I really like this picture someone took of Joy de Vive and I at the Harlot’s Ball weekend before last, so I’m sharing it because I didn’t last week and it IS my blog, so I can do what I like. A generous reader sent me another new dress, but unfortunately I guessed wrong on the size so I’ll have to send it back to switch it for a medium. See, that’s the problem with women’s sizes; the dress in this picture is a size small, and as you can see it fits me perfectly. But though the new one is also a small and fits my hips and waist perfectly, it…well, in the words of Sol Finer, “There is no way this zipper is going to close with those massive boobs in the way.” So let’s see what a medium looks like (le sigh). Anyhow, there aren’t any pictures I can share from any of last week’s activities, which included a good amount of work (including two sessions with a great new client…hi there sugar!), no fewer than FOUR dinners with awesome whore friends, my usual Sunday Doctor Who evening with Lorelei, the previous evening spent watching a really weird movie while stoned with another whore friend, lots of driving around Seattle in the rain, and getting behind on my writing. But work on my new book cover is progressing, my secret project reached another milestone, and my tolerance for liquor seems to have dramatically increased because I can now have two cocktails with dinner and barely even feel it. Ah, well, c’est la vie. And one last thing: I’m probably going to tour in May, and I’m going to decide where by how many gents contact me from any given city; the first place to offer me three bookings wins. So if you want to see this stellar bod up close & personal, email me ASAP and let me know where you would like me to visit!
Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category
Last week was SASS, and though I didn’t help in planning this year I did volunteer at the kissing booth at the Harlot’s Ball on Saturday night, where quite a few lucky gents and a few lucky ladies got to sample my legendary kissing prowess for a teeny price (and in public, yet!) to benefit SWOP. I also contributed one of the last remaining special copies of Ladies of the Night with a unique Chester Brown sketch in it as a raffle prize; there are now only four left, so if you want one you need to speak up! And speaking of my books & Chester’s art, the cover art for The Forms of Things Unknown is now in the hands of the finish artist, who is coloring it, placing the titles & other text and preparing it to become an actual book cover. She should have it back to me in about two weeks, after which all that remains is for me to submit all the files, examine the proof and then let you know the book is ready! That should be right around a month from now, so keep your eyes open. That’s all I have to tell you this week, but big things are a-brewing and I’ll keep you posted as they reach fruition.
Last week was a good one for catching up with work, both paying work and activism; in a few days we’ll be holding SASS, Seattle’s Annual Sexwork Symposium. And though I’m not as directly involved this time (still too chronically exhausted, I’m afraid) I’ll definitely be participating and attending, so if you go to any of the events you may see me there! Tomorrow’s Mardi Gras, and it always strikes me as kind of weird that everything’s open and running normally on the holiday…because, of course, it isn’t a holiday anywhere else in the US except New Orleans. But this year, with SASS following right on its heels, maybe I’ll be able to get over a little bit of that weirdness…and there’s nothing to stop me from having a little carousing tomorrow night with a few friends, even if there’s no big public spectacle.
The days are getting longer and warmer already; I’m not turning my lamp on until 5 PM now, and a couple of days ago I took the second blanket off of my bed after several episodes of waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. I’m able to wear lighter clothes with a coat as long as I know I’m going someplace warm, and at least this isn’t New Orleans where the end of freezing cold weather means the arrival of oppressively hot weather; in Seattle, it’ll still be cool until June unless we get another crazy heat wave like we did last April. And of course, in just a few weeks we’ll be subjected to the idiotic annual ritual in which we all agree to lie about what time it is for the next eight months. What all this means is that, while my friends with Seasonal Affective Disorder are beginning to get some relief, I’m heading into the dreadful days where my pineal gland starts engaging in the neurochemical equivalent of running around the house, turning on all the lights and cranking up the stereo full-blast while screaming obscenities, scattering its clothes all over the floor, losing the car keys, making an unholy mess in the kitchen and refusing to do its homework. And that in turn means I’ll need to become much more assiduous in my rotation of sleep-inducing drugs again; in the winter I’ve been able to be kind of lazy about it, but now I’ll need to up the doses and mind that I don’t get too resistant to any one thing for it to be useful any more. Such is the life of a neuro-atypical person, or at least the part of it I can discuss in polite company without giving anyone the vapors or causing nightmares which will ruin their sleep.
My postlady brought me all sorts of lovely things this week; first and foremost among them was a package containing Chester Brown’s beautiful cover art for my new book, The Forms of Things Unknown. By the time you read this I should have hired a digital artist to do the color and layout, and after that it won’t be long before I start putting the book together! Other packages, from a new reader who prefers to remain anonymous, contained a book about Doctor Who, a complete collection of Leonard Cohen’s studio albums, a big bag of licorice candy and this rather stunning dress, which I’ve already worn for an appointment with a very lovely couple! I also got a good bit of self-care in last week, caught up on my writing, completed another step in my secret project and got a good bit of paying work in, so all in all it was a very productive week (despite Seattle being largely at a standstill a week ago Monday due to overnight snow). This week: more selfcare, more work and more playing catch-up, and speaking of paying work you only have 12 more days to take advantage of my two-librarian special with Lorelei Rivers! Seriously, gents, this is not an opportunity to miss; we will shush you like you’ve never been shushed in your entire life! For details, email me at my work address. And don’t be overdue!
Though I’ve been aware of Whoretography for some time, the release of her e-magazine inspired me to ask her to contribute a guest column and she graciously obliged me. I encourage you to explore her website, to buy a copy of her e-magazine and to help support the project via GoFundMe.
I am addicted to photography; it’s a lifelong obsession of mine that began as a 2-year-old with the death of my father. When you lose a parent as a baby, the only connection you can form with that parent is through imagery. The last photograph before his death, the only one of us together, him proudly sitting on his 1970s motorbike. His death sparked my purpose in life. Now I am a documentary photographer, masters student, sex worker & activist interested in challenging the victim-centered nature of sex worker imagery on-line and how photography is instrumental the online sale of sex. I know my father would be proud of me.
I bought my first camera when I was 12 and I have never been without one since; even when I was homeless for 18 months, I refused to sell my last camera. My mother evidently thought photography was just a phase adolescent girls go through, because I was not permitted to study photography at secondary school; I went on to graduate with an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Genetics, Post Graduate in Criminology and a Graduate Diploma in Small Business Management. I put photography to one side in this period, prioritising an institutionally-defined career in criminal justice, and I moved countries; I sold and traded cameras to pay rent, tuition and one-way tickets to London and Paris. Finally, in April 2005, I followed my passion and become a full-time photographer; I also started as a sex worker the very same day. And because photography is so ingrained in my psyche, I eventually managed to make sex work about photography too. I simply refused to follow the photographic rules which dictated that in order to sell sex, I must photograph myself naked or semi-naked and bent over a table clutching my tits. So, to stand out from the blowjob crowd in an industry that demanded the use of photography, I said no to selfies and soft porn boudoir imagery and instead harnessed the power of pop culture and iconic imagery to sell the essence of the girlfriend experience. My reasoning was simple; I am not selling my body, so why do you need photographs of my body? This initial rebellion against sex industry photographic expectations kick-started my fascination with the role photography plays in the online transaction of sex.
12 years later, I am now an award winning published photographer, a sex worker and a master’s student undertaking research in sex work activism through the Whoretography project. It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly Whoretography began, but it was somewhere between realising I was in the business of a photographic conspiracy in which my camera was acting as an agent for the falsehood of couple cohesion and intimacy, and the idea of documenting paid-for sexual intimacy as the antidote to the visual falsehoods of wedding photography. Whoretography sits nicely at the intersection of images, technologies, society and the sex worker rights movement. It’s the first academic, ethnographic and creative platform dedicated solely to understanding the role photography plays in sex work via self-publishing as an artistic practice. The objectives frame a body of creative work that takes the form of a collection of soon to be published photo and artist books, zines and the recently launched Whoretography E – Magazine. My visual activism is about exploring a set of research questions through a mixed methodology approach designed to challenge the prevailing ideology of sex-work and to present to the viewer an alternative perception of the industry and its participants. I wish to stop the over-simplification of the lives of cis, trans and non-binary sex workers, and to challenge current imagery that encourages the sense that the only way of interpreting the lives of sex workers is to see them as ripe for “rescue”. This narrow and particular visual representation of male oppression reproduces a politics of pity that is embedded in the visual representation of sex workers; it suggests only pity makes sense as a political, social and cultural response.
I work within the photographic genre of found imagery, with other peoples’ photographic material and written documents. The material for Whoretography is sourced using cyberethnographic methods; however, online interactions alone are insufficient to develop a deep understanding of the visuals of the sex worker online community. So I’ve conducted offline research consisting of qualitative interviews with internet based sex workers, and their customers in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America. Found photography allows for an editorial style in which I can act as both as editor and author; this is not common when working with sex work imagery. Standard approaches to visually representing sex workers include photo-voice, wherein sex workers themselves create the photographs (typically of their workspaces), and photo-essay; the publishing world is awash with photo essays that, for example, take a sneaky look inside brothels. I wanted to avoid these visual clichés. Working with found images means constructing new narratives from seemingly unconnected photographs to provoke critical dialogue about sex work and present an alternative view of sex work. It allows me to take the discussion of sex worker imagery from the realms of the sex work community and place it in the wider community. Fundamental to this goal is deconstructing the visual vocabulary of sex work imagery online to investigate the overarching questions, “Is it possible to reclaim the word ‘whore’ through creative practice as research?” and “What role does photography play in contemporary online sexual consumption?” I have an interest in ensuring photography is relevant in the fight for the full decriminalisation of sex work. We must celebrate the fact that sex workers are now image makers; we must challenge the exclusion of sex workers from online visual spaces; and we must talk about the posthumous humiliation of sex workers via the standard practice of releasing morgue photos. The prohibitionist war on sex work is underpinned by their belief that their photographic rhetoric is photographic truth, and we must name the game when it comes to the middle-class masses being in an uproar about the apparent gentrification of sex work via some mythical photoshop gentrification tool.
I wonder if I have made this article sound too clinical and academic, but it has not been an easy two years. I have an overwhelming sadness for some of what I have seen; people’s understanding of sex work is based on a carefully constructed visual lie. The media are in cahoots with exclusionary bullies to peddle that lie, and it bloody royally pisses me off that middle-class feminists seek to deny sex workers access to the digital revolution and visual online spaces. I undertook a Master’s Degree because I was seeking a better theoretical understanding of my craft, and in stepping away from weddings I unwittingly stumbled across my life’s photographic purpose. I am committed to setting up a visual activist platform and sex work-positive publishing house. I have amassed over 20,000 images and a lot of what I have seen makes me cry. I have seen child abuse victims marketed as teen sex workers; prohibitionists create rescue images with a tonal quality reminiscent of colonial missionaries “saving the natives from themselves”; the publication and subsequent outing of sex workers by newspapers; the dire consequences of the pixilated face in propelling stigma; and the shaming of sex workers as a police tactic to help in the gentrification of up and coming hipster neighbourhoods. The way people have weaponised the camera as a tool of violence against sex workers is in marked contrast to the way we use the camera as an agent for couple cohesion in wedding photography. I am on a mission to shift the political landscape of sex work by forcing people to understand its visual landscape. Photography is currently used to silence the intentions, actions and feelings of sex workers and to make their lives more precarious; we need to change this, and I hope you will help me to make this happen.
Last week was another extremely busy one; much of it was devoted to a SOOPER SEEKRIT project that I can’t tell you about yet, but which seems to be moving along pretty quickly. That’s a really good thing because I find that whenever I’m going the way the gods want me to go, things tend to be easy and fall right into place; if I’m going the wrong way, however, they’re nearly impossible. Scoff if you like, but this is my experience of five decades, and I never told you that I was 100% rational. But beside the big project, there were a few other high points of last week: Matt visited me for a few hours on his way through Seattle, and Lorelei and I got to resume our normal Doctor Who date (and if you would like a date with both of us, that can be arranged), and I was able to crack a baking problem I’ve been working on for a couple of months. So all in all, a very good week, and I hope this one is even better!