Pleasure to Meet You, Andre Shakti!
Introducing the O.school Pleasure Professionals!
Opportunities for safe, nonjudgmental sex and pleasure education are far and few between, even in 2017. O.school wants to fix that. We have a team of 30+ experienced Pleasure Professionals for whom we seek to be an amplification platform. Our Pleasure to Meet You column introduces the brilliant folks you can engage with and learn from at O.school.
Andre Shakti has been an out and proud “professional slut” for a decade. She started out dancing at a strip club at 18. Today, Andre is a porn performer, professional dominatrix, relationship coach, educator, activist and journalist. Queer and polyamorous, Andre writes a poly advice column that can be found at IAmPoly.net. In 2010, she graduated from Towson University in Maryland with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and LGBT Studies. Andre attended our early morning Skype conversation in a fluffy-looking, leopard-print robe and, as she mischievously confessed at the end of our interview, pantless. Our question/answer dialogue occasionally went off track as we bonded over mutual affection for New Jersey and Carol Queen. Andre shared her stories and her joyful laugh generously with me, and now with you, dear readers and O.school students.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited.
Maya: How did you know that the sex industry was where you wanted to be?
Andre: I had always weirdly known that I wanted to be in the sex industry in some way, but I never thought that it was accessible to me because of the way that I looked. I grew up watching a lot of mainstream porn as a teenager on my family computer, snuck my parents’ Playboy magazines, and watched Showtime’s “Real Sex” and stuff like that. And yeah, the women in the magazines, the women on Showtime — they didn’t look like me. At least not the me that I envisioned I was then. . . .
When I got older, I actually gained the bulk of my self-confidence doing work in the sex industry. Particularly around my genitalia . . . I happen to be a woman who has a larger labia and a larger clitoral hood. . . . I spent the first four years of my stripping career refusing to dance at fully nude clubs because I had such a self-consciousness about what my genitals looked like. Through coming out [as queer] and having sex with women, and also starting to do fully nude work — like working in porn and working at full nude strip clubs — I got exposure to what other women’s genitalia looked like in real life . . . It’s not what happens to everyone when they get into the sex industry, but I can credit the sex industry directly for the confidence and the self-esteem and feelings of self worth and groundedness in my own identity. It’s one of the main reasons that I am such a big fan of the sex industry, and that I encourage people to investigate it.
Maya: What classes will you be teaching for O.school?
Andre: I specifically am working on a consent education program for well-intentioned men 18–25 that are growing up in this intersectional feminist movement . . . that is something that I really hope to expand within O.school. I also want to do consent education for other people — not just cis-gendered men.
I want to do information about HIV harm reduction and risk assessment education, particularly for queer femme communities, and queer trans communities, because we’re often told that there are little-to-no risks in those communities because of the sex acts that we engage in. And that’s not true. And that means that a lot of people are not protecting themselves in the way they should and could be. That’s what my live stream is about on the 25th of April.
I’ll also be teaching in the slut skills category, doing the things that I teach best, which will probably have a lot to do with ass and pussy play, fisting, dirty talk, strap-on play, sex toys and masturbation, maybe some light kink and impact play instruction — all that good stuff.
Maya: What are you excited about regarding your upcoming work as a Pleasure Professional with O.school?
Andre: Andrea [CEO and Founder of O.school, Andrea Barrica]. [Chuckles.] She is honest-to-God brilliant. I believe in her, and I believe in her platform. It’s been a long time since I put my faith in somebody like that.
I also could not be more stoked that O.school is coming from trauma-informed perspective. I think it is so valuable that it might just be the crux that makes it stand out from every other platform.
Maya: I’d love to hear more about your pornographic work! What is your favorite scene that you’ve ever been in? What do you enjoy most about being an adult performer?
Andre: My favorite scenes that I’ve been in are the ones that don’t feel like scenes. I remember specifically, I shot a scene for kink.com with a performer named Owen Gray . . . He and I had been eying each other for a while . . . We just had such great chemistry! All day on set we were fucking when the camera was on, as well as when the camera was off! [Laughs] . . . I love when directors give the opportunity for the performer or performers to have a collaborated effort in the scene and structure it in ways that is actually going to turn them on . . . a way that feels much more authentic than just being handed your scene partner’s name and a shot list that the director came up with.
Maya: What do you find most challenging about your work?
Andre: It’s really hard not to internalize some of the messages that the industry perpetuates. A good example is that I’ve always been into anal sex in my real life. It wasn’t until I was involved in porn that I started getting really self-conscious about perceived “mess” back there. Basically poop making an appearance during anal, which happens. It’s a perfectly predictable and understandable biological reaction. However, in porn you “clean out” before anal scenes so thoroughly that most folks don’t eat for 24 hours before they have an anal scene. They are doing enemas every hour on the hour. It can be a stressful, long, arduous process.
I found that the more I shot anal porn scenes and the more that I was in the porn industry, the more self-conscious I became about my body’s very natural functions during butt play in my bedroom. I had to rework through that and remind myself that it’s okay — I don’t have to go starve myself for a whole day and then do 50 enemas before my partner decides to eat my ass out on a Friday night. [Laughs]
Maya: I know that intersectionality and accessibility are two really important values in your work, just as they are for O.school. How does that manifest in your daily life and work?
Andre: It presents in a few ways, number one being in terms of how I do my romantic relationships — and how I fuck, to be honest. So for example, I’m queer. . . When the election came through in November, one of the people that I was dating at the time was a white, straight man. After the election, despite how amazing he is and how great we get along and all the things, I made a decision that I was not going to have sex with any white, straight, cisgender men under a Trump presidency unless I was getting paid for it. So I ended one of my romantic relationships because I couldn’t continue to have sex with him under our political climate.
Number two is how I use my privilege and my work as a freelancer to try to drive money back to marginalized communities. As a freelancer I get approached to do interviews or podcasts episodes or private parties. When I’m busy, I pass those gigs on. Or, if I get hired to do a go-go dancing gig and the venue asks me to pick my partner for it, I will try to pick a woman of color or a trans person of color or a fat person. I also try to give my money back to the community: I’ll go down to LA and shoot porn for four days and then I’ll go to a strip club and throw a quarter of what I just made at the women working there. It’s not entirely selfless, though — I always love watching naked ladies!
. . . My politics on the street are the same as my politics in the bedroom.
You can catch Andre teaching her live streamed class, Why Queer Women Need to Assess HIV as a Risk, on O.school’s live streamed beta site, on April 25th, 6–7 pm pst. Sign up for our waitlist to gain access to the beta site.
Follow O.school on Twitter and Instagram @odotschool and check out our Facebook page to find out when we launch! O.school is a shame-free platform for pleasure education. Our mission is to help billions of people unlearn shame, heal from sexual trauma, develop skill sets to communicate what they want and don’t want, discover new sexual desires in a LGBTQ-friendly and judgment-free space, and most of all — own their desires.
Maya Peers Nitzberg is a content writer at O.school.