Porn Con Part 3: Money for Nothing

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photo by Denali Winter

Hotel: $500
Ticket/booth for the con: $135
Banner: $50 design + $50 printed
Zines: $37 printed
DVDs: $200 printed
Prep: $40 manicure, $25 haircut
Lingerie to shoot in: $75
Gas: $150
Mucinex when I got sick: $20
Food when the banquet wasn’t enough: $20

The experience of being around fat femme women who hate other fat femme women: …incredibly emotionally expensive

***

There’s a saying that participation is its own reward, and for many things that may be true. But after two days of seeing the same ten fans, and realizing that the models were expected to make the VIPs feel like VIPs for free… I wasn’t feeling too keen on singing cum-bay-ya anymore, let’s just say.

Also, honestly, I was very excited about my outfit, an ice cream themed confection that was more lingerie than red carpet. I even allowed myself a moment of hope that I might actually win an award. It was unlikely, as very few people know who I am in the industry, but I was certain it couldn’t possibly be as corrupt as people had been saying bitterly for months.

See, the thing is, while mainstream porn has organized reviewers who judge on categories for their big events, niche porn’s awards are almost always given out by a company in the business of that niche porn. One notable exception would be the Feminist Porn Awards, which was run by a sex toy company and not a porn studio awarding almost exclusively their own work. But trans porn and BBW porn are not that lucky. I had been warned in advance that if I didn’t work for the BBW company hosting the event, then I wasn’t going to win (in fact, there were plenty of rumours that the way to a trophy was sucking someone’s dick, but I have no actual proof of that).

I had almost decided to cancel my appearance, but was told that there were loads of fans signing up every day, and figured at the very least it would be a good opportunity to connect with people who had never encountered my work before. But instead, I found 40 models fighting for the attention and dollars of the same, far outnumbered fans. Maybe it was a good time to be a fan, and get lots of attention, but the fans I spoke to could taste the disappointment of the models.

So I closed down my booth early. I spent hours getting ready with my friends, as we tried on dresses and did our makeup. One lovely model gave me a set of false eyelashes, which I loved so much I didn’t want to sleep so I could wear them all the time. Putting my fluffy strawberry ice cream robe on made me feel like a princess — and frankly, walking around in that outfit was a highlight of the entire weekend. I loved how magical I felt, floating to the red carpet.

The red carpet was a small scrap in front of an event backdrop. You walked onto the carpet, had some photos taken, and walked off. That was it. No media to ask questions, few fans to gush and wave. Just a brisk, professional moment with as few bells and whistles as possible, which, now that I think of it, could be an expression of the entire event. Now, sure, I know this isn’t AVN, where you parade through a sparkling casino and people are shouting at you and excited to see you. But even small awards shows gave you some props to play with, or some champagne to drink.

We got champagne glasses at our table, stamped with the logo, and nothing to put in them.

My friends and I sat down at a table which, thankfully, was not assigned. We waited for coffee to fill our mugs (never happened) or any type of alcohol (also never happened but thankfully we brought our own). We did get unsweetened iced tea, which was so memetastic as a summary for the slow trainwreck that was this event I snarked about it on Twitter.

Let me tell you about the buffet.

When you think about a buffet, you think about a variety of foods, right? And you think about a buffet specifically for BBWs, many of whom are known for feeder porn, you’d expect that food to be decent, yeah?

This would disappoint you to your very core.

Nothing was labeled, for a start, leading my girlfriend to almost eat pasta salad with black olives which could kill her. Cool story. There was one other variety of pasta salad, steamed and unseasoned broccoli, salmon with a creamy sauce, chicken with a creamy sauce, and some sort of casserole I didn’t dare try because I had no idea what it was. And stale rolls. That was it, our luxurious award show buffet. And for dessert, there was mousse that left a film on my tongue, and cheesecake that was still frozen. Lovely.

Honestly I was expecting the award show’s comedian to be racist, sexist and awful. He surprised me by not being all that bad for most of his set… until he started joking about weight loss. See, he had lost a significant amount of weight, and he felt that this struggle was something a room full of fat women who made money off marketing their rolls was something we could relate to/wanted to hear about.

Deep, deep breaths.

That was the last organized moment of the awards. It became clear that there was no rehearsal, and that while the presenters did the best they could, they were working with no information at all. There were many moments of empty space, people picking at the cold, limp pasta salad on their plates, waiting for something to happen.

The PR person won an award for social media personality despite having started multiple fights with models and storming off from the event itself, because “it was a fan award” (I mean, with no transparency, who knows? She might’ve just written her own name in and no one would be the wiser). The company who ran the event, unsurprisingly, won a significant number of the trophies. One woman (who is a fantastic model, mind, and a lovely person) won an award for best site, which surprised even her as her site wasn’t up at the time. It became clear that there were vanity awards, and then there was this shitshow.

Speaking to half of the people who won, even they felt pretty blasé about it. One woman laughed that she knew exactly who would win before they were called, because that’s how rigged the system was.

So why did we all pretend it was worth our time and money?

We sat in our room, grumpy in our finery, eating pot noodles and Oreos. We didn’t even know what to say to each other about what we had experienced. We felt so cheated. I, personally, felt terribly guilty, as I believed the organizer when he told me that there would be lots of fans, that there would be awesome parties, that we would feel honored and cared for.

One of my friends offered to set up a shoot in my cute outfit, and I agreed. Thank goodness as it’s been several weeks and still no official photos from the event have crossed my timeline. We shot a bunch of pictures, and began to unwind, laughing, doing something together that we love with people who love us. We filmed me smashing one of the logo glasses for the event, threatening the camera with it like a shank, and I began to feel a little bit less angry.

We all vowed to never do an event like this again. We deserve better than to be used as bait, for money and trophies we’ll never see. We deserve transparency on where the money gets spent, money we help earn. We deserve a board of judges who aren’t influenced by any one company, who recognize indie porn studios alongside the bigger ones. We deserve PR that is offered equally to all of us, from someone who genuinely wants to see all of us succeed and get recognition. We deserve food that fills our bellies and an environment that fills our hearts. We deserve workshops to expand our businesses, time to relax and network, and fans who honor us.

It’s hard to be a niche performer. You have to fight twice as hard to be seen, and you get twice the stigma for being a sex worker and whatever your niche is. But we’re not in the 90s anymore. This is the age of internet porn, where performers are branching out into Hollywood again, where all different bodies have a chance to be worshipped. Porn companies need to get with the times, rather than staying mired in the past, or, quite frankly, they’re going to be left behind. Maybe that’s part of the idea of these awards, is a frantic grasping as relevance in industries where the talent is learning how to do it themselves.

As we drove away from Vegas, we got an alert that we were driving into a firestorm of sand and smoke.

We exchanged a glance.

I floored it.

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Professional Bleeding Heart. Sick & Tired. Patronize me: http://t.co/RSd5cSVGE5 Image by @mayakern

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