SEXclusive! Interview with pleasure activist & sexual empowerment guide Dion DeRossi.

Dion De Rossi photographed by Natalia Portnoy

Dion De Rossi is a sexual empowerment guide, pleasure enthusiast, and sex witch whose work as a queer and feminist pornographer has been featured in several film festivals around the world. Dion’s journey into sex work led them to creating their own sexological bodywork offerings to folks seeking to enhance their pleasure by connecting with their bodies and celebrating their sexuality.

They are active in the queer and trans community, as well as a mental health advocate, welcoming individuals from all backgrounds to work with them. With over seven years working in the adult industry, Dion has a deep understanding of how exploring sexuality can liberate us from shame and guilt to uncover our truest erotic desires and sexual freedom.

I had the honour of interviewing Dion to discuss their experiences as a sex worker, the insight this work has provided them, and how guiding others on their sexual journey has impacted their own life.

When did your journey as a sex worker begin, and what prompted you to start?

I started in sex work as a brothel worker almost ten years ago. In Australia sex work is either legalized or decriminalized so it’s a lot safer to enter the industry and I really benefited from starting my career in a parlour so I could get instant access to a supportive community of other workers.

I had always been interested in sex work – when I was a kid I saw street based sex workers and thought they were princesses. But the real push was leaving a bad relationship and not having enough money to pay rent or put gas in my car. I was studying social work and part of getting your qualification is you do an unpaid student placement which is 9-5 full time for six months. There was no way I could make the money to survive working in a call centre and I lived right near a brothel so the financial incentive was really the push to enter the industry.

My first weekend I made enough money to pay for a bon and months rent on my own place, buy groceries and have money left over to save. Of course this isn’t the experience for all or even most workers, I will always be grateful to the safety and security the work gave me when I needed it most.

What has been your biggest takeaway/lesson from working in the adult film industry?

First off, ask yourself why you want to work in the adult film industry and what you think you will gain from the work. Unlike other forms of sex work – porn involved showing your face engaging in explicit sex acts for money and once the footage is out on the internet it’s out forever. Really ask yourself if you’re comfortable with people knowing about your involvement in the industry and what the fall out will be for your personal and professional life if the films are found by your friends, family or employers.

Do your research. I’ve worked for some really great companies that treat the models like professionals and the scene is clearly negotiated and works at your own pace. But I’ve also been to some pretty terrible shoots with boundary pushing and predatory directors, especially ones where the male talent is also the director.

The best way to stay safe is to research companies you like the look of and reach out to other models on social media to ask them about their own experiences. It’s also important to have a clear idea of what you are and are not comfortable doing on camera and decide what you are prepared to do before arriving on set as some directors can pressure you to perform acts you don’t want to do in order to make the scene ‘more interesting’ or marketable – it’s not ethical, but it does happen and you have the right to refuse anything you don’t feel comfortable with.

A reputable company will also be happy to meet you before committing to any shoots and answer any questions you have. Some important questions to ask are:

Where will this film be shown online?

What sex acts would I be required to do and do I get to decide what I will and won’t do in the scene?

Will my co-performer be required to undertake a recent full STI/HIV test and show me the results before work?

Can I use safe sex supplies such as gloves, condoms, etc.

How much will I be paid for the scene and how many hours will I be on set?

Who will I be performing with?

What happens if someone behaves inappropriately towards me or if I need to stop or take a break on set?

Will my co-performer and I have a chance to meet and discuss boundaries before the shoot?

How do you think sex work contributes to the reclamation of sexuality in public spaces?

As a sex worker I think it’s important that we shift the dialogue away from the debate around empowerment and the impact on consumers and refocus on the labor rights of the workers. When we get too focused on how sex work ties in to sexual expression and how it makes the viewer/consumer feel we imply that the rights of the worker come secondary to that of the consumer which reinforces a neoliberalist view of the industry. Until we have full decriminalization of our work, access to support services, and the ability to work safely and in the open I don’t think it’s beneficial to talk about the impact our work has on the sexual freedoms of the general consumer.

What motivated you to begin counselling others in their sexual journey?

I’ve always been interested in sex and sexuality and after working in sex work for so long I was wanting to take on a new career challenge that utilized my skills as a sex worker that still allowed me to work for myself and focus on sexuality.

Through doing full service sex work I realised just how little most people actually knew about their own bodies, sexual health, consent and desire and how often sex workers are asked to educate and inform people about these topics as part of their job. When I learnt about sexual empowerment coaching and sexological bodywork it seemed like a natural fit.

I’m passionate about taking my knowledge and skills and applying them to help others develop a greater awareness of their sexuality and become their most embodied self. Through coaching and bodywork I can sit with people from all different backgrounds and help them realise their goals and intentions for their sexual awareness which is honestly one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.

What is something you have learned from your clients that you have incorporated in your own sexual journey?

I’ve met so many people I would never have met if it weren’t for sex work – my clients come from all ages, races, genders and backgrounds, each with their own desires, boundaries and beliefs.

Developing personal connections with my clients – no matter how brief – has taught me to always be openminded, and approach each individual with curiosity and kindness. I’ve learnt that you can never know what people are going through, what their insecurities are and how they feel about their sexuality. It’s definitely made me less judgmental.

I’ve also learnt a lot about so many different kinks and fetishes. My attitude has always been to try everything and use the work to find out what I like and what I’m comfortable with. There are so many things I would never have tried if it weren’t for sex work – for example water sports, pet play, roleplay, pegging, etc. Some things I haven’t enjoyed but a lot of acts I’ve gone on to enjoy in my personal life.

I’ve learnt how to negotiate consent, how to assert my boundaries and become a self taught expert on sexual health. I’ve learnt how to discuss STI status, how to ask for what I want and how to create a safe environment for me and my lovers to discuss what we want.

What brings you the most joy in your work?

Being my own boss, having the flexibility to work anywhere in the world and having spare time to invest in my personal life. I also love that my job is centered around pleasure – especially working as a sexual empowerment guide and bodyworker. I love being able to schedule my work around my personal life – it’s a huge privilege very few people have. I also love being a part of the sex worker community – sex workers are some of my absolute favourite people in the world and it brings me so much joy to be a part of this group of smart, resilient and inspiring humans.

Anything else you’d like to share?

If you’re interested in becoming a sex worker ally, inform yourself about the issues facing our community such as stigma, criminalization, SESTA/FOSTA and access to essential services.

This video by Juno Mac about the difference between legalization, criminalization and decriminalization of sex work is a great space to start
https://www.ted.com/talks/juno_mac_the_laws_that_sex_workers_really_want?language=en

I also recommend books like “Revolting Prostitutes” by Juno Mac and Molly Easo Smith, “Coming Out Like a Porn Star” by Jiz Lee and “Playing the Whore” by Melissa Gira Grant to get informed.

Dion De Rossi

You can find Dion on Instagram @dion.derossi and through their website https://www.sexualempowermentberlin.com/

With love,

B.

Image by: Natalia Portnoy (IG: @nataliaportnoy)