FEBRUARY 20, 2018
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
I’m from South Mississippi, a little place called Kiln.
How long have you been here?
I’ve been here for two years.
What brought you here?
I lived in L.A. before I lived here. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 20 years old and I really missed being home and being close to my family because me and my family are really close. But I didn’t want to move home so I moved to New Orleans and I’m only 50 minutes away from my mom and dad.
Why are you still here?
Being able to go home whenever I want to is great. I met my fiancé here. I hated Los Angeles. I had this really horrible relationship with L.A. and despised where I was at. Sometimes I don’t think New Orleans is a place where I want to spend the rest of my life but I never wake up thinking, I hate New Orleans.
When you were growing up, do you remember being told or taught anything about the societal expectations of you as a girl?
I don’t think I was taught anything straightforwardly about it. As I’ve gotten older and explored how I define femininity and masculinity and what those things mean to me and my value in those things, I realize how much I have been engrained with certain things. The idea of taking up space is something I compare to inheritance. It’s something we are given and taught that says we have to be gentle and kind and not loud. Those things are not bad but when we don’t follow that, the reaction is very aggressive and people do not like it. I’ve learned to shrink because that’s what you should do as a woman.
Can you define sexism?
When I hear the word sexism I think of it as the expectations that we have of men versus women and the prejudice that we have towards sexuality. As a woman, when someone is being sexist towards me, it is them judging me off of my sex or my sexuality.
Do you always notice when someone is acting in a sexist way?
Yes and no. I recently starting realizing when I’m being talked down to like I don’t know something. I think only recently I’ve come to realize when that’s happening and that’s been weird for me. Being involved with BARE and being able to be really aware and knowledgeable about what is happening to us, I have had a few guys reach out to me to tell me who to reach out to and what to do and we’re already doing all of that. Thank you for trying to help but also, fuck you for thinking that you think we’re not knowledgable in the action we’re trying to take.
For those who don’t know, what is BARE?
It’s the Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers. We are an organization that does the footwork to help make sure that people have agency over their own bodies and that they’re respected and that they’re heard.
How do you refer to your work?
I say it’s sex work.
I think anything that elicits a sexual response is sex work. I totally believe that anyone is allowed to call their work whatever they think it is but from a personal point of view, I see burlesque dancers as sex workers because it’s based on sexuality. It’s sexy so therefore it’s sex work.
Do you feel comfortable saying where you work?
Now I do. It’s hard to have this conversation. I was in a situation where I was asked about my job in a public atmosphere and I had a moment when I could’ve lied about it or I could be honest about and I realized that if I lied about it then I wasn’t helping anyone or helping erase the stigma of sex work so I got really honest about. But I didn’t want my family to hear the interview on TV before they heard it from me so I had to sit down and tell my mom and dad which was hard. When it comes to sex, people are weird so I thought they would think I was doing something dirty or low or degrading and I had a different experience. I’m really glad that I told them. But I do feel like I haven’t heard from certain people after coming out. Certain people in my life aren’t around anything but that’s ok. I’ll be getting married in a year or two and I think about how that’s going to be a very beautiful moment in my life and I am very clear about who I want to be there and how I want to celebrate those moments with me who will add to my life and not be a toxic force.
Can you recall any specific instances of when you have experienced sexist behavior against you?
I’ve always dressed in very little clothing because that’s just who I am. When I lived in Los Angeles, I had a co-worker who always said, you need to be careful dressing like that going home, you could get hurt. Even though he meant it in a kind way, I just remember thinking he would never tell a man to be careful about the way he dresses on his way home from work. I’ve been told to make sure I dress professionally and I’ve been talked to like I don’t know what I’m doing many times in my life. Being someone who likes to stay open, I have let those moments happen and not realized the level of critique that women everywhere get all the time. It makes you question yourself and if you have anything to offer.
What is the best part about being a sex worker?
Freedom. It almost makes me emotional by how beautiful it is. Never in my life have I been in a situation where I feel like I am being adequately paid for my services. I don’t think I’ve ever been as valued before in a job. I love that I have so much agency over my body and what I can and cannot do. I spent years in the service industry where the customer is always right and had to smile and take emotional abuse because that’s what you have to do if you want to keep your job. Knowing that I cannot work or work whenever I want to; all of that freedom makes life so much easier. To be able to make decent money and live my life without fear of emotional abuse because I can always walk away from it or not having to work when I am having a bad day and need to take care of myself mentally, that feels really great.
What’s the hardest part?
I don’t know that there is a hard part. I’m trying to think of anything that I don’t like about my job. I think something I don’t like about it is how certain men view it. I get frustrated when people in the club say Oh, you’re so pretty, why are doing this? So you don’t think pretty people do this? Those kinds of questions drive me insane. You’re so intelligent, you should be doing something else. You’re purchasing this service but you’re also saying that you don’t find value in it? It’s ludicrous, it’s crazy and getting people to understand that is frustrating. You’re dumb. I don’t have time for that.
What are the biggest misconceptions about being a sex worker?
That you have nothing better to do. That you’re doing it because it’s the last option. It is for some people but I feel that most people think all of us are victims to sex work instead of choosing sex work. I also think people think that sex work is grimy, dirty work. There’s a lot of moments I have that are valuable and pure and really remind me that there’s an importance in sexuality on so many levels.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I think there is value in sexuality and we’re afraid to look at what that value is. I encourage people to really look at it instead of hiding from it.