For some, work is just a means to an end – a way to bring home a paycheck or pass the time between weekends. For others, work is an intensely personal experience and one’s “work” reflects a lifelong growing process.
(incidentally, for a lot of people, work is probably somewhere in the middle)
Enter Kelsey Obsession.
Kelsey is many things: a fetish performer, an adult content producer, a budding sex educator, a developing academic, and a human… with a sexuality that informs her daily experience.
How could sex not be involved?
Kelsey took some time out to chat with me about her intensely personal journey – from internal to external, reconciling fears and exploring desires, from her desire to help others born of a need to help herself. Take a moment to become obsessed, and read on!!
Sooo Ms. Kelsey, let’s start with the basics: what exactly do you do, and how long have you been doing it?
“I’ve been in the adult industry for three years, though I’ve been researching and studying sexuality for eight years. Before, sex was difficult for me – I felt a lot of shame about my own kinky fantasies and would disassociate, feeling next to nothing during sex. I went to graduate school and researched gender and sexuality to better understand my experience. I found some answers, but I still didn’t know how to change my own experiences.
Eeesh!! Unfortunately, I think a lot of people experience some form of the disconnects you’re describing. Just dealing with such issues has to be overwhelming, but how did you go about making change…?
I met my husband a few years in[to studying sexuality]. He produced fart porn – hot girls farting. I’d never heard of a fart fetish and was fascinated when he showed me all the crazy stuff on clips4sale. A lightbulb went off in my mind – WOW, I’m not the only one with weird fantasies! I was bored and frustrated studying other people’s sexual adventures, so I decided to get my hands dirty and do some ‘experiential’ research, starting my own fetish site in 2009.
What?!! You mean there’s something to be said for lived experience?? Hehe just kidding…
I was still dealing with my own sex issues and now there are some new ones, juggling the stigma of my new project. I was frustrated by common sex advice, which didn’t seem to work for me. I realized if I felt this way, then others must too, so in 2011 I started my blog and began filming ‘educational porn,’ for lack of a better term. Porn that’s sexy enough to watch and get off on, but that depicts an authentic, woman-friendly, sex-positive side of sexuality with tips you can try at home.
Despite [some] feminists that STILL consider porn to be the root of all evil, I understood porn simply as a medium. Just like television or mainstream movies, whether its helpful or harmful depends on the content. For better or worse, porn is serving as sex education because there just isn’t a place in mainstream culture to talk openly about sexuality. I believe if young people’s early porn exposure showed them authentic pleasure – especially women’s pleasure – we’d see fewer sex problems in relationships.
You definitely have a bunch of points – outside of adult instructionals, porn is not intended as a sex education tool… but that surely doesn’t mean that people, who in many instances have no where else to turn, don’t look to adult content for guidance.
And porn most certainly is just a medium. It’s odd that people can see things like books and mainstream media as polysemic texts; but when it comes to media that depicts sex, all bets are off!! Anyway…
So, what’s your favorite thing about your work as a performer? And are there any challenges?
First, I love that people share with me their deepest, sometimes darkest fantasies with me. This was one of the frustrating things about academic sex research – how do you get people to open up about their sexuality, and where do you find people willing to talk? Much of my fetish work is based on request, and people share desires with me they’re too scared to tell their partner. Its a shame they feel that way, so I honestly feel privileged to give them an outlet – whether through email conversations, the educational videos I post on my youtube channel or simply giving them a place to ‘release.’ I understand how embarrassed and alone one can feel about out-of-the-norm sexualities, and the sheer fact that my videos exist at least tell them they’re not the only one.
Second, I love the lifestyle. I’m an adventurous person – I love trying new things, traveling, and meeting interesting people – and porn affords me those opportunities. I’m an exhibitionist, so even when I’m filming fetishes that aren’t my turn-on, the work is sexually enjoyable. I’m also bisexual and in a somewhat open relationship with my husband, so the adult industry gives us a safe place to explore our desires. It’s a blurry line between work and play.
The stigma of the industry is by far the most challenging. I’ve lived a double life in numerous ways, and how open and honest I should be is always a question in my mind. I started from a research perspective, so while its really difficult at times, I’m thankful for it. Not only has it forced me to grow and confront my own insecurities, but living and working at the intersection of so many cultural beliefs about sex – I’ve learned so much more than I ever could have from a book… Not to mention learning that some of my book knowledge wasn’t really true after all!
Oh goodness, you are so right on there – there’s this thing we have as a culture: if it’s in a book written by an academic, it must be true. And unfortunately, myriad errors and/or misrepresentations often go unchecked, especially surrounding sexualities and sex work. Most times people either don’t know any better or are too intimidated by stigma to speak up – it’s all very Coming of Age in Samoa.
What about the other aspects of your work? Are there any challenges or best things associated with all of that?
Many of the challenges I experience are the same as any other business – marketing, managing, accounting, balancing the ‘work’ side and the fun side. I’ve only focused on adult as my primary source of income in the last year, and I’m very much in the growing stage, doing most of the work myself. It can be stressful, but I have to laugh sometimes. I mean, how stressed can you get about farting? It’s built in comic relief.
Ha!! So, has any of this affected your personal life?
I kept my industry work a secret from everyone except my husband for over a year. I wound up isolating myself from friends and family I didn’t think would understand. As I started ‘coming out,’ some have been supportive, others have not. This aspect has been the most difficult. Nobody’s been that surprised, though!
On the other hand, my sex life has improved so dramatically I’m amazed, since I once believed my body was broken. The educational side of my work has given me the time and energy to explore my sexuality in depth – to figure out what works and what doesn’t – and then share it with others. The fetish work has helped me overcome the shame I used to feel for my own fantasies. Directing video has taught me how to better communicate, which helps not only in sex but all my relationships. Overall, the adult industry has given me a space to explore my sexuality and be the crazy self I downplayed for so long. I’m really quite happy, and I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing with my life.
Ahhh that’s just lovely… and so different from the picture that’s all too commonly painted. So, where do you see yourself in five years?
In 5 years… I’ll be Dr. Kelsey, probably with a kid or two, still on camera but more behind the scenes. My primary focus will shift to my educational line, offering not only porn but other products and programs to help people embrace their sexuality. I also have some more mainstream porn productions in mind for the future.
It’s not easy to be real about sex – with yourself, and especially with a partner. People are so worried about being seen as ‘normal’ that they downplay who they really are. It’s hard to have an intimate relationship trying to be someone you’re not. In many ways, it’s easier and less risky to fit in, but at what cost? As far as I know, we only get one life here. I believe, and it’s been my experience, that the more you’re honest about your sexuality (wants & needs, fantasies, the lighter AND darker sides) the happier and more real you’ll be at work or with friends and family. Because sex problems can be so challenging and deeply personal, I believe if a person can overcome these issues, other issues become easier to handle. Better sex = a happier life.”
You said it, sister!!
What happens when you stop “being” and start “doing” – well, it’s up to you to find out. Kelsey is here as a resource to help you find your way.
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From performers to post-production, office workers to executives, PVVOnline’s feature Back Stories explores the lives of people who work in all aspects of the adult industry.
Images courtesy of Kelsey Obsession.
You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from PVVOnline/Porn Valley Vantage, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”