Brooklyn Drag Queen Talks Casual Sex & Sister Identities

Photographed by Charles Ludeke. Styled by Sean Santiago.

Photographed by Charles Ludeke. Styled by Sean Santiago.

Photographed by Charles Ludeke. Styling and art direction Sean Santiago. Text Theda Hammel.

 

Theda Hammel (H): Have you been interviewed in the past?

Ty Mitchell (M): No.

H: Not even those porno interviews where it’s like, “Do you love to get fucked??"

M: I haven’t. Even for my massage ad, I haven’t.

H: Wait, masseurs do fake interviews? Like you would on a press release?

M: Yeah.

H: That’s actually very smart.

M: To promote your personality.

H: Personality is huge in massage. I should mention that I haven’t actually seen any more of your porn than what you sent me today.

M: You would have to pay for it.

H: Which I don’t object to. But, no I don’t watch a lot of porn anymore, because I am now a trans woman, and I can’t really get off unless I have somebody there humiliating and degrading me.

M: You don’t find porn sufficiently humiliating?

H: I think that porn is embarrassing. Tell me more about why you do it.

M: I enjoy that power of more or less structuring my sexual interactions. Like, I find it actually very exhausting to cruise and flirt and court people in an everyday fashion. Because most people on Grindr or Scruff or in a bar have shitty boundaries, a poor understanding of their own desires. I don’t blame people for that. I don’t think I’m great at it, but especially gay men are socialized to be clumsy around our desires because we don’t really have a lot of models for expressing them. So, by and large, gay men are really bad at carrying out a sexual encounter smoothly and respectfully and still sexily. Whereas, with porn, there is just a little bit of a greater likelihood of working with people who—hmm, maybe not a lot of people who know their desires and boundaries and express them well—but a third party that is structuring the interaction.

H: The gaze.

M: The gays?

H: G-A-Z-E. Nevermind, you meant the director.

M: Yeah, the actual production process structures the interaction, and I don’t think that I have to worry quite as much about, “Is this person really into this…?”

H: It doesn’t matter if they’re into it?

M: I mean, it matters to the extent that we’re working and carrying out something that we agreed to.

H: Do you think you’re kind of dodging the issue then of actually expressing your sexual boundaries and desires? By making it transactional?

M: It’s not purely a transaction, but it’s always mediated by the fact that we’re working, the fact that we’re getting paid, the fact that this is built into some kind of career. But all sex is power laden.

H: Is all sex transactional?

M: I think so. Even if that transaction is “Make me feel better about myself.”

H: Do you find it more gratifying for sexual interactions to be overtly transactional? Not in the sense of them being lucrative, but like, sexually gratifying. As opposed to the fumbling bumbling Camp David-style negotiation of unpaid consensual sex that’s not recorded?

M: I don’t know that that’s applicable to everyone, but there’s an element of “Yeah, I did the job really well.” And that’s really erotically gratifying. Like, “I nailed that scene.”

H: So you’ve kind of evaded the whole question of your actual pleasure.

M: I will say that I have way more gratifying sex, have felt way sexier, and have been able to have more casual hookups since I started doing porn. I’m able to get over a lot of the insecurity and anxiety that I used to have about desirability and sex since doing more porn. And I find that I’m having way better sex outside of sex work now. 

H: That runs contrary to the mainstream narrative about sex work.

M: That it decays your ability to have sex?

H: Yes, that you’re contaminated by degradation. My intuition tells me that can’t possibly be true.

M: I don’t feel as though my sexuality has become more cliched through doing sex work, or more rehearsed through doing sex work. I feel a lot more confident. I guess I’m not on the other end of that, so I don’t know if I come off really contrived. But maybe I’ve been having more gratifying hookups because there’s not a pretense that we’re trying to have some authentic exchange of soul energy. So, it might have weakened my ability to have, like, intense soul-sharing sex...but I haven’t really been pursuing that.

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There’s no such thing as purely casual sex. All the sex that we have does involve some level of feeling, some small increment of emotion.

H: I feel like that is a Mormon fantasy.

M: It’s bullshit. The whole idea that sex is sacred. Something does happen, there is some kind of exchange of power or energy…

H: There’s definitely an exchange.

M: I had a really good friend [who] got into sex work years before I did, and I really looked up to him as my slutty role model, and so I was really surprised one day when he said to me that there’s no such thing as purely casual sex. All the sex that we have does involve some level of feeling, some small increment of emotion. There’s no such thing as cold, totally callous sex that you don’t invest any of your energy into. So that really changed how I viewed sex. There’s something in between sex-as-soul-sharing and sex-as-callous-body-on-body-bullshit. There’s something in between and that’s how I think about sex, I guess.

They said in their tweet that it was the Best Rimming They Ever Shot.

H: That must apply also to all interactions that you have in your capacity as a sex performer.

M: Yeah, in that you always want to be working with people who are cool. And I’ve been really lucky so far. Every one of the scenes that I’ve shot, I’ve enjoyed the person I was working with.

H: Have you have had sexual chemistry with all of your partners?

M: Yeah, they all like me, and they all think that I’m sexy and they all express that they think I’m sexy and then they have sex with me.

H: Right.

M: It sounds like bullshit. It sounds like I’m promoting La La Land or something. “They’re great to work with. I had great chemistry with all my performers…"

H: Max Sergeant plays a sex researcher in that scene, in that clip you sent me…

M: That was a good scene. I’m very proud of that scene.

H: They said in their tweet that it was the Best Rimming They Ever Shot.

M: That shocked me. He’s shot so many rimming scenes. 

H: How long does it take you to shoot a scene? 

M: It’s super variable. The first scene I did we shot it in maybe 2 hours. 

H: Is that low or high?

M: It’s super low. That same week I did a scene that probably took us 45 minutes. Which is really really short. But the scene that I just filmed, we were at the studio for 10 hours, and we were filming for probably 7 of those.

H: What separated that shoot from the other, shorter ones?

M: I guess it was a more traditional shoot. Set, lighting, angles, boom. I didn’t fully mind that it took so long. I was like, oh, this is just like a drag race main challenge.

H: [Addressing recorder directly.] Ty Mitchell is also a very accomplished drag queen. 

M: That’s my sister identity.

H: That’s what you call it. I call it your true identity.

M: My real, authentic identity. 

H: Yes. How has drag affected your porn work?

M: On like, a really material level I would say that through drag I’ve learned how to be in front of a camera. How to pose for photos and be really self-aware about my appearance. And just navigating the drag industry, I feel like I learned how to like say no to things and to people. How to evaluate my worth as like a freelancer, as a gig person. From what I gather it seems like a lot of people get into porn…porn really loves the lost boys, who don’t really know their worth, who have never been exposed to like, partying. I don’t know, maybe that’s just like, a cliched narrative. Maybe that’s just the King Cobra kind of stereotype.

H: I like the idea that you can do drag and be a porn star, and not worry that your drag is going to interfere with your sexual viability.

M: This is a good point to bring up, because I think it was you who had some kind of saying, some kind of Hammphorism, about drag involving a sacrifice of your sexuality for celebrity. Or was that somebody else who said that?

H: No, that was me. For the pretense of celebrity. That used to be the case and I don’t think it is any longer.

M: I deeply violate it. Or, I’m just a bad drag queen.

H: The paradigm has changed a lot.

M: I do distinctly remember you saying this, I wanna say like, maybe 3 years ago, and I’ve thought about it a lot since then. It’s stuck with me because I think the game has totally changed for drag now. Drag has become a marker of like, being cultured for queer people. It demonstrates flexibility.

H: I think of it as just Boy Scouts for gays. It’s like an activity, like knowing how to tie a knot or something.

M: But it can shore up your own insecurity with your sexuality and your queerness. You can go about being a masc self the rest of the year if you’re willing to get in drag once or twice for Halloween or Pride. I’m not saying this as a criticism. Far be it from me to complain about pretty boys getting in drag once year. 

H: I’ll complain about it. 

M: But, what I wanted to get at, which doesn’t quite implicate me as well, is that I’ve always thought that there’s a really sacred holy alliance between these two archetypal figures in the queer community. Of the drag queen/trans person and the hustler/pornstar. Drag queens and pornstars go together like PB and J. 

H: They’re like our twin peaks.

M: How are they like Twin Peaks?

H: Not the fuckin’ show. They’re like our twin mountains. There were twin peaks before it was a show. I’m referring to the idea of two big mountains. 

M: Which are not in the show Twin Peaks…or is twin peaks just a phrase. 

H: I feel that it is a phrase. Peaks. Twin peaks.

M: I don’t think that’s a phrase.

H: Like, Martin Amis said “Vladimir Nabokov and Saul Bellow are my twin peaks,” and he didn’t mean they’re like the fuckin’ show.

M: I didn’t know that was an idiom. 

H: Oh yeah, baby.

M: So, idiomatically the two peaks of queer culture are the hot and the trans. 

H: Yes, the transfeminine and the hustler.

M: And now we’re witnessing a moment in which both of those archetypal figures are being kind of fused a little bit. 

Photographed by Charles Ludeke. Styled by Sean Santiago.

Photographed by Charles Ludeke. Styled by Sean Santiago.

H: Because a hot boy can actually be a hot drag queen, and doesn’t lose anything from their hot boy status, and in fact only gains stuff. If you are an attractive male…I’m not saying that Max Sergeant should try doing drag. 

M: Handsome men make ugly drag queens. 

H: Who cares about handsome?

M: I’m handsome.

H: You’re a little bitch!

M: I’m a handsome drag queen. I had a trick say to me the other day, “You look more masculine in drag.”

H: I would never tell anyone that wasn’t a trans masc that they were handsome.

M: It’s too gendered. It’s like “stud.”

H: [Choking sound.]

M: I get called stud a lot. Especially in the porn industry.

H: Stud is like, “Hey girl.”

M: It’s like “Hey stud, I got a shoot coming up. Wondering if you’re interested.” It always feels weird. It’s like, yeah, I can’t quite explain why. Stud…it’s not like insulting or like, violent. It’s just weird. 

H: It’s a very male word. 

M: It’s aggressively masculine, yeah. But I was talking about the duality of the hustler and the transfemme disintegrating, and I was bringing that up because in the context of me negotiating that, like trying to do both of them, I think I feel a little bit guilty that I exist, that I can do both of these things through the disintegration of that polarity.

H: I would advise, and I know that it is my role to interview, not to advise, but I do give great advice, and I would advise you to not feel guilty. Because, first of all, it’s not so much a personal sin that you’ve committed as much as it is a symptom of the times and the fact that both sex work, sex performing and drag are no longer disgraceful careers.

M: Doesn’t that suck though?

H: No!

M: Doesn’t that kind of take something away from each career? I don’t know, I constantly have to reorient myself to the straight world and realize that, no, [what I do is] pretty out there. Like, just flying to Vegas to do a porno and then coming back and putting on a wig and heels. It’s really out there, I guess.—