I've got a confession to make: about a week ago, I started following a few porn stars on Twitter. Actually at this point I think it's more like a few dozen. However, the reason probably isn't what you're thinking. (Ok, not just what you're thinking.)
A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I were having a discussion that started out being about censorship, morphed into the ins-and-outs of the morality of adult entertainment, and finally ended up as a thought-provoking intellectual exercise about what it must be like to live in that culture.
I couldn't stop thinking about that idea: adult entertainment as outcast subculture. I often find myself making snap judgments about people who decide to be strippers or cam girls or (wait for it) porn stars. I often hate myself for it - especially for the hypocrisy therein - and, after awhile, it became clear why that conversation was on a loop in my head: I was guilty of judging what I didn't understand.
That kind of burned me. I like to think that I'm above that kind of thing, as I'm sure a lot of people do, but we all have biases and prejudices that we don't even know about. And, really, how could I be expected to understand? My reactions were practically reflexes, drilled into my head by mainstream culture. For American audiences, being that overtly, evangelically sexual is taboo at best and downright contemptuous at worst.
I mean, can you imagine what being intimate means for a porn star? What most of us consider intimate is their everyday life, especially on set. It's a complete inversion of expectations. And how the hell do they deal with fans? Would you be able to tolerate interacting with a group of people whose only connection to you was pure lust? How would you deal with bumping into them at the grocery store, knowing the "I want to see you naked" thought is not at the back in their mind, but waaaaaaay up front? I think it's impossible for any outsider to understand those kinds of things.
I think the only real way to get rid of bias and prejudice is to spend time with the people you're biased or prejudiced against (this is the theory behind Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days). I decided it was about time I did that. I wasn't exactly about to start hanging around in tittie bars, though. I figured I'd check to see if any of them were on Twitter (it's not exactly complete ethnographic immersion, but it's close enough for government work). I did a quick Google search and wadda ya know - I found a list adult entertainers on Twitter (NSFW). I chose a few and started following.
And I gotta tell you, it's been fascinating. Sure, there's a fair share of self-promotion and the like (that's pretty much par for the course on Twitter), but the fascinating stuff, ironically, is the mundane. It's just incredible to watch these people, all of whom have more partners in a week than I will ever have in my life time, talk about the weather or how their hamburger was underdone or praising the latest Jay-Z album or asking the Twitterverse whether they should watch Star Trek or Iron Man tonight.
I can't yet say I can relate to the kinds of things I talked about a few paragraphs ago, and I don't know that ever will - or even want to - but I can feel my misconceptions melting away. I've watched them interact with fans and each other with an ease and a sense of humor that's almost intoxicating. I've watched them thoughtfully comment on current events - like the Chilean miner rescue and the Don't Ask Don't Tell news - sometimes even eloquently. I've sometimes even been witness to their rapier wit - and even enjoyed some exchanging some witty banter with a few of them.
This little experiment has totally rocked my perception of people who choose to be in that industry. As it turns out, they have families, hopes, dreams, worries, likes, dislikes, opinions, politics ... they're people. Just people. Who happen to be different. Furthermore, it's perfectly clear that my small sample is completely comfortable with their lifestyles and with who they are - and they don't really give a fuck if you aren't. Frankly, it's hard not to admire that kind of confidence.