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Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Change Is

…changes aren’t permanent, but change is.  –  Pye Dubois and Neil Peart, “Tom Sawyer”

hamster on wheelThough I’m a creature of habit and tend to keep doing things the same way for long stretches of time, that doesn’t mean I never change; if you look back at my columns for 2010 and 2011 you’ll see that my procedures have shifted substantially since then.  Originally, days of the week had no significance, though holidays and months did; over time some features became fixed, and at the beginning of 2012 I started my first weekly feature, “That Was the Week That Was”.  After July I added the “Links” feature on Sundays, then in 2013 I fixed Q&A columns on Wednesdays and reprints of my Sunday Cliterati essays on Fridays.  Harlotographies now appear every fifth Thursday, and guest columns on the second Monday of every month (though this month was an exception due to tour-related scheduling difficulties); as of this May I started featuring my tour diaries every Tuesday.  You might think all this self-imposed structure would create more work for me, but you’d be wrong; it actually makes the Herculean task of keeping up a daily blog all by myself (even the guest columns take editing) easier because it eliminates the need for figuring out what sort of thing I’m going to write for most days.

Needless to say, this summer’s tour made it far more difficult to keep up my usual pace; though I prepublished everything but Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday columns for all of June and July (and a part of August) before I left, that still meant a lot of time sitting in hotel rooms between speaking gigs and driving.  And though I did manage it, there were a few times I didn’t hit “schedule” until just a few hours before publication time (and once when a column actually posted in an unfinished state).  Given that my travel and speaking schedule is only likely to get busier, this shows me a need to once again adjust my procedures to give myself more breathing space.  Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do it:  I discovered a couple of tricks to make writing the “TW3″ and “Links” columns quicker and more efficient, and I also found that the tour diaries were really easy and fast to write.  Given that I will be doing more outside projects, travelling, speaking and the like, I think y’all would welcome a regular Tuesday feature discussing what I’ve done and what I’m about to do, including videos, links to podcasts and all that sort of thing.  It will not only save me writing time, but will also save trouble fitting such events and features into the TW3 column; to win, that’s a win all around.  So for now, that will be the new schedule…until things change again, and I have to change with them.

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New Orleans at NightAnd so we finally come to the end of my first – and almost certainly longest – national tour.  After leaving Kelly’s house on August 30th I spent the night in Tallahassee so as to break up the long drive, and the next day I arrived at Denise’s house in New Orleans.  On Monday night I visited Frank and Olivia; on Tuesday I bought myself three new dresses at the flea market, then went to dinner with journalist Jillian Keenan (who had hosted an event for me in New York); and on Wednesday I visited my old friend Charlie and my cousin Alan, then had a lovely dinner with Krulac.  I managed to leave fairly early on Thursday, and resumed my normal schedule as soon as I got home.

Well, that last isn’t quite true; while I did cook dinner, put the animals in and all that stuff, it’s going to be several weeks before I’m actually back to normal.  For one thing, though I doubled the size of my “buffer” before leaving, it’s entirely gone and will take weeks to build back up to its normal one-month size.  For another thing, very few of the columns published after the first week of July were indexed, so I need to catch that back up.  Then there are bills to pay, a huge backlog of correspondence to answer, the next book to compile, and my November mini-tour to Seattle and Portland to plan; all in all, enough to keep me busy for the rest of the year.  About the mini-tour:  though I did manage to make it work, it was extremely difficult (and sometimes frustrating) to have to plan events as I went along, and I’d rather not have to do that again.  So, I’m going to start working on my plans for the Pacific Northwest immediately; I hope to have my basic dates locked in by the end of the month, so if you’d like me to speak or read someplace please email me next week with the details.  Though relaxation is not in my nature, if I can get the schedule worked out before I leave I at least won’t be quite so stressed.

Given all that, I think it would be a good idea to continue this feature for a while longer; not only will that keep y’all up to date with what’s going on, it’ll also help me to catch up since these diary posts are quick and easy to write.  On the 18th I’ll discuss the tour in general, and on the 30th I hope to have the firm-but-not-set-in-stone dates for Seattle & Portland.  And in the weeks after that, I can keep y’all appraised of the progress on the new book, the mini-tour and any other activities of mine that y’all might find interesting.

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20140829_204721In Atlanta, I felt my first twinge of homesickness; I reckon it’s because I was back in the Deep South, in a city I’ve visited many times, and saw many familiar business names and the like that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Mancrack (who as you may recall provided the art for my Lammas column) was my hostess, and I got to meet a number of readers both at my Liberty On the Rocks event last Monday, and in private on the night before.  Another interesting thing about Atlanta was that three of the attendees at my event were running for office; perhaps that indicates a strong Libertarian Party in Georgia, but one way or another I think it’s very important that politicians (of any political party) hear about sex worker rights, so I’m really pleased and I’m hopeful for similar attention to future events.

While you were reading last Tuesday’s Tour Diary, I was en route to Tampa Bay, where I stayed with my friend Kelly Michaels.  Since I hadn’t heard anything from any of the people I had contacted in the area, I was expecting just a quiet week of visiting; however, while I was in Atlanta I was emailed by Tampa-area reader Hotlix, who absolutely would not hear of this, and beat the bushes to attract more attention to my visit.  Kelly hosted a potluck supper and discussion group at her house Friday, and Buttons Berry advertised it on SWOP Tampa Bay’s Facebook page; in all eight people in addition to Kelly and I showed up, and it was absolutely one of the best events of the whole tour.  Besides the quality of the participation, everyone really made me feel like a rock star; so much so, in fact, that I was a little embarrassed by it.  I’m really happy to be reaching so many people that they come out of their way to see me; three of them made a two-hour (one way) drive from Orlando in Friday afternoon traffic!  As you read this I’m in New Orleans, but everything I’m doing here is private; the Tampa Bay event was therefore the last public one of the tour, and I couldn’t have wished for a better sendoff.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on July 20th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

All week long I collect sex-work-related news stories for my Saturday “That Was the Week That Was” news columns, and when I prepare the columns each item is filed under a subtitle which refers back to a previous post.  But as I explained in “Case Study”, “every once in awhile a story comes along which is so interesting, funny, horrible, odd or whatever, that I like to analyze it at length.”  This is one of those stories, and my attention was attracted to it by two things: one, that it was difficult to fit into only one heading; and two, that there’s so much ignorance here one almost has to admire the journalist’s dedication to spreading misinformation.  After all, she could have obtained nearly all the information she needed from the two activists she interviewed; instead, she chose to shove their input to corners of the article and instead concentrate on the pronouncements of a clownish cop and a self-important academic (whom I’ve criticized on several occasions for his dopey assumptions).  Author Jessica Guynn wastes no time, starting off with monumentally dumb statements from the very beginning:

For years, sex workers have been the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley that no one talks about.  But…the sex industry has been closely linked to boom times in the Bay Area going back to the Gold Rush…

Scott CunninghamThat it’s the San Francisco Bay Area is neither here nor there; every place there are men with money to spend, there will be sex workers for them to spend it on.  Guynn seems to imagine herself an intrepid investigative reporter exposing some hidden scandal; I’m sure she thought it clever to intersperse sentences about the mundane doings of sex workers with those describing recent anti-sex worker pogroms and the overdose death of a Google executive, no doubt hoping the latter two would lend some lurid spice to the rather dry meat of the former.  And even when she’s dealing with basic, easily-checked facts, the “pimps and hos” mythology she learned from cops (or television, or other equally-ill-informed sources) seems to interfere with her ability to transcribe them; when the story first appeared she referred to the screening service Preferred 411 as “Preferred911”, and even in the corrected story she portrays it as an escort service directory (with obligatory scare quotes around the perfectly ordinary word “escort”) rather than what it is, a screening service and ad platform.  I’m sure activist Siouxsie Q (the first source quoted herein) could’ve thoroughly explained P411 to Guynn, but instead she quickly turns to Scott Cunningham, who might actually be able to turn out good research if he’d consult sex workers instead of proceeding from his own wholly-erroneous preconceptions:

Scott Cunningham, an associate professor at Baylor University who studies the economics of prostitution, said the Internet has made the sex trade “extraordinarily efficient,” taking it from the streets and red-light districts to home computers and smartphones.

This is the fundamental flaw in Cunningham’s work:  he believes (and has repeatedly stated) that prior to the internet, the majority of whores worked on the street; all of his studies are based on this fallacy.  Street workers have never been the majority at any point in history, and under criminalized 20th-century conditions they represented 15% or less of American prostitutes.  While it is true that some street workers moved indoors after the advent of the internet, the majority of internet-based escorts are those who used to work in hotels, take out ads in alternative papers or contract with escort services (which largely advertised in phone books).  But Cunningham insists on comparing apples to oranges, resulting in strikingly-wrong statements like, “Before the Internet, clients didn’t know where to find the prostitutes and prostitutes did not know where to find the clients.”  That’s news to me, and to every other sex worker who did quite well in pre-internet times; I can assure Professor Cunningham that my clients had no trouble whatsoever finding me, and the idea that hookers had trouble finding clients seems to proceed from another ridiculous and false assumption:  that clients are only a small subset of all men.

Kyle OkiThe belief in a lost era of woebegone streetwalkers crying plaintively in the night for rare and elusive clients (and its counterpart, the creed of the magical whore-multiplying powers of the internet) is also clearly evident in the statements of Sgt. Kyle Oki of the San Jose Police Department Human Trafficking Task Force (formerly known as the San Jose vice squad), who said “prostitutes are gravitating to the Internet because they can charge clients they find there more money for the same sex acts”.  This is a fine example of the principle of Garbage In, Garbage Out; Oki proceeds from a set of faulty assumptions, and authoritatively states a conclusion which is literally the exact opposite of the truth:  because the internet makes it easier for amateurs to place ads, cheapskates can more easily find cut-rate girls and established ones must either charge less or do more to compete, or else resign themselves to less business.  In other words, contrary to Oki’s blather, most prostitutes find that because of the internet they can charge clients less money for the same sex acts.  In 2000, the going rate in New Orleans was $300 per hour, above the national average; though it’s still possible for an established lady to get that, $300 buys a lot less than it did 14 years ago.  And in some areas (such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles) the bottom has almost dropped out of what was once a very lucrative market.

The rest of the article suffers from the same syndrome that permeates all of prostitution law and much of the public’s conception of sex work:  the fallacious belief that sex is different from all other human activity, and sex work different from all other work.  Would a reporter find the idea that any other entrepreneur had grossed almost $1 million over several years of brisk business remarkable?  Of course not, but somehow it becomes so when the entrepreneur is a sex worker (I also doubt Guynn would use the demeaning word “servicing” to describe the work of a landscaper, chef, masseuse or therapist, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day).  And then there’s this line: “One sex worker [said] she uses credit-card payment processor Square to charge clients…” to which any normal person’s response should be, “So what?”  How many businesses have you run into lately that don’t take credit cards?  Accepting credit cards is not remotely notable, for sex workers or anyone else, and it hasn’t been for at least two decades; the fact that a businesswoman uses a popular payment processor doesn’t make it any more interesting.  But that’s par for the course with mainstream articles on sex work; rather than discuss important issues like sex worker rights, police brutality and how “authorities” use the moral panic around “sex trafficking” to justify massive violations of human rights, reporters prefer to present dry-as-dust details that they portray as somehow shocking because the transaction involves sex, then liberally moisten the mixture with lies, myths and sexual fantasies from self-appointed “experts” who know less about sex work than they do about quantum physics.

Professor Scott Cunningham says these indoor sex workers will have to wait at least another century for their clients to find them.

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“Liberal” and “conservative” have become mere insults for political imbeciles to hurl at each other, nonsense words with about as much meaning as “poopyhead” or “cooties”.  –  “None So Blind

Venetian courtesanThough I made a big change in my procedures this month, it was largely invisible to my readers: given the chance to join my husband in New Orleans for a few days (the first time I had been away overnight since starting the blog), I had at last figured out how to schedule my columns for automatic posting.  Since I usually posted my columns soon after breakfast (between 9:30 and 10:00 Central Time) I set the automatic posting up to that time as well; it wasn’t until the following April that I switched to the fixed 10:01 UTC posting time I use today.  That New Orleans trip spawned “They All Axed for You”, an essay on the Crescent City’s dialects; another one-day trip with two other whores produced “Weird Sisters”.  But aside from those two trips, it was business as usual; August saw the usual Q & A column, a two-part update column, a two-part miscellanea column, and a fictional interlude (“Ghost in the Machine”), The Exorcistbut no harlotography; by this point I was publishing those columns roughly every five weeks rather than once per month, and since “Aspasia” was on July 31st the next installment (“Lulu White”) had to wait until September 3rd.  That allowed it to be a quasi-sequel to “Storyville” one year before; the only August column in that category was “Blackball” (sequel to “Nuisances”).

Tex Avery Wolf“Sex trafficking” hysteria had become a major topic by this time; “The New Victorianism”, “One Size Fits All”, “It Looks Good On Paper”, “Spotlight”, “Crying for Nanny” and “Law of the Instrument” all cover various aspects of it.  But I didn’t ignore other aspects of sex work: the two-part “In Denial” looked at sugar babies; “None So Blind” and “Part of the Picture” bizarre anti-porn rhetoric; “Business Opportunity” anti-stripping hysteria; and “One Born Every Minute” scams targeting sex workers.  “Crying Wolf” and “Inevitability” examined the degeneration of feminism, “Droit du Seigneur” the way cops and politicians Heavy Hand of Justice by Kevin Moorethink they have sexual rights over women, “Saving Them From Themselves” teen sexting hysteria, and “Counterfeit Comfort” the failure of “sex offender” registries to do what they’re supposedly intended to do.

Only four columns escaped easy categorization this month, and three of them describe personal matters:  in “Leaving the Life” I tell the story of my first attempt at retiring from escorting; in “Top Ten” I rank my “top” columns to date in various ways; and in “The Fur Is Flying” I describe a brouhaha between two activists.  The odd man out is “Follow the Leader”, wherein I point out that government actors often do things they would arrest and cage individuals for. Le Droit Du Seigneur by Jules Arsene Gardier (1872)

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purple laptopIf you read Saturday’s TW3 column you already know that within minutes of arriving in Raleigh on the 17th, I was chatting with Rachel Mills on her spreecast, LiberTea.  Rachel and I were introduced by veteran libertarian activist Angela Keaton, and liked each other immediately; she generously offered me her guest room, which made the interview a lot easier since I was already at the studio!  She later mentioned that she was learning photography, and asked if I’d model for her; I of course said yes, and I’ll be sharing some of the other results soon.  FYI, I don’t use glasses to read; I’m nearsighted, not farsighted.  However, I believe in artistic license.

On Monday, my book reading at The Internationalist was rained out; the downpour was, in fact, so heavy that water started coming into the store, but luckily I was wearing sandals so I was able to help out with a mop without risking falling on my arse on a slippery floor.  They were very apologetic, but as I told them nobody can help the weather; besides, as I’ve written before it’s the odd experiences that make a trip memorable, not the ones that go exactly as predicted.  Still, it was nice to get a good book reading in at Flyleaf the next day, and I got to meet two more regular readers.  Eros Guide is currently based in the Raleigh area, so another highlight of my visit was meeting with several members of the staff to discuss not only the work I’ve been doing for them the past few months, but also the future in the current climate of hysteria.  And on a more mundane note:  I’m now back in the South, so I can get sweet tea at restaurants again!

Generally, I haven’t been doing public events on the day I arrive, but that was not so in the Carolinas; I left for Charleston on Thursday morning, knowing I had an event there at 7 PM.  Everything went well, though; I arrived in Charleston exactly on schedule and was delighted to discover that my Priceline-booked hotel was not only on the same street as the restaurant where my Liberty On the Rocks appearance was to be held, but also directly on the route I’d take to Atlanta.  It took me only a few minutes to reach the place, and the group was small but very engaged and highly enthusiastic; it was also one of the quieter venues.  In fact, “quiet” is a good word for my stay in Charleston; on Friday I was able to spend the day catching up from comparatively-hectic Washington and Raleigh-Durham, and getting myself ready for the last two stops before the home stretch.

The tour’s nearly over, but you can still catch me in Tampa or New Orleans; if your city is within a few hours’ drive of those (or between them), you can still send an email asking me to visit, though obviously it’s pretty tight now.  Your request will be more likely to be doable if you can make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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crazy PhiladelphiaAfter leaving New York City, I expected the drive to Philadelphia to be rather easy…and it would have been, if not for the legendary badness of Pennsylvania highway design and signage.  See how I-276 appears to intersect I-95 there?  Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.  Only it doesn’t; there isn’t even a sign to mark the place they cross, nor any instructions such as “use US 13 to reach I-95″.  If one doesn’t already know how to get from one to the other, one will find oneself west of the city wondering what the hell happened and calling one’s husband for directions.  Furthermore, even those highways which are labelled properly often don’t connect properly; one may have to exit and drive for miles on surface streets (complete with traffic lights) to get from one interstate highway to another it supposedly connects to.  Oh, and please don’t suggest I get a damned GPS unit, either; every time someone uses one of those screwy things to give me directions it takes me miles out of the way through a maze of turns instead of just plotting a direct course; on the day I’m writing this I was literally given GPS directions to a business that led me to a completely different part of town than the one the business actually occupies (fortunately, there was a similar business in the vicinity of the incorrect destination, so I used it instead).

Grumbling aside, I had a good visit to the city; the group at Liberty On the Rocks was undeterred by heavy rain, and we had a lively discussion which was actually joined by a sex worker who just happened to be in the cafe at the time.  On Thursday I drove down to Washington DC, stopping briefly in Baltimore for a TV interview on the local ABC affiliate (I understand it will be part of an investigative series).  From there I went on to Alexandria, Virginia, the Washington suburb where the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit was being held; I’ve written my thoughts about the conference in a little more detail for Eros Guide.  While I was there, Cathy Reisenwitz kindly invited me to stay at her place; it turned out to be very conveniently located, a straight shot down one long street to the convention.  I touched base with some activists I already knew, met some folks I hadn’t before (including Melissa Gira Grant and porn performers Nina Hartley and Buck Angel), attended an informal group discussion of Lawrence vs. Texas and similar sexual freedom cases, and even sold a few books before zooming down to Raleigh, North Carolina for a podcast that evening.  The details of that, however, can wait until next week!

The tour’s nearly over, but you can still catch me in Charleston, Atlanta, Tampa or New Orleans; if your city is within a few hours’ drive of those (or between them), you can still send an email asking me to visit, though obviously it’s pretty tight now.  Your request will be more likely to be doable if you can make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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