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SOAPOPERA ASKS: IN CONVERSATION WITH KALI SUDHRA

// Breaking porn stereotypes one film at a time

AN INTERVIEW BY NAOMI ACCARDI

Porn as we know it has never been more spread in society and available for those who need arousing material. Vulgarization of porn happened trough free distribution and over exposition but, luckily, the variety of the fiction has been enriched by female authors, showing a type of illusion that is more suitable to ladies desire and generally qualitatively on a higher level. That’s why when Naomi told me about this interview I suggested her some of my favourite performers on Erika Lust’s rooster.

A little disclaimer: what you are about to read is a conversation between two extremely honest ladies. Naomi Accardi is the most opinionated girl in creative direction and Kali Sudhra is the most vocal advocate in sex workers industry that I know. If you don’t like or are scared about self confidence, facts and honesty don’t read this. if you are brave enough there are a few informations, maybe obvious for some, that you have to be aware of before you read this. Our aim is to educate not to show off so here you are a small list of terms we looked for, for you! Internet is so magic if you can use that!


POC: 
people or person of colour/not white
CIS: shot for Cisgender. You are cisgender if you match the sex you were assigned when you were born. It’s the opposite of transgender
Sex Worker: a wide range of professionals working with sex that includes actors, prostitutes, mistresses, web cam performers but the list is much longer and difficult to put together since sex works are mostly illegal and stigmatised.


Intro by Eleonora Lucia Zenaide Strozzi

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Naomi. What’s your name? Where are you based? 
Kali. My name is Kali Sudhra, I am based in Barcelona, Spain for now!

Naomi. How did you get into the porn industry? And what made you choose this as a career?
Kali. Long story short: I was really tired of seeing the same old representation of people of colour as fetishes.
I also saw that there was very little representation of Indian performers. I wanted to show that Indian women can make porn and are, in fact, sexual beings too!  Essentially, I chose this career because I wanted to challenge those stereotypes and change attitudes as well as bringing my intersectional feminism to the screen!

Naomi. Did you have to give up anything or sacrifice parts of your life to get into this field?
Kali. I definitely had to let go of worrying about how people would see me as a sex worker. In addition, I had to sacrifice potential careers because of prejudices people have about sex work.

Naomi. Do you have a stage alter ego?
Kali. Not really, but my inner child is Mowgli. I have always been a big tomboy.

Naomi. What’s the life/work balance like?
Kali. The balance is HARD. Aside from performing and sex work, I work as an English teacher, I give talks, run workshops, model and work in the office (Erika Lust*).
I really don’t know where how I find the time!
Outside of work I also have many hobbies like Roller Derby and Martial Arts.

Naomi. What are the most ridiculous rumors you have heard about yourself since you have entered this field?
Kali. None yet, but I am SURE there are many. Hahahah!

Naomi. Do your parents know? If so what was their reaction.
Kali. I don’t talk about my private life in this respect.

Naomi. During my time in the Middle East, I got in contact with many South Asian expats, specifically from the Indian region. From my experience, these communities are extremely conservative. As an Indian in the porn industry, how is your profession perceived by your community and have you faced any backlash? 
Kali. To start, I am not Indian.
I don’t like when people put me in a box because of my skin colour.
I was born in Canada with Indian heritage. Also this question definitely surprises me, because this wouldn’t be a common thing to ask someone of European descent/Caucasian.
Honestly, I have been asked this about a million times, and I think that it just goes to show that we still have so many misconceptions about POC performers.

Naomi. As a queer performer, are there any benefits? Do you get to decide what kind of movie you participate in?
Kali. Of course! In ethical porn, all performers get to decide who they want to perform with, and what movie they would like to act in. I prefer scenes with women and queer folks. I have recently decided to stop acting with cis men, unless they are my friends that I know and trust (!!FYI: cis dudes who won’t stop writing me on Instagram!!)

Naomi. What is it like working in such a man dominated industry where women are usually objectified?
Kali. It’s a lot of fighting to be heard. I am currently interested in working with projects that don’t involve Cis Hetero men. I am quite selective with the projects I work on, and whom I choose to I perform with.

Naomi. Have you ever encountered blatant sexism?
Kali. Yes. I mean I encounter that in my everyday life too.
I think it’s more frustrating within the context of ‘’ethical porn’’ because you expect equality. We still have a long way to go.

Naomi. What are the things that you would change about this industry if you could? 
Kali. Firstly, I would like to see a performer’s union. We are very unprotected in this field. Then, I would like to see more producers focusing on the performers’ rights and safety. I  would also love to see producers listening more to performers and amplifying their voices and respecting their decisions.

Naomi. How long do you see yourself doing this?
Kali. Not forever, although I am comfortable right now.
I am focusing more on doing talks, hosting workshops, and writing about porn and feminism!

Naomi. What’s your favorite part about this job?
Kali. Creating a network of amazing sex workers! I have met some of my best friends in porn (that later I get to have sex with for a scene! ;P)

Naomi. How do you deal with people’s opinions on your career choices? 
Kali. I have little patience for people who judge my career choice.
I have very little time to explain it to every single person too.
My closest friends and my sister have accepted it and are fond of it, so I am not that worried about the rest 🙂

Naomi. Have you ever regretted entering this industry? 
Kali. Not yet, but I would like to recognize it’s hard work and it’s not easy as it seems. Especially as a woman!

Naomi. As mentioned above, you are very active in educating people on sex and teach them how to make it more fun. How did the idea of the workshop come up? How many have you done so far and how do your pick the topics? 
Kali. I just recently presented my first ‘’practical’’ workshop on squirting and it went phenomenal!
In Canada I used to work with teens doing sex ed/self image groups and I always liked putting together education and the topic of sex. I come from a teaching background (mixed with social work) so I felt it was the best way to combine all the things I am doing now in my life! I wanted to show women their bodies and the wonders that they can do. I am designing other workshops right now but still a  secret 😉

Naomi. How did your audience react? Who are the people in the crowd? 
Kali. The audience was very excited. They were smiling, laughing and very receptive. The people in the crowd were curios women of all ages.

Naomi. What is the goal with your workshops/talks? Do you hope to reach a particular target?
Kali. The goal of my workshops is empowerment and self discovery. I also want to create safe and inclusive spaces for everyone to be able to access. I am working from an anti-oppressive standpoint and have been researching more about inclusive language (in spanish the language is very gendered, and I am actively trying to make it gender neutral when I speak). I recognize that not everyone that has a vagina is a woman and I think that my language needs to reflect that. So the target for my future workshops is to not only make the language more inclusive (which I awkwardly tried at my last workshop) but also to actively listen to trans folk and see how they would like the workshops to look like and design them accordingly.

Naomi. What do you think about when your acting partner isn’t exactly the most amazing human on earth?
Kali. I think of it as any other average job. Okay this is annoying/boring/long/ but I will get it over and done with and move on. Not every acting partner is going to thrill you! As long as everything is done with consent, I am okay!

Naomi. Why do you think porn is legal meanwhile sex work is criminalized (in some countries)? They are basically part of the same category.
Kali. Yes, this is terrible and has to change. There is a hierarchy in sex work (also known as a  ‘’whorearchy’’).
Basically people put porn performers at the top of the pyramid and sex workers on the street at the base. I completely detest this hierarchy and challenge it constantly. I hate when people correct me saying ‘’You aren’t a sex worker, you are a porn actress’’. I politely but firmly correct them saying that I am a proud sex worker. Sex work MUST be decriminalized now!!!

Naomi. How do girls in the industry manage to keep a healthy relationship with a potential love partner?
Kali. It’s quite hard, like most part of this job. I have a supportive partner who is behind me all of the way. Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone is as lucky, and I can understand that it’s hard to find such support.
I separate work from my private love life. Also sex can just be sex and it doesn’t have to always involve ‘’love’’ feelings.

Naomi. Is it hard to have a successful love life?
Kali. I think it’s as hard as anyone else with a “regular” job.
Love is hard and requires care, sacrifice, time, energy, etc.
I have the same problems as the next person, but I don’t think my relationship is unsuccessful because it’s structured differently than ‘’conventional relationships’’. I guess I have always been unconventional in love.

Naomi. What is the most painful stigma/prejudice around your career?
Kali. That sex work is dirty and less valuable than other work. That makes me very sad and angry. Sex work is valuable, healing, powerful, wonderful and without it, our world wouldn’t be the same.

Naomi. What measures have you adopted to stay safe in this field?
Kali. I usually ask other performers their impressions on the producer (if they have worked with them in the past) and I always ask for references before working with cis men.

Naomi. Have you encountered any health related problems doing this job?
Kali. Exhaustion. But it’s not really related to working in porn specifically, but rather working too many jobs!

Naomi. You mentioned Roller Derby and Martial arts are your hobbies. Both are incredibly physical sports. Did you ever get injured and were not able to perform afterwards?
Kali. Not yet! But I do have some nice bruises I have had to cover up for shoots afterwards, heheheheh.

Naomi. Have you ever lost interested in sex as it’s your job too?
Kali. No! Also keep in mind, in a movie we aren’t fucking all day. The sex scene usually lasts 30-45 min. So even though sex is my job, I still love it! There are a million different ways to have sex, so I haven’t gotten tired of exploring all those ways yet 🙂

Naomi. How far is consent pushed in porn?
Kali. In ethical porn it is pushed a lot, but it still needs to be talked about more. Consent needs to also be ongoing, and reversible in porn. I think that it would be great if there was a protocol in place, and maybe even a workshop to train producers and directors on what consent looks like.

Naomi. Does porn pay well?
Kali. Not nearly enough for the work and effort it requires to expose yourself that intimately to the world. In that case, it’s very underpaid.

Naomi. What are the biggest misconceptions around pornography that you wish to break down?
Kali. That the all the porn orgasms are real… hahahah! I want people to know we are performing and not all the sex you see is real and passionate .
Keep in mind sometimes you are having sex with someone you have never had sex with before, so the chemistry isn’t always there. Then there are other times where you get to fuck your friends and people you love, and the sex is EXTREMELY fun!!

Naomi. Is it hard for a woman to break through this industry behind the camera?
Kali. Absolutely. Especially as a POC or trans/non binary person.

Naomi. How do you cope with negative criticism?
Kali. I am pretty laid back. I don’t try to waste my time with people who are demeaning, negative or critical of my job. 
In addition, I am brutally honest with people and often because of this, they label me as harsh or too direct. I don’t see the point in sugar coating things!

Naomi. Are there any psychological issues performers go through?
Kali. Yes. We still don’t have a platform to talk openly about Sex Work without being censored.
Also if there is a problem with a director or producer, performers voices are often ignored. There are a lot of power dynamics that happen between directors and performers that can create hard situations when later a performer wants to talk about unethical things that happened on set. It’s precisely because we are sex workers that we get silenced and told ‘’your job is sex’’, as if that means we have to work in all conditions!
There are lots of conversations coming up within the performer community about the well being of performers, and safety above all. This year we hope to see an union for performers and more directors and producers talking about how exactly they are going to ensure performer’s safety. Performer’s safety and well being has to be talked about and taken seriously from the side of the Producer/director. We are tired of having to constantly educate directors and producers about how to treat us and work with sex workers.

Naomi. Is it true that you must be open to doing everything and anything in order to become a famous actress?
Kali. No, but I think that it’s very hard for POC and trans performers to ‘’become famous’’ because of internalized racism that we all carry within us as well as access to resources.

Naomi. What is your biggest career achievement that you are particularly proud of?
Kali. I would have to say running my squirt workshop was the most rewarding part of my career as a sex worker. I helped women discover parts of their bodies that they possibly didn’t explore before and helped them experience new sensations!
The workshop covered everything from safer sex, to consent, to meditating, to squirting. We really did some healing work, and I am proud that I was able to be a part of that process.

Naomi. Is it easy to avoid certain scenes?
Kali. Girl – Boy scenes are hard to avoid, because you lose a lot of work if you only do girl on girl scenes.

Naomi. What are the most famous types of porn? 
Kali. Mainstream (heteronormative/white/able bodied/cis/unrealistic bodies standards…etc)

Naomi. Is there anything you want to tell the world in order to change people’s minds about women in pornography?
Kali. Listen to performers voices. Read some good books about sex work (there are many of them) and educate yourself!

Naomi. What is tour advice for young girls that want to get into this industry? Anything to look out for? 
Kali. Yes!!! Look out for all men. Seriously. I ask for references now. Whether that be producers, directors or performers. Your safety is number one, and if you feel weird about anything or your intuition is telling you not to do it…. It’s probably right and you should listen to it!
Getting tested is important, but more important is learning about the risks of unprotected sex (even with people who are tested) and informing yourself. I feel like mainstream porn only shows unprotected sex, and that later reflects in our personal sex lives (we repeat what we see). So it’s important to know as a performer that you have the right to ask to perform with condoms, gloves, dental dams, but this is something you have to discuss before hand with the director/producer. Unfortunately, there are people that will refuse to work with you after requesting safer sex. My advice is to do as much research as you can before starting.

Naomi. Lastly, if you could say anything you want in front of a big crowd of conservative people, what would it be?
Kali. SEX WORK IS REAL WORK, and if your ‘’feminism’’ doesn’t include trans/poc/sexworkers, then your feminism is garbage. <3

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Kali Sudhra  interviewed by Naomi Accardi.
Introduction by Eleonora Lucia Zenaide Strozzi.
Illustration by Nina Six.

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