In Defense of Kink: My First Role as the Duke Porn Star Was on a Rough Sex Website, And No, That Doesn't Make Me a Bad Feminist

Kink does not disqualify me as a feminist. No matter how many concern trolling essays are written.

Mar 18, 2014 at 10:24am | Leave a comment

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Trigger warning: This article discusses self-harm. Please read with caution.

Life is neither black nor white when it comes to sex.

We play around with roles and identities while we are working out issues that are long buried in our subconscious. I'm an ambitious young woman. I'm a student at Duke. I'm a slut who needs to be punished.

Can you guess which one of those is a role?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had some masochistic tendencies. When I was a young girl and my friend and I would play house, I would ask her to lock me in her dog cage. I was not fully aware of it, but it physically and mentally aroused me. I didn't know why, but I liked it. Suddenly, I found myself in an entirely different role. I felt for the first time what it was like to be helpless and trapped. It was exciting. It was different.

I can’t explain why rough sex and pain arouses me; it just does.

Before I had a legitimate porn agent, I heard about a website that paid well but was psychologically extreme. (I don't want to give them any more publicity by using their name.)

I could handle it, I thought.

Honestly, when I arrived at the small studio in New York where I filmed my scene for a few hours -- and after I signed away all my rights to claim any subsequent trauma that might arise from filming the scene -- I thought that my decision to do a scene with this notoriously rough sex web site was daring, bad-ass, even subversive.

For me, it was an experiment of going to yet another scary sexual place -- except I was in control, I was calling the shots and the safe words, and I was the one choosing to do something so psychologically and physically extreme, rather than someone taking advantage of me.

I love rough sex -- and I can do this. That's what I saw the choice as being.

Now, I view it as the one choice I would take back if I could as a porn actress. The more I have read criticism of the site, the more I realize that if I do another rough sex scene, I will more thoroughly research the company and how they treat their performers. But I also don't think having participated in this single experience should define me, the same way I don't believe sex should define women in general.

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We as performers have rights to express ourselves and as long as everything is consensual and legal, then more power to everyone involved.

The overwhelming criticism I have received for my participation in this rough blowjob scene is incredibly revealing to me about the condemnation-happy state of "gotcha feminism."

I’ve been called a hypocrite and mocked for daring to talk about empowerment if I have also not kept adequately hidden away my enjoyment of rough and dirty, nasty and filthy, saliva-dripping and name-calling-filled sex.

"So getting spit on and degraded is feminism now?" wrote one poster on Collegiate ACB.

Sure. Whatever choice a woman is making and she is the one deciding to do -- reclaiming the agency behind the decision to do, even if it is a degrading sexual act -- is absolutely feminism. To me, feminism is about women not being shamed but rather being empowered.

You can dress up your critical essays of me saying that I deserve to be disowned by my parents and kicked out of school however you like, but all of these hit pieces are about one spectacularly anti-feminist notion: SHAME.

But you know what? Shame is your issue -- not mine.

You can write thousands of words about how sexual acts I have done MUST define me because I am a woman and I have a vagina, but to me, feminism means that I do not need to hold down my head because you tell me that's exactly what I should be doing.

Yes, a Google search reveals pictures of me in hard-core sexual experiences. No, that Google search is not me.

I am me. Feminism tells me that I can be me, not my Google search.

Except feminists can’t possibly enjoy rough sex, right?

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This is completely paradoxical. A woman cannot preach feminist empowerment during the day and at night participate in what we have constructed to be stereotypically submissive behavior. Why is that? Why is that we have to adhere to the ascribed gender roles of the patriarchy?

These critics are missing the bigger picture of feminism -- perhaps the most important, where women support other women, even the ones who enjoy mascara-smeared, on-your-knees fellatio.

To be a feminist is not to say that everything “submissive” should be rejected. It is simply to say that you should not feel pressure to adhere to canonized ideas of gender. People attack feminism by saying a feminist who enjoys submission -- even degradation -- in the bedroom is upholding patriarchy, but if she likes “dominance” then she is trying to be like a man.

But the greatest sin I seem to have committed of all in this entire scandal, is that I have admitted to enjoying rough sex.

Why? Because I am supposed to keep it a secret shrouded in shame.

Perhaps most telling of some of the criticism I've received is that I'm an "emotionally disturbed little girl." Infantilization of me as a "little girl" aside, the implication seems to be that if you are a woman and openly sexual, you must be crazy.

Because women are supposed to be docile and only sexual in certain circumstances, correct? If I'm not adhering to these societal norms. and instead I'm sexual and kinky and brazen about it, then what could possibly be wrong with me?

"Be a lady in the streets and a freak between the sheets." That's the trick isn't it? I would say that's part of the reason that I wanted to do a rough porn scene -- to take ownership of my fantasies.

The truth is: My favorite adult genre is rough blowjob porn. I find it incredibly arousing. My fantasies in the bedroom are ONLY about what arouses me, which is completely unrelated to gender roles, feminism or my value and worth as a woman or human being.

The truth is: If a woman fantasizes about being dominated and degraded, it does not mean she actually wants or deserves to be dominated and degraded IN REAL LIFE. It does not mean she deserves to be name-called even though during a sexual act that might be the exact thing that turns her on.

Feminism means I can take ownership of what I enjoy sexually and that sexuality does not have to determine anything else about me. You might. But I will not.

Because feminism is not a one size fits all movement.

The way I see it, there is an unfortunate and significant schism in our movement between the sex negative feminists -- women who believe that sex, especially pornography, is degrading and imbued with power struggles -- and sex positive, pro-kink, pro-fetish feminists -- women like me who believe that sexual liberation is paramount to achieving progress and equality.

Over the years, the BDSM community has been marginalized from the mainstream. We are called freaks. Submissives are labeled as victims of abuse; they must be emotionally disturbed to enjoy being tied up and choked, we rationalize. Submissive feminists have it even worse. The community that we identify with dismisses our desires or pegs us as unwitting victims. We are told that we are part of a social dynamic that seeks to violate all women.

Is there a difference between positive kink and negative, even dangerous kink?

Yes, I believe so. And as I have said, if I could take back my first porn scene on that notorious rough sex website, I would.

But I would not -- and I will never -- take back my love of kink.

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When I agreed to film that rough sex scene, I knew what was in store for me. I knew that it was a game of psychological degradation as much as physical. I knew as it was unfolding and I saw exactly how they were trying to "break me." I realize that the visual of me with a facial at the end was nothing compared to the close-ups the site provided of my skin revealing scars from my most vulnerable past when I was a cutter. This is a fact that my haters have taunted me for, their words dripping in condescension and insensitivity.

I've been clean from this self-harm for five years now, but like many young women grappling with depression, I used to take it out on myself. (For anyone who has this issue, I encourage them to seek help immediately and to not feel ashamed. You are OK. Your self-harm does not define you. Get help. You are loved, and you can get past this. Please call the Self-Harm Hotline at 1-800-DONT-CUT or 1-800-366-8288).

Does my admission that I cut when I was a teenager suddenly make me the porn stereotype of a "depressed, crazy girl"? I would say it's the exact opposite. I have nothing to hide. People from all walks of life have engaged in self harm -- from celebrities to politicians to models to porn stars. I honestly believe it is often the people who will not show you their demons who have the worst ones to hide.

I am not going to apologize for getting turned on by embracing an archetypal submissive role during sex. The same way that a powerful CEO businessman likes to visit a dominatrix in his off hours, I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy the pleasure derived from these rough scenes. It provides a cavewoman-like epiphany that no intro to feminist studies ever will. It is raw and exhilarating. But that's my choice -- which is what matters here. I know it is not for every woman.

As a strong, assertive young woman, sometimes it's fun to reverse roles and play around with my personality. I can be psychoanalyzed in a million different ways, but sometimes there's just no rhyme or reason: I like what I like, and I won't live in shame because of it.

Do I regret shooting a scene with this website? Yes. Do I think I deserve to be demonized for it? Absolutely not.

As I have learned more about the BDSM community, I have let myself become educated about safe, sane and consensual BDSM -- which exists as a polar opposite of a reality in which women constantly face the threat of sexual violence.

BDSM is all about consent. Abuse is all about a lack thereof.

Our perceptions of the BDSM and rough sex community are strife with misconceptions. The notion of consent is taken very seriously in the BDSM community. This is why we establish safe words and signals -- and lay out all of our boundaries beforehand. As problematic as this one rough sex website is, the scene I participated in was no exception. We decided on hand signals, and I knew that I could stop at any time. I was entirely in control -- something that could be viewed as a refreshing difference from the far too common sexual torment and abuse women are subjected to on a daily basis.

A comment on one personal BDSM website describes this notion of consent in the world of kink perfectly. The author writes: “There is a fundamental difference between doing something out of psychological torment, rage, terror, desolation, hate, and doing something out of joy, connection, fun, affection, love. That the logistics of giving and obeying an order, of binding and being bound, of an object hitting flesh might superficially resemble each other, is irrelevant.”

Sexuality is a beautiful, fluid thing.

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It reveals our vulnerability and humanity. There is an entire range of sexual preferences -- and as long as the activity is consensual, legal, and mutually beneficial, I feel we should embrace them. I believe that women can be goddesses in the bedroom as well as in the boardroom. Maybe getting a facial sounds completely degrading to you -- and that’s perfectly fine -- but to me, it gets me off. And the fact that it gets me off does not mean it has to hold me back.

As the wonderfully kinky and intelligent Sasha Grey once said, “What one person sees as degrading and disgusting and bad for women might make some women feel empowered and beautiful and strong.”

So no, Time magazine -- I actually am as empowered as I think. But thank you for your concern.