Meet Stoya, the porn star whose bravery changed the industry.

When I was asked to write this piece, I thought it would be another article about a listless porn star, who’s work is defined by lifeless eyes and soulless sounds — a woman making her way, or finding her “freedom”, in an industry that is for men, by men, about men; an industry where women are the orifices.

I was wrong, and this porn star showed me how ignorant I really am. Her vision, her work and her bravery in revealing her ex-boyfriend (who is also a porn star) as a rapist, after he “held her down and f**ked her”, has made me realise the potential and place for porn, and its stars, in society.

Meet Stoya. Or maybe you already have. She is, I’ve read, popular with “anti-establishment millennials”.

Stoya is not your run-of-the-mill sex dream. She is small breasted (having turned down numerous offers of free breast augmentations), dark-haired, pale-skinned and has a full bush of pubic hair. She could, in fact, be any one of us.

I have learned a lot when reading about Stoya.

I have learned that STD checks every 28 days are compulsory in the porn industry. Ups to that.

I have learned that porn can be about a woman’s pleasure and sexual satisfaction. That Stoya (who does’t like to be labelled “pink” as feminist) is “unconventional” in her look and approach and that, right there, is her power.

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She has shut down producers’ requests for getting fake breast implants, shaving her vulva, dying her hair, etc. She is famous for her orgasm, which is real. Her laugh can be seen in almost all of her videos and comes from the pure satisfaction Stoya gets from having sex.

Yes, porn can be about real women’s bodies, and real women’s pleasure. Stoya won’t “perform” any other way.

ICYMI: Porn has been declared a public health crisis. Post continues after video. 

I have learned that porn can be a way to undo the stigma surrounding women’s issues. Porn can be a platform to educate, inform and break the stereotypes that the medium (in it’s more traditional form) has created.

For example, Stoya is looking forward to her first grey pubic hair, because she’s interested in the idea of ageing with the industry. Women over 35 can be sexy too, didn’t you know?

Another example. When Stoya posted on Instagram about her period cup, she responded to the haters with the following phrase: “You can find on a Tube site, HD video showing the interior of my rectum. But periods? How disgusting.”

Challenging people. Breaking barriers… Isn’t that what porn is all about?

But I have also learned that porn, regardless of professionals like Stoya, is still letting women down.

I have learned that porn stars have a “no” list, which is a list of fellow porn stars they refuse to work with. I learned that when Stoya told a producer she wouldn’t perform a shoot with one particular actor, who told her to “go wait tables”. She called her lawyer. And spent a year waiting tables to prove her point.

I have learned that Stoya was once one-half of porn’s power couple. She and fellow porn star James Deen were known as the “Brangelina” of the industry, and photographs of the couple often attracted the hashtag #relationshipgoals.

That was until last November, when Stoya sent out two tweets accusing her by-then-ex-boyfriend of rape. The tweets read:

“That thing where you log in to the internet for a second and see people idolizing the guy who raped you as a feminist. That thing sucks. James Deen held me down and fucked me while I said no, stop, used my safeword. I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

James Deen and his then-girlfriend Stoya at The 70th Venice International Film Festival at Sala Grande on August 30, 2013 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Venturelli/WireImage)

In response, a swarm of women came out in support of Stoya and to verify her claims against Deen. Another previous girlfriend of Deen, Joanna Angel, told the world he abused her also, and made her sleep on the floor "like a dog".

But, despite these allegations, Deen is still working. Sure, his profile received a temporary hit. But, now, eight months later, he's busier than ever and launching a website. The porn industry in action, defining itself by the stories, stereotypes, power-plays it so successfully sells.

The most poignant lesson in this, and something Stoya has made crystal clear, is that no matter how many times a woman says "yes", she always, always has the right to say "no". Stoya has participated in sexual acts that many of us would never even dream of. But this doesn't change the fact that when her boyfriend refuses to stop when she says "no", he raped her. Or that, when he holds her by the throat to force her into submission; he has raped her.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from someone like Stoya. There are a lot of lessons men can learn from someone like Stoya.

And that is why she has changed the way I think about porn.

Stoya's story shows how porn can be about a woman's pleasure and power. Her story also shows the overarching misogyny of the industry and (arguably) the subject matter itself; sex between a man and a woman.

It's only through people like Stoya, that this misogyny and injustice can be reversed. That the gender stereotypes, in-part created by porn, can be broken. That men can learn the difference between consent and the word "no". And, that a woman's sexuality can be seen as equal to a man's.

Stoya can teach men and women that sex is something women should find liberating and pleasurable. Not lifeless, soulless, submissive and without laughter.

 

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