"There's a demand for respectability if you're a survivor of sex assault – you can't say you're doing porn or sex work or be a very sexual person."
A few things inform my work: being somebody who’s mixed-race, who’s racialized, who’s non-binary and intersex but who walks through the world with people reading me as a woman, who’s experienced trauma. Then there’s the way I express myself through dance, performing, porn, having done sex work – all of these things have in some way radically shifted my relationship with myself and my body, whether it’s kept me out of my body or demanded that I be present in my body.
As a survivor of trauma, learning how to be okay being sexual on my own terms and how to have boundaries has been a big part of my work. There’s a demand for respectability if you’re a survivor of sex assault – you can’t say you’re doing porn or sex work or be a very sexual person. But when I went into some sex-positive spaces, it was hard to say, “I’m coming with a lot of trauma, so this is scary for me.”
A lot of nuance gets lost. When I started working with Silence Is Violence [a survivor-led feminist collective tackling sexual violence and rape culture on campus] at U of T, it was one of the few spaces where I could do work that was sex-positive but also remain open to experiences of survivorship.
I’ve been naked in other ways in my work, but I’ve never done anything like [this shoot]. When I’ve done other things where I’ve been nude, it’s more about performance – performing sexuality, looking desirable – or I’ve been shown alongside other people. Here, I wanted to hold myself accountable to the work I’ve done, taking a step toward embracing my body, sharing my story, holding myself up in a really vulnerable way.
It was a beautiful experience, but also really uncomfortable. I saw this picture and had a million different feelings. I was like, “Well, that’s a really important place for me to stand in.” But there’s a lightness and a joy to it as well, the joy of being in my body.
See last year’s Body Issue here.