Whether or not you watch porn, you’ve very likely heard of Stoya. PAPER describes her as "pretty much the Kim Kardashian of porn, if Kim Kardashian was an edgy art student." As a porn performer, director, writer, podcast host and business owner, Stoya rocks a ton of hats. She chatted with us about what being a sex worker is like in 2018 and her new company ZeroSpaces.

BELLESA: You describe yourself as being placed on a pedestal inside of a garbage can. I first heard this iconic line on a podcast in 2016 and it struck a chord with me. Knowing you to be one of the biggest names in the adult world and hearing you describe your experience in this way...I really felt it. Can you elaborate on this? 

STOYA: For clarity, I describe the position of a publicly known pornographer as being on a pedestal inside of a garbage can. (And isn't the Guys We Fucked podcast great?) You're simultaneously glorified and vilified. It's like the US media and social media has untreated Borderline Personality Disorder--there's very little room for an actual human who is complex, fallible but still worth as much as any other.


I recently learned of a congresswoman in Tennessee who blames porn for school shootings. Literally, she claims that porn is the root cause of gun violence. This kind of villainization of sex work by the mainstream still totally blows my mind. As someone who has been part of the industry for over a decade now, can you speak to this? 

Yeah, for me it's par for the course and always has been. Someone asked me once, out of nowhere, how I felt about being responsible for rape culture. Like any single human other than the perpetrator is reason a rape occurs. Gail Dines, Nick Kristof, they're never going to stop. They're never going to listen to the voices of women who are making their way through capitalism by doing physical sexual labor. They're never going to take our needs and suggestions into account.


How has this changed, if at all, in a post #MeToo world? Are you hopeful? 

I'm not hopeful. I was hopeful until a vocal contingent of the #MeToo movement started blaming pornography for bad male behavior. Fortunately, there are plenty of fresh-faced, bright-eyed women coming up behind me who have plenty of hope, leaving me free to chain-smoke and grumble.

 

Do you feel a personal sense of responsibility towards activism and/or sex education, given your platform and influence?  

I struggle with the word responsibility because people have been demanding I take responsibility for things that are unreasonable for my whole career. Do I feel compelled to engage solidarity with sex workers who have less privilege or a smaller reach with their voices? Yes, regularly. Do I feel moved to provide context for my work and remind people that they're watching entertainment, that there are all sorts of negotiations and harm reduction practices that don't get filmed or shown in the final product? All the time. Is it my responsibility as a performer in pornography? Absolutely not.


Talk to me about your new website ZeroSpaces. What led to its inception? What's your goal with it and how did you choose what to include in the first issue? 

I was having difficulty getting serious pieces about sex work published. Editors wanted me to sell my feelings, my life experiences, but they didn't want to publish fact-based responses to the anti-sex work side of things. There was one outlet that asked for a review of the Hot Girls Wanted docuseries and then couldn't print my opinion because it could have jeopardized a non-disparagement agreement they had with a company whose effect on the subjects the series covered is large, structural, and missing from the series. The work I direct also has a hard time finding a home among the existing distributors... too weird for traditional porn, not quite feminine enough to fit in with the lady pornographers, definitely not queer enough to fit in with the SF community. There were literally zero spaces that really made sense for me to publish through in a lot of cases. 

Our main goal with ZeroSpaces is to experiment and see what can really be done with the medium of pornography and the genres of erotica and explicit art. We're diving headfirst into that foggy area between porn and the rest of entertainment, and trying to find out what can exist there.

For crafting the issue, I worked from the theme (LIVE) in a manner based on harold form improv's A to C concept. Frankly, a lot of it is throwing things at the wall to see what sticks/what people respond well to, which will inform what the next issue looks like.


The way you described your intended audience as "people who like their porn smart and their erotica deep" is perfect. Can you elaborate on the concept of “smart porn”? 

Nope. That's entirely in the eye of the beholder. With the marketing department hat on, you come up with little sound bites meant to attract the kind of person you hope will like your product. Don't overthink headline speak.

Cover image source: Steve Prue