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Naked Truths from Sex Worker GoAskAlex

‘The most effective advocacy I do is to be seen as a person with a disability and a sexual person simultaneously,’ she says.

Michelle Gamage 5 Sep 2023The Tyee

Michelle Gamage is The Tyee’s health reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

B.C. sex worker GoAskAlex likes to lure men to her online profiles with thirst traps — and then pepper them with social justice content.

This helps spread her “leftist politics” to her followers, who she says are mainly men from the eastern and central U.S.

The strategy is working — as of this summer she’s built a following of more than 253,000 subscribers on platforms like Tiktok, Twitter and Reddit plus the folks who pay to view her content on OnlyFans and Suicide Girls. The Tyee has agreed to use GoAskAlex’s first name only in order to protect her safety.

“Maybe I’ve got a fan who works in the oilfields who doesn’t otherwise hear about environmental issues,” she says. “I’m exposing them to totally new ways of thinking and hopefully radicalizing them.”

Roughly one-third of Alex’s posts include some form of advocacy, like raising awareness about being an ostomate due to her ulcerative colitis, neurodivergent and Métis.

But she’s also outspoken against Amazon, is working to improve workplace safety for sex workers and spent time at the Fairy Creek blockades protesting old-growth logging.

“I feel like if I chose one niche to focus on it’d be better for my brand,” she says, shrugging. She also knows moving to Los Angeles or New York would be good for her career, but says she’ll never leave her home province of B.C. with its mountains, ocean and cloudy skies.

“I don’t want to live in a city. I want to go live by the ocean with six dogs,” she says.

Alex says she was raised with strong social and environmental justice values but her childhood and work in the non-profit sector was regularly disrupted by her ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease where your immune system attacks your colon.

Inflammatory bowel disease affects around one in 150 Canadians and 25,000 British Columbians and is an incurable disease that inflames the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, disrupting the body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition and perform normal gastrointestinal functions, according to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.

Alex says throughout her life she spent a lot of time in the hospital, trying different treatments and sometimes ending up back at the hospital due to the side effects.

Before she started sex work, she struggled to manage her pain and energy while working eight-hour shifts and “had eight roomies with eight cats and still had to ride my bike to the food bank to fill up a backpack with noodles and beans.”

Then a roommate recommended camming, a type of online sex work where you perform in front of a webcam for paying clients.

“I gave it a try and the rest is history,” she says. “The earning potential was greater than anything I’d experienced. I could log on and earn a couple hundred in a couple of hours.” The flexible schedule also allowed her to rest when she had a health flare-up. Because she made her own hours, she didn’t need to request time off or bank sick days for future illness.

The job had its ups and downs. It allowed her to afford necessary medication, travel internationally for the first time and buy herself a hybrid car. But she also spent up to 12 hours a day interacting with people online alone in her room, which she found isolating and emotionally exhausting. “I ended up very burnt out, but I remember it fondly,” she says.

Nowadays Alex focuses more on her OnlyFans website than camming.

‘People with disabilities do have sex, consume porn and are sexual’

By 2019, Alex’s health had taken a turn for the worse, sending her to hospital every couple of months. This was her “breaking point,” she says. She told her doctor she wanted to get surgery.

Patients need to be young and healthy to reduce the risk of potential complications from this kind of surgery, says Dr. Brian Bressler, co-founder of the IBD Centre of BC and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia. Bressler is not Alex’s doctor.

Doctors will “try to align treatment with how a patient would like to live” and around one in seven will choose surgery, Bressler says.

Alex had a total abdominal colectomy. Surgeons removed her entire colon and created a small opening in her abdomen where she now has an ileostomy appliance on her lower abdomen.

Recovering and getting back to work had the added challenge of adjusting to living with a visible disability. While the adjustment was “difficult,” Alex says sex work helped her dive into body acceptance.

“My career up to that point had been being naked on camera,” she says.

Alex poses with the Port of Vancouver in the background.
A close up of Alex’s green leather shoes. She has a tattoo of a red umbrella that represents sex worker advocacy.
‘I don’t want to live in a city. I want to go live by the ocean with six dogs,’ Alex says. Photos of Alex by Michelle Gamage for The Tyee.

Alex also realized how underrepresented disabled people were in the porn industry.

Which she found weird, because “people with disabilities do have sex, consume porn and are sexual people but not represented as such,” she says.

The IBD Centre of BC’s Bressler says it’s common for patients to feel uncomfortable with their post-surgery bodies, which can impact their life and intimate relationships.

Alex says she chose to reject the discomfort with the fact her body was no longer “conventional” and be “loud” instead.

She is now the only ostomate porn star in North America. She produces videos that show her being sexual without hiding her ostomy appliance.

“I’m not here to fetishize my disability. I’m here to normalize it,” she says.

“I think the most effective advocacy I do is to be seen as a person with a disability and a sexual person simultaneously. Just being able to be visible as a person with a disability is advocacy in itself because it’s not something people are exposed to.”

Alex hasn’t been offered a role in a mainstream porn production yet and she wonders if it’s because producers are afraid of her disability or worried customers may fetishize it. She shrugs, adding she’ll focus on working with independent producers who do want to work with her.

Supporting ‘farm-to-table’ porn

Many sex workers live with chronic illness, disability or struggle with mental health, Alex says. When she was diagnosed with ADHD and told her colleagues, “everyone said, ‘Oh yeah, me too,’” she says. Sex work is low-barrier, has a flexible schedule and is attractive for “creative brains,” she says.

This is why it’s important to support “farm-to-table” porn and not just websites that host free videos, which are almost always stolen or pirated.

“You get a better-quality product which is often made just for you. The consumer and creator can enjoy knowing the product is created safely, ethically, consensually and with a fair wage,” she says.

A typical work day isn’t as sexy as you’d expect — mostly Alex says she’s on her phone and laptop updating her various social media feeds, making and editing short clips and reels, answering emails, doing taxes and sexting her fans. This takes up a lot of her time because she’s on more than 10 sites, she says.

When Alex wants to create new content, she organizes a “shoot day” with several other colleagues. They’ll all get tested for sexually transmitted infections, hire a photographer, find dog sitters, turn someone’s house into a set and dive in. “It feels a bit like you’re working for 24 hours,” she says.

Improving cost, access and options for ostomy appliances

A lot of Alex’s advocacy around ostomy appliances focuses on the lack of colours the medical device comes in.

“Ostomy supplies look like they’ve come right out of a hospital. Technology is improving function but not aesthetic,” she says.

All devices in Canada are either a pinkish beige, orange or “cement grey,” which don’t match people’s skin tones. They’re also transparent when wet.

“I feel like this is hinged on the belief that people with disabilities don’t need to look good or sexual,” she says. “That’s ableist, assuming I don’t need to look sexual while swimming or that I’m going to cover up my body and be ashamed so it doesn’t matter what the device looks like.”

A company in the United Kingdom makes ostomy appliances in black and powder white so Alex knows it’s possible — but says the company doesn’t sell overseas, and in the U.K. you need a prescription to buy them. There isn’t a sustainable way to get the supplies she needs from the U.K., she says.

Ostomy appliance covers can be bought to conceal the device, but Alex says that adds extra bulk to her abdomen and extra cost. Even with PharmaCare coverage ostomy supplies cost around $1,000 per month, Alex says. Depending on what province you’re in it can cost more she says, adding that she’s heard from health-care workers who say patients in the U.S. without health insurance have had to make their own.

“I’m lucky that I earn enough where I can afford basic supplies, but it’s still very expensive,” she says.

Porn festivals, university visits and conferences

Alex’s films have recently debuted at the San Francisco Porn Film Festival and screened at film festivals in Romania, Slovenia, Seattle and Rome. They’re forthcoming at the Berlin International Film Festival and Porn Film Festival Barcelona in October.

The Confession, which features a church booth that was “made out of an old armoire we found in an alley,” a confession to a priest and an orgy, won best in show in Seattle. It’s “very female gaze,” Alex says.

Alex says she’s also speaking at a conference about sex work in October, and recently spoke with a university class in California about sex, porn and disabilities.

Her future could include sex education or writing, she says, which she enjoys despite the fact it “doesn’t pay the bills the way porn does.”

“There’s so many things I want to do — I really need a couple assistants,” she says. “That would free up some time do work on advocacy which, really, brings me the most joy.”  [Tyee]

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