Sex workers on their body modification choices - canvas vs. commodity

Many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community have chosen to modify our bodies in various ways to express our identities, sometimes to identify ourselves secretly or not-so-secretly to one another, sometimes to feel empowered in our bodies or to express our inner ideals, and sometimes just for fun or to share an experience with friends or loved ones. Piercings above and below the belt, gauging, as well as tattoos from pride flags to anime, are all modes of expression that have been embraced broadly in the community. Sex workers, however, often get pushback from their client base for their body modification choices.

As one of our cover models, Gustavo Ferraro, said, “For years tattoos, handkerchiefs, and code lingo where how we found each other. How we found our safe spaces. Even now I feel immediately at ease when I notice an equal sign on someone’s wrist or behind their ear. It’s a signal.”

Ironically, in the adult entertainment industry, where sex workers engage a capitalistic market, tattoos were long frowned upon - as in much of the heteronormative, patriarchal corporate world. Most of the models working with the big studios were either free of tattoos or had small, modestly placed tattoos. You’d see the occasional tribal band, perhaps.

Over the last decade, though, things have changed quite a lot. It’s much more common for studios to work with sex workers who are heavily tattooed, or who have large pieces. And the fan site model has allowed those who are outside the norm of corporate porn to develop their own following.

Our cover models this month, Seamus O’Reilly and Gustavo Ferraro, both actively engaged sex workers. Seamus has worked with professional studios and later developed his fan following, while Gustavo started with fan sites, so they have different experiences, but both agree that having tattoos has cost them opportunities even in this industry.

When Seamus started working in porn, he didn’t have tattoos, and for a long while he only had a simple black tattoo on his shoulder. He was advised that if he wanted to keep working with major studios, he should think twice about getting more. Nevertheless, he continued to get additional tattoos on his arms and hip. And he still gets work, though he knows that there are studios he probably can’t work with because of it.

For both, tattooing themselves has taken precedence over trying to satisfy everyone else. “Every single tattoo has a meaning to me,” Gustavo said. “They represent the people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned. I have tons of quotes that helped me deal with what I went through. ‘Forget those who forget you’ is a favorite. ‘Dying is easy living is harder’—that one has kept me here too many times to count.”

Seamus’ tattoos are all meaningful for him too, though one in particular is most philosophical. “My first tattoo was two Celtic ravens forming the yin-yang on my shoulder. It seemed like a good starting spot as it was hidden as long as I had a shirt on. It has two meanings behind it: the yin-yang being the balance in all things, and the idea that everything will eventually pass. The ravens being commonly a dark omen, but also a symbol of power reminding myself that the dark times I went through have helped shape who I am today and made me stronger in a sense.”

“I know they probably have cost me some opportunities,” Seamus said, “but it comes with the territory. I know that with each new piece I get, I run the risk of losing current/future work because of it. But at the same time I could open new doors because of it as well. In an industry where your appearance is everything, I have found that there is always work no matter what you look like, it just might not be the kind that you want to do.”

Gustavo, who’s worked as a cam model, agreed. “I mean I’ve definitely been turned down from work because of it. Some people like it. Some people don’t. You can’t win ‘em all.”

While they are both quite accepting of the fact that there will be those who don’t like the look and take a live and let live attitude, not all of their fans have the same philosophy. While it would be easy to think to themselves, “I wish this person I’m a fan of hadn’t done that,” and move on with their lives, some people simply can’t keep their opinions to themselves.

“For the most part the only effect adding tattoos has had on me,” Seamus said, “is the occasional person giving their opinion on how I have 'ruined' my body and become unattractive to them. But they are in the minority—the majority of people like them.”

“When I was younger, some of the older gays gave me shit. But that came from a corporate mentality that is being abolished every day,” Gustavo added. He continued, “[Those] people say I will regret them when I’m older. And I might. But that seems like a problem for later me to figure out. For now I’ll enjoy the time I have with them looking good!”

So, now you’ve seen almost all their tattoos—and if you have social media you can see them ALL. Are they done? Not by a long shot.

Seamus has a lot of tattoos he still wants to get, but he’s set his sights on one in particular: “A high fantasy tattoo. Fantasy was always my biggest escape growing up, it allowed me to go to a place where I felt accepted and in control.”

Gustavo owes a tattoo debt! “My best friend in Vegas and I planned matching tattoos for almost three years. One day I was supposed to go and get it. I forgot. Long story short, he got the tattoo that day. I have not. So I really need to get on that!”

You can check out our models on social media, but be warned—their accounts are absolutely NOT SAFE FOR WORK! Seamus O’Reilly can be found on Twitter at @SeamusOReilly69, and Gustavo Ferraro can be found on Twitter at @gogo_gustavo.

Who are some of your favorite tattooed models in the adult industry? Reach out to jgrady@outandaboutnashville if you’d like to suggest sex workers, models, escorts, artist, etc. as an interview for the After Dark podcast! And check out the full April digial issue!

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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