The Danger of XXX Twitter Followers

In my announcement of this week’s Geek Force Five roster, I wrote of a “a mild obsession with people making adult film.” In the comments section of that post, Jeremy Couturier teased me about this, saying that my comment essentially meant “addicted…to…porn.” We had a laugh, but the the truth is that I’m not really as obsessed with the movies themselves as I am with the people making them.

This all stems from a decision I made about a character in my novel a long time ago. The novel, as you may or may not know, tells the story of an extended family trying to piece itself back together a decade after an event that they only half-jokingly refer to as The Great Schism. The book’s still in a work-in-progress of course, so many things continue to change, but one of the things that’s stayed constant throughout most of the five years I’ve been writing it is this: one of the main characters, a 10 year old girl at the time of the Schism, has gone on, in the ensuing decade, to a career in adult film.

That isn’t true of the character anymore, but it was true for a very long time. And one of the decisions I made when deciding to write the story of a porn star was to avoid telling the story of a stereotype, of a cliché. It’s easy enough to tell the story of a sexually-abused girl from a broken home who turns to adult film work because there’s no other choice. It’s much harder to tell the compelling story of a young woman with a past not all that different from your own who decides on a career in porn for other reasons. Even if you get the character to a point that you feel confident is convincing and real, you then have to work against the preconceived notions of your readers. You believe in what you’re selling, but will they buy it? It’s hard to say, very hard.

So, you have to do research. You have to read, read, read, and then read some more. For the character’s early days as a stripper, I read Lily Burana’s Strip City and Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl. To get an idea about what might make a regular girl have sex for money, I read Rae Meadows’s Calling Out. And when it came to accurately documenting the character’s transition into making XXX features, I leaned heavily on what I learned from Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, and on The Other Hollywood by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne. I read every interview I could find online, too. But all of that still wasn’t enough. In the end, I decided that the character as I’d written her in every other chapter of the book wouldn’t end up doing adult films. She just wouldn’t.

But then, along came Twitter. And along came Violet Blue’s exhaustive list of sex tweeters. And suddenly, I was following the exploits of a half-dozen women working in the industry, reading their brief 140-character blurbs about life as a porn star. And it was enthralling. I had been right all along: these were real people, with real stories, and no two stories were the same. I found myself confused. Maybe I should try writing my character as a porn star one more time, using what I’d learned on Twitter to help flesh out that part of her (pun absolutely intended).

Again, in the end, I decided that she would not move beyond stripping during the course of the novel. But I kept following the exploits of Nikki Benz and Belladonna and Jessica Drake, figuring that, even though the character won’t be an adult film star this time around, maybe she will be next time, and that maybe it was a good idea to keep doing research, to keep interacting.

But now I find myself wondering: is this interest too dangerous an interest to have? I’m a father, a husband, a office staffer, and a professor. Perhaps, at least publicly, I shouldn’t have anything to do with people working in the industry, even if it is for research. I don’t know. I do worry about it, though. There is a part of me, the part that’s watched every damn video Gary Vaynerchuk’s ever put out, who says, “You have to be who you are,” and “This is the age of transparency, man!” But there is another part of me that wonders if people will take things the wrong way.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about porn stars embracing Twitter. On March 22, Nikki Benz noticed that I’d written about her and posted links to my site on her blog and in her Twitter stream. My traffic tripled that day. Among the visitors was Vicky Vette [Link NSFW], who e-mailed me to talk Star Trek, to share with me the I *heart* Geeks photo I’ve included above, and to propose a potential interview (we’re still working on that). It was excellent to receive so much attention, and I’d like to believe that at least part of that attention was paid by people who, like me, understand that these women are real people, doing a real job, and who deserve real respect. But, you never know. Maybe writing a post like this is a dangerous proposition, too. Maybe I’ll be seen as link-baiting, or this, or that, or the other thing.

I guess, in the end, you just don’t worry about it. Because if other people don’t get it, then fuck ‘em. Right? Right.