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Archive for the ‘Obituary’ Category

Dennis Hof, owner of half of the brothels in Nevada, died early Tuesday morning, apparently of natural causes; he was 72.  I have never hidden my deep dislike for the man, who is still the only male member of my Hall of Shame; that dislike is inextricably bound up with my deep dislike for the exploitative fascist system which made him both wealthy and infamous (and it’s impossible to say which of those he relished more).  The state of Nevada, as I’ve written before,

…is [no] more whore-friendly than any other American state…unless one considers a poultry factory-farmer to be a “friend” of chickens…[it] allow[s] a small number of politically-connected cronies to run brothel ranches (switching from one kind of livestock to another) out in the desert far from human habitation (so the “sex rays” from diseased harlots don’t contaminate real people)…like a collection of mummified monsters and pickled curiosities in a roadside tourist trap, and to harshly persecute any who dare show themselves in town.

Now, it’s absolutely true that there would be nothing immoral about the Nevada system as long as whores had a free choice whether to work there or not; furthermore, the restrictions of the Nevada system are largely state-imposed and not the fault of Hof or other brothel owners.  I’ve never worked in one of the Nevada brothels myself because I refuse to submit to being treated like a criminal, so I have no firsthand experience in what Hof was like as a boss (and the varying opinions I’ve heard from women who have basically average out to “he was no worse than the others”).  So my revulsion has nothing to do with the brothel system itself or what he was like as an employer, but rather with his opportunistic promotion of “sex trafficking” hysteria (which he privately admitted to me that he knew to be bullshit), the “dirty whore” myth, and the notion that women are too stupid, weak and incompetent to be trusted to manage our own sexual behavior.  I was also disgusted by his deep hypocrisy (claiming to be a libertarian while participating in a crony system, supporting Donald Trump, cuddling up to the vile Joe Arpaio, and revering the word “legal” as though it were a cultic totem) and his relentless and distasteful self-promotion.

That having been said, it’s also true that Hof’s participation in the reality series Cathouse probably served to demystify at least one kind of sex work to hundreds of thousands of people; that his businesses provided jobs to hundreds of sex workers and support staff; and that regardless of my personal opinion of him, he was liked and even loved by many of his employees, business contacts and others, including several people (such as my friend Christina Parreira and 1st amendment powerhouse Marc Randazza) I like and respect very much.  Furthermore, though some of the recent attacks on Nevada brothels were obviously retribution for his political activity, others had nothing to do with him personally and his notoriety and local popularity may have helped fend them off; now that he’s dead the whore-haters may redouble their efforts, and there’s no telling what effect Nevada’s deeply weird licensing laws may have on the fate of many, many people’s livelihoods.

There are people I know who are celebrating his death, and others who are mourning it; personally, I’m glad we won’t have to endure his signal-boosting of prohibitionist lies, but I’m also worried about the future of the women who work in brothels in general and his brothels in particular.  In short, Hof was a complex, often maddening man in life, and his death has left a situation that’s equally complex and maddening.

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You’re going to jail. Have a seat in my car. We’ll make shit up as we go.  –  John Kovach Jr.

Sometimes YouTube does an OK job of “suggesting” things that are actually interesting.  Sometimes.  The links above the video were contributed by Mike SiegelFranklin HarrisTim CushingTracy Clark-FloryJesse WalkerDave Krueger, and Angela Keaton, in that order.

From the Archives

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I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do.  –  unidentified Alabama pig

I was quite young when this premiered one Saturday morning (Wikipedia says it was January 6th, 1973), and I was immediately taken with it.  It was of course the first episode of Multiplication Rock, which later grew into Schoolhouse Rock; I mention this is because the man who wrote and sang the song (and wrote all the other Multiplication Rock entries, singing all but 3 himself), Bob Dorough, died this week.  The links above the video were provided by Jesse Walker (x2), Franklin HarrisJillian KeenanRick Horowitz, and Elizabeth N. Brown (in that order).

From the Archives

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[Prohibitionists] would rather see [sex workers]…dead than listen to what we have to say.  –  Bristol Sex Workers Collective

Where Are the Protests? 

Middle-class American women don’t give a shit about this, because it doesn’t involve sex:

Almost 500 people…gathered…for a candlelight vigil…for victims of human trafficking…they also demanded justice and voiced outrage over…the death of Adelina Lisao, a domestic worker in Penang,  reportedly following torture by her employer…Lisao…died on February 11 of multiple organ failure just a day after being rescued by a migrant workers’ protection group.  She reportedly faced torture for more than a month and was forced to sleep outside with her employers’ dog…[Eni Lestari of the International Migrants Alliance] said…“Both Malaysia and Indonesia…have to recognise us as workers”…she said banning the export of Indonesian workers to Malaysia would not solve the problem.  “In fact, it makes it worse.  Because of the poverty, people are forced to use illegal channels.  It increases the smuggling and trafficking of people”…

Cops and Robbers

In which poor women trying to earn a living are described as “ridiculous”:

…While most residents have already retreated to their beds for the night, [politician Martin] Meyer, together with about a dozen other residents, has taken to the streets of Morningside…Donning bright reflective vests the group, made up largely of [white men], have decided it’s time to “take back the streets”.  They have formed a street patrol to try to “deter or hinder” [mostly black sex workers] in the area, which, they all agree, are out of control…Percival Gumede, who’s lived on Lilian Ngoyi Road for eight years, calls the…prostitutes “ridiculous…It’s like a cancer that’s eating at our society, right in the suburbs”…Phil Tribe…says he worries about property values, and is not certain whether to invest more into upgrading his home…Ariff Saib [said]…“We want the riff-raff out of the area”…

When you see quotes like this from South Africans, it becomes more clear how apartheid happened.

The Day of the Dead (#532) 

Less chauvinistic question:  “Why don’t Western funerals include strippers?

…China renewed a clampdown on strippers performing at funerals, wedding and temples, calling it “obscene and vulgar”…It’s just the latest in a series of campaigns over the years by the Chinese government to end the practice of funeral strippers [which originated in Taiwan].  China’s Ministry of Culture has deemed such performances “uncivilised” and announced that anyone who hires a stripper to entice people to a funeral will be “severely punished”…The Ministry of Culture’s new campaign will target in particular the Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces.  The government has also set up a hotline for the public to report any “funeral misdeeds” in exchange for a monetary reward…

I’m sure the practice’s origin in a place that’s a continual embarrassment for Beijing has nothing to do with this.

Negative Secondary Effects

These “objections” are hilariously petulant:

…the owner of both Central Chambers and Urban Tiger strip clubs has applied to renew its Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licences with Bristol City Council.  Several [prohibitionist] groups want Bristol City Council to reject the applications on…grounds [such as]…“I am unable to avoid seeing Urban Tiger whenever I go to the city centre area…it is not appropriate to have strip clubs…close to areas used by families with young children.” [And]…“Central Chambers promotes harmful attitudes towards women…This is not because it is a sex-related business”…women who work at the club [correctly] say these objections come from a small group of closed minded “so called feminists” and they should not be punished for choosing to do a job which some find distasteful…[one] dancer…said the flexible hours allow her to care for her son and she is sick of being thought of as a “victim of degradation” or “some sort of social deviant”…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do (#783) 

Abusive men often try to gaslight their victims, but this cop’s trying to gaslight other cops:

A Bronx cop accused of having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute refused to admit that he knew his victim — even when he was shown pictures of the two of them in bed together…Raul Olmeda wouldn’t admit that he was the man…in the…photos…[even though they] were found on his computer and cellphone…The department trial will determine if he should get kicked off the force.  Rape allegations for having sex with the minor, identified in court only as SG, will be adjudicated in…criminal court at a later date.  Advocate Anna Krutaya said Olmeda…claimed he couldn’t identify the furniture in his own home when confronted with the photos, which were taken in his bedroom and living room.  Yet, when cops executed a search warrant at his address, the furniture in the photos was inside…Olmeda made his bold denials after he was confronted with an audio file of a recording [from his computer] where[i]n he tells SG to “lay low” because Internal Affairs was investigating him.  “Technically you are a minor,” Olmeda told the teen on the recording, according to Krutaya…

Yeah, a 15-year-old is “technically” a minor.  And we all know how cops hate “technicalities”.

R.I.P. Laura Lee

Standard Operating Procedure (#814)

Hey NGOs: About 70% of sex workers’ clients are married, and most have kids.  Pleasant dreams.

Jan Weuts, a humanitarian adviser at Caritas Belgium, says the NGO has a way to avoid its staff engaging with sex workers in developing countries.  “Ninety percent of our representatives in the field nowadays are women or couples…we go for relatively young women, or men in a stable family situation…you make an analysis, and one of the analyses is ‘how will this person behave in an environment where there is a lot of prostitution?’”…A spokesperson for Caritas Belgium confirmed this…“it kind of guarantees that there is more stability and you don’t have a bunch of guys with a lot of testerone [sic] living together in a compound”…

To Molest and Rape (#814) 

This will continue as long as cops have power over peaceful individuals:

…The case looked weak, Detective Michel Toro of the Miami Police Department warned M.B. in a pair of text messages on Feb. 4, 2016, five days after he’d taken her statement accusing her ex-fiancé of sexual assault.  Then, his tone shifted.  “Well I can’t lie, your [sic] such a beautiful and attractive woman…I just wanted to let u [sic] know that I’m someone u [sic] could trust”…[t]he text…[was] the first of many…increasingly suggestive messages…Three days later, shortly after midnight, Toro showed up outside M.B.’s apartment after texting that he wanted to see her…M.B. went outside to sit in his unmarked squad car, and…Toro made his move, leaning over to kiss her and eventually putting his finger inside of her.  She was shaking in fear, so much so that Toro stopped and asked if he’d done anything wrong, M.B. said, but she was afraid to tell him to stop…[he forced] two more sexual encounters over the next nine days…during his shift in the middle of the night wearing a suit, with his radio, gun, and badge still on his belt, she said.  M.B. couldn’t ignore him, given his role in investigating her case, but she felt increasingly stuck…So on Feb. 27, four weeks after she’d reported being raped, M.B. told police that Toro pressured her into a sexual relationship…Toro wasn’t charged with a crime.  He wasn’t even fired.  Instead, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office let Toro resign.  M.B.’s ex-fiancé also wasn’t charged.  By the time prosecutors informed M.B. about the dismissed cases, she was living in a homeless shelter…35 states have loopholes that allow cops to evade sexual assault convictions by claiming that a..[rape] was consensual.  Florida isn’t one of them…but it does not specifically say that a [cop] is forbidden from having sex with a witness or an alleged victim in a case they’re investigating — another major loophole that exists in all 50 states…

Laura Lee, Sex Work Stigma, and the Limits of #MeToo

I wonder when Olaf’s lawyer will tell him Irish defamation judgments are unenforceable on US citizens?

Scientist and author Dr Brooke Magnanti…alleges Hot Press journalist Olaf Tyaransen drugged, sexually assaulted and beat the late Dublin-born sex workers’ rights campaigner Laura Lee.  Mr Tyaransen, who denies the allegations and has promised unspecified legal redress, interviewed Ms Lee at a Dublin hotel in October 2014 for Hot Press magazine, where he serves as a staff writer…Hot Press said…Tyaransen would be stepping down from the magazine by “mutual agreement” while “he deals with these allegations”…Tyaransen sent us the following statement:  “It’s completely untrue. I will be taking legal action”…

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[Laura Lee] put herself on the line in a way few have the guts to do.  –  Brooke Magnanti

Storyville 

An interesting look at brothel archaeology in Australia:

Sex work was one of the major ways poor women could earn a reasonable income in the 19th century.  Especially unmarried women with babies.  But we don’t hear people say “my great-great-grandmother was a sex worker”…Social stigma belies the importance of prostitution in providing an independent living, and even property ownership, for numerous women in this period…the Little Lon district in Melbourne CBD’s north-east corner…has been extensively excavated by a series of archaeological projects over the last 30 years, and our recent intensive research on the artefacts recovered (held at Museum Victoria and Heritage Victoria) is revealing much more about the brothels and the women who owned them that had disappeared from memory…

Whore Madonnas 

While mainstream media mindlessly parrots “sex trafficking” propaganda, the alternative press is listening to sex workers:

…Liz Afton works as a counselor at the Sex Workers Project…which provides legal and social services to people involved in sex work…“Mothers…who are involved in sex work often have it used against them to separate them from their child,” Afton says.  Atossa Movahedi, director of legal services and development at the UJC’s domestic violence project, says…“More often than not…the opposing party had knowledge of, or even was involved directly, in the client’s participation in the sex work, and is now using it as a tool to exploit them in the court system.”  When dealing with custody disputes, courts [supposedly] first look at a parent’s ability to provide a loving and stable home.  Financial status, mental health, drug use and domestic violence all fall under consideration.  Though many mothers involved in sex work pass inspection in these areas, they’re left with the fact that the job is usually illegal—and in the eyes of some on the bench, immoral…

The Pro-Rape Coalition 

Liz Brown is becoming our most powerful voice against sex hysteria:

Evidence-free freakouts over erotica are a time-honored tradition…history is littered with authoritarians of all stripes convinced that censoring sexual imagery was a necessary social good.  And with each iteration, what porn prohibitionists lack in actual facts to support their doomy view they make up for with warnings that this time it’s different — that whatever new medium exists for producing or distributing porn is uniquely dangerous to the youth and degrading to good women.  For decades now, this supposed difference has been chalked up to the proliferation of online pornography…there’s no evidence that internet porn has been destroying millennials — some of whom now have two decades of…data to offer…all the available evidence shows…teens today are starting sex later, and more likely than previous generations to use condoms when they do.  Teen pregnancy rates are at their lowest levels in decades…In addition, there’s now a huge body of research showing that…it’s “time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior”…sexually well-adjusted adults “reported more experience with pornography as teenagers” than their maladjusted counterparts…

Finding What Isn’t There

Too bad all prohibitionism isn’t focused on harassing women who don’t exist:

Lake of the Woods boasts 15,000 islands and more than 100,000 kilometres of shoreline — more coast than Lake Superior…the [area]…near the Manitoba border sees its population double in the summer months.  When [masturbatory fantasies] of women and girls being forced into the sex trade on Lake of the Woods arose at a 2013 human trafficking conference in Kenora, even local social service workers were shocked…“Dock girls,” as they came to be known…are [fantasized] to be overwhelmingly Indigenous [minors who]…are [fantasized] to be transported…from…northwestern Ontario and Manitoba as part of a human trafficking circuit…only…one social service worker [in the area claims]…they’ve come face-to-face with a “dock girl”…[yet]…Kenora will receive $504,000 over three years to [indoctrinate] frontline hospitality workers…[in the usual anti-whore propaganda]…there is so little hard evidence for the “dock girl” phenomenon that it raises questions about whether the problem exists at all.  And if it doesn’t, critics say, wouldn’t the government’s funding…be better spent elsewhere?…

Policing for Profit

Cops are starting to admit that this is about nothing other than profit:

In Alabama…two [politicians] introduced legislation that would require that prosecutors actually convict people of crimes in order to keep their stuff.  It would put the burden on the state to prove that the property they want to seize is connected to a crime…It would move the proceeds of forfeiture to the state’s general fund to eliminate the profit incentive for police and prosecutors to try to seize whatever they could get their hands on.  And it would close a loophole that would forbid local law enforcement agencies from bypassing restrictions by participating in the federal “equitable sharing” Department of Justice forfeiture program…the head of the Alabama District Attorney’s Association and the Alabama Sheriffs Association teamed up with an op-ed that urges against reforms to asset forfeiture…Brian McVeigh and Dave Sutton warn that requiring successful prosecutions will lead to them filing more charges against people…When you find yourself threatening to find more reasons to put even more citizens in jail in order to protect your revenue stream, it’s maybe time to…think about what you’re doing…

Torture Chamber 

Stop faking!

Women imprisoned at California’s Santa Rita Jail say they’re being [caged] in filthy conditions, denied basic hygiene products, pressured to have abortions, subjected to incessant strip searches, and forced to endure many other manners of cruel and inhumane treatment from guards and staff…In a new federal lawsuit, they’re asking a federal judge to intervene on behalf of them and future female prisoners, particularly those who are pregnant…The jailhouse horror stories…provide an invaluable glimpse at the…systemic degradation…such institutions foster…female inmates face the standard abuses inflicted on male prisoners as well as those unique to their sex, from being forced to “free bleed” during their periods if they can’t afford to buy tampons to facing higher levels of sexual assault and coercion from guards and staff…pregnant prisoners [are] denied proper nutrition and prenatal care and, in some places, forced to give birth in shackles.  At Santa Rita…one inmate was…left alone in solitary confinement to give birth…”She was banging on her metal door…[the screws] closed the slider-window…so she could not see out, and no one could see in…Only after we could hear the crying of the baby did the deputies finally go over and open her door”…

Opting Out (#401)

This is no surprise to those of us who have actually studied the effects and history of censorship:

Sky UK has been called out for blocking a…website that its algorithms deem as “pornographic”…as part of the Digital Economy Act 2010…Sky UK have blocked gay-teen advice website gayteenresources.org…an important resource for teenagers exploring their sexuality and for those that may be struggling…blocked.org.uk, which lists sites that cannot be accessed, reveals that O2, EE and Three have also automatically filtered the site from their mobile networks…

“Filtered” is a euphemism for “censored”, and this will continue until the media acknowledge that.

The Spiral of Absurdity (#792) 

At least universities in Washington state aren’t generally used to spread “sex trafficking” propaganda, unlike those in Arizona and Texas:

The “Artifacts of Human Trafficking” exhibit is designed to [facilitate masturbation] to [the fantasy of] human trafficking in Texas…there are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in the state…From Feb. 12 to March 16, the School of Social Work will host the art exhibit, created by Austin artist Amie Stone King…illustrat[ing] themes of isolation, captivity and desperation…Prominent in the center of the exhibit is a “seclusion room.”  Attendees are invited to enter the small space and [masturbate in private while fantasizing about pubescent girls in]…a life of captivity…

The Public Eye (#797)

Though Rolling Stone is far too timid to write honestly about escorts, it’s good to see a sex work-positive article in it at all:

At…the 35th Annual Adult Entertainment Expo and Adult Video News Awards…plenty of big names were in attendance – stars who had led more traditional adult-film careers – but they were outnumbered by scores of up-and-coming models who primarily built their own businesses using cam shows, original clip stores and monetized social-media platforms.  The mass availability of easily pirated streaming video may have decimated the porn economy, but it seems that women are the ones adapting, finding fresh ways to connect directly with consumers.  As these models gain more economic influence, they are also raising the bar for consent conversations throughout the industry…

Tit For Tat

One day, our culture will grow up enough that this won’t be noteworthy:

Eva Sless…is a sex columnist, a sex educator and a sex worker  who…[is] married.  Sless’ husband, Justin…is completely supportive of her work, though they’re both aware it’s an unconventional life.  “I know we are a rare couple.  Our life and marriage is built on a foundation of strong friendship, trust, love, and respect…I don’t know if the life we live is for everyone, but it works for us. I love our world.”  Below, they tell us more about Sless’ work, how it affects their marriage and what Justin thinks of his wife’s clients…

Elephant in the Parlor (#806)  

This ought to be interesting:

Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom Donald Trump’s attorney acknowledges paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss a…sexual encounter with the man who is now president…At the same time, developments…are fueling questions about whether such a payment could violate federal campaign finance laws.  Daniels…believes that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, invalidated a non-disclosure agreement after two news stories were published [early last week]…one in which Cohen told The New York Times he made the six-figure payment with his personal funds, and another in the Daily Beast, which reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story, said the manager, Gina Rodriguez.  “Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story,” Rodriguez said…

Watershed (#809)

When stuffy Time publishes an article who only major nod to prohibitionism is to quote dried-up dinosaur Gloria Steinem vomiting up her “body invasion” nonsense, you know things are changing:

Like millions of others, Melony Hill took to social media last fall to say “me too”…But rather than receiving an outpouring of support, Hill said she’s gotten messages saying that she deserved to be sexually assaulted — because she has worked in the sex industry for 20 years…“They’ll say we’re just whores anyway — ‘How can you sexually assault a whore?’ I’ve had that said to me multiple times”…Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence on the job, but have few good options to report it…Some…sex…[workers] told Time that they have posted their #MeToo stories anonymously to avoid potential legal repercussions.  Others said that they don’t want to speak out publicly because they anticipate they’ll be shamed, or not believed because they aren’t “perfect victims”…there’s also the damaging notion that sex workers can’t be sexually assaulted…“Not all women are being supported in the #MeToo movement,” said Cris Sardina…of…Desiree Alliance…“It’s what type of woman”…

R.I.P. Laura Lee

A very nice tribute from The Herald:

She was, in the words of Scots author Kirstin Innes, “a powerhouse, a formidable, vital, hilarious and angry star”…Others described her as a “fierce warrior” for women.  She appeared regularly in the pages of this newspaper fighting the corner of the most marginalised women in society – sex workers.  She was Laura Lee – a brilliantly clever Irish woman who found an adoptive home in Scotland and made the choice to work in the sex industry.  Last week, she died aged just 39…

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Last week, a long-time client of Laura’s asked if I’d publish this tribute to her today, the day of her funeral.  And how could I not?  This text was approved by her daughter Cat prior to publication.

Today is the funeral of Laura Lee, “Ant” (Antoinette) to her friends, but I can’t be there celebrating her full but short life and grieving at her unexpected death.  Yes, I am one of those, a client, who has another life which made it impossible for me to attend.  I have no one to share my grief with, other than other sex workers, clients, allies and academics who knew Laura; they have been an immense help.  It has been a hard few days for me and I am sure I am not alone.  I have known Laura for twelve years, and online even longer than that.  She was a moderator on the forum call Punternet…yes, that so-called “patriarchal” review site so beloved by the antis had real life sex workers as moderators.  The first time I met Laura was in Edinburgh, and after our appointment she asked me back to accompany her on a midnight Edinburgh ghost walk tour.  I did, and that was the start of a long relationship.  Little did I know she was fascinated in ghosts, and only days before she left us she was staying in a haunted coach house.

During the next few years I would meet Laura wherever our paths crossed, often in Edinburgh or London, and once a coincidental meeting in Carlisle where we both happened to be working at the same time.  One year I took the plunge and invited her to come to Glastonbury music festival with me; I already had a ticket, but her ticket was a late booking on the Glastonbury ticket resale, and the only tickets available included coach transfer.  So, I drove there on Wednesday and set up camp; she arrived by coach the next day.  I met her on Thursday afternoon and we spent the rest of the day looking around and eventually making our way back to the small tent, soaking wet from the rain which had started.  We didn’t mind; we were together for the weekend.  There were no showers, and the loos at Glastonbury are diabolical stinking holes in a tank; wet wipes and cider become the currency of the festival.  The privacy in a small tent sited within a foot of other tents is virtually non-existent; three middle aged men nearby were discussing the moans of ecstasy they had heard during the night.  We would lie together listening to the requests for Ketamine and the inflation of balloons throughout the night.

She loved the Green Fields area and the Healing Fields, the Hippy area Laura called it, where there are various massages available, Yoga and Tarot card readings.  Having a wicked sense of humour, she went up to one young police officer and asked him about the laws on opening a massage tent and would it be alright if she supplied extra services.  The poor man flushed and stammered with embarrassment, eventually saying he would have to ask a superior.  Laura was supportive of all harm reduction initiatives and spent time talking with the helpers at a drug help tent.  Here they would advise people on safe drug use and they would spend the night and early hours touring the stone circle area handing out water and helping anyone in distress.  She was impressed by the care they gave.  The Green Fields area and especially the Peace Garden were a quiet safe space where one could sit and contemplate; it’s where we lay in the sun and I told her I loved her.  I felt so embarrassed after saying this, but no she said it was sweet and a lovely thing to have said.

Laura’s determination to come with me to Glastonbury was revealed next year, after she broke her ankle and damaged her knee in a fall in the bath tub a few weeks before the festival.  Her whole leg was placed in plaster all the way up to her crotch.  I was sure she would not come, but she did; luckily, we had upgraded to glamping and were sleeping in a bed, with showers and flush loos.  I was over the moon when she told me she hadn’t even contemplated not coming.  The only downside of the location of our yurt was the hill up to the campsite; pushing Laura up the wet grass in the wheel chair was punishing and very challenging work at the end of a long night.  But it was an amazing festival, and people were always ready whenever we needed help in the mud, or faced a steep hill.  We had hospitality tickets that year, so we celebrity spotted in the area between the Pyramid and Other stage; Laura was in her element being photographed with Paolo Nutini.

We managed five Glastonburys, two T in the parks, TRNSMT in Glasgow and even did the small Pilton party together last year.  From there Laura has a selfie of herself with Michael Eavis.  The great highlights of Glastonbury for her were Dolly Parton and Adele; she also valued her meeting with the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell (a vocal supporter of sex workers rights who knew of Laura) at the Left Field stage.  Taking an out-sex worker with a public profile and those unmistakable long black curls to such a public event has its risks; she had appeared on many chat shows and on TV shows such as Sex on Wheels which featured disabled people’s sexual needs and had been aired several times.  Generally, the reaction to her was positive, with women coming up to be photographed with her.  One time after Glastonbury at Bristol airport she was hugged and thanked for all she was doing.  During that last festival she was spotted by another sex worker and ended up giving advice and help.  Of course there were downsides too, such as the Irish doctor at our glamping site who recognised Laura and started making loud audible snide comments.  Last year we spotted a woman who just kept glaring angrily at Laura without saying anything.  Thankfully the glamping area had grown large, so we didn’t have to see either of them again.  Laura would outwardly laugh these slights off, but I knew it hurt her and put a damper on the late evenings sitting around the brazier in Love Fields.

The Greenfields area of Glastonbury had a debating and lecture area, and this is where she met Ruby Wax giving a talk on mental health, which was a personal issue for Laura, though when I was with her I very rarely saw it.  She was so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Ruby and get her autograph.  She worked hard promoting sex worker rights, even while we were enjoying ourselves at festivals; there were always emails or phone calls for help or for an interview, and she tried to fit these in when she could.  She took every opportunity to promote sex worker rights, to the extent of questioning those working on the Glasgow Sexual Health stand at the TRNSMT festival about their attitudes toward sex workers.

Outside of her work Laura tried to fit in speaking engagements, TV debates and protest marches where ever she could, along with actively working with different campaign groups and building relationships with the Belfast Reclaim the Night, feminist organisations and Repeal the 8th.  This often cost her money for hotels and travel, and importantly her time when she could have been working.  Campaigning is not cheap, with the costs increasing, and her earnings reduced, her stress levels increased with bills needing payment.  This spiral was having on effect on her health and made me very aware that allies must step up and help by donating money unconditionally to activists.  Not just money for a specific court case or cause, but money for the travel, accommodation and the loss of income from not being able to work on those days.

I loved Laura and I believe she had affections for me, often sharing with me aspects of her life, and sometimes having petty arguments like married couples.  I loved her forthrightness and the way she picked me up on my occasional tactlessness.  I greatly miss her; her death has left a hole in my heart and life.  I bitterly regret not attending the Beyond the Gaze event in Manchester where Laura received a standing ovation for her speech.

May Laura continue to haunt the lives of those who fight against total decriminalisation of sex work.

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Diary #398

Last week was dominated by the sudden death of my friend Laura Lee on Wednesday morning; Matisse and I found out Wednesday evening about 10, but we were asked not to say anything until Laura’s daughter made a public statement.  Working out what to say to the press was a lot to ask of such a young woman, but she handled it with the strength and courage she inherited from her mother.  I never met Laura in person; we’ve been talking for a couple of years now about arranging that, but alas fate intervened.  But she and I have been online friends for years, and we shared the deep bonds of sisterhood that only whores can know with each other.  As I wrote in another diary column more than three years ago,

…when sex worker friends get together there’s a kind of camaraderie that I’ve not generally felt among groups of other adult women; it’s a sense of shared experience, of being denizens of a secret world unknown to the general population.  Perhaps we cleave to each other more tightly because the “good” women of the world reject us; perhaps it’s an outgrowth of the necessity for us to watch each other’s backs.  And perhaps it’s also due to our comfort with displays of affection and intimacy that others would find shameful…

That also extends to our online interactions; Brooke Magnanti and I were good friends and confidantes for years before I met her, and Matisse and I were so close that when we finally met for the first time in person, we were finishing each other’s sentences and people were surprised to hear that we hadn’t ever met before.  And the same goes for my relationship with Laura; we sent each other packages, chatted in DMs on Twitter, and supported and consoled each other through some extremely difficult times.  So when I heard the news, I didn’t receive it with the detached sadness one experiences at the death of a beloved celebrity or casual acquaintance, but with the pain of the loss of a real friend.  The sex worker rights movement has lost one of our greatest warriors, a fierce campaigner for human rights who was willing to go toe-to-toe with horrific evil for the benefit of thousands of women who didn’t even know her.  And those of us who did know her have also lost someone we dearly loved.

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