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Posts Tagged ‘activism’

It’s been a while since I’ve had to say this, but as my readership has grown it’s inevitable that I’ve picked up readers who don’t get it.  Some people who visit here, or read my tweets, seem to think they’re on YouTube, Reddit or some other site dominated by testosterone-addled adolescent trolls and can therefore get away with saying any stupid, rude thing that comes into their minds.  So I’m taking today to correct that misapprehension in those of you who may be suffering from it:  this is my online “house”, and if you’re going to visit here you’ll have to play by my rules (which I helpfully spelled out more than six years ago).  A little over a year after that, I penned a helpful sequel called “How Not To Get Your Comments Posted“, which you should read right now if you’ve been coming here for less than five years.  And yet, the narcissistic ninnies still refuse to get that:

A) throwing garbage out of my own space does not constitute “censorship” in any way because I’m not a government and you’re still free to strew your filth anywhere else on the internet that isn’t mine; and

B) I am not your dancing monkey; I am a professional entertainer, so even though I don’t charge people to read my blog or Twitter, if you want me to entertain you in some way that I am not interested in freely giving (such as by engaging in stupid arguments with you), you’re going to have to pay me for that just as you would have to pay me to play the part of your mother, daughter, sister, teacher, secretary, or whoever else you’d like to fantasize about fucking or being chastised by or whatever.  And it won’t even cost you my full rate; for internet argumentation not involving sexy talk, I only charge $100/hour (minimum 30 minutes).

Every sex worker has hard limits, things she won’t do no matter how highly paid, and I’m no exception; for example, I don’t do scat play and I won’t see anyone before noon except as the tail end of an overnight or part of a multi-day gig.  And in the argument department, you can forget about my “debating” you on the topic of whether or not the State has some imaginary “right” to control adults’ sexual choices, or the “right” to send armed thugs to spy on, harass, threaten, brutalize, rob, rape, cage, humiliate or otherwise harm individuals for any consensual act (including the “possession” of some object or substance the state has decided it doesn’t like).  In fact, I have absolutely zero tolerance for bootlicking, toadying, pig worship, partisan cheerleading, authoritarian apologia or any other sycophantic defense of the police state; I have no stomach for evil or for useful idiots who enable evil via their spineless excuses for it, so if anyone posts comments or tweets at me with such filth I will view it as tantamount to the intellectual equivalent of a monkey flinging poop, and that individual will be muted or banned so quickly he may not even realized what’s happened.  I do the work I do because it’s right, not because I’ve been sentenced to it, and I feel no masochistic need to watch the noblest of animals abase itself by groveling to sociopathic control freaks who think every individual is their personal or collective property.

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I notice that a lot of escorts whine about criminalization, yet don’t want to do anything about it.  How are we ever to evolve change if we attack each other, or if we won’t speak up, or at least get behind someone who is out on the front line fighting for our rights?

It has been said that trying to organize sex workers is like herding cats.  I’ve always found it darkly amusing that prohibitionists paint us as meek, passive, spineless creatures at the mercy of anything with a penis, when in actuality sex workers in general are the most stubborn, willful, independent and even defiant women I know.  In fact, if you look at anti-sex worker rhetoric from prior to about a century ago, you’ll notice that these exact characteristics were used to support the claim that we are “bad” women, because the Establishment likes women meek, passive and spineless and we’re the opposite.  We like to do things our own way, on our own schedule, by our own rules, and we’ve been well-known since Biblical times for rebelling against authority and refusing to jump when told to or speak only when spoken to.  I’m sure you see where this is going: the very characteristics that drive women toward sex work in the first place, the same characteristics which enable us to succeed in a profession without structure, bosses or trade unions, are the very traits that make us difficult to organize.

There is hope, of course.  The submissive or weak-minded are easily driven from the rear by “leaders” who don’t actually lead, but rather stay in safety and shout orders while others take the risks.  But the ornery and self-motivated can only be led from the front, by those willing to take the risks and model the behavior they’d like others to adopt.  Nor can these leaders be motivated by the desire for power, glory or adulation; most sex workers are keen judges of human behavior and can smell hypocrisy and manipulation a mile off.  The only way we’re ever going to win our rights is by ceaselessly fighting the lies prohibitionists tell about us, and relentlessly opposing the police state’s desire to control us.  The best way to do that is by speaking up and being out, by refusing to hide our light under a bushel, by fearlessly living our lives no matter who tries to threaten and terrorize us into submission.  If we do a good job of that, others will follow our examples, and those gifted with the ability to organize will take on those roles.  It won’t be a fast process, but it’s already well underway; there are strong sex worker organizations in many countries, and though criminalization makes that harder in the US it’s gradually happening here as well (albeit at a maddeningly-slow pace).  In her book The Love Project, Arleen Lorrance wrote, “Be the change you want to see happen instead of trying to change anyone else.”  This quote is usually shortened to “Be the change you want to see in the world” and misattributed to Gandhi, but I prefer the original phrasing and try my best to live by it.  I don’t have the power to change anyone else, and I wouldn’t want it; however, I do have the power to behave in the way – independently, fearlessly, honestly and ethically – that I’d like others to behave.  And I can only hope that by so doing, others will like what they see and want to do it as well…not because anyone forced them to, but because they want to in order to win rights for themselves, their friends and all their sisters.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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At the beginning of July, Lynne reached out to me via Paul Maginn to ask if I’d host an essay she wanted to write about her late daughter Pippa (October 18th, 1987 – October 12th, 2015), better known to the world at large as Grace Bellavue.  I was deeply touched that Lynne chose me to help her honor the memory of her daughter, one of the first sex workers in the world to use social media in the way so many of us do now, and one of the first to show us that we could show our faces without fear; Grace touched the lives of many thousands of people she never met, and her untimely death (just a few days short of her 28th birthday) robbed the world of a powerful, amazing woman.  I originally wrote “unique” in the previous sentence, but that’s not entirely true; as you will understand after reading this essay, her mother Lynne is in her own way just as amazing, and her desire to continue her daughter’s work is one of the most beautiful examples of maternal love it has ever been my privilege to witness. 

Can death really stymie a spirit that continues to be heard?

I wonder if you have ever set an intention?  Did you ever wonder how you were going to start, especially when you have an emotional investment in what you believe in?  For myself, it started with fear, then I realised that if you have fear, then there is no love.  I was going to be confronted with things I didn’t want to know or feel.  I was going to grieve all over again for my beautiful daughter Pippa O’Sullivan, AKA Grace Bellavue:  Sex worker, Escort Extraordinaire, real life Advocate, Writer, Social Justice Warrior and observer of all things nefarious locally and internationally.  As a wordsmith, her reach was incredible and life-changing to many who loved her.  Most life-stories begin with a beginning, but this one starts with an end:  A life lost tragically to suicide, which I felt could have been prevented.  A tragic loss of SELF!  I’ve often felt being a mother is about learning strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.  A numbness of thought told her it couldn’t get any worse, but unfortunately it did for me.  My beautiful, amazing daughter gone.  A person so full of life, yet extinguished so quickly that I hardly had time to grasp her essence as she grew to adulthood.

I do believe in a life where there are no mistakes or coincidences.  All events are blessings given to us to learn from.  My daughter was a blessing from the start: half of me, yet unique.  She stood out amongst her contemporaries as gifted and talented; her wisdom and her deep understanding of the human psyche knew no boundaries. I’ve often thought, “How can someone that had enough inner fire to light a city die so tragically?”  There is no sense or reason to it for us, but Grace had personal reason enough to kill herself, alone with her thoughts and just her cat for company.

While I have no wish to openly talk on her early life just yet, it would be remiss of me not to mention that an escort was what she had always wanted to be.  I realised when she turned 18 that if I didn’t support her I would lose the daughter I loved, so I set about accepting what she did and gained a little insight into the industry.  It wasn’t something I talked about openly with family and friends at the start, but I gained respect for her written word and the real love she had for the working girls.  Grace was a chameleon who lived two lives, one as a sex worker and the other as a daughter who was loved and accepted by her family.  She never crossed that line when she was with us.

Grace was one of the first in the world to use social media as a means to be heard; she lived her life as she saw fit, and said just what she wanted to say without barriers.  Many who lived vicariously through her soaked up her words as water into the sponge of their mundane lives.  Grace had an amazing understanding of the human psyche which she shared with the whole world; her fans often wrote to her when they were depressed, at loggerheads with life and in need of reassurance and comforting words.  I saw many she saved with her written word when she was burnt out and had no energy for anyone, let alone herself.  My daughter was the kindest, most thoughtful, most selfless and empathetic person you could come across; she crossed barriers to help the disabled in her sex work, worked in the assimilation process with new immigrants, and won real love with her honesty and openness.

As a campaigner I’ve found that advocating for the empowerment of women is a passion of mine, and I stand right behind Grace and all the work she did toward decriminalization. I am a firm believer that to be an expert in anything you need to time to understand your subject, but also to passionately understand the heart that goes with it.  My continuation of Pippa’s work began when I spoke in a parliamentary hearing last December with a cohort of other sex workers; she had been dead for over 12 months and I wanted to act on her behalf.  I worked within the social justice framework as a clinical nurse for 40 years, advocating for others that couldn’t have a voice, and I drew on that experience to speak about the fact that the rights and safety of sex workers should be seen as an essential component of community expectations about the status and treatment of women.  South Australia has long denied sex workers their human rights and the protection that should be offered to paid workers anywhere, but our politicians have begun to realize that decriminalisation strengthens the ability of sex workers to report intimidation, extortion and any exploitation that is taking place.  In June of this year, our decriminalisation law for South Australia was passed in the Upper House; we hope that this month the Lower House accepts the bill unopposed and we can see some results that accept accountability and safety for all Sex Workers in this state.

While my daughters life is still fresh in our minds and our hearts, we need to honor her advocacy for the labelled and stigmatised, the people she saved on the streets, her fight for decriminalisation of the sex industry in South Australia, and her reach within the social/interactive media and the sex worker network.  I am looking at it as a capacity building measure, where we build on what is working in the world and embrace a “new voice” here in South Australia and further afield.  I will be collating her life works into a book in the near future, and have a WordPress account called ouramazinggrace.com in which I would like anyone to put their thoughts/words and perhaps the contact they had with Grace/Pippa and how she influenced their lives.

It is with Grace…… that I accept her life and all she contributed, to continue her final work.

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Usually, when I devote a whole column to picking on a news article, it’s because said article is so hilariously bad or deeply disturbing (or both) that I can’t bear to limit myself to a quick jab of the knife in a news column, and instead prefer to lovingly vivisect it until the entire virtual room is spattered in blood.  But this is, alas, not one of those cases; the article’s author, Sonja Sharp, clearly believes herself an ally of sex workers, or is at least open-minded to the idea that sex workers deserve human rights, yet she can’t quite bring herself to shake off her childlike trust in government and her belief that cops are the “good guys”.  So what we get is an article that is generally supportive of sex worker rights, yet fails to properly place the blame for our oppression on the prohibitionists; instead, it adopts a kind of mealy-mouthed “moderation”, pretending that there is a legitimate “debate” to be had between those who say humans own ourselves and have unalienable rights, and those who pretend that individuals are owned by the State, which has the “right” to use violence to “protect” us from choices with which our owners disapprove.  There’s very little point in quoting the good parts, so I’m just going to concentrate on pointing out the bad ones.

[When] Police Commissioner James O’Neill and the city’s First Lady Chirlane McCray…[announced] the NYPD would bolster the size of its vice squad in order to stamp out sex trafficking…the hope on part of some advocates was that sex workers might see relief from the pressure traditionally brought to bear by police…

I have no idea who these “advocates” Sharp refers to are, but none of them are sex worker rights activists; we know better than to harbor naive beliefs that doubling the size of a police unit could in any way signal “relief” for those the unit is specifically intended to oppress.

…a growing number of law enforcement agencies…are forming their own anti-trafficking units—often using grants from the feds—and deploying similarly gallant rhetoric despite limited evidence their arrests do much to stop exploitation…But alternatives are time-consuming and remain opaque to most law enforcement agencies, which have been deputized to fight human trafficking in part because it’s widely understood to be synonymous with illegal sex work…Modernizing their approach is still a work in progress, to say the least…

Because the writer can’t bring herself to question the institution of policing, she buys into the claim that cops are interested in “stopping exploitation”; she imagines that the idea of just leaving people alone instead of persecuting them for private, consensual activities is “opaque” to cops, rather than recognizing “sex trafficking” as a boondoggle intended to disguise the ugly persecution of sexual behavior under a mask of “helping”.  The idea that cops’ behavior needs to be “modernized” is the most asinine of all; what they’re doing now IS the modern approach, by definition, since it’s less than 20 years old.  What we really need is a return to the approach which predominated throughout most of human history: recognizing that sex work is normal and not a government matter, and leaving it the fuck alone.

…Jean Bruggeman, executive director of the national anti-trafficking organization Freedom Network USA [says] “I think in their zeal to help [cops] are doing some very wrongheaded things,” including mass arrests of sex workers and John stings using fake Backpage ads…

More exoneration of cops, pretending their abusive behavior (including surveillance, rape, robbery, brutality, destruction of homes and lives and even driving people to suicide) is motivated by a “zeal to help”.  You know, like terrorists blow up innocent people in their “zeal to help” them get to Heaven.

…In what appears to be a more concerted approach than that of the NYPD, LA Sheriff’s detectives bring an outreach worker with them whenever they approach sex workers…always offering them diversion first, before an arrest is made…”if they flat-out refuse, we book them, and then they’re sent to the appropriate court,” where they are then [forced into] a system of mandatory services…It seems like progressive approach, one most people—even those who think sex work should be legal—might be able to get behind…

Yeah, it’s “progressive” all right, considering that the Progressive movement spawned the concept of Prohibition in the first place.  To pretend that people who want to suppress consensual sex are actually trying to “help” anyone but themselves is disingenuous in the extreme, yet Sharp just can’t see that attacking peaceful people and then forcing them at gunpoint to accept the government’s idea of “help” is evil even if implemented exactly as planned, both in theory and in practice.

…demand reduction…is hotly contested among advocates and experts.  While less explicitly harmful than arresting sex workers, opponents say it does little to rout traffickers, while those who endorse it argue arresting Johns makes sexual exploitation less attractive as a business…

Aaaaaaaand I’m gonna stop right there before I am seized with the urge to disembowel Sharp along with her crappy article.  No, “end demand” isn’t “hotly contested” among anyone who actually gives a shit about human rights, nor is it less harmful than arresting sex workers (indeed, in the US it always includes arresting sex workers despite the rhetoric).  There is no legitimate “debate” over whether people own their own bodies, nor whether they have the right to consensual sex with other adult partners; pretending that there is such a “debate” is nothing more than catering to evil control freaks and sucking the dick of power.  The pretense that cops are some kind of sweet, well-intentioned social justice squad, and that it isn’t their fault the laws are bad, is so incredibly nauseating it boggles the mind.  Stories like this, written by sheltered little girls barely out of their parents’ houses, are vile apologies for evil policies that enable uniformed rapists and soft-peddle operations intended to destroy lives, enable armed robbery of citizens and increase the real “modern slavery”, mass incarceration.

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Ik kan niet ademen.  –  Jerry Afriyie

When this posts I’ll be on the first leg of my trip to Ireland, so it seems appropriate to share one of my favorite Vangelis compositions, the haunting and beautiful “Irlande”.  The links above it were provided by Tim Cushing (“pigs”, “sirree” and “dogs”), Kevin Wilson (“serve”), Marijke Vonk (“brutalized”), Radley Balko (“bald”), and Nun Ya (“guess”).

From the Archives

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You can…Google me naked and get a lot of applicable results, which is not something most people can say.  –  “Sixth Anniversary

Seven years, and I don’t even have the fabled itch yet!  Doing a blog in my own peculiar way, with its rigid scheduling and content requirements, really is something like a marriage; but like a good marriage, it’s a labor of love.  And it is a good marriage; I take care of The Honest Courtesan, feeding her and grooming her and getting her lovely ornaments to adorn her, and I make sure she gets plenty of attention from readers (over 2500 posts, nearly 100 pages and over 48,000 comment; nearly 2000 subscribers and almost 14,000 Twitter followers; and nearly 6 million page views from all over the world).  In return, she has made me a minor celebrity, extremely well-known in the demimonde and libertarian circles, and even occasionally recognized in public; she helps me to get work and has made my writing much more than the exercise in vanity it was seven years ago.  I have published two books (with more to come), have written many articles and been interviewed too many times to count, and I’m even widely considered a sex symbol now, which is still very difficult for my chubby, homely 13-year-old self to believe.  There will be a documentary about me released sometime next year, and at the end of this week I’ll be visiting Europe for the first time (something which would’ve been basically impossible two years ago).  And all because just over seven years ago, I enjoyed an online friend’s blog post about Wonder Woman and asked how I could set up a blog myself.  In some ways, seven years ago seems like yesterday, and in some ways it feels like forever; there’s no guarantee I’ll still be around in another seven years, because there are no guarantees in life.  But as of right now, I  plan to keep this blog/creatrix relationship going for as long as my brain and fingers allow me to do so.

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Though I no longer use different stage names (in fact, virtually nobody except the government uses my legal name any more), I still have different email addresses and different websites for my activism and my sex work.  This blog and this email address are for my blogging and activism, while my escort site (Google my name & “Seattle escort” to find it) and this email address are for hiring my professional services as an escort.  And if you approach me through Twitter I’ll probably point you to whichever of those seems more appropriate.

Now, I don’t mind getting inquiries about my professional services through my activism address (though I will probably switch the correspondence to the other address when I realize what you want); the activism address is a lot better known and some people who want to hire me don’t know where to find the other one, so it’s all good.  However, I find myself rather annoyed when I answer an email to my escort address and find something blog-related.  Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of human psychology, and/or a few months of following my writing, should understand why:  when I see an email come in through that account, I naturally expect it means potential income, and that pleases me on both a practical and a sexual level (because money turns me on).  So how do you think I feel when I find no money is being offered?  Exactly.  And I don’t like feeling that way about communications from my readers, so please don’t do that.  The other day, some chowderhead made an even worse faux pas; he actually used my escort site booking form to request an (uncompensated) interview.  Given that the fraction of booking-form emails which actually turn into paid bills is quite high, I was even more annoyed at this false alert than I would’ve been from a simple email to the wrong address, and when he told me that he used the booking form on purpose because he figured it would get my attention better…well, let’s just say my response was somewhere between “cross” and “I have a good mind to tell you to fuck off”.

But even this irritation is not as powerful as the seriously-pissed-off feeling of opening my escort email to find someone trying to extract money from me by hawking some product or service.  Here’s a word of advice on that: Don’t.  As in, don’t ever do that.  If you want to interest me in your whatever-it-is, send an email offering me a free trial or sample or whatever, and if it sounds good I’ll let you send it to me (with no guarantee I’ll buy it or even like it).  But a straight-up sales pitch or begging letter with not even the pretense of a gift or offer?  Forget it.  And if you’re dumb and rude enough to do that, expect me to immediately install a new filter so future emails from you go straight to the trash.

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