When We’re Not Hustling is an interview series by Jessie Sage that features sex workers talking about what they do when they’re not working.
Siri Dahl is a porn star, the host of After Adult Podcast, and a competitive powerlifter. I sat down and talked to her about diving back into the adult industry after a 3-year hiatus, and powerlifting!
Tell me a little about your sex work career.
I started in doing porn in 2012, but for personal reasons I stopped three years later in 2015. At the beginning of 2020, I decided to come back to porn after a 5-year hiatus, this time from a different place.
What changed for you over the 5 years you were out of the business?
So much. I was married when I was in porn the first time and that relationship was co-dependent and my partner was emotionally abusive. My family hated him, but they also hated the fact that I was in porn. In fact, the only thing that they hated more than the fact that I was in porn, was him.
Looking back, they were right. I needed to take a step away from my career to reevaluate what I needed and wanted, so I stopped doing porn and took some time for myself. I ended my marriage and focused on my personal life.
From 2012-2015, did you mostly do mainstream porn?
Yes. I actually didn’t set out to achieve mainstream porn success, but when I first started, I moved out to Los Angeles and I got I got an agent who booked me in mainstream shoots. I had a lot of success early in my career and my fan base continued to grow while I was taking my break.
You came back to porn at the beginning of 2020, what are your goals for coming back into the industry?
Well, I wanted to do a lot more independent and queer content with performers I admire. But that became hard when COVID spread. I came back to the industry in January, just before the pandemic hit. Also, I’m in Kentucky, so I’m not around a lot of other models. I do travel out to LA and Las Vegas, but I feel like there is just more opportunity for me in mainstream. Also, because that is where I built my fanbase, I know that they are mostly looking for me to do mainstream porn shoots.
Do you feel like that is in tension with your own vision?
Yes, I feel like it isn’t completely representative of my own aesthetic or sexuality. I felt this tension even more strongly when I came back to porn after having five years for myself and realized that my fans had particular expectations. This comes out in small ways. For example, when I came back without red hair, my fans begged me to dye it red again, saying they knew Siri as a redhead. I conceded because I know that my body changed a lot in the 5 years I was gone; I’ll give them the red hair they want.
Well this brings us to what I wanted to talk to you about today, which is powerlifting. How did your body change while you were away from the industry, and how is this related to power lifting?
My body changed so much. I was heavier when I was in the industry the first time. Even my face was different. I look at some of my old shoots and my face just looks like a baby face. Part of that is because I’m older now, I’ve entered my 30s. But also, I got really into fitness.
I did a lot of different kinds of fitness. I did cardio, I got into pole classes, I did some weightlifting. But when I started doing power lifting something just clicked! I have been training seriously for the last two years. I have even started to compete. I’ve done two competitions. I haven’t won, but it has made me feel more connected to the community.
Wow, that’s cool. What does your training regime look like?
I work out four times a week: bench press, squat, and deadlift, and the fourth day is accessories (typical a variety of lifting exercises that use higher reps of lower weights).
What is your favorite?
People always think I’m going to say I like squats because I have such a big butt, but actually my favorite is bench press because my body is well-suited to it. I have short arms, which makes it easier for me because there’s less distance for the loaded bar to travel. Squats are actually really hard for me because my legs are so dang long!
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you what gave you your butt. Is it the squats?
No, for me squats work my core and my quads more. I would have to say it is the deadlifts that give me the butt I have, and it has been a long, slow five-year process. It’s totally natural and comes from the weightlifting. A lot of people ask me if I have had surgery, and I have nothing against plastic surgery (I recently got liposuction done), but I am proud of the fact that I managed to make my butt this bubbly and big through weightlifting.
What is it that you like about powerlifting?
So much! I have to say that it has been amazing for my mental health. And by that I mean that it has completely changed my relationship to exercise and to my body. When I was in porn for the first time, even though I wasn’t that large, I was being marketed as a BBW. I was around a size 10 at the time. And I think that it made me feel like I needed to become smaller and smaller in order to be successful in my porn career. I started doing a ton of cardio with the goal of losing weight.
When I started powerlifting, the way I perceived my body and what it’s capable of changed a lot. The implicit messages women are given in our culture is to take up as little space as possible and to be as light as possible. In powerlifting, the entire goal is to be as strong as you can be and to lift as much as you can lift. The goal is not about what your body looks like, it is about what it can do.
This has even changed my attitude about weight. Standing on the scale and realizing that I have gained a few pounds doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. It isn’t good or bad, it is just a number.
What is the powerlifting community like?
I love the powerlifting community. For a while I was just working out on my own, but when I decided to get more serious, I joined a gym that is specifically for strength athletes, and I love that there are a lot of strong, bad-ass women in the community there.
Jessie Sage is a sex worker and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s also the co-founder of Peepshow Magazine and the co-host of the Peepshow Podcast. Her words can be found in the Washington Post, VICE’s Motherboard, Hustler Magazine, Men’s Health, BuzzFeed, and more. She’s currently writing a book on sex work, motherhood, and illness called An Unexpected Place (forthcoming on West Virginia University Press).