I don’t think it’s humanly possible to ask society to normalize taking off one’s clothes or fucking on camera as a career choice. People fantasize about sex more than they like to admit, and usually when someone’s career choice involves said fantasy, things get uncomfortable—especially in a country that fails the majority of its students on sex education. If I were to go on IGTV and say “change of plans—I want to be a pornographic actress”, more than one of you will have a reaction and more than one you won’t have anything positive to say. But don’t worry, you’ll never see my IGTV on Pornhub, and in the event you do, please let me know ASAP. Point being, we may not be able to normalize the sex industry, but we can work toward having a healthy mindset towards human sexuality that doesn’t promote the denigration of sex work.
Look, I do support taking off your clothes and fucking on camera as a career choice, given it is said person’s career choice. But poor life circumstances might influence men and women to join the sex industry. Maybe they need quick money or perhaps they’ve been brutally rejected everywhere else. I wanted a better insight into what makes a person join the sex industry, I wanted to learn how to talk to sex workers in a less shameful manner, and I wanted ideas that might help anyone already working within the sex industry who feels ‘stuck’ and wants to join well-paid careers, which only require a certification or license.
I interviewed, Killian, whom I’ve known since we were five and has worked as a stripper from 2010-2015. She now works as a server at the same strip club that hired her when she was 19. Both of us were raised in Irvine, California: a cookie-cutter, predominately-conservative, mow-your-lawn-or-I’ll-report-you-to-home-owner-association kind of city where everyone wears a smile but has some batshit crazy stuff going on at home. Irvine is constantly named the safest city in the nation, but anyone raised in the city knows that homeless people miraculously disappear to uphold its cookie cutter appearance. I mention the Wikipedia generalization of Irvine, because when a girl as unapologetically opinionated and badass as Killian comes along, it becomes known.
As a kid, I remember Killian articulating her thoughts with an extensive vocabulary that was way ahead of our age. Killian was the kind of girl who carried around an intimidating chapter book in the first grade while everyone else was mesmerized by The Adventures of Captain Underpants (an admitted classic). When we were twelve, a bunch of us (us meaning mostly boys) threw an obnoxiously loud pool party, causing tsunamis and shouting vulgarities as if our lives depended on it. An (understandably) angry mother began demanding that one of us retrieve our parents. A twelve- year-old-Killian walked up to the mother, arms crossed, and began using her considerable articulation skills to inform angry-Irvine-mother she was a heinous bitch and the root of everyone’s unhappiness. That was Killian. You can still feel her confidence when she walks in a room and she has, thankfully, passed on this tenacity for life to her glorious, almost-three-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, Killian was also a target for easy assumptions on her character because she’s hot. Like really hot. With tattoos.
Before I get to the interview, I want to briefly discuss how broad and profitable the sex industry is—because it’s not just porn or strip clubs.
Sexual surrogates work with psychotherapists in something called Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT), where they engage with sexual activity as a part of therapy with clients who have had traumatic sexual experiences or trouble with intercourse or orgasm. Erotic dancers include everything from strippers, go-go dancers, burlesques, and peep shows. Live sexual performers cater toward webcam sex and live sex shows (like the Blue Man Group but with sex).
If you want to engage in a sexually explicit conversation with someone who isn’t a Tinder match (who will call you a tease after he discovers you’re not interested in having sex with him), you can call a phone sex operator! Or you can do what everyone does but no one talks about and watch porn. The most controversial: Prostitution. Because paying someone to fuck you is supposedly this god almighty sin that is the gateway to Gotham City if legalized. Although, as seen in countries that regulate tolerance toward prostitution and other forms of sex work, legalization is beneficial to controlling STDs because governments are able to monitor and regulate what goes on within the sex industry, and it gives sex workers more power to negotiate condom use.
I mentioned this in my video about sex education in America too. Where there’s better education on sex, there are less teen pregnancies. See the correlation? When we’re more open to talking about sex, the sex industry, sex education, there will be less STDs, less teen pregnancies, and less assholes within the industry creating a dirty drug filled criminal operations making sex workers feel trapped. Shocking.
Can you imagine if Real Estate or Cosmetology Businesses offered grants to sex workers to study for a license in exchange for working under those businesses once they pass their exams and receive their license? I mean, what better incentive to get out of the industry (if they want to get out of the industry) than to show these men or women that they too are accepted in a society where the majority of people find their previous job shameful. In reality, they’re making money like the rest of us, only they cater toward the human fantasy and not like, economics and creating spreadsheets.
Killian gave me some more insight on her experience as a stripper, thoughts on legalizing all sex work, and how to change the majority perspective to make sex work less shameful.
Aahoo Pourang: Talk to me about the reactions you received at nineteen and your family finding out about stripping.
Killian: My mom cried when I told her. That’s actually the main reason I haven't gone back even though it’s really good money. I still go back and forth with wanting to dance, but a lot of people have a negative connotation. I wasn’t allowed to talk about it, or tell people. Guys don’t take you seriously because you can’t be a stripper and a person at the same time. It’s hard to date because people assume you’re doing more. Some people are and some people aren’t. Takes a real confident person to be with a dancer. Most my friends are people in the industry and my friends outside the industry are so foreign to sex work.
Aahoo: When did you want to be a stripper and when did you actually decide this is what I’m going to do.
Killian: I wanted to be a stripper since I was a teenager. I thought it was cool that I could make money by dancing and flirting. The first time I ever went on a stripper pole was when I was 14. My dad had one ex-girlfriend who I stayed in contact with, and when I broke off my engagement at 18, I didn’t have a job and was crashing at houses. She picked me up with a backpack full of clothes and makeup. I didn’t even audition. She just said go out there and make money.
Aahoo: Before we get into shaming sex workers, what are your thoughts on why workers won’t leave the industry?
Killian: Dancing is very much a trap—most people get used to fast and easy money. People end up with expensive habits like drugs and clothes. I can’t tell you how many 50 year old women that are still dancing in the clubs.
Aahoo: What’s a better more supportive way to talk to these girls that doesn’t demean their value and what do you wish more women could say while you worked as a stripper that would have been less shaming?
Killian: People are always offensive—but I’m not easily offended. I was never ashamed to be a dancer, I’ve always been proud. So I think a lot of dancers need support, but there’s a lot of dancers that don’t because they lead good lives and are doing it correctly—getting their money and getting out. There’s a girl who danced all the way through law school and paid the whole thing off. Never came back after. Some girls make a career out of it. We have girls poling six figures a year.
When you tell people you’re a stripper the look of shock on their face is offensive on its own. We’re just ordinary fucking people who take off our clothes. If you want to be less shaming talk to us like regular people.
Aahoo: How can we improve conditions and weed out the shady assholes within the industry?
Killian: Unionize sex work. Sex workers need health care and if we’re going to have people out here they should be clean, they should be taken care of. We should make anyone who is using their body to get tested, and if we had control over the industry, it wouldn’t be such a foreign or scary thing. If the government would hop on board and tax this shit, we would have more control over it.
Until this year, dancers didn’t get paychecks—you could walk out with $15. There’s something called drink incentive where you had to sell drinks for the club and if you didn’t reach your quota, and you had to pay for them out of your pocket. Strippers have to tip out DJs, door men, and the more you tip, the more you’re allowed to get away with. Money talks—so strippers get tipped but they have to tip. There’s this new regulation where girls have to get paid hourly. What our club does, is when the girl gets there, she says how many hours she’s working, and let’s say it’s five hours—so she’s going to make $60 for a total of five hours. We’re charging them $100 to rent the stage, but we include it in her hourly, so she needs to make a total of $160 just to start making her own money. At the end of the night, we cut her a check, but most girls don’t want a paystub because of fear that their families will find out, so they cash out their check right there at the club.
Aahoo: How many sex workers do you think are happy with their job?
Killian: I would just say that half the sex workers out there are doing it because they’re stuck in it and half actually know what they’re doing—up to the person and their own strength to figure out what sex worker their going to be like. Do they have a hold of the sex industry or does the sex industry have a hold of them?
Aahoo: Your daughter will eventually ask questions about your previous work in the sex industry. Being as open as you are will there be anything that makes you uncomfortable about telling her?
Killian: Absolutely—one of the main reasons I haven't gone back is part of me is afraid of how society will look at me as a mother—I’m sure there will come a time when she asks questions and hopefully society will change by then. I can only explain it as ‘I’m a confident woman, I did this, but I never compromised my personal morals’.
It’s not something I would want her to go into—but if she does, then she does. It’s not the first occupation I have in mind for her.
Aahoo: Are you ready for the sex and masturbation talk? The one neither of us ever got.
Killian: I think talking about masturbation and being open about sex is super important. I remember I started masturbating when I was a teenager and my mom told me I was too young. She threw out my vibrator.
Aahoo: I didn’t get my first vibrator until senior year of high school! I used a shower head until then until the water bill shot up and I realized wasting water on masturbating was wrong. Sad years.
Killian: I had friends who were masturbating at 10. And Europe has less STDs because they are more open! They have straight up brothels—way ahead of the fucking time.
Aahoo: Germany teaches its kids about masturbation in their sex ed classes. Great. So any last words you want to add?
Killian: We need to take control and use the sex industry to our advantage instead of being so fucking scared of it. The world is changing—we’ve got guys who can become girls, girls can become guys. It’s all normal now. We’ve been having sex since the dawn of time—why is regulating the sex industry the last conversation anyone wants to have?
Probably because sexuality is a powerful thing.
You can follow Killian’s Instagram @killa_kiki_420