Tuesday night, UCLA organizations will be hosting adult entertainment stars Jessica Drake and Tasha Reign at the "Porn, Prostitution, and Censorship: The Politics of Empowerment" panel.
Sponsored by Social Awareness Network for Activism through Art and Eve Ensler's V-Day Organization, the panel will discuss whether or not pornography objectifies or empowers women and other issues surrounding the adult industry.
Reign, a UCLA student studying gender studies who is no stranger to discussing her career and the industry, spoke with Campus Circle about the event and life as a college student.
What made you want to participate on the panel?
I actually was reached out to from somebody at UCLA or in charge of the panel. At first, I was a little bit apprehensive because I just know how passionate people get about politics and about the adult industry and...everything. Especially going to UCLA, there's actually a lot of very conservative peers. So for me, I don't like to put myself in an uncomfortable situation...but I think it's so important for students to be able to put a face to an actual adult actress and put a voice to her too. There's really no representation at UCLA...I also think misconceptions are perpetuated when there's no voice from the industry or from the minority group, and so that's why I go to colleges and speak. It's not my No. 1 priority and it's definitely something that isn't always fun for me, but I think it's important. I think it's kind of pivotal in changing the adult industry in the way that it's perceived by the outside world.
How has the response been from college students who've heard you speak in the past? What do they say to you afterwards? Is it positive, negative or a mixture of both?
I think it's definitely a mixture of both, but in my short experience, I feel as though it's mostly positive responses mixed with...I wouldn't call it negative. I would say inquisition; they just want to know the answers to so many questions that they can't have answered by their peers or Google. There's no one they can ask or talk to. And it's not even always regarding my job or business as a whole. Sometimes, it's very personal questions they have for me after I speak. They'll ask me sex questions, and they'll feel comfortable saying things that I don't think they'll feel comfortable saying to their friends. I think that's something interesting.
What kind of things do they ask you regarding sex?
Usually when I go to a classroom, they ask questions regarding the business, about scenes and about if I get to choose my partners, why I do it, why I got in. So, they ask all the typical questions you would assume. But then, we do this question box where they can write an anonymous question, and I'll read the question and answer it out loud. And it will be questions about their intimate sex life or about their penis -- just stuff that's kind of outrageous.
What's great about you being on this panel is that you go to UCLA, so students in the audience will be able to relate to you. Do a lot of your peers or classmates know that you work in the industry? How do they react when they find out what you do?
It's definitely not something we talk about in class, because in class I'm focusing on my curriculum. When I'm done, I go home, do my work and attend to my business. I'm not extremely social on campus, and when I was just starting out at UCLA, I was not in the hardcore adult industry. But as I started to get into it, even my first news spread in the Playboy for UCLA on the Pac 10, the Daily Bruin ran an article on it, and then I took a little time off. I would only go part time, and I had some interviews again with different magazines on campus and different outlets. And people definitely asked me for my autograph or just told me that they're a fan of my work. I didn't have anybody say anything rude or negative to me on campus...
But I think my peers have been great. They've made my college experience and my work experience coincide, and I don't really feel awkward. I would [feel awkward] if I went to a fraternity party; I would never go because it's not something I would feel comfortable doing. But just at school, I feel comfortable, and my teachers also feel comfortable. Even one of them has asked me to speak in class before, and I spoke in a classroom on campus that I was never in. That was awesome.
So, I would call it mostly supportive with my experience. But I have to say a lot of my curriculum and a lot of my lessons in the gender studies program, it has left me with a negative feeling regarding UCLA's view of the adult industry. That's part of the reason why I wanted to do the panel. I've been in a couple of classes, especially this quarter...where I just feel like there's not only outright discrimination, but also just extremely offensive remarks from the teachers and from the texts that we're reading. I just know that if it was regarding any other minority group, it would probably be wrong. And nobody notices because I'm the only sex worker. For me, it's an issue; I feel like it should definitely be changed.
Wow, that's really crazy.
Sometimes, I don't feel like it's on purpose and of course I'm extra sensitive to the whole situation, but I definitely perceive it to just be very one sided...in the sense that if they show what they show, they need to show the other side and that that's not the only side of the adult industry. I've never seen that happen and that, to me, is seriously disturbing.
You're studying gender studies, and I read you're thinking about mastering in psychology. What made you want to study those area, and what do you want to do with your degree(s)?
That's a great question...I got my AA degree at Santa Monica College, and when I was in my first class, I just felt empowered and recognized...I'm passionate about humanity and about women, and about equality and for equal opportunity, at least...I felt like it was the right major for me, and I could've gone with another major, but I had happened to fulfill the prerequisites for it...
My work with my major combined has really created an unique perspective for school and for my job. It works hand in hand, and I think that's cool.
After the panel, what do you hope students and audience members will walk away with?
I hope to be a positive reflection of the business in the sense that I can show the students how important it is to protect our right and freedom of speech, and to protect the adult business and to treat it like what it is - it's a huge part of cinema and gives jobs to thousands and thousands of people everyday. And it can be a healthy, happy, fun lifestyle and form of entertainment...[I hope students will] not be embarrassed or shy about something that's normal. And not to feel this pressure from society to not be proud of your sexuality. Just to accept themselves, and also accept the business. Have a more open mind and don't discriminate or say rude remarks when they really don't know the truth. The hardest part about being in the adult business is just people from outside of the business. Really, that's the truth. So, I just want them to be more educated and knowledgeable about it so that they can go pass it on to their peers and after college.
The "Porn, Prostitution, and Censorship: The Politics of Empowerment" panel will take place Tuesday, Feb. 18 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Moore 100 Hall at UCLA.
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