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Archive for the ‘Guest Columns’ Category

Mike Siegel is a professional astronomer who has been one of my online friends for about six years now; he has helped me analyze bad studies and calculate statistics, given me advice on scientific points in some of my stories, and even been featured here as a fiction writer himself.  I’ve also linked to some of his articles, and right now he has an excellent demolition of FOSTA and the evil mindset which spawned it on the group blog Ordinary Times.  He was kind enough to allow me to publish this excerpt, but you really ought to read the whole thing.

…We are in the midst of War on Sex Work that is largely becoming a replacement for the War on Drugs…A war on sex work would be difficult given that about half of Americans think prostitution should be legal.  And so this war has built on a tissue of falsehoods to claim that it is actually a war on “sex trafficking”.  We are constantly being told — by politicians, by the media and by the entertainment industry — that there is a national crisis of sex trafficking and specifically a crisis of child sex trafficking.  But the evidence to support this claim, when you dig into it even a little bit, turns out to be a ziggurat of garbled statistics, junk social science and outright lies.  My friend Maggie McNeill has devoted an entire page to debunking claims that are so common and oft-repeated, they are taken as gospel: that the average age at which a woman enters sex work is 13 (it’s mid-20’s); that there are 300,000 child sex slaves in the US (there are at most a few hundred), that sex trafficking and consensual sex work are inextricably linked (they aren’t); that the Super Bowl or other big events are magnets for sex traffickers (not at all).  It goes without saying that forced sexual servitude is an abomination…but if that’s what you’re concerned about, it seems like a good first step would be to decriminalize sex work for adults, as organizations like Amnesty International have advocated.  Doing so would free up law enforcement resources to work the real problem rather than being devoted entirely to routine prostitution busts.

Let’s illustrate that with one example: about every year, the federal government runs a program called Operation Cross Country — a vast multi-agency operation to crack down on “sex trafficking”, at the end of which they will claim to have rescued something on the order a hundred underage sex slaves (which alone should tell us that we do not have anywhere close to 300,000 of them).  Elizabeth Nolan Brown has done amazing work sifting through the propaganda and found that these operations typically arrest over a thousand consenting adults.  Mixed in with those adults are usually a few dozen to a hundred underage sex workers, but most of these are doing it not because of enslavement but because they have run away or been thrown out of their homes).  The operations also arrest a couple of hundred “pimps” but these are often people whose pimping consists of driving their girlfriend to an incall or processing credit card payments…

…I have seen how the case for prohibition is supported by lies…[which is] what has drawn me into this debate so keenly.  It offends me as a scientist…FOSTA was ostensibly proposed to allow the federal government to crack down on online sex trafficking.  This promise was predicated, like most of the War on Sex Work, on dubious stats.  Sex workers vehemently opposed it but their voices were drowned out by supporters misrepresenting the law and celebrities making bizarre claims like ordering a sex slave was as easy as ordering a pizza…Sex Worker rights advocates, digital freedom advocates and libertarians made dire predictions about what was going to happen…So what has happened over the last three months?  Exactly what was feared…and as the weeks have rolled on, it has become painfully and immediately obvious that FOSTA has made things far far worse for sex workers…what FOSTA has done…[is] just as bad as the sex worker advocates warned us it would be…

…wars on sin have often engaged in what I call “harm enhancement” (as opposed to “harm reduction”).  During the War on Drugs, we banned the sale of certain chemicals to Colombia that were used to facilitate drug manufacturing; the result was drugs that had carcinogens in them, which politicians hoped would persuade people to stop using them.  A similar controversy erupted over paraquat pot, herbicides sprayed on marijuana that found that their way into people’s lungs.  During prohibition, industrial alcohols were deliberately poisoned in an effort to stop people from drinking them.  And there is little doubt that the War on Sex Work has frequently seen increased danger as a deterrent.  In many states, a woman simply having condoms on her is considered evidence of prostitution.  Sex workers have reported being pulled over by cops and watching them poke holes in condoms.  The closure of MyRedBook and Rentboy and Backpage did little to stop sex work but plenty to prevent sex workers from screening out dangerous clients.  When a movement engages in policy after policy designed to increase the danger, I think it it reasonable to assume that it is deliberate…this even goes beyond sex work, however.  Our political class has long had a hatred for Section 230 of the CDA, which they see as protecting speech they don’t like.  The last year has been filled with attacks on Facebook and other social media for allowing “fake news” to percolate (the effect of which is very unclear).  The effects of this bill go even beyond the impact on sex workers, bad as that has been.  It is the camel’s nose in the tent of undermining Section 230 and turning the internet into a “safe”, controlled, gated, milquetoast community.  And what better way to get the camel’s nose in the tent than through “solving” a vastly exaggerated crisis?…

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Jeremy Malcolm is the founder and director of the Prostasia Foundation, the first sex-positive and pro-civil rights child protection organization.  He’s an IT and intellectual property lawyer and consultant, and a member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum; prior to Prostasia he was Senior Global Policy Analyst at Electronic Frontier Foundation. When he asked me to be on Prostasia’s advisory council I gladly accepted, and when it came time to start getting the word out I naturally offered this space.

As a child, I remember how terrified I was by a rerun of the 1956 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which the lead character attempts to sound the alarm about a stealth alien invasion of Earth.  In the final scene of the movie, mounting panic overcomes him as realizes that he is too late, and that the vehicles passing him by on the roadside are already carrying the alien pods that contain the seeds of humanity’s doom.  The movie was widely interpreted as a cold war allegory, because it reflected how the public fear of infiltration of the United States by communists had been worked up into such a frenzy by Senator Joseph McCarthy that it empowered the government (for a while) to get away with taking repressive measures in response—measures that would never otherwise have been considered justified outside of wartime.  Although the red scare has passed, the public feeling of creeping terror about existential threats to our society, and the shrewd and calculating management of that feeling, remains part and parcel of contemporary politics today.  So much so, that international relations scholars have a specific a word used to describe what happens when governments manipulate public fear in this way: it’s called securitization.

When a public policy issue is not merely politicized, but securitized, it is constructed in such a way that authorities assert the right to take extraordinary and otherwise impermissible measures in response.  Whatever the issue happens to be—it might be terrorism, ebola, or migration, for instance—if politicians are able to whip up enough hysteria about the threat that it poses to the integrity and long-term survival of a society, concerns about human rights, public debate, and due process can be hand-waved away.  Too much is at stake—our lives, our liberty!  And very often too: our children.  So it is that we often observe this pattern of rhetoric when child protection laws are put forward.  It is quite right that we should do all that we can constitutionally do to protect children from sexual abuse, and that the political process should be a part of this.  It’s also normal that politicians will selectively use the evidence that supports laws that they favor.  But a healthy political process is one in which that evidence is at least open for debate, and in which the effects of proposed laws on our rights and freedoms as a society are carefully scrutinized.  These democratic safeguards are frequently bypassed when it comes to child protection laws, because of how child sexual abuse is securitized, framed as an existential threat that has to be purged from society at any cost.  This construction of the issue transforms Congress from what should be – a sober, deliberative legislative body (a filter for the views of the people, as Alexander Hamilton would have it) – into a mirror of a society in moral panic, willing to accept with a minimum of scrutiny almost any measure that purports to address the problem.

Proponents of such laws know this full well, which is why they invest heavily in fueling and manipulating the moral panic that gives child protection this privileged status in political discourse.  One way in which they do this is by playing on emotions, rather than evidence—and since child protection involves very strong emotions anyway, all that might be needed to push a law over the line might be the performative retelling of the story of the victim chosen to be the law’s public face (Megan’s Law, the template for America’s ubiqituous, although ineffective, sex offender registration laws, is a good example of this).  It was much the same in the case of FOSTA/SESTA too, for which it was a movie about sex trafficking, along with a series of increasingly fever-pitched (if largely fictitious) stories about the commercial child sex trafficking industry, that made the law unassailable against evidence of its flaws.  In the end, all but two Senators voted for a law that has actually made the fight against sex trafficking harder, while also harming sex educators, putting adult sex workers in physical danger, and seeing a rash of privatized censorship sweeping the Internet.  Even aside from these laws’ harmful side-effects, they aren’t even fit for purpose, because the vast majority of sexual offending isn’t a result of child sex trafficking, nor is it committed by those who are already registered sex offenders.  In fact, notwithstanding popular belief to the contrary, most child sex offending isn’t even committed by pedophiles.  That’s not to say that prevention interventions can’t be aimed at these groups, but if that’s where we stop then we are barely scratching the surface of the problem.  Politicians and the public alike rely a lot on the stereotype of the child sexual abuser as a creepy old man hanging around a schoolyard in a van, or the brazen sidewalk pimp with links to organized crime.  Just as the stereotype of the psycho serial killer represents the much larger problem of violence in America, it can be perversely comforting to be able to focus our attention on these sorts of outlying abusers, as it helps us feel that we have a handle on the problem.

What was scariest about Invasion of the Body Snatchers wasn’t the fear an alien might come and kill you or a loved one.  The most terrifying part of the movie (spoiler alert!) was the revelation that your loved one was already an alien, and you didn’t even know it.  The “red scare” was so scary not because of the reds over the ocean, but because of the reds under the bed.  So too, potential child abusers are in every neighborhood, and in many families; they don’t identify (nor would be clinically diagnosed) as pedophiles, and they certainly aren’t going to be prevented from offending by laws aimed at the sex industry or at those who have offended in the past.  It’s a sobering thought.  But the good news is that the scale of the problem doesn’t have to make us feel paralyzed into inaction.  There are things that we can do—it’s just that politicians aren’t going to do them, or at least not for as long as self-righteous morals campaigners and “tough on crime” ideologues control the child protection agenda.  What’s needed is a broader primary sex-positive prevention approach that respects the civil and human rights of all.  Prostasia Foundation is the first child protection organization to simultaneously champion such an approach, while also criticizing laws and policies that while putatively for child protection, are really nothing more than child protection theater.  Formed following the passage of FOSTA/SESTA by a diverse group including child sexual abuse survivors, civil rights campaigners, medical health professionals, and sex industry experts, we are currently crowdfunding with the aim of a full launch next month, and we could use your support.

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Skye is a sex worker who’s been reading my blog almost since the beginning; I knew that her primary means of advertising was Backpage, so when she asked me to give her space to discuss it I immediately agreed.

On April 6th of this year, the federal government committed an act of violence against millions of sex workers worldwide, for no other reason than the fact that these individuals engaged in consensual sex for reasons the government didn’t like (reasons such as keeping a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their mouths).  That violence took the form of shutting down Backpage, an advertising site used by sex workers such as myself.  On April 6th, I lost my means of support; being able to advertise my business on Backpage allowed me to meet my financial needs, and even kept me from having to go on welfare benefits.  Backpage was where most of my clients found me.  I’m currently 48 years old; I started sex work when I was 41, back in 2011, and work exclusively for myself.  Hardly the stereotype of the “under-aged girl” controlled by some nefarious pimp, right?  Yet this was the excuse used by the government to shut down my advertising—that Backpage was pimping out “trafficked young girls”.  Except that it wasn’t.  Not at all.

Let me backtrack to before 2011, when I worked “straight jobs”, or what’s normally called “regular work” by those not in the sex trade.  Even though I went to college, I’ve never been able to obtain a job worthy of my education; this means I was stuck doing low-paying work for most of my adult life.  Before sex work, I got up at 5 AM every morning, and many times didn’t get home until 8 PM, and I still barely made ends meet.  When I finally lost that job, meager as it was, I placed an ad on Backpage, and the rest is history.  For the past seven years, I’ve done work that did not require a resumé, or experience, or references, or the endless filling out of job applications, or the endless waiting for potential employers to contact me.  I simply put up an ad, and that was it.  In fact, I got a client the very same day, and had cash in my hand by the evening.  No fuss, no muss.  No, it’s not what’s considered “respectable work” by society, but “respectability” is for those who can afford it, not for people who live in the real world of having to pay rent and bills like I do.  Not that it was always easy; I am not a rich woman by any means, because sometimes I didn’t get clients when I needed them.  But I met my basic needs.

I represent the majority of people who used Backpage, people who were just consenting adults advertising a service.  “Traffickers” who used Backpage were a tiny minority, because any trafficker foolish enough to advertise on Backpage usually got caught, eventually, because their mere presence online alerted authorities to their existence.  The Backpage company cooperated completely with those investigations, but since no good deed ever goes unpunished, those same authorities turned around and charged them in turn.  However, it’s important to note that the owners of Backpage, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, are NOT being charged with “sex trafficking” at all, contrary to the media hype, only with boring, mundane things like “facilitating prostitution” and “money laundering”, which aren’t nearly as exciting.  Furthermore, Lacey and Larkin are wealthy males who will most likely receive very little jail time, if any, and they’re currently out on bail, and their case won’t go to trial until January 15, 2020.  Plenty of time for their expensive team of lawyers to help them beat the rap and settle out of court.

Meanwhile, it’s advertisers like myself who are truly being hurt by Backpage’s shutdown, not Lacey and Larkin.  Backpage wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was ideal for those wished to work part time or occasionally, who wanted to keep a certain degree of anonymity, who lived in areas not served very well by other websites.  It was ideal for more marginalized people who don’t fit well on pricier, “high-end” ad venues.  I’m fortunate in that I have enough money saved that I won’t face immediate eviction from my apartment, but spring and summer are normally the busiest time of the year for me, and I haven’t gotten the clients recently that I’d normally get; I don’t know what will happen to me in the next few months.  It’s even worse for those living week to week, or have children to support; many of these women have already become homeless, or ironically, have had to turn to pimps to find clients.  Yes, the shutting down of Backpage has actually increased “sex trafficking”.  And, thanks to the increased difficulty of getting clients since the shutdown, many desperate women are endangering their health and that of others by offering sex without a condom, or else they haven’t been able to refuse potential predators and are now dead or missing.  All thanks to the government, media, and various “anti-trafficking” NGOs who’ve demonized a simple advertising site over the past decade, one that actually helped to find “traffickers” more quickly than if their victims were being forced onto the street (as they are now).  Who exactly is being served here?  Certainly neither consensual nor coerced sex workers.  And if I had my way, the government would be forced to pay us for the trouble it caused.

As an anonymous sex worker, I’m thankful for intrepid activists and journalists like Laura Agustín, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Kate D’Adamo, Maxine Doogan, Maggie McNeill, Audacia Ray, Liara Roux, and others too numerous to mention for speaking truth to power in a way that I can’t.  They’re a few drops of integrity in an ocean of malice and indifference.

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This month I’ve had an unusual number of guest columns, but then this has been a most unusual month.  Just Saturday I received an email from one of my contacts, containing a description of Michael Lacey’s arrest; since it says everything that I think needs to be said, I’ve only edited it slightly to redact information that could identify my contact’s source.

I got some of the backstory of Lacey’s arrest from a former editor at one of his papers, who was getting ready to travel to Phoenix for a wedding reception for Lacey (apparently he had just gotten married) when the news broke that he’d been arrested.  The Feds did a full on tactical arrest:  kicked in his door,  came in guns out,  and even forced his elderly mother-in-law who was there at the time to get down on the floor.  Given that Lacey has no criminal background of any kind (let alone a violent one), it is very questionable why they didn’t use the common sense approach used with white collar suspects and just call his lawyer and direct him to surrender at the Federal courthouse.  Unless of course you are striving for maximum political theater.  My contact says after the reception Lacey and wife were going to leave for Spain on their honeymoon, and suspects his imminent trip abroad may have been their excuse for overkill on the arrest, though Larkin had also flown abroad at the time the indictment was handed down and was turned around by police in Scotland.  The crux of the new case against Lacey and Larkin seems to be that the Feds succeeding in intimidating Carl Ferrer, the former CEO of Backpage, and they got him to flip on them.  Given this, Lacey’s only hope would seem to be mounting a major first amendment constitutional challenge the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Larry Flynt case.

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Today is Friday the 13th, when I ask non-sex workers to stand up for us.  So when Stacey Swimme, one of the founders of SWOP-USA, started discussing this on Twitter a few days ago, I asked her to elaborate for this column.  This is the result.

Come out only to the people you know, and who know you, not to anyone else…Once they realize that we are indeed their children and we are indeed everywhere- every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all…. And when you do, you will feel so much better.  –  Harvey Milk, 1978

When I told my mom in 2008 that I was an escort, she was accepting, but she told me it’s not something she wants me to discuss with other family members.  I agreed, but later when I joined Facebook for a brief period, my personal and activism lives collided.  Any one of my extended family members could see my posts about International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, posts vehemently opposing the censorship of the Craigslist Erotic Services section, and if they chose to, they could read through commentary left on posts by me and my sex work friends.  I’m sure they have gossiped about it over the years, but nobody ever says anything to me about it.

It’s a strange sort of in-between place for me.  “Everyone” in my life knows that I’m a sex worker.  I am “accepted” by my family in a way that I can appreciate, but I don’t call them allies.  There’s no talk of disowning me, no exclusion of me or my son or my intimate partners from family occasions, but they won’t voluntarily make it known that someone they love is a sex worker.  It’s just another weird thing I do that they don’t understand and don’t want to understand, but they love me anyway.  I’m generally at peace with how this has played out with my family.  I have a compartment in life where I can keep feelings, priorities and responsibilities associated with my birth family neatly tucked away to pull out for holidays and birthdays.  Then I have a larger compartment, a space preserved for my Found Family, the people I get to share my full identity with.  This doesn’t mean that while we are together I am constantly in “sex work mode”; it’s more that these people don’t need me to suppress any part of my identity in order to keep them comfortable.

Prohibition forces most of us to keep our activities and our whereabouts a secret from those who care for us the most.  That secrecy makes sex workers more vulnerable to abuse; opportunistic predators seek out victims who are least likely to be reported missing by loved ones.  The fear our loved ones have of shame-by-association is an asset to those who aim to harm us- predators and politicians alike.  The Green River Killer said he targeted sex workers because “….they were easy to pick up without being noticed.  I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing.  I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”  Sex workers need the world to know that we have people who care about us in our lives, in our communities, in our families.  Below is a micro-Call-To-Action for different communities who intersect with sex workers.  Find your own way; there’s something small and meaningful you can do for the sex worker in your life, something you can do within your own comfort zone.  No matter who you are, if you care about sex workers, please start with educating yourself.  There’s been plenty of writing on how to be an ally to sex workers.  This article from psychologist Marijke Vonk covers essential tips for allies plus links to even more resources for you; also go over to Black Girl Dangerous for a piece on allyship written by a sex worker.

Micro-Call to Actions:

Parents of sex workers:  Tell your child that you love them, no matter who finds out what they do; bonus points if you attend a sex work community event with them.  Get to know the area of their life that they traditionally hide from you; you’ll be relieved to find that the people you meet are just ordinary humans with an extraordinary job- and your child is not the one sane, stable exception in an industry reputed to be unsavory.

Partners of sex workers:  Support each other!  Yes, I’m sure you were expecting me to say, “go talk to media” or “post on social media” or “reveal to your parents that your partner is a sex worker.”  And yes, I do want you to do every single one of those things.  However, I don’t believe that you all, at this time, collectively have enough support, information and expertise to minimize the harms and maximize the benefits of coming out as a partner.  Please get there.  Figure it out, folks.  This needs to be peer-led; you all need each other.  Maybe a live twitter discussion by and for partners to kick it off?  Start with something small and achievable.

Friends of sex workers:  In recent weeks my friends have done some amazing things!  Several have made bold statements in support of sex worker rights on social media for all of their friends and family to see.  One friend of mine asked how she and her husband can help sex workers right now, so I sent her over to Red Light Legal to sponsor legal research for sex workers impacted by record seizures at BackPage and other ad sites.  Yes!  Married feminists can be allies to sex workers!  Donate if you can, make calls to lawmakers when we ask for it, correct misinformation when you hear it within your social networks.

Clients of sex workers:  Be good clients.  Donate to funds that support the most marginalized workers in the aftermath of FOSTA/SESTA.  If you are wealthy and can make a substantial contribution, do it!  If you’re paranoid about your financial statements showing something sex work related, give to SWOP Behind Bars or Desiree Alliance because their fiscal sponsors’ totally un-sexy name will appear on your statements.

Cannabis Industry:  It is time to retire the strain name “Jack The Ripper”.  This is insulting because it reveres a name that is infamous due to the brutal murders of sex workers in London.  It does not give due reverence to the long struggle of cannabis legalization and the healing properties of this wonderful plant.  In 2009, I pointed this out to a dispensary operator in San Fernando Valley; he said, “You’re right, I’m sorry to offend, I’ll change the name and let me hook you up with a free eighth, I didn’t mean to offend you ma’am.”  Boom!  Ally in action.  Nine years later, I have a new Call To Action for California’s cannabis industry:  Let’s collectively change the name of the Jack the Ripper strain to Jacq The Stripper, a true hero who deserves to have her name glorified in weed.  Also- hire sex workers for legal cannabis jobs!  As the legal cannabis industry booms, prison mongers are moving to recover lost profits by increasing legal penalties against sex workers.  It’s not a coincidence.

There are dozens of ways to actively support the sex worker in your life.  Ask your loved one what they need as an individual.  Be there for them first, then look at how you can support our community as a whole.  The next opportunity to both educate yourself and help us raise awareness is June 2, 2018 for International Whore’s Day; follow Survivors Against SESTA for organizing updates.  Sex workers have struggled for decades to build the peer-led resources, safety networks and community spaces that reduce the harms we face.  These resources are now under direct attack by policy-makers, law enforcement and misinformed advocates who believe that eliminating our safety resources will make sex work disappear from the world.  We will not disappear, but we need our allies to ensure that we are not silenced and excluded.  Please stand with us so we are not alone in this fight.

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With the advent of FOSTA, all the rats who’ve feasted on sex workers’ dollars for years are deserting the sinking ship and leaving us to drown.  I don’t just mean the ad sites who have closed; several of the companies who’ve been happy to host adult sites for years suddenly threw their customers to the wolves last week without warning, and you can be sure more will follow suit (or be forced to follow suit when their site is stolen by jackbooted thugs as Backpage was on Friday).  So when I saw that Missy Mariposa had set up a new offshore hosting company specifically for sex workers, I asked her for a short introduction for those who might need her services.

I decided to set up Red Umbrella Hosting because I am sick of the very people who utilize our services trying to criminalize our existence.  I wanted workers to have a place to turn where they could feel safe and remain anonymous.  With Red Umbrella, sex workers can secure hosting and web design assistance without having to tie this life to their real identity or without having to worry if they were evading a ToS policy and at risk of being shut down.  I keep no user data, and I have a very liberal ToS.  Red Umbrella is my attempt for us to feel like we have a little bit of control over our careers and lives again.  Right now it’s just hosting, and a free blacklist (opening this week in conjunction with another site – you heard it here first) but I’m hoping to expand it to include Cloud Storage in the not so distant future.  I wish I could drop everything and invest unlimited funds in this and build an internet sex work utopia, but I think for one person that’s an impossible undertaking.

I chose to locate the dedicated server in Iceland primarily for three reasons – strict data privacy laws, no MLAT with the United States, and a proven record of protecting privacy.  It is true that they run the Nordic model when it comes to sex work, however they are also open about the fact their laws aren’t enforced due to a lack of funding and being short staffed.  Between 2009-2013 Icelandic courts only heard 20 cases related to sex work; I also could not find any evidence of them interfering with a sex worker’s internet presence.  In the end, I went with the country that I felt had an overall better track record with internet privacy and security, the country I thought would be the least likely to turn over data to the US without a warrant (as the CLOUD act allows them to attempt).  And as I keep no personal information, I am hoping that this type of situation is never even an issue for my users.

My long term goal is to help as many people as I can.  I am one person leasing a dedicated server, not a large company with a farm (maybe that’s where this is heading though, and I hear Iceland is beautiful), but thanks to a number of generous donations (including two very large ones from clients), my prices are very low for providers:  Managed WordPress: $200/year, paid annually, semi-annually, or quarterly via cryptocurrency or gift card; Domain Hosting $300/year (same terms), and Premium Hosting for $800/year (same terms).  Websites are too important not to have; most of our clients book us because of our marketing material, websites being a big part of that.  If sex workers lose their storefronts and safety tools, two things are going to happen.  Number one, the predators will come out to play and in full force; the guys on the blacklists are going to know they’re gone and go right back to the very things that landed them there in the first place.  Number two, sex work is going to be pushed right back onto the streets and hotel bars by women who will no longer want to see internet clientele and would rather take the risks freelancing.  I can’t idly sit around, doing nothing while people lose the ability to feed their families in the safest way possible.

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It’s not unusual for sex workers to ask me to point them toward sexwork-friendly therapists, but even “sex positive”, queer-and-kink friendly therapists are sometimes very judgmental about sex work.  And though I know a couple in the Seattle area, I get requests from all over the country.  So when Alyxx (whom I know in real life) told me that she was now licensed to do phone or video therapy, I asked if she’d write a column for me.  When I asked about her knowledge of sex work, she just smiled and countered “How do you think I paid my bills during Grad School?”  She works closely with members of alternative communities and is available in person or via phone, text, or video.

“I feel like I’m being judged.”

“I can’t open up, if she knows what I do for a living that will be the whole thing.”

“I don’t need to be grilled about my past, I need to focus on my real needs.”

Have you thought these things before?  Said them to others?  Feared going to a therapist because of social stigma or risk  of getting care that just ignores who you are?  What if you had a therapist who was actively involved in alternative lifestyles?  As someone who is LBGTQ (well, at least two or three of those), Sex Work experienced, and involved in the local Leather and Queer communities, I am open to meeting people where they are, not where someone else thinks they should be.  I have decades of experience in the field, and hold Licenses in Counseling and Chemical Dependency treatment.  Despite that latter, I don’t think drugs are “bad” (or “good,”) they are tools that a person chooses to solve a problem, just like any other behavior.

My primary therapeutic approach is “choice” therapy.  William Glasser developed Reality/Choice therapy in the 1960’s as a way to empower clients to solve problems by examining choices and taking control of those paths.  With the passage of time and practical experience, this method has grown into a method that allows for true harm reduction, meeting clients where they are and accepting that the client, not the therapist, is the expert on what is needed and how to make changes.  “Well,” you might think, “If I’m the expert, why do I need you?”  The answer to that lies in experience, and in ability to see the various paths available, when the client seems stuck.  You are the expert in you, but I’m the expert in helping you get to your goal, finding your options, and focusing in on what you really want and need.  In a world where people are telling you how to live and what to think, it can be very helpful to have a guide, a map to the treasure you seek.  Your past might hold some trauma that needs addressing, but what is important is how you are going to move forward today, what choices will get you out of bed in the morning and able to present yourself the best way you are able.  It’s not about being another person telling you what to do, but working with you to provide you the tools so you can do what you want.

I am available in multiple ways so that we can tailor your time with me to your needs, be it short-term problem solving or long-term therapies.  I offer in-office sessions if you are local to the Seattle area, as well as offering online options (video, audio, and/or text).  Unusual schedules are generally not a problem; you can email me at this address, or call/text me at 206-569-8819, and we’ll set something up!

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