I have written about my struggles to incorporate self care and self love into my daily life - sometimes even my life at all. Part of that exploration led me to appreciate my own sexuality and love the sensuality I have. I found that there is a deep seeded connection between sex positivity, self love, and feminism. Sexuality - especially female sexuality - has been villainized in society for far too long. Even now, if you turn on the news there is a footage reel of Stephanie Clifford A.K.A Stormy Daniels being undermined,criticized, and at times, dehumanized because of her profession. Even within communities of women that fight for equality for women, there is a misunderstanding and judgment of sex work/ers. There is an almost undisputed theory that sex work cannot be empowering; that its an industry ran by men for men in order to make money off of the objectification of women’s bodies. In addition to condemning the men that society and some feminists believe are behind sex work, they dehumanize and despise the women that make their money in the industry. This understanding directly detaches autonomy of bodies from the women inside those bodies. By saying that men control and abuse every woman involved in sex work there is a perpetuation of the fear and over all disgust with women’s sexuality and women that own it. Have you ever been told that women don’t enjoy sex? Or that the only reason women do enjoy it is because of the emotions attached? For the most part, we can say that these statements are disregarded because in this, the year of our lord, 2018, we know better. But how can it be okay to apply those principles to women that work in “typical” industries and not award the same respect to women in the sex industry? Feminism, supporting women in general, does not exclude anyone based on occupation. If it does, it just isn’t feminism or support. ln an attempt to understand everything I could about this societal flaw as well as my own needs to acknowledge my sexuality, I made a step to surround myself (social media wise) with empowered sex workers and sex positive figures around the world. This led me directly to Suz Ellis A.K.A Red Hot Suz.
On May 15th, I had the immense pleasure of sitting down for a phone interview with Red Hot Suz, herself; cue all the fan-girling. Suz is a twenty-two year old woman living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada who has just finished her undergraduate degree in communications. She, in her own words, “lives and breathes sex and sex positivity” which is what drew me to her in the first place.
At first, her love of sex positivity remained in her personal life in the form of empowering and fulfilling casual encounters. These experiences led to thoughts and feelings that she wanted to share with the vast universe that is the internet, but ultimately never did so. In 2016, however, she found inspiration in the tweets and writings of another well known sex positive blogger (whom I also fan-girl over), and immediately thought, “why aren’t I doing this?” The unveiling of this aspect of her life was in the form of a blog posted in the winter of 2016. I asked Suz if there was ever a time when she wanted to remain “anonymous” in whatever capacity the internet allowed, she answered that at first there were separate personal and blog social medias. She used the moniker Red Hot Suz in place of her given name and had no real worries since she had no expectation to become as popular and well known as she is. However, the more her blog grew into a business, the less of an issue it became to include her full identity in her work. Suz stated that by giving more of herself to her followers and patrons she provides a more rounded version of herself which makes it easier for those followers and patrons to relate to her. This isn’t exclusive to her posts about her sexual encounters and experiences or reviews of sex toys. Suz shares much more than her name as she believes that, “people relate to you more if you know more,” meaning, the more real she makes herself, the more comfortable people become. That openness looks like Instagram stories with a selfie that has the text, “fuck yeast infections,” because really, fuck yeast infections. The blog’s realness doesn’t stop there. Although the blog started exclusively as reviews on sex toys, her posts became personal when she realized the benefits of sharing what she learns from her experiences. In fact, her first personal post was about her first time at a sex party. When the party ended and she had time to decompress, she was able to see that there were things she learned that people would want to know when they found themselves in similar situations. The platform evolved from reviews, to educational posts which don’t always stem from parties or sexual encounters. Posts like “Not Your Gal Pal… I’m A Professional” were born from the frustration of people thinking that because she shares personal information Suz is everyone’s sex and relationship therapist (spoiler: she isn’t). The commitment to honesty and openness is not without struggles. The task of creating boundaries for herself and a work/life balance is daunting and draining.
Bad Ass Sex Blog Goddess-ness aside, my favorite thing to learn about Suz was that she took her business - website, blog, and sex work - and wrote her undergraduate thesis on it. As a communications major she learned a lot about marketing and branding in classes but found that she ultimately gained much more knowledge through running her blog. Her specific project was to redesign her website and rebrand her business (see her lovely work here). Which culminated in a rebranding party that brought in people from the industry and community alike, which Suz explained was the biggest reward from the project. Having just graduated from undergrad myself, as I was listening to her explanation of her thesis, I couldn’t help but think about my own presentation and what the responses would have been if I did something like she had. Unfortunately, the only conclusion I came to was that I would have been met with disgust and concern… and possibly a call to my parents form some faculty. Curiosity took over and I asked what the reactions and responses had been. To my surprise and immense delight, Suz relayed that her professors and classmates responded with “classic Suz.”
Since the beginning of her journey, Suz’s writings and presence on social media as Red Hot Suz seems to fulfill her. She is awarded feelings of accomplishment and a physical representation of her productivity. She loves what she does and, “when you love what you do it really seeps into you.” Being a part of the sex blogging community has given her the opportunity to see herself clearly and allowing her to find her sexual identity. Having previously struggled with imposter syndrome due to having no experience with sexual relationships with women outside of porn or fantasy, Suz was empowered to find her identity as a queer woman and learn more about sexual fluidity.
The phrase sex worker is used much less than whore, slut, or even prostitute. The language itself lends to delegitimization of the people and the industry as a whole. Slut shaming and whorephobia leave society with no ability to see sex work as anything more than “dirty money” or an “easy way out of working hard.” In my own experience, anything involving nudity is intrinsically bad or wrong. If I gained anything from my talk with Suz Ellis, it was the information she gave me on a tangible way to support sex workers. Recently, two bills, FOSTA/SESTA, were put into action with the goal to make human trafficking (the buying and selling of human beings to be used as slaves, sexually and for labor) over the internet more difficult. The bills hope to accomplish this by imposing accountability to third party websites like google, skype, and other large platforms used for communication… as in the whole internet. Although objectively this sounds wonderful and helpful, subjectively, it’s the pits, to put it mildly. Within this bill there is no distinction between consensual sex transactions between adults and the non-consensual sale of human beings. To put this in real life terms: have you ever Skype chatted with a significant other or just anyone you thought was attractive ever and things got sexy? If you do that tomorrow, under FOSTA/SESTA, you have broken the law and can lose your account. As far as sex work goes, there is more at stake than being banned from a web platform. There are escort sites that rely on third party platforms to screen clients before they meet with an escort. This practice keeps everyone safe. Without it, there are few options to keep from entering into a possibly dangerous situation. A common response to this is “don’t be a whore then,” and to that I say, “please read the first paragraph of this article and get off of your patriarchal high horse.” An appropriate response would be to get in touch with your local government and representatives and express your concerns and disgust with the danger FOSTA/SESTA places consenting adults in.
If you want to learn from the woman that has given me all this incredible knowledge and continues to work to educate and bless the electronic masses yourself (which I highly suggest), please visit Suz’s blog or find her on instagram (@redhot.suz) and twitter (@redhotsuz).
Have a sex positive day, loves,
photo from istock