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.
Tag Archive: modeling
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 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, 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.
 And positions men – particularly older men, but not only – as preditors-by-nature, which also sucks rocks and contributes to Rape Culture like woah.
 Because any confidence in women is seen as being “too forward”, and we all know what “forward” really means, don’t we?
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.
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, 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.
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.
 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…
 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, 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.
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.