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Kali Sudhra on Directing Queer South Asian Intimacy

Meet the Activist and Sex Worker reclaiming their power of sexuality



Porn performer and educator Kali Sudhra has been lighting up our Sassy lives through her multiple channels of sensually informative entertainment and education. Not only is she leading the way in portraying genuine queer intimacy in front of the camera, she is also shining a light on her South Asian community when directing her own erotic films. Alongside her art, Kali is also an anti-racism workshop facilitator and activist for sex worker rights, working with organisations such as OSTRAS - the first legal and registered Labor Union for sex workers in Spain.


While visiting Barcelona, our sassy founder, Bethany Burgoyne had the privilege of sitting down with Kali and interviewing her about her career.



Tune in to hear Kali discuss how being neurodiverse heightens her relationship to senses as well as the importance of gifting oneself the experience of pleasure and sexual exploration through self-touch and SWer-led services. She talks to us about the daily experiences of racism and the violence she's faced being a Brown Queer person. and how it influenced co-writing the book 'Putas Migras' with Nene and Linda Porn, bringing awareness to sex work, colonialism, and racism in Spain.


 


Portraits by Valentina Andre-Eva

What was your relationship to sexuality and sensuality when you were younger?


It was full of shame and not as free as I would have liked to be, I was a really horny kid and teenager but I felt really guilty at the same time. I wrote about this in a book called Putas Migra, explaining how I grew up in the context of a Catholic background, at home and at school. However, I remember masturbating from a young age. When I was 6, I always wanted to ride my bike because it felt so good rocking on the seat! But my whole environment was telling me it was wrong so it was very contradictory


How about your sensuality - textures, sounds, lights?


I think my interest in sensuality has come from being a neurodiverse person and having a strong relationship to all my senses. It's a really big part of my own sexuality. Smell is really important, and touch is one of my favourite things in the whole entire world and it doesn't have to be a sexual touch or when I'm having sex with other people. I think it's nice to slow down and think in the present moment. I find soft caresses to be a very self soothing thing to calm my anxiety. And when I'm masturbating I don't go right to my genitals, I like to feel things around me and to feel comforted, like I'm in a little cacoon.


Everything around senses is super important to me and I think it gets deprioritized in sex because people are so orgasm orientated


How do you express yourself in your in day-to-day life, do you find it easy to say no?


Here in Spain, it is a fight to be attended to. I used to be timid but after moving here and becoming a sex worker I've really found my voice. And it's to a fault, especially when it comes to racism, sexual violence on the street or discrimination of LGBTQIA+ folks and people with disabilities. I won't be able to look away.


Can you tell us about your experience as a Brown person in Barcelona and how it impacted your reasons for cowriting the book 'Putas Migras' ?


I've had a very tough experience of racism in Barcelona and, being a queer brown person, it has been very violent. A lot of my friends don't believe me when I say that I face daily violence on the streets. I think a lot of Brown and Black folk, Bipoc, transpeople, and queer folk can say the same. I wrote the book 'Putas Migras' alongside Nene and Linda Porn. They wrote about migration and I wrote more about my experiences of racism within the porn industry. The title is important because there are a lot of negative connotations around the words and we wanted to reclaim those terms.


There needs to be so many more voices centering people who are migrating


How would you describe ethical?


It's very difficult to define because what I find ethical won't be the same as the next person. My ethics are formed by where I was raised, how I was raised, what kind of things I absorbed as a teenager. I think it's very personal and I've become really critical of the word. I value rights for all LGBTQIA+ folks, for sex workers, for migrants, for people with disabilities - they would be the center of all my ethics. But I don't think it's a title you can slap on anything - it's a buzzword like feminism. For example, H&M have an ethical clothing line and they also printed t-shirts saying feminist sewn by women in Asia under conditions that are slavery. So we need to be aware of that and deconstruct what are ethics, our ethics. Especially in the porn world; I find it hard that white folks will define what's ethical but that might not be what it is ethical for me as a person whose continually exploited for my labour, has received much less money than my white coworkers so for me it's important to take this into consideration.

You've recently stepped into directing roles, what has been the focus of this experience for you?


I think it's important for people who are marginalised to have their own agency to tell their own stories. It's really hard for me, not just in porn but in general, to let go of the control of how someone is going to represent you to the world. In porn there are more white, hetero directors than Bipoc directors so of course trying to show my queer South Asian identity through the white lens is really hard; if you don't experience those kinds of struggles it's really hard to direct a film to accurately represent that person.

The Saree Shop was a film for the South Asian community that we never get. I wanted to direct films that show my own special relationship with my sexuality and myself. Who else would be more of an expert to talk about that than me so I really wanted to present that on film and choose how I was going to be represented to the world. So for me, directing is about telling my own stories and fantasies, and I hope to open up the castings to consider way more possibilities than just the heteronormative white standard.


Directing for me is about fighting to have a space for marginalised voices as a Brown queer sex worker. It's a lot of identities to be putting out there and it's a lot of space that I'm fighting for


What advice do you have for people in the sex work industry regarding their wellbeing?


I advise people to stop with this idea that you have to be productive, to have X amount of clients or people on Only Fans. And also suggest finding support from other sex workers, it makes you feel less alone in the world. Coming out also doesn't have to be the main thing; I live a life here in Barcelona where I'm out, and then in Canada, I'm completely closeted. And it's not the worse thing. Sex work is a lot of work, you give a lot of yourself - your emotions, your energy, your knowledge. And you're expected to be all the things - a counselor, a sex educator, a masseuse, an accountant, a PR manager and you have to do it all yourself. So connect yourself with other sex workers because isolation is one of the biggest things. But there are so many of us out there wanting connections with other people. Find community so you have people who understand your lifestyle.


How have you found managing your body hair and the pressure to remove it for work?


Oh it's the worse, I resist it so much! I've had to succumb to shaving my legs and genitals but for my clients, I cannot shave my armpits. It's comforting to me. A lot of my photos don't show my armpit hair. As an escort, it's really hard to have to work so much on your body to make it presentable for cis white dudes. That makes me angry but something that calms me is reminding myself it's just temporary. Obviously, when I can make films where I express myself fully with my bush and armpit hair, whatever I want, I love that and love the idea of people expressing themselves as they want to be represented. We're never asked that when working in film or advertising. People don't ask "how do you want to be presented" and that's the kind of question I want to ask as a director.l to future performers that I'll work with in films.


How can we encourage more women and nonbinary to invest in their pleasure by paying for sex workers?


We're not encouraged to consume porn or any services as women. But we have to acknowledge the ever-existing pay gap in salaries. To pay for sex is to treat yourself, and we should see it like saving up for holiday. We save up for a really nice experience that we haven't found yet in any relationship, I want to experience specifically this and I know someone who offers it. Like going to the spa for a massage. I think we should encourage people to save up for special experiences with sex workers. It can take you to the next level and some of the feedback from my clients have brought me to tears with how impactful it has been for them, on their sexuality and dismantling shame...and who have [subsequently] bought sessions for their friends with me.



I know a lot of sex workers, including myself, who offer special rates for women, LGBTQIA+ folk, and people with disabilities. I acknowledge the pay gap and I see these groups are living the effects of the patriarchy and we're really discouraged to explore our sexuality. I want them to explore and access sexual pleasure they're otherwise denied, safely and educationally. It's the most rewarding session where I feel people feel relaxed, at home, comforted, and cared for. I offer a space where people can let off steam.


I really want to change things so if I can help a queer client or someone with a disability explore their sexuality, I will


What does your sassy side look like?


Haha, all I am is Sassy! People say I'm sassy because I always answer back and I'm extremely quick-witted. And also knowing my self-worth, and not tolerating shit. I've been a sassy person since I was a child.



 

Keep up with Kali's work on IG @thekalisudhra Twitter @Kali_Sudhra or via Xconfessions

Be sure to check out her most recent codirecting work - The Saree Shop


Interview by Bethany Burgoyne (IG @bxsassy2)



Tracklist


Tara Lily - Don't Explain

Anja Ngozi - Burna Clost, ft James Mollison

Vice Vic, Visaka - Mulan Rouge

Malika Tirolien - SISTERS ft Meryem Saci



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