Life is funny sometimes. Two Fridays ago, I spent the entire day in pajamas watching sitcoms. Last Friday, I became a porn star. When and how did this happen? I don’t recall becoming a porn star; could it have been a dissociative fugue? Did I really manage to sell thousands of DVDs, win three AVN awards, and attract the attention of throngs of adoring fans in the span of one week? According to the New York Daily News, LA Weekly, BuzzFeed, and several others, I’m the “porn star” responsible for Hugo Schwyzer’s mental breakdown. I must have missed something.
By now, most of you have probably heard about Schwyzer’s breakdown, and many of you may have read the “sexts.” Popular media jumped all over the story, but nobody questioned where these texts came from. Also, why isn’t anyone writing about the other women with whom Schwyzer was involved? He had several affairs during his marriage. I’ve never even met the guy, so why am I getting so much attention? There’s a lot to this story that’s untold. Perhaps this isn’t as interesting or salacious as a headline that reads “Professor Caught Sexting Porn Star” but the truth is worth something, so allow me to tell you.
Last year, I met a man who had a slight involvement with the adult industry (he shall remain nameless, but spends the majority of his time making YouTube videos about Shelley Lubben) and, given some of our mutual interests, I was intrigued. I had been working as a webcam performer and was interested in sex worker activism. We started dating and began an extremely abusive and toxic relationship. We brought out the absolute worst in each other, and the relationship ended as passionately as it began: in public embarrassment filled with battery reports, verbal abuse, and restraining orders. This man became obsessed with revenge and hatred, and started terrorizing me on a daily basis. He posted revenge porn, outed me by releasing my performer name with my real name, harassed my friends, called my boss, threatened my life, published personal photos, and teamed up with his buddy who runs the website The Real Porn Wikileaks to publish hateful articles about me.
In February, this man went through my phone while I slept and came across private messages between Schwyzer and I. With his phone, he took photos of the conversations and explicit photos, and released them on twitter several weeks later without my consent. For the most part, no one cared or listened. Many people were aware of my ex’s mental instability, and they brushed off this latest development because they weren’t sure if he was a credible source of information. Also, many of the people he was sending the photos to were fans and colleagues of Hugo, so naturally, they didn’t believe it, especially when Hugo denied the “sexting affair.” I went back and forth between aiding Hugo with the lie and admitting that it had happened; I didn’t want to ruin Hugo’s career and I didn’t want the attention. It was dishonest, but I was caught in a difficult place and wasn’t sure how to react.
For the most part, it all went unnoticed until Schwyzer’s breakdown and subsequent confessions. Then articles written by my ex began to circulate among twitter followers and popular media, and I was named as the “porn star” to blame. Oddly enough, I can count the number of porn scenes that I’ve done on one hand. I mostly shot for small companies, and am by no means a “star.”
I was attracted to Hugo for several reasons. I was interested in his pornography course, and I myself have aspirations of being a professor and studying the sex industry. He advocated for porn performers and I appreciated the work that he was doing. I did not agree with many of the other views that he expressed in his articles, but I overlooked that. We started casually chatting and he asked if I would come to his class as a guest speaker. I was planning to visit LA this past February, and so it was perfect timing to speak in his class. I was also fascinated by the controversy surrounding him, specifically his critics’ assertions that his redemption was bullshit. I believed in his redemption, and was intrigued that a person could go from the depths of drug addiction and illness to a tenured professor. I looked up to him as a mentor when I was transitioning from one academic program to another. This was a stressful time, and Hugo actually did provide me with very helpful advice. To be honest, I also found him very physically attractive. We started flirting and speaking on the phone, and that’s how the “sexting affair” began. We also spent a considerable amount of time discussing our mental health struggles, and I felt some kinship with him. I truly trusted him, and I looked forward to meeting him. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen once we met, but he told me that we would build a lasting friendship and I wanted that.
It’s clear I’m being targeted because I’m a sex worker, and who can resist a headline about a porn star and a “porn professor?” It’s sensationalism at its finest. It’s the media behaving as it always does. The fact that I make a living in the sex industry automatically makes me more interesting than the other women that Schwyzer had actual intercourse with, and now my real name is in print all over the internet with the label “porn star.” As a PhD student with aspirations of working in academia, I’m less than thrilled. No one ever got my consent to do this, and no one from the media even asked me if it were true (It is, but it would have been nice if any of the journalists writing these stories had asked.) Instead, people chose to reprint information from a website that my abusive ex used as a tool to humiliate and hurt me. Suddenly, a website that outs and shames sex workers became a reliable source of information, and although I’m disappointed, I’m not surprised. We live in a society that doesn’t respect sex workers, so why would it respect their right to privacy?
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Hugo Schwyzer, who is fully aware of the abuse I’ve endured, decided to let my ex interview him. This is the same ex who threatened to end my life, spent months mocking Schwyzer on Twitter and in article, and released private messages without Schwyzer’s consent. For some reason, Schwyzer thought it would be a great idea to give him an interview.
I defended Schwyzer throughout his initial breakdown, and tried to raise public awareness about mental illness and the effects of shaming. I emailed him to make sure that he was okay. As someone who has suffered from mental illness, I actually felt some solidarity with this man, and had confided and trusted in him. He turned around and gave an abuser an interview, in which he allowed them to once again use my real name and also discussed how “hot and unethical” it was to “sext” with me. It was a slap in the face that hasn’t stopped stinging.