Welcome to Part 2 of our conversation with jessica drake in which we discuss how she has taken on a new role as advocate for sex workers and how she has leveraged her popularity as a mainstream adult performer to create opportunities for transgender entertainers in an effort to open up audiences' minds.
Breaking down social barriers through her career choices
You recently performed with a trans performer which seemed to cause some outcry from fans and performers alike. Why do you think that was? What prompted you to participate? Were you trying to make a statement?
Of course….This is probably a multi-part answer. Cause I’ve actually done a lot of scenes with trans women. A lot. I’ve done a handful of scenes with trans women.
I started in 2013 or 2014. I've had sex in my private life with trans women and trans men and that's something that I've never brought to the screen cause WICKED is a very hetero-normative, vanilla-ish company, right?
So among adult producers, they’re conservative?
Sure. I mean…to some degree. We also have orgies, DPs, and anal sex in our movies. But maybe not to the extent that other companies do, right? …I started getting to that point where I wanted to have sex that was true to myself.
So I started asking WICKED “Where do you think the envelope is here? …Tell me how far we can go here as far as me working with bisexual guys. How does that look” and they're like “We don't know. This is uncharted territory. So what I did was I met some amazing people in the trans community. That’s the first thing I did. So 2013-ish, 2014, I started sponsoring the trans awards to be just to be integrated in that community and to try to support them, right? So…so I did that for a few years. I sat in on a lot of panels with Kristal Penn & Steven Grooby and I just asked a questions like “Will these women work with me? Do they want do straight porn? I mean do they even care and in that I met some really awesome people and became friends with them and started hanging out with them and I actually shot the first trans scene before these other companies started doing trans lines like all the recent things that have come up.
The second one that I did was in “Carnal” with Natassia Dreams who I adore. And the third one that I’ve done, the most recent one, is “Divine” was with Chanel Santini and I don't plan on stopping doing that and my end goal in doing that is to integrate trans models into my movie where it's not “Oh look! I’m working with a trans woman.” It's going to be “This person is this role in this movie like an acting role in the movie and we’re gonna have sex.” So that's the end goal. And what I’m…yes I am trying to normalize it and I'm not “Oh, here I am. I’m going to do this thing. But at the same time, I realize that it is trendy but it's also a great way to open people’s eyes to new things and the reason that I did the very first scene, the orgy with the three other girls.
I put it in my showcase movie because I wanted people to have a little bit of everything and what I was finding was that people would buy the showcase movie but they would have never bought a trans movie. But they're watching the showcase movie and they see this scene and they keep watching it because at first they’re like “Ugh…I don’t know how to feel about this. What am I looking [at]? Is this okay?” Whatever. But that’s all stigma, right? That’s all misinformation, and fear and stigma. “Is it right for me to be into this?” I’ve converted so many of my fans. ”I never thought I would love a scene like that, but I can't wait for your next.” That’s cool. That's interesting to me.
Does WICKED have any numbers on the popularity of those scenes?
Because people will do a lot of things privately that they won’t admit to publicly.
Oh that’s so true. So I can tell you this. As far as VOD [video on demand] and streaming, I know that those numbers are high. I don't know exactly what they are because they come from all different areas. But on the website I can go onto WICKED.com and I can see the scenes and how many views and how many likes they have. To get some very visible think in that regard.
As far as VOD sources from other places it’s a little bit hard to take a look at the bigger picture. But we definitely have people that are more interested in those scenes than just a regular boy-girl sex scene.
Advocacy - Leading by example
How do you define “sex worker” because that seems to be…I don’t want to say “a growing phrase” but to me it’s much more common to hear in the current dialogue.
I think it’s because people are becoming more comfortable using the term. And I think in the past we use words like “hooker” or “prostitute” as such a bad word, a slur talking down “Well oh at least I’m not a prostitute.” That whole whore-archy where you know somebody falls on the sex scale.
Did you say “whore-archy”?
“Whore-archy” yeah not “hierarchy” as far as where somebody falls on that scale. And I don’t want to detract from the fact that there are people who would by definition fall under the category of “sex worker.” They don't call themselves sex workers and that's fine. We can't tell people how to identify but the fact is in this community, you could consider everyone from a phone sex operator to a girl who’s only camming or on Onlyfans, or a stripper or a masseuse…
It could be a street-based sex worker. It could be a high-priced call girl you know. Sex worker has so many facets. The reality is we’re sex workers and stronger together when they're passing horrible legislation like SESTA/FOSTA, right? Because it's affected all of us in one way or another in the same way as it's affecting some people that aren’t in the sex industry obviously but when we when we use the term “sex worker” for me, I think it's more of an umbrella term to include everybody that provides some type of sexual stimulation or sexual gratification in exchange for money.
And I mean, I would not have called myself a sex worker when I was a very young stripper, but I certainly look back and [think] “that's exactly what I've been for this many years and that's exactly how I identify. It’s a reason I'm so passionate about helping other sex workers and understanding that if we can be conducting shady raids on sex workers that visit people in hotel rooms or picking people up in cars like that is just the very beginning of everything else, right?
…If we’re failing to protect one group of sex workers then we’re doing a huge disservice to all of them. And within the marginalized communities, we also really have to go to bat for black sex workers and trans sex workers because even when we we’re talking about a street based sex worker, there are groups that are in more danger than a white street-based sex worker. [N]ot to go completely dark on this for a second, the rate that black trans women are being murdered this year is out of control. I mean one is too many.
But when you look at that we as a community have to help stop that. We have to support one another as a community and all this infighting and bullshit is really detrimental to people who are on the outside watching our business.
[S]aying “Well, I only do this. I don't do that. I can go to bat for these people because what they do is legal.” But yeah, we can't stand out here. We're providing direct sexual services, people, so without going into too many specifics looks like we're all in this boat together. And so when this boat is going down we need to all be able to scoop the water out and use the life rafts...
What are the most critical challenges facing sex workers today?
Surviving. I think that we’re really overall just super-concerned with losing rights in general. I think that when we have politicians that are lobbying for decriminalization without really knowing what that means, they're saying it because it's a buzzword…a good word to use but they don't understand it. I mean in one way is good because we're talking about it, but in another way [our] end goal is we really have to get a handle on the really harmful measures, laws, legislation, everything that is being passed it affects sex workers.
And I think a really big problem is conflating trafficking with consensual sex work.
Can you walk me through your perspective on SESTA/ FOSTA? Because I know that sitting in the public I go “Oh it’s a bill designed to prevent sex trafficking. That makes sense.”
Sure. Sounds good.
For someone who is not as experienced or is not as involved s you are, you know, what are the legal ramifications of that?
So something that FOSTA did was it made online platforms responsible for anything that was third-party posted and that's why we lost inside the personal section of Craigslist. That's why we lost Backpage. Taking Backpage down, it was definitely under the guise of stopping trafficking. And let's get this straight. We're against trafficking. We don't want to contribute to the trafficking of adults or children or anything like that. But that's how they get laws like that on the ballot and that’s how they play to people thinking “Oh, yeah. I mean yeah trafficking is bad. We don't support so we'll vote for this thing.” But what it's done and even the law enforcement agencies have admitted this is by removing these platforms these websites are completely gone.
We've eliminated some sex workers’ ability to do things like the screen their clients. We've eliminated some sex workers from being able to advertise on certain platform. So this group of sex workers are now more word of mouth and street-based sex workers without the protection of an agency or screening service or anything online communication before they meet someone in person.
And it bleeds over into other areas too. When we hear about Instagram cracking down on hashtags and things like that and and nudity and anybody that identifies as a sex worker, the broad censorship that is happening because of it is mind-blowing. We're getting shadow banned on Instagram, accounts deleted. There's some guy that's on this personal crusade or mission to eliminate all of us.
[It’s] a broad overreach and a violation of people’s rights. And it's like where does that go? Where are we headed?
A few hours after our discussion, Ms. drake reiterated her advocacy for diversity in sex education in declining the StorErotica Award for Sex Educator of the Year:.
In the middle of one of her workshops at this year's Woodhull Foundation's Sexual Freedom Summit in D.C., she stopped to acknowledge that she was one of two white presenters enjoying a privilege not shared among educators of other races and backgrounds. The point is not to applaud her self-awareness but to convey how refreshing it is to see someone living out her media image in real life.
She takes nothing for granted. She is willing to do the hard work and earn her credibility in the communities for whom she advocates. She studies, discusses and actively seeks out more resources. Those who dismiss her as just another porn actress do so .
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