Stoya and literate porn stars

On her tumblr, Stoya recently talked about meeting and collaborating on a porn project with Kayden (link is NSFW).

Stoya is one of my favourite porn stars – her blog is witty and engaging, she’s smokin’ hot, she is unashamedly happy as a porn star, loves having sex (and loves having sex with her costars) (link NSFW), and is friends with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer (two of my heroes).

In her post about meeting and working with Kayden, she brings up a few points that I found interesting. She says,

The setting made her look more delicate, blonder, more blue in the eyes. Her chest, while significant, wasn’t entirely out of the realm of natural possibility. Her purse was on the floor, leaning against a chair leg. Sticking out of it was a book.

A real book. Not an issue of Glamour or a celebrity-gossip rag. An actual book, made of paper, picture-less aside from the cover.

There’s a lot going on in that retelling of her initial reaction. Her response to Kayden’s appearance, particularly to Kayden’s chest (referred to as a chest, rather than breasts) is within “the realm of natural possibility” and this is a good thing in Stoya’s mind. I think that’s interesting, and relevant. I haven’t figured out exactly why (other than my initial feeling of “huh, Stoya likes bodies that look more natural, too”) but it does seem relevant. It’s a topic that will come up frequently, I suspect. The way that some body modifications are acceptable and some aren’t makes me feel very conflicted. For example, tattoos are a-okay, and so are ear plugs, piercings… but ginormous breasts are a no-no. Why? Because they indicate compliance with patriarchal beauty standards and other modifications indicate a subversion of those standards? But I have a problem with that, because if I believe that people should have bodily autonomy, then I can’t limit that to only those modifications I find aesthetically pleasing.

The part of this quote that really jumped out at me, though, was Stoya’s response to a real book. Her response gives the impression that this is unexpected when meeting another porn star, especially when she later says,

Twenty minutes passed, favorite genres were discussed, opinions were expressed, debated. She’s a Dave Eggers kind of girl and my heart will always belong to speculative fiction, but still, to find another woman in porn who wants to intelligently discuss the written word!

That quote sets these two apart from other porn stars in their appreciation of literature and their ability/willingness to intelligently discuss the written word. It’s an interesting thing, and I have conflicted feelings about it. On the one hand, yay! My love of Stoya for her brain is re-confirmed!

On the other hand, I pair this with Jennie Ketchum’s recent interview where she discusses how, when she came out of porn, she had no other life skills and it makes me wonder about how many performers are in porn because they love it and want to be there and have full and engaging lives outside of their work (like Stoya and, presumably, Kayden) and how many are there for other reasons such as economic need. (And, then, again, I wonder whether working in porn because you need the money and not learning life skills beyond the job is all that different from working in a factory or any other job that is not what you want for you life, not teaching you the skills you’ll need to move on, but pays the bills. Why do we put porn and sex work in this special category? I don’t see convincing justification for that.)

The other thing that really struck me about Stoya’s blog post was her business savvy, and the business savvy that Kayden also possesses. She speaks clearly and confidently about the business side of porn, and that contradicts many of the stereotypes of porn stars as unintelligent or naively at the mercy of their studios.

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