What is ‘fake’ and ‘real’ in the sex industry? (You mean “Real Exploitation” and “Fake Creditability”?)
From thescavenger.net – Porn has hijacked our sexuality, according to anti-porn author Gail Dines. Her sentiment is not unlike that of other ‘raunch culture’ commentators – the sex industry is damaging because it represents ‘fake’ pleasures and ‘fake’ bodies. Both queer and feminist communities have produced porn/magazines/performances aiming to represent desires, bodies and acts that are ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’, ‘documentary’ and ‘real’. But is this line between ‘fake’ and ‘real’ so clear-cut? Zahra Stardust explores the issues.
As someone who works in the sex industry – in spaces that purport to be ‘real’ as well as spaces that are accused of as being ‘fake’ – it seems like there is no distinct line between the two. As someone who works with a body that is sometimes perceived as ‘real’ and other times read as ‘fake’ – it seems that the bodies which move across these spaces are equally fluid.
As someone whose pink bits have been airbrushed in magazines, but which have also been on explicit display; who performs both with and without make-up; whose ‘real’ name is my stage name, distinctions between ‘fake’ and ‘real’ don’t always make sense.
I experience pleasure at work in the mainstream sex industry that I certainly perceive as ‘real’. This pleasure comes from physical sensations (lactic acid, endorphins, sweat, carpet burn, whipping hair, a double ended dildo angled against my g spot, real orgasms) but also from the thrill of voyeurism (exhibitionism, cameras, being naked in front of thousands of people).
Pleasure comes from creative aesthetics (coordinating colours, angles, props and shapes) and the kick of doing something that is (to some) taboo. I consider that pleasure a genuine part of my own sexuality. Sure, it’s work – and during shows I am also thinking about choreography, musicality, crowd control, not falling over, pole grip, camera angles, the audience member who is wandering off with my g-string – but work and pleasure are not mutually exclusive.
Yes, it can be mundane, repetitive and sometimes I end up with pole bruises, aching muscles and an intolerance for drunk men, but I use the stage as a platform to explore my own desires, and this assumption that what we do at work and the pleasure we experience from it isn’t ‘real’ must be problematised. My vagina will tell you otherwise.
At the same time, websites that purport to depict ‘real’ or ‘redefined beauty’, often seem to be just as conventionalised as the mainstream genres they criticise. ‘Alternative’ nude modelling site Suicide Girls gives calculated instructions on their website about the kinds of photos, make-up and aesthetic sets they accept: ‘tasteful’, ‘picture perfect’ shoots with ‘a little bit of face powder and mascara and freshly dyed hair’, but specifically not ‘cheap wig[s]’, ‘top hats’, ‘stripper shoes’, ‘food’ or things that look ‘cheesy’, ‘gross’ or ‘creepy’. Read more…