Gina de Vries

Gina: Then & Now

Filed By Gina de Vries | June 03, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: before and after, now and then, porn, queershoulder, sex work, sex workers

THEN:

eyesThis photo was published at NoFauxxx sometime in 2003.

  1. I was 19 years old.
  2. I'd been involved in the sex industry for a matter of months.
  3. I'd done a few naked photo shoots where friends took snapshots in hopes of selling the sets to porn sites. But since my friends weren't actual photographers, none of those sets were actually high-quality enough to get published. Somewhere on my computer, I have an amusingly bad photo set of me and one of my best friends at the time posing in thrift-store lingerie in her mom's attic. Ah, my misspent youth.
  4. I think this photo is from the first set of nude photos I had published online -- but honestly, I can't remember. I've done a lot of photoshoots over the years.
  5. I hadn't made any porn with a partner yet, and I definitely wasn't ready to.
  6. I wasn't taking very good care of myself. I was in a pretty messed up place when I was 19. I did things like not eat for days at a time and not sleep for many nights in a row for the greater good of school work and taking care of my girlfriend. Somehow I managed to stay on top of my classes in school and get lots of praise from professors? I still don't quite know how I did it.
  1. I was in a really terrible relationship. My aforementioned girlfriend and I fought all the time about things like whether or not I would be permitted to spend an evening alone. (God, I wish I was making that up).
  2. I was also being monogamous, and was not very happy about it. Me and The Girlfriend eventually started experimenting with polyamory, but we were monogamous when this photo was taken. (Also, for the record: Turning a bad monogamous relationship into a non-monogamous relationship doesn't make it any less bad.)
  3. I'd been interested in doing sex work -- specifically, in modelling for queer porn -- since I was 16. I realize that might sound unusual and possibly screwed-up, and that not every teenager wants to grow up to do porn. To provide some context: I grew up in San Francisco, came out in the sixth grade, and, by the grace of god, got involved in the riot grrrl scene when I was 13. Riot grrrl blew my entire world open, and introduced me to a very different way of being a dyke than the mostly second-wave feminist crowd I'd previously been running with. I'd had exhibitionistic and kinky fantasies for as long as I'd been sexual; it was amazing to feel those parts of myself being affirmed instead of denigrated.
  4. How do I say this without sounding cheezy? Doing explicitly feminist porn saved me when I was 19. At the time that this photo was taken, I was contending with a lot of demons -- including but not limited to childhood sexual abuse, eating disorders, and the abusive partnership I was in at the time. Knowing that there was a way that sexuality could be good, positive, healthy, and pleasurable -- and knowing that people appreciated my body and thought that I was sexy enough to pay to look at me naked -- really saved me. Contrary to the popular discourse of survivors "re-traumatizing" themselves with sex work, I felt nothing but happy and empowered and excited to be doing these shoots. I realize that that speaks to the immense economic and social privilege I had starting out in the sex industry. But. Just sayin': Sex work didn't hurt me when I was younger. It healed me. I look back on those early years with an incredible fondness.

NOW:

My life in (hot) pink

  1. I'm 26 years old.
  2. I've been involved in the sex industry for seven years.
  3. I eventually figured out that if you want to sell photo sets to websites, you either have to shoot with the people from the website itself, or get a friend who is, you know, an actual photographer to take the pictures.
  4. I've done several porn shoots with partners over the years. The two with Tobi (fellow Bilerico contributor, and my ex) are currently the ones I'm most proud of. One is for Doing It Ourselves, Tobi's brilliant docu-porn movie about trans women and their partners, and one is for the Crash Pad Series.
  5. Overall, I take much better care of myself. I sleep enough, I eat enough, I exercise a lot, I pray. I work very hard, and I also try to balance my work with fun. I feel really blessed to be able to do what I love in life. That hasn't always been the case for me, so I try not to take it for granted.
  6. I'm happily non-monogamous.
  7. How do I say this without sounding like a bitter old lady? I'm less starry-eyed and naive about the Revolutionary Awesome Power of queer and trans porn now than I was when I was 19. I absolutely still think that there's power, sweetness, and hotness in making images that reflect our sex, our queerness, and our communities... I just don't harbor any delusions about being able to make a living doing queer porn and only queer porn in the current economy. I started doing other kinds of sex work because queer porn alone wasn't paying the bills, and I realized I like and am good at other kinds of sex work, too. Porn will probably always be my First Love, though.
  8. Seven years into the industry, sex work still hasn't hurt me. It's healed me, it's helped me, and it's taught me a lot about my body, my compassion, my intelligence, my boundaries, and my art. It's been my rent some months, and it's treated me to splurgy fancy things when times are better.
  9. I still look back on those early shoots I did with an incredible fondness. I feel like a very different person in many ways, but I'm proud I was brave enough to take the plunge.

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My aforementioned girlfriend and I fought all the time about things like whether or not I would be permitted to spend an evening alone.

Oh, being 19. You never know when your life is going to accidentally turn into a Lifetime movie....