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Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Last week was one of those ones where I just could not get caught up, no matter how hard I tried.  I can’t quite put my finger on the reason; I didn’t have an unusually-high number of work hours or anything like that, and I wasn’t traveling or doing an excessive number of errands  So I suppose it must’ve just been the general chaos resulting from FOSTA and the Backpage shutdown, including fielding lots of communications from worried ladies and clients and trying to decide how to protect this blog (y’all will be glad to know it’s all backed up and I’m currently working with a generous reader to figure out how to re-domicile it in a country which isn’t willing to lobotomize itself in a vain attempt to get rid of whores).  But for whatever reason, I ended the week in no better a position writing-wise than when I started, which is actually quite irritating to me given that I’m leaving tonight for Los Angeles and won’t be home until Saturday.  Which reminds me:  the dates for my trip to the UK are May 17th to 30th, and though I won’t have a lot of free time I can probably squeeze a few dates in.  So if you’d like to see me, let me know and I’ll see what we can do.  Anyhow, I’m hoping to manage this week a little better than last, but I don’t think it’s likely I’ll be treated to seeing a cartoon version of myself this week.  Oh, well, one can’t have everything.

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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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It’s a damned good thing that I had a decent amount of work and a few lovely visits with friends last week, because the increasing violence of the War on Whores has dumped a huge amount of stress on the entire demimonde.  Not even sex workers outside of the US are safe, because Uncle Sam’s megalomania knows no bounds and it seems even the Backpage sites in other countries were seized and taken down last Friday.  I’m trying to figure out how to most easily and effectively move this blog to an overseas server, just in case WordPress decides I’m “facilitating prostitution” and takes the site down to protect themselves from the unprecedented censorship of FOSTA.  I’ve been warning for years that the US police state was headed into full-scale totalitarianism, and here we are; I can assure you that governments won’t stop with censoring sex.  Next will come whatever they can brand “terrorism”, “hate speech” or “fake news”, and we can’t count on any help from ACLU because they’re too busy helping middle-class white men force stupid bigots to cater their wasteful displays of conspicuous consumption.  You know that expression, “It’ll get worse before it gets better?”  Well, we’re in that “getting worse” part.  And I’m sorry, loves, but I have absolutely no idea how long it’ll last.

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Diary #405

Raising pullets (they’re already too big to be called “chicks” any more) has been like having a box of tiny clowns in my laundry room; last week they busied themselves running around their now-too-small enclosure, banging into one another while peeping loudly and scratching so energetically into their bedding that I had to clean their water and smooth out the cedar shavings 5 or 6 times a day.  So though it was fun having chicks again, it’s also good that they’re now old enough to live in the henhouse.  So on Saturday I drove out to Sunset with them; they’ll stay inside the henhouse for another three weeks, to get a little bigger and stronger while the weather gets warmer, after which we’ll open the door out to the poultry yard and they’ll be able to go in and out like grown-up ladies.  Four of them are Rhode Island Reds, which in my experience tend to be early layers; we should start seeing small eggs from them by September or maybe even earlier.  The other six are sex-linked hybrids, so I’m not sure exactly when they’ll start; however, the guy at the Tractor Supply said they were bred specifically as layers, so by autumn I should be enjoying plenty of fresh eggs.  It’s a small thing, I know, but it’s one of the things I’ve missed by living in a city again.  The eggs, the animals, Grace nearby, a respite from the racket of sirens that Seattle seems so enamored with (more than any other city I’ve spent much time in)…these are the little things, like dear friends, good sleep, slow mornings and well-defined seasons, which help me to maintain my mental health.  And with the War on Whores being as awful and bloody as it is right now, I’m going to need all of the help I can get.

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[The sex] industry is filled with strong, smart, very business-savvy women.  –  Lynn Comella

The Notorious Badge 

Though the headline links this to Stormy Daniels’ current newsworthiness, it’s actually a brief look at women in porn:

Thomas…Edison’s 1896 creation capturing [actress May] Irwin and actor John C. Rice doing something naughty caused a nationwide uproar as newspaper editorials declared the end of American morality and called for police action in theaters that dared to show the 18-second flick…“The Kiss” is now part of the Library of Congress’s catalogue…By today’s standards, of course, May Irwin wouldn’t qualify as a porn star.  A vaudeville actress, she channeled the infamy of “The Kiss” into a lucrative stage and silent film career…Gloria Leonard started out as a bond trader on Wall Street in the 1960s.  She left to go into public relations, then jumped to a film company that went under in 1974.  She was an unemployed, single mom when she decided to give acting a shot…the first role she snagged in 1974 was in a porn flick…that…led to a 10-year career in front of the camera, until she became a director, then editor of a nudie magazine.  There, she came up with an idea to increase circulation by teasing upcoming features with recordings in sultry voices…and the phone sex industry was born…Annie Sprinkle, who had her first experience with porn as a ticket-taker at a Tucson, theater showing Deep Throat in 1972, became a top-grossing actress in the 1980s…she turned the industry upside-down with her gonzo, feminist take on porn.  She produced educational videos and held workshops and created porn for women…“Porn is one place where women — the performers — get paid more, double, even triple what men are paid”…

Dirty Laundry

Your periodic reminder of the evil, psychopathic behavior of the organizations behind prohibitionist group Ruhama:

A survivor of the Magdalene laundries who bore a daughter after being raped by a priest…still bears the emotional and physical scars of the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of sadistic nuns more than 70 years ago.  Mary Merritt…now aged 87, was born in a Dublin workhouse and never met her mother.  She was sent to a Sisters of Mercy orphanage…at the age of two for 14 years where she was whipped by a nun across the hips and back for no reason…But that was nothing compared to the horrors awaiting her when she turned 16 and was sent to the High Park Magdalene laundry for stealing apples.  Aside from working as a virtual slave, she was left blind in her right eye from the toxic material in the laundries and was later raped by a priest after trying to run away…she was stripped of all dignity – even her name – before learning she was pregnant with the priest’s child.  After giving birth to her daughter at the age of 23, she was sent to St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home…for a year where she was granted just half an hour a day to see her daughter…She was then sent back to the Magdalene laundry…where…her daughter [was] adopted out without her permission while she worked as a virtual slave for another three years…She eventually managed to track down her daughter Carmel 40 years after she was born…

Torture Chamber

Just in case you thought screws restricted their petty sadism to the prisoners:

A transgender woman who tried to visit her incarcerated brother [reports] Louisiana prison [guards] ordered her to remove her underwear and told her she would have to reveal her genitalia before she could leave the facility.  The woman…says in a lawsuit filed [last week] that [screws] insisted on searching her vehicle after she refused to remove her pants and underwear…The suit says guards stopped China from entering the…prison last September after a body screening machine detected an “unknown object” in her pants…

Broken Record (#708) 

Quite possibly the stupidest “sex trafficking” story of the year so far:

“Young women are historically vulnerable to sexual…exploitation as a part of…spring break”…[fantasized] Haley Halverson…[of] the National Center on Sexual Exploitation…“Some young women could even fall prey to sex traffickers in this environment.”  It’s also important to recognize that male spring breakers who participate in the commercial sex industry, whether that’s strip clubs or purchasing people in prostitution, could be perpetuating the modern-day sexual slavery market…“The conditions surrounding spring break — such as a large influx of males, the celebratory atmosphere, high alcohol consumption, and having money to spend — can create an increased demand for sex trafficking,” she [fantasized].  “[Propaganda] from [Dominique “Body Fluids” Sepowitz at] the Arizona School of Social Work [claimed] that any large event…becomes a desirable location for a sex trafficker to bring their victims”…

Most 10-to-a-room frat boys can’t even afford to hire a hooker for an hour, much less “purchase a person” (which would run into the tens of thousands, all factors considered).  And if all those girls are supposedly being “pressured” into giving sex away, how the hell is anybody supposed to sell it there?  Illogic doesn’t just run through this story; it gallops.

The Widening Gyre (#786)

There’s a xenophobic stink of the “blood libel” about this story and its treatment:

Up to 1,000 children could have suffered in Britain’s worst known abuse scandal…The rape hell of vulnerable young girls in one town – Telford – went on for a shocking 40 years…Girls as young as 11 have been lured from their families to be drugged, beaten and raped in an epidemic that, say victims, is still ongoing…Despite similar high-profile cases in Rochdale and Rotherham, authorities in Telford ­repeatedly failed to stamp out a network of abusers…Council staff viewed abused and trafficked children as “prostitutes” instead of victims…Authorities failed to keep details of abusers from Asian communities for fear of “racism”…

Opting Out (#810) 

UK politicians aren’t happy that people see their surveillance scheme for what it is:

The UK Government is to delay the introduction of age checks for pornographic websites…to the end of 2018.  The move has been welcomed by privacy campaigners who claim such a process would be an infringement of personal data…[which] would risk personal information being hacked and leaked, such as who watches gay porn and lesbian porn…[anti-censorship lawyer] Myles Jackman…said the delay was an admission that ministers had failed to understand the implications of the age capture…“the privacy risk was so severe that if all that data were hacked they would never be taken seriously again when it came to holding private citizens’ data, whether covertly or otherwise”…

Sex Workers Against Trafficking (#812)

If every “anti-trafficking” organization were like GAATW, there would be no “sex trafficking” hysteria:

Workers and workers association in different sectors, such as domestic work, fisheries or agriculture, are considered the experts in reducing exploitation and trafficking in their industry.  However, when it comes to the sex industry, sex workers and the organisations working with them, are rarely consulted in the development of anti-trafficking measures.  As a result, the anti-trafficking community has alienated a crucial ally that can dramatically improve efforts to prevent trafficking and identify cases of trafficking in the sex industry…the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women…conducted  research which documented the strategies that sex worker organisations employ to prevent and address violence, coercion and exploitation in the sex industry, including instances of human trafficking…All of them respond to women’s needs by providing person-centred, holistic, and non-judgemental support…they listen, advise, intervene and refer women, as dictated by their individual needs…Despite this important work, sex worker organisations remain…vilified by the anti-trafficking community…

The Mote and the Beam (#818)

How to prop up a massive and turgid conglomeration of myths, lies and ignorance: don’t talk to anyone who actually knows anything about the subject:

Ivanka Trump…host[ed] a roundtable at the White House…to discuss controversial sex trafficking legislation that has created a rift in the tech industry…Those attending the meeting include [only politicians and representatives of huge companies.  The politicians are only those]…pushing bills that would…[gut] Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which essentially gives internet platforms immunity from liability for content posted by third parties…cutting into Section 230 will damage the legal framework that allows for free speech online and hurt smaller internet companies by forcing them to pour resources into scouring their sites for [criminalized] content…

Elephant in the Parlor (#820)

I’m quite enjoying this whole saga:

[Stormy Daniels] offered…to return $130,000 she received from Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer in 2016 for agreeing not to discuss the alleged relationship.  In exchange…[she] seeks an end to her deal to keep quiet…she…would then be allowed to “(a) speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the President and the attempts to silence her and (b) use any publish any text messages, photos and/or videos…that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution and legal liability for damages”…The offer puts the president and [his lawyer]…in a challenging position.  If they agree…[Daniels] can speak openly about not only the sexual relationship…but also about…[the] “hush money”…If they reject the offer, they could be seen as effectively acknowledging the existence of a continuing effort to keep [Daniels] silent…

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When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.  –  Maya Angelou

Prohibitionists like to call themselves “abolitionists”, a racist and self-aggrandizing reference to those who worked to abolish slavery.  And while I won’t give them that dignity, let’s look at the word for a moment:  they want to be known as people who want to “abolish” something.  They like to pretend that “something” is a form of “slavery”, but nobody but the most stupid, ignorant or delusional actually believes that sex work is a form of slavery; they themselves don’t even believe it, as revealed in some of their own internal documents: “Framing the Campaign’s key target as sexual slavery might garner more support and less resistance, while framing the Campaign as combating prostitution may be less likely to mobilize similar levels of support and to stimulate stronger opposition.”  That’s from Swanee Hunt’s organization, the same organization that pays off cops & DA offices in a dozen large cities to mouth Hunt’s anti-client rhetoric while conducting operations that target both clients and sex workers.  Lauren Hersh, mouthpiece for prohibitionist group Equality Now, is a former prosecutor forced to resign in disgrace when she was caught railroading two innocent black men for rape; do you think her tactics for attacking sex work are any more honest?  As attorney general of California, Kamala Harris actually argued that her state needed to keep people in prison to use them as slaves; in October 2016 she committed the blatantly criminal act of arresting publishers on false charges, though she had previously admitted in a letter to the US Congress that she knew she had no authority to do so, and that the men had committed no crime under US law.  In hearings for the Swedish model in both Canada and Northern Ireland, several politicians admitted on the record that they knew the laws would harm sex workers, and they were fine with that; the Swedish government’s own report on their eponymous “model” stated quite clearly that “negative effects of the [sex purchase] ban…must be viewed as positive from the perspective that the purpose of the law is…to combat prostitution“…in other words, “it’s a good thing that those dirty whores are dying, because omelettes and eggs and all.”

Over and over and over again, we can see that soi-disant “abolitionists” are perfectly willing to lie; to consign innocent people to the brutality of arrest, prison and even actual slavery; to break both laws and their own solemn oaths; and to sign the death warrants of women they profess to want to “save”…all in the name of “abolishing” consensual adult sex that they willfully, intentionally and knowingly misrepresent as something evil because they either dislike it or recognize it as an easy path to vengeance or political power.

These people have shown you who they are, quite clearly; do you believe them?

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Diary #401

Last week was one of those rare ones which was absolutely lovely from beginning to end.  I had two new clients who were both top-notch and fun to be with; received a generous gift from a very dear friend, and got to spend a few hours chatting with her; gave a lecture via Skype to a class at OSU taught by someone who was a student in that class when I gave a similar lecture a number of years ago; hosted my friend Angela Keaton while she was in town for SASS; had a lovely little party with her and another dear friend on Thursday night; enjoyed a chocolate martini with several other sex workers after the SASS panel on Saturday night; gave a lap dance to a very lucky gentleman on stage at the SWOP fundraiser Sunday night (my first public performance of the kind since 1999); and generally spent as little time sober over the weekend as I could manage.  It was, as my grandmother might’ve said, a gas.  And I hope to have as many weeks like it as possible this year.

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