Seven Queer Porn Stars Who Are Probably Smarter Than You

As erotic actors, we hear it a lot: "You're so much smarter than I thought you would be!" Unfortunately, many people are quick to associate sex workers with a lack of brainpower, believing that in order to make a living we have no choice but to use our bodies instead of what must be lackluster lobes. Perhaps, as a society, our own hang-ups about sex are to blame, fueled by a dearth of positive mainstream media coverage of what my colleagues and I call "the industry." In my five years of working in porn, however, I have been graced with meeting a superlatively well-rounded, well-adjusted, eclectic, and -- yes -- intelligent group of peers.

I recently came across a list on eBaum's World of intellectually-gifted porn stars. It's an impressive catalog, but it's comprised mostly of straight actors. Inspired by the eBaum list, I am proud to present but a few of their queer counterparts... who are also (at least) as smart as you are.

2016-05-09-1462816582-5921876-165AdamRamzi.pngAdam Ramzi was working on a master's degree in LGBT psychology at Antioch University when Chris Ward, the head of Raging Stallion Studios, asked him to appear in an adult film. "At first I scoffed at the idea and was thinking that's not really something I'd be willing to do," Ramzi says. "But then the more I thought about it, it seemed to make a lot of sense... because a lot of what I was looking into in my program was about the shame around gay sex, and also people's reactions to sex work in general. So I just thought it would be kind of a risky little challenge that I could set for myself to try one scene and see what I thought about it. I ended up getting a lot out of it and decided to keep doing more. Each scene has been its own experience, its own adventure, its own set of circumstances. I really enjoy it." Ramzi currently writes for the NSFW industry blog The Sword while pursuing a license in Marriage and Family Therapy.

2016-05-09-1462816609-4819965-165AndreShakti.pngAndre Shakti describes herself as "one of the busiest (and queerest!) gals in porn." The Bay Area activist and educator, who graduated cum laude from Towson University with degrees in psychology and LGBT studies, is devoted to normalizing alternative desires, de-stigmatizing sex workers and their clients, and -- as she puts it -- "not taking herself too seriously." She teaches workshops on relationships, desire and sexual safety, and writes about the sex industry for Cosmopolitan and Harlot. Shakti's sex-positive message is always infused with a healthy dose of realism. "I'm all for shattering this fantasy of what the figureheads of the [queer porn] community are really like," she recently told Ravishly. "We're not like perfect-fucking-on-point advocates for change at every single turn. We're real, multi-faceted people who are fighting the same tendencies and preferences and past experiences that everybody else is fighting."

2016-05-09-1462816630-6313584-165JizLee.pngGenderqueer writer, activist, and performer Jiz Lee, a graduate of Mills College in Oakland, California, has been working in the adult film industry since 2005. They have spoken about porn at Princeton, Williams, and Stanford, and have been featured on MSNBC, FOX News, and Lifehacker. Jiz, who prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns like "they" and "them" when referring to themselves, is the creator of the award-winning anthology Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection, and Privacy, and is currently co-editing a special edition of the academic journal Porn Studies entitled "Porn and Labour". They also enjoy competing in triathlons and guest-starring on the Amazon original series Transparent. "Diversity in porn lets us find ourselves in the erotic landscape, proving we are all capable and deserving of love," Lee writes on their NSFW blog. Their advice: "Be the porn you wish to see in the world."

2016-05-09-1462816843-2517092-165ConnerHabib.png"I've wanted to be in porn since I was 12 years old," says controversial porn star Conner Habib. After studying creative writing and evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Habib moved to San Francisco, where he turned down a teaching job to start his acting career. He was the first gay adult film star to lecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and has spoken on the intersection of sex and culture at such institutions as the University of Southern California and Bowdoin College. "Everything we know about sex is wrong," says Habib. "Giving ourselves more freedom in understanding sex can change our entire view of it." He has written about sex work for Vice, Slate, and Buzzfeed, and is currently the Vice President of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, where he lobbies for improved safety and working conditions in the adult film industry.

2016-05-09-1462816676-455354-165LoreleiLee.pngActor, screenwriter, and activist Lorelei Lee has been starring in adult films since she was 19 years old. Lee, a New York University creative writing graduate whose work has been featured in Salon and The Rumpus, co-wrote the 2010 film About Cherry starring Heather Graham, Dev Patel, and James Franco. In 2015, she lobbied against California's controversial bill requiring condom use in statewide porn production, instead favoring a rigorous array of prevention methods already in place throughout the industry. (The bill died in committee.) Lee, who identifies as queer and is married to a trans man, prides herself in making what she calls feminist pornography. "It represents this idea of women just taking control," she explains. "What that imagery looks like, what kind of sex we want to have on film, deciding what kind of scenes we want to put out there into the world."

2016-05-09-1462816706-3965689-165BuckAngel.pngA pioneer of transgender visibility, Buck Angel has produced and appeared in numerous adult movies and mainstream films, including the autobiographical film Mr. Angel and the award-winning documentary Sexing the Transman. The rugged transgender actor is the founder of Buck Angel Dating and Buck Angel Cams, the first websites of their kind that are designed specifically for the trans male community. Angel, who coined the phrase "It's not what's between your legs that defines you!", has spoken internationally on the topics of sexual fluidity and identity politics. "I started to have people writing me saying 'I'm not really into your porn stuff, but what you're doing is so amazing and you are really changing the way I feel about what it means to be a man or a woman,'" Angel told Q Center. "I sort of stepped back and realized 'Gosh, I'm doing something that's bigger than porn.'" He currently works as a motivational speaker and human rights activist, and serves on the board of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

2016-05-10-1462916152-2368223-165DirkCaber2.png"I think I came out of the womb singing," says classically-trained composer (and BDSM enthusiast) Dirk Caber. The popular and prolific actor, who started writing music when he was six years old, studied at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and the European American Musical Alliance's Institute in Paris. After moving to New York City, he served as an assistant producer at Live from Lincoln Center before becoming the principal orchestra librarian at the American Symphony Orchestra. Caber is also an accomplished tuba player, pianist, and vocalist, having performed at Carnegie Hall more than 40 times. When not starring in adult films or pursuing musical endeavors, Caber lobbies for sex workers' rights, having been a featured guest on programs such as Savage Lovecast with Dan Savage and The In Call with Hawk Kinkaid. But perhaps his most impressive accomplishment to date has been getting hitched to fellow porn star Jesse Jackman... who I hear is quite a catch.