By any account, Goddess Venus took the fetish erotica scene by storm. Within only a year of promoting herself as a pro fetish model and online Dominatrix, this 20-something New Yorker was already jetting off to the kink industry's swankiest events and gracing the ballots of major adult industry award show nominations.
One look at Venus's bustling social media pages and video clip sales proves that her popularity is still rocketing her toward sex work success, but at the peak of her career, she's ready to put down the web cam for good.
Sex work has been at the forefront of media coverage this year, for better and for worse for those in the field. We've seen sex workers stripped of their rights to safely conduct business online and even collect payment for their hard-earned labor through FOSTA/SESTA laws. On the other hand, sex workers have also experienced an outpouring of support from sex educators and social justice activists, human rights organizations like the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, and even some mainstream journalists, who are all eager to set the record straight about this diverse, vast and widely misunderstood profession.
Although the mental and physical demands of selling one's image and time as an erotic fantasy are truly unique to this career path, sex work is a lot like any other job – and yet nothing like any other job. Like Goddess Venus, many porn stars, fetish models, and escorts enter the industry with excitement and passion and, much like any other sort of employment, many leave when the bad outweighs the good. However, it's obviously much harder to transition out of sex work thanks to a laundry list of ancient societal views that unfairly peg sex workers as unintelligent, socially broken, or simply incapable of doing anything else.
Goddess Venus has been vocal about her support for sex workers while openly and honestly acknowledging the industry's patriarchal problems, and her own difficulties in deciding to make her eventual exit – something many sex workers dare not share out of fear that they'll hurt their own cause or even lose clients. According to Venus, it's also not exactly easy to face the harsh truth that having men bombard you with masturbation fantasies 24/7 isn't all dollar signs and roses.
Goddess Venus' experiences and subsequent enlightenment are proof that sex workers deserve everything society says they shouldn't: safety, human rights, fair labor practices and credit for being smart, savvy, multi-skilled entrepreneurs. Most of all, they should be able to start new lives and careers just like any 9-to-5 worker. I interviewed Goddess Venus about her career in sex work - and her planned exit.
Colleen Godin: What specific kind of sex work do you specialize in, and how did you decide on this particular niche?
CG: What inspired you to become an online sex worker?
GV: I started as a video performance artist, but that wasn’t very lucrative. I'd heard of women doing financial domination on Twitter and thought I’d give it a try. The first financial dominatrix I was exposed to was Mix Trix. I watched her Vice documentary and was so intrigued. Fortunately, I’m pretty social media savvy, so I quickly gained a following and my business was instantly lucrative. I saw the women at the top of my niche also produced clips. As I am skilled with video performance and production, I naturally pivoted in that direction.
CG: What did you love most about your job when you first began, and what do you still love now?
GV: I loved the flexibility it gave me. I actually work more now than when I had an office job, but I like that I’m in complete control of my business, time and success. I really appreciate being able to wake up whenever I want. I sleep a lot because of one of the medications I take, so not having to wake up at a particular time every day really helps me from feeling too exhausted all the time. I’ve found that a lot of sex workers live with disabilities and/or mental illness. Many of us choose this work because of the flexibility it gives us.
CG: What are some unique hurdles you've encountered during your sex work career, either when working with production companies or taking web clients?
GV: I’ve never worked with a studio before. I’ve chosen not to because I like having full control over my work. My biggest issue with online clients has been chargebacks. I’ve had guys change the moment they cum and issue chargebacks on services. This has resulted in me getting a lot of my payment processors closed, such as PayPal, Google Wallet and Square Cash. I’ve also had chargebacks on clip sales. It leaves me feeling completely scammed and irritated. The banks and credit card companies always choose the customer over us. I hate it.
Besides that I’ve been stalked and doxxed. Doxxing is when someone shares your personal information. I had a guy post my legal name and address online. That was pretty scary.
CG: You’ve talked extensively about both loving sex work and yet feeling extremely burned out fairly early on in your career. Was there a particular turning point between these two emotions?
GV: I didn’t feel burned out early on. I started feeling burned out this year. I spent at least half of my month all year traveling for work. I went to a lot of conferences and was producing so much content. I shot probably 70 clips in 5 days in April and was going to a lot of events. I also work basically from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. Working is kind of an addiction for me. I just want to keep going and my work is never ending. I’m not very skilled with work-life balance.
I basically had a huge breakdown when I was in Portugal in late July and realized I want to leave the industry in the next few years. I love sex work so much and am so grateful for what it has done for me, but it’s soon time for me to move on to something else. I’m thinking about starting a family. For me personally, I want to focus on my family and not have to be in this sexual world 24/7 during that. It will soon be time for me to close this chapter in my life.
CG: How do you feel sex work has made an impact on your life, whether positive, negative or a little of both?
GV: It’s shown me how well I can run a business. The skills I’ve gained doing this work can easily translate to other careers. I’ve also met so many amazing people both online and at conferences and award shows. The sex work community has done so much for me. We really take care of each other, which is so important because this work can be emotionally exhausting and isolating and the stigma can be very heavy on us.
Negatively? There’s certain jobs that would be very difficult for me to get now because I’m out as a sex worker. Once your videos are online, they live forever. I choose to embrace that, though, and live unapologetically.
CG: What are some aspects of your daily life that an outsider would never expect to learn about online sex work?
GV: Most of my work is video editing and spreadsheets. Parts of it are exciting, but most of my work is very mundane. Most people are surprised to hear I do almost all of my work from a co-working space. I work alongside other creatives and entrepreneurs. My work just happens to be sexy.
CG: What was the final straw that recently made you decide to start seeking other career paths?
GV: My mental break in Portugal made me step back and realize this work was starting to make me unhappy. I do it purely for the money, and I’m not in a place where I have to do that anymore. I have other career options, and I need to head in another direction. I choose where I put my time and energy, and during my mental break I realized I didn’t like being sexualized 24/7. I’d like to do work where I’m not being bombarded with sexual imagery every waking minute.
CG: What are your plans to transition into a new career?
GV: I’ve been back in school and taking workshops so I can obtain other skills. I have a lot of passions; most of them are creative, but I’m kind of directionless right now as far as changing careers. My next step is talking to a career coach. Regardless of what I do next, I plan to continue working for myself.
CG: What advice would you give a young woman looking to become an online sex worker or fetish model? What should they know before they dive into the field?
Assume that you will be outed to your family and friends. Learn about privacy and online security so you can keep your personal information safe. Get a good VPN and turn off geo-tagging on your photos. Never use the same photos from sex work that you use on your personal social media. Don’t even use similar photos because Google reverse image search is a bitch.