Stoya on the Pitfalls of Heteronormativity and Monogamy
Mar 14 2013
Aside from being Caucasian and female, my stepsister and I have almost nothing in common. She has a closet full of clothes from places like J. Crew in neutral and pastel tones. She has sensible shoulder-length hair, and when she wears it in a ponytail, there are no flyaways. She went directly from high school to a respected private college in northern New York state and graduated with an English degree. She’s extremely nice, attractive in an all-American sort of way, has a pleasant disposition, and is a very good hostess. You can tell by the beautifully written grocery lists, trips to the organic locally grown produce stand, and rustic wine racks that are documented on her Instagram. She likes Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a heel higher than three inches. If Martha Stewart met my stepsister, Martha would be jealous of how tastefully put together she is.
A couple years ago, her college sweetheart took her to a very nice restaurant on Valentine’s Day and proposed between dinner and dessert. The college sweetheart comes from a “very good” family. He’s an irony-free trust-fund kid. After the proposal, there were multiple engagement-announcement dinners. Then came the engagement party, which happened to be on the same day that my Fleshlight launched. I spent a good half of the party trying to find a quiet place to give phone interviews about how happy I was that an amazing company had mass-produced lifelike molds of my orifices so that anyone with $80 and a dick could live out the fantasy of pounding my cunt (or lovingly caressing it, whatever floats their boat).
Speaking of boats, the venue where the engagement party was held had a nautical theme. The day after the party, my stepsister started planning the wedding with her mom, her fiancé’s mom, and a bunch of chicks she went to school with. The chicks were all nice and pretty in a nondescript white-middle-class way that made it difficult for me to keep track of who was who. A thick binder full of schedules, visual references, and vendor brochures became my stepsister’s constant companion. A _____loves____.com website was created. I think Code of Honor required less production work, and they let us use real guns and blow stuff up on that project.
It was decided that the wedding would be held at a hotel in Vermont that’s near some giant government-protected forest. The ceremony would take place outdoors at the bottom of a hill across the street from the hotel, and the reception would happen behind the hotel inside a large tent with a hardwood floor. My stepsister had recently started working for a chic lifestyle magazine. A bunch of her co-workers and friends got married during the year or so that she was planning her own wedding, and after every ceremony she attended, she would return with an idea for some new decorative touch for her big day. Two weeks before the wedding, she woke up with a desperate need for 40 light-green pashmina scarves, in case people got cold at the rehearsal dinner, and an additional 40 ecru ones, in case people got cold at the reception. She wanted everything to be perfect and seemed very concerned about impressing the college sweetheart’s mildly snooty family and their (sometimes very) snooty friends.
Ahhhh, finally, we are approaching the conflict:
That side of my immediate family—stepsister and stepbrother-in-law included—are accepting of my career. They see me as a real person who does legitimate, albeit racy, work, and even if we have little to nothing in common, we still have mutual familial respect. My stepmom couldn’t wait to tell all of her coworkers when AVN named me Best New Starlet in 2009. Since moving out of my parents' house, almost everyone I’ve spent time with could be classified as part of the counterculture in some way. I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my life in environments that are largely accepting and encouraging of who I am. I usually have no qualms about telling people what I do for a living, although I do lower my voice if children are around and may tell people I’m a "porn star," "adult performer," or "in the naked-lady business," depending on the circumstances.
But, here I was, at my stepsister’s biggest, most special day. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the entire focus of a wedding day should be entirely on the bride and groom and their happiness. It seems that, for most women, their wedding is the one time that they get to be a princess. Nothing should spoil or derail that. Most etiquette manuals are extremely firm on the fact that guests should not wear white or black. Black is discouraged because it can look a bit ominous, and white because it can distract attention from the bride. Unfortunately for me, Emily Post never covered what to do if you’re an adult performer attending a wedding filled with conservative people who are likely to be offended by the mention of pornography, but it’s pretty easy to guess that she’d advise against saying something likely to cause other guests to be unsettled. So I found a nice gray dress, put on the kind of makeup I’d seen women wearing on the subway at 7:30 AM, when they were presumably on their way to work, and did my best to blend in. Note the complete lack of sparkles on my face in the photo above. I didn’t even wear a single pair of false lashes. I had fun by thinking of it as normal-person drag.
The wedding ceremony was beautiful. My stepsister radiated the kind of glow that makes you think you’ll be trying to figure out what the modern equivalent of crystal is on their 15th anniversary. We all migrated to the prereception cocktail area where I had the bartender make me a champagne-brandy cocktail. The woman standing next to me struck up a conversation, which is me being kind. Really, it was more of a monologue.
First, she said it was so sad that the bride’s brother couldn’t afford a suit as nice as the rest of the groomsmen. I refrained from telling her that every single suit had come from the same JoS. A. Bank shop, and that this specific style had been chosen because it was on sale. Then she told me about how odd it was that my stepmother’s fourth husband (my dad) didn’t even live with the family. (My father currently works in New Jersey and commutes back and forth.) I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to throw my drink in her face while searching for a polite way to exit the conversation when she brought up “the scandalous porn-star stepsister who had quit her job to run away with the circus.” Apparently I had blended in so well that she didn’t realize who I was and had no idea she was talking mad shit on my family to my face. She babbled at length about her (my) moral shortcomings, including the rhetorical question of how one could invite a whore to their wedding. When she’d finally run out of gossip she asked how I knew the bride and groom. I told her I was a secretary at the chic lifestyle magazine, waved exuberantly at an imaginary person, and ran off.
I ended up mingling with a group of the college sweetheart’s friends from school. They all did some form of investment banking. They were all aware of my job, and as I answered the usual questions—“Do you know Jenna Haze?”; “Have you ever worked with Ron Jeremy?”; “How do you have a boyfriend when you’re always having sex with other people?”—it struck me that, for these people, monogamy is the standard and one that is assumed. They follow a life blueprint from which they do not deviate. They go from high school to college, find a mate before or shortly after graduation, marry, and then move to Westchester or Rockland County and have an average of two and a half children. They hide their vibrators or trips to strip clubs from their significant others. The careers of the men are usually more valued than those of the women, and traditional gender roles are generally followed without question.
I’m generalizing here, but being outside of heteronormativity tends to come with a need to consider one’s personal views on roles in relationships, how our appearance affects the way we are perceived, what sex actually is, what monogamy is, and what arrangements are right for us. Caro (the Lingerie Lesbian), Jiz Lee (who made “they” a singular noun), Buck Angel (the Man With A Pussy), and Queerie Bradshaw (another VICE columnist) all write or speak eloquently about being (respectively) lesbian, genderqueer, transgender, and queer. Personally, I can only comment on being a cisgender (meaning that I identify as female but was born with female genitals) woman who works in pornography, is kind of a slut, and ranks a two on the Kinsey Scale (mostly straight but not entirely).
To me, the thing we describe as cheating is lack of respect for boundaries that have been discussed and agreed on, or disregard for a partner’s needs that have been perceived or expressed. I had to learn (by hurting people and getting hurt) that communicating about feelings and setting boundaries for a relationship is important, and that boundaries may change over the course of a relationship. I’ve had many sexual partners in situations where we’re both aware that it’s a one-night stand or purely casual sex. I had a boyfriend in Philadelphia who asked me to refrain from having sex with other people in Eastern Pennsylvania, so I only had sex with other people when I was outside the state. I had a girlfriend who was comfortable with me having sex with men but was threatened by sex with other women, so she was the only woman I had sex with. There was one person who wanted Tuesdays reserved for them, even if we weren’t in the same place. I couldn’t get on board with that one, so we didn’t pursue the relationship. I’ve had boyfriends who didn’t care what I did as long as they were my priority, and I’ve had boyfriends who needed monogamy outside of work. Each time we’ve had to discuss our definitions and expectations of sex and relationships. Some view any arousing physical interaction as sex, while others see penetration of an orifice as the point where sex begins.
Over the course of our relationship, I’ve had multiple conversations with the man I’m dating now about boundaries and feelings. I call him “Daddy,” and as you might suspect, there are aspects of power exchange in our relationship. I am his. My body is his, my mouth, vagina, and asshole are his—and my heart is his. Awareness and involvement are important to both of us. If the cute girl at my favorite lingerie shop flirts with me, and I flirt back, I tell him. If I want to kiss someone or have sex with another person, I tell him. When I go to work and have a really fun sex scene, I tell him about it in detail, while I’m sitting on his dick that night. If I want to masturbate, I ask permission and frequently describe what’s going through my head at the time or send him pictures. I always thank him for each orgasm. In a different but very much equal way, he treats me with the same respect. Through trial and error, this is what we’ve decided works for our relationship.
Comfort levels and boundaries are specific to each person and to each relationship. Definitions of sex and infidelity are incredibly varied. Even for heteronormative people who value and desire monogamy, it blows my mind that the discussion of these things is sometimes neglected.
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