Punk Rock Sex Work – An Interview With Jane Way
Written By Rob O’Sullivan
The beautiful images used in this article were taken by Sergio P and were provided courtesy of Jane Way.
Starting off on a bit of a generic question, but how & why did you get started in sex work?
I got my start in amateur porn with an ex-FWB, and it kind of evolved from there. Escorting came after, and it’s been the saving grace in my life as a queer genderfluid person living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Before sexwork, I studied pharmacology and mortuary sciences, then I was unemployed and on and off welfare. I struggled with addiction due to my chronic pain and mental health issues. Sexwork allowed me the ability to support myself and my family and friends without burning myself out. I can finally take care of myself and do a job I love. Now I’m in the works on some major pornography projects and providing companionship that’s mutually beneficial, and I couldn’t be happier.
What’s one aspect of sex work that you didn’t foresee or expect before getting into it?
If I’m being honest, I didn’t foresee being this empowered by it. Even when I was doing it for survival, which I guess I still am at this point (in terms of that if I didn’t do this work, I wouldn’t be able to support myself), I didn’t expect to stumble upon the most supportive and uplifting community of people that sexwork has afforded me, and the impact it’s had on my life and my health is priceless.
A slightly offbeat question – what do you generally find yourself doing on your days off?
On my days off? I’m working or spending time with my partner, or both. No lie. I’m either taking last minute escort bookings, working on my online presence, or working on my art. I’m a workaholic, no question about it. When I have downtime, unless I really need it, I’m restless and look for something to do.
Your name – Jane Way – is a clear nod to the ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ character of the same name. What was the inspiration behind this homage?
Since watching Voyager for the first time, Kathryn Janeway have been such strong feminine forces of nature, and I was inspired. As someone who identifies with masculinity as well as being a die-hard femme, her stern persona and ethics as a Captain were something I really related to. I met Kate Mulgrew and told her I work under the name Jane Way, and she signed me a photo that says, “One good Jane(way) deserves another” and I have it hanging on my fridge, along with my other Star Trek memorabilia littered around my condo and work space.
Do you see porn and sex work as a form of activism?
I do. My very existence is an act of rebellion, in so many ways. Everything I do is a form of resistance.
Being a ‘ punk rock beauty’ do you think the ‘Do It Yourself’ punk-rock philosophy helps when it comes to sex work?
I think it definitely does! Our community very much has a DIY ethic, and we routinely do things to keep each other safe outside of regular channels because of stigma and legalities in some countries. Whether it’s a safecall, a safe space to work, offering references, or working together to make films outside of mainstream channels on our own, together, I see a lot of DIY punk ethics in the sexwork community.
You identify as genderfluid; have you faced any discrimination or negativity, both within the industry and from clients, because of your gender identity?
Oh absolutely. There have been various providers in the Toronto & others scenes that have publicly and/or privately shamed me for who I am, but I succeed regardless. Especially because I often ignore a bulk of misgendering that happens to me in my work due to my femme appearance and target markets. Sometimes, we as non-binary people, have to work under the guise of cis-ness to make a living. It’s a survival technique. But my most cherished clients and co-workers respect the fuck out of me, and even use my proper pronouns (which are they/them) in my reviews and such. It’s really heartwarming. For every disrespectful person that’s given me shit for who I am, whether it be queer, genderfluid, or alternative, there’s ten more that love, support, respect, and pay me.
Despite being ‘the oldest profession’ sex work is still stigmatised in wider society – you yourself were kicked out of your apartment when neighbours outed you to your landlord – do you think society as a whole is becoming more ‘accepting’ of sex work, or less so, over time?
You’ve done your research! Yes, I was homeless summer of last year due to my work. It was a shitty situation, but do you know what happened when that was all going down? I had a fellow sexworker, who at the time I had only met twice, come pick me and my stuff up, and let me live with them, no questions asked. This person is now my best friend, and I owe her so much, but she didn’t have to do that for me, yet she did. The stigma around sexwork is alive and well, but we fight back with our community. We fight back for each other, and we’re not going anywhere.
You have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a long-term illness that can cause frequent dislocations and can be debilitating. People with disabilities generally are seen as almost incapable of having a sexuality – do you see your sex work as a way to reclaim your sexuality?
Absolutely I do! And a lot of sexworkers are disabled, either physically, mentally, or both. This work allows us to take care of ourselves, and for me it totally has helped me reclaim my sexuality as a disabled person. I get to have the sex I want to have and make the art I want to make, where previously that power hasn’t been afforded to me. Trust me, we as disabled people are just as sexual as you, and just as capable- just ask any of my clients or coworkers.
Do you think that people with disabilities are underrepresented in porn, or is there just too much of a grey-line between representation and fetishisation?
I do think they are in mainstream porn, but there are a lot of folks doing really great things for representation of disability in porn. Lyric Seal, off the top of my head. I was interviewed for an article alongside them, and they’re doing amazing stuff. At the end of the day, we’re people, and we’re sexual people, and we’re not going away.
Are clients generally respectful when it comes to potential limitations or complications that come with chronic illnesses / disabilities like EDS?
Oh totally. Most of the time, my clients don’t even know unless I tell them. All my longstanding clients know about it, and are super respectful if I need my cane for a dinner date, or if I pop a hip in the sack and need a second, but I know my body and my limitations, and that generally doesn’t happen. There’s like a couple positions I can’t do for long because of my body, but no one wants to do them for very long anyway, as it works out, so it’s not usually an issue.
Because of the general lack of queer / genderfluid / disabled role models, especially when it comes to sexuality, do you feel pressure to be moreso out and outspoken about your life and your work?
It’s not so much a pressure I feel, as an obligation to use my voice and my platform for those who may not be able to. I feel comfortable and safe enough doing so, therefore I must, to the best of my ability. I’ve had so many people come to me and tell me that they appreciate how outspoken I am, and that I inspire them. That alone is the reason I’ll never shut up.
For anyone reading this who may be nerdy, queer or who may identify with you in any way- do you have any advice for them?
Be yourself, be loud, be proud, but don’t worry if you aren’t in a position to be. I was quiet, and remain quiet on some things to this day, because I need to be able to get by and survive, and that’s OK. You don’t have to be the face of the rebellion; just being you is rebellion in itself, and don’t beat yourself up for doing what you have to do to survive in the environment you’re in.
If you’d like to follow and learn more about Jane Way, below are some links to their work and their social media.