INTERVIEW & PHOTOS BY JILL SCHWEBER
This past June I went on a road trip with my friend Dana from Vancouver down to California. On our way from SF to LA, our friend Allyee AKA Allie Oops/ @cummanifesto joined up for what became the best leg of our trip. Allyee is a visible sex worker and activist, and in the last couple of years she began making queer, femme porn. Most of her community, clients, and artist collaborations developed from her Instagram world, where she has become known for her openness and honesty about sex work. We didn’t have service most of the time during our road trip which made it a rare, vulnerable situation for Allyee, being completely unplugged from her virtual community.
I documented her performing our camping activities—cooking, smoking weed, hanging in the tent. I know her in an intimate way and our friendship has always felt so different from the way people know her and see her online.
JS: What is the most common question you get asked? And what is your response?
AO: Q: Do you like Big Cock? When will you do a video with a Big Cock? Want to see my Big Cock? cock cock cock.
A: No one cares about your fucking penis. People who focus on penis size miss the point of sex entirely. It is not about the body you show up with, it’s how you use it! I don’t cast performers based on their cock size because I don’t think that is the answer to good sex. By focusing everything back to your penis, you are missing out on so much. Stop thinking about your penis and focus on your partner’s pleasure, what they want, what they like, how they respond to your touch. I’d rather get fingered any day of the week over being penetrated with a penis. Check in and ask what your partner likes, what feels good and how you can do it. Communication, my friend, is the secret to good sex.
Who do you look up to in the queer femme porn industry?
I was lucky enough to work on Candida Royalle’s archives this past year for Harvard University. For the newbs, Candida was a major pioneer in the creation of “feminist porn” as a genre. Working on the archives of my idol since I was a teen, wow, what a surreal job offer when it came. That job undoubtedly saved my life. I was so isolated, felt so alone in my sex work. I found a home in those archives, in communities that existed before my time. History is so important! It’s surreal going through spanking and bondage photos from over 100 years ago and being like “whoa okay, people loved this kinky shit long before the internet.” It’s less isolating.
Sex especially has always existed under the table—out of sight, out of mind. This makes it especially hard to access our history. Most of our sexual history is still not digitized, and will probably take decades to get even the most mainstream parts of it online. The archives I worked on were only a sliver—1970s-2000s—heavily focused on the indie/art/feminist circuit. There is so much more to know and explore, and it’s probably hiding in someone’s basement somewhere.
History nerd stuff aside, I’ll give a couple shout-outs to people I love in the industry right now just in case the reader wants to go on a Google scavenger hunt: Four Chambers, Crash Pad Series, Lustery, XConfessions, Aorta Films, all the independent content creators on ManyVids and other platforms busting out amazing work. Ana Foxxx, Nikki Darling, Mickey Mod and many more who have been doing amazing work speaking out against and fighting racism in the industry. I want to shout out Maxine Holloway who put on an incredible intersectional sex work art show in SF, We’re Still Working: The Art of Sex. What an incredible space you created that centered sex workers from all different parts of life. Rob Fatal who dedicates not one, but two lectures to porn history in their university film classes in California (because how can you possibly study media without looking at porn, the biggest pioneer of home video and the internet as we know it). I want to give love to mainstream porn performers who have mastered the mainstream language of sexuality and are profiting off all of us because of it. Genius. There are so many people in this industry I admire.
If you could work with anyone who would it be?
All of my friends, every single last one of them, needs to get their ass on set with me. I love working with my friends, it has been one of the greatest gifts of 2017. After years of building up my brand, I was finally making enough money to hire my friends. We directed, filmed, edited, performed with some of the most inspiring people. Often, my friends can’t be credited or associated with the porn industry, but they are there, showing up with ideas, critiques, laughter, snacks. I couldn’t imagine a better working environment, a better way to make the porn we want to see! I am super into having my friends be involved in at least *one* porn shoot with me. Even my most open-minded friends have walked away from my sets saying things like “Wow, I thought porn was inherently this gross guy-dominated field, what an empowering environment to be in where women run the show and everyone is respected, AND I had fun!” I want to lure the normies in so they can go tell their friends what porn can be like. I want them to stand up for sex workers in their normie friend circles. I want them to have a chance to make their fantasies come true. I want to give them a juicy story to tell their grandkids one day. I want them to walk a mile in my shoes. I guarantee they will never be the same after.
What do you want to see happen in the future in the sex work/porn industry?
This is a hard question to answer because it’s so broad! The first and most important step in sex worker rights is making conditions better for the most oppressed of us. The state undoubtedly creates the most violence against sex workers. We must focus our efforts on dismantling police and policy that harm sex workers’ ability to work safely and independently. While these policies affect all of us, TWOC, WOC and street sex workers are unquestionably the most impacted by these horrendous acts of violence by the state.
Porn is a little bit different, because legally people working in porn have a lot more rights and protections than many sex workers. I would argue that is because the porn industry traditionally has been dominated by white, European-ly beautiful, middle class people. The top dogs in the industry have been able to afford good lawyers to fight for their rights. Why is fucking for money legal when someone is filming it, but when you take the camera away it’s illegal? Doesn’t make any sense! But it is much easier to gain rights when you distance yourself from the most oppressed (this is known as respectability politics) and the porn industry has historically fought for its own, and left other sex workers behind, gaining legal advancement and individual rights we still see lacking across the board. With that said, even the most legal forms of sex work have a long road ahead in gaining basic labor rights. People should be able to engage in any kind of sex work free of harm and danger. Period.
The future of porn is already happening. It is rapidly turning indie, which has definite pros and cons! The reality is that now that most people in the West have smart phones, most people can make their own porn. That is truly exciting in the evolution of porn, which has been strictly dominated and controlled by men for most of its history. Even people like Candida Royalle wouldn’t have been able to create Femme Productions in the 80s without her father-in-law’s porn kingdom helping her with funding and distribution (women were always denied access to the distribution channels pre-internet). That tightly firm grasp that cis white men have had forever is dying rapidly. This means more diversity in porn in almost every way you can imagine! The con is that the over-saturation of the porn industry means it is really hard to make money these days. The romanticization that porn performers make tons of money just isn’t true anymore. I think that is probably true of most media jobs that have experienced over saturation in the internet era.
In summary: Labor Rights, Labor Rights, Labor Rights!!!!
We drove you from Oakland to LA , camping along the way, and didn’t have service most of the time. How did it feel to be disconnected?
Our road trip was a gift for my soul! Being with powerful, smart, talented, hilarious, amazing, wise friends on an adventure in nature. That is my type of fun. There was a moment when we were leaving a campsite, twisting up all the winding roads to get back to reality. My phone started buzzing like crazy—we had service for 5 seconds and all the notifications and texts flowed in. I immediately got a surge of anxiety. I wasn’t ready to be plugged back in. I’ve known for a long time that being online all the time isn’t good for my mental health. I’ve spoken about how hard it is for me to be so visible digitally and I have intentionally taken many steps back from how I use the internet. While it’s been helpful, it’s still not enough. I hear my heart calling for the peace and quiet being unplugged brings. In attempt to follow my gut, I hope to spend significantly less time performing and doing more behind-the-scenes production, directing, and organizing work in 2018.
You have mentioned a couple of times that I have captured the real or “normal” you. What does that mean? And how is it that others (on the internet) see you?
A big part of my job is being posed, perfect and sexual (curated, femme) all the time. The people who pay my bills are interested in the fantasy of me, not the real living breathing imperfect me. My caricature, Allie Oops, also helps me compartmentalize my work, as my need to keep parts of my life private has grown increasingly with every follower.
You shot a series of me in Tel Aviv about a year and a half ago now. You clicked the shutter button every time I let out a deep breath and dropped my pose as I allowed a fleeting thought to distract me. It’s those in between moments I don’t see captured very often. I think that is your documentary photography style coming out, your eye shows the beauty of realness. When I look at photos of “Allie Oops,” I see the character. When I look at the images you capture of me I see the silly, genderfluid tomboi with mediocre style, with a stoned smile and glazed over eyes. I see the imperfections that make me a full, dynamic human. It’s the person my friends and family know, not one my fan-base is often shown.
I’m not sure how people on the internet see me. Honestly, it causes me a lot of stress/anxiety when I think about it. My mental illness is very incompatible with social media. LOL, the irony. I can get stuck in dark cycles around what other people think of me, so I’ve been trying to unplug more. I’ve spent 2017 focusing on IRL everything: friendship, community, activism, work. Since we got back from our trip I’ve been trying to spend the first and last hour of my day without my phone (I’ve read three and a half books this week!) I still have a lot of room for growth, but I can definitely say that these days the more I’m unplugged the happier I am. I don’t think that is true for everyone, but it is true for me.
I believe especially with the internet and online “trolling,” people always want to criticize anything anyone is doing. You are an activist and sex worker. Do people find one contradicts the other?
I am sure people do, but I rarely get asked if my sex work and activism contradict each other. I feel like my (valid) critiques are usually related to my privilege: I am white, able-bodied, European beauty standard, non-binary but perform cis femme for work. I am working class, but occupy a lot of space in very privileged circles of sex work (a lot of my full-service clients are upper class, straight, cis men). I think mainstream culture gets so caught up in the debate of whether sex work is morally right or wrong that it distracts us from examining the systematic oppression that, like everywhere else, thrives in the sex industry. Deciding the morality of sex work doesn’t keep us safer. Labor rights, legal rights, dismantling the police, that’s the stuff that keeps us safer. Some alternate questions to ask might be: What does ethical consumption of porn look like? How can we make ethical porn accessible? Is there such a thing as ethical porn under capitalism? How can we actively dismantle racism, ableism, transphobia and fatphobia in the industry? How can we showcase as many different bodies and sexualities as possible? I want us as a culture to move on from this right-or-wrong approach to porn so we can start addressing how to make the industry safer, more ethical, and inclusive (because spoiler alert: it’s not going anywhere).
You never really stop working. People recognize you on the street. Even in these images you are wearing a cam girl resume shirt. What about Instagram and the internet today has help mold your work, your community, and the world we live in?
It’s true, I never really stop working! I think most people don’t recognize my work as real work, not just because people don’t recognize sex work as “real” work, but because people don’t understand that social media can be a very important part of making a living (especially for sex workers). Despite the mainstream narrative minimizing my labor, I run my own business and any small business owner knows that the hustle never stops. I use social media to drive traffic to my porn. When I unplug I lose hundreds, even thousands of dollars depending on how long I check out for (like when we were camping for example, my paycheck took a big hit). Every month or so I get really amped up about deleting my Instagram, but it’s my main source of income. Without the visibility I have no outlet to drive sales. So I tell myself to take a deep breath and manage with what I’ve got. That’s why I call it a caricature, it is the real me, just exaggerated, curated, performing. That’s why it infects my whole life, it doesn’t stop because it lives and breathes with me. My job goes everywhere I go, everywhere my phone goes more accurately. Beyond posting, I am juggling 5,000 projects at any given time. I write, produce, direct, perform, edit and distribute all my own work. Sometimes I film too, and sometimes my friends help me out with editing and filming. But mostly I am just one human doing it all. I have to remind myself to save some energy for my friends and family. I have to remind myself everyday, even multiple times in a day, to unplug, to take a break. Not from paid work, mostly from all the other labor that goes unnoticed and unrecognized, like engaging with strangers on the internet, answering DMs, etc.
I am so grateful for such a large internet community supporting my work. It is super surreal and hard to explain to my mom. I never meant for any of this to happen, I started off just fucking around, speaking my mind (to no audience) and sharing what interested me. The fun has slowly chipped away and social media has become a very real job. It’s super awesome that I can travel and get work all over the world from the internet! It has opened so many doors for me as an independent contractor/freelancer. I have met so many amazing people, including some of my closest friends on Instagram. I have built huge global sex work communities that have saved my life time and time again. I have learned so much from digital activist communities. While I love the internet in so many ways, it has also become so much a part of my job and my livelihood, I crave vacation from my phone, from being plugged in. That’s part of the reason this camping trip was so important for my soul. I’ve been questioning a lot in 2017 about how healthy the internet is for me. It is a huge source of anxiety. Everything in balance, I guess, and I am still figuring out a balance that works for me. I am able to cast people in my pornos exclusively from the internet, I rent my room out, sell my old clothes and books, hire lawyers, graphic designers, accountants, assistants, whatever I need. I feel like I have been able to cut out all the middle people and just directly source what I need solely from my internet community. I get so many of my needs met through the internet.
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