Jon Ali, Sammy Sins & Echo Xavier talk about the joys and hardships of being an erotic content creator
If you’re a self-proclaimed progressive individual, chances are you think about where you purchase your clothes or where your food comes from. We’ve seen a big push in ethical consumption across sectors in recent years with millennials and Gen Z such as Greta Thunberg or Malala Yousafzai leading the change. This change has also reached the entertainment sector. The term “ethically minded media consumers” has become important when it comes to streaming movies, television or purchasing books or podcasts. But do your personal ethics extend into purchasing erotica?
We all consume erotic content one way or another. But often, we don’t give enough credit (and money) to the people making it for us. Kicking off our NFT fundraiser with Photographer Benjamin Fredrickson and lifestyle brand Goodparts to support Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project, nftreats had the pleasure of speaking with the three models featured in Fredrickson’s wedgie art project. Talking to Sammy, Echo & Jon was not only incredibly fun, but it also made one thing very clear: sex work is work. It’s hours of self-promotion, keeping in touch with clients and fans, always taking care of your physical appearance, always trying to reinvent yourself and staying true to yourself at the same time.
Hey Everybody! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your life and work. We’re big fans!
What is your main profession at the moment?
Sammy: My main gig currently is OnlyFans, but I also do some freelance with modelling, acting, assisting, and other creative projects.
Echo: I’m a full-time student and a research intern.
Jon: I’m a part-time music journalist/blogger and I also DJ part-time. They take up most of my time.
How did you start working in adult art and sex work?
Echo: I can’t remember exactly when I started. For a long time, it was something I just did for fun. In college, I started figure modelling as a little side hustle on top of my work-study gig as a campus tour guide for a gay sketch group in SF. Then I just started collaborating with photographers I met over social media.
Jon: I’m fairly new to being a sex worker and calling myself one, but I’ve been loving the journey it’s taken me on spiritually.
Sammy: 2017 was an exponential year for my self-expression and self-confidence. As I was exploring my queer identity, I was sharing expressive outfits and makeup looks on Instagram that was exploring the curation of self-representation. Connecting with other creatives in an online community turned into collaborations to create images together with my expression as a muse. I started taking photos with friends who were photographers, which progressed from DIY shoots in abandoned buildings to editorial shoots and paid shoots for campaigns or ads. I never viewed myself as a model, but as a face to create a representation of queer, non-binary Korean Americans like me.
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What’s your absolute favourite part about being a sex worker?
Sammy: Creating genuine connections with other people who want to create meaning and positivity within sexual intimacy. I think our culture has a paradoxical obsession with sex where we are over-sexualized yet simultaneously shamed and censored for our needs and desires to connect in this innately primal way. So I see my work as a sex worker as creating more safety and health around these spaces so that we can be free to be who we really want to be.
Echo: For me, I feel like it’s the most extreme way to lean into exhibitionism on my own terms on a regular basis. The thrill of an interested audience and being exposed in a context that’s new to me makes me feel connected to my humanity in a unique and visceral way.
Jon: I totally agree. There is this sense of true authentic liberation that comes with it and that is easily my favourite part about it.
I think our culture has a paradoxical obsession with sex where we are over-sexualized yet simultaneously shamed and censored for our needs and desires to connect in this innately primal way. – Sammy Sins
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Echo: Definitely scheduling and promotion. In my experience, everyone has their own mode of communication they prefer and their time demands vary widely depending on other gigs. Also because our work often requires travel and peak physical condition to perform, things can often change the day of. Promotion is hard for me because I’m learning more and more about myself that I’m more introverted when it comes to online platforms. I have a lot of admiration for sex workers who regularly post on Twitter with a distinct persona. I tend to overthink so I post whenever I have a good amount of downtime.
Jon: I think I mostly struggle with the balance of all of my work combined. I’m very much someone who likes to challenge myself and try new things and often that comes with having to prioritize financial work to survive living in NYC and my own mental health.
Sammy: For me personally, in the business of pleasure, it can be very difficult to centre your own pleasure in the pursuit of success and financial growth. It’s a challenge balancing what people want to see from you and what solely feels good for you. Sometimes it’s fun to push my limits of what I’m accustomed to, but it’s a challenge balancing my own health, pleasure, art practice, and free time with all the work I want to accomplish within sex work.
I feel like, we often see modelling and especially erotic modelling, as a purely physical act. But I believe there is so much more to it. Do you consider your work political?
Jon: 100% think that modelling and my work is political. I’m a gay, brown, Latin boy who grew up with very little, wishing I could see a little bit of myself in others. A lot of my adolescence was spent looking to find someone like me, only to learn later that there wasn’t much representation out there for boys like me. If the space isn’t there, you have to create it. The end goal for me always is that hopefully someone sees themselves in me and feels like they too can do whatever their body and heart desires.
Echo: Yes, I do. Any media that centres beauty and desire has to operate within a societal hierarchy. Creating a fantasy for my followers will never be divorced from the messages they have received about someone with my body, but I can at least offer my point of view and try to disrupt the racist stereotypes studio porn reinforces.
Sammy: My work is always political, not because politics govern my truth, but because my purpose is to combat the oppressive power structures that I exist under. It would be blind and irresponsible to say my work has no impact on shifting culture and societal norms. As a sex worker who is non-binary, Korean-American, able-bodied, and slowly pulling myself out of a poor economic background, my experiences have shown me that the intersections of my identities make it very hard to exist as my full self in this world, and I just used my privileges to create space for me and others like me through inserting my representation in all sorts of spaces, within modelling, adult entertainment, public, private, institutional, and political.
I’m a gay, brown, latin boy who grew up with very little, wishing I could see a little bit of myself in others.The end goal for me always is that hopefully someone sees themselves in me and feels like they too can do whatever their body and heart desires. – Jon Ali
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Let’s get a little deeper into that. In your opinion, how can eroticism, nudism and the exhibition of the human body as a form of art help our society?
Sammy: They can teach our society to regard our natural bodies and wants and needs not with shame or distrust or judgement, but as something to help us connect to ourselves more deeply.
Jon: I truly feel if people felt less shame about nudity, exhibition, their bodies and so on that the world would be a much happier place. There is such heaviness that comes with these stigmas and judgement that often comes from being sexual…. when in reality, we are all doing it in one way or another. The more we talk about it and are willing to fully express ourselves the more free, loving and comfortable we can be with ourselves and others.
Echo: They can help if they are used to advance a culture of consent, body acceptance, and examining our sexual biases. I’ve found the more I’m in spaces where eroticism, nudism, and exhibitionism are celebrated, the more different kinds of people I’m attracted to and the less judgmental I am.
I’ve found the more I’m in spaces where eroticism, nudism, and exhibitionism are celebrated, the more different kinds of people I’m attracted to and the less judgmental I am. – Echo Xavier
Now it is no secret that we are huge fans of Benjamin Fredrickson. How did you experience working with Benjamin?
Jon: My time working with Benjamin, as well as Dave from Goodparts, has felt genuinely effortless. We had set up a day for all three of us to be involved and from the start it just felt like three people just hanging out, trying to make something cool with impact. Benjamin is beyond kind and very collaborative, which was my favorite part about working with him. He knows exactly what he wants but also always leaves room to explore and try things out together.
Echo: Benjamin is a true professional and it was really easy to get comfortable with him and see my space with untapped potential.
Sammy: Benjamin, Dave from GoodParts, and my friend Caleb came to my apartment to shoot the images, and the process of finding the right poses in the right scene felt very organic and playful with my space. As a model, the best collaboration comes from having a direction that I can play around with to express my own personality. Ben is a sweetheart and very flexible with seeing where the process takes us. One of my favorite images was one of the last pics we took, where I am hanging by a wedgie from a pull-up bar in the doorway of my living room.
What does Benjamin’s wedgie photography mean to you? What’s the message you take away from it?
Echo: We actually talked about the appeal of wedgie art while we were shooting. It highlights the homoerotic perspective of the bully.
Jon: My immediate takeaway from Benjamin’s work from the beginning has been this play on power dynamics and controlling the narrative. Wedgies were something I grew up thinking was embarrassing and humiliating. Benjamin’s work flips the script and reverses it, allowing the wedgie models to display power within themselves with atomic wedgies. I found myself wanting to get the biggest wedgie ever working with him, like how can we make this bigger and better.
Sammy: I had never considered giving myself a wedgie until I came across Benjamin’s work. Once I saw it, I thought to myself, I want what they’re having. Not because I particularly find pleasure in the act, but because there’s a beauty in carefully constructing and capturing an act that is canonically humiliating and traumatic for adolescent queer boys. Ben’s images are so impressionable because they celebrate the power that BDSM and kink have to release us from indoctrinated inhibition.
there’s a beauty in carefully constructing and capturing an act that is canonically humiliating and traumatic for adolescent queer boys. – Sammy Sins
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Do you have any tips for other artists, especially other LGBTQ+ artists, thinking about breaking into erotic work?
Sammy: money can be the main reason why you start this work, it is for us all, but it cannot be the number one. You must do the work to know what you stand for and imbue intention and purpose in all you create, or else you will dispose yourself to the never-ending hunger of capitalist greed.
Echo: I would just say have a clear motivation about why you’re doing the work and what you want to get out of it. Of course, it’s fun but your point of view is crucial to establishing a following, it’s incredibly time-intensive, you have to be ready to navigate constantly shifting, regressive policies, and slut shaming.
Jon: being true to yourself at all times and sharing that with the world is nothing to be afraid of. It’s actually quite rewarding and liberating. There is always a space for you. If you don’t see it, make it.
have a clear motivation about why you’re doing the work and what you want to get out of it. – Echo Xavier
As an adult content creator, do you see NFTs in your professional future? If so, why and how?
Sammy: Not particularly, but there’s always room to grow and learn more.
Echo: I definitely would consider doing something like this again. Maybe next time, I’ll be the one creating the image. I’ve been feeling driven to expand my creative outlets, but I’m planning to explore what that might be after I graduate!
Many thanks to Jon, Echo & Sammy for answering all of our questions so carefully. It was an absolute pleasure to get to know these incredible artists. You can now collect the NFTs featuring them on the nftreats marketplace. Part of the profits from the drop will go directly towards supporting sex workers through the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project.