When Stormy Daniels came on the scene, I didn’t think much of her. I don’t mean to say I thought badly of her; I just didn’t think of her at all. She wasn’t the first and she won’t be the last woman with access to salacious details about a powerful man’s whereabouts and kinky bedroom behaviour. We’re all wired to be, at the very least, a little curious about anything involving sex, but in the larger scheme of things I wasn’t all that interested in the revelation that in 2006 she had an affair with Donald Trump, a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy and is on Wife #3.
I had little use for the rumours about Trump being spanked with a magazine and little interest in whether Daniels had firsthand (no pun intended) knowledge of his penis. When it comes to the current U.S. president there was and still is much more to be concerned about.
But then Daniels started talking to the media, I came across some of her tweets, and I watched her infamous 60 Minutes interview, which spawned viewing parties across North America and Dark and Stormy cocktail sales in bars.
I found myself chuckling more than a few times at her responses to outlandish questions meant to trip her and expose her as a liar. Adult-film actors aren’t known for their superior acting chops, so I get the feeling she’s good at replying to these questions because she’s not making anything up. Of course, we now know that her story became much more than tabloid fodder the minute that claims of a cover-up and questions about potentially illegal campaign payments started materializing.
The more Trump supporters started attacking her, the more I started to like her. Not in reaction to them, but because it exposed so many for the religious “family-oriented” hypocrites that they are. Despite the relentless and vicious attacks on her, this lady wasn’t running scared. On the contrary, she repeatedly stood her ground and has been defiantly calling her detractors out, more often than not using the media exposure Trump craves so much to her own advantage. In other words, she knows how to play the game even better than he does.
Planned Parenthood donation
Daniels recently told Penthouse magazine that if she wins her legal case against Trump she plans on donating $130,000 (the alleged hush money she was paid by him) to Planned Parenthood in Trump’s and Michael Cohen’s names. That’s next-level trolling. But it’s also a woman using her name and notoriety to point out an organization that provides much-needed and often life-saving medical services to women and that has been badly maligned and defunded by the current administration.
I like Stormy Daniels because she’s challenging conventional notions of what a “credible” person in a legal case is supposed to look and act like. Women, more than anyone else, are subjected to double standards when it comes to their sexuality and any court case involving sex or sexual violence. The need or desire for a “perfect victim” or “perfect witness” comes up time and time again.
What was she wearing? What was she drinking? What did she do to cause her rape? What is her sexual past? How many people has she slept with? Is she a good girl whose word you can trust? Whether we recognize it or not, the Madonna/whore complex is still strong in our culture and influences the way women are seen and assessed. Women in the sex industry, and their rights to autonomy and human dignity, are even less respected.
How we see sex work
It’s no accident that Daniels has been the relentless target of slut-shaming by Trump supporters who refer to her as a “porn star,” “prostitute,” “slut,” “whore” and everything else but her name. It is a deliberate attempt to dismiss, demean and devalue her — and her court case. What they’re really saying is she’s not important or valuable enough to be taken seriously. Aside from the fact that the nature of her work has absolutely no bearing on the merits of her case, Daniels’s treatment mirrors society’s attitudes towards sex work.
She is supposed to be dumb, helpless, purposeless, and flighty, because no one who is intelligent, composed, well spoken, determined, ambitious, and likeable could have chosen sex work as a profession, right? No one with bleached-blond hair and a pair of huge fake boobs could be smart, right? The popular image of sex workers as naïve victims, and not as independent, strong, well-rounded individuals with their own agency, is certain to shake some people up, but it’s the truth. Some people choose sex work because they want to. Deal with it.
People are allowed their opinions about sex work, and its merits, challenges, and implications are worth debating, but the assumption that those who enter the industry are always coerced or don’t know any better is being challenged with Daniels. She’s been in the industry for 20 years and has moved on to producing and writing. It might not be your choice, but it’s clearly a choice she made for herself.
“I don’t have shame. You can’t bully me,” Daniels told Penthouse, according to the Daily Beast. I like Daniels’ online zingers. I like how she’s making Trump squirm right now. I like how she’s in on the joke. I like how she’s making people question their hard and fast rules about who gets respect. Maybe in the 2018 version of Pretty Woman the heroine gets to save herself, laughing all the way to the bank and taking a couple of arrogant blowhards down along the way too.