Sex in Social Media #1 | How I Fell Into the Sex Industry
Instagram has become one of the biggest (and most accessible) tools of the sex industry. While there are some guidelines for what is allowed, it has become a gateway to the big fish sex industries: webcam, porn sites, pay per view cam, even sex trafficking. Those are huge issues, but I'm going to stay on the topic of my experience with falling into the sex industry via none other than SOCIAL MEDIA.
Not too long ago (although it seems like ages ago now), I was making bank using my social media platforms and website. I was able to create a "brand" using my name that went from a positive motivational fitness focus to a hyper-sexualized boundary pushing lingerie modeling focus over the course of two years. I found myself (my content) plastered all over porn sites, tumblrs, and peoples' personal blogs with no control over how I was being presented, how my name was being used, and the inability to hold onto what was "mine".
I'm pretty positive that when we were younger, we never dreamed of being the object of desire for the masses. Am I right in assuming that? I mean, yeah, some of us wanted to be beautiful princesses, but I think the root behind that was wanted to feel precious, cherished, special...right? I, on the other hand, wanted to be an Army general and would run around our backyard topless (just like GI Joe, duh) screaming and pretending to shoot at anything that looked close to a target. Regardless of what you imagined yourself growing up to be, I just don't believe any one of us would choose to be an object of sexual desire.
My life in the sex-social world happened gradually and then suddenly. I grew a large following through my fitness beginnings (2010) which gave me the initial euphoria of having tons of people who "liked me", a sense of purpose knowing I was helping people, and also, it made me (a girl who had acceptance insecurity issues since day one) feel SUPER accepted. Then the fitness world took off and I wasn't feeling what I felt in the beginning when it was just me and a handful of other gals tracking our progress and sharing our fitness journey. It was around this time (2013) that I started "taking things up a notch" in the efforts to stand out and continue to have a competitive following on social media to continue making enough income to pay my bills. My content went from ab pics and smiles to bum pics and suggestive poses on Instagram. (This is the gradual slide I was telling you about up there).
*Can I just take a quick moment to clarify that looking "sexy", beautiful, or just drop dead gorgeous is not what we are looking at here. Feel yoself, girlfriend.
After seeing the response and "popularity" of my posts, I realized that I could really capitalize on this [myself]. I saw an open door for my "be your own boss" mentality to continue to be a possibility. I became my own management, created another "private access" part to my website and just posted about 1 photo or video a week. It didn't even feel like work. I felt empowered.
It was so easy to justify my content and "my style" because I did not even classify what I was doing as pornographic. I mean, I wasn't doing sexual acts on camera, I wasn't posting nude photos, I was "just being artistic in photos in lingerie". It was "ART". I also had the support and urging of my boyfriend, at the time, and my parents, so I felt that any kickback I received was due to a small mind, ignorance, or fear of a woman's naked body. After the abuse and circumstances I had experienced in my past, I finally felt in control of my body and what I did with it, I felt popular, and I felt successful. But I had really had no control over the use of 'my body' and how my images were used, I was liked and popular as long as I posted the side of me they wanted to see the way they wanted to see me, and I was successful as long as I kept doing what I was doing no matter how I felt.
Looking back, I honestly meant well. I thought I was still encouraging women & according to a lot of the feedback I received back then, I WAS still helping women. I thought that I was "tame" because "I wasn't doing what THAT girl was doing" (porn, sex acts on video, etc.) but I WAS going viral for twerking videos in undies, doing the splits under a photo of Einstein, and my website full of content of me just looking sexual on camera was taking off. I don't think there is ANY denying that all those were in demand because of the sexual aspect of them, but being so immersed in the world, I was just numb. I was numb to how used I was feeling and that, more and more, the power & control I thought I had finally achieved over my look, my body, my sexuality was ALL dwindling. Men were paying $15/month to be able to have access to this content. I remember the entrepreneurial side of me feeling super successful and excited the moment I reached 500 subscribers early on because I built the website on my own, I learned coding, I learned how to drive traffic online, I learned how to do all of these things so that I could keep 100% off my profits. I also was learning more and more each day how to suppress the sadness, embarrassment, and loneliness I was feeling. I remember feeling so disgusted when someone mentioned to me "You know what those guys are doing with your pictures, right?" and I was just floored because OF COURSE those 500 subscribers aren't viewing my images and videos for fitness motivation or their artistic & creative qualities...they were paying to see more of me than I would show on Instagram so that they could fantasize and, well, I'll let you fill in the blanks.
I had the adoration of men (and some women) all over the world but I still had such a warped view of sex and intimacy. The patterns of abuse from childhood to my young adult years had crippled me in what sexuality SHOULD be.
While so many were subscribing to My Body, I was still broken from my body being taken from me in ways that I wasn't sure I would ever be healed from. (I'll touch on the connection between those two in a future post.) I was detached from the reality of what was actually happening and I was continually justifying it.
I'm not ACTUALLY sad, just feeling off.
I feel super confident.
I'm helping people & making friends.
I have fans!
My style of photography is super artistic, not pornographic
Those guys aren't being inappropriate, they are complimenting me!
I owe them sexier content because they paid a subscription
I have tons of support in what I'm doing.
Around the time that I started dating Steve is when God was REALLY wanting to get my attention. I mean, the entire time I was living in this, I felt him on my heart...wanting his little girl to allow herself to feel precious, cherished, and special again.
When I left the industry, deleted my VIP website (which had the same domain as the one you're on right now. God makes ALL things new. :)), I started receiving rape threats, death threats, and an assortment of emails from "fans" who were so angry that I took away those photo and videos and deleted my website. It was like you took meth away from a meth addict. I couldn't stop crying, praying to God for forgiveness & healing, because not only had I allowed myself to be so hurt and willingly continued the cycle of abuse in my life, I had contributed FIRST HAND to so many others' pain and struggle. I mean, these guys seriously, seriously wanted to hurt me because they felt that I was leaving them, almost like a break up. During the time I was posting this content, they felt I was theirs...and in actuality, I was. I was willingly giving the ownership of my body and my sexuality to each and every person who logged in to look at me at any moment in the day, whether I was asleep, at church, hanging out with my family...they were having sex with me in their minds. This is a form of sexual abuse that I don't think we are fully grasping.
While I was not promiscuous (or even having sex during that time of my life), I was judged as such. I'm pretty sure I received a comment containing "you're a wh*ore" or "major daddy issues" at least once a day. Obviously, we don't live in a world where it is the initial action to think more of someone than what you may see.
Some examples of the more tame emails I received...
So many of us on social media are becoming numb to this epidemic on one side or the other. Either we are buying into it by being a "poster" or a "viewer" OR we are degrading, judging, and assaulting those who are. Instead of seeing these girls on Instagram and the content they are posting as special young women, someone's daughter, who's longing to feel beautiful...we are attacking them even more, calling them "attention wh*res". Just to be clear, the way to potentially shine some light to these girls/women is NOT commenting or emailing ugly things to them.
Ugh. My heart.
Instagram (and other social media platforms) has become a very easy trap for women (mainly) to post an image and receive the feelings of affirmation, acceptance, and even, "love". It has provided an avenue for hundreds/thousands/millions of people to see you putting yourself out there and for them to tell you that they approve of you and want more of you. As much as the explicitly sexual and gross comments from followers back then disgusted me, if I'm completely honest, there was a part of me that still got that hit of "they want me, I'm desirable, I'm successful".
I expect that I will be writing so many posts on this, coming at it from all angles, because...well...I lived it. The best things we can speak on is what we've walked through, and this is something that I am so fired up about and I want to be heard. I want YOU to hear me. This post is just an intro, a quick overview of my experience with this (for those of you who may have not already known).
I am committing to do what I can to help this not become your life (or the lives of your daughters/sister/friend). I am willing to share my story, and some of details within that are safe to share, if it means some beautiful soul being spared the pain that this industry holds.
Whether you know someone personally, or you are seeing someone on a social media platform involved in the sex industry in some capacity (stripping, porn, webcam, AND hyper-sexual social media posts), please remember that these women have a heart and a story and the majority of them DID NOT WANT THIS. It becomes a trap, in more ways than one. It is so so easy to judge based off of our own experience and perception. Also, it has become so common place to post so much of our bodies in sexual ways on Instagram and label them a "fitness" or "progress pic". The threshold, the sense of what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, is shifting...the bar has been raised so high, that even those who are not in the sex industry or experiencing what I have are still posting images and content, unaware that it is HARMING THEM. There is such a drive to be liberated that we are unaware what we are becoming slaves to. My focus is mainly on the fitness world at this time because it is exactly the slippery slope that slid me allllll the way down. I don't know if I've got my game plan stream lined yet, but I will help. I will impact the fitness & social media world, as someone who was once headlining the sexy "progress pic" and "sex selfie", and hopefully help AT LEAST one person.
I am ready to start on this series, even though I feel completely unprepared for what it might mean for me. I'm preparing for the judgement that may come as someone who once "did it".
It's gunna be lit. Difficult...but lit.