We receive a lot of questions about sex work on Ask Lust - from how to get into sex work to questions about what it's like on a porn set, so I invited sex worker, activist, writer, and educator, Kali Sudhra to Ask Lust to answer some of your most frequently asked questions.
Kali: As there are many ways to get into different fields of work, the same goes for performing. Maybe you come from an acting background, maybe you come from a modelling background, or in my case, maybe you have no experience whatsoever!
My advice is that you try out some things on camera before jumping straight into porn. Find a trusted friend or photographer and do a nude photoshoot. Maybe you could also play around with filming yourself in a short masturbation clip. Watch the clip after, how do you feel? Would you feel confident putting that on the internet, knowing it will exist there forever? These are important questions to ask yourself before getting into any porn production.
In terms of applying to be a porn performer, send a few nudes and clothed photos that you feel represent how you are, also include a short text about why you want to perform. Remember- don’t make your email into a novel, because the casting people have a lot of applications to read! Short and sweet is always a good choice.
For the interview, just like any job: show up on time for your interview, make sure you make a good first impression, and ask any questions you may have about the role you will be acting in. This is the time to express any doubts you have, ask about pay and also discuss working conditions.
Kali: Not all the time, but yes sometimes, and that’s because of the white cis hetero patriarchy that upholds rape culture, violence and overall misogny. I also think that it depends on what kind of sex work you do. There is something called the whorearchy (a hierarchy within sex work) and the lower you are on the whorearchy, the more violence you are likely to face. Trans women of colour who work doing street based sex work are at the highest risk of violence. Everyday blatant transphobia and racism are to blame. Do your part and talk to your friends about these issues. Normalize sex work. Join the fight to decriminalize our work and help to end stigma, because stigma kills.
Kali: The worst assumption that is made is that because we work with sex for a living, that we are willing to do almost any act. A reminder: we are humans with limits like any other person! Because I work with sex for a living doesn’t mean I will always want penetration, oral, anal, etc,. Depending on the day my limits and desires can change. The most important thing to keep in mind when hiring a sex worker, is to constantly communicate and talk about consent. Consent matters in any sexual situation, and consent isn’t automatic because the person is a sex worker. You must ask before getting down and dirty!
Kali: Well first, usually when a performer arrives on set, there should be a crew there to welcome them! Typically there is breakfast and a run down of the day. Then we sign forms such as image releases, the performer bill of rights and responsibilities, and then check out the STI tests of the other performers we will act with. Then it’s straight to makeup, hair and wardrobe. For me that’s the part where I get to get mentally prepared and get in ‘’character’’. The director will have a chat with the performers, checking in to see how they are, reviewing scripts, talking about what specific things they are looking for. Before the sex scene, the performers have time to do whatever they need to do to prepare (shower, makeup retouch etc). After that, the performers sit down with the director, and ideally the talent manager/intimacy coordinator if there is one, and talk about what they want the sex scene to look like. This part is crucial. Limits are reiterated here, any doubts or questions and a conversation about consent and safety. Boundaries and consent should be already talked about in the pre-production of the movie, not left to the last minute.
Then the moment everyone is waiting for: the sex!!!! Usually we get some lube and condoms and place them strategically on set for easy access, then we get to it! After the sex scene, there is time for the performers to decompress, shower, talk with their scene partner, rest, etc. I usually need a shower and straight to lunch, sex always makes me hungry! The afternoon is narrative, so any acting that doesn’t involve sex. Then the director will say my favourite phrase ‘’and that’s a wrap’’ meaning the filming is over and we can celebrate! Post filming I usually have a drink with some of the team and then go home to crash in my bed. Being a porn performer is tiring!!
Kali: Hi Katie, I strongly recommend you consider the implications of putting out sexual content on the internet. It’s irreversible. Probably lasts longer than a tattoo, and it’s harder to cover up if it’s something you don’t want. The internet is world wide and very accessible to everyone. Maybe your parents have never heard of Erika Lust, but maybe some younger relatives who watch porn could know about her, or other porn companies, and potentially find out. The important thing is that you feel confident about your decision. If you have major doubts, maybe it’s not for you. Sex work and porn isn’t for everyone.
Kali: This is a huge topic to talk about but I will be very short and summarize it. The full decriminialisation of sex work means removing any criminal charges and penalties for doing the work. The decriminialisation of sex work is vital for saving lives. It would reduce stigma, increase access to health services, decrease violence towards sex workers, allow sex workers to seek legal help if needed, and also greatly reduce the risk of STBBIs (sexually transmitted and blood borne infections). The decrim of sex work is crucial in giving human rights to sex workers. Imagine not being afforded human rights because of the job you do? That’s the reality for a majority of sex workers. Decrim provides a safer working environment for sex workers by allowing us to organize collectively and also be able to report any violent behaviour we may see from clients. When we decriminialise sex work, we make the health and safety of sex workers priority. Something we must continue to fight for because: Sex worker rights are HUMAN rights.
Kali: I personally always have sex with condoms but not every performer is the same. In terms of the term safe sex, there is no such thing…..sorry to be be the bearer of that news!. Sex always involves some sort of risk, be it physical or emotional. To be 100 % safe in sex, you would have to be abstinent or just masturbate, which are valid choices too. Therefore, there is only ‘’safer sex’’ because the risk is always there when you involve two or more people in any sexual activity. But luckily there are many things you can do to reduce risk. Using condoms, dental dams and gloves. Consent, consent, consent! In terms of safer sex in porn, also be open about your sexual history with your scene partner, that also means your off-screen sexual habits. If you feel good about not using a condom, go ahead, but NEVER feel pressured to have sex without safer sex items like condoms, dental dams, or gloves. It’s part of consent.
Kali: Yes, absolutely this has happened. It’s not a bad thing. Sometimes there just isn’t a vibe. But because this is my job, I am professional about it! I can still do my job and not find that person attractive or interesting. Remember, porn isn’t about getting laid, it’s about performing sex. A lot of porn is performance and creating a fantasy for you. That’s really important to remember when consuming adult content, it doesn’t necessarily reflect real life.
Kali: Hi! First of all, thanks for sharing your experience, I know it must not always be easy. I think every body is valid and beautiful and deserves to take up space. I think scars tell important stories, and in your case, one of survival. I think it’s beautiful that you want to share your personal story with the world, and I also think there are more people who may watch that can also identify. One thing that I am sure you know, is you aren’t alone in your story. Sharing it through porn, might also be healing for someone else, so I would say: go for it!