Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield
Adult media has gone mainstream and changed itself for the better, star Tasha Reign says

Adult media has gone mainstream and changed itself for the better, star Tasha Reign says

How #MeToo and OnlyFans revolutionized porn by giving performers and viewers more autonomy

Sex workers, people who earn a living as escorts or adult entertainers, are some of the most visible people in media nowadays.

According to the web traffic stats company SimilarWeb, three of the top 15 websites in the world are pornographic video services. And yet, despite how popular porn has become, a lot of us don't know much about the people who work in the industry. That's unfortunate, because a lot of them have very interesting stories to tell.

That's why I was pleased when I learned about the new memoir of Tasha Reign, a long-time adult performer whose book, From Princess to Porn Star, A Real-Life Cinderella Story, is filled with all kinds of entertaining stories and also deep thoughts about the status of women in society, the importance of consent, and the way that sex workers provide intimacy for people who might not otherwise have any. Porn is far from perfect, but the caricature that's often painted of the people work within it is far from accurate.

The video of the July 24, 2023 conversation is available. The full transcript and audio chapters is below.

Audio Chapters

2:28 — Being a cast member on one of television’s first reality shows while in high school

9:48 — Finding out she was one of the first “test tube babies”

12:48 — Getting into escorting via Craigslist

15:15 — The birth of “Tasha Reign” and how women are pigeonholed

19:20 — How Hugh Hefner and Playboy stigmatized women, despite his promises of liberation

29:08 — Going viral with Bill Clinton

33:40 — The "patriarchal bargains" women make

38:42 — Seeing support for sex workers in unexpected places

43:29 — How constant criticism of sex workers makes it harder for them to speak about wrongs committed against them

44:37 — Becoming a college speaker about sex and consent

49:48 — How OnlyFans has revolutionized and mainstreamed adult entertainment

53:21 — How adult performers help people find intimacy they often can’t get in daily life


MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: It's so great to have you here, Tasha. Welcome to Theory of Challenge.

TASHA REIGN: Oh, hi! Thanks so much for having me.

SHEFFIELD: All right. So your book has so many different stories here. I have to say, you've definitely led a very interesting life, really kind of from the beginning. A lot of people who have some kind of celebrity background, they're like, yeah, I just had a regular, boring childhood and then somehow, I got famous one way or the other.

And in your case, you start off the interesting stuff right from the beginning, you were in one of the earliest reality television shows, let's maybe start there, how about that?

REIGN: Yes, I was. When I was in high school, I was picked to do the Laguna Beach show, season 3, the one that nobody watched. But it was really interesting to be on reality TV in high school, and in the book, I go in, it's the nuances of that, but it was an [00:03:00] experience that bonded me with my friends that I still have today.

Like all the friends that I have today are the friends I had from preschool. It's pretty crazy. And I do think that the show has something to do with some of those friendships lasting because it was just such a bond that was unique to any other friendship I've had, cause it's like we're coworkers, but we're also friends.

And yeah, it's a very open--

SHEFFIELD: It's a unique, shared experience, too like--

REIGN: A unique, shared experience. But when I bring it up, believe it or not, I talked to some of my girlfriends, like Cammie, who was on the show and when it gets brought up, she says she doesn't remember. What do you mean? It wasn't that long ago. She's like, I think I have PTSD from the show.

I'm like, Oh my God, maybe. Because I think that did not necessarily showcase the best light, especially on the people that were the focus of the show, like the main characters. That's one reason.

And another reason is it was a long time ago and yeah, it might've been a little blurry for some people. I don't know. Anyway, I thought that was funny that she doesn't remember it.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well so for people who never saw it that show at all or never heard of it.

REIGN: Oh, everyone saw Laguna Beach. If you're not elderly millennial then, "Laguna Beach: The Real OC" was a reality based/scripted, the first of its kind, a reality scripted, reality drama show and it was a [00:04:30] show that followed high schoolers around, as creepy as that sounds when I say it, like 16, 17 year old girls and boys, and they would follow us forever in our social world, on film at parties, at restaurants. And it was partially curated to a degree. So they would say something like, what are you up to this weekend? And you'd be like, oh, I'm going to Charlie's party. And they'd be like, okay, we'll show up at 6pm. Can I have Charlie's contact info to get permission to shoot?

So these parents would give these camera operators, directors, producers from MTV permission to shoot in their home while we got wasted. And you can see us getting drunk with like a red cup in hand, a red solo cup, which is fucking wild.

And so they would shoot us at parties, or they'd be like, Oh, can you guys like do something this weekend? And we're going to go to this restaurant. And they'd be like, okay. And they would pull the permits for the restaurant. And they would shoot us eating and then they would sit there and be like, Oh, okay. Talk amongst yourselves. And then they would interject and be like, Oh, can you talk about Kellen? Oh, can you talk about the drama with Derek?

And you'd be like, Oh, okay. And then you would, you would improv it, but it was real, but also improv and kind of, manipulated at the same time. It was a strange, strange scenario to be in as somebody that's [00:06:00] never acted before. But it was, it was fun, and I definitely want to leave the experience, like, on a good note.

Although I talk about how now I don't find this to be a very, like, ethical thing that they were doing. I don't have, like, some horrible, traumatizing memory from it. I just kind of feel like, gosh, I wouldn't let my own child do that.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and, and you

REIGN: Now that I'm a mom.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and you noted that they seemed to want to show people more when they engaged in kind of catty behavior or nastiness.

REIGN: Well, the whole show is, the whole show is based on drama. So, that is what fuels the show. The show is based on things that are sensationalized, things that are extreme, bad, entertaining. And so, as a cast member, when you're like 16 years old, you're encouraged, without them saying it, to behave in behavior that you think the viewer might want to watch most. And based on the first and the second season, we were motivated and kind of, like, driven by that behavior, which was bad and inappropriate.

So, it's just, it's kind of, it's a, it's a strange concept.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, they also didn't really pay people very well, as, as I understand.

REIGN: We were not paid very well at all. Like, I don't know what other seasons were [00:07:30] paid. I would assume it had the same, like, lining as the third season. But for the, the, the same rates, but honestly, I don't, I'm not sure.

I just know my own season and my own rate and my coworkers’ rates, and we were just paid almost nothing. It was like a few thousand bucks for the whole season and no residuals. but honestly the income part is really like that actually is triggering because they should have paid more to us, and At least I wasn't a main character because the main characters were paid to my knowledge the same amount. Because we signed those contracts before and we didn't find out who the main character was till the very end Yeah, although to be honest

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, although like that part I actually kind of liked that when you mentioned they did that people didn't know if they were the main character No, not with the money.

REIGN: Why do you like that?

SHEFFIELD: Because it made it so that nobody knew if you were the main character or not and so it basically, I don't know, I gave it a little bit more authenticity in terms of your, the cast member relationships with each other.

REIGN: Oh, well, no, I think people caught on because you would have more filming engagements.

And more like days to shoot. Yeah, of course, and on top of that, the narrative. During those filming experiences would be focused upon the main character and their drama. They did [00:09:00] confuse us because sometimes they would shoot us in a way. Where somebody who was not the main character thought they were the main character, but I think it's a real mindfuck and honestly Nobody should be shooting underage.

It doesn't make any sense.

SHEFFIELD: Well, that's yeah, I mean, that's definitely

REIGN: A whole other issue, it's crazy, it's crazy!

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah.

Well, okay so but that all that experience at least gave you some familiarity with the idea of being filmed on camera and being, being in media and, and I'm sure like people recognized you after that who didn't know you, right?

So I guess in some way, like it did kind of maybe prepare you for the life that you later engaged in, to some degree, right?

REIGN: To some degree. Yeah.

Finding out she was one of the first "test tube" babies

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Okay. So, all right, so after that and after high school you have another interesting story in there that your parents didn't tell you that you were the child of a sperm donor. That your father, who had raised you, didn't even tell you until you were an adult that he was not your father.

REIGN: Oh my gosh. Cannot believe it when you say it. I'm like, what? How did that happen?

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. No, it's, it's, but it, and I guess like you were maybe some, one of the earliest ones out there, the test tube babies.

REIGN: Absolutely. I was one of the first batches. It was like the first couple of years it was ever even done.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. [00:10:30] Which, and I, yeah, but now it's super common now and--

REIGN: It's super common.

SHEFFIELD: But yeah, hopefully people, and you talk about that in the book that once you did learn that as an adult, that it was kind of a real weird thing to have to back your way out of and into at the same time. You know I can only imagine how that must have felt.

REIGN: I mean, I think I'm still, I think I'm still processing it because it's just so incredibly bizarre, it's a, it's a strange, it's strange. And it also comes up in ways that I wouldn't necessarily expect it to or hadn't before I knew. Like for instance, I have siblings that are half siblings from my actual father, but they're not the sperm donor siblings. They're actual. The siblings I grew up thinking where my blood are not my half siblings.

They're, they're not, because I'm not blood related to my deceased father. And so, although we still have our relationships, sometimes I'll find myself thinking like, oh, well maybe we're not very close anymore because we're not really blood related. So it's just kind of like, not ideal. I almost, like, there's no way to hide it.

I think initially they never wanted me to find out. But with the DNA testing and [00:12:00] AncestryDNA. com and all of these websites where you can just go get your DNA tested, you can never keep it a secret. It's out. So, I think it's about, I guess, talking to your kids. Like, if you engage in that, you need to have a sit-down conversation with them and maybe have a therapist involved and really, like, explain to them what happened and why.

And it just needs to be like, done in a loving way, especially now that it's so common.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well at least it didn't affect your childhood. Like you found out about it as an adult. I think that's

REIGN: Well, that's an interesting way to look at it. Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: Because like, yeah, it might've come between you and your parents when you were younger. Who knows, who knows?

REIGN: Who knows how it did affect my childhood. I don't know.

Getting into escorting via Craigslist

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, true. Well, all right. So you so you, after you went to finished high school in Southern California, Laguna Beach, you then started thinking about college and you applied to a few and didn't get into the ones that you wanted and then, so you, you were, it was Santa Monica Community College, I believe it, you said.

Okay, yeah, I'm trying to remember that. And, and you at around that time, I guess that was around when you started getting into escorting. So what made you decide to get into that or how'd you get into that?

REIGN: So I got into escorting. It was so long ago. I was [00:13:30] 19 years old maybe, and I was actually just looking for a modeling job online on Craigslist, like a weirdo, and a Playboy modeling job, that's what I wanted to do.

And I saw this ad. And the woman looks like a Playboy model. She probably was one. She was really pretty. And it said Playboy modeling gig. I thought it was one. And I responded. I then met this lady in Beverly Hills in her white Mercedes Benz. And she was telling me about the job, about meeting a guy, meeting men at this beautiful house in Beverly Hills.

And I was like, Oh, so like, do I have to have sex with these people? And she's like, no, not always, or not really, I don't know. She said something that evaded the question or in the book, I'm like, was it like, because she was trying to trick me? Or like, she thought I was a cop? I don't know, but anyway I remember my first booking and it was with a man in like Marina Del Rey and it was a weird experience because he, well, I had braces, so I just like looked so young and he was just Honestly, like, I was not interested at all, and I was just there for the job.

And it was, honestly, it was a scary experience, because it's like stranger danger, something I had not engaged in, maybe like a little bit of thrilling mode too, and [00:15:00] afterwards, it was like, well, that was easy, even though it honestly Wasn't easy, but I think in my mind, I was like, well, it's like a lot of money and I'm, I have sex anyway, casually, so why not?

The birth of "Tasha Reign" and how women are pigeonholed

REIGN: And, yeah, it gave me a sense of independence for sure, but I did not like it, and so I stopped doing it. I was just like, this is not something that I'm enjoying, so stopped doing that. And then I actually was taking like strip aerobics classes. And started dancing at a club called Silver Rain in Los Angeles.

And up until recently, unless I'm missing the billboard, they had this huge billboard of my photo that I had gave them if they put my website at the bottom of it. And it was advertising their club, Silver Rain, and I would get texts like every week. Do you own Silver Rain? I don't own Silver Rain. I don't even dance there.

SHEFFIELD: But that was where you got, you decided to take your porn name.

REIGN: That is where I took my porn name from because I thought it was a cool name. So, but yeah, so I got into the adult business kind of through an interesting path and then I met somebody at a gentleman's club foreplay in West Hollywood who took me up to the Playboy Mansion and not just kind of turned into my adult [00:16:30] career.

SHEFFIELD: Okay. And I guess, yeah, the, you do talk about that whole Playboy experience quite a bit.

REIGN: I know, quite a bit. Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: And it's, it's interesting to think about. But I guess in the context, this is a theme throughout the book is that this whole Madonna-whore distinction. Tell us for people who haven't heard that term, what does that mean? It's something that is not just involved with sex work, but also just women in general.

REIGN: Women in general. Yes, I feel like there is, I mean there is a stigma with women where the patriarchy will often paint them in a light that is either a, like, Madonna or a whore. Or a good girl or a bad girl, or a virgin or a whore, or just one or the other.

Like, you cannot co-exist, you cannot, be a sex worker, yeah, just be a human, just be a complex woman, and I actually genuine, and I touched, I talked about it in the book, I think that is beginning to change, so I don't, like, feel like it focused on how that is today, and I'll be all, I think, I spoke a lot about how stereotypes and stigmas have started to lift due to OnlyFans and normalization [00:18:00] of sex work. Which I think is, like, really on the rise to a point where I'm constantly surprised. I have conversations with friends that are not an adult, and they say things where I'm like, what did you just say?

Like, I was at a mom's group hangout drink thing the other night and a neighborhood near where I live with a bunch of like, 50-year-old women. Like 30, 50-year-old women. And they all have kids, and they're all moms. And they were like, using the word Pornhub as like, kind of like a noun or an adjective like oh, that's like I should put this on Pornhub, I make some money off of it.

I was like what? Like saying stuff like that or like I'll have a girlfriend I was that a mommy another “mommy and me” class and she's like how much are you making on OnlyFans? I was like, why are you, why are you asking? So there's just I feel like there's just a lot of conversation that's being had and that's positive and just different than it was when I got into adult, which was like over a decade ago where things were different.

And I definitely felt like this pressure of, if I do, if I do porn, then, I will always be just seen as this porn star. And I don't feel like that anymore. And I think it's really important takeaway.

How Hugh Hefner and Playboy stigmatized women, despite his promises of liberation

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, well and we'll get into that a little bit more later in the interview But I you know in terms of I mean even the Madonna whore,[00:19:30] discrimination existed in that in that Playboy in the Playboy mansion and in the world he would have there, and you talk about that like that for him.

He didn't want women to be involved in his social circle or in his media content if they, if he knew that they were stripping or that they were escorting.

REIGN: That's true. Yeah, you can't be a playmate. That's true.

SHEFFIELD: Hardcore porn.


SHEFFIELD: And like, it's, I mean, it's.

REIGN: It was so long ago, but that is true.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, but I mean, it's, it's such a weird thing to think about in retrospect that here's a guy.

It's not though. Well, tell me, yeah, tell me. Yeah, no, I mean, it's, it's inconsistent, but you can see where he, his logic in his own brain, how it works for him.

REIGN: I can, yeah.

SHEFFIELD: tell us, yeah, tell me, in what way do you think it worked for him, though?

REIGN: In the same way that everybody's own logic works. It's like, they view certain things in a certain way, and then anything outside of, their viewpoint to them, is not appropriate or not in line.

It's not just some, to, maybe to somebody that's not in sex work or not in the Playboy world, it's easy to paint like a broad brush and be like, Oh, sex work is sex work. But I think a lot of people have certain feelings that they have about the aesthetic of what they're viewing and how that is very different [00:21:00] than hardcore pornography.

Somebody might see a soft picture Of a nude woman as art, and then one where she's not looking as soft, and that is different. It's, it's, art is subjective. So I can totally understand it. I don't, like, not get it. I get it.


REIGN: But I do, anyway.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, there's, and there's a phrase for people who study sex work as an academic discipline that it's kind of a joking, but not quite a joke phrase, they call it the “whore-er-archy.” That. Of, of, of people who,

REIGN: Who do sex work,

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, in the sense that, like people who don't, like people who are at the very bottom tend to be people who are, who are escorts and transgender and are looked down on and not seen as worthy of protection.

REIGN: Oh, that is true. I mean, when I took my hierarchy of sex work class, they, the teacher said that. If you're a waitress, then you're a sex worker. If you're a bartender, then you're a sex worker. So I feel like people have like, just different ideas of the totem pole of sex work. Or like, what actually constitutes sex work.

SHEFFIELD: Hmm. Yeah. Well, talk about that a little bit more if you, if you could.

REIGN: Well, I think that, oh, it's, it's so complicated. Or it's [00:22:30] kind of such, so many layers to it. But I mean, any job where you're using, like, your sexuality, In some capacity could be considered sex work. So, like, I always think of a bartender as a sex worker, but I don't think people outside of sex work might think that.

SHEFFIELD: They can't perceive it as such.

REIGN: They don't perceive it as that, but I, I would never, if somebody was like, I'm a bartender, I'm like, oh, you're a sex worker. Yeah. Duh. Well, yeah. Because you're literally like, what can I get you,

SHEFFIELD: Well, and it's, yeah, it's an interesting observation because, like, if you look at it sometime, some of the reporting that I've done over the years involves looking at incel men who are just horrible people. But they, like for them, they also see service work, like barista or bartender as sex as sex work. And, but they don't, well, I do, and I'm not Arkansas. Yeah. , but no, like for them, like, but they don't understand it as the, that this is a business transaction that the woman's engaging with.

REIGN: Well, no, I think words they do understand, see that they think it slowly.

SHEFFIELD: Well, well, well, yeah, but it's, but it's also that like they think, some of them think that this woman at the bar smiled at me and she looked me in the eye, and so therefore she likes me.

REIGN: Yeah. They don't, they don't, they're not necessarily thinking it, they think, do they think it's work then

SHEFFIELD: No. They see the output. In other words, they, they can see the output, like the sexuality in the output a little [00:24:00] bit.

REIGN: They see the whore. They don't necessarily see that

SHEFFIELD: They don't see the work though,

REIGN: Or they see that it's a sexy woman that, to them, is actually exuding likability towards them, but they don't see that it's a craft and a work, a job with respect.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. They don't see that.

REIGN: They don't see that. I don't think it's sex work that they see. I think they see that the woman is sexual.

SHEFFIELD: They see the output of it, but they don't see why it's happening is what I mean.

REIGN: For money. Yeah, and so that's a scary parallel that we, that incels and I have. (laughs)

SHEFFIELD: Well see but that that is one of the reasons that I was I'm just interested in talking to you because like your book does, like, it's, I mean, I don't know how, I don't think I've ever read any of these memoirs of a porn star before, but like I, I, when I was like, when, when our, when our, one of our mutual friends introduced us I was like, oh, she's got a master's degree in journalism.

I bet this book's actually going to be interesting and it was, it was interesting.

REIGN: Oh good, I'm so happy you enjoyed it. I really wanted it to be entertaining.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Okay. Well, so, okay. So you yeah, you got into doing adult films after, being in the Playboy orbit for a while. And I guess he, Hefner, you write about how he, once he found out what you were doing, expelled you from the mansion. Talk, talk about that experience a little bit if you could, please. [00:25:30]

REIGN: So, I had asked him to become a Playmate after being a Playboy model. And he tested me, which is the criteria. Before becoming a Playmate down at Playboy Studios, I did not pass the test. I was not given the title of Playmate.

I was just asked to be like a Playboy cybergirl online, and I was devastated. Like, brokenheartedly devastated. Lordedly sad. Angry, upset. Life over. And so I was like, well, what's next? I am just going to go sign a contract and become a porn star. That is what I'm going to do. Because I felt like, after reading Jenna Jameson's book, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, like, I needed control.

And she seemed to have a lot of control over her career. And so I figured out a way to get into adult, hardcore adult entertainment, and the women up at the mansion knew that I was doing porn, probably because I told them, they were my friends. And It got back to Hugh Hefner's wife at the time, who's now a widow to him, Krystal Hefner, and she told him to write me letters to dismiss me [00:27:00] from being a weekend girl on Friday, Saturday, Sundays, and to blacklist me and to tell me that I wasn't allowed to do porn if I was going to even be a Playboy model.

And it was devastating. It was like a heartbreaking thing for me because I loved Playboy so much. And I understood, like, in retrospect, it's not that I don't understand why he did that. It was just, for me, a horrible, horrible experience, because that was like my whole world up at the Playboy Mansion.

SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. Yeah. Well, and I guess, since that happened, that experience, you kind of, have kind of rethought the experience somewhat and realized that Well, it was both an opportunity for you, it was also, not quite that as well. There were some more unsavory aspects of that experience.

REIGN: Lots of unsavory aspects of the whole book. A lot of unsavory things.

SHEFFIELD: Well, yeah, yeah. But, at the same time, I think one of the things that's important for you in telling your story is that I think a lot of people, because they don't know people in the adult entertainment industry, or at least not that they know of, right?

That they think that, that especially women who get into stripping or escorting or porn that they, that you don't choose it. You do it because there's something wrong with you. And it's just not true for a lot of people [00:28:30] who get into adult film, that it's something that they're interested in. And you talk about that in the book, that it was something that you were like, no, this is something I want to do. And this is something that I'm passionate about. I think that that's, it's, it's helpful in getting people to understand that there's nothing wrong with somebody choosing to do that if that's what they want to do.

REIGN: Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: Oh, you're, you have any more response than that? Or, or did I say it perfectly? (laughter)

REIGN: You are perfectly eloquent.

SHEFFIELD: Oh, okay. All right. Well, so, okay. So then,

Tasha's 15 minutes of political fame with Bill Clinton

SHEFFIELD: so after you started doing early on in your career, so you started it when you were 21 and you were going to college at the same time and I guess early on in your career, you, you became a political figure for 15 minutes which is a story that people might remember.

There was a famous photo of you and we'll, Have it on the screen for people who are watching on video of you at an event with then president Bill Clinton. That's a it's a hilarious story, but you guys tell us Yeah tell us that story here for people who've who I because I'm sure a lot of people saw that picture and They don't know the story of what happened behind it.

REIGN: Yeah. I was [00:30:00] I was on a trip with the owner of Penthouse Magazine at the time, and I was with my girlfriend and his girlfriend, and we were in Monaco, the south of France, for a fundraiser, and there was a bunch of celebrities there, but Bill Clinton was there, and I was like so excited and enamored. By him, even if it was for one second, I was like, I got to get a photo.

My mom would love that. She's a, she was a big Democrat. So I'm just going to take a picture. So we asked him and his bodyguards were like, sure, come on over. So we just took a picture and then like, I mean, I don't know how many drinks I had. I mean, because the pose that I was doing was not appropriate, but it wasn't, it wasn't anything too crazy either.

And so my girlfriend, honestly, I think she sent it to her boyfriend who was in PR, and it went viral. And yeah, it was just, like, the talk of Monaco the entire time we were there. There was, like, so much press around it, so many people reached out to do interviews. But then I was so upset because although it got a lot of attention and I was doing something that was so fun partying in the south of France, I just felt like, oh my gosh, people think.

That because I'm here taking a photo with him, that somehow that there's like something sexual happening because I do [00:31:30] adult and it just really made me enraged and so angry. So I just talked about that. But then from years to come, fans would bring that photo to get signed at conventions when I used to tour to do conventions.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and like, he had no idea who you were, didn't talk to you after that was over.

REIGN: No! It was literally just a party and I just wanted a photo. It was the President of the United States of America, who wouldn't want a photo with him. Yeah, yeah. I guess there's a few people that wouldn't want a photo with him.

SHEFFIELD: Well, if they were a Republican, they wouldn't, but yeah, and so no, it's, it's just a funny little kind of Forrest Gump moment, even though people were not very nice about it, but it's funnier now in retrospect, right?

REIGN: It's so funny, who cares?

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right. Well, so, okay. So you

REIGN: And you know what, can I just say something that Monica Lewinsky has really made a comeback.

And she's the best thing that could have come out of what I think was like 2020, where she like, everybody started following her on Twitter, and she was just so demonized in my youth. And then now she's just like this TED speaker, and people are like, yes, Queen, you were the victim. And I just love Monica Lewinsky because of that.

Yeah, well, it was And I just saw her yesterday, like, in some article about [00:33:00] her, I think it was her birthday yesterday, and I was like, yes! She's out of the shadows. Thank goodness. See, that's the times that we're living in. Yeah. Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: No, that's, that's a good point. And yeah. And like, people saw what, why she was able to be an intern in that, in that for that, nowadays they can actually see what qualified her to, to get to that point.

REIGN: Oh my gosh. Yeah. And it's like her whole narrative is completely different. Thank goodness to social media.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, because it actually gets to tell her side of the story.

REIGN: And everybody's on her side.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. All right.

The "patriarchal bargains" women make

SHEFFIELD: So one of the things that the Clinton experience did you, you have a quote from a writer named Lisa Wade about that experience, because you felt like you wrote that it kind of made you, they were the media reporting about you and the, what you, who you were just really was so derogatory that

REIGN: At the time.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, at that time.

REIGN: Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: And so one of the things that you put in there was this quote from Lisa Wade that, and I'll have it on the screen. It says: " A patriarchal bargain is a decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one's best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact." [00:34:30] What, what was your--

REIGN: I do feel like I personally feel like I don't think women should be shamed for making the patriarchal bargain. I think that that's just part of capitalism and patriarchy.

And so, I see myself as a feminist, but I think a lot of feminists would say that it is not feminist to make the patriarchal bargain. But I would just, I would have to disagree, because that's the system that we were born into, and I think, taking advantage of what you can, as a woman, in this world, should not be something that is shamed or looked down upon.

That's like, you're, you're in this kind of trapped situation. And, I mean, I can't remember exactly which chapter that correlated with, but I'm sure the content. Had something to do with whatever patriarchal bargain I had made. And my girlfriend brought it up, who's an escort, the other day. And she was talking about that, and she was saying, that she's well aware that that is something that she engages in, and that she's just fine with that, that she still, she still feels like what she does is, liberating, at least for her.

And that she gets a lot of flack from a lot of people about it just because [00:36:00] she's not fighting for other people or not doing, not dismantling the system by not engaging in it whatsoever. And it's just like, that's not, that's not fair to do either, so yeah, I guess just admitting that, I might not, I might have many things to say about the patriarchy, but I at the end of the day, engage in it in order to benefit my life.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I guess maybe the distinction. And you tell me if this is part of your mental calculus is that you're, you're, you make no judgment for people, women who do that. It is maybe as long as they also make no judgment against others for doing that as well.

Because like, I think that's where the, the Madonna whore thing is important. Because, I think that maybe They, it seems like that, yes, I mean, you look at some feminist writing, I mean, there's a divide between sex positive and, and sort of, I don't know, people who want to focus on women as being only the victims of the system.

REIGN: Right. It's like they're basically doing the same thing that they are so against men doing, which is sexualizing women and saying that that's all that, you know.

SHEFFIELD: They are condemning women's choices at the same time. Yeah. [00:37:30] Yeah. And that's why, I think a lot of younger women who have come along and think about these same topics that, they are more positive about sex working.

REIGN: They are. And they're really. Yeah,

SHEFFIELD: Defend and send and also include trans women as well.

REIGN: Yeah. Yeah. But I often feel like. Hmm. I guess it's just LA is so progressive and sometimes I feel like it just depends on who you're talking to, honestly. Politics are so complicated, but I do find that there are plenty of liberal, progressive women or people that identify as that who shame sex workers.

And you're like, what? For making the patriarchal bargain, it's a, it's a weird topic, because--

SHEFFIELD: It's people living the way that they can. Like in a way that's comfortable for them and why would you condemn that? But people do, you're right about that. They do.

REIGN: Yeah, on both sides of politics. It is not one or the other.

I would say both, both sides.

Seeing support for sex workers in unexpected places

REIGN: But I, I play tennis as I'm surrounded by very conservative women at my country club. Every, I, I feel, I know not everybody is, but like a lot of them are, I would, maybe even it's just 50 50, but I just feel like a lot of them are, and I'm [00:39:00] surprised by how very supportive they are, and I'm like, oh, wow, it's really opened my eyes this year to like, I guess I just, I never really talked about my career at tennis.

I know this is so, we have got off topic, but I never talked, talked about it at tennis. And then my book came out and everybody at my country club bought my book. All the 70 year old women that I played tennis with. And they all read the book. And they're all into it. And they're like coming to the signings and talking about the book 24 7 on the courts.

And it's just interesting. Because these are people that I judged before as people I was like, Oh, they, I don't want to get into the nuances of my job with them. Turns out they're my biggest fans.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and maybe that's because they knew you as a person first and that could be what it was because just like, yeah, because like, I mean, in my own experience, when, when I was in, and we had discussed this.

Offline before, but like, when I was born and raised as a, as a fundamentalist Mormon, I had had this very You know, extreme, view that, yeah. Like that women who engaged in sex work were, horrible, satanic temptresses. And then when I was, and then when I was in college, I, I got to know somebody who was a stripper and she was just a normal.

And she was [00:40:30] smart and nice, in fact, like actually, so one of the smartest women that I had known at that and it, it didn't make me like that experience didn't make me completely rethink everything, but it was one of those things that kind of just stuck in the back of my mind that, because it was like, oh, well, my church was wrong about women like her and,

REIGN: fundamentalist, anything, it's not great.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah. So, I, that, I'm guessing maybe that was the experience perhaps for some of those women, for you.

REIGN: Maybe, but I honestly don't know, and I don't really, whatever it is, I'm not going to ask them about it. You appreciate. I appreciate them. They're my biggest supporters, and they're all so sweet and so nice, and they're coming to my book signing next month, and they're just like all about it.

It's wild to me. It is wild. Mostly because of their age, too. They're all like in their seventies.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that is funny. It's funny. It's fun though. Yeah. Well, okay. So, as you write, that you're and then I guess you, you started doing. When you went back to doing some stripping now and again once you got into porn as a feature performer.

REIGN: I mean, not now and again. It was every weekend.

SHEFFIELD: Oh, okay. Well, yes. Appreciate that correction.

REIGN: No, no, it's okay. It was just such a big part of my life. Like, I can't, I don't, I hope that I didn't make it sound like it was casual. Like, every single weekend for what felt like almost a decade of my life.

SHEFFIELD: No, did that, [00:42:00] did that get exhausting after a while, did you get tired of saying it.

REIGN: Oh my god, when I think of the airport now, I'm like, it has to be a private jet. There is no way I'm going to LAX. I'm going to LAX in October to go to Canada to be on like, some show for a website called ManyVids. And I'm literally, in my mind, like, oh my gosh, how am I going to get on an airplane? Because that is how I feel about the airport.

It's just so overwhelming.

SHEFFIELD: LAX is a terrible airport, let's be honest.

REIGN: Thank you. Let's be honest.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, alright, so, and, and there's, and you, and you do talk about a lot of the, that work that goes into being able to do this kind of performance on the regular, whether it's sex or stripping or whatever, that, that people may not always understand how much, how much exercise and dieting and makeup and clothing it gets, it does it, it got expensive, I guess.

REIGN: Right. It's so expensive to be a sex worker. It really is. You spend, you could write off everything. You spend so much money on. On looks and upkeep, and I'm sure there's a way to do it at on a budget, but living in LA everything is so expensive and You know you get booked more if you look a certain way part of the bargain, so it's very expensive.


How constant criticism of sex workers makes it harder for them to speak about wrongs committed against them

SHEFFIELD: [00:43:30] But there were some there's definitely some, as we kind of briefly touched on a second ago, some unsavory aspects of the adult industry, and you, there's a passage in here that I'm going to read that I thought was well written about that. You say that:

"When you're a female performer in adult film, you are constantly attacked and put down by news outlets and society. In order to cope with this immense judgment, you become defensive. So defensive that you overlook issues that are happening to you for fear of perpetuating unfair stigmas and stereotypes. If there was more room for nuance and less judgment, the pressure to maintain that façade wouldn't be so overwhelming."

REIGN: That is so eloquent. Oh my god. Amazing! (laughter)

SHEFFIELD: So, you do talk in the book about some of the more unsavory things that do happen in the industry and how you had spoken out against them, like sexual harassment and other even worse things that you had become aware of.

And people can read more of those details because, I mean, in your own experience it's, it's traumatizing and you don't have to re traumatize yourself. So--

REIGN: Thank you so much.

Becoming a college speaker about sex and consent

SHEFFIELD: But the thing you, yeah, the thing you took away from it though, was the importance of consent and getting people to understand that better as it applies to them individually.

And that was how you became more of a public advocate for that. And tell us maybe about what, how you began doing that and what you're doing with that now.

REIGN: Sure. So [00:45:00] I have been lucky enough to be a speaker at a bunch of different institutions from Chapman University to UCLA, and I met a fraternity brother while I was speaking at one of my UCLA engagements who invited me to his fraternity house so that I could talk to the new pledges about, and about consent, one of the topics I was talking about in the class at UCLA about.

And so, he basically recruited me, and I voluntarily came over to the house, and we did like a seminar session with all of the pledges about how to negotiate boundaries and sex and how to ask for permission from the women that they would be engaging with at these fraternity parties that are oftentimes full of alcohol and drugs and all sorts of kind of just illegal and chaotic things and so I went and we had a conversation and it was eye opening because it was like, oh my gosh, all these people, these men want to know about consent and it matters to them.

And so I was able to go to fraternities from UC Santa Barbara to UC Davis and Riverside and all over the place to speak on behalf of advocating for consent and for asking permission when you engage in sex. And I think it was really empowering [00:46:30] and important and it was, it was awesome. It was like an incredible few years of my life, like I loved doing it.

And then it kind of took off and I had a friend, Michael Ellsberg, who is a writer and he's just an amazing guy and he cares a lot about consent as well. And so he wanted to team up and to go talk nationally about consent to fraternity brothers.

It was just such a, kind of a great thing that I was doing and he wanted to be part of it. And when it got down to the nitty gritty of it all and organizing those talks, he wanted to charge for services. And also have me profit in some way for my time, because I shouldn't just be doing volunteer work up and down, I was going to say the coast, but no, I was already doing volunteer work up and down the coast.

I didn't want to continue to do that across the country. It was taking up all my time and the inner fraternity council did not approve of the budget. They were like, you've been doing this for free. Why are we going to pay you now? Which taught me a lesson in economics. You'll have to charge from the beginning, and also when I started to get a lot of press around it like a full interview on CNN, the Interfraternal Council was also triggered because they were like, we don't want to be associated [00:48:00] with a porn star. What are you talking about? I make you look great.

So we put an end to that and it was kind of devastating because I continue to get text messages from fraternity presidents. I won't even say what colleges, but they would be like, will you come? Will you come talk to the pledges? And I'm like, can't do it anymore.

So I stopped doing that, but consent has a special place in my heart, and it is to me the foundation, the most fundamental part, about sex. And saying that almost feels silly, because it's like, of course it is. Like, why would it not be? But I just feel like it's not talked about it is not talked about enough.

It's not. So it's lovely to be able to talk about the things I've gone through in the adult industry and to make some sort of a change. And in the book I mentioned how, at least I think I mentioned how I went back to set years later after I experienced unsavory things in the business and there was like all this consent paperwork and the conversation was really thorough and it was like a completely different world I walked into I was like what?

Oh my gosh It made a difference and obviously I can't take credit for everything all the change all the good changes in the business I am just one of the many, many voices. [00:49:30] But--

SHEFFIELD: Who did speak out.

REIGN: Yeah. Yeah, it was so lovely to see that change and to feel,

SHEFFIELD: But you did kind of help get it started. I think. Don't sell yourself short.

REIGN: I'm not selling myself short. I just want everybody to know that I realize many women speaking up made a difference.

How OnlyFans has revolutionized and mainstreamed adult entertainment

SHEFFIELD: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, all right. And then I guess, the other thing that's kind of reconfiguring porn now, and you mentioned it at the front of this conversation, is OnlyFans, and it has really been kind of a liberating thing for a lot of people and, whether that's women who might not have wanted to have to go and move out to Southern California to do porn or for whatever reason.

REIGN: So expensive to live here.

SHEFFIELD: Or like people who wanted to do trans modeling and, but they couldn't find anyone who would pay for them in the industry, but now they actually have people who wanted to see their things, but, and now they can have a lifestyle off of it and, not have to be living in more risky situations for themselves.

So it's been beneficial and it's also, I think, and maybe we can talk about it, like for your, you and your fans, like has it helped them have a better. Relationship with you. I mean, you've had fans for a number of years, you call them reindeers. That's what they call themselves, right?

Has the relationship between you and your fans changed as well? Like maybe let's talk about that.

REIGN: Sure. Yeah. Only, only fans changed the [00:51:00] landscape of adult entertainment and I think entertainment in general when it came out and especially, and I just like to focus on this because I don't I hear other people talking about it, but COVID, COVID mixed with OnlyFans created the normalization of sex work. It really did. Like I was waiting for the moment my whole life. And then in 2020, it just seemed like creators from all walks of life, all different types of backgrounds were creating content and putting it on OnlyFans and by using their mainstream brands.

They kind of made it so that adult was just another form of entertainment. And then OnlyFans took off in a way where not only was everybody using it, but so many people were creating on there. And so it just like kind of all got mashed together. And now people talk about OnlyFans like it's an accounting job.

Like it's just everybody's on OnlyFans. And I know I'm speaking. In a dramatic manner because I'm sure not everybody would agree with me, but I feel like from coming from 2010 to present day, it really is like a day and night transformation, like sex work and porn. I'll just say, I'll use the word porn.

Porn was something that was kind of hidden [00:52:30] and taboo and still is, but then OnlyFans came along and just kind of made it. really, really common. Like, it's just, I feel at least living in LA, especially you just feel it in a way that I don't know if other states can appreciate. And it's amazing for me. I feel like I can just be more authentic and that other people that like, wants me on OnlyFans can also be authentic and be themselves and not as judged.

And so I love it. And I think it's a lot, I know it's a lot safer because, you can create and make money from home and you never have to go to some set where you don't know people But you can still do that if you want you just don't have to make money off of film Yeah, you know with your body.

How adult performers help people find intimacy they often can't get in daily life

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's not even only about sex either, like that's the other thing is that A lot of people who are on OnlyFans like--

REIGN: They just want to chat.

SHEFFIELD: They just talk to their subscribers.

REIGN: Yeah, my fans are like my friends on OnlyFans and I like talk to them. We have conversations all the time. I know them by name I'm able to invite them out to events. Like it just creates this intimacy that we didn't have before.

SHEFFIELD: And that's yeah and like I think that that's part of what the mainstreaming aspect is though that because like a lot of people who were performing in other areas of [00:54:00] entertainment, so like comedy or acting or whatever, like all those things were shut down during the pandemic, and so people were coming in and doing some porn and whatnot. But the other thing is that the people who were doing porn, your fans got to see you as a person more than just as somebody who they watch for like six or seven minutes.

REIGN: I think that that's It's definitely true, but I think that men love amateur content because they think or feel like you're their girlfriend or their wife or their significant other or whatever because you're--

SHEFFIELD: You're reminding them of the person they know.

REIGN: A lot of people, I think, don't have a partner. And so they're on there. I'm not saying exclusively, of course, if you have a partner and they're using OnlyFans, but there's people, a lot of people that their only intimacy comes from adult performers. And so it's like you're on there and you're taking these candid shots of you in your bathroom mirror and it's like who does that except for a girlfriend?

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well and what like it's maybe to some degree helping them get If they had never had any type of relationship--

REIGN: Definitely.

SHEFFIELD: At least have some modeling for this is how you need to treat somebody with respect if you want to be with them.

REIGN: Well, I was going to say that.

SHEFFIELD: And the whole thing is consent based. Like the whole model [00:55:30] is consent based.

REIGN: Yeah sure.

SHEFFIELD: Like they can't order you to do things that you don't want to do.

REIGN: I mean, sure, but I wouldn't, I mean, they say things all the time that I only tolerate because I'm being paid. But, for me, I just deeply feel like sex work is such a form of-- in a way, like, I can't think of another word. Charity isn't going to make sense because we're paid, but it is a very similar effect to charity work because people reap benefits that go so far beyond just like, oh, this person, was paid to make them feel good. Like we as performers meet fans that are like, this is it for them, this is the relationship that they have with women.

And I mean whether that's good or bad, people can discuss that, but I think it's amazing because otherwise, what would they do? They would have nobody. Lonely. Life can be lonely.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and it's better to have somebody--

REIGN: It's a service.

SHEFFIELD: Than, than nobody. Is that, that's what you're saying?

REIGN: I think so. I think it's a human need to have sex, to get off, and to feel like you have a companion. And even if you're paying for that service, you're still reaping some sort of benefit.

And it is not the same as having somebody in real life. But, you are still getting some form of intimacy and happiness and joy and love and interaction. And I think it's so [00:57:00] deeply important. It really is.

I can't remember what article this was, but it was like this whole deep dive into the personality traits of a sex worker and how usually a sex worker would be somebody that's normally like a nurse. Like, if they weren't a sex worker, they would be a nurse, or a babysitter, because we're like literally doing those things. We're just helping people.

SHEFFIELD: Hmm. All right, well. And I think that that makes sense. Yeah, and it's, yeah, and it's something that, for people who go off and say horrible things about sex workers like Jordan Peterson or whatever, they're harming their own people who like them when they say things like that.

REIGN: I mean, it's just not coming from a kind place. And for that, they should be ashamed of themselves.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I agree. All right. Well, it's been a good conversation, Tasha.

REIGN: Oh my gosh, so fun.

SHEFFIELD: Let's put the book up on the screen here. So it's "From Princess to Porn Star: A Real Life Cinderella Story." And you are also on Instagram at TashaReignsLife. So it's been great having you here.

REIGN: I had so much fun talking to you, Matt.

SHEFFIELD: Alright, so that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining me. And if you want to get more episodes, just go to theoryofchange.show where you can get video, audio, and transcripts of every episode.

Thanks very much to those who are paid subscribers. You get complete access to everything, so I encourage everybody to do that. And if you are able [00:58:30] to share the program or a particular episode that you liked with your friends or family or on social media, I definitely appreciate that as well. And anybody that's leaving nice written reviews on iTunes, that is very much appreciated as well. The written reviews, even more than the stars, are influential as I understand it.

So I do appreciate everybody for filling those out. Thank you very much, and I'll see you next time.

Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? Join Matthew Sheffield and his guests as they explore larger trends and intersections in politics, religion, technology, and media.