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Chris 'Go-Go' Harder Headshot

Exiting the Porn Star Pity Party

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2014-04-04-pornstarPityParty.jpg

"Poor little porn star," his somber, dark gaze seemed to covey, though in my mind I suddenly imagined I was seated at the head of a garishly decorated room, noise makers filling the air, the guest of honor at his surprise pity party, so generously thrown on my behalf.

"I just want you to know you're better than that," he finished, and I couldn't help but notice how nicely he had managed to time the resolution of his well-intentioned but unsought advice so perfectly with the opening and shutting of the train doors -- which was also especially fortunate for him since I was resisting a very strong impulse to shove him as hard as possible through that very same train exit. I knew he had meant well. I knew he had spoken "from the heart," and yet at the same time, I wondered why this nearly complete stranger felt the need to so fervently approach me -- me, who was at the time busily invested editing my latest night life Vine on the F train -- and let me know just "how special I am," how I was "so much better than porn."

I had met this guy four years ago at a benefit for shelter animals -- that's right, you name a social event and I've probably stripped at it. I'm sure we exchanged an air kiss, a reciprocal "Oh-My-God-You-Look-Amazing!" and maybe even an on the spot Facebook friendship add, but that was the sum total of our quality time together. And yet, four years later, here we were, joined again by a fluke of the MTA, having a one-sided career discussion -- so really, a lecture.

While I was far passed being annoyed -- my Vine had expired -- I recognized the source of this guy's "hang in there kitty" advice. To me, it's just a scrap of the cheap, fortune cookie tid bits and supposed facts stockpiled in the back of many people's minds alongside every other stereotype, cliché and horror story about the adult industry. I imagine these naked un-truths jammed into a tiny room, all haphazard heaps of papers, incorrectly numbered, over crowding desks and pinned to every inch of wall space. Suddenly I find myself longing for the orderly peace of my own office, far away from this man's overbearing presence and grotesque party favors. In fact, what may be surprising to some and especially my unofficial F train career counsellor, is that I actually do have a "porn star office." It's here that I carry out the less-lubricated tasks of being a sex worker: sending emails, planning real parties, and editing and inserting those precious Vine videos into my blog for entries that I aspire to be as mentally titillating as they are visually.

These pencil-pushing aspects of the porn industry (no pun intended) certainly are less engaging than the literal rush of blood I get on a porn set, and yet I've described them for you not to self righteously expound on how tidy a man I am, but instead, how seriously I take my career, as in that porn career. My train buddy's overly dramatic comment -- "you're better than porn" -- calls to mind other similar, misguided sentiments like "anyone can do porn," or "porn isn't art, it's just fucking," and, of course, "porn is just like prostitution." I'm not going to even touch on that last comment since it raises (or really, drops) the puritanical panties on the even more complicated issue of the legitimacy of sex work and prostitution.

As my self-appointed benefactor continued to reassure me about my own self-worth and potential, it was all I could do to keep from screaming, "Please, please stop! Save your words of wisdom and balloons and banners for some other porn star's pity party! All of this confetti and icing and brain washing Kool-Aid is being wasted on me!"

Plus, I don't eat frosting.

All at once I wanted to match this man's yearning with my own earnest wish to assure (or prove) that I'm "ok." That I can "be" in the porn industry and promote my film stills on twitter and hash-tag myself as #NSFW and still feel like a whole person. What I don't feel okay with is the sad looks, the thinly veiled questions of "how are things going?" -- the "things" of course referencing the porn, the "p-word" that dare not speak its name. Again, I get it. I understand the concern. And while I wonder why do we as an American culture hold onto these trite fables of "lust, loss, and what I didn't wear," I understand that for many people -- including those close to me -- it's hard to accept that porn and sex work can and are actual "legitimate" careers.

However, unlike the clichéd words of wisdom from my Vine-ruining friend, the idea that porn is a career path is not some wistful, bubble-lettered slogan I hang above my desk. Instead, I see it as an absolute fact, necessary to grasp in today's adult industry where a steady, competitive stream teeming with adult newbies (including myself) compels one to put on his pinstriped jock strap and get down to the business of porn, the work behind the sex work. While I can acknowledge that this concept may be completely off the radar for someone with no connection at all to the porn world, it never fails to amaze me that those who often speak most harshly about adult entertainment are the same people missing that essential plug-in to that adult data base to back up their supposed facts. When I'm confronted by someone who tells me "I'm better than porn," I genuinely want to ask, "How do you know?"

If I'm honest, what bothered me the most about mistakenly stepping into this party so painstakingly prepared by my acquaintance is the idea that its intended as more of an intervention than a social gathering. It's during these surprise moments that I suddenly feel like I have to resort back to the pleas of a child wearing his parent's shoes. I want to scream, "Look, I made my bed, I flossed my teeth, I paid my taxes, I registered for health care, I'm an adult just like you!" I mean to say, go ahead, call me a whore. Say I'm untalented. Pick apart my body -- I can handle all that. But infer that I'm desperate or spinning my wheels and I feel a rage well up inside me that's tantamount to a Carrie-esque blood bath. "It's my party and you'll cry if I want to..." To be seen by others as helpless, is in my opinion, the worst kind of reality I can imagine for myself or anyone else. It's a fear that used to make me don that imaginary sash of adulthood, stapled and pinned with all those merit badges of "normalcy" and parade myself out onto the street.

But then I remember that I didn't move to New York to be "normal," much like I also didn't move to this city to become a shiftless, hot mess. In fact, lately I've tried to hang up that boy scout sash as best as possible and file it away with the rest of those "sex business" documents in my study. Rather than rant back at some prophet's misguided advice, freely handed out like it's the current issue of Awake!; I simply just choose now to exit from his crepe paper bound trap. Like I said before, I don't want anyone to waste all their good intentions and pity party supplies on me. Instead, I'll just wholeheartedly pursue what I want for a career, trying to be my best adult self in the adult film world. And now, please, by no means stop the party, but I really have to get back to editing this Vine video.