PORN SAVED MY LIFE. In saying this, I know the odds are already stacked against me. “What a lie,” one might say. “That’s what she tells herself to make it all OK,” he might dismiss. “Definitely an exaggeration,” she might scoff.

They’d all be wrong.

I’ll admit that the statement goes against the common narrative we hear so often regarding the porn industry. And, of course, it’s not everyone’s story. But it is mine.

Here’s the proof. Here are five ways that porn, yes, PORN, saved my life.

Healthier Choices

My teen years and early twenties, much like many kids who grew up in New York City, were fueled by heavy recreational drug use. It’s hard to pinpoint why we grow up so fast in the city. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight. Maybe it’s the easy access to anything and everything. Maybe it’s just that it’s what’s expected of us. Personally, I don’t feel that I was necessarily trying to escape anything. It was just something to do. All my friends were doing it, so I did it, too.

Growing up, I had always wanted to do porn. However, New York City is not like Los Angeles, where I currently live. Nobody, I mean NOBODY, around me was in the porn industry. In LA, everybody knows someone who’s at least the distant cousin of a lighting guy on a porn set. NYC was not like that. I always felt my dream was a faraway utopia. I fantasized about becoming a porn star in the way many kids aspire to being astronauts and superheroes.

One day I was high, walking down the street, when a strange man approached me. “Are you interested in being in the adult entertainment industry?” he asked. I felt like the universe had answered my prayers, and sent me this angel to come and make my dreams come true. In my memory, I see this man to be projecting light from every pore in his body, his image filtered in what I can only describe as "Mexican soap opera lighting." In reality, he was a pretty shady looking dude, a motorcycle-riding type complete with a ponytail and missing front tooth. Naturally, I answered “YES” and followed him upstairs to a dungeon, where I began working as a dominatrix the very next day. From there, I graduated to stripping, where I met a real-life porn star on her feature dance tour. Becoming a porn star in my own right felt, for the first time in my life, within reach.

As soon as porn became a possibility, I changed my lifestyle. I got sober. I started to exercise. I watched what I ate. I started going to bed when the sun was still down, and waking up when the sun was still up. I got tested for STDs, which was perhaps more overdue than anything else I mentioned. If it weren’t for porn, it’s hard to say if I would have done any of these things. Finding an opportunity to do something I loved made me want to get healthy.

I Found an Outlet

I’ve been a horny person for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure where it comes from, but even as a child, I masturbated more than what I imagine is “normal.” Before I got into porn, I was definitely the most promiscuous person I knew. There was a period of time I had as many as seven guys on my rotation, one for each day of the week. Many of my fantasies remained just that: fantasies, because getting gang banged in real life, is, well, hard. Putting an ad out for gang bangers on Craigslist is hardly advisable, and I certainly wasn’t about to ask my roster to do it. It would change the whole dynamic of our relationship(s)!

Porn has given me a safe outlet for my hyper-sexuality. I am able to play out my fantasies in a safe, controlled environment, with STD-tested professionals who know what they’re doing, all while indulging my exhibitionist ways.

I Fell in Love

My husband Toni and I met as performers on a porn set, in what ended up being my first double-penetration scene. The first time we met, I had another man's penis in my vagina while Toni took me from behind. And then they switched. This was within 15 minutes of saying “Nice to meet you.”

Now, I don’t believe in love at first sight. However, I do believe some people have such strong sexual chemistry that once you've had sex, you want to do it again and again for the rest of your life. This is how I felt when I met Toni. I asked him for his number, eventually did end up falling in love, and three years later, we got married. It’s now five years later, and this is the happiest, healthiest relationship I have ever been in. And if it weren’t for porn, it never would have happened.

I'm Paid

Contrary to what one might initially assume, money isn’t the first reason I got into the porn industry. In fact, I think that if it were, it honestly wouldn’t be worth it. Porn doesn’t pay nearly enough if the primary objective is the paycheck. Whenever I meet someone who is considering a career in porn, I ask them this: Would you do it if it were a regular, normal-paying job without any special benefits? If their answer is no, I tell them then this isn’t the job for them. Porn is something that will stick with me forever, like a tattoo on my face. When I walk on the street, the strangers I pass have seen my most private moments. When I eat in a restaurant with my parents, fellow diners are shocked that I am somebody’s daughter. If I have my own children, their friends’ parents will be weary of letting their kids come over for a play date. There are many jobs I will never be able to get once I leave porn.

But I’ve been lucky, and my porno “tattoo” has been worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for any amount of money in the world, for any other experience, or for any kind of love. I would be doing it if it were a regular, normal-paying job without any special benefits.

That being said; The money is nice. Because of porn, I’ve been able to buy a house, grow a savings account, contribute to a retirement fund, travel around the world, exist debt-free, and live comfortably. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am that I get to do what I love, and then at the end of the day get a check for doing it.

I'm Comfortable With Myself

The first time I was ever called a slut, I was in the fifth grade. My friend Amy and I were at her house for a sleepover when she told me, “The reason Jimmy dumped you is because he thought you were a slut. He wanted to fix you, but says you're a lost cause.”

Again, we were in the fifth grade. I didn't even know what the word meant. Naturally, when I went home, I looked it up in the dictionary. This is what it said:

Slut /slet/ noun
A woman with low standards of cleanliness.

I was confused.

My room was clean. My clothes were freshly washed. I showered every morning before school. What about me was dirty?

It would be another year before I knew the full meaning of the word, and a few more after that before dictionaries were updated to include the (now) more common definition, which we all know is:

A woman considered sexually promiscuous.

Even then, I didn’t know what Jimmy had meant, but I knew that I should be offended. At the time of his accusation, Jimmy was the only boy I had kissed. Only once and only because of a dare from his best friend in a game of “Truth or Dare” on a school field trip. It was hardly scandalous; it wasn’t even French.

Read: Hate to Break It to You, But You're Probably a Slut.

Looking back, I realize Jimmy didn’t know the meaning of the word either. It makes me wonder what had given this 11-year-old boy the premonition, if that’s what it was? Did he just have a sixth sense telling him that I’d grow up to love sex? We barely knew what sex was, let alone that having a lot of it was considered a negative thing.

What had put that word in his mouth?

Or maybe, the word implied more than just sleeping around. Maybe the word represented feminine sexuality as a whole. I was a young girl just starting to bleed for the first time. Not only was my body starting to change, my personality was becoming more feminine too. At the same time my breasts had started to grow in, my girlfriends and I were getting more social, and we were now ditching playing foursquare for gossiping about boys during recess. I was most definitely a “girly girl,” becoming a sexual being, gathering male attention: something perfectly natural, so much so that it’s practically animalistic. Without knowing the exact definition, my innocent behavior was enough for young Jimmy to recognize me as "slutty." Which, by the way, is really, really, fucked up.

The last eight years in this business have brought me more than just mind-blowing orgasms; they’ve brought me the kind of sexual confidence not all women are fortunate enough to experience. It’s something that came to me gradually, and it’s something I’m proud of. I wish this feeling weren’t a luxury, but the standard. Obviously, I’m not saying every woman needs to get into porn to gain it, but I think it’s made me a good example of an emotionally healthy woman who owns her sexuality, an example of why being a slut isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That's something I think the world needs more of.