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Body to Job Confronts the Porn Industry's Bisexual Stigma

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Writer Christopher Zeischegg, formerly known as bisexual porn star Danny Wylde, just released his third book, Body to Job. The book is a bewitching blend of memoir and fiction, blurred where the two meet. It’s about Zeischegg’s life, probably, but also about what he imagines about his life. It’s full of porn, past relationships, gore, tenderness, and Zeischegg’s very particular sense of humor about all of it.

We interviewed Zeischegg about his book, bisexuality, and the state of smut today.

OUT: What motivated you to write Body to Job? What was the process of putting together the fact, the fiction, the love, and the hurt of it?

Christopher Zeischegg: Midway through my career as a porn performer, I started a blog. The intent was to document some of the experiences I felt were unique to me, as a sex worker. Sometimes, I wrote personal short stories. Other times, I wrote political essays or conducted interviews.

Years later, after I'd abandoned the blog, I had the idea to release some of that writing in the form of a short story collection. I sat down with the material and tried to reorganize it. The writing that felt most interesting to me was emotional, personal, and often dealt with my relationships and inner conflict. I saw pieces of a memoir. But there was a lot missing. So I went back and tried to fill in the pieces. Because I'd started with short stories, I chose to stay within that format.

The fiction emerged in the latter part of the story. I grew up immersed in horror films and underground heavy metal music—genres that use theatrical violence as a metaphor for one's emotional life.

I feel like I've retained a love for that kind of genre work. I have a tendency to incorporate it in my writing and other forms of expression. So it was easier, or at least more fun, to externalize some of my emotionally difficult experiences into extreme or horrific vignettes.

But all of the fiction in Body to Job starts with a piece of memoir. I like to blur the line at which it crosses over. I hope it's not always obvious.

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Reading the book, it seemed like one of your female partners saw you doing gay pornography as a weapon against her—did you find that any of your other partners felt the same? How do you deal with/counter that?

That's true. At least one of my partners took issue with the fact that I had sex with men. Even in the context of sex work, she was pretty upset about it.

Some of that has to do with the culture of 'straight' porn (my partner was also a porn performer). There's a difference between gay and straight porn, in terms of the standards around STI testing and condom use. Things are changing. But historically speaking, straight porn required testing but no condoms. Gay porn required condoms but no testing.

A lot of people on the straight side of the industry believed that male performers who had sex with other men, specifically in the context of gay porn, put themselves at greater risk for contracting HIV. So they thought that 'crossover' performers (a derogatory term used to describe men who do both gay and straight porn) were more likely to disseminate HIV among the straight talent pool.

I think, in the context of my relationships, there was also some fear around my sexual fluidity and what that meant. For example, "Would I leave my girlfriend for a man?"

I don't know that I did a lot to counter that fear, or whatever it was, in the midst of that relationship. It obviously didn't feel good when my sexuality was brought up as a way to start a fight. I don't know that I felt overtly confident in that relationship. Mostly, I tried to act straight until we broke up.

Since your retirement, do you think that bisexuality has been more accepted either in the porn industry or in society as a whole?

I've seen more support for bisexual and sexually fluid men on social media and in a lot of left-leaning digital media. Both within the porn industry and out. I'm not sure how far that extends into the culture-at-large.

In my personal social circles, it feels like queer sexualities have been completely normalized. Or that they've become fetishized, in a way. For example, talking about a queer sexual experience seems to be a way for an artist, musician, or whatever, to get some good press.

The media attention—the clickbait headlines—around identity and sexuality often make me cringe a bit. So I sometimes feel stupid talking about my sexuality in that context. I've fucked a lot of men, and I have no qualms about it. It doesn't seem like a big deal to me. But I'm currently dating a woman. In a lot of ways, I feel like I live a very heteronormative lifestyle.

There are a few areas in the book that discuss sexual assault/violence—not at all to say porn is inherently violent, but how did that intersect with your work in porn?

I had very little experience with sexual harassment and assault in the mainstream porn industry. There were definitely exploitative, and sometimes scary, situations I experienced on the fringes of sex work—for example, working with an amateur pornographer or john.

There's probably a mix of things happening in regards to my exploration of assault and violence in the book. Some of it is based in reality. Some of it is playing with cultural tropes around sex work. For example, I've heard a lot of people talk about sex work as if it's all an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Like, some people believe that if you're a hooker, you're going to end up murdered in a dumpster somewhere. I think it's funny to kind of put that back on the reader in a way that's even more uncomfortable for them. To push it further—into a horror context.

But some of that explicitly violent material in the book is also a result of my love for genre fiction.

The end of your book seems to pivot on its position on porn. I'm not entirely sure whether that was fictional or not. Have you turned against it?

I'm not anti-porn. In fact, I'm very pro-sex worker. I've just become deeply ambivalent in regards to the empowerment manifestos that have come out of pro-porn politics and activism.

Porn, like most contemporary media, has endured massive financial disruption in recent years. Most performers can't make a living just working for studios. They have to either produce their own content and find means of distribution, or turn to escorting, camming, and other forms of sex work.

And while the cultural stigma around porn and sex work has lessened to a degree, it hasn't been significant enough, in my opinion. So you have this situation where new porn performers are jumping into the industry, not making very much money, and severely limiting their career options on the way out.

In the past, there was a kind of trade-off. It was something like, "People may think you're a dumb hooker, but at least you can make enough money to buy a house." Now, there's some mainstream support for sex workers in the media. But the money isn't great. And performers still face an uphill battle when leaving the industry. For example, some banks won't even allow you to open an account if they discover that you work(ed) in porn. I've heard so many stories about performers, who left the industry, and who found themselves getting fired from job after job, once their employer(s) found out what they used to do.

So am I advocating that people get into this industry? Not really.

The last scene ends with a surreal death ritual/hex on everyone who's ever stolen your content. Anything else you'd like to say to people who pirate your work?

I wrote that story at a time when I was feeling particularly 'down' in my life. There was a very real feeling that I'd lost my value as a sex worker and as a laborer, in general. A lot of fans were reaching out to me on a regular basis. But it was clear that most of them knew about me because of free or pirated porn. It was like, "Great. A lot of people enjoy watching me fuck. But I can barely pay my rent."

At this point, I'm over the resentment. Getting upset about tube porn is like owning a small business and raging against Amazon.com. The anger is valid, but what's the point of expending all of that energy on a fight you're going to lose? Sure, PornHub and other tube sites have completely disrupted the adult industry. But they seem like they're here to stay. Consumers are participating because it's the easiest way to access content.

If fans of mine are feeling generous, they can sign up for my OnlyFans account or buy some merch or a book, or something.

What are you working on currently?

I'm pretty far into writing a new novel. It has a little bit to do with porn and post-sex work dysphoria. But it's mostly a piece of horror fiction. The most interesting thing about it is that I've been working with some artist friends of mine to create photo and video content, like vignettes based on the literary work. We hope to have an art show—a photo and video installation —to coincide with the release of the novel. Perhaps it could be released as a novel-slash-art-book. But this probably won't happen for quite a while. I haven't found a publisher yet.

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