Erotica LA is one of the largest porn conventions in the world. Next week the who’s who of the adult industry will gather in Los Angeles to set up displays, talk about their films, and receive awards. Not a likely place to find a missionary.
But that’s where Daphne Khoury will be. Daphne will be accompanying her friend and former porn star Shelley Lubben and several other ex-sex industry workers as a part of an outreach sponsored by The Pink Cross Foundation. (Go to the bottom of this post to donate money to their outreach.)
Why is Daphne going to Erotica LA? As a former stripper, she understands the inside of the sex-industry and has a passion to help the men and women who are a part of it.
Daphne made a clean break with the sex industry a little over a year ago, in January, 2007. She tried a few years earlier, but quitting, she says, was harder to do than quitting her heroin habit.
Heroin was only one of the vices that surrounded her in the sex industry. A quick glance through Daphne’s Myspace page will show you how candid she is about the traumatic experiences she went through: alcohol, drugs, rapes, sexual abuse, and suicide attempts.
Now she is standing as an advocate for those in the industry who experience the same abuses. Recently six people were arrested for prostitution at one of the clubs where she used to work. And Daphne has recently received death threats, if she were to report any abuse or illegal activity from her time as a stripper.
Still, an understandably fearful yet determined Daphne appeared before a California State Assembly to share her story. She and Shelley Lubben appeared as expert witnesses at the California State Capitol on May 12, to share an “inside look” at the sex industry. They stood with Assemblyman Charles Calderon to get the State of California to pass a bill that would do something about the secondary negative effects of the adult industry on the industry workers themselves. (You can watch the full video of the assembly online: California Channel. Fast forward to 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to the good stuff.)
I’ve been talking to Daphne via email, and she told me,
It’s so important for truth to be spoken about what really goes on in the industry because misunderstandings in this area have drastic social consequences. It is very good for there to be awareness—for people in the church, for families, for counselors, for society; being part of the community is important for wholeness, and women and men coming out of that life don’t want to search for healing if they think that others will judge them. It empowers those caught up in the game to reach out and ask for help instead of isolating in silence and in shame.
She’s was gracious to do a small interview for Covenant Eyes.
1. Daphne, you say that you hope to be “a voice proclaiming hope and a destiny better than that of porn” (from your MySpace page). I understand you spent seven years working in the sex industry, involved in prostitution and stripping. Were you acquainted with many women involved in porn?
Yes. When I stripped at the clubs I usually kept to myself but sometimes had the pleasure of making friends with some really wonderful women. It is so sad because most are such beautiful women—smart, survivors, students, mothers—who try to do their best but end up getting swept up in the industry’s dark gravitational pull, becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol, or being the victim of terrible crimes.
A popular cultural label is that “the women that work in those types of places are trashy.” I couldn’t disagree with that more. I see that statement coming from people who have had more or less charmed lives and don’t know what life is like for people on the other side. It’s severe circumstances and substantial economic needs that drive most women in and out of the industry.
2. Daphne, you say that childhood abuse prepped you well for the sex industry. Do you find most women in the sex industry come from backgrounds of child abuse?
Of the stories I have heard, yes, in some form or another. For me, personally, I didn’t connect the two consciously until during recovery. My self-worth was so low that I thought stripping and prostitution were the only things I would ever be good at. I didn’t think life offered me a better choice, and I had come to accept things as they were. I thought that I was lucky to have found something that could offer me the money I needed for medical bills. Being so emotionally needy, I depended upon the compliments of customers to give me self esteem. I was absolutely convinced that some of my customers really loved and cared for me. Now I know that that wasn’t love. But only someone with a background of abuse could make that kind of mistake. It’s much easier to cross boundaries when you see someone as your friend instead of your enemy.
3. Your friend Crissy left the pornography industry back in October of 2006. Would you say your friendship with Crissy has helped you work through some of the emotional difficulties of your past in the sex industry?
Crissy’s friendship to me is golden. I reached out to Crissy when I was really struggling out of the industry. She came a couple of times to pick me up for church, and we really hit it off and became great friends! Crissy and I have been able to lean on each other through very difficult moments. It’s hard coming out of the industry with your own personal demons to fight, and it’s near to impossible without friends. A lot of people in the world don’t know how to reach out to people in porn, or to accept them. This makes it harder to really find a friend that you can connect with, one that can empathize with you. Crissy is a real gift to me.
4. From your vlogs and blogs, it seems that family is very important to you. You repeatedly mention your grandparents. How would you describe their influence on your life? Are you still close with anyone in your family?
My grandparents on my mom’s side are very important to me. I was closest to my grandmother, who showed me so much love when I was little. She was also my biggest advocate, even when I was in rock-bottom places. She saw me overdose on heroin and rushed me to the hospital. What grandmother should have to see their granddaughter with a needle in her arm on the floor? Her love for me helped me see what God’s love is like. She came to visit me everyday when I was in rehab, and she never judged me. Though she has died, I know her love for me still lives and has carried me through much darkness.
5. If you could speak to the men who are struggling deeply with temptations to view pornography, what would be your encouragement to them? What would you want them to hear?
It’s a lot easier to look at porn when you don’t know the truth. Even when women or men in the sex industry defend their choices, ask them if they would want their son or daughter to work in the industry, and a look of horror usually passes their faces. It’s easier to objectify those you don’t care about.
The industry is all about selling a fantasy. It’s like a mirage in a desert. You are so thirsty and then go to a pond of water. After the fantasy fades, you lay there, your mouth full of sand and more in need of water than you were at the beginning. Only, you’d be lucky if that were the worst thing that could happen to you from buying a fantasy. You’d be real lucky. Some people pay with their lives.
It’s important to warn people who are mesmerized by the glamour of pornography (both men and women) before they get themselves into a mine field, making decisions to be in and part of a world which ends up looking more like guerrilla warfare in Vietnam than glamour in Paris.
(Read the whole interview on Daphne’s Myspace page)
If you are interested in donating money to the Pink Cross Foundation, you can do so easily online using PayPal.
They still need beauty supplies, Christian tracts, bookmarks for Bibles, Christian music CDs, and finances to pay the remaining expenses.