Frisky Rant: Who Says Porn Stars Can’t Be Feminists?

Recently, a number of people have taken it upon themselves to tell me that I “can’t” identify as a feminist because I do porn. This fascinates and confuses me on so many different levels. Since when are feminists not “allowed” to exert control over their bodies and make adult decisions about who they will sleep with and for what reasons? I always thought protecting a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body was a core tenant of feminism. But apparently, some feminists think they can dictate what choices are acceptable.

Porn is not something I ever thought I would do. Not because I thought it was “bad,” I just had a serious passion for all things political and I didn’t see myself as a sex symbol. Far from it, in fact. I was sexually abused as a child and it shaped the way I viewed myself, my body and my sexuality. For many years, I struggled with self injury and an eating disorder, all stemming from PTSD from the abuse.

To be clear: I didn’t do porn because I was molested. But porn has been a great way for me to deal with that trauma and its effects on my self perception and worth. Let me explain…

When a person goes through that kind of trauma, it’s not uncommon to in some way blame yourself for the abuse. As a rational adult I understand that I was five years old when I was molested by my grandfather, and I certainly wasn’t “asking for it.” It was not my fault. But that doesn’t change the fact that these events skewed the way I viewed my body.

In 2012, I began starving myself. Suddenly, I had never been happier with my body. People were actually nicer to me when I was skinnier, which is a disturbing reflection of the society we live in. During this period, I had been sexting a former congressman turned NYC mayoral candidate. The following year, when photos I sent him leaked online, I had already been in serious outpatient therapy for my eating disorder and had made massive progress as far as my body image was concerned. In treatment, I gained back about 25 pounds and I worked very hard at accepting myself and my body. I told myself it was okay not to be a size 0. It’s okay not to be 105 pounds. It’s okay to eat. It’s okay to exist.

Like clockwork, as soon as I started accepting myself and my body, people in the media, not to mention tons of Twitter trolls, thought it would be funny to point out that I looked fatter than I did in older photos. It’s true: I was heavier, but I was also healthier, mentally and physically. The opportunity to do adult films presented itself, and I took it.

For me, the best thing about porn has been the confidence boost. I have body dysmorphia, so when I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself the way others see me. (It doesn’t help to constantly have Twitter trolls telling me how fat they think I am.) But porn helped me view myself the way I actually look, not the way my brain tricks me into thinking I look. Talk about empowering! For the first time in a long time, I felt sexy. I felt like a powerful woman instead of scared little girl or a victim. I am grateful for the experience of doing adult films, because it helped me discover an appreciation for my body that I never had before.

Aside from the physical, it was incredibly empowering for me to be the one making the decisions about my sexuality. As a victim of childhood abuse, for a long time, I felt stripped of the right to make those choices because someone I was supposed to be able to trust had made them for and forced them upon me. With porn, I got to choose who I worked with and what I was or wasn’t okay with. It sounds really simple, but for me it felt profound. What is more empowering than a woman making her own decisions about her body and her sexuality on her terms?

A lot has been said about porn being “bad for women,” but while there are of course people who have had bad experiences, just like in any industry, what other business can you think of where women routinely make more money than their male counterparts? In a country where women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, I am happy to be in an industry where I can thrive.

I understand that this is a controversial topic on which there are a variety of strong opinions. I know that there are both sex positive feminists and anti-pornograhy feminists, and that the two can coexist.  But for me, overcoming the trauma I experienced as a child meant learning how to call the shots when it came to my body and my sexuality. I am very proud of myself for finally being able to do that, and I embrace the fact that doing porn helped me get there. Am I saying every woman should run out and try to do porn? Absolutely not. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it is a decision I am proud that I made and will never regret it because of the positive impact it has had on me.

I am a survivor. I am a porn star. I am a feminist. Don’t like it? Not my problem.