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  • Clarke Rose

AN EX-PORN STAR'S MANIFESTO.


For those of you who read my writing, thank you. I am sorry it has been so scarce this year, I promise more is coming SOON. For the past five or so months I have been working on my senior thesis, which was ultimately titled, "Sex Deserves Better: Mainstream Pornography, Female Pleasure, and Women's Sexual Agency." My paper was an exploration on the effects that mainstream porn has on women in the bedroom and in their daily lives.

Writing the paper was hard and upsetting. The research and material left me feeling sick and hopeless. When I finished the academic part of the paper (about 40 pages) I decided to write a fictional piece, an ex-porn star's manifesto. I used this piece to write out everything I wanted to say about porn and women and sex but couldn't in the academic format.

I know that what you are about to read is a bit long, and different from my other post's. But I hope you nonetheless enjoy, and find what will be your sexual release.

This piece is titled, "Dear Lilith, You Were Right"

My name is Cohen Shields and you have probably seen me naked. You touched yourself late at night to me on screen, but at that interview that one time, you refused to hire me because you’d seen me naked. That’s the thing, isn’t it? Women are allowed to be naked, to be sexy, when it serves men. They love us when we get them off but hate it when we take their jobs. We fight a constant battle of empowerment and self-loathing. Are we wearing this skirt because we feel good in it or because we know men will like it? Or do we feel good in it because we know men like it? What started all of this? How did we get here?

I went into porn because I was trying to find some kind of freedom. From the age of twelve my family recognized I was going to be trouble. Trouble. They used that word, not me. And the trouble was not a result of my being overly rambunctious or overtly sexual or expressing a keen interest in boys my age, because I didn’t really do any of those things. “Trouble” was used because they saw I had long legs and developing boobs, and they noticed how people looked at me. My mother and I would enter a coffee shop and she would say, “Why do you have to dress like that?”

“Like what?”

“Without a bra, men are staring right at you. Do you want that?”

“Isn’t it their problem they can’t divert their eyes?”

“Well your outfit isn’t helping.”

I was fourteen, I didn’t know what I wanted, perhaps I did want them to look at me. Did I? If that’s true did that make me bad? Why was it my responsibility to dress in a way that men would be able to control themselves? Was I supposed to dress differently than what made me comfortable? The idea was instilled in me early on that my outward appearance was something that in some way, was owned by men. I never had the choice to do with it what I wanted, and I suppose that’s why I ultimately surrendered.

I went into porn because early on, there was a seed planted in me that told me being sexy for men would mean I was successful, and pretty.

I went into porn because I wanted to become what my parents were always worried I would be, I wanted to slap them in the face with it.

I went into porn because I was told I had the body for it, and what else was I going to do with my long legs and big tits? As soon as I got them, they weren’t mine anymore; men claimed them.

I went into porn because I wanted to feel loved.

I got out of porn because it broke my heart, ruined my body, and was the worst sex I’ve ever had.

The year is 2019, and I am one year out of porn. The industry had me for five years, five years too long. Five years of exploitation, degradation, loss. This last year has not been easy, I am looking for answers that are lost behind years of not owning my own body, my own mind. I am writing to you now, from a small apartment I can barely afford. There’s a small white bed in the corner, a huge window above the kitchen sink, and wooden floors. A vase of flowers sits on the table I’m working at, roses, dropped in water and just starting to bloom to their fullest. It’s pouring rain outside, which is rare in Los Angeles. I am now going to share with you my sex manifesto. I wrote it because I think we need a kind of collective sexual awakening. I wrote it for the little girl who was born across the street from me, when I was fifteen. I babysat you until I left home. You’re turning nine now, you will go through puberty soon and I want you to know, immediately, that you own your own body, you have the right to it, you have the right to pleasure. I want women to read this, and to learn and to grow and to forgive themselves. I want to propose, a better, brighter, sexual future. And I’ve got a hot cup of coffee and a sex manifesto I am finally willing to share.

THE SEX MANIFESTO

Did you ever hear of Lilith? A figure of Jewish mythology, thought to be the very first woman, even before Eve. Sculpted from the same clay, she was made to be Adam’s other half. Upon her creation, she realized what her role was supposed to be and immediately began to contest it. She spoke out, “I will not lie below.” Literally, she meant she would not lie under Adam during sex, but she also fought against the idea of living in servitude.

This made Adam angry, "I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.” Lilith was soft and strong, with long red hair down to her bottom. She was curvy and they say that’s why the snakes loved her.

She refuted, "We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.” And she flew away from Adam, refusing to live in subserviency. Lilith foresaw a battle that woman would come to fight for a long, long time.

Did you ever hear of Eve? I’m sure you have. She is spoken of, because she is to blame for original sin. The snake that seduced Adam and Eve into evil is sometimes believed to be Lilith in disguise. Because, that’s what women do, seduce. Eve ate the apple, and was condemned by God to serve her husband and suffer painful childbirth. This would be the fate of all humankind, because of Eve. At least, this is what we’re told; women are to blame.

Did you ever hear of Mary Magdalene? Mary is believed by many to be the very first sex worker. She repented for her sins, and Jesus forgave her. Supposedly, they kissed each other often and it is highly possible they were lovers. Mary haunts the theory of Jesus’ supposed asexuality. In fact, in John 20, Mary and Jesus were cited to be alone, and he called her wife. He asks her, “Woman why are you crying?”

And I ask to all women, like Jesus did to Mary, “Woman why are you crying?”

I write this text for the Lilith’s, the Eve’s, and the Mary’s. This is a collective call to action, a time to heal, and I want you to listen to my words carefully.

***

I was seventeen when I received the message on an online video chat room. “Would you be interested in doing porn?” The man typed on the side of the screen. I hadn’t thought about it. However, I was stripping for strangers online nearly everyday when I got home from school. It was just for fun, there was no money in it. Ridiculously horny and having no clue how to masturbate, I would go online and emulate what I had seen in porn, for men, until they came. It gave me some kind of sexual satisfaction that I maybe could have achieved through self-pleasure if I had known how. Although I was hesitant, I gave him my email, logged offline, and couldn’t help but feel slightly flattered.

***

A specter is haunting us— the specter of pornography. I believe that sex is the most incredible thing we can do. It’s the basis of human connection and enjoyment. For years, religious institutions and right wing beliefs have pushed on us the idea that sex is about procreation and not pleasure. The myth of Adam and Eve has created the idea that nudity and nakedness and lust are sinful, and we must not be tempted. All those who are tempted, are banished, or slut-shamed.

Pornography is a result of a lot of different things: Years of sexual oppression, the internet, a long history of misogyny, a need in our society to get men off. It is very important that men orgasm, we as a collective people care about this. We protect men, we do not want to hurt their egos, we want to have dinner ready for them when they get home, we want them to love us. We also want to look good for them, because that makes them happy, and we need to keep those who run the world happy.

Some of you may think this is hard to read, or that what I’m saying is true but “only in the fifties.” But I am going to have to argue with you, and say no, because five seconds on any mainstream porn website, and you will see that sexually, we are moving backwards.

***

One of the first scenes I ever shot was a Casting Couch. The casting couch is of course not actually your first audition, but it is often the first time you are on film. They like to see you naked and nervous. I remember entering the room, and there was nothing but a grey dusty couch, a hard wooden table, and a big fat man. The room was cold and lit with only fluorescent lighting. They had asked me to wear something “sexy, that showed skin” and I came in mini shorts, and a pink top. The filming began as soon as I entered.

I stood there, and the man came up and started touching me. My breasts, my butt, my legs. He would say, “Oh yes, that’s perfect,” “That will work really well” “Oh you’re a sexy little thing aren’t you?” And I felt like I had finally become the object I was meant to be, and I’m not lying when I say I felt empowered and approved of.

There was a moment, on the couch, when he asked me to masturbate myself, and I truthfully did not know how. He loved that, the director, and he explained to me how to do it. Looking back, he taught me wrong, it was all penetration and no actual pleasure. Being fully unaware of my body and it’s truth, I played a certain role, I became a prop for male pleasure. Not knowing any better, I enjoyed this, for a while.

***

The magic of porn lies in that many women don’t watch it. Or at least not to the extent that men do. Often times women will dabble in pornography, but what they find does not satisfy their sexual cravings. They log on looking for something satisfying, and they find dad’s fucking daughters, 18 y/o teen getting fucked by big black dick, step sister gives brother birthday blow, and so on and so forth. This is not the kind of sex most women are looking for, but then there is the argument that in fact, most women do not know what to look for when they feel horny.

A lot of women are never told how their bodies work, or how to masturbate. They are left in the dark with a tingle between their legs and a huge lack of information. Around puberty, maybe we are put into some kind of sex ed class, to explain periods and boys’ wet dreams. But there is hardly ever mention of the clitoris, and seeing as the clitoris has the exact anatomical function of the penis and even more nerve endings (8,000 to be exact), why aren’t we talking about it? The clitoris is more sensitive and filled with pleasure than the penis; the penis which has become the holy grail of sexual experiences and how those experiences are measured. The clit is also the only part of the body that solely serves to please you. Your clitoris is connected to your G-spot, it's necessary for orgasm. Goddess gave woman this little button, this little pleasure, la petite mort, to make up for perhaps a world of challenges and a lifetime of sexism. And yet, medicine and science have tried to keep this little magic part of woman, a secret.

Sitcoms and movies make jokes about not being able to find it, and it was not until 2009 that the full shape of the clitoris was actually discovered. We then found out that the clitoris was just the tip of the iceberg, and that it’s stimulation was required for women to reach any kind of orgasm anywhere at all in their bodies, even though folklore and Freud had us thinking differently for way too long.

***

This last year, I have lived in the libraries. Surrounding myself with any sexology material I could find… Porn Studies by Linda Williams and Porn Again by Lisa Tremblay and “The Orgasm Gap” by Kate Sloan and many other articles and books by the incredible women who are out there working to understand the female body and its relation to pleasure. I began to realize that if women were just taught how to satisfy their sexual cravings, maybe they wouldn’t fall into the trap of believing getting men to reach orgasm was their only and ultimate sexual role.

***

There is a lot of talk about there being two kinds of orgasms 1.vaginal and 2. clitoral. Having a vaginal orgasm is directly related to the arousal of the clitoris. All of this makes sense because the clitoris is connected to every single structure in the female genitals.

There is so much pressure on women to have this "vaginal orgasm,” that the women in porn seem to be experiencing quite often. 75% of women need clitoral stimulation to come. Apparently vaginal, clitoral, and cervical orgasms all exist, but for most women the clitoris has to be involved. Some sexperts swear that the G-spot is really just an extension of the clitoris. So when women can not simply come from penetration and no other stimulation, they feel like there's something wrong with them, and then their friends ask if they can orgasm and they feel self conscious and say "yes," and then their friends feel bad because they actually can't orgasm, so they go tell their partners, "yes I'm orgasming," and then their partner goes on and thinks they are making the next women come, and actually, no one is orgasming, except the men.

I am done doing sex a disservice by not talking about the clitoris. Imagine completely ignoring the penis, no stimulation at all and then saying to your partner, "Okay honey I'm gonna grab a dildo and fuck you in the ass now." Just imagine saying that to a man; that's what it's like to ignore the clitoris.

***

I was twenty, I had been working in the industry for two years, and I started to take more control in the filming of the scenes. Although, this was tricky. This particular scene involved me and a male actor. I played a young school girl, and he played the babysitter. It didn’t make much sense, but really, porn scenes are rarely realistic scenarios. In the scene, I was a virgin. They told me to go from sucking his dick, straight to getting on top of him. I told them there was no way, that wouldn’t happen, and also, I needed a little bit of arousal. While going down on him, I began to rub myself, so that I could feel something before the penetration. The director told me to stop, and we re-shot the scene without any self-touch.

***

Nineteenth century psychology played a significant role in making sure women did not experience sexual pleasure. They decided women were passive and didn’t enjoy sex and that, in fact, they did not need to orgasm at all. It was believed women could only orgasm vaginally. You know why this was believed? Because this is how men orgasm, by entering a vagina. (Heterosexual men who do not want to involve their prostate). So men and psychologists and sexologists of the time did everything in their power to create experiments and "discover facts" that led to the sexual enjoyment of women being forgotten. The same thing is happening now, with pornography. All of these fascinating inventions and discoveries happen upon us because we live in a culture that is terrified of a woman owning her sexuality, while simultaneously terrified of a man's sexual desires not being fulfilled.

But then I ask, if you don't know how to pleasure yourself, how will your partner know? Masturbate. Men do it. Men do it from a young age. Men even get handed magazines and porn sites as they are assisted on their masturbation path. Whereas women are shamed and embarrassed. For women who don't know, one of the best ways to masturbate is by playing with your clit.

Start with external touching. Start over your panties. Light candles. Clean your room. Really worship yourself. Channel Lilith or Mary and gently touch yourself. Think of something that turns you on, listen to music or don't do any of that and just close your eyes. Trust me, you'll get there. And you'll find what works for you. But you must know what it feels like to orgasm, what it feels like when you’re close. Then you can tell your partner what to do, because if you know nothing about your vulva, they know even less.

Women have been told they are not worth sexual pleasure. They have been raised to think sex is over when a man comes. They have been taught that if a boy likes them, they become important.

***

It wasn’t long after I got into porn that I realized how much it was not like real sex. For example, an average scene can take up to six hours to film. During this time, you get dry, and the man loses his erection. He has to take three or four pills to get through a scene, and you have to pray for self-lubrication to avoid vaginal tearing and overall discomfort. If the man does not manage to come, no one on the set gets paid, no one. It is imperative the man reaches orgasm. The woman actress does not have to, and normally does not; I can count the times I orgasmed during a porn shoot on one hand.

***

Mainstream porn is not sexually liberating, it is sexually debilitating and we deserve better. It is objectifying and misogynistic and leads to bad sex for both you and your partner. What you're being turned on by when you watch mainstream porn is this: seeing women you "shouldn't" see getting naked or touching themselves, getting naked and touching themselves. Or "getting fucked" or "gang raped" or "double penetrated," there are really so many options! You see so many tight pussies, that women simply become pussy. There almost isn't a difference anymore between woman and pussy. It is a very dangerous mentality that gets into your head; that women exist purely for men’s sexual pleasure, and men’s sexual pleasure is the most important, and women are the providers. So when men get in bed with an actual naked, wet, beautiful woman, her vulva is not going to do it for them as much as it should. Men may not even be able to perform, because all their hard-ons and sperm have been wasted on internet girls that aren't going to fuck them in real life. The beautiful wet woman in that men’s bed, will not be impressed.

There is a difference between mainstream porn, and ethical porn. Ethical porn can be very empowering, because it is often filmed by women or other marginalized peoples, and tries to focus on sexual agency rather than sexual objectification. In ethical/feminist/queer porn you often see people with different kinds of bodies and sexual preferences. You also normally have to pay, because creating good porn costs money, and those artists need to be paid. My problem is with mainstream porn, and all the issues that stem form there being a lack of budget and a surplus of ethical misconduct and false reality.

Mainstream porn is one of the (too many) outlets our society has created to please men's sexual appetites. I think this would be fair, if we had an equal number of sexual outlets for women. It started with brothels, prostitution, and the scientific realization women "didn't have to orgasm to conceive" and female orgasms just kind of

fell

off

the

table.

***

I tried to leave the porn industry several times before I was finally successful in doing so. The first time, when I was three years in and 21 years old, the director on set grabbed my wrist and told me no one would hire me for a “decent job,” and I would most likely end up “on the streets.” I had heard of this happening to girls who left porn, and I was frightened enough to stay. In my last two years I went back and forth and back and forth about quitting, but I was scared I would have to resort to full-time prostitution, and that I would be alone. My only friends at this time were other sex workers, we all understood each other, there was safety and beauty in those connections. But one day, when I had finally saved enough money, I met a girl who was willing to let me run a column for her magazine’s website: an ex-porn star’s exposé. And I thought, if I can’t hide my past, why not share it with the world?

Leaving the porn industry took everything I had left in me. I was five years in, and I realized, literally one morning when I woke up, that I had not ever, not once, experienced myself sexually. Every little bit of who I was, was a calculated performance. Even when I slept with men in my real life, I was putting on a show, an act. I began to see that my career was a result of a much bigger problem.

I went into work that day nonetheless thinking I would snap out of it, I would use that fuel to make a great scene. The girl who offered me a job would understand I couldn’t really leave porn, I couldn’t really have a life outside of sex work. It wasn’t until I was putting on my underwear, something white, innocent looking, that I felt I absolutely could not do it. I was not young and innocent, I was woman, I am woman. The mirror in front of me reflected someone I wanted to get to know, I wanted to explore. I grabbed my belongings, ran out of the building, jumped in my car, and drove away from that world. I knew my boss would be pissed, I knew my girls would be hurt, but I also knew I could not turn back. My car arrived at the beach, and I walked all the way out to the sea. I kept walking, all the way into the water. Fully dressed but fully free. Finding solace in the salty water and my clothed body, which from that day on, would be mine and mine alone.

***

I want to equate the sexual playing field as Lilith tried to do when she said to Adam, "We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.” The problem is that today the women's body is so easy to access. There is no secrecy or allure. It is available everywhere. All over the internet, films, billboards, ads and tv. What makes an individual woman special? When there are “tight pink pussies” all over the internet. When men get horny they can just go online. When women get horny, they have never even been taught how to fulfil that sexual yearning, so the craving is not satisfied, but stunted. And it is possible that somehow, this is causing a global imbalance of sexual power.

Imagine for a moment that orgasms send out energy, maybe even healing energy. But most of the orgasms we are having are quick and easy, results of porn and vibrators. These options are of course okay, and for women, really important. Vibrators can help immensely on the path to knowing how one’s body works. But if orgasms do have the power to omit some kind of cosmic flow, more of this energy is coming from men. What if we focused on our orgasms, and tried to make them as beautiful as we could? What if sex wasn’t just a pastime but the most powerful thing we were capable of doing in a time when our world is literally falling apart?

Politicians with far right ideologies are rising, mother earth is dying, and wars are waging on. Countries are collecting nuclear weapons, sex slavery is on the rise, and millennials are having less sex than any generation before them. When our Earth really needs us to come together, we have done nothing but fall apart. We refuse to participate in programs that will save the environment, we vote, or do not vote, and people take power who should not be in power. And amidst all of this, we have lost our ability to connect with other humans beings, even on the most basic level of sex.

Dating apps and social media have created a false reality unlike any we have seen before. Not only is there a constant access to anybody you like, but there is the ability to upgrade everything, your apps, your partner, your sex life. If you are not happy with what you have, you can edit it until you are. If you are not happy with your partner, you can direct message someone else on Instagram. If you want to have sex, you can find someone on Tinder, spend a night with them, and then never talk to them again.

But what is resulting from these one-night connections? If it is a heterosexual encounter, the woman has a small likelihood of really experiencing high levels of pleasure. On a one night stand, a woman can most likely make the man come, because she is a hole and he can enter. But will that man really make the woman come? Will he know how she likes to be touched? Will she be brave enough and strong enough to direct him when it is just a one time, perhaps drunken, encounter?

And the next day, when the woman wakes up, fucked and unsatisfied, what is left behind? A man entered her, perhaps left sperm inside of her, and she’s realizing it really wasn’t so great. This kind of sex, where you’re discovering yourself sexually, and it’s fun to go out and have men as sexual conquests, is a phase many people have. Your number rises, your flirtation gets perfected, you even initiate sex when men aren’t expecting it and then they think you’re a cool girl. And you don’t really know any better because you’ve only ever maybe seen porn and you haven’t made real love before so you think the sex is just fine.

***

I had this kind of sex for a long time, and I would argue lots of women have. My sexual experience while in porn was limited to dating apps and meeting guys at the bar. I would only ever sleep with them once, for fear of building a relationship with anyone. How could I explain to them what I did? What if they told me they loved me, and I loved them, and I had to tell them, and they told me I was dirty? Or they left me without explanation? It was safer to hide behind one night stands.

Eventually, I lost a lot of my sexual appetite all together. Shooting porn films was exhausting, and like any job, when you come home you want to do something completely unrelated to what you did all day. Which for me, meant no sex. And I was happy about it.

I was happy about it, because I did not understand how wonderful sex could be. I did not understand that sex is a conversation, a relation, a dance between the people partaking in it. No one told me that the end goal was pleasure, that sex was made to bring us closer, to release ecstasy, to cause laughter and tears and mess. Sex is messy, sex is magic. Thankfully, I did learn these things, after leaving porn, when I finally got to work on having a healthy sex life.

***

One day, you’ll meet someone, be it man or woman, and they really, truly, wholly, undeniably, make love to you. They tell you they don’t care if you’re shaved or unshaved, they ask you how you want to be licked, they take your clothes off and stare at your body like they are looking at the mother fucking Mona Lisa, they play with your body for hours until you are so wet you can not wait to feel them, they go inside of you, and you grab on to their body as if you both are flying and you will fall if you do not hold tight enough, and you think to yourself… “What the fuck was I doing before?”

And you wonder, about all those men that have been inside you, and if you really got anything out of it. Perhaps you were fulfilling a role you thought you always had to play, perhaps you were experimenting and you needed to have that kind of sex to know what sex could truly be like, perhaps you were using the men as well. But just think, what if someone had told you how good and positive and pleasure-filled sex could really be? Would you have settled for anything else?

We, as a society, fear women embracing their sexual power, and we fear women recognizing that sexual power is something that wholly belongs to them. We are so used to viewing women as objects, we do not know how we would survive without them this way. How would we sell our products? How would men stay in control? How would sex continue to be about penetration?

Sex is about pleasure. We feed ourselves in order to survive, we feed ourselves with food we like because it gives us pleasure. It’s the same with sex; We procreate because we have to in order to survive, we have good sex because it gives us pleasure. Bad sex is pleasure-less. Bad sex being whatever you think it is, it is different to everyone. Not everyone has to experience orgasm for the sex to be good. Sometimes, without realizing it, men can shame their female partners for their inability to reach orgasm. The ability for women to reach orgasm is something that is buried under years of shame and a lifetime of misinformation about the female body. For a woman to orgasm is a gift, a feat, but one she must ultimately welcome in her own time, without any pressure from anyone else.

Good sex is like chocolate, or pasta, or a park on a sunny day, or the best movie you’ve ever seen, or the softest blanket you’ve ever felt, or Christmas morning, or birthday cake, or the first rainfall after a long drought. Good sex is often forgotten, buried behind low-budgeted porn films, and cheaply written romantic comedies. We deserve more, we deserve the best.

I want you to take what you will from this, but I will challenge you to something and I hope you take it on. I want you to really think about the sex you’re having. I want you to stare at your naked body in the mirror. I want you to try to not watch mainstream porn, search for indie porn instead, support those directors and actors, the ones telling stories of inspiration instead of limitation. I want you to go through every partner you’ve ever had and think about how they affected you. Close your eyes, lie down. Remember your first ever sexual partner, picture them on a stage, with only black behind them. They have a spotlight on their body, picture it, from head to toe. Envision yourself, and there is a string running from you to them, see the montage of your relationship with that person. And then, take the biggest pair of scissors you’ve ever seen and cut the string, and watch that person fade away.

Repeat this practice with anyone you’ve ever been with. It does not cut them from your life, in fact, it does the opposite. But it will be your beginning to a new sexual future. Pleasure yourself, a lot. And take time while you do it. Try to be with people who you can tell admire you like you are the work of art that you are.

Open your eyes, try to see the ways society puts our sexuality into boxes. Observe advertisements, movies and television and think about what message they are sending to our youth. Watch society mold women into sex objects. Once you have seen all this, and really seen it, it may take years, refuse to accept it.

Talk to people about their sex lives, talk to your partner. Ask them how their sexual past has affected them. Honor people that choose to go to bed with you. Yes, we live in a hook up culture and sometimes that is all you want. Recognize it, that your body is craving a hook up and make sure you are doing it for you and not to fulfil societal expectation.

I want to see a change, a shift in the way we view ourselves and our bodies and our ability to make love. It starts on an individual level, a level of self love and forgiveness.

I want the young girl, like I once was, to know that she can find her truth somewhere else; her sexuality is not lying and waiting for her in everyone’s expectations, in porn, in looking a certain way, she can find it inside.

Forgive yourself for any sex you’ve had that didn’t leave you happy.

Forgive yourself for watching mainstream porn.

Forgive yourself for not being able to come, yet.

And love yourself, literally, like you never have before.

My name is Cohen Shields and you have probably seen me naked. It is still pouring rain outside, but I think I will go for a walk. Water has always been able to heal me, to awaken me. What will be your release? Your rebirth? Your sexual renaissance, your sexual revival, your sexual regeneration? I hope you find it.

#thesexmanifesto

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