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November 9th, 2016
I wanted to talk a bit today about the adult industry.
It's something I think anyone could agree that I feel passionate about; we're crawling up on the 4 year anniversary of my blog. Six months before the first iteration of this space, I responded to a weird response to my resume on Craigslist and out of sheer "why not?" ended up working my first adult retail job.
It has been almost two years now since my last job as an "employee" ended, as well; a bittersweet landmark reminding me of the difficulties and exploitation I faced in the last of three adult retail positions I've held. It also marks two years being self-employed and, while it's been rough and is still incredibly difficult it's something I'm immensely proud of. I'm proud, even when I go hungry and even when my bills are late, because I decided to take control over my life and my work. I decided that I wasn't going to be used for my skills or knowledge, that I had the right to be treated better. Every time I rebuff a client for not paying fairly and negotiate for my needs, even if it means having to pass over money I need, I feel powerful--and I know I've made the right choice. All of the ways I personally, and those around me, have been exploited by this industry confirms that.
This industry does not pay the people who keep it running; not fairly and sometimes not at all. There are myriad reasons for why this is. I could spend days analyzing it and teasing out the complex reasons. Some of them arise from the history of the industry, much of which was spawned by illegal activity when there was no other option.
Much of it is because women, trans, and gender non-conforming people, people of color, and disabled folks make up much of the population selling the dildos and doing other support work in this industry, and white upperclass cis-gendered men are overwhelmingly those at the top. While of course, "not all men" I have seen so many men in this industry do horrible things. Exploit the knowledge of their workers for their own gain, giving nothing in return. Solicit sexual imagery from bloggers they send products to for review. Hire women for their input and then put them down, talk over them, and call them a "bitch" for disagreeing with male employees. Run media that is fat-phobic, sexist, or use people convicted of violence against women as spokespeople. Profit off of the humiliation of women and minorities.
The people who are trying to move this industry forward by pushing for a focus on sex education, body safe materials and designs, inclusive and quality marketing--the people who will one day succeed in pulling this industry out of the muck--are not only devalued, but like in many "caregiving" and "passion focused" positions, they are expected to give that passion for free. If you care about something, that is payment enough.
This is not sustainable.
The reason I, and many others, have stepped back from consistent and active engagement with blogging and the industry is because of that lack of sustainability. I have known so many people who have burnt out, never to return. I have tried over the past two years to find paid opportunities to continue my work in this industry, in part because I cannot afford to work for free and in part because I refuse to give my extensive knowledge for free. I've had some success, but not much.
There is a fallacy frequently evoked in these conversations: that it is not financially sustainable to pay workers fairly and do things "the right way"--this simply isn't true. I've seen it work with the likes of the Smitten Kitten, as my one shining example, who not only pays their employees fairly but also provides benefits and vacation time to full time employees and continuing education funds. They also center sex education and body safe products in their business, and they've been around for over a decade. There's a reason that ad is in my sidebar.
It can be done, and it should. I'm trying to find ways to bring better into this industry, to help the people who can improve things come together and make a difference, but it will always be held back by a personal lack of funding.
Despite that, I want to have hope in the face of all the bad happening in the world.