem about blowjobs that was sent as a newsletter and a lengthy description of a Balkan gonzo porn adventure with Zak Sabbath.

Then I went back to troubleshooting that writer’s block problem. The poem had been a way of saying hello to one of the men who was mentioned as a blowee; I knew he subscribed to the newsletter. The Balkan gonzo porn blog was written for friends who I knew would enjoy hearing about the adventure–at their leisure, as opposed to in a 90 minute one woman show.

This fall, Graphic Descriptions was having some malware issues. Rev Mitcz had scooped up hellostoya.com as a possible solo site, and then we decided we still don’t want a Stoya solo site.

(Solo site like the traditional porn thing where there’s one female performer and a range of visual media content of her in various stages of undress and/or fuckery.)

—–

On Friday, 20 January 2017, I went to AVN/AEE to sign for four hours at the Fleshlight booth. A few things were very different from previous conventions. I was calm. I had my own security human (they’re much more affordable than I’d thought.) And every single person who came to see me–except that one guy… fuck, there’s always one guy–spoke to me in ways that felt humanizing. Re-humanizing, even. That’s an audience I can address my words to.

So: HelloStoya.com… because that’s the gist of what y’all say to me when we first meet or see each other again. And because I *need* to be writing towards a group or individual in order to write at all.

(Mitcz installed stock WordPress, which means the comments section was automatically live. Clayton Cubitt once said he wasn’t interested in hosting anyone else’s Ids, and I tend to agree. But for now I’ll leave it open, and we’ll see how that goes.)

Thank you and xoxo,
Stoya