Snapshots, Riot Grrrl, and Sex Workers: Who/What Inspires Your Porn?

I get this question in almost every interview request, so I thought I’d put up some of my thoughts here. I’ll edit when I can.

I thought shit like Raver Porn and Suicide Girls were hilarious and me and my friends did try to infiltrate the system… in 2002 it was already a hierarchy, trust. It was a whole Scene Thing that you couldn’t help but make fun of when you lived next to formative riot grrrls in your shitty Olympia apartments and people online were arguing about alt porn. An interesting time to be an ambitious 20 year old that’s for sure. They didn’t really embrace a whole lot of of queers and certainly not myself, a size 10 at the time but def already seen as fat, so I started my own project. I called it NoFauxxx (no fakes) based on some friends giving me suggestions. It reminded me of my high school zine called Krave Me so somehow this all fits into a lifelong narrative I promise. I originally just started taking photos of myself, my lovers, my immediate friends, and maybe a few people from the internet but mostly just tried to figure out what I wanted to do and how it needed to be done. I bounced my work off other feminists and let them eat me alive. I took it to heart and wrote a manifesto for how things needed to move forward. I couldn’t afford to do any of it if it weren’t for the phone sex I was doing and the small gigs I was getting – plus the inspiration was slim being in a small town like that.

The project really blossomed after I went on tour with Nomi Lamm, one of my most formative mentors, and our mutual friends from our small artsy gay feminist town. That month-long tour as a dancer for her pop opera Effigy gave me such a good look at how we could all be in a sexy inclusive space together and love and trust and respect each other and also helped me begin to understand the ins and outs of DIY production. I learned so much from that group of people that when I came home and found my high school relationship obliterated to pieces TO PIECESSSSS i just painted my bedroom bright red and started taking (approved) photos of my friends fucking. I dove right into my work fueled by love (for new people, for queers, for random sex, for threesomes, for strippers, for burlesque, for femmes and butches and trans babes and all of us up there in Oly and around the country trying to figure out how to fucking just fuck each other always. I am 100% inspired by what was going down in my own bedroom, my own living room parties, my college hallways and in bookstores and theaters around the country where queers where fucking with black latex gloves and silicone lube and fake leather strap on harnesses. We were trans, we were queer, we were disabled, we were fucked up, we were artists, we were broke, we were hot as fuck, we were loud as fuck, we were punk, and we were basically already all porn stars in our own right anyways with all the sex work and modeling and public sex and loud fucking everyone was doing around me. I was always a little bit on the outside but ready to be on the inside. And I certainly knew when to put my camera down and participate. But it all felt very serious to me. It all felt like the same movement.

WHILE all of this was happening, I was also running an online message board and web magazine called Fat Girl Break Down and attending Evergreen State College and learning about art and stuff. Photography and a little bit of Super 8 film making, dark room photography, color printing, digital printing. I was obsessed. So, I’m a photography nerd and most of my direct influences come from still photography. A few artists I have ALWAYS loved have been Man Ray, Nan Goldin, Von Unwerth, LaChapelle – and more recently, Todd Hido, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Larry Sultan. I never knew where I wanted to be in all that. But filmmakers like Bruce LaBruce help with that, though not aesthetically just spiritually. Him and Eon McKai (of Vivid Alt fame) are sort of my Porn Punkles. Joanna Angel started Burning Angel nearly the same month I started NoFauxxx so I was also somewhat working alongside some of the alt porn world, but like I said about Suicide Girls – they weren’t clubs I was ever invited into. If I am anywhere near them now it’s because they’ve opened their mind to me, not to people my size or sexuality in general. Instead I worked with people I met online who were doing similar things to me like Lux Alptraum (That Strange Girl) and eventually Shine Louise Houston, whom I met in 2005 after moving to San Francisco and getting a job at On Our Backs, the lesbian porn magazine.

I didn’t mean to gloss over Fat Girl Break Down. You see, it’s already been well written about and I’m trying to get through a lot. But what I can say before moving on is that for quite a few years I was focused heavily on fat activism alongside many many other people online (early 2000s) and FGBD was a haven for us, we were posting photos constantly and coming up with amazing plans for the fashion lines, music videos, conferences, books, albums, and platforms we were all going to make. It was a positive feminist experience that formulated much of where I come from as a pornographer. I’m a fat activist and a feminist. I initially started taking photos of myself because I was so sick of pretending to be a skinny straight girl for my phone sex job. I needed to start contributing the the porn I was consuming and helping others consume. I wasn’t a kid anymore, I could do this now.

I’m 36, but i’ve been doing versions of self-made sex work/ porn/ performance for sale since I was 14 or 15. And that’s perhaps why Lydia Lunch and Traci Lords are also people that I feel go unspoken as far as porno feminst elders in my lexicon. Maybe it isn’t okay to talk about what I did before I was 18 and how it plays into my experience in the industry but if people are going to understand where I am coming from they do need to understand how consentual survival sex work can work and maybe at some point I can talk about what that all looked like but right now i can only say that it informs my entire practice and maybe people don’t get that about me yet. I didn’t do porn in the 90s, I couldn’t, but I knew what was happening and I was ready to make my mark.

Nina Hartley and Sinnamon Love were feminist identified porn workers making their way through the industry that of course, I didn’t know personally, but shaped the kinds of images I was seeing in the 90s and early 2000s. I turned 18 in 2000 – started selling my pornographic content immediately after. While I was doing phone sex and selling photos and panties I would be reading Carol Queen And Scarlot Harlot’s writing on sex work. I think because of my childhood trauma I myself couldn’t fathom doing boy/girl sex work in person so I stuck to phone sex for 7 steady years, incorporating my photos and personality into the mix as early as 2001 when I found a very willing, mixed gender, paying audience for my chubby nudes. After that I was already doing girl/girl and queer porn and burlesque as well so I auditioned for the Lusty Lady and eventually got elected as a madam for a term. Working at the peepshow was formative for me – I’ve always had a fetish for men but getting to watch them jerk off while I danced gave me more confidence or something. Cis men, and trans men, kind of became an option for me again after working at the Lusty Lady.

Not to say that I then wasn’t again informed by trauma, new trauma. I was. Men continued to be terrible to me and my ability to interact with them pornogrpahically has wavered my entire life, but seeing them as a sexual fetish and something to watch has turned me into a masculinity LOVER, and it is such a huge focus of the work I make and the films I create when I’m given my own time. My photography is so largely about masculine sexuality in all of it’s forms and even in myself, it has meant that the masculine parts of my own sexuality and gender have revealed themselves. THAT HUNT is part of my inspiration. Never worth the risk of new trauma so I always go slow – that kind of work takes me time.

I apologise for not giving you a simple list of porn stars and early work that frames the things I put in the world. It is not that simple. Except for the Nan Goldin thing. And Nomi Lamm. And Scarlot Harlot. And as it has always been it is always been up to the relationship between the model and the camera and myself as the person in between, I’m there to try and fill in the viewer on what’s so awesome about this person but I also want to stay out of the way. I just know Playboy didn’t do that and neither did Suicide Girls, so when I followed my bliss I had to be well armed with feminist theory and a big open heart and here I am. I still really like Bruce La Bruce and lately I feel really inspired by people like Juliana Huxtable and Shoog McDaniels. I hope that’s informative!