The Intern Investigates
What being a sex worker has taught me
about consent & saying NO
I’m a sex worker, and I’ve always been bad at saying “no.” But saying no has flexed my vocal cords much more than moaning loud enough for a webcam mic to pick up has. Being a sex worker has pushed me to find my voice, set boundaries, and stick to them.
Reluctantly saying “yes” when I was uncomfortable has gotten me into hot waters many times; From 9-year-old Emmett eating a fistful of crushed chili pepper “because Jessica said it would be fun, mom!”, with much more serious situations as I reached my teenage years. By the time I was 19 and set up an account on a cam modeling website, the word “no” was pretty rusty for me. I performed my first show, saying yes to everything, earning lots of tips, and feeling uncomfortable about what I was being asked to do. It wasn’t that I hated it, but a feeling of discomfort clung to me, a feeling that is familiar to anyone who has given an uneasy yes instead of a firm no; a feeling that is familiar to most of us, whether our uneasy yeses are uttered in uncomfortable conversations in the bedroom, at the office, or around the dinner table. So how do we stop saying “…yes?” when we mean “NO!”?
Later that night, after my webcam and lace tank top were both off, I wrote a sex work manifesto. In part, it reads: “I will not do anything on cam I am uncomfortable with, or that puts me emotionally or physically at risk. I will happily and gladly disappoint my audience to uphold this. Even though this is work, my consent is important, and I will learn to say no.” The last line of that manifesto has become my sex work mantra, and my mental health, as well as my shows, have flourished because of it. Clearly defining boundaries is something that can benefit all of us, as it gives us a solid foundation on which to build experience and experimentation. I’ve started to write little manifestoes for other aspects of my life, practicing radical consent with myself every chance I get. You’d be surprised how much knowing your own hard limits can help you the next time you are entering a challenging conversation with a family member, or starting a busy work week.
Saying “no” is a constant learning process, and it hasn’t been an easy one for me. It requires staying present for every moment, not just during my shows, but during all of my life. It requires checking in with myself frequently, asking “is this okay with me?” and being nonjudgmental about my true answer. I’ve learned that I’m happy to give my viewers a place to talk about their kinks, let them hear someone (me) say “Cool, that’s not what I’m into, but it’s not hurting anyone, so I’m glad you found something that turns you on!” And in the process, I’ve learned about kinks I never knew existed (Belly buttons? Words that start with J? Blinking?). However, no, my Hitachi does not go inside anything, end of conversation. As I teach myself how to say “no,” I teach my thousands of followers how to hear, and respect my answers, and together, we create a little world in which we are happy to live, a world I can replicate anywhere I go as long as I listen to my own truths.
In every show, I am not only modeling my rockin’ bod, I am modeling consent, communication, and respect. I still make mistakes, forget to check in with myself, or don’t speak up when I wish I had. But part of my process is compassion, understanding that I will make these mistakes, and being gentle on myself when they happen.
Porn is something we often consume in shame, not proud of the choices we make in private browsing. Before I started making porn, I didn’t think about where my porn came from, and I certainly didn’t pay for it. I want to produce porn that my viewers can be unashamed to watch and happy to financially back, and that means porn that is created with consent in mind. If you like watching porn, consider checking out live cam modeling websites, where the performers usually set their own hours and are paid by your generosity, and if you have any concerns, you can ask them directly.
Anyone can watch my show anonymously for free, but the financial backers of my show are, mostly, white, straight, cisgender, heterosexual men in their 50s and 60s. I am eternally grateful that they are willing to put their money into a sex worker who often lectures them about how penis size is nothing to be ashamed of, a sex worker who takes the show on the road and into the bathroom to show the proper washing of sex toys between scenes, and above all, a sex worker who is learning, day after day, how to take a deep breath and say “No, that toy is not butt safe, so no, I will not do that, and I’m not sorry.”
Emmett DuPont (they/them), Sex Educator Intern, is a first-generation college student at Hampshire College and a lifelong unschooler. Emmett lives at intersections of queerness, transness and disability, and is an enthusiastic educator around these and other topics. Read more about Emmett & their internship here.
To ask Emmett a sex, relationship or other relevant advice question for them to answer here on the blog, send us an email with the subject ASK THE INTERN.