Coming Out Like A Porn Star

“Coming Out Like A Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection, and Privacy” is a fascinating look into the world of porn stars and their personal experiences in coming out to their family, as well as in their everyday lives, plus how they deal with the repercussions porn work brings due to the stigma society holds over it. It is edited by Jiz Lee, who has been in more than 200 porn projects over ten years, and the book features a diverse range of over 50 contributors, such as Stoya, Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle and Joanna Angel. This book is a must-read, to anyone interested even slightly in any form of sex work or sex positive culture; to anyone who knows someone who has worked in these sorts of roles; or even just to broaden your own views.

As someone who works in the sex industry, as a cam girl, custom fetish model and occasional independent porn producer and so forth, as soon as I heard this book would be published, it became the top of my ‘must read’ list. Currently I do the majority of my work without showing my face, allowing me to mostly remain anonymous, which gives me a huge advantage in privacy over those who do show their faces, whom I all have deep respect for. I am almost constantly faced with whether I should begin showing my face and talking on camera, as by doing this I would almost certainly make more money. I am also faced every day with whether or not I should come out to those around me. At current, I am only out to five of my most closest friends, and my partner, but none of them are actively interested in my chosen profession. I am continually asked by my family and peers, ‘what did you do this weekend / last night?’ or ‘what do you do in your spare time?’. Unfortunately, at this point, I have become reduced to a single answer, ‘I slept / sleep’, and I can tell you it makes me as sad as it sounds. Because I actually spend my time doing numerous things, other than my porn work, but unfortunately they all relate to sex somehow (such as this blog), and while I am actually a super interesting person, because of the industry I work in, which is not at all female friendly, coming out to those around me just isn’t an option. So getting the chance to have an insight into how others had dealt with these same issues and thoughts, especially some of the bigger name writers who inspired me to get into porn in the first place, was more than welcomed, to provide both inspiration for myself in my own coming out story, as well as to give that feeling that I am not alone in these struggles.

This is my first book review, so please bear with me if it is a little awkward. I am usually not much of a reader, but I made it my 2016 resolution to get back into it, and so it didn’t take long to create a two page list of all the sex positive books I want to read. I chose Coming Out Like A Porn Star as my first since I felt as though I could connect with it unlike any other book, and that has remained true throughout reading it. I will be posting book reviews slowly throughout the year as I tick books off my own list, to try and improve my own writing and let my readers know my recommendations!

To put it simply, I absolutely loved this book. If I was out to everyone I know, I would want to buy everyone a copy, although it’d be a pretty good idea to come out by giving them the book. I definitely connected with it since I am someone who is not out in the porn industry, but I think anyone would enjoy this book and find it interesting, even if they have no involvement, and I would almost certainly like to think if someone who was against porn work or looked down on it read this book properly then it would change their opinions. Each story is very unique, both in its contents and writing style. You need not worry that it is the same sort of ‘This is how I came out to my parents’ sort of story for every single one, but rather it keeps interest by providing different views of the phrase ‘coming out’, as well as stories about how the actors made their start in porn, how it effects their lives now, and how they deal with revealing their work in their every day situations. Another interesting part of the book is how diverse and different all the writers are. They aren’t all just the stereotypical idea of porn stars, but rather there is actors from a range of different backgrounds, sexualities, genders identities, and ethnicities. Most are porn stars, but there are a few who work in other parts of the industry, such as directors and producers.

What I found even more surprising was the resounding amount of positive stories, rather than the usual horror stories of disownment you hear on news websites or documentaries. Where there was the occasional not so positive reaction stories, it was extremely inspiring to read about how the actors would simply move on from those who did not approve, maintaining that they did not need approval from anyone other than themselves. A few of the stories also really brought light into what a supportive community porn stars have created for themselves which I found was a side of porn you do not see represented in the media often enough.

The book is edited well, and I particularly love the short bios about each writer before their stories. My only warning is one writer has two pieces, one after the other, and their bio repeats. At first I thought this repeat was an editing error, and some poor writer had their name forgotten and left out! It soon became obvious that this writer had simply contributed twice however, so fear not if you notice this too.

I loved every story and piece of writing throughout this book and never found any of them at all boring, but of course some of them resonated more with me than others. If I could only show a person one essay form this book, it would without a doubt be Dr. Mireille Miller-Young’s foreword. Throughout it she really highlights the issues porn workers have to deal with in coming out, and even as someone who is aware of these issues, it was still quite shocking to hear. Denali Winter’s piece was also one of my favourites and really touched my heart. They discuss how eager they were to get into porn as soon as they turned 18 and having to move from their family and friends to pursue this, and then how amazingly supportive the sex worker community was in helping them get back on their feet after they were hit by depression. Jack HammerXL’s story gave light to the unfortunate consequences of working in porn, telling his story of being terminated from his 18 year job as a sheriff’s correctional officer after an anonymous tip, 18 months away from retirement. While Jesse Jackman’s story contrasted this, talking about how after his workplace received an anonymous complaint about his porn work, he was instead met with support from his co-workers.

Overall, this is a solid collection of essays that I would happily recommend to anyone to read, whether they are involved in porn work or not. You can purchase the book directly from their website, at Amazon or through Book Depository. 

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