XCritic Interview: Tasha Reign on Depression, Harassment and More
Since arriving on the adult scene in 2010, Tasha Reign has established herself as one of the most prominent performers in XXX entertainment. In addition to her popularity as an on-camera talent, Reign helms her own production company, Reign Productions, and has garnered respect from mainstream media for her thought-provoking views on the porn business. The blonde superstarlet also regularly delivers lectures on the adult industry and sexuality to California college and university campuses.
Tasha kindly spoke with XCritic on the morning of December 8 - three days following the suicide of popular adult actress August Ames - to discuss the industry fallout from the tragedy and other topics.
Tasha serves as Chairperson for the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, an organization which advocates for the health and safety of XXX actors and actresses. You can check out the APAC website here.
Visit Tasha Reign online at TashaReign.com and follow her on Twitter here. Booking inquiries may be directed to OC Modeling. Tasha’s FreeOnes page is available at this link.
(Interview conducted by Cass Ashlen)
Thanks for taking time out to chat with me today, I appreciate it.
Oh, no problem. Thanks for thinking of me.
Absolutely. We are a few days removed from the passing of adult performer August Ames in an apparent suicide (Note: Since the interview, a Deputy Medical Examiner Investigator for Ventura County, California has confirmed that Ames took her own life at a public park near her home). I reached out to you because based on your social media posts, this was something that really hit home for you and has been an emotional time for everyone in the industry. I would like to begin by asking what your takeaway has been over the past few days in regard to the overall outpouring of support from those in adult as well as the general public’s reaction.
What is my takeaway … ohhh, that’s a good one. Basically, there is a lot to take in - we’re dealing with some very uncertain times right now. There is a lot of sexual assault and sexual abuse going on that people are speaking out on, including me. There is cyberbullying, which has pushed somebody to the edge. And then, obviously, August committing suicide.
I feel very overwhelmed. I feel like there is a lot of negativity and a lot of sadness and hatred, and things that I don’t even know how to deal with. And I wish that it wasn’t so. I don’t really have answers, but I am definitely trying to brainstorm with my APAC committee - that I’m the Chairperson for - solutions on how to prevent suicide, how to get resources to depressed people quicker and how to potentially implement a program in the adult entertainment industry that is so much stricter where there are strict sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention programs. I want everybody to have to go through a form of training. I want it to be better, and at the exact same time I honestly feel overwhelmed and I don’t even know if I can deal with it. So, it’s a lot of mixed emotions and I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way, where you are almost like … the problems are so big that you don’t even want to deal with them. And at the same time, I feel I should probably do my best to contribute because I want women who are in this business to thrive, for the future of the adult industry to be more professional, for people to unify and be together and for younger, newer performers to not have to deal with any of these issues. It’s a lot to handle.
Sure. As you mentioned, many people have pointed to the cyberbullying factor as having been a major contributor to August’s death. What are your personal feelings regarding the culpability or responsibility that those who participate in cyber-harassment should share in when a tragedy like this occurs?
(Sighs) It’s a really complicated question. I’ve only looked at a number of the tweets and they’re all kind of different. Some of the tweets, I feel, look as though the performers were genuinely trying to defend whatever their beliefs are when it comes to performing with certain niches or groups within the adult industry. And then, other performers blatantly said things like, “Kill yourself. Take these pills.” People that say those hateful things, I think they have absolutely some responsibility. To what degree I’m not sure, because I’ve never really dealt with something like this. And now, it’s such a personal issue - it’s not just on the news. You hear about cyberbullying, and in different states there are different repercussions for it. I think the State of California is not one that really enforces a law against it. I remember hearing a case not that long ago about a teen that had repeatedly told her boyfriend or a guy to commit suicide. He finally did, and I think she did get convicted. But that was a different state and a different law.
I feel that the person who was direct and extreme, and said the hateful things needs to take some sort of responsibility - absolutely. Like I said, I don’t know what that is, whether it’s he has to go through classes, or she has to pass some sort of a thing that says she was involved in this and now she has to learn the repercussions of it. I don’t know.
I guess the main thing should be accountability. I get trolled every day. People say horrific things, and it’s really devastating and really difficult for me to ignore it. It’s a really easy thing to say, “Don’t care what people think of you,” “Don’t look at your social media.” But when social media is literally what you do all the time, it’s really difficult to just block it out. I wish I was that strong, you know?
I can certainly relate to the situation. Obviously, there are a lot of factors as to why it’s going to affect everybody for a long time, but I really feel like a lot of performers go through these same types of feelings. And when you see someone who has been brought to the edge and actually taken their life, it makes you reflect on your own and the thoughts that you potentially have had in regard to cyberbullying and people attacking you, you know?
So, what I’m saying is that I’ve had some pretty dark thoughts, too. When I heard about this news, I reached out to my friends and told them how I felt. They were all really concerned and were like, “What can we do to help you?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.” It’s just a good wake-up call for me to make sure to go see a therapist and take all the repercussions I can take to avoid anything like this from ever happening. Like I said, it’s hard to avoid all of the people who have opinions and no qualms in telling me exactly how they feel. And, it’s awful. It’s really, really awful.
Sure. That actually parlays into my next question. Obviously, you are someone with a high profile yourself and you mentioned getting trolled constantly. I was going to ask how you deal with that, but it sounds as if it’s been very difficult for you as well.
Yeah. How do I deal with it? Well, there are a few things. I realize I’m a lot happier when I have a routine. I know that sounds kind of superficial, but if I wake up in the morning, have my coffee, get my dogs walked, go to Pilates and make sure to kind of just do that same thing every day, it makes me happier, for whatever reason. I make sure that I socialize with people I genuinely enjoy, that I try to make an effort in my friendships, that I am basically just an active member of society and trying to give my all. It’s hard, though, because when you’re depressed, you don’t want to do any of that stuff.
I definitely struggle with depression, as do so many people in general, and so many performers. I’m lucky enough where I can go to therapy and that is exactly what I’m going to do, because as I said, I had a wake-up call and I was like, “This could happen to anybody and I’d better do anything that I can in my power to prevent it from happening to me and anybody I know.” So, APAC is having their meeting this month about mental health awareness. We have put out a press release in regard to our stance and numbers you can contact.
Additionally, we have on our website a million different people that are sex worker-friendly because August had said on a podcast a few months ago that she had tried to seek mental health therapy and was discriminated against because her therapist didn’t believe that what she was doing was healthy. And for August, who seemed to like her job a lot, that’s going to be a problem if you run into therapists who are discriminatory. So, APAC has compiled this list where you can make sure that the person you go and see is sex worker-positive.
I don’t have a solution. I was talking to a co-worker last night about what he thinks we should do. He is somebody that is prevalent, works every single day and had worked with August very closely in the last few months. He doesn’t have a solution, but he felt that agents have a responsibility. I feel like we’re going to have to brainstorm as a business, we’re going to have to talk about what we can do because we do not want to see this continue, right? This is awful.
And it’s not a first, either. We can’t overlook the fact that this is becoming a pattern. Like a real, real pattern. I believe it’s because people are having a hard time dealing with society and the way society is treating and viewing them. And I just want to make sure that changes by the time I leave. I don’t have an exact plan, but I’m just hoping that we can normalize the adult business. I think we have come leaps and strides, but I just think more work needs to be done.
Sure. And the podcast that you mentioned was the Holly Randall podcast. It’s a terrific show for anybody wishing to learn more about August because she really opens up about her childhood, some of the trauma she faced and her struggles with depression. I encourage folks to seek that out (Note: Randall has taken down the episode of Holly Randall Unfiltered featuring August Ames out of respect for her family’s wishes).
This is sort of a sidebar topic, but the trolling August received stemmed from her choosing not to perform with a talent who also did gay porn. She was accused of being homophobic. I’ve heard that accusation levied before against performers who are reluctant to perform with crossover talent. In my years covering the adult industry, I have heard arguments from both sides in regard to how safe the gay side of porn is as opposed to the straight side. I don’t know, so I don’t want to say one way or the other. But obviously, for whatever reason, August did feel that her safety would be compromised by working with this performer or by working with crossover talent. To me, that is not homophobic.
Not at all.
She felt that her safety was going to be put in jeopardy, and she didn’t want that. So, I don’t understand the accusation in a situation like that.
Well, I feel like that accusation comes from people not understanding the context in which she was speaking, the details that go on behind the scenes and potential risk calculus involved. But, at the end of the day, I know that being a feminist and identifying as such, I am behind any man or woman, woman or man, that says they don’t want to work with somebody, because it’s their body and their choice. And that is the truth. If somebody came out on Twitter and said, “This company is trying to make me not use a condom and I want to wear a condom,” I would say, “Fuck that company, use a condom if you feel like you should.” If somebody came out and said, “I don’t want to work with this person because I’m not attracted to them,” well, then don’t work with anybody you are not attracted to. I feel like you need to just do whatever makes you happy.
I had tweeted out at this, actually, when I saw the tweet because it was blowing up my Twitter timeline. I never deleted it. I just said something like, “Although this could have been said more eloquently, the high-risk calculus involved in having sex with performers that were working gay porn is higher or perceived to be higher. Therefore, I don’t want to do it.” It’s pretty basic. I understand it. I won’t work with crossover stars for the most part, if it’s somebody who has recently done that and I know about it. Who’s to say that the people I work with in general are not doing things off camera? I don’t know. They might be. If you have a confirmation that they are and there’s a video, and you feel like the industry protocol testing isn’t that strict on the gay side, then don’t work with them.
Potentially, the way that (August Ames) said it came across as if she was saying because they are gay, but everybody in the industry who knows that each side tests differently should have known what she meant because the majority of the women in this business will not work with men that are doing gay porn. I would say no woman I’ve ever talked to would do that for the most part - maybe two of them out of a hundred. So, what she said was a common belief and she really was just attacked online. Like I said, I think some of the girls may have deleted their tweets. I don’t really know. Do you know? Did they delete them?
I did hear that, yes, some of the people who had given her problems had deleted their tweets.
Yeah … it’s a lot. It’s a lot. I don’t know. It’s overwhelming for me.
Sure. August tweeted out on December 4 - and obviously, I’m going to be paraphrasing here - but the crux of the message was, “Performers are told to choose who they want to work with, don’t do anything that makes them uncomfortable and share their thoughts.” And she followed up with, “I did these things and I was scorned for it.” Do you agree that performers are sent these types of contradictory messages?
Sure. I think the society we are living in is patriarchal. I think the men in power are creating an unsafe environment for everyone. I think that we are constantly told as women to speak out, if somebody is doing something, tell authorities, tell this person. And as soon as you do it, it turns out nobody gives a fuck. People don’t believe you. People question you. Why on Earth would the most shameful thing in the world - which is basically to say that somebody had sexually assaulted you or done something to you - why would anybody make that up? It makes no sense. Nobody makes that up. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
I think it parallels what August was saying: The world tells you to choose who you want to be with, who you want to work with, be respectful to your body, have standards for yourself. And as soon as you try to implement those standards, people who are trying to make money off of you - a.k.a. agents and production companies - will shame you, and so will the rest of the community because either they agree and they have the same goals as those production companies and agents, or they take it personally.
Here’s my perception of those tweets from some of the women that tweeted: They work with performers that work in gay porn. They work sometimes with transgender people. So, for them, when they saw such a big-name star say something like that, they took it personally. They projected what she was saying onto themselves. They thought, “Well, if she says that they are all dirty, that means I’m dirty, and I don’t want to be called that, so I’m going to defend myself.” Which is a natural reaction. But she wasn’t attacking other people, she was just stating how she felt. And people should be able to say how they feel.
To be honest, I don’t think it would have been wrong if somebody said, “Wait, hold on, this is how I feel: Those statistics aren’t true,” and if it was something casual or something that was a discussion. But it turned quickly into a hateful scenario on Twitter. It very much got like that - calling her names and telling her to kill herself. So, there is no room for that - there is no excuse for that. I’ve never gotten so passionate and angry, or drunk or anything to ever say anything like that publicly. You don’t tell people to kill themselves. You just don’t do it. You don’t know what somebody’s going through.
Right. I absolutely agree. As far as the culpability goes, my own feelings on that are that while I feel the harassers should feel ashamed for what they did, as far as the responsibility, I think, yeah, they share some blame …
Something, yeah. Probably not jail time, but maybe classes about cyberbullying. They need help. These people need help.
Right. And their defense may be, “Well, I didn’t know she was suffering from severe depression.” But that’s just it - you don’t know what somebody may be going through. Now, I’m not going to say that I feel cyberbullying is a direct cause of suicide. I just don’t think it’s that simple - I don’t think suicide is ever that simple. It’s such a dark area. But I think we all need to learn to watch what we say online, because as we’ve covered, you just don’t know what someone is going through.
You have also been a passionate advocate in regard to speaking out against harassment in general in the adult industry.
Do you feel there is plenty of room for improvement in that area?
Yes. Every single person I know in the adult industry has been sexually assaulted on set - every person. It’s not fair. It’s not okay. It needs to stop. It needs to absolutely stop. We need to do it as a unit, but it’s challenging because a lot of performers feel as though if they speak out, somehow they’ll be blacklisted or it’s not the cool thing to do. I think that now there’s a lot more room for it due to Weinstein and everybody coming out, and Nikki Benz and myself, and Carter Cruise and every single woman who is up in arms about the treatment they have received. I know that those women are seeking legal repercussions for those actions and I think they absolutely should. And I’m trying to figure out if I can, too, in regard to an incident that occurred on a set that I tweeted about. It happened so long ago that sometimes it’s difficult to do anything but speak out. So, I’m definitely researching statue of limitations and seeing what can happen if you don’t have witnesses and this, that and the other. But, no matter what, I’m going to report as much as possible to authorities and to people that will have a paper trail, so that next time that this assaulter does something, they have a record.
I guess that’s the whole point: We have to figure out a way that just like the PASS testing is protocol for mainstream straight sets, that … I don’t know. It’s so complicated because those tests are not law. They are not law. And I want them to be law. I think the only way it’s going to work is if everybody has to do it. It’s too risky. We need to make sure that it’s regulated.
When it comes to sexual assault training, I want it to be every company has to have some sort of paperwork, video, paper trail that shows, “Yes, I’m aware that these are the rules,” and has to sign something that says, “I will abide by them. And if I don’t abide by them, repercussions will be sought.” It’s not okay. The behavior that I see that is normal on set is completely inappropriate. It’s not everybody, every company, but so many of them. That’s the problem. It’s like, out of ten, there’s always going to be one. It might not sound like a huge percentage, but ten percent is a huge percentage. It’s absolutely outrageous. It’s just like any bad scenario - a lot of the time, people won’t speak out because they don’t want to lose work, and they feel like if they call somebody out, then they are going to lose work, or if they say something it’s going to perpetuate stereotypes that they don’t want perpetuated. They don’t want people telling them, “Oh, we told you so.”
I want to live in a safe space where that’s not anybody’s fear. Everybody is dealing with sexual assault and harassment. It’s no joke. It’s a universal problem across all entertainment fields, and all fields in general. I feel like the shame has started to be taken out and that’s why I feel I can finally speak out. I can feel comfortable saying, “Yes, this happened to me and there’s nothing wrong with me. I didn’t ask for that type of treatment - this is what happened.” And I think that’s magnificent. I’m really grateful for all the women who have allowed for that type of space.
You regularly give lectures at colleges and universities - I believe you actually just did another yesterday at a campus in California. Can you tell us about those speaking engagements?
I spoke at UCSD yesterday and I have been fortunate enough to speak at many college campuses about the adult industry. I give talks in sociology classes, sexual psychology - it’s really all over the place. I’m lucky because I attended UCLA, so I am friends with a lot of the professors, and so those professors teach at different schools, and they refer my name to other professors and it’s like a whole system that they have.
My topics always change - they evolve, they grow. I know years ago, I was so positive. (Laughs) And now, I go in and I’m like, “Please know that this industry is complex and it is not just good or bad. It is both.” And I just kind of speak about my own experience. I speak about the struggles of trying to change how sexual assault and harassment is perceived. I talk about how much I love the business, why I’m a feminist and how that affects the work that I do. And I kind of just answer any questions and possibly break a few stereotypes, which is nice because they go and tell their friends and their family.
Sometimes I do feel like, “You know what? I could easily and happily retire now and never have to work again. Why am I even here? I’ve had a good time, I’ve given a lot. (Laughs) It’s just so stressful, it’s time for me to just say, ‘Goodbye.’” And then other times, I’m like, “I love the business, I still have so much more money I want to make, I’m having fun and I love my fans.” I don’t know. It’s a lot of feeling.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to tell readers about?
Sure. I just signed a contract with iWantEmpire and I’m really excited for my website through them to launch. It is something we’ve been working on for months now and it’s just a way for me to make a passive income. They have a great market - they have lots of fans and lots of viewers that are interested in the femdom lifestyle, a whole new thing that I’m doing, totally different than my popular glam scenes that I have done before. I’m really excited about that.
AVN is right around the corner, so I’ll be signing for iWantEmpire there as well. I’m trying to figure out what my 2018 is going to look like and I’m excited for whatever happens. I feel like I’m definitely going to be involved in lot more blogging and kind of like that personal connection with my fans online. I’m just really excited.
I’m applying to grad school right now. I have not written my essays, but I just got my letters of rec sent in and I’m procrastinating. So, at the end of December, I should be applied to a few different graduate programs for journalism. So, I have a lot on my plate. I’m excited.
Absolutely. That’s awesome. Congratulations on that.
Again, I’d like to say thank you for taking time out to chat with me. You are definitely someone whose opinions and feelings I wanted to ask on these topics. I know we spent a lot of time discussing the current sad and serious ongoings, but I just felt it was important, especially with everything that is happening, that these matters are addressed.
Well, I appreciate you caring and I think you’re right: All of this is very necessary to have a discussion about.
It was lovely to chat with you. I wish you the very best and continued success in all your endeavors.
Thank you so much. Have a good day.