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Posts Tagged ‘Coming Out’

The reality is that those who target sex workers do so because sex work is so stigmatised and criminalised and perpetrators perceive sex workers as easy targets.  –  Alex Bryce

Pet Peeves

Ah, validation:

The Associated Press has nixed “homophobia”…and a number of other terms from its Style Book…”-phobia…an irrational, uncontrollable fear…[is unacceptable] in political or social contexts,” including “homophobia” and “Islamophobia”…AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn [said]…”Homophobia…[is] just off the mark.  It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone…Instead, we would use something more neutral [like] anti-gay…”

Drama Queens

The big story of the week was sent to me by over a dozen readers:

…A new study…suggests that porn stars have higher self-esteem, a better quality of life and body image, and are more spiritual than their non-adult entertainment counterparts.  Researchers compared the self-reports of 177 porn actresses to a sample of women matched on age, ethnicity, and marital status.  Comparisons were conducted on sexual behaviors and attitudes, self-esteem, quality of life and drug use.  The study found that porn actresses were more likely to identify as bisexual and to say they enjoyed sex.  They also reported having sex for the first time at a younger age, 15, than their counterparts in the control group, 17.  Porn stars were no more likely to have had endured sexual abuse than those in the control group…

Had the study been of sex workers in general, the results would’ve been almost exactly the same.  Of course, neofeminists instantly launched into tirades of denial, like this exceptionally bizarre one from Sheila “Penis-in-Vagina Sex is Unnatural” Jeffreys:

“Pornography is likely…to be more severe than other forms of prostitution in its effects…The women are penetrated over long periods of time, often hours…having to take a number of drugs to survive the pain…painkillers [are] also used in prostitution inside the vagina…muscle relaxants and drugs to disassociate mind from body to survive the violation, such as marijuana and heroin.  Women who are interviewed whilst still in prostitution give very different responses from those who have left, often to protect their sense of self”…Jeffreys [also] said…women were unlikely to benefit in any way from working in the adult industry…

That’s right, ladies, the Great Oracle Sheila says we use “painkillers inside the vagina” to “survive the violation”.  I guess I just don’t remember because of false consciousness and all.

Social Construction of Eunuchs

Another hint at Swedish neofeminists’ endgame:  “One of the largest toy chains in Sweden published a gender-neutral Christmas catalogue, which pictured boys playing with dolls and girls holding toy machine guns…Top Toy has produced children’s Christmas catalogues in Denmark and Sweden…though the catalogues’ page layouts are the same in both countries, the gender of the pictured kids is reversed in the Swedish edition…”  In Sweden, the word “neutral” apparently mean “reverse”; keep that in mind if you ever have to drive a Saab or Volvo.

One Born Every Minute

An English con-man set up a website named “SponsorAScholar.co.uk” to trick naïve coeds into having sex with him as a supposed “audition” for a sugar daddy referral service.  The Independent sent a young female reporter to meet the “assessor” in the upscale venue he named – a McDonald’s in Woolwich – but a male reporter posing as a potential client was told there was a “waiting list”.  The website (which has since vanished) was even registered with bogus information, yet most non-sex workers commenting online do not seem to understand that the whole deal was a scam.  These are the same people who believe that they are more qualified to make judgments about whores’ lives than we are.

The Course of a Disease

It appears that “Swedish model” rot won’t be penetrating India anytime soon: “A lawyer…[contends] that it is illegal to arrest the customer of a sex worker…Representing…[a group of men victimized by a police sting], advocate Prabhanjan Dave pointed out that there is no provision under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act…under which a customer can be made an accused…

Attempts to impose the tyranny on Scotland and Northern Ireland continue, however; this excellent essay by Alex Bryce, coordinator of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, criticizes the “narrow ideological belief that consenting sex between two adults is wrong if…money is involved and that all sex work is…an act of violence against women.”  He explains the horrible effects the model has had in Sweden and points out that its proponents think their prudish beliefs are more important than real people; Rhoda Grant, for example, “claimed that damage to individual sex workers was a ‘price worth paying’” for her goal of demonizing male sexuality and infantilizing women.

Bryce’s overview of the negative effects, however, doesn’t go into quite the detail that this thorough overview on Glasgow Sex Worker does; police tactics in Swedish model jurisdictions (and those employing its nasty little sister, “end demand”) include verbal, physical and sexual harassment of whores, condom criminalization, accusing transgender workers of buying sex and videotaping women engaged in sex acts.  In neofeminist “thought”, consensually appearing in porn is “rape” or “exploitation”, but being the nonconsensual subject of police porn-making isn’t.

Confined and Controlled

The New York Times bemoans the fact that Indian whores are using cell phones to go independent, making it harder for their betters to control them.  Busybody bureaucrats and self-appointed saviors moan that this will undoubtedly cause an HIV epidemic because whores are just too stupid to use condoms on their own without “officials” watching over them like children in a kindergarten:

Millions once bought sex in…Kamathipura…but prostitutes with inexpensive mobile phones are luring customers elsewhere…endangering the astonishing progress India has made against AIDS.  Indeed, the recent closings of hundreds of ancient brothels…may one day cost them, and many others, their lives…[because] independence has made prostitutes far harder for government and safe-sex counselors to trace…

Just in case the reader recognizes that these whores are demonstrating autonomy and agency, the reporter hastens to assure him that “Vicious madams still exist, human trafficking is still rampant [and] village girls are still duped into the trade.”  Because the only things scarier to prudes than sexually-transmitted diseases are women in control of their own sexuality.

Hall of Shame

Regular readers know my “Hall of Shame” is reserved for those who have dishonored our profession by their sleazy, stupid, unethical behavior, and today I have the great displeasure to announce its fifth inductee, escort Jenna Shea:

…Shea…famously recounted intimate details of  her sexual exploits with several rappers  during [a radio] interview …has once again been revealing her clients.  Her latest conquest is allegedly a Houston Rockets star, who is reported to have  recently paid $20,000 for an evening…Shea has openly bragged about her popularity amongst the athletic community on her twitter profile: “I get paid by the NBA so much, I should be signed to a team #literally while u basic hoes watch from tv FOH”…

For outing clients, buying into whorearchy and demonstrating a truly epic level of tackiness, Jenna Shea becomes the first escort in the HoS (joining a halfway whore, a porn actress, a madam and a brothel owner).  NB:  This story comes via a site named “Girl Directory”, which Aspasia discovered is dangerous to link on WordPress; to see the original article Google the name of the whore plus the name of that site.

Coming Out

Jessie Nicole on the benefits and difficulties of coming out as a sex worker; the more stories like this one are published, the harder it will be for prohibitionists to promote their lies about our work.

Train Wreck

The predictable result of government anti-whore propaganda in Nigeria:

The Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund (WF) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have [petitioned the government]…to stop the war…currently being waged against women in Abuja by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB).  For over a year unidentified armed men under the authority of the AEPB have brutalised women…on the pretext of “eradicating commercial sex workers in Abuja”…[all kinds of women] have been forcibly abducted and taken to purported installations of law enforcement…tortured into ‘confessing’ and forcibly transferred to an alleged rehabilitation camp…maintained by the Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria (SAPCLN)…

The Giving Season

I asked y’all to avoid giving to the Salvation Army due to its anti-whore stance and promotion of “sex trafficking” hysteria, but Aspasia has gone one better by compiling this list of worthy charities to which you might consider contributing instead.  And if you want to protest more directly, you could print the illustration and shove it into bell-ringers’ kettles in place of money.

Metaupdates

Backlash (TW3 #10)

Sex work activists argue that enforcing [criminalization] absorbs significant resources that, given South Africa’s high crime levels, would be better deployed elsewhere.  A recent study by the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), Sisonke…and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) found that seven out of ten surveyed sex workers reported some form of abuse by police…The study, titled “Stop harassing us! Tackle real crime!”, draws on interviews with 308 sex workers…its findings indicate that police may be the primary abusers of sex workers…[and that] the existing legal framework encourages police corruption and abuse…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #20)

Politicians decide “sending a message” is more important than safety, logic or human rights:  “A…bill to decriminalise prostitution in South Australia has been withdrawn from state parliament.  Status of Women Minister Gail Gago…said she would now work with interested MPs who supported decriminalisation to consider an alternative model…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #38)

Swiss prostitution laws vary from canton to canton, and Zurich seems determined to greatly increase the number of women who work illegally:

Zurich…officials [claim that sex work] has got out of control…street prostitution is being moved to three designated areas to try to make it safer and more discreet…sex workers…will have to be at least 18 years old…brothels [will] have to [buy] licences…[for] 300 francs…[plus] inspection fees.  And street prostitutes will have to fork out 40 francs for their own licences subject to having a work permit, being registered with a health insurer and taking counselling sessions with the Flora Dora advisory service…they will [also] need to buy a [five-franc] ticket from a machine [every night they work]…

As if the naked paternalism and infantilization of mandatory “counseling” isn’t bad enough, registration schemes never work because most hookers don’t want to be on any list accessible to bureaucrats.  Welfare official Michael Herzig claims that currently “…pimps…decide the prices”, but from what I’ve heard from European sex workers pimps are even rarer there than in the US; I guess the city of Zurich is trying to change that by installing itself as the omnipimp.

Coming and Going (TW3 #39)

Anna Gristina is finally free, and when district attorney Cyrus Vance tried to look tough by referring to her as a “pimp” who “rented women’s bodies for profit” (because obviously hookers are mindless, passive vegetables who stay wherever we’re put), her lawyer had this to say:  “She pled out to a sting operation by one cop — who paid $2,000 in taxpayers money to watch two women engage in cunnilingus…So who’s the pimp?

Where Are the Protests? (TW3 #45)

A 22-year-old man [named Hai Van Vo] who was smuggled into the UK from Vietnam in a shipping container has been jailed for…27 months…[for] running [a] cannabis farm [and] will be deported when he is released…Vo had had little contact with the outside world…had no bed and worked to instructions given to him by others…

This Week in 2010 and 2011

My two previous columns about Toys for Tots and my two previous ones on whores’ age of debut were accompanied by essays on the history of harm reduction, a fake “trafficking study” done by marketers, a thoroughly awful madam, confusing images with reality, and the true motivations of the rescue industry and sex-abuse investigators.  We also looked at my favorite movies, more hooker songs and short items on safety, Charlie Sheen, escort ads, a mega-brothel and cops persecuting a disabled client.

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Prejudice is the child of ignorance.  –  William Hazlitt

Every so often a reader asks a question so important that I feel it needs an entire column; this is one of those times.

I am a woman in my late twenties, and have been a part-time sex worker on and off for the last seven years.  I’ve been a prostitute, done porn, worked in a jack-off booth and am currently working as a stripper.  It has always been a way for me to get by or pay off debt while in school or pursuing some non- or low-paying interest.  I would like your opinion on coming out as a sex worker.  Aside from generally feeling that honesty and openness are key parts of close relationships, I also feel like this is important because I believe the impact of knowing someone who does (fill in the blank) can be huge in terms of changing prevailing attitudes (which is a big part of changing bad laws, in my opinion).

So then, it seems we should be out to our parents, our hairdressers and everyone in between.  However, I fear the backlash.  I fear that my very loving family would feel hurt by my choices; I know that people lose jobs over sex work done in the distant past; and perhaps most of all, I don’t love sex work.  It’s been a great help to me in life and I’m glad I’ve done it, but still it is and has been a part time job that I do for money, not a career I pursue because I love it.  I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with it and I am not ashamed, but I also don’t want to come across to people I meet as if it’s the most important part of my identity.  To me it is much like waiting tables, bartending or any other job that simply suits one well enough that they can stand it and do it competently. For example, I volunteer with a program to tutor school kids; I love it and would hate to give it up so when a fellow volunteer asks what I do, I lie.  I am much more interested in helping kids than I am in stripping; but guess which one people will pay me to do?  Yeah.  And that’s fine, but I wish prevailing attitudes were more understanding of this reality.

So – do you wish sex workers were balls to the walls out to all?  I want to fight the hypocrisy.  What do you think is the best way for sex workers to do so, ideally without completely compromising their futures that may or may not involve sex work?

It’s a very tough decision, and one every sex worker must make for herself because everyone’s situation is different.  You’ve done an excellent job here of summing up the pros and the cons:  on the one hand honesty, clarity and helping to fight prejudice; on the other family reactions and potential exclusion from things you really want to do.

I think it’s extremely important for women who don’t love the work to come out, because I honestly believe they’re the majority.  Everybody hears from the “happy hookers” and the “survivors”, but as I explained in my column of one year ago today that presents a false dichotomy; for most of the women I’ve known it was a job like any other, with its own advantages and disadvantages, and they did it as long as it worked for them and stopped when it didn’t any more.  They didn’t need to be “rescued”, and they weren’t so “damaged” they couldn’t do anything else; they entered sex work and left it as it suited them, just as one might do with any other job.  And that in itself forms a strong argument for decriminalization; how many of that middle group might really be able to enjoy it if it weren’t for the problems imposed by criminalization, and how many of them are eventually driven to hate it by those same problems, yet locked into it by the inability to find anything nearly as lucrative due to a criminal record?  If you’d like more reasons, Furry Girl and Amanda Brooks have both written eloquently on the subject of why more of us should be “out”.

However, the reaction of family is a very real concern for many of us; my mother stopped talking to me when I became a stripper, and I don’t think my husband’s family would take it too well now.  My husband’s job is also an issue; though I don’t have any regular job to be fired from for having been a hooker, it’s certainly possible my husband’s employers might take a dim view of both my past and my activism and decide that he wasn’t the sort of person they wanted in a highly-paid position of trust.  There’s also the reactions of neighbors to consider; though sex workers who live in large, cosmopolitan or accepting cities probably won’t attract a lot of attention by being “out”, it would be the talk of the entire county where I live.  And while that’s good from the point of view of letting people know that sex workers aren’t freaks and criminals, it does open one up to the same sort of persecution as “sex offender” registrants have to deal with (though obviously much less severe).

Then there are government actors to consider; this is an especial problem for hookers due to criminalization.  Though most of the lawyers to whom I’ve mentioned the issue agree that the police can’t really arrest a woman for simply saying “I am a prostitute” in public, the information may certainly motivate them to spy on her, plant evidence, make false accusations, etc.  Nor are police the only concern; so-called “child protection” agents are infamous for using any excuse whatsoever to abduct people’s kids, and many a whore’s children have been stolen from her in this way.  And though their jobs are not illegal, I’m willing to bet other sex workers (including strippers, porn actresses etc) have similar stories.  Furthermore, there are tax officials to consider; the American IRS is often employed as a weapon against people the government wishes to harass, and European tax authorities have a long history of making outrageous client-volume estimates and then presenting huge bills to uppity whores (fortunately, that’s largely a thing of the past in most of Europe).  Because of these concerns, being “out” is less of an option for women currently working in prostitution than in other forms of sex work, and more of an option for those without children, a husband or an occupation which might fire her for her “sin”.  We only have to look at the stronger, healthier sex worker rights movements in countries where prostitution itself is legal (even if oppressed by avails laws, soliciting laws, etc) to see the advantages of being able to come out, but the disadvantages are equally obvious.

So though I’d love to be fully “out”, I’ve adopted a sort of middle path; perhaps you or some other ladies might be able to do something similar, if you find it impossible (as I do) to opt for complete disclosure.  I am fully “out” to my friends, a few trusted family members and primary physicians; I use no cover stories with them, and speak as openly about my profession as I would if I were still a librarian.  To everyone else from neighbors to store clerks, I openly admit to having been a stripper and to having done nude modeling; furthermore, I’m an outspoken libertarian and (loudly and publicly) denounce laws against prostitution and other consensual crimes to anyone who will listen.  It’s not a perfect compromise, but at least I can come out as a type of sex worker and to call attention to the stupidity and tyranny of anti-sex worker laws without bringing disaster down on my head.

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