April 1, 2014 | Posted in Editorial Features by
World-conquering, queen-size, queer kink dervish Kitty Stryker describes herself with ferocious accuracy (and, in every best sense of the term, cheekiness) as "a geeky sex worker, Burner, rabid writer and feminist activist"—and that's still nowhere near enough.
Kitty founded the Ladies High Tea and Pornography Society, presents various sex-based workshops and leads multi-pronged battles on behalf of sex workers and against societal constraints on free-flowing, potently empowering sexual expression–all in between creating and starring in lap-liquefyingly luscious adult videos.
Fleshbot is aroused, inspired and grateful from our groins to our medulla oblongatas that Kitty took time to provide us with the following awe-inspiring Q&A action.
FLESHBOT: Where and when did you grow up? What was that like?
I was raised in the suburbs of a suburb in Massachusetts, in a town where the big excitement was drinking beer by the railroad tracks. I tried to rebel against my geeky introverted parents by wearing khakis and Adidas but they didn't come in my size so my rebellion of normalcy was short lived. I was a gangly, socially awkward teen who quoted Rocky Horror and Monty Python who dressed like a Goth because Hot Topic was the only store at the mall with clothes that fit my curves. I took karate (got up to my brown belt, even), biked everywhere, learned blacksmithing and worked occasionally on an organic farm. I was definitely a bookish tomboy in many ways.
It was the 90s, I was openly queer and pagan in a school where it wasn't safe to be different, and I was a smart kid who was homeschooled over summer vacation. I loved school for seeing my friends, but hated the busy work and lack of critique. I was pretty restless and read constantly. I started our school's Gay/Straight Alliance, painted a lifesize self-portrait of myself as Ophelia surrounded by flowers that had suitable Victorian Flower Language meanings, and geeked out on video games or Star Trek with my friends.
I think being a teenager who got shit for being queer was easier because I had been brought up an activist. My mother is a second wave, sex negative feminist (who's very supportive of my work, incidentally) and my father was part of the local recycling committee. Activism was the excitement in my life much of the time - I marched against rape, shielded abortion clinic clients from the Religious Right, wrote angry letters about ecological issues to Clinton. I was determined from a young age to change the world, and encouraged to believe my choices had a ripple effect on society. It sometimes had amusing consequences, though. I was a decent writer, and I once won our school's D.A.R.E. contest by writing a researched essay on why pot should be legalized. I had a reputation for being a rabble rouser!
FLESHBOT: Tell us about your first exposure to porn and other adult entertainment. How did you react?
My first exposure to porn was finding a VHS of Annie Sprinkle's Sluts and Goddesses, which was the only XXX video my very feminist parents had. I ended up reading most of my adult material, starting with Nancy Friday's Women on Top where I learned my interests in kinky sex and exhibitionism were common fantasies. I was fascinated by all things sexual, and read everything I could on the topic - other kids would ask me questions about puberty because I had more information than the sex ed class. My parents gave me the What's Happening to My Body? book for boys and girls, so I didn't have any surprises. As eager as I was to explore sexuality, I found masturbation to be enough of an entertaining distraction, and was one of the last kids in my class to have PIV sex.
I was turned on at an early age by the idea of bondage and kinky sex. I entirely blame the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, because many of my earliest erotic fantasies were about being tied up and slowly tortured by Shredder's knives. I really got off on my martyr complex (The Highwayman's tale of an innkeeper's daughter being tied up by a group of men and then shooting herself to warn her outlaw lover was a go-to for years) but was also worried that wanting to be submissive was anti-feminist. My mother, who, bless her, talked me through several of these crises, telling me that feminism was about my right to choose, and if that's what I chose, that was okay. It gave me space to think about my own desires without feeling shamed for it, which was helpful as I moved through different identities throughout my twenties.
Visual porn didn't really do it for me, as I found it too tame - I much preferred the sex I found in bodice rippers. Later I had access to AOL chat rooms, where I spent my time as a teenage girl pretending to be an older, balding man. Cybersex was filled with these strangely perfect bodies and heterosexist norms. Even as a teen I liked fucking with those ideas! I think for me having access to cybersex taught me a lot about negotiation during a fantasy, which was really helpful.
FLESHBOT: What was your very first adult project? How did you make the decision to do it? What did you think and feel before, during, and after it was happening?
My very first adult project was a public photo shoot involving these lovely butt plugs that were handmade by the photographer. He was an older man who wanted them for his private collection, and we negotiated about what the shoot would entail. I enjoyed butt plugs but got anxious about having someone put them in me so I inserted them myself, and I got to choose my outfit and where we shot. I picked the Albany Bulb, which was a repurposed dump-turned-dog park with a bunch of interesting art made of garbage, and I dressed in my gutter punk finest. I got to keep copies of the photos and still have them.
How did I feel about it? Well, I was nervous at first, excited while it was happening (I love the risk of public play!) and confident afterwards. I think the fact I had a lot of control over what happened and how I was portrayed helped immensely with my enjoyment of the shoot. He was very respectful, even offering to take me to lunch afterwards, and paid me in cash. We talked a lot about stuff we did outside of pervery (he was an electrical engineer, I was a sci fi and computer gamer geek). I even got to keep the plugs! I was pretty naive in thinking all porn would be like that, though.
FLESHBOT: How has your adult career evolved? Take us through five key points.
I started with erotic modeling as a chubby 19 year old, mostly doing softcore and fetish shoots for private collections. I often got paid as well as having copies of the photos to keep, and for the most part the photographers were respectful - if they tried to lay hands on me sexually I was very comfortable with setting and enforcing my boundaries.
Wanting to expand my repertoire and being a pervert in my private life, I turned to professional domination not long afterwards, but found the "house" dynamic didn't work for me. I hated being expected to dress a certain way, and disagreed that being a professional dominatrix meant engaging in colour-by-numbers kink. So I went independent, which allowed me to choose my own branding and how I ran scenes, finding that being true to myself and what I loved and actually playing with submissives I was excited about was more sustainable financially than playacting in overly scripted fantasies. I think that independence ended up seeping into everything else I've done in the adult industry (phone sex, camming, escorting, porn), as my tolerance for bad behaviour from entitled clients has always been really low and my politics have always featured heavily in what I will and won't do.
I didn't become an escort until I moved to London, where prostitution (under certain constraints) was legal. My motivation was mainly wanting to have one night stands and not seeing the point in doing them for free when sex work gave me financial stability. I wasn't insulted by potential clients for my weight in the UK - in fact, Brits loved my curves and I found myself in demand both as a sex worker and as a lover, which raised my confidence immensely.
As I continued to work, I found myself gravitating towards the outskirts of clients, mostly marketing towards hands on sex education for people with disabilities, women who had experienced sexual assault and wanted to relearn accepting erotic touch while stating boundaries, and men with social anxiety who wanted to learn how to pleasure women. My opinion on clients changed drastically during this time as I realized how even minor legal support and body acceptance made sex work satisfying. I blogged throughout this experience and became known for my writing on sex work and politics.
Through my blog I did many porn reviews. Watching queer porn from TROUBLEFilms and CrashpadSeries reignited my desire to be sexy on film. There weren't many depictions of fat queer femmes available in erotic movies, even fewer depictions that were authentic in their queerness and body-positive in their terminology. When I visited San Francisco while living in London, I became determined to perform in porn, to be what I wanted to see. After performing in a couple of scenes (and being outed by Porn Wikileaks) I realized that I wanted to stop hiding my sex work, that I was lucky enough to have come out to my family and had them support me, that you can't shame someone for something they're not ashamed of. I began doing interviews and writing outside of my blog space, wanting to show people that sex workers aren't a homogenous group of people. I also wanted to use my privilege as a white cisgendered sex worker to signal boost people who were more marginalized within the industry. I think that was the turning point for who I am today.
I think the final turning point was moving back to the States and not being willing to put up with the fatshaming sex work clients dealt out. The UK led me to think of sex work being a job in which I, like any other worker, deserves respect. I've since stopped doing camming, professional domination or erotic modeling, because I refuse to deal with men hurling their insecurities at me when I set boundaries. If I'm honest? I actually miss the work in a lot of ways, but I don't miss managing male sexual entitlement.
FLESHBOT: Why don't you do mainstream work? And how do you define "mainstream"? Please give specific examples (especially surprising ones) of mainstream porn and non-mainstream porn.
I personally define mainstream porn as being made for the male gaze, with mainstream media ideas of what's marketable and sexy. It's often heterosexist, racist, cissexist and ageist. Rather than challenge what's believed to be sexy, it instead just creates very formulaic porn. It's the dominant voice in porn, but it doesn't often do anything new, because it's scared to disrupt the perceived viewer.
Basically, it's like cable TV for XXX… not overly challenging to the status quo.
It's honestly difficult to imagine doing mainstream work after the experiences I've had doing indie queer porn. The negative experiences I've had in porn have been not in front of the camera with more mainstream people (my boundaries were respected, my terminology used) but rather behind the scenes. Our political values were drastically different and I believe it shows in the work. If you shoot BBW porn but think there's "acceptable fat" and "ugly fat", you're not going to be very body-positive in your work. Or if you believe that black women are only marketable if they have light skin, or act "ghetto", or that fat women are only marketable if they have perfect hourglass figures, I think that will reflect poorly in your marketing strategies, in who you shoot with and how you show them.
If I found a mainstream company who wanted to work with fat women, encouraged me to use my own safer sex practices, and listened to performers about the words they use (like pronoun use, terms for bodies and genitals, and ethnicity) then I might work with them. I just haven't found a mainstream company that would work with me and have those values.
Now, that said, there's non-mainstream porn that falls into the same traps. There's companies that call themselves ethical or feminist without really critiquing mainstream ideas of beauty (say, Kink.com, who mostly employs slender white women). And there's companies (like Wicked Pictures) that I'd consider mainstream but are starting to challenge porn norms, like safer sex being shown in their work, or even hints at male bisexuality in some of their parodies (which, HOORAY, can I just say). So I think perhaps it's more of a spectrum of ideology rather than a binary system?
FLESHBOT: Talk to us about Courtney Trouble and your association with her.
I was maybe nineteen when I first discovered No Fauxxx (now Indie Porn Revolution), the first porn site I ever saw that had women like me in it. I had applied to Suicide Girls earlier that year and was unsure if I liked their pay structure (never mind whether they'd even take a plus size model), so someone referred me to No Fauxxx.
I became obsessed with performing on the site, but Courtney was across the U.S. from me. I decided it was a pipe dream for years, until, weirdly, I was living in London and decided to look up the site again. Courtney had moved to the Bay Area, and I visited there regularly, so I applied. I did a photo shoot at her house, and then did a scene - from there we became friends and coworkers. Now I run TROUBLEFilms's PR and social media and am looking forward to hanging out with her at my first Feminist Porn Awards! Courtney, video genius Ajapop and I are like the Q-Team.
FLESHBOT: What adult performers would you most like to work with?
Oh, I'm going to blush as I say this because a lot of the people I want to work with I might or do cross paths with!
I know Belladonna is retired but she is a performer who showed me that porn didn't have to be scary or degrading, and I would love to do a scene with her. Or, you know, even just shake her hand and genuinely thank her!
I'd love to do more work with Betty Blac, as every scene we do together is fantastic fun and we have great chemistry.
Busty Cookie is not only sexy and a lovely person, but has a British accent which makes me melt into a puddle.
I'd love to work with Jiz Lee, though I am way too shy to say anything in person.
I find April Flores, Michelle Austin, Ramses Rodstein and James Darling super hot and their scenes sizzle! And actually, though this will likely never happen... I'd love to be in a parody porn with Evan Stone, because that man can embody a character while fucking and I am into it. Also I think we'd laugh a lot.
Basically I'm a massive porn fan as well as loving to perform! One of the things I love about the porn I've done is that I get to decide who I work with and what we do. I have a lot of agency, which I think has led me to really genuinely enjoy the sex I have on camera. I'm planning a My Little Pony queer porn parody based on generation 4 MLP and I'm hoping some of my wishes come true...
FLESHBOT: Your blog PurrVersality rules. Talk to us about it. How long have you done it? What have been some great and not-so-great results of it?
I've been blogging online since 2002, initially on Livejournal. I realized that the gated community feel of Livejournal was great for a personal diary but not what I wanted ultimately. I wanted to write publicly about my experiences with sex, gender, body image and the adult industry. I started a Blogspot in 2008, and it became pretty popular, which honestly surprised me! I didn't think anyone would care. But there weren't many sex workers who were willing to show their face on the internet and talk honestly about their lives, much less ones that were fat and queer. I think it also was valuable to be a feminist who critiqued the adult industry and media discussions of sexuality from both a sex positive feminist lens and sex negative feminist lens.
The negative part of having a blog would be the death or rape threats, being outed by my legal name when I wrote about Porn Wikileaks and how they violated people's privacy, and people feeling they have the right to harass my family because of my sex work. When a landlord internet stalked me and found out about my blog, he sexually harassed me and refused to pay my deposit back when I turned him down. I got him back though - he was super paranoid, so I anonymously sent him a bouquet of calla lilies with the message "I forgive you". He left me alone after that!
The best aspect of it has been having a platform that I control for talking about my experiences. It's not edited, it's not beautified, it's just my truth, and I think it's been helpful for people. They don't feel as alone in their complicated feelings. My blog has helped me process difficult situations as well as allowing me to look back and reflect on where I came from, ideologically and emotionally. I've gotten to see how I've evolved on my understanding of institutionalized oppression and its effects on sex positive culture, which I think was needed so I could spur that discussion on via my project Consent Culture.
FLESHBOT: The Feminist Porn Awards are coming up. Take us through what that entails and what you hope will happen.
It's my first time at the Feminist Porn Awards run by Good For Her, a sex toy shop in Toronto, as well as the Feminist Porn Conference founded and produced by Tristan Taormino! Indie Porn Revolution and Lesbian Curves 2: Hard Femme are both projects I've been a part of and are both up for awards, though I'm mainly going as TROUBLEFilms's social media and PR person and to network with other feminist porn performers and producers. I'm looking forward to checking out the other films that are nominated as well, and supporting the 6 other TROUBLEFilms related projects up for awards!
I'll also be speaking at the Feminist Porn Conference on a panel about porn stars and privacy, alongside Tina Horn, Cinnamon Maxxine, James Darling, Emma Claire, and Siouxsie Q. It's a topic I care a lot about and I'm hoping the discussion is useful! Generally I'm hoping to make some new friends, learn a lot, and have some time with a cutie I haven't gotten to have one on one time with since my time living in London. It's a working vacation, but a vacation nevertheless, so I plan to enjoy it!
FLESHBOT: Let's just lob out some topics and ask you to sound off on them.
Porn and privacy: I believe that porn performers deserve to have their privacy, just as I believe anyone in the public eye deserves to have off time. I find real name policies and this culture of eagerly outing people to be violating and invasive, and if people want to continue to privately consume pornographic material, they should respect the names we choose to use when we do it rather than trying to find out information we're not volunteering.
Consent culture: Relating a lot to the above, I think that we need to learn to ask people's boundaries and become more comfortable with hearing "no". People seem hungry for information on how to flirt and negotiate without making others feel uncomfortable. I'd love to see consent actively taught in sex ed classes, and to see mutual communication portrayed in porn. Not that consent needs to be sexy - it's mandatory regardless - but it also doesn't need to be sexless or intimidating.
Ethical Porn: I really do believe ethical porn is something the industry will need to embrace to survive. Working conditions throughout various types of sex work are being discussed more and more, and I think that's the way forward. I mean, we care about free range meat, organic vegetables, and fair trade coffee... it's a matter of time before these beliefs become vital to the porn industry as well. I hope that as we embrace these values we'll find the stigma will slowly dissipate, leaving porn free to be a positive force for erotic exploration.
FLESHBOT: Thank you again, Kitty Stryker. Follow her on Twitter and worship her everywhere.
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