APRIL 12, 2018
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
From New Orleans. I grew up on the West Bank but have lived on this side of the river for the past ten years or so.
Why have you stayed in New Orleans?
I have recently been thinking about getting out for a little. I think I will always end up back here because I’ve traveled a bit and it’s kind of cliché to say there’s no place like New Orleans but it’s really true. There really isn’t. My family lives here and I have a really good relationship with my mom and my brother so it’s nice to be close to them. It’s home, it’s familiar, and I just feel so comfortable here and acquainted with everything. It’s a part of my life. It would be nice to get out and experience something else but like I said I think I would always end up back here.
Do you remember being taught or told anything regarding the societal expectations of being a girl?
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household which for anyone who doesn’t know what fundamentalism means, you take everything in the Bible literally. They stop short of stoning rape victims and stuff but it was really intense and hardcore. Women are subservient and belong in the kitchen with the children. Women shouldn’t work. The church I grew up in also had a purity ball which is when a girl will pledge herself to her father and Jesus and say that she won’t have sex before marriage. They didn’t do anything like that for the boys. It was only for girls because I guess if you’re a boy then it’s ok to have sex. It was really about being quiet and being a godly woman which just meant not doing anything you wanted to do and doing what the men around you wanted you to do.
How did growing up in an environment like that affect the rest of your life to this point?
I remember being in high school and feeling like I didn’t really connect to the church or believe it anymore. But there is such an element of guilt there. That was the main mechanism they used to get people to do what they wanted. If you’re a human, you’re just dirt. You’re going to hell and so you must repent. I had such weird attitudes about [sex]. That was the thing that I always thought was going to make me feel the most guilty but when I left home and went to college and ended up having sex for the first time I felt fine and didn’t feel guilty at all. There was this shift. I felt so terrible and so guilty about things for so long for being a woman and when I stopped going to church and being a part of it, I just left it all behind and it didn’t bother me anymore. I started doing what I wanted to do and it felt really good.
Can you define sexism?
It’s always hard. I don’t know. I experienced it growing up in the church in such a blatant way but it can be more subtle as well. It’s any sort of thought or action that puts belief in women being inferior.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
Indignant would be the best word. Having a brother growing up, I saw how he was treated differently than me. I think we are both intelligent people but the focus was more on him in terms of a career. It made me feel like I had something to prove. I wanted to show people that I’m not just a meek, one-dimensional human just for being a woman and that my sole purpose is not to be in the kitchen and raise children. After a while I realized it’s not even worth it to prove it to them because they’re not going to see.
Do you always notice when people are acting in a sexist way?
Not always immediately. Sometimes it takes me a second. Sexism can be overt and blatant but it can also be really subtle. Sometimes I realize it when I see how a man treats me versus how he treats another man. He treated me differently. Why did that happen? Things were so engrained in us growing up that it seems normal at first but you have to take a moment and realize it’s because you’re a woman.
Can you recall any specific instances of experiencing sexist behavior against you that may have stuck with you?
I remember the people at the church asking me if I wanted to work in the kitchen or the nursery and I told them I didn’t really like cooking and I didn’t like kids. But they would keep asking me. That really stuck with me because it made me think that those were my roles. Those were my purposes in life especially because they wouldn’t let women teach any classes past pre-K. Once children hit adolescence, they didn’t want a woman having teaching because if you’re a boy who is old enough to be considered a man, you didn’t want a woman having authority over you. That really stuck with me: the thought that I couldn’t do something just because of how I was born.
How would you describe the work that you have done or are still doing?
It’s almost like customer service in a way. I’ve worked in retail, I’ve worked in food service and it’s not very different because you have to take on a role that is different from yourself. You give up a certain part of yourself to give something to someone else and that was what cam girl-ing was for me too. It honestly didn’t feel that different, I was just taking my clothes off.
How did you get your start?
I had been out of work for a little bit and my anxiety had gotten pretty bad and I didn’t really want to have another job where I had to face people or talk to people face-to-face all the time. It was very emotionally draining to me. Since I have gotten away from the church I feel really comfortable with my body and expressing my sexuality. So it was the logical next step. I needed work, I needed something that wouldn’t make my anxiety worse, and I needed to spend some time with [my new dog]. It made sense for me to go into it.
Do you like it?
I do. I’m currently on a break trying to get back into it. Cam girl-ing for me was still a bit anxiety-provoking because not being able to see who was on the other side of the screen freaked me out a little bit. So I started making videos and pictures to sell to people and I really liked that a lot. It was less about the interaction and more of a creative project for me. I was getting to work on something and actually enjoy doing it. I make my own schedule and determine how much money I make and I really like that aspect of it a lot.
What’s the best part about being a sex worker?
The best part is the freedom. One of the reasons I am transitioning back into it is that there are a lot of creative projects I want to do and working forty hours a week makes that really hard. The best thing about sex work is it allows you to be creative if you are creative, it allows you to do things that you want to do that a normal 9-5 job would tie you down from doing. There is a lot of empowerment in that because you don’t feel like your job controls your life. You are in control of your job because you set your hours and you are your own boss.
What’s the hardest part?
When you’re interacting with these people you can get caught up in it and think it’s you doing it. But it’s not you, you’re playing a role. You have to separate yourself from what you’re doing. This is my work, it’s not 100% entirely who I am. Especially with cam girl-ing, you have to promote yourself on social media and put yourself into a box or a category or a hashtag. It feels a little bit weird to reduce yourself to that but it’s what gets you followers and attention. Separating yourself from your persona in order to get people to watch you is the hardest part for me.
What are the biggest misconceptions about being a sex worker?
What I hear all the time from people that don’t know is that we’re lazy, that we don’t want to work a regular job, that it’s not actually work. In terms of cam girl-ing, it takes a while to build a following and it’s not about being lazy at all. It’s about having time to pursue other things that I want to pursue. When I’m working my 9-5 job and I come home, I just want to sleep, I don’t feel like doing anything. It's the misconception that it’s easy and that we’re lazy.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s scary for sex workers right now with the bills being passed and whatnot. I just want to add that being a cam-girl is a lot different from what other people’s experiences might be. I’m not in that much danger. I did get blackmailed at one point and that was the reason I switched to selling pictures and videos. That was pretty terrifying but I am still behind my computer screen and not on the streets. With everything that is happening with the strip clubs right now and the laws being passed, I want people to know about sex work and what goes into it because people just don’t understand what sex workers do and what they want. They don’t understand about the safety aspect of it and that what they’re doing is actually making it less safe for sex workers. If we open more of a dialogue and make it so sex workers don’t have to feel scared to talk about it and decrease the stigma then we can have a conversation and realize that these laws are actually really harmful. But people don’t want to talk to sex workers. They just don’t want to. People need to know that sex workers are people who are out there and who exist and are not terrible, lazy people just trying to make a living like everybody else.