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From porn to pro gaming: How former adult performers are taking on the 'gamer girl' title

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“I disconnected my mic because people were being a little creeepeeee,” Jessie says in a singsong voice into the mic on her headset. A pretty 20-year-old with long blonde hair swept to the side of her face, Jessie is playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in a video on YouTube. She’s wearing a horizontal-striped tube top, and she looks a bit like a young Charlize Theron, if Theron had mermaid-length hair and breasts the size of small volleyballs.

“I usually don’t mind,” Jessie continues, “but I just didn’t really feel like talking today.”

Looking at her YouTube comments, it’s not hard to see what Jessie is talking about:


Jessie is a young, attractive woman in a male-dominated community that is notoriously hostile to females. So it’s not exactly surprising that she receives harassment on YouTube and her Twitch channel, where she regularly streams COD and League of Legends.

But because Jessie is Jessie Rogers, a former adult performer who left porn in 2012 after shooting more than 40 movies, she receives much more vitriol than the average female gamer does on a daily basis. She also receives more positive attention as well: She has 75,000 followers on her Twitch channel. As she explains it, “some men just go crazy when they see a porn girl gaming.”

“Crazy in a good way, or crazy in a bad way?” I ask.

“Both,” she says.

Rogers is far from the only former or current adult performer to have carved out a side career in the gaming industry. Porn stars have been increasingly gravitating to the gaming world, streaming on Twitch, showing up at conventions, or just dropping the name of their favorite first-person shooter on Twitter. “Nerd” porn stars like April O’Neil are G4 mainstays, and it’s rumored that popular streamers like KneeColeSlaw have previously worked as camgirls (NSFW). There’s even a website, PwnedByGirls, founded by porn star Alana Evans, devoted to adult performers who game.

Given the obvious overlap between porn and gaming fans—who are predominantly young, male, and spend an awful lot of time at their computers—it makes sense, from a business perspective, that adult performers would dip a toe in the gaming world. Additionally, many performers see streaming as a way to expand their fan base, or as a form of supplemental revenue in a business where it’s become increasingly difficult to make a living.

“I think adult performers kind of see it as a platform to pull in more fans, or cement the fans they already have,” says Evans, a self-professed “gamer nerd” who originally founded PwnedByGirls in 2011 as a cam-based site where gamer girls would play topless. “You have girls who see it as a cool new avenue to reach more fans.”


 

Others, like Rogers, see their porn credentials as a way to draw in audiences for their streams, rather than the other way around. “It definitely helps in the beginning that you have the porn fans already to help get your channel off the ground,” says Rogers, who started streaming after she left the adult industry. “Then after I got a partnership with Twitch and they put me on the first page, I’d get the fans that weren’t from porn.”

Unlike many Twitch streamers, Rogers is not a lifelong gamer: She started playing Xbox games in high school, and although she’s known for playing League, she didn’t start playing until after she left porn (fans love her for how mad she gets when she dies in the game). The appeal of her channel doesn’t so much lie in her skill as a gamer, but in her personality and physical appearance. Like many female gamers referred to as “cam whores,” Rogers displays herself prominently in her face cam, and often wears revealing low-cut tops during streams.

Rogers doesn’t deny that her looks and porn credentials have contributed to her popularity: “It definitely helps,” she says, that she’s an attractive young woman in a predominantly male space. But that obviously doesn’t sit well with many gamers, who refer to Jessie as a “whore,” a “fake,” or, if they feel like being particularly creative, a “fake whore.”  When she dresses provocatively, she is accused of doing so to draw in subscribers; when she dresses conservatively her subscribers demand that she show her tits. When she turns her face cam on, she is told she’s using her looks to get views; when she turns it off, she’s accused of faking her gameplays. “It goes both ways,” she says. “You can never win with them.”

The obsession with “fake gamer girls” is deep-rooted in the gaming community, with gamers accusing attractive women of being “cam whores” and derisively referring to men who donate to female streamers on Twitch as “white knights." But Rogers and Evans say it is worse for female adult performers, who, by virtue of the stigma associated with porn, already encounter discrimination on a daily basis. When they move into the gaming sphere, such harassment increases tenfold.

Ironically, both women say the lion’s share of the criticism they receive is from fellow female gamers, many of whom, they claim, don’t do anything different in their streams than they do. “There was this girl who’d livestream and wear a tank top, just like I did, and then she’d go on social media accounts and bash me for getting more viewers than her,” Rogers says. “They can be just as mean as the guys.”

In 2011, when PwnedByGirls first launched, Evans publicly feuded with a female gamer named Ninja Girl Rachel, who also streamed sexually suggestive gameplays. Evans says Ninja Girl Rachel and her followers accused her of ripping off her “sexy gamer girl” concept and faking her gameplays, circulating a video that allegedly showed her playing Gears of War 3 with a turned-off controller. “I had telephone calls and voicemails. They called me threatening my children. It was over playing video games,” she says. “It was very silly.”

Since feuding with Ninja Girl Rachel, PwnedByGirls has evolved from a cam site where adult performers gamed topless into a more conventional gaming site (although Evans and her co-hosts still typically wear short shorts and crop tops). While Evans defends the shift from NSFW to SFW site, saying she wanted “to take away the presumption that we [she and co-host Missy Martinez] weren’t serious about our gaming,” she defends the idea that “gamer girls” can both be sexualized and legitimate at the same time.

“To see a picture of a girl holding a controller, whether it’s in her mouth or covering a breast, automatically she’s gonna get hated on,” she says.

“If there’s any kind of sexuality with video games, people get upset by it. It makes no sense to me.”

The question is, should people get upset by it? Even if a woman openly admits to using her sexuality to draw subscribers, as Evans does, the fact remains that most “serious” gamer girls don’t put controllers in their mouths or use them to cover their breasts; they use them to play games. Given how hard women have to work to prove their legitimacy in the traditionally male-dominated field of competitive gaming, there’s definitely a grain of truth to the idea that the behavior of female adult performers-turned-gamers, like Rogers and Evans, takes them back a step and forces them to work that much harder to prove their credentials.  

In a culture that is generally dismissive of or abusive toward openly sexual women, it seems bizarre that adult performers should gravitate toward gaming, a field that is arguably more misogynistic and intolerant of female sexuality than the world at large. “Girls who do porn, you have to be strong-minded to put yourself out there in the real world,” Rogers tells me. “It’s even more so with gaming. You have to have a thick skin, or you’ll be gone in a few weeks.”

MissMiaRose, an adult performer-turned-professional gamer who BTNSmash listed as the second-best female streamer on Twitch, experiences harassment on the same level that Alana Evans and Jessie Rogers do. When I sat in on her League stream a few weeks ago, which doubled as an informal AMA, within the span of five minutes she fielded comments such as, “Mia rose how is getting fucked for others entertainment? Must make ur dad proud” and “damn ur such an ugly slut.”

“If I wasn’t in porn, it would be because I’m a girl. But I think it’s because I was in porn,” she told me when I Skyped with her a few weeks ago. “It’s like you had sex on camera, so you’re less than human to them. ‘Oh, she’s just a cam whore.’ ‘Oh, she’s just doing this for attention’... It sucks, man, how people treat you when you do porn,” she says, lighting her third or fourth cigarette of our interview. “I hate it.”

missmiarose gaming

Unlike Jessie and Alana, during her stream Mia does not look like a stereotypical former adult film star. In a plain black T-shirt, glasses and no makeup, she looks attractive yet frumpy and a bit wan, like a college sophomore who spent the night before cramming for midterms. She’s also extremely brash, openly discussing topics from fisting to getting her feet worshipped to hiring an escort. While Mia is clearly thoughtful and sensitive—she came close to tears at least twice during our Skype conversation—she’s also more inclined to dish it out back to her followers than Jessie and Alana are.

”These questions kinda make me wanna kill myself,” she declares at one point during the stream.

But the primary difference between Jessie and Alana and MissMiaRose is that Mia has almost completed her successful transition from adult performer to legitimate professional gamer. With more than 60,000 subscribers and a non-playable character in World of Warcraft named in her honor, she’s now an established member of the Twitch community, streaming almost every day. Her success is largely due to the fact that, above all else, Rose has a thick skin.

“Getting started with what I’m doing is fucking so difficult. You can go on Twitch and see a lot of the girls only have 50, 60 viewers, and they’re harassed to the point of never streaming again,” Mia tells me. Despite the harassment she receives as a result of her porn background, she acknowledges that she wouldn’t “be where I am now if I had not done porn. So I guess it’s kind of a blessing.”

Mia started gaming when she was five-years-old, when her father introduced her to “Zelda, Secret of Manna, all the Final Fantasy [games].” “I was supposed to be a boy, so he was pissed about that, but he said fuck it and just introduced me to games,” she told me. After entering the industry with her sister, fellow former adult performer Ava Rose, when she was 18, she briefly put gaming on hiatus until a friend introduced her to Word of Warcraft while she was recovering from cosmetic surgery.  She started streaming after receiving a shoutout from the pro gamer Towelie on Twitter nearly two-and-a-half years ago.

Mia started streaming for two simple reasons: Because she loves playing video games, and because for an adult performer, “getting a real job is kinda difficult." While she’s done some SFW modeling since leaving the industry in 2011, “I did a lot of videos so my name is kinda known,” she says. “Not to toot my own horn, but [porn] follows me around.” The gaming world, while intolerant of women in general, was ironically one of the few arenas that was accepting of her sex worker past.

Still, getting started as a full-time gamer was an uphill battle for Mia. She’s particularly sensitive to the critique that female gamers exploit their sexuality to detract attention from their lack of skill and experience. For instance, when I ask her about her avatar—a photo of Mia in a bikini—she seems genuinely concerned, asking me repeatedly if I think she should change it.

“I do feel that women who present themselves sexually for more subscribers or donations—that puts me back a step, because [viewers] automatically assume things about me that I really would wish they wouldn’t."

For this reason, Mia has no love lost for fellow adult performers-turned-gamers like Jessie and Alana. She dismisses Evans as a “fake,” and says Rogers has helped perpetuate many of the fake gamer girl tropes she’s devoted her career to trying to upend.

“Jessie Rogers once sent me an email saying, ‘Oh, it’s really good to see you’re milking this industry too,’” she says. “And I’m like, ‘What do you mean, milking?’ I’m not milking this industry because I’ve done porn, and I’m like, ‘Nerds love porn and gaming.’ I stream because I was gaming all the time and I thought, hey, might as well make some money off it.”  

But at the same time, Mia hesitates to say that female gamers necessarily need to desexualize themselves to be accepted in the field, and she thinks it’s crazy that women who game are required to adhere to a set of specific, often contradictory rules—don’t turn your face cam on, but don’t turn it off either; don’t show too much cleavage, but don’t wear a turtleneck; don’t accept donations, despite the fact that most of the top male streamers do, because what are you, a cam whore?

Despite her condemnation of the “fake” gamer porn girls who often refuse to play by these rules, Mia doesn’t think the rules should be there in the first place. “I want to say that the [fake gamer girls] make the rest of us look bad, but I also wanna say it doesn’t, because saying yes means that because we are girl gamers, we should have to make ourselves look better,” she says.

“If you’re a girl, and you’re playing a fucking game, you’re a girl gamer. It shouldn’t matter who you are and how you act. We should just all be ourselves and act the way we want to.”  

For the past few years, Mia has been adhering to this dictum on her channel, and it seems to be working out well for her. She’s earned the respect of some of Twitch’s top streamers, like Towelie and Athene, and she’s at a point where she can now pay her rent and earn a living off her gaming career alone. But by far the defining moment of MissMiaRose’s streaming career came a few weeks ago, while she was signing up for a dating site.

“I sent in my pictures, and they said, ‘Sorry, we have to reject these, ‘cause these are actually of pro gamer Mia Rose,’” she recounts. “And I cried ‘cause I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m a pro gamer now and I’m not really a porn star.’ ‘Cause I never thought the porn thing would leave me, but I guess it did.”

She starts to tear up. She sniffles, dabbing at her eyes behind her glasses. “Oh, crap, here we go,” she says.

After a few seconds, Mia smiles. “Anyway. Yeah,” she says. “So. That was good.” 

Photo via Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)