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The Soapbox: On Sex Addiction, Sex Work & The Wall Street Intern Who Quit Her Job To Pursue Porn

The Soapbox: On Sex Addiction, Sex Work & The Wall Street Intern Who Quit Her Job To Pursue Porn

Last week, a Wall Street intern quit her job to pursue porn. Paige Jennings, who goes by Veronica Vain, was working at an Lazard’s alternative-investments marketing group in New York when she “quit [Wall Street] before it fired me” (according to her Twitter page) after it was discovered she was tweeting nude selfies from inside the bathroom of Lazard’s offices.

I worked in the sex industry on and off through college as a stripper, and then later for a stint as a call girl, selling myself as a non pro on Craigslist and performing what amounted to “the Girlfriend Experience.” When I lost my job as a public school teacher after it was discovered I was writing and speaking openly about my past, I argued — as Jennings does so articulately in this interview — that sexy and serious needn’t be mutually exclusive, and that women have the right to do what they want with their bodies, and not be shamed for the choices they make.

My participation in the sex industry was my choice— and I defend a woman’s right to make that choice. That said, I think it’s fair to critically examine people’s choices, just as I’ve learned to critically examine my own. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: Let’s Get Real When Discussing Complicated Sexual Experiences

The Soapbox: We Can't Limit Our Vocabulary When Discussing Complicated Sexual Experiences

There’s been a lot of talk lately in the media about sexual violence. Late last month, former CBC Broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi was fired amid allegations of sexual assault. A few weeks ago, Shia LaBeouf came forward with claims that he was raped during an art exhibition. And by now everyone’s heard of the sex abuse allegations first brought against Bill Cosby decades ago, which seem to just keep coming.

Then a little over a week ago, Rolling Stone released an editor’s note that undermined their own investigative account of a brutal gang rape that allegedly took place at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. It was a move that The Frisky’s Beejoli Shah astutely noted as “just another example of shifting the focus away from the real issue at hand: how we talk about rape, and how hard it is for survivors to come forward.”

As a former sex worker turned sex writer I think it’s good that people are talking about sexual health. It’s unfortunate, however, that we don’t know how to talk about complicated sexual experiences without focusing on two words: consent, and rape. In certain circumstances, I wonder if these aren’t the wrong words. Certainly, they shouldn’t be the only ones. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: Railing Against AA Does A Disservice To Those Trying To Get Sober

The Soapbox: Railing Against AA Does A Disservice To Those Trying To Get Sober

This post was originally published on After Party Chat and republished with permission.

We’ve all got at least one Facebook friend who just can’t stand Alcoholics Anonymous and needs to let the world know it every chance that they get. I usually politely ignore them. But the latest anti-AA screed to show up in my newsfeed was too irritating to ignore.

First off, let me start by saying that I’m not a member of AA, lest my opinion be dismissed as coming from a member of “the AA cult.” Have I been to meetings? Yes. Tons of them. Do I attend meetings today? No, I don’t. At one point I attended regularly, and it helped me. At a certain point,  it no longer helped me and so I stopped. Simple as that. Keep reading »

On Dylan Farrow, Being Triggered & Dealing With Trauma

On Dylan Farrow, Being Triggered & Dealing With Trauma

I woke up the morning after feeling irritated, a clutching pain behind my eyes. Alert, but not wanting to do anything. There it was, that vague feeling of dis-ease, a familiar disconnection.

It’s difficult to admit how personally triggered I was by Dylan Farrow’s open letter in The New York Times. I would rather ignore it, throw myself into work or blame the feeling on something else— maybe I’m mad at my boyfriend. Maybe it’s my body; maybe I could make the way I’m feeling about the way I look— but that’s not the truth. I know what’s wrong and— like Farrow’s story itself, it’s worth saying out loud.

It was less Farrow’s letter than it was people’s reactions that had upset me. “Friends” on Facebook jumped to Woody Allen’s defense, many posting that awful piece on Daily Beast as if it were some kind of counterpoint. Yeah, it’s Facebook, I know I shouldn’t care. But my connections to people, however they come, are important. And besides, some of these people were friends in real life, individuals that I used to trust and respect. That trust and respect was gone.

Reading through comments, I found myself sickened. I mean, if it’s your position that you don’t know what happened, why say anything at all? Why re-enforce the message to survivors that we won’t be believed? That we’re making it up and anyways, who cares?

This is exactly what perpetrators do, I thought to myself. This is exactly what makes our traumas traumatic. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: In (Reluctant) Defense of Dr. Phil

"Nice Guys" Who Rape
Intent isn't everything, but it does matter. Read More »
Drunk Is A Feminist Issue
Why women everywhere should be concerned about binge-drinking. Read More »
Too Drunk?
If you're a drunk woman who gets raped, will you be taken seriously? Read More »
The Soapbox: In (Reluctant) Defense of Dr. Phil

I never thought I’d write an article under that title but here goes.

Earlier this week, Dr. Phil asked over Twitter: “If a girl is drunk, is it alright to have sex with her?” The Twittersphere overwhelmingly answered “No,” calling Dr. Phil a “moron,” “asshole” and “rape apologist,” among other things. I don’t doubt the possibility that Dr. Phil (or whichever lackey mans his Twitter account) may have posed that question for lecherous or self-serving reasons. Yet as a feminist, this reaction left me honestly dismayed. Were we saying that a drunk girl can never consent to sex? That sex with someone who’s been drinking is always, necessarily, rape? Sure, Dr. Phil’s a total butthead, but I don’t think we want to make the argument that drunk sex necessarily means rape, do we?

And yet this is the exact argument being made by Carmen Rios, a former college sexual assault activist, who was so “shocked and appalled” that Dr. Phil (whose real name is Phil McGraw) had asked such a question that she started a Change.org petition encouraging supporters to call on McGraw to host a show educating his viewers on assault prevention. “Lesson 101 in my courses,” says Rios, “was that sexual contact without verbal, sober, conscious consent is rape.”

But, it’s not — not legally speaking, and not in practice. Keep reading »

The Soapbox: On Hugo Schwyzer, Personal Essay Writing & Redemption

Rubbernecking Addicts
On our culture's fascination with drug addicted celebrities. Read More »
I'm Detoxing From The Web
Online detox
Winona is doing an online detox to save her sanity. Read More »
Sharing "Too Much"
Could you become a politician or have you shared "too much" online? Read More »
The Soapbox: On Hugo Schwyzer, Personal Essay Writing & Redemption

Last week, the controversial professor, feminist blogger and personal essayist Hugo Schwyzer announced on his blog, in an interview with NYmag.com and again in LA Weekly that he was retiring his notorious public persona and quitting the internet for good (or— for the time being, he corrected himself some days later in yet another goodbye). Maybe you don’t know or care who this person is and that is just as well. He is a semi-big deal in the feminist blogosphere in the way that Serge Haroche is probably (hopefully) an even bigger deal among mathy-type people (he won the Noble Prize in Physics in 2012, according to this random website I found when I Googled “Nobel Prize winners”). And maybe we should all know more about Serge Haroche. But here we are talking about Hugo.  (For a complete list of criticisms of Hugo’s work, you can go here. Or here. Yes, there are entire websites created for the sole purpose of criticizing this man and his work.) [Note: A few of Schwyzer's pieces on The Good Men Project were crossposted on The Frisky a few years ago.]

I can’t help it. Honestly, I’m kind of obsessed with him. As a freelance writer as well as a writing instructor — I teach courses in memoir, personal essay and opinion writing, the genres that both Hugo and I write — this whole brouhaha is pushing all my buttons. Some people are taking a certain joy in this character’s downfall — which I feel is mean but, yes, a little tempting. Like many, for me, the redemptive narrative of Hugo Schwyzer always rang less than true. Keep reading »

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