Ari Anderson: on Sex Work, Being Genderqueer, and All the 'Shoulds' as a Woman
On work: Right now, I am a dominatrix, art student, and all around art-person. I want to have a career in the film industry first and foremost. I act and make my own films, but more than anything, I want to give people whose voices are not often heard a place to speak their piece. Women, trans people, people of color - all deserve to be depicted with empathy and nuance, and with respect to the dimensionality of those identities. Everything I know about doctors, war, and countries I haven’t been to, I know from movies and TV. The same is true for our understanding of other people.
On self-identity: I’m pretty genderqueer. It’s a weird space to be in. Looking back at most of my life, I identified as a female, because I never knew I could identify myself as something other, but I never really felt completely female - ever. I thought it was normal to always feel kinda weird. I took a sociology course and found a name for what I was feeling, and then later, when I was on acid, it came to me, and it was simple. In middle school I would go on Chatroulette with my friends and I would dress up as a boy and try to get girls to like me. I totally forgot about that until recently and it was a weird moment when everything really aligned. I also realized that male and female doesn't really mean anything - it’s just this swirl of ideas slapped onto a void. I had to give you an image, it’d be Mick Jagger in Performance. A boy, but a really femme boy who wears a lot of mascara and silk.
On traditional femininity: Traditionally, femininity is softness, kindness, being graceful, being selfless. I don’t think these are inherently feminine traits, but they are ascribed to women in particular. But there are beautiful things about traditional femininity that shouldn’t be lost in an effort to distance oneself from traditional gender roles. Makeup is great. Smelling good is great. Kindness! Empathy! Love! Its for everyone. I think it’s all only a problem when you’re confined to it. I think what falls under “feminine” should expand, as well. I think traditional feminine roles can a beautiful thing for those who want them, as well. There are a lot of “shoulds” as a woman, especially about the way you look - I am an actor, and there is a certain pressure for me to look a certain ‘presentable’ way. My body, in a sense, is a public thing. I imagine if I wasn’t an actor, I would look a lot different.
On feminism: It’s equality, pure and simple. It’s the idea that women can do whatever they want to, and that includes choosing to stay at home baking cookies for your 11 kids. However, I think the real radical, transformative element of feminism is the idea that once you soften and erase gender binaries, feminism is something that says that it’s okay to be traditionally feminine or traditionally masculine or neither or both, whatever your genitals are. I don’t think feminism excludes anyone. It is becoming an umbrella term, and I think it’s great. Oh, and if you’re not an intersectional feminist, you’re not a feminist.
On the first time: I was fourteen. It was with a boyfriend. It was really painful, and I bled.
On sexism and misogyny: I think ‘sexist’ as a term is thrown around more often than misogyny or misogynist, but it’s all rooted in the same thing. It really bothers me when men call other men a bitch, and they say that it’s not a problem or a derogatory term...I don’t have a problem using that word but when men use it, it’s an insult. Like “pussy”. And then those same people will claim that they ‘love’ women, that they’re ‘here for women’. I didn’t see your ass at the march! The fuck??
On turn ons: What turns me on about myself is that I am really engaged, if I’m talking to someone they have my complete attention. I don’t like being stagnant and I am really concerned with movement and helping others. And I just think I’m really hot! In a partner, it’s someone who is a really good listener, someone who I can talk to about trivial stuff and have long debates with on the turn of a dime.
On eating disorders: Honestly, I used to wish I had an eating disorder. I hated my body so much throughout high school and into college that I didn't understand what an actual disease it is and romanticized it in my mind, which I think our society does as well. I thought it was just the self-control I didn't have.
On catcalling: I was 13, and I was walking home from school. Some dude in a silver van parked outside my building kept asking me if I wanted a ride...I just remember feeling so scared. I was this chubby middle school girl in a tank top! I ran into my house and just cried at the thought of being attacked and being seen as some sort of sexual object. I didn’t understand or know how to compute what happened. It’s like your body becomes someone else’s property without your consent. I remember being sexualized as far as I can remember because I always looked older than I was. I remember hating the way I looked when I was like 10, 11 years old - I kept getting all this unwanted, confusing attention. I think I gravitate to sex work as a way to deal with those feelings. But to me - it’s like, I get that you want to fuck me. But if you’re going to look me up and down and think about how you want to have sex with me, you should fucking pay me for it.
On advice for future generations of women: There are so many ‘shoulds’ as a woman. Fuck that, do whatever you want. Shame the rapists and sexual predators in your community. Educate yourself about the language of abusers and don’t fall for that shit. If you’re freaked out, seriously, there are people out there to help and support you. If I could fly into all of your towns and gut them like fish, I would, but n o b o d y deserves to be violated. And don’t you dare make your feminism white-centric and vagina-centric. The struggles of trans people and women of color are your struggles, too. There’s no ‘i’ in team, punk!
On a life-changing movie: The Rocky Horror Picture Show spurred my queer awakening at 15. If you’re lucky, it’ll do the same for you.
On objectification: You just feel constantly violated if you have a female body. I think the way women are portrayed and talked about in popular culture can be really damaging- we’re just faceless bodies, or even just parts of bodies. So when violence is done to those parts, it doesn’t matter. That being said, wanting to be objectified sometimes is totally normal!(But consent!) Being made to feel like a piece of meat when you’re minding your business is exhausting and dehumanizing.
On the Kardashians: Positive and negative. I respect Kim for turning a sex tape into an empire. On the other hand, I don’t think they contribute anything to culture….but I’m happy for them. I don’t think they’re necessarily good for women or the world. I want them to do something. I know I wouldn’t want anyone telling me what to do with my billion dollars, but I wish they would do something for the greater good with their influence. Although it bothers me when people say they are what’s wrong with America, because if we didn’t care - they wouldn’t exist!