The Art of the Sex Tape—And Why I Didn’t Need One

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“I’ve seen your sex tape,” a fan said to me while I was licking a Dole Whip at Disneyland. The two conflicting worlds I’ve lived in for so long now were literally and metaphorically colliding in this moment. I even had my Mickey ears on.

“I never made a sex tape,” I said as I licked the spoon. It wasn’t meant to be seductive, but I guess it could be perceived that way when you see a girl from your favorite childhood sitcom have sex on camera and then watch her lick a spoon.

“Don’t deny it! I’ve seen you… have sex,” he whispered, as if he and I should share this moment of humiliation about a film he saw that I consented to and was paid for. “You used to be on Boy Meets World and now I’ve seen your vagina.”

He stood there for a moment with a slack jawed slobber mouth waiting for me to say something. My vagina was not the thing he was shocked by, although if you grew up with that ABC sitcom, I admit it could be a little shocking. But it was more than that. He couldn’t fathom that a woman with a legitimate career wouldn’t be marked with shame for the indiscreet things she’s done—like everyone else in Hollywood who has had sex on film and gains fame from it.

Hollywood has a complicated relationship with sex and even more so when it pertains to the women it offers to an audience on platters. When I was growing up in the industry as part of the Disney machine of the late nineties and early aughts, girls were showcased as these sexual creatures all the while maintaining their roles as virginal fools. Studio overlords managed every step, every movement so that it was enough yet not too much to satisfy the male gaze. We were in a candy-colored bubble, in movies, on stage, and broadcast in living rooms one day a week and then eternally in reruns. And I could feel the energy of young actresses all around me wanting to bust out.

Jessica Biel and Elizabeth Berkley were among the first to challenge their family friendly images. Jessica nearly naked on the cover of a men’s magazine and Elizabeth attempting to shock with Showgirls. Sex, especially in shows aimed for the American family, had been a controlled tool used by the studios to make money, so why wasn’t there a way for girls to use their own sexuality to gain fame? This growing sentiment and the meteoric rise of the internet are why I find it no surprise that this was the era that the sex tape was truly born.

The only catch was you had to be humiliated by it.

The formula is as follows: A sex tape is made, “stolen,” and then subsequently leaked and sold for a massive payout. The performer, almost always a woman, must always deny her involvement. To be successful there needs to be distance between you and your smut, as if sexuality for the good woman is an out of body experience. And she can’t find success by selling sex unless there is shame, regret and apologies. That’s what the audience, trained diligently by those studio heads who feed them this narrative, wants. Watching something that is broadcast against a woman’s will is voyeuristic. It’s seductively intrusive. And it separates her body from her being. Does the audience buy the denials? Probably not. But they enjoy the fantasy of violation while the essence of the virginal fool remains intact.

And all of it really is a fantasy. If you’re a performer in the adult film industry you know that in order for your sexual performance to be on plastered on DVD covers and sold in sex shops for money you have to sign lengthy paperwork and prove your age and personhood with two forms of ID, all while verbally consenting to having sex on camera as you’re being filmed. It’s not hard to imagine that a movie like A Night in Paris wasn’t behind that beaded curtain at the local video store without any of the star’s consent. Farrah Abraham, who became known after she got pregnant at sixteen and MTV filmed it, even allegedly shot hers professionally with a porn star yet still claimed it was a leak.

Hollywood stars aren’t the only ones who try to milk this system. Adult performers who have made millions by building their names and brands on the shoulders of the industry adhere to this formula as well, especially when they start to seek the approval of the mainstream gods. Lana Rhodes and Mia Khalifa are two examples of women who consented to having sex on film and built massive brands because of it, earning millions along the way, only to dramatically distance themselves from their sex work afterwards, with you guessed it… regret and shame. Yet, to this day they still use their porn names to cash in and the audience that found them in the adult space to buoy them in other waters.

But the question is, why does sex have to be a scandal? Why haven’t we moved past this archaic notion that a good girl isn’t a sexual being? In a world ripe with progress and possibility, why are we still categorizing women on a scale of virgin to whore? While our country and its factions are at bitter odds with each other over every issue possible, the only thing that the most fundamentalist conservatives and ultra left-wing feminists hold hands on is that women using their sexuality is bad.

I am asked time and again why I decided to leave acting for adult entertainment and I always tell them the truth—I didn’t. I am an actress. That’s what I have always been, no matter the medium I perform in. And I’m troubled by the hive mind that believes once you are cast into Hades there is no return from it. Not if you’re happy. There’s only a lifeboat offered by the mainstream gods if you cry those required tears of shame and regret.

I’m not ashamed, and I never have been. I entered sex work and the world of adult films with enthusiasm and positivity. When I signed with Vixen Media Group, a leader in luxury adult content, to be the face of the Deeper brand and to collaborate with famed female director and performer Kayden Kross, I saw a bright future with award-winning projects. Finally, there could be films of the highest quality that also had the hottest sex and could bridge the worlds of adult and mainstream. Why hadn’t the mainstream allowed this before? Why are they in charge of making sure that porn is seen as a lesser medium? And that no one has any talent other than fucking, which, by the way, is a talent in itself.

Though I was warned about this scary place, I found the adult industry as a whole to be somewhere I could express myself fully, be creative and use my body as my art. How is this different from a dancer or an athlete using their body as their vessel to achieve and create and express their talents? And why is sex, and more so women enjoying sex, still so shocking to us?

I really feel that my refusal to give into the narrative that had been well established is why I was met with such positivity. Someone once told me that if you’re happy and someone keeps trying to scream that you aren’t, they’re the ones who look insane. And it’s true. When I began this journey, I had no master plan. It was simply me, finding myself over the course of countless months and years and decades. It didn’t start out as a career choice or some calculated move, although if you weren’t paying attention along the way and just saw the headline “Rachel from Boy Meets World Does Porn” you might assume that was the case. I find it sad that that assumption is built into our cultural narrative, but it also drives me to speak out louder.

So, as I finished my spoonful of Dole Whip at Disneyland that day and I looked up at a sky full of triumphant rays, I told my new friend who had just notified me that not only was I on his favorite sitcom, but that he had also seen my vagina something simple.

“I know,” I said. “Isn’t it beautiful?” Then I straightened my Mickey ears and walked away.

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