Tag Archive: modeling

Hey there.
So I recently snagged two tickets to the 2015 Feminist Porn Awards through a POWER fundraiser. This is going to be grand fun, and I suspect my lovely wife and I will be checking out the Feminist Porn Conference while we’re in town.
I also recently spent some time yacking with a friend about what makes feminist porn “feminist” – what the criteria are – and where to find some. (I gave her a few names and sent her hunting). Anyway, there must be something in the air today because, wouldn’t you know it, around about the same time, I found not one but TWO posts on the same subject while faffing about on twitter.
How to Make Ethical Porn
Four Female Adult Film Producers Talk Porn for Women.
In the first one, the author talks about how it’s important that the performers aren’t in it just for the money. And, as a model – meaning as someone who damn well expects to get paid for my labour – I have some difficulty with this. To be clear, she’s not suggesting that people perform sex in a TF capacity [EDIT: She pays her employees and cover their expenses during filming, as she mentions in her comment] (so the rest of this post is going to be using her article as a jumping off point more than anything). And I do understand her reasons for wanting her Talent to enjoy having sex on camera – she outlines them quite clearly, and they boil down to “if people are doing this just to get paid, they may do things they don’t want to do in order to get paid” – but…
Eugh. Sex is a such a fraught topic. It’s so much more intimate than, say, filing or waitressing or hauling heavy stuff on a job site. So it gets this weird treatment like either you’re saying YES to X, Y, and Z because you’re seriously hot to do X, Y, and Z… or you’re not actually consenting to do those things. As if there aren’t a zillion reasons to say YES to a fuck when you’re not necessarily hot for it right now, regardless of whether the context is pornographic or personal.
I’m not knocking joyful sexuality, spontaneous desire, or enthusiastic consent, and I do think that, as a director, this particular author has found a way to navigate what might have felt like morally ambiguous waters in a way that works for her. These are all good things.
However. I do want to point out that paying the bills is a reason to decide to say yes to sex, and that it’s just as legit a choice as deciding to have sex because your partner is hot for your bod and you love your partner even if you’re not feeling totally horny right this second – basically yes, consent is sexy, but there are lots of reasons to consent.
On a related note: The author talks about making sure that the actors get to do stuff that actually gets them off. This right here? This, I think, is a great way to make sure that your talent are in it for pleasure, rather than “just” a pay cheque.
Look. Maybe it’s because I come from an industry – independent modeling – where there are a lot of potential “employers” who have no intention of employing anyone at all, who make it a point of pride to refuse to pay us for our labour, who don’t believe our work takes skill, who will drop a grand on a camera lens but don’t think someone’s time, energy, and talent are worth a penny… But I give a lot of side-eye to people who are all “Do it for the art!” Even as someone who, when organizing no-budget shows, basically asks people to Do It For The Art and work for low/no money beyond what they can get from selling chap-books at the merch table, far more often than I’m comfortable with.
I feel like the “I want my talent to be in it for the art” (or the sexual exhibitionism, either way) attitude – whether the Talent in question is doing video or stills – provokes/promotes a situation, not entirely unlike the one faced by GFE escorts, in that up-front discussion of the fact that this is work and we ARE doing it for the money isn’t really something we can do. It means walking a tightrope (or at least it feels this way to me) between being an enthusiastic artistic collaborator – meaning actively performing the image of someone who’s In It For The Art, when we may not give a shit about the art as long as we’re getting our $20/$40/$60/etc per hour – and someone who is engaging in contract terms and salary negotiations with an employer. And that’s kind of stressful, to be perfectly blunt. Because, on one side of that tightrope is “not enthusiastic enough; does not get hired” but on the other side is “enthusiastic enough about this project that I can assume she’ll work for free”.
I’m not sure how this works in the porn industry, and I’m aware that it’s WAY easier to fake enthusiasm for some stranger’s art concept than it is to fake enthusiasm for, say, some stranger’s mouth on your body, but, just like you can fake an orgasm, it’s possible to fake Enthusiasm For The Art, and to fake it specifically so that a given producer/director/dude-with-a-camera-and-an-envilope-of-cash will hire us rather than the next professional naked chick with an over-due hydro bill to pay.
Anyway. That’s my thoughts on that one.
Ms Syren.

Hey folks,
So because, apparently, when I’m stressed I post Links Of The Day and then run back to my refuge of cooking and making art (oh, wait, that’s all the time… Never mind)… I present to you just a couple more links to information on, and reactions to, proposed Bill C-36 and its potential effects on sexworkers in Canada:
So, first, we have this piece from the Montreal Gazette, discussing – in not so many words – how people inside the Charmed Circle have routinely persecuted those of us who are outside of it. I particularly appreciate the author, Stuart Chambers, drawing the parallels between the persecution and pathologization of sexworkers (and the junk “research” used to back up the claims underpinning those attacks) and the persecution and pathologization of homosexuals and people who practice masturbation in previous centuries. Give it a read.
And secondly (only two today), we have the definition of What Constitutes “Sexual Services” according to C-36. The link goes to a PDF of MacKay’s Technical Paper on the whole bill. The definition is on the sixth page, about half-way down.
The short version is:
If there’s “sexual contact” (hand-job, lap-dance, full service escorting, S/M play) between the client and the provider, OR if the client and the provider are in a private space and the client or the provider is touching themselves (peepshow? private dance?), these constitute “sexual services”. Stripping (on the main stage, I guess?) and porn don’t constitute “sexual services” (although I have no idea where something like camming would play into this).
Right. So here’s where I’m at when it comes to this definition: On the one hand, yes, I admit I’m kind of relieved that my lingerie-modeling for Dudes With Cameras isn’t on the table as a possible criminal activity. That’s a big relief since, until I read the technical paper, all I had to go on was “sexual services” and, seriously, that is a very broad freaking term.
None the less: I gather that some of the witnesses at #JustC36 in Parliament, folks from the Adult Entertainment Industry (so strip clubs and porn?) were distancing the services they provide from other forms of sexwork. Think of the old distinction between “sex trade” and “skin trade”, if that’s any help.
This doesn’t stop being my fight just because my particular end of the amobea is in the clear.
I leae you with that tiny bit of food for thought.
Ms Syren.

So Molly Crabapple has an article talking about being a Professional Naked Girl – someone who works as an independed soft-core model for the private collections of (frequently) amateur photographers.
This is the kind of work I’m talking about when I say that I’m an erotic/fetish model.
Now, I don’t make $100/hr. (Yet). Possibly this is because I don’t live in NYC, or possibly it’s because I’m not in my early 20s, but most likely it’s because I don’t (yet) have the guts to charge that much for my services. None the less, the job is the same. Like Molly, I hunt for work on Craigslist and Model Mayhem. Like her, I have a drawer or two full of Interesting Lingerie and a closet full of gorgeous (but largely impractical) shoes. But, unlike her… I actually like my job.
I’m lucky.
I’m lucky because I live in a fairly sex-positive bubble that includes both my wider social milieu (kinky, queer activists) and my closest friends and family-members. I have a wife who is hella supportive of what I do and who acts as my assistant on shoots; I have a lot of friends who work in the sex industry, doing types of sexwork that are a lot more intense/intimate than what I’m doing; and, beyond that, I’ve got a parallel modeling career in the more socially-acceptable field of figure modeling – nude modeling for people who paint or draw their pictures rather than using a camera – which gives me some plausible deniablity when it comes to folks, like my siblings or my landlord, who might not be so supportive otherwise. All of this goes a long way towards keeping me happy and fulfilled – rather than shamed and anxious – in my soft-core work.
But I’m also lucky because I started this work in my late twenties, when I’d already (finally) developed a sense of agency, autonomy, and body-comfort… rather than starting in my late teens, like Molly, at a time when my understanding of sexual situations boiled down to “If you flirt, you have to be prepared to go all the way”. I suspect that, had I had the first clue about how to find work as a fetish/glamour/boudoir model in 2001, I’d have either run in the other direction or else tried it and wound up dealing with the same feelings of vulnerability, fear, shame, and contempt that Molly discusses in her article.
It feels like a chicken-and-egg situation, the way the Cult of Youth in our culture’s beauty standard is, at the same time, a Cult of The Engenue – the naive innocent girl; the way our naratives around sex position women – especially young women – as victims/helpless/prey, and teaches them (us) that knowing too much about sex, or being too sexually (or otherwise) confident[2], means you’re a-slut-who-deserves-what-she-gets (violence, shame, cruelty, rape, humiliation…).
I could go on and on and on (in circles, most likely) about how teaching girls to be afraid of sex is a Bad Idea, and how teaching girls to be compliant out of fear of what will happen if they aren’t, is also a Bad Idea… No matter how or when those attitudes come to a head, they are always horrible and damaging.
I’m grateful for my bubble. Grateful because it gives me somewhere to come home to where it’s taken as a matter of course that women aren’t working their appearances around the desire for male (any male) attention; where street harassment still happens, but it happens within the context of “What a bunch of douchebags, did they even slow down?” rather than “Oh, god, what did I do wrong? Is this a safe neighbourhood?”; where generalizations about how a woman “should” look are met with The Unimpressed Face of Stink-Eye.
Some women find their entry point into Bubble World through sex work. I’m the other way around. I don’t think I could do this work safely, or happily, or without doing myself a lot of emotional damage, if I didn’t have my bubble to come home to.
Ms Syren.
[1] And positions men – particularly older men, but not only – as preditors-by-nature, which also sucks rocks and contributes to Rape Culture like woah.
[2] Because any confidence in women is seen as being “too forward”, and we all know what “forward” really means, don’t we?

I’ve been working as a professional model for almost four years now. My image has wound up in books, gallery shows, promo material, and a lot of private collections. This is awesome. I love making (part of) my living doing this. It pays well, lets me contribute to communities and endeavors that I value (art, kink, etc), and gives my inner exhibitionist streak a chance to flourish.

My question is: Where do I go from here?

I’d like to do more work like this – and to take it further, as well. To make a larger percentage of my income from doing “fantasy modeling” – concept/fetish shoots that tell a story, play with fetish-fashion, or just Look Really Cool – locally and professionally.
I look at people like Sarah Hunter and Megan Massacre – just to pick two models pretty much totally at random – and wonder how to get that kind of paid, print-media work (maybe I should email them and ask?).

Whenever I consider branching out, I run up against two walls:

This first is: “If I do Real Porn for non-private collections, will this screw me over some time down the road?” The answer to that is pretty close to Zero at this point. I have no intention, or desire, to job-retrain for something like “lawyer”, “doctor”, or “politician”. I’m more likely to go for “alternative (pagan/kinky/poly) commitment-ceremony (wedding) officiant for hire” or “registered herbalist” or even “aesthetician” than anything where you badly need to present an ultra small-c-conservative face to the public.
This question basically boils down to: How much whorephobia (and related fall-out) am I likely to get hit with from (a) my community[1], (b) my family-of-origin[2], and (c) the general public[3]? Is this career path socially “worth it”?

The second is: “How much travel am I going to have to do for this, alone[4], and will it be on my own dime?”
My city isn’t a big one, and – while there is definitely work available – I feel like I might get more work in the particular fields I’m looking at if I were able to go out of town on a regular basis. Thus, while this question has a little bit to do with my personal safety (see footnote [4]) it mostly pertains to whether or not trying to further this particular part of my career is economically worth it.
If I’m going to be in Toronto for Unholy Harvest[5], is it worth it to let people on MM know that I’m traveling and would, potentially, be available for a shoot/sitting during a specific time-slot that weekend? If my partner and I decided to spend a week in Halifax, is it sensible to advise folks in Halifax that I’m around? … In those cases, yes, probably. I’m going to be there anyway, so why not make some money if I can? But in terms of making a special trip…? Maybe not so much.

So that’s where I’m sitting right now. Wondering (again) how I can do this on my terms, and make it a viable, enjoyable career at the same time.

Ms Syren.

[1] Probably not a whole lot, honestly. It might actually give me added Street Cred.

[2] Er… probably a fair bit, in a concern-trolling kind of way. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I can see my various immediate family-members looking a little askance at me and that can make for some awkward dinner conversations over Thanksgiving. This one actually does worry me a little. I don’t want to hear my sister say “do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be related to you” ever again. (Er… I was the ‘omega’ in elementary school, and my sister felt tainted by association). Not so fun, I don’t mind telling you. :-\

[3] Yeah… Strictly speaking, I don’t actually care. Any of my neighbours who would be rude or nasty to me if I were a Known Porn Model… are probably already being rude to me, just because of how I dress and who I hang out with. That said, I’m cavalier about my work as a model up to and including the point of making stupid mistakes like telling the guy in the elevator that I had a one-hour job to go to… I’m sure he thought I was doing something a little more involved than just modeling with my clothes off. I don’t want to make a mistake like that when it could, potentially, get me an eviction notice. If ya know what I mean.

[4] “Alone” because my partner usually acts as my escort to this kind of shoot, and she wouldn’t necessarily be able to travel with me (depending on scheduling, but also depending on cost of travel – a shoot in a nearby city that coincided with a weekend, and that would give us a chance to stay with – and visit with – mutual friends? No problem. A flight to NYC or something? Not so much…)

[5] Also, have I mentioned that the Saturday Afternoon workshops (for example) at UH looking fucking amazing? I’m officially excited now! 😀

So there’s an article in one of the neighbourhood-specific papers today, featuring a couple of my friends from POWER as well as people from OCtEVAW and the Sandy Hill Community Center’s OASIS program (a weekly women’s drop-in frequented by street-based sex-workers, among others).

On thing that pinged my attention was a quote, from the OCtEVAW rep, that “Survival sex is not in the realm of choice or free agency”.

I… I think I know what she means. Survival sex – like survival street-corner-canvassing, survival working-at-KFC, or survival staying-with-your-abuser-for-another-month – is choosing the best of a bunch of shitty options.

But I really don’t like the attitude that making that decision – however crap-tastic (or not) it is for the person making it – is somehow not a decision at all. It’s a problem. The attitude held, it seems, by certain Helping Professionals, as well as vigilante neighbourhood associations and prohibitionist feminists, is that sexworkers (all sexworkers, some sexworkers, it varies) have no agency. And ideas like the one above, that choosing to do sexwork isn’t really “choosing” at all, only serve to reinforce that attitude.

Someone who can’t choose to start doing sexwork can’t choose to stop, either. Which leads to attitudes from “helpers” that sexworkers need “rescuing” (rather than, say, human and labour rights) and, from there, to refusing to listen when sexworkers talk about what they actually need.

Stepping Stone, a harm-reduction based advocacy and outreach group in Halifax, has this to say:

Survival sex workers have less control over their working conditions due to issues such as poverty and criminalization.

Like the mental healthcare professionals who consistently tell sexworkers that their mental health problems (depression, anxiety, whatever) would go away if they stopped doing sexwork, people who say that sexwork – in whole or in part – is a type of violence against women… are being short-sighted, to say the least.

Sexwork doesn’t cause depression. Doing a job you don’t enjoy or find fulfilling? That causes, or exacerbates, depression. Sexwork doesn’t cause anxiety. Having desperately few employment opportunities and a tenuous housing situation causes and exacerbates anxiety.
The intersection of sexism, classism, racism, transmisogyny, and whorephobia, coupled with the criminalization of sexwork, mean that many people choosing survival sexwork are doing so because they can’t find work elsewhere. It also means that, particularly due to the criminalization (but also stigmatization – see “prostiteacher”) of sexwork, that they are less likely to be able to transition out of the sextrade should they want to leave.

In a similar vein, sexwork isn’t violence against women, either. Rather, the stigmatization of sexwork and the marginalization and shaming of sexworkers for the work that they do, that’s violence against women[1]. It’s also, not to put too fine a point on it, an offering of tacit social approval of further, physical violence against women (women who do sexwork or women who are otherwise viewed as promiscuous or “too sexual” by society) because misogynist rapists and murderers know that they are more likely to get away with their crimes if they attack women who are marginalized, stigmaized, shamed, and blamed for their victimization.

Look. In-so-far as I’ve “done” sexwork – my work as a professional fetish/erotic model, one short-lived and ultimately fruitless foray into Financial Domination – I’ve had would-be clients whose concern about their own safety and anonymity very much came at the expense of mine. I say “would-be clients” because I don’t take work where I feel like my safety is being compromised. I’m lucky. I have other income streams and other resources that mean I have the financial freedom to avoid gigs like that.
Not everybody does.
But. I want you to think about what I just said. My would-be clients – guys who were doing 100% legal stuff, no loop-holes required – were afraid of people (undisclosed, imaginary people, no less) finding out what they were doing.
Think about how that effects people involved in criminalized sexwork. When you criminalize Communication for the Purposes of Sexwork in public places, street-based sexworkers move to isolated areas (where they are at higher risk of violence) to avoid being seen by police or “concerned citizens”. When you criminalize the hiring of sexworkers or the purchase of sexual services – see Swedish Model – street-based sexworkers move to isolated areas (where they are at higher risk of violence) because their clients won’t approach them unless they can avoid being seen by police or “concerned citizens”.

I don’t think that criminalizing sexwork, or sexworkers, or sexworkers’ income, or sexworkers’ families, or sexworkers’ clients, is going to do anything to help sexworkers… if helping sexworkers is actually what the people advocating for criminalization/prohibition want.

Ms S.

[1] And, duh, everyone else who does sexwork, since it’s not just cis and trans women who do it.

Art vs Porn – A Response

So. My friend, Nadine, wrote a post discussing the theoretical difference between “art” and “porn”. And I decided to write a response (that got just long enough that it’s going here instead of in her comments section).

Now, you all know that, once upon a time, I was an anti-porn-feminist, the kind who was all for “possitive expressions of sexuality” but who drew a line between “erotica” (which fit my personal, and fairly narrow, definitions of “possivie expressions of sexuality”) and “porn” (which was evil, exploitive, and generally had to be stricken from the earth). Now, since that time, everything has changed and I tend not to make much of a distinction between “erotica” and “porn”. However I find the (theoretical) distinctions drawan between “art” and “porn” is very much like the ones that get drawn between “erotica” and “porn”. E.G.: semantics and ideas about “legitimacy” (there’s going to be a LOT of quotation marks in this post, by the way).

I find that trying to draw a (real) distinction between porn and art is an exercise in futility and frustration. I can get turned on looking at Fabulous Shoes. Someone else might look at the same pair of stillettos (the kind that come with a “do not chew” warning on the label), though, and just see a danger to their ankles. Likewise, I can look at pictures of Big Gay Bears – fucking, even – and think “ew, chest hair”, while others will get totally hot over the same images.

Look. I do a lot of nude modeling. Some of it is officially erotic (stuff that plays with fetish themes, for eg). Some of it is officially not (gesture modeling for an animation class). A lot of it is in a blurry place between the two.
In those case, the “difference” between what’s an “art” shoot and what’s a “porn” shoot is, more often than not, in how much I’m getting paid to do it — what you said about there being assumptions that “porn” is less valuable/worth than “art” is true, but there are also assumptions (big ones) about how a porn model is less valuable/worthy as a person than an “art” model… with the result being that “porn models” (whether the porn is “erotic art nudes” or “hard core fisting”) tend to get paid better than “art models” (because, y’know, clearly a model would be ashamed to being doing porn, and so would need the deal to be sweetened a little before she’d agree to do it).
It’s stupid.
But it happens.
Consequently, I think my definition of “porn” – from a photography modeling perspective – is, more than anything: “Does it appear that the photographer find this imagery titillating? If yes, then Porn”.
So I’ve done “porn” that involved me brushing my hair, fully clothed. I’ve done “porn” that was shot only from the ankles down. I’ve done “porn” that involved fake blood and real biting. I’ve done “porn” that involved me standing next to a woman 18″ shorter than me, with both of us in business clothing (yes, really). I’ve done “porn” that involved close-ups of my genitals…. And I’ve done “art” that involves being nude but for stillettos, or nude but for leather boots[1]. I’ve done “art” that involved visible pubic hair and erect nipples.

Gods know that, if you work in the Porn Mines (as a writer friend of mine calls them), you can end up writing explicitly sexual stuff that isn’t actually explicitly sexual for you (like, I dunno, writing a hero with a really hair chest. I might go “ick” at that thought, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t put such a character in a story and have the Love Interest totally go nuts over him).

And, yes, “art nude” tends to involve more “bodyscaping” – heavier use of light and shadow, basically – while “erotic nude” tends to, um, not… But I’ve done “art nudes” that are based on (and, occasionally, recreations of) the photographer’s favourite fetish shots by a different artist, and I’ve modeled for student photographers who are practicing portraiture lighting… and just happen to want to shoot portraits of hot girls in lingerie.
See what I mean?
I raised my rates for photographers’ modeling (environmental portraiture) about six months ago because the lines between “art nude”, “erotic art nude”, and “erotic nude” are not wide at all and, before, when I charged different rates for “art nude” and “erotic nude”, I often found myself basically getting shortchanged. Now I charge everybody the same rate, and I’m a whole lot happier (and feel less like I need to by hyper-vigilant) about it all. 🙂

There are a lot of ways that you can define porn – or define art (is there a plinth involved? What about cherubs?) for that matter – but I think it pretty-much comes down to the eye of the beholder.

Ms Syren.

[1] That one actually won a local figure-drawing competition, believe it or not.


Just wanted to say that I am loving this picture:

Eight gorgeous (though probably all cis, um...) women of various body-sizes.

Go read the post where I found it. 😀

You may also wish to check out sites like Chubbtacular and Fuck Yeah Cute Trans Chicks.

Ms Syren.

So. As you know bob, I have a shoot coming up in a couple of days.
It’s a (mostly) nude shoot with occasional clothing.
Originally it was going to be a totally nude shoot.
Now there are high heels and stockings involved.

That’s a bit of a game changer.

And so I find myself whinging about rates. Not because I would have necessarily charged more for “figure modeling in stockings” than I would for “figure modeling not in stockings”, but because the nature of the shoot changed. It’s still something I’m okay with doing. But I don’t like that it changed – or the way it changed – after the negotiating had been done.

Frequently, when I’ve tried to come up with a Rates List, what I’ve done is tried to break down What I Do into different gradations of eroticism. Essentially: sex costs more.
Big shock.

But this has always led me to problems. Not problems with clients. Problems with figuring out which category a given job falls into. Such as this one that I have coming up. On a given hypothetical rates list, I might charge $20/hr for art-nude photography but $40/hr for fetish and boudoire photography. Which can lead to sticky situations like “Where is the line here?” because we’re also dealing with people (models, photographers, all of us) who, for a variety of reasons[1], want to emphasize the “art” aspect of our naked pictures and down-play the “erotic” aspect of those same shots.

Now, strictly speaking, this happens to everyone. Whether your an escort or an editor, a carpenter, a journalist, or a spinner of hand-dyed yarn, you’ve run into the question of “How the Hell Do I Set My Rates?” And there are a million factors that go into that. Some of it is “What will the market bear?” but a lot of it is “Which market do you want to be selling to, anyway?”

To use jewelry as an example:
If I got myself some beautifully-stained dark wood display stands, ponied up the enormous table fee, and moved from Ravenswing Craft Fair to Art In The Park, I could theoretically quadrupal my prices. Easily. Because, contextually, I’ve switched from being a punk-ass crafter hawking my crap to other broke-ass punks to being the artist-purveyor of hand-crafted-from-the-finest-gems-and-precious-metals, one-of-a-kind, wearable Art.
My skill-level hasn’t changed.
My product hasn’t changed[2].
But the context in-which I’m working has.

Modeling, because it’s a service rather than goods, works a little differently but the premise is essentially the same.

So my Ghost suggested that I do something. Which is create a new rates list based on “type of artist the model will be working with” (which relates to what the art gets used for after its been made) that can include things like separating “modeling for drawing/painting/sculpting” from “modeling for photographs” and separating “modeling for art that will be sold” from “modeling for art that will not be sold”. It’s still sticky, because figure-modeling rates are really pretty set in this town and most of my work is figure modeling, but it does help get around the question of “So whether this goes in a gallery colleciton or onto a pay-per-view website, I’m still getting a chunk of change off my own image, right?”

It’s… something to think about.

My rates may or may not change come February. We’ll see.

Ms Syren.

[1] Some of which have to do with money (see: Sex costs more), but most of which have something to do with whore stigma – whether because we don’t want to have Naked Pictures of ourselves ending up on the internet, or because we believe that All Johns Are Pathetic/Abusive and are heavily invested in being seen as Good Guys, or because we really want to shoot porn for our wank files but don’t think anyone will model for us if we just come out and say that, or because we’re afraid of what our parents or partners will think if they find out what kind of naked pictures we’re in, or, or, or…

[2] Much. If I were selling this stuff for $80 a piece, I’d be using sterling silver findings which, right now, are out of my price range – unless someone knows of a good place order stuff in for a really good price that doesn’t require a minimum order and, ideally, ships from inside of Canada. (If yes, drop me a note in the comments? That’d be a help).

So, as you know bob, Saturday was International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

I’ve already posted about my thoughts on decriminalization. Now I’m going to talk about stigma.

See. I’m a model. A nude model. I do fetish work (sometimes) and erotic nude work (sometimes) and glamour/pin-up work (sometimes), but predominantly I’m a figure model.
Meaning that I get naked and strike dynamic (and sometimes not all-that-dynamic) poses for art classes and community clubs, and get paid for it.
Meaning – to put it the way a fellow model did, earlier today – that I “get naked for money”.

And there’s a stigma that goes along with that. The kind that means I’m pretty careful, when discussing my modeling career in unfamiliar company, to emphasize the “art” (and schools and community centres) aspect of my job. The kind that prompts my mother to ask “exactly what kind of pictures are you taking?” when the results of my third shoot involved “partial nudity” and body-paint.

Naked pictures of me hanging on local gallery walls? Wow, that’s really impressive!
Naked pictures of me on the internet? Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute. You mean like porn?

I have a photoshoot coming up in about two weeks.
It’s for a collection/show that will be (theoretically) mounted in a gallery or published as a coffee-table book or similar. The poses I’ll be doing are very much like the ones I do when I’m working for an animation class or a drawing club.

I have a photoshoot coming up in about two weeks.
It’s a private shoot, nude photos. There will be molasses involved. I’m booked for 3-4 hours in a local hotel room. The photographer has requested a Brazillian (or that I be “as smooth as possible” in the mons/ass/hips/thighs area). He’s also commented on my long legs and asked me to bring a pair of stilettos with me for the shoot.

These are, of course, the same shoot. I’m just emphasizing different aspects of it to make a point.
One description, with its talk of galleries and classes, sounds tidy, legitimate, above-board. The other one, with its references to bikini-waxing, high heels, and private hotel rooms, sounds shady and implies that there’s maybe something sexual going on.
It all depends on how you (want to) look at it.

There are people in this town who will (and do) sneer down their noses at figure models because we “take [our] clothes off for money” – a fact which, in these people’s eyes, puts us in the same category as strippers, peep-show dancers, go-go boys, and porn performers. Which, if you don’t put strippers, peep-show dancers, go-go boys, porn performers, and… other people who take their clothes off for money, in the “not as good as other people” category, is fine. (However you wouldn’t be sneering down your nose at us, if that was the case, now would you?)

So. I take my clothes off for money.
That’s the most obvious parallel between what I do and what people’s whose jobs fall more clearly and fully under the heading of “sex work” do.
I also spend my on-the-clock time caring about – and, on some level, embodying – the stuff that my client is passionate about[1]. But that parallel is a lot less obvious – and comes under a lot less fire – than the stuff about naked bodies and cash does.

There is (some) stigma attached to what I do for a living. It’s the same stigma that sexworkers get[2], although to a much lesser degree.

Whore stigma effects people who do things, or who are perceived as doing things, that the non-sexworking (or anti-sexworking) population associates with sexwork. Your daughter to who goes out Dressed Like That is effected by whore stigma when you don’t let her leave the house for fear of what people will think. Your class-mate with the big breasts is effected by whore stigma every time people smirk at her tits and assume she works at Hooters. Your neighbour is effected by whore stigma when some loser yells “How much?” out the car window, and speeds off leaving her to wonder why he yelled that at her[3]. Your room-mate is effected by whore stigma[4] when her sexual history is paraded across a courtroom during the trial of her rapist. Your brother is effected by whore stigma when he gets turned down for a job at Programmer Inc. because he stripped his way through college, even if he hasn’t been near a go-go cage in eight years and it has fuck-all to do with what Programmer Inc is hiring for. Your childhood English teacher (to site a really specific example) is effected by whore stigma when “concerned parents” say her second career as an erotica-writer makes her unfit to teach tenth graders about Shakespeare. Your cousin (and hir partner!) is/are effected by whore stigma when someone finds out about the totally consensual internet porno hir spouse made at age 27 and starts asking “Why did you marry someone Like That? Don’t you think you could do better?”

Do you see where I’m going with this. Even if you don’t give two hoots about the rights of actual sexworkers[5], the systemic stigmatization of sexwork and sexworkers effects people who are not now, and may never have been, involved in sex work.

So. This is me saying: This crap effects me, too.

In addition to being human rights and workers’ rights, sexworkers’ rights are also your aunt’s/sister’s/brother-in-law’s/neighbour’s/room-mate’s rights.

And sexworkers’ rights are my rights, too.

Ms Syren.

[1] In my case, that tends to be long lines and good angles and a passion for the play of light and shadow.

[2] …Of various job-descriptions, to varying degrees depending on things like what kind of sexwork they do, how that job-description fits into mainstream paradigms about power and value AND how much money they can/do make/charge doing it, but also depending on things like how many intersecting points of marginalization they are dealing with (as the fewer you’ve got on your plate, the more protection you have from the direct, physical violence that comes hand-in-hand with that stigma).

[3] And, yes. All of those examples were about women. Who get hit by whore stigma (and virgin expectations) a lot more frequently than men do, both because there are more women than men doing sexwork, and because “slut” is to women what “fag” is to men. A sexual boundary marker that says “don’t be that”. A man who isn’t conforming to societal expectations of “appropriate masculinity” is way more likely to get “fag” than “whore” thrown at him.
None the less, the stigma that comes from being a closeted sexworker and hearing friends/neighbours/family/co-workers talk about “what a ho” someone else is… that effects all sexworkers, regardless of gender.

[4] Or slut stigma, which is effectively the same thing in that it means a woman has “too much” sex or sex for the “wrong” reasons.

[5] Though you should. Partly because: Duh. But also because, hey, maybe your daughter/aunt/room-mate/brother-in-law/neighbour/whoever actually is a sexworker and you just don’t know about it.

Figure Modeling Kit List

So, as you know bob, I work as a figure model with some degree of frequency. As I do this more and more often, I’m developing a sense of what one should have available while on the job — Bootblacks have their creme brulee torches and spritzer bottles of champagne; Strippers have their theatre foundation and packages of Wet Ones; so, too, a figure model benefits from having certain things on hand.

So, here we go:

1) A sarong.
This is primarily to be used in place of a robe or other easily-removable garment that you wear when not actually posing (trust me – frequently, the private studios, community centres, and class-rooms you’ll be working in are kept at a temperature that is good for people who are clothed and moving. You will be neither. You are going to want a way of warming yourself up again when you don’t have to be naked). I’m suggesting a sarong, rather than a robe, because you can also use a sarong as a prop, if you need one, and – more to the point – it can double as a surface-cover if you forget:

2) A towel.
Ideally, a large grey or black towel, although anything will work.
You need this because you will, almost definitely, not be the only person to ever set your naked ass and/or genitals on the stage/square of carpet/throw-pillow/chair/etc that the life-drawing class/club provides for your use. Be kind to your fellow models (and look out for yourself) by bringing a surface cover from home.
The reason I suggest a large towel is because you’ll be doing a wide variety of poses, some of which will probably be “reclining”. Having something soft and clean to put between the length of your body and the linoleum/wood/foam/etc is never a bad thing. The reason I suggest grey or black is because – in addition to their being neutral colours that can provide a good contrast to your skin – art studios (particularly in schools) tend to be covered in charcoal dust. It’s going to get all over everything, particularly your feet. Using a towel that won’t get stained by the heaps of black dust it comes into contact with is a good idea. It’s also a good idea to bring:

3) Baby Wipes.
Due to the aforementioned charcoal dust. No, really. It won’t get it all off. But it’ll get the worst of it off, and your feet will thank you.

Beyond that, you may want to invest in:

4) Masking Tape.
This is less of an issue if you are doing short poses. If, however, you’re doing hour+ poses with breaks in the middle, it’s a good idea to have a roll of masking tape on hand so that you can have somebody mark the angles and major lines of your pose. This way, it’s much easier to find your way back to the original pose after having a stretch (which you will definitely need to have, believe me).

5) A Timer.
The cheap, battery-operated kind from the dollar-store, or an app on your phone. Either way. They should be as uncomplicated and easy-to-deal-with as possible. Without one, you may (sometimes) find yourself counting to sixty over and over again in order to keep that five-minute pose.

6) Flip-Flops.
Or some other kind of easy-to-pack, slip-on, bare-feet-appropriate shoe that you can toss on if you’re working in a studio where the bathroom is down the hall. It saves a little bit of time and it means you get less charcoal dust in your socks. Handy!

I have… most of this stuff. But not all of it. Next on my list: Masking tape and a timer.


Ms Syren