March 5, 2014

Buses vs Porn



My social feeds were flooded last week with news from Duke University, where a male student outed a fellow freshmen as a female porn star during a fraternity rush. Madness ensued.

I always find stories about Duke intriguing because I went to school down the street and made out with a boy under a magnolia tree on East Campus. I can also understand how this story first became a localized scandal. College campuses are like petri dishes: everyone is bored (the control factor) and has strong reactions when something different (like a new strain of bacteria or a confident, sexually active female) is introduced into the sterile environment. Cultures grow, cells mutate, insecure dick-weeds are offended.

If you’d like to know more about the story, read the personal response of the female student in question. I’m approaching the situation from a different angle, by telling you about my own job during freshman year which I feel warrants more sensational attention than choosing to have sex on camera.

I was a bus driver at East Carolina University. I found the opportunity on the student center’s job site, and thought it was hilarious. I never trusted anyone my age to drive me around, apart from a few trusted friends, because everyone at eighteen is stupid and has an invincibility complex. I had never (and still haven’t) received a traffic ticket of any kind, and had never been in any sort of accident. I was proud to be the bioluminescence in a dark sea of young drivers. I applied, and a week later got the job.

The Duke freshmen, according to an interview with The Chronicle, Googled “how to be a porn star” to find employment. This marks the first difference in our careers: she had a vision, a goal, and determination. I fell into my job as a personal joke. When she got a call back, she was probably excited. I was flabbergasted and peed myself.

To drive buses, you have to have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). This is the same license (though a different class) that professional truck drivers have. The written test was easy enough; I studied the hour before and passed. Then a few months of road training began. (Side note: the training program at ECU is actually quite good. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but there was a minimum number of course-driving hours, then road driving hours, then supervised route-driving with passengers hours before you became a grown-up driver. For comparison, school bus drivers in the same state take a three-day training course and a road test before they’re carting toddlers around.)

This morning I Googled “how to become a porn star” and choked on my almond milk. I wasn’t expecting the first six results to be articles about how difficult it is to be a male porn star. As it turns out, not at all. Eventually I found what I was looking for. According to this site, becoming an adult film actor requires finding a talent agency, an agent, and providing health and HIV test results. That was probably less expensive, time consuming, and dangerous than learning how to drive automobiles that are bigger than my apartment.

The first day I drove a bus on a busy street was the same day another student bus driver ran a red light, took out six cars, and landed a few feet from Starbucks. I’m sure our Duke freshman’s first day on a porn set was also nerve-racking, but I doubt she had to follow a performance that nearly killed several people and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

I mostly drove during the day, picking up hour-long shifts between classes, at $8.25 an hour. I tried to take at least 30 hours a week, but ranged anywhere from 20-40. Most days were uneventful, apart from regular traffic jams and the odd passenger who didn’t know how to use the stop request system. There were also the “drunk bus” routes, which paid three dollars more per hour, and ran from 9pm-4am Thursday thru Saturday. Those were long, loud, stressful nights full of vomiting, half-naked drunk students. I tweeted all the crazy shit I saw as @BusDriverFierce (now @jasonsimone, and only when the bus was parked at the hub between routes), such as:
“Overly-tanned girl is currently pouring vomit out of her pink PayLess patent pumps.”
“Couple was having sex on last round. They were the only passengers, so I turned out the lights.”
“Call me a fag one more time and this GAY bus driver is going to kick you off my GAY bus onto the GAY curb and you can walk your ass home.”
“If you can’t walk in heels, just don’t wear them.”
(Side note: I have an archive on an old hard drive of all my old tweets, which I’ll publish for your viewing pleasure once it is back in my possession.)

Our Duke freshmen only works part-time and makes anywhere from $800-$4000 per video shoot. In one day she gets the same amount I used to make in a month. She works regularly and claims she will graduate without debt. If you do the math, a four-year degree from Duke costs roughly $240,000 for tuition alone. Assuming she makes $300,000 over the four years, that’s $75,000 per year, and $15,000 after tuition. So really, after paying for school, she’s making normal broke-ass college student money, but working fewer hours, and (as she says) having a lot more fun in the process.

Now, when most people found out I was a bus driver, they were very surprised. They weren’t surprised that the university put the lives of thousands of students in the hands of someone who’d only been driving for two years (way out in the country, and not regularly, since I didn’t have my own car). No, they were blown away that someone like me was capable of doing something so… raw. So… mechanical. So… butch.

Of course, I didn’t make it butch at all. After a certain point it was just as comfortable as driving a car, and there wasn’t a strict dress code. I would roll around town in movie star sunnies, flowing dresses, and (moderate) heels, blasting BeyoncĂ© remixes from my iPod through the speaker system.

Once the idea sunk in, most people accepted it. A few passengers were not pleased to have a boy in a dress as their chauffeur, but I had the upper hand and called local PD when so inclined. I had a few passionate followers on Twitter who stayed up late to read my reports on drunk shenanigans, but that was all.

When people found out about our Duke freshman’s line of work, however, shit hit the glass ceiling. Unsurprisingly, she was pelted with criticisms and slut-shaming.

Herein lies my point: why is a girl owning her sexuality more sensational than an flamboyant eighteen-year-old genderqueer bus driver?

I could have killed people! Multiple people! At anytime! In heels and a kaftan! All while doing a hair flip! I had lives and million-dollar vehicles in my bejeweled hands!

But alas, no rumors were spread about my perceived fashion choices. There were no investigations into the difficulty of my driving skills. No newspapers reported on the possible repercussions of such a daring career move.

No peers messaged me online to say, "YOU'RE A FAG TEENAGERS CAN'T EVEN PARALLEL PARK HOW THE HELL ARE YOU ALLOWED TO DRIVE A BUS YOU'RE GOING TO GET US IN A HUGE WRECK AND DRIVE INTO THE FRONT OF STARBUCKS AND THEN WHEN WE'RE HANGING THERE BLEEDING TO DEATH IN THE WRECKAGE YOU'RE GOING TO GIVE US ALL AIDS YOU FAG."

Nope, not a single one.

But here we all are, talking about a girl and her body and how she pays for school. This is an outrage. She gives a few good reasons that I agree with, like:
"The virgin-whore dichotomy is an insidious standard that we have unfairly placed upon women.”
"Patriarchy fears female sexuality.”
“...no one wants to hear about the violence committed every day against sex workers, no one wants to consider that we have hopes and dreams and ambitions. No, all we are is ‘whores and bimbos.’”
I think the biggest reason we’re so fascinated by this girl is because she’s smart, and chooses to work in porn. People are threatened when someone of their own status and privilege willingly participates in a marginalized act. She is the “girl next door” and she likes being choked while getting fucked on camera and it scares the upper-middle-class shit out of everyone around her.

I’d like to say something like “people are scared of what they don’t know,” but porn is actually a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone knows it very, well. My only conclusion is that the products of the sex industry are totally okay and consumed by millions of men and women all over the world, while the production (and the lives of the people involved in it) are somehow inferior to adjacent industries (and to the lives of those who consume it).

I think that might be because underneath all that patriarchal-fear-of-strong-sexual-women stuff, most of us are just plain annoyed that someone is making tons of money by having sex and not being ashamed of it. That might make some (certainly not all) of these people spiteful:
  • Those who are well-educated and have terrible, low-paying jobs*
  • Those who aren’t celibate by choice**
  • Those who regularly have bad sex***
  • Those who are forced to have sex****
  • Those who shame themselves for having sex*****
But the real reason why this whole thing is ridiculous is because there are more interesting things happening in the world. Like a revolution in the Ukraine or me driving buses.

I’m going to get into drag and steal a bus from the MTA just so the story will get picked up by all the major news outlets and we can leave sex workers, their bodies, and their choices alone. Y'all are welcome to ride along and you can even shoot a porn video in the back while we’re careening down Broadway. Just remember to hold onto the handrails and give your seat to the elderly, pregnant, and disabled while they wait for their turn in the sex spotlight.

All aboard!

*I specify “well-educated” here because the less-educated population that I have been exposed to (i.e. friends and family who didn’t graduate high school, or people in my neighborhood which has a low graduation rate and high teen-pregnancy rate) are not shocked by the sex industry. For instance, I was waiting in line in the deli below my apartment a few weeks ago and listened to a mother-daughter pair of stippers explain to a total stranger how they did their taxes. People who can’t get good-paying jobs without a degree are the ones who find the best-paying jobs that don’t require one. A lot of those jobs happen to be in the sex industry. People with expensive educations (which people in middle to upper classes are expected to have) sometimes aren’t as successful, and the lives of sex-workers become the scapegoats of their unfulfilled privilege.
**I theorize that the other freshman who outed her is not having regular intercourse - otherwise it wouldn’t be such a “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more” idea. Obviously in this theory “Toto” is the name of his dick.
***Plenty of people continuously have bad sex because they either don’t know any better or can’t admit it to their partner. The only evidence I have to back this up is a handful of conversations I've overheard on my morning train commute.
****I wasn’t sure whether or not to add this condition on the list. I would imagine, in theory, that if a person was forced to have sex in the same way our Duke freshman does on camera (she stated she enjoys doing rough-sex scenes), they wouldn’t see the choice to participate in the act willingly as a healthy decision. I haven't experienced this so I can only guess. Feel free to discuss this in the comments, as I’d like to hear others' opinions.
*****This would include (but is not limited to) closeted gay people on the “down low,” people of various religions who have sex before marriage, and people who (knowingly or unknowingly) use sex as a coping mechanism rather than for pleasure.

8 comments:

  1. I'd ride your bus... that would be a delight =D The slut-shaming thing bugs me. She's put down by the same people who peruse porn... HELLO HYPOCRISY! Don't like her doing porn videos? Don't watch porn videos. Stop being a hypocritical ass on a self made pedestal, we all know it's bullshit. I may not peruse porn but I find her courage and her plan to be her own woman wonderful. Kudos to her, kudos to you for blogging about it, and for driving that bus like no other! =)

    P.S. I miss your charming voice and beautiful face on youtube. I became quite a fan <3

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  2. Robert C. Solomon on Sartre’s Being-for-Others and No Exit.

    Eyes Wide Shut analysis.
    visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0096.html

    Unforgiven analysis.
    jwrinzler.com/unforgiven-analysis.html

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  5. I love your writing and videos Jason. You are aware and don't stay in the shadows in talking about things that other people just don't get sometimes like caring about the planet or just in general being aware of what effect you have ..eeeenyways < said like Yami :))) My opinion on why people slut shame is the same opinion as a lot of other things that humans do. I have a theory that people need to grow out of their caveman/basic brain DNA. We need an upgrade. Before I wander off I'll just stick to this subject. Slut shaming is perhaps a part of the caveman/basic brain (instinct perhats) saying "hey that person is more wanted in the tribe to procreate which makes her more valuable because to create life is what happens on this planet. I also think people may think .. ewe ..she will get diseases and that is not good for healthy breeding. She is bad and gross for the tribe Maybe they may think she is mental to want to have sex all day so that is not good for reproducing with or having in the tribe (something different then ourselves) If you get any part of what I'm trying to say please help me explain it better since I am not a writer. My point is that we need our DNA upgraded because so many times in life people revert back to caveman/basic brain..instead of thinking about shit rationally, spiritually and in a modern light. We can't just be 99% instinct.

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  6. * than ourselves , *perhaps

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  7. In this World of opinions, which everyone has the right to their own opinion, there is this I’m right and you’re wrong. This is bad and this is right. Your post is that of a breath of fresh air, you see the story in a different light. It reminds me of a confutation I have had many times over the years about me painting my nails. There are the people that will stand up and yell at the top of their lungs that it’s WRONG, IT GAY, IT’S UNNATURAL. How is it unnatural there isn’t anybody like me, there’s not another person in this World that’s just like me. So what is the evidence? How do you know that its wrong, is there a carbon copy of me, is there a mold of me, is this not on your order list. Oh I’m sorry you didn’t order the boy that likes to paint his nails? I’m so sorry we’ll send to a return label! Not, LOL. People make me laugh. Just because I’m gay, a porn star, or the person that keeps the male porn star hard that doesn’t make me WRONG, or BROKEN! There’s nothing to fix.

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  8. Great post. Thanks for pointing out the hypocrisy in our society.

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Speak your mind! *muah*