My taxi pulled into the W Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, which is conveniently located in between Jayne Mansfield and Doris Day on the Walk of Fame. I was headed to my very first awards show: the 12th annual XBiz Awards. Just like my high school prom, I had been contemplating what to wear for weeks and I was going somewhere in a limo with a group of people I didn't know very well. I suddenly had a flash of anxiety left over from adolescence.
I knew I'd be sweating awkwardly all weekend.
The XBiz awards honor excellence in the creation and marketing of adult entertainment. Basically, I was going to the Oscars of Sex. XBiz gives away 150 different awards in categories across the industry, from adult film to websites to sex toys. I'm a sex worker. I do porn occasionally as part of my career, but that's not the main thing that I do for a living. I see clients in person and I am compensated for the time I spend with them. There are many words for it, but I like to say that I'm a companion.
A website that I advertise my services on was nominated for an award, and invited me to be part of its entourage at the event. This nomination was special because it marked the first time private companionship would share the stage with more mainstream forms of adult entertainment. As with many small business owners, sex workers often augment their income through multiple revenue streams. Long gone are the Jenna Jameson days of big porn-studio contracts and the fast track to fame; adult entertainers must now stay competitive and relevant in a rapidly changing economy, where a diversity of services is key. Plenty of porn performers also offer webcam sessions, custom videos, and private entertainment, yet there is no category at the XBiz awards for Dominatrix of the Year or Best New Escort.
I met up with my fellow companions: a sweet Southern belle with perfectly soft breasts the size of my face; a petite blond firecracker from Florida, a statuesque dominatrix who owns her own dungeon; and my hipster tattooed food blogger best friend — an eclectic bunch. Not all of us in the group had been to this type of event before, and I was a little unsure of what to do.
I hadn't expected to be nervous, but as soon as we hit the red carpet and the cameras started rolling, I instantly forgot every modeling skill I'd learned over the years. I froze, but managed to link arms with the girls next to me; one squeezed my hand in reassurance. I started smiling hard like I was posing for the most important yearbook photo of my life.
At our table later, while the awards for Best Girl/Girl Scene and Luxury Toy of the Year were doled out, my new friends and I talked Disney princesses, superhero fetishes, and weird clients. We cheered when we heard a name one of us recognized. We laughed, complained, and gossiped (a little). As private entertainers, we don't often have the same opportunities to bond with co-workers because many of us work alone. Though most of us were meeting for the first time, we felt an instant camaraderie. It was easier to be open about our work because we were all together. We didn't win a trophy that night, but, as they say in the trades, it was an honor just to be recognized. A cliché, sure, but in this case the nomination indicated a change in the industry.
At breakfast the next morning, the Southern belle told me in her sweet drawl, "I come from the type of town where you don't even want to say you're a stripper without somebody throwing a Bible at you or something happening to your car."
She went on to say that getting the opportunity to represent a company that was nominated for an award felt empowering. I have to agree with her.
The porn industry has changed so much, driven like everything else by rapidly evolving technologies. The advent of tube sites and the rise in content piracy has perhaps forever changed how people consume adult content. Private companionship has been around much longer than porn, and that it was made public at the awards show suggests that the mainstream industry is beginning to recognize that at the end of the day we're all selling sex.
The main takeaway from the Xbiz awards for me was: If a piece of silicone can get a trophy for getting people off, I want one too.