This post originally appeared on xoJane.
By Sovereign Syre
When I entered into porn in 2011, I was in a relationship that I thought was going to last forever.
So when I found myself single a few years later and decided to enter into the dating world, I realized that my dilemma was twofold; not only did I understand very little about how single people went about being a couple, but when I found one I might want to couple with, I had to figure out how to tell them about my rather unconventional day job.
I know plenty of girls in my industry who have partners who are not in the business and who are quite happy. Contrary to what people will tell you, just as there are tons of people who would never date a sex worker, there are also plenty of people in prestigious occupations with designer educations that would LOVE to marry a porn star. May not make sense to everyone, but it only has to make sense to the two of them.
When I first became single, I had been doing porn for about a year, but I performed exclusively with women, which, for whatever reason, is more "forgivable" to a lot of people.
I wasn't really interested in getting emotionally invested in someone else. But I also didn't worry too much about what might happen if I ever wanted to date a "civilian," since I wouldn't have to explain much more than that I had sex with women on camera sometimes. They'd probably get into a high fiving contest with their friends.
In the first year of being single, I just kind of reveled in my freedom.
I was spoiled. If I wanted great sex with a hot guy who wasn't going to try to bog me down in emotional stuff, I could just call one of my coworkers. And so that's what I did for a while; just slept with my work friends who kept it cool but satisfied the physical urges with the added bonus of no explanations required. It wasn't until a year later when I started shooting scenes with men as well that it hit me.
I was at a gas station filling up the air in one of my tires when a strikingly handsome guy pulled up next to me. He was like something out of a billboard selling cologne, and drove a Mercedes and blasted Band of Horses. He wasn't exactly my type, but he was certainly good-looking and he was confident.
"I know this is weird, but you're really beautiful and if I don't ask for your number, I'll probably never see you again."
His name was Paul and he had blindingly white teeth. I gave him my number.
As a civilian off work.
That night we were out on a date. He was courteous and lovely. He had just finished his bachelor's degree and was contemplating entering the police academy with an eye on becoming a detective.
That all sounded great to me, and I realized that I really, really didn't want to tell him about myself.
I mean, I was fine telling him about the town I grew up in, that I double majored in sociology and literature, and that I went to a prestigious writing program, and that I was working on my first novel. I didn't mind telling him about the past three years I'd spent in New York working as an art model. I just didn't want to mention what I did now.
I love my job. I think I do something important in its own way. I perform in graphic narratives that people use to get off. I think getting off is a vital part of human life and one that we shouldn't have to apologize for. I also realize that reality is a long way off, and in the meantime I spend a lot of my time wading through the bog of shit that is other people's shame and rage as it relates to their sexuality.
So I didn't tell him.
I justified this to myself with the notion that, hey, who knows if this is even serious and why weigh it down unnecessarily with all of the heavy lifting of institutionalized sexism that demands very specific sanctions against women that are empowered in any way financially or sexually, and, most especially, both?
I mean, just writing about it is a headache. I can already hear everyone who hates porn weighing in with some hot take that's most likely based on irrational feelings rather than empirical truths. I digress.
We shared a sweet kiss. He had a firm body and a pressing desire, but was very respectful in a way that was so sweet it made my stomach turn.
I drove home knowing it was an impossible situation. He couldn't really know me to know if things were going to work out without knowing the whole truth, but knowing the whole truth was likely to cut things off at the pass. I'm pretty good at sussing people out, and he'd dropped enough hints in the conversation over dinner for me to figure out that he'd have some questions about the porn thing and it would definitely cause some conflict.
The chemistry was nice, but I decided that he wasn't worth the trouble.
I didn't despair long. My brother came to visit me for the holidays, touting the virtues of a new dating app called Tinder.
A dating site seemed a little easier. I could put myself out there without any pictures from work, get some responses to people that were genuinely into me, and then I could come out if we made it past a few dates.
My Tinder profile photo.
My phone was buzzing immediately with more "matches" than I could keep up with. Tinder is a slash and burn campaign through the sexual jungle. I became precise in my rejection of people based solely on their looks, age, or interests. But once again, it's hard to get to really know someone without revealing a key piece of information, mainly that all of your income is derived from the sexual services you sell, and more than that, a brand that revolves around sex.
As much as I tried to keep my job out of the conversation in the getting-to-know-you phase of courtship, it's typical to ask what someone does for a living.
Conversations became circular and weird, all dancing around the fact that I had this weird job that was going to affect just about every aspect of a relationship, should it develop. Porn has taught me one thing absolutely: that people's sexuality is fractured and everyone is ham-handed about dealing with it. As clumsy as any negotiation about sexual politics has ever been, being a sex worker is like placing a loaded gun on the table.
It was hard. I found some good matches on Tinder. I'm college educated and I'm a writer. I have a lot of interests that aren't necessarily common among my work peers. I come to the job with a somewhat unusual background, which is fine for friendships, but when it comes to developing more intimate relationships, it can be more challenging. Tinder was dangling some pretty sweet fruit in front of me. A guy with six pack abs kissing a dolphin with a graduate degree in comparative literature? Ugh!
I realized I had to just start telling people.
I made up a pat response. When a guy would ask me to tell them about myself, what I did, etc., I would reply with:
"Writing is my life. I travel a lot, but not to anywhere interesting, usually San Francisco or Las Vegas, sometimes NYC. I love history and music and I have a pitbull rescue named Coco that I'm over-emotionally attached to. My iPhone is my life, I live out of suitcases, and I haven't unpacked most of my furniture yet. Netflix is like weed to me, and I have a diet that involves things called 'cheat days' and 'shame spirals.' I like the words 'overmuch' and 'evermore.' I'm a feminist and progressive and have a graduate education and really strong views about the wage gap. I write for an edutainment program about history on YouTube, I have a podcast, and, also, I'm a porn star."
This little chunk of text actually served me well. Most guys weren't scared off by my admission. What I learned is that a lot of people know someone who is in the adult industry and a lot of people don't really mind potentially fucking a girl that fucks professionally.
What I did find was that no matter what, it would shift the tone of the conversation. Now guys would want me to send a selfie; they'd tell me how sexy I was despite the fact that I wasn't using anything more than fully clothed, decidedly neutral pics from my iPhone on my profile and my bio read, "Doe-eyed intellectual giant seeks Marcus-Aurelius type for disordered romantic attachment."
Of course, too, they wanted to know all about my work. Most correspondences devolved into these vaguely sexual exchanges. There's an assumption that you want to engage with people's erections at all times.
"You're so sexy. Can you maybe send me a selfie?"
I understand it's meant as a compliment, but the problem is that most of my interactions are based on my looks, and the main thing I'm looking for when I decide if I'm going to date someone is a sense of rapport. It's a subtle thing . . . but it's there, the feeling that men get overwhelmed with the idea of a P_O_R_N_S_T_A_R.
I don't really hold any of this against people. There's no guide to dating a sex worker and I hardly expect anyone to "get it right" on the first go. Having been an adult for a while, I've seen relationships that work and ones that don't, but the rule is that every couple is unique and they all have to negotiate the very normal human feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and self-interest.
I found myself in a mire. Tinder was too sexually charged for me because I was a sex worker. Not in the fun way where everyone wants to fuck you, but in the un-fun way where everyone wants to be unabashedly honest with you about their sexual desires and hang-ups because you're not a "normal person" anymore.
I deleted the app after four or five conversations that all ended the same way.
*Opening joke to seem charming*
*Charming response back*
"You seem pretty clever what kind of history you into? What do you write?"
*I offer some part of the French Revolution that I'm interested in and ask them about something in their profile.*
"You from here? What do you do?"
*Cut and paste pat response*
"Oh wow, interesting."
"Sometimes. It's usually just a fun job."
"I guess we can do anything we want ; )"
"Hey sexy girl."
"You still want to hang out?"
I decided to abandon dating sites for simply relying on people I met through Twitter or through friends, people who already know what I do. I've had to become very zen about dating. I wait for potential partners to come to me.
I'm impatient, so it is challenging, but the results have been somewhat surprising. A lot of really interesting people are actually very open to the experience of dating a girl in the sex industry. (It's like the institutionalized sexism I've toiled under all my life was telling me lies . . . .) When you put it all out there, you get some really amazing things back.
I have a podcast where I interview comedians, and I found a guy from New York I really wanted to have on. I saw he was coming to LA in the near future and we struck up a conversation on Twitter that quickly went to text. We had a good rapport. We decided to meet up at a show he was playing. He was stunning, attractive, intelligent, and with a kind of magnetism that made it feel like you'd already seen him on his own TV show.
After his set, we met at the bar and talked about a way to get him on my show. He was leaving soon. He was curious about what I was about, what I wanted to do with my life, what my ambitions were. I tried to explain the premise of my show.
"I know most people won't care that I think about things because I'm a porn girl, but I'm trying to sneak it in there. I figure if I bring in comedians they'll be more inclined to listen to someone like me talking about ideas."
"My ex-girlfriend was an escort, she used to say the same thing," he said.
And he said it without a trace of shame or judgment.
And I think I cracked a smile for the first time since I'd started on all this nonsense.
We weren't on a date, and this wasn't a romantic encounter, but it filled me with hope.
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