Houston trans pornstar Valentina Mia is taking on the patriarchy
And the smart money is on her
Valentina’s profile on GroobyGirls.com begins, “Texas Sweetheart and multi-racial Goddess, Valentina Mia is the epitome of grace and charm, but let her body do the talking.”
Valentina’s body can ‘talk’ just fine¹— at 5'5" and a perkily-curvily-athletic 120 lbs., it can ‘say’ plenty. But listen too hard to just her body, and you’ll miss most of what makes her special. And she is special.
Valentina, at the tender age of 22, has been nominated for two AVN Awards (Favorite Trans Cam Star + Favorite Trans Porn Star) and a TEA award (Best New Face) for her work with GroobyGirls, TwoTgirls, Femout and Superheroine Destruction, among others.
She also holds a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Houston (where she was a member in full standing with the Honors College, graduated with full honors, etc.), and she’s accustomed to being the smartest person in most rooms, most of the time.
There’s a deeply-ingrained, niggling piece of misogyny that suggests that women who pursue sex or enjoy sex or (most especially), go into sex work are ‘bimbos,’ or that, at least, they’re better served if they pretend to be.
She routinely waxes philosophical without breaking rhetorical stride, diving effortlessly into feminist theory as she describes the early stages of her gender transition (now in month 20):
“Maybe six to eight months into it, people didn’t even notice that I was transgender. My transgender problems are not the same as some other transgender women may face in Houston. But I know that before I was quote-unquote ‘passing’ enough, I did get a lot of stares and women giving me nasty faces…
“Oh yeah! It’s the women who would be openly aggressive about it. Those are the ones that would tend to say something under their breath. To me, it’s just so silly. One, I am sorry that we live in a patriarchal society that forces women to compete against each other, so we constantly have to deflect our own personal insecurities onto other people. Two, this person must be so miserable that they are spending their time criticizing someone that they already know is going through their own set of struggles and problems. Come on, that’s the definition of cruelty — hitting someone when they’re already down.”
Patriarchy: literally means “the rule of the father” and comes from the Greek πατριάρχης (patriarkhēs), “father of a race” or “chief of a race, patriarch”, which is a compound of πατριά (patria), “lineage, descent” (from πατήρ patēr, “father”) and ἄρχω (arkhō), “I rule.” Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family.
Suffice it to say, Valentina isn’t into that. At all.
She sees evidence of the patriarchy all around, but perhaps most especially in trans porn. She intends to be a force for good, knowledge and empathy, even if the industry — on the whole — is anything but. And whether she’s part of a larger movement, or alone on an island, she’s happy to bare herself to her fans in an even deeper way, perhaps, than they might expect her to.
“I don’t spend too much time comparing myself to other people, because I feel like I’ve never done that in my life, and I’ve excelled so much in my life precisely because I haven’t done that. I just like to see the way that I’ve progressed over time, seeing how my audience has grown over time, my reach, my image…
“I try to not just focus on the porn shoots. I like for people to be able to [understand] what it is like to be a transgender woman, and what it’s like to be a transgender woman who is pre-op, and be a transgender woman who feels disgusted by having a penis, but at the same time it is always being on display. That’s a very complex, complex relationship that I have with my body and its representations.”
The complexity is mind-boggling. I tried to think of a body part of mine that made me uncomfortable/disgusted (there were too many… I need to be more body-positive!), and then imaged having to expose those parts, have them played with… my livelihood depending on it… it seems tough. Like, super-tough. And it is, says Valentina, but not so much as she would have thought when she was starting out.
“Surprisingly, [sex work] is not as hard for me to do as I thought it would be. I think that’s mostly because of the environment that I’m in and the whole approach that I have to it. I think of sex differently than I did before. Most recently, the way that I have seen it — ever since I started getting into sex work — is that sex can be something that is really personal and intimate, but it can also be something that can just be a very physical thing too. It can be on different levels. I think that the better sex is the one that is on many different levels, personally. But you can still enjoy it on different levels, and it can still be satisfying — so I can still have sex and be satisfied from it, and not feel guilty about having satisfying sex that isn’t for procreation or someone had to marry me for us to have sex… I don’t believe in those sorts of things.
“I think those are just funny and sort of interesting things. I’m not one to just believe in what society says about what is, because I personally think of myself as a very curious person and I constantly ask ‘why’ or ‘why not?’ So, in this case it’s: why not- what is wrong with it? Why should I feel bad about having sex? That’s what I try to get other people to understand too — there is nothing wrong with having sex and enjoying it.”
She means it, too. When Valentina hears me say that I came to interview her without watching any of her scenes², she jumps right in on me, too…
“Is it pervy [to watch my scenes before interviewing me]? That’s the problem — let’s take a couple steps back because you are adding all this shame.
“No — I think my body is beautiful, and I have no shame in putting it out there. And I put it out there for people to watch. My parents could watch it and I wouldn’t be like, ‘oh my god, don’t watch it.’ I don’t see why not.”
That’s real sex-positivity. I can’t say I relate, though I admire it tremendously. I, myself, filmed some ‘scenes’ a few years ago that are starting to pop up in compilations on Tube sites³, and the idea of an acquaintance running across them isn’t entirely foreign (it’s happened a number of times now), but… my parents? That’s intense. Plus now I feel like I haven’t done my homework before sitting down with a budding, up-and-coming TS pornstar, who also happens to be one of the smartest people I’ve met in a while.⁴ I’m flop-sweating visibly (I’m sure). I can tell because Valentina is delighted.
That’s my skill — I love making people feel weird about feeling weird.
‘Feeling weird about feeling weird’ feels… well, weird, of course. Trebly so. But Valentina artfully draws a parallel between the transitory, slight feeling of weirdness I have and the pervasive ‘weirdness’ (if you want to call it that) which society levels at transwomen and particularly trans performers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, etc etc.
There’s a reason, Valentina says, for the weirdness.
I believe the first introduction that most people have to transgender women is through pornography. Because I am in that field, I am able to shape that image — that first realization of what a transgender woman is — and I want to be able to do that by influencing what is produced. Too much of that is led by men that are cisgender white males. They are over here trying to tell us what it is like to have sex as a transgender woman. But you see very different narratives by transgender women who have made their own websites. They have a different representation of what it’s like. I think it’s not until the periphery becomes more mainstream, becomes more of the center, that we won’t realize what it is actually like to have a sexual encounter with a transgender woman.
That calls to mind an article from Salon in 2011, “What’s behind transsexual attraction?” Somehow, we’ve driven ourselves into a bizarre corner, culturally, where some men feel compelled to not only consume trans-porn vociferously, but to then transmogrify that intense, insistent lust into IRL rage/anger.
Which is a fucking disastrous formula, obviously.
Fortunately, Valentina is by no means alone on the other side of the equation: the side favoring self-love, acceptance, sex-positivity, equal rights, etc. Being treated like a person, in other words, and not a sex object or exotic plaything.
‘Being real’ is part of that, for Valentina, and she’s real in her shoots, she says⁵, just like I can plainly see she’s being real speaking to me. Also fortunately, more and more women (cis & trans, both) are fighting their way into opportunities to not just act in the content, but create and produce it. The results are encouraging.
“It’s because of people like Luna Loveless, who has the website TSNaturals in Toronto. She has performers that have not had any surgeries. She lets them just be themselves, and at the end of the day it’s just to show you what a transgender woman looks like when she is just on hormones, but without the butt implants, the hip implants, the boob jobs, and stuff like that — everything that it seems like society forces transgender women to have to do in order to feel like they’re doing a good job of being a transgender woman.”
[The world] needs to be more compassionate, more understanding, more patient and more aware of the individual and not of the categories in which we put these individuals. I think that once we have a more molecular understanding of individuals and see them atomically, then building them up into who this person is — as opposed to starting from a very lazy approach of stereotyping individuals — I think that will enable us to have true empathy and compassion for one another.
To be frank, I don’t know whether Valentina Mia is different from all the other adult entertainers out there. I’ve only met a handful, and each is different from the other is different from the other, etc. ‘Everyone is different,’ we’re fond of saying at Mystiq. And everyone is.
I’m quite certain that she’s as bright and articulate an individual as I’ve ever spent an hour and a half chatting with, though. And although I let my shame-based (or shame-adjacent) feelings keep me from consuming and enjoying her work prior to meeting her, I took her admonishment to heart, and sat down to watch her clips and scenes.
At first, watching a scene of hers I had found, I felt the thrill I imagined most people get from ‘knowing’ a ‘pornstar’ and seeing them on-screen: a lascivious ‘aha!’ But I found myself reflecting on her message, or what I imagined it to be from our earlier conversation, and it had an impact on the viewing.
I mean, I was still watching pornography. Don’t get me wrong…
Just definitely watching a little more thoughtfully than I’m ordinarily wont to do. And maybe watching porn a little more thoughtfully is a good thing? Like, a reeeealllllllyyyyy good thing?? It feels like it might be…
1 ~ allow me to register an ‘ugh’ at the phraseology
2 ~ in fact, I studiously avoided seeing any X-rated material of her, out of… I’m not sure what. Puritanical holdover from my upbringing? A deep-seated belief that porn = shame? She’s totally right! What was my deal??
3 ~ don’t even bother; you don’t have nearly enough info 😂
4 ~ Full disclosure: Valentina and I overlapped at the Honors College somewhat, though we didn’t meet until this interview. But we knew of each other, had mutual acquaintances, etc.
5 ~ I can confirm, having gone back and watched Valentina’s terrific work, that that is the case. She’s just real, on-camera, off-camera, whatever.