So I’ve been going through my Facebook messages since deciding that I no longer wanted to have a personal account on the networking site for a number of reasons. Advertisements, the cockamamie decency polcies, #namergate (or whatever the kids were calling it), and my natural distaste for things that people try to convince me are “indispensable.”
I came upon this conversation, with some edits for clarity.
HIM: My girl friend watched the movie for the first time yesterday, and unfortunately she was really upset and angry about it afterwards
ME: uhhhhhh okay
Did you assure her I’m very much alive and working again?
HIM: yeah, she did know that part before already
it was more like that she thought, the film itself without more explanations could give some problematic representation for people not associated with the BDSM scene
like when they watch it, they could think this all is “normal” (which in a sad way it often is) in a BDSM house and that those women working there could be nothing more than play toys
ME: Yeah, that’s something I struggle with.
Which is why I have to [publicly support sex worker activism] or I risk doing real damage.
HIM: My girlfriend is very sex-positive and into BDSM for a long time – and she also has a deep understanding for sex-workers and their struggles and problems, so the idea of [Safe Sane Consensual] is very important for her, especially in communicating this to beginners or people just [becoming] interested in BDSM
ME: [This is why I chose to] make it clear that this is me, and I made the film, and lived it.
And that I know it’s fucked up. But I want the audience to know it’s fucked up. I just have to follow it up with ways that audiences can know what needs to change to make it LESS fucked up.
HIM: Yeah, she has nothing against you, don’t worry, and the film was also impressive for her, she just missed some kind of message to the people telling them: hey, there are some things that went wrong here (not only from your own [personal] side), but rather from the bad working conditions and the general acceptance and reputation of sex workers in society.
ME: Yeah, it’s implicit — but so systemic that people might miss it.
HIM: She thought it could be [interpreted] as “the way it is supposed to be,” not “the way it sometimes is but that should not be.” Make sense?
ME: Yes, but hrmmmm unsure how anyone would get that it’s the “way it’s supposed to be”
HIM: Well, she thinks it could very likely be that someone sees such situations in a dungeon for the first time, and thinks, hey, since it is a legal grey area and a woman there has not much security, I can do pretty much whatever I want with her. we pretty much talked all night about this
ME: Yes, but that’s already the case. That’s not something promoted by my film. That’s ALREADY HAPPENING.
You don’t get change by telling people that everyone in the industry is doing peachy creamy. But you also don’t get change by making it seem like everyone is a trafficked slave.
HIM: That’s why Remedy worked (for me) both on the level of telling a (your) personal story, but also showing the situations that could (and do) happen to other sex-workers, in a very powerful way. And I agree with you that press and discussions and education around such a film is probably a step in the right direction to make people not only aware of the issues, but also that a change is necessary.
So here’s the thing. I’m TERRIFIED that people will misinterpret the film. It’s happened a few times, but I feel it is the risky part of making art. Once you’ve created something and released it into the world, really the interpretation is out of your hands. Sure, by attaching my legal name to the project, I’m standing behind my work in a way that perhaps I couldn’t do if I either used a pseudonym or talked about my story in the third person. But I created an immersive, subjective film. I deliberately invite viewers to put themselves wholly into my main character. If you come to the narrative with notions that sex work leads to victimhood, then I almost guarantee you will walk away from the film believing that REMEDY is the story of a victim. If you believe that sex work is like any other job where there are good days and bad days, where the risk is really due to an unsafe legal and political environment versus there being any thing “wrong” with the work itself, then you will see the film as supporting this perspective.
Here’s the thing — and this is a bit of a confession here — when I started making the film, I was convinced the reason I had a less than stellar experience working in a dungeon was that I was bad at it! (I never ever thought that the job or BDSM was the “problem,” by the way. I never judged the work or my coworkers. Only myself, and very harshly.) I would have agreed with the victim narrative because I was actively victim blaming myself. We were halfway through filming — specifically The Businessman scene — when I figured out what really made the job ultimately unsustainable for me, and that it wasn’t my stupidity or naivete.
Long story short, I started the process a victim and ended it an activist.