Embedded: The real porn stars of Noe Valley

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Embedded:

Melissa Gira Grant gets deep about the San Francisco sex scene every Thursday on SEX SF. Check out her last installment here.

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Monika studies public health at San Francisco State University. She’s 28 going on 29 and lives in Noe Valley. “I’m not bougie,” she says, “I just got a good deal.” She uses FetLife.com and MySpace to meet potential lovers. “I don’t have a problem telling people on those sites that I do porn. It’s helpful. That way the one’s who are talking to me to get my pics can just buy them from me and wank off to a couple.”

Monika is the feature model on a site she runs herself, Monika’s Playhouse. It’s her take on tranny porn. “There’s basically two kinds of tranny porn out there: the ‘shemales’ with big tits and big dicks fucking everything in site, these eroticized women with penises. Then there’s men dressed like women being dominated. Crossdresser porn. I’m a blend of the two.”

Before a shoot, she might abstain from sex for a few days, but she says that’s the only real drawback making porn has her on relationships. Most of her partners know about the site, and she invites some of her lovers to perform with her on-camera. “I get to do 100% what I like,” she says, “and I get to share that with the people in my personal life.”

Her fans come mostly from the US and UK, and from what she can tell, they’re almost all male. Photos on the site show Monika dressed up like Alice in Wonderland or Little Bo Peep. When she lifts up her skirt, you can see a penis underneath the layers of ruffles. On her message board, fans describe how much they would love to meet her and play with her, like she was their doll. They don’t all want to fuck her. Some want to be her. “Monika is so smart and so brave for getting this up and running. i wish i was more like her,” one wrote. Next to the message is a shot of Monika in a bathing suit standing before the Golden Gate Bridge.

The porn site isn’t making her rich. Monika says that’s not unusual – “I only know one person who works full-time in porn and makes a real living off of it. The rest supplement their income by doing personal sessions [as escorts, or dommes], or other kinds of work.” That is, many Bay Area porn performers are working on a contract basis, without health insurance or job security. Part of freelance porn is paying for your own medical costs out of pocket -- something Monika can afford now. She plans to get breast implants, as well, and take an unpaid internship as part of her program.

“The site was always a dream of mine to do,” she says. “It’s kind of hot -- it’s exciting when I go out to clubs in the city, when people recognize me.” But porn is just one part of Monika’s life. Half the week, she’s working on her degree. “I do everything myself. I only shoot one or two times a month, then I might spend 4 or 5 hours taking care of the site,” she explains. “For me, it’s just another gig.”

Melissa Gira Grant writes about sex & the internet at her award-winning blog, Sexerati and at the sex workers' group blog, . Her work has appeared in Best Sex Writing 2008, $pread, Make:, Valleywag, The Frisky, and The Huffington Post. She has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Cosmopolitan (France), Wired News, NPR, SexTV, BBC Radio, and Penthouse Forum, among many others.