Part One – Madison Missina on her life in the sex industry
Late last year I was lucky enough to spend a morning chatting with Madison Missina, porn star and private escort. Missina talked about her experiences in the sex and adult entertainment industries. We spoke at length about her career, what happens on a porn set, and sexual health and personal safety in the industry. In the coming weeks, I will be posting excerpts from our conversation, starting with this one. You can also read the full interview in the Sex Issue of The Lifted Brow.
I hadn’t considered before that someone might grow up desiring a career in sex work, but Madison Missina wanted to be a private escort from the age of nine. By fourteen, she had researched the industry and settled on her vocation. ‘I spent the rest of my teenage years waiting until I was legal,’ she said. As soon as she turned eighteen, Missina started out in massage, before moving on to a brothel, where she worked for five years until becoming a private escort. Working in porn has been a recent addition to her portfolio.
Outside the industry, Missina simultaneously earned a degree in sexual health and counselling, and took up a job in the legal field. ‘I knew that to work in the sex industry, I needed to do something outside as well, so that remaining in the industry would always be a choice,’ she said.
Maintaining a foot inside and out of the sex industry wasn’t easy. Someone from Missina’s legal job learned of her sex work, began stalking her, and threatened to expose her to everyone. Missina described being cyber-bullied and harassed for a long time. ‘Eventually I lost everyone in my life who didn’t accept this newly-revealed part of me,’ she said.
Missina continued to work in both industries for several years, but sex-work clients had to go through the right word-of-mouth channels to find her. ‘It was a very dark time, but now I’m thankful for it,’ she said. ‘I don’t know if I would be as successful today if I hadn’t gone through it — it freed me.’
It was as Missina approached her thirtieth birthday that her career took another major turn. ‘I started to wonder what I had done with my life. I looked at my co-workers [in my legal job], and thought, I’m not you. I didn’t set out to have a husband and kids and a mortgage, to work nine-to-five every day, so I said, “Fuck this!” quit my job, and recommitted to the sex industry.’
From that point, instead of working in secret, Missina set out to raise her profile as much as possible. She began looking for public promotion opportunities including as a host on Babe TV live. After her appearance on the show, a producer approached Missina and asked if she wanted to try porn. Missina has been working in porn for over a year now and is one of Australia’s oldest and most prolific female porn stars.
With so much experience behind her, Missina mentors others starting out in both porn and escorting. She gets about four emails a week from new girls seeking advice. ‘This week I spent six hours with a girl… talk[ing] through everything from the types of services that she’s offering and how to do them safely, to how to control bookings and clients. I also make sure new girls know they don’t have to do anything they’re not comfortable with and that they can call the shots,’ she said.
Missina sees herself as a feminist, and rejects assertions that she is somehow a victim. ‘When feminists go after me, saying the sex industry is terrible and I’m a victim of the patriarchy, I think, are you fucking kidding me? I looked at the patriarchy and said, “Yeah, I’ll cash in on that! If you want to look at me as a sexual object, great — give me all your money.”’
She also tries to give a balanced account of the industry. ‘Whenever we’re negatively depicted in the media and victimised it takes away our power and our rights,’ she said. ‘No one is saying it’s glamorous and perfect all the time, but it’s important to be a good role model, to show that we’re not all on drugs or drinking, and that we’re not doing this because we’re forced to.’
Missina has become adept at handling criticism of her choice of career. ‘People tell me I’m just a porn star or just a sex worker, but it takes skill and knowledge to be able to navigate your way through these industries.’ She also doesn’t see why sex work is looked down upon. ‘It’s legal, we pay taxes and we contribute to society,’ she said. ‘Negative opinions aren’t going to get rid of porn or prostitution. If someone thinks porn is degrading to women, they should go and support the companies making porn that is more female-centric.’
Stigma is something Missina has faced in her private life, too. ‘I researched disclosure of sex work in intimate relationships for my degree,’ she said. ‘The key is to know why you’re doing it and answer any questions with confidence…If we are confident in ourselves and what we do, we seem to have fewer problems with our partners accepting it too. It’s about honesty and respect.’
Having said that, Missina doesn’t think people in the industry should have to disclose right away. ‘Sex work is so stigmatised and we get stalkers and blackmailers. We don’t know on a first date if someone is potentially going to take that information and use it against us. We need to protect ourselves, so I wait until I feel safe with a person and the relationship becomes more serious,’ she said. Missina believes the right person will understand once she explains her reasons. ‘If he or she has a problem with what I do, then how can I continue to date them? Porn and the sex industry are such a central part of my life. If they don’t accept that, then they don’t accept 70 per cent of me.’
In the next year Missina plans to branch out into the US market and focus on her side projects including advocating for sexual health education and practices and mentoring other escorts. ‘I’m putting together a package that includes information on things like business management, marketing, vetting of clients, sexual skills, sexual health, and everything that made me successful in my earlier career,’ she said. ‘I think it’s really important for newer girls to have that guidance.’
When I asked if Missina would choose this career again, she gave an enthusiastic yes. ‘I would absolutely choose this work again. I love the industry and the people in it and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.’