It took me longer than I care to admit to connect the name “Stormy Daniels” with the names she’d given her double-D breasts: “Thunder” and “Lightning.” Perhaps this is my own idiocy—a blonde moment in an otherwise brunette life?—but perhaps this is the first time you’re putting it together too.
By the time I knew who she was, the sex she’d had on camera was not as meaningful as the idea of the sex she’d had on camera. Not to mention the idea of the sex she’d had with Donald Trump. Which, on a deeply unfortunate note, puts me in the same logic league as Rudy Giuliani, who dismissed her “value” because she sold “her body for money.” Republicans and Democrats may have come to vastly different conclusions about the meaning of this woman, but we are all responsible for using the same math to get there: We saw her as a certain kind of person.
There’s just no middle ground. There’s no one on the internet saying, ‘Stormy Daniels is a cool chick.’ It’s either I’m a hero who’s going to save the universe, and a patriot—I haven’t gone to war!—or I’m a disgusting disease-ridden whore.
This is the essential and perhaps most enduring truth of Stormy Daniels: There’s not an inch of her that she doesn’t own. She is not a woman who does anything by accident. Which is why, I believe, people put so much stock in her opinions even as she declines to give them. She has managed to be the cool center of a salacious hurricane without becoming host to anyone’s agenda. The result, when she speaks, is a kind of Stormy-specific feminism. It’s not that she doesn’t care about other women, but she may be the one female public figure who refuses to be in conversation with this moment in history. It’s as if she’s trying to pass through it like a bullet—and for her, it’s working. She’s an opt-out anti-feminist feminist. Confused? Well, then perhaps it’s time to get it straight from the horse’s mouth.
“Yeah,” she says over the phone, laughing. “I keep thinking, Oh, guys, you’re not going to be the reporter who suddenly makes me remember this epic thing I forgot and somehow didn’t put in my book!”
“It’s not that I don’t identify with feminism,” she says. “I just think it’s gone way too far. It has lost its original connotation. I love men, and I think they’re kind of getting a bad rap right now. I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t know a single guy who should be punished because your great-grandmother didn’t get to vote.”
I found it really frustrating that [Christine Blasey Ford] is automatically more credible and I’m automatically not as credible just because of our professions.
“There’s just no middle ground. There’s no one on the internet saying, ‘Stormy Daniels is a cool chick.’ It’s either I’m a hero who’s going to save the universe, and a patriot—I haven’t gone to war!—or I’m a disgusting disease-ridden whore and I should be shot in the head and my kid should be euthanized. Literally, my Twitter time line is ‘You’re my hero’; ‘I’m gonna murder your child’; ‘You’re my hero’; ‘I’m gonna murder your child.’ ”
“My contribution to society is to provide people an escape. A large portion of my fan base is guys in the military or people going through difficult times, and the last thing they want to think about is that stuff. My job is to give these guys 12 minutes where politics don’t exist. And the last thing you want to do is get in an argument with a customer.”
“But now,” she concedes, “I’m in too deep and I’ve seen too much. I’ve been put in this position that goes against everything I’ve believed in my 20-year career. Being in the adult business is really strange culturally. Nobody wants you to do it, but pretty much everyone has been a consumer in some way. They all think you should stop, but they won’t allow you to do anything else. If you leave porn and try to get a different job, either you don’t get hired or you get fired. That has happened to so many girls I know. It’s not a thing that happens to men.”
The time she spends thinking about her legacy is more personal than national. For one thing, she’s convinced she’s “probably going to die alone."
“I’m not anonymous anymore,” she says. “Who knows when I ride into the ring if the judge isn’t a big Trump fan? Everything is skewed.”
But make no mistake: Stormy’s allergy to the word victim is extreme. Her life, though tumultuous, is full and successful. And that predates Donald Trump. We will not remember her as the woman who took down the most misogynistic president in U.S. history because, well, she didn’t. But she also wasn’t trying. She just wanted to tell the truth. And though she foresees bottomless notoriety, her role here is hardly fixed. Like tabloid croquet, something more salacious could come along any minute and knock it out. Who knows what scandals lurk in the shadows? What we do know is that Stormy Daniels will be remembered as the woman who brought the thunder and the lightning to this presidency.
“There was this trainer in Texas who was abusing and killing horses,” she explains, “and I was the first one to say anything. Then hundreds of other people started coming forward. I just got this text forwarded to me from some little girl’s mom. It said, ‘I don’t know Stormy, but my daughter could’ve ended up at the wrong place and she could’ve gotten really hurt. I want to thank her for using her voice and doing what was right.’ ”
“That must feel good,” I say.
“Yeah,” she says. “Of course it does.”