I almost couldn't read your article on pornography, because it hit so close to home that I almost cried.
I used to work in the porn industry, and please, please don't pretend it is a business like any other. It isn't. I want to make it clear: I was never raped, or beaten, or anything like that. I was just desperate for attention. I was so eager to hear someone tell me I was beautiful, I was hot, I was sexy, that I'd do just about anything. I signed away my rights for a compliment. As a teenager, I'd have sex with groups of boys because I wanted reassurance that I was sexually attractive. As an adult, I sold pictures of myself.
I did so in two capacities ... as a webmaster, and as a model on Web sites. I guess I can see how being a webmaster is empowering and all about freedom of speech. Being a model, however, is about being exploited; it's about selling your image for a pittance, and then having men make their money off you for the rest of your life. I sometimes wish, if I'd had to act out in such a self-destructive way, that I'd been a hooker, because at least I wouldn't be one anymore, but now, I'm going to be a porn chick for the rest of my life, and there is nothing, nothing I can do about it.
It makes me sick that there are men who make their living off me ... I provide a large chunk of their income, I've been told. They are pretending to be me, attributing personalities to me, and yes, it's my fault. I know it is my fault. I know I'm the one who got myself into this mess, and I know I was an idiot. I'm sure if you publish this letter you'll get a bunch of letters saying "Too bad, you're a sucker, you should have thought about it all before," and it's true, I should have.
That is why I am writing. I want to tell your readers that this is not an industry like the others, that once you get in you can't go back. Every time a guy says to me, "You look familiar," I tense up. Every time I start to get involved with someone, I dump them, because how can I bring this up to them? So ... yeah. I messed up. I hope other people can avoid falling into this. This is not a normal industry, it is messed up, and people will pretend to be your friends but they are not; they are all just using you. Yes, they use you in other industries, but in other industries the consequences are less severe. You don't experience the same level of fear once you're out of them.
Sometimes I think about killing myself, but mostly I try and pretend it never happened, or write it off as a colorful chapter of my youth. I'm getting a master's degree now, I'm living a calmer life, I'm drawing a better line between excitingly eccentric and totally insane.
Please, Salon, don't portray this as a healthy thing to do. It isn't. I didn't meet a single girl in the industry who wasn't desperate and needy, even though they were all good at bluffing. When you're in it, you start justifying everything to yourself, you get so caught up in the excitement, you say, "I'm doing this because I am confident!" but really, you aren't. Please don't encourage people to make such justifications to themselves. I know it's trendy to call this sort of thing "sex positive," but really, it is as sex negative as you can get.
-- Name withheld
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