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Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Though I’ve been aware of Whoretography for some time, the release of her e-magazine inspired me to ask her to contribute a guest column and she graciously obliged me.  I encourage you to explore her website, to buy a copy of her e-magazine and to help support the project via GoFundMe.

whoretography1I am addicted to photography; it’s a lifelong obsession of mine that began as a 2-year-old with the death of my father.  When you lose a parent as a baby, the only connection you can form with that parent is through imagery.  The last photograph before his death, the only one of us together, him proudly sitting on his 1970s motorbike.  His death sparked my purpose in life.  Now I am a documentary photographer, masters student, sex worker & activist interested in challenging the victim-centered nature of sex worker imagery on-line and how photography is instrumental the online sale of sex.  I know my father would be proud of me.

I bought my first camera when I was 12 and I have never been without one since; even when I was homeless for 18 months, I refused to sell my last camera.  My mother evidently thought photography was just a phase adolescent girls go through, because I was not permitted to study photography at secondary school; I went on to graduate with an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Genetics, Post Graduate in Criminology and a Graduate Diploma in Small Business Management.  I put photography to one side in this period, prioritising an institutionally-defined career in criminal justice, and I moved countries; I sold and traded cameras to pay rent, tuition and one-way tickets to London and Paris.  Finally, in April 2005, I followed my passion and become a full-time photographer; I also started as a sex worker the very same day.  And because photography is so ingrained in my psyche, I eventually managed to make sex work about photography too.  I simply refused to follow the photographic rules which dictated that in order to sell sex, I must photograph myself naked or semi-naked and bent over a table clutching my tits.  So, to stand out from the blowjob crowd in an industry that demanded the use of photography, I said no to selfies and soft porn boudoir imagery and instead harnessed the power of pop culture and iconic imagery to sell the essence of the girlfriend experience.  My reasoning was simple; I am not selling my body, so why do you need photographs of my body?  This initial rebellion against sex industry photographic expectations kick-started my fascination with the role photography plays in the online transaction of sex.

whoretography0212 years later, I am now an award winning published photographer, a sex worker and a master’s student undertaking research in sex work activism through the Whoretography project.   It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly Whoretography began, but it was somewhere between realising I was in the business of a photographic conspiracy in which my camera was acting as an agent for the falsehood of couple cohesion and intimacy, and the idea of documenting paid-for sexual intimacy as the antidote to the visual falsehoods of wedding photography.  Whoretography sits nicely at the intersection of images, technologies, society and the sex worker rights movement.  It’s the first academic, ethnographic and creative platform dedicated solely to understanding the role photography plays in sex work via self-publishing as an artistic practice.  The objectives frame a body of creative work that takes the form of a collection of soon to be published photo and artist books, zines and the recently launched Whoretography E – Magazine.  My visual activism is about exploring a set of research questions through a mixed methodology approach designed to challenge the prevailing ideology of sex-work and to present to the viewer an alternative perception of the industry and its participants.  I wish to stop the over-simplification of the lives of cis, trans and non-binary sex workers, and to challenge current imagery that encourages the sense that the only way of interpreting the lives of sex workers is to see them as ripe for “rescue”.  This narrow and particular visual representation of male oppression reproduces a politics of pity that is embedded in the visual representation of sex workers; it suggests only pity makes sense as a political, social and cultural response.

I work within the photographic genre of found imagery, with other peoples’ photographic material and written documents.  The material for Whoretography is sourced using cyberethnographic methods; however, online interactions alone are insufficient to develop a deep understanding of the visuals of the sex worker online community.  So I’ve conducted offline research consisting of qualitative interviews with internet based sex workers, and their customers in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America.  Found photography allows for an editorial style in which I can act as both as editor and author; this is not common when working with sex work imagery.  Standard approaches to visually representing sex workers include photo-voice, wherein sex workers themselves create the photographs (typically of their workspaces), and photo-essay; the publishing world is awash with photo essays that, for example, take a sneaky look inside brothels.  I wanted to avoid these visual clichés.  Working with found images means constructing new narratives from seemingly unconnected photographs to provoke critical dialogue about sex work and present an alternative view of sex work.  It allows me to take the discussion of sex worker imagery from the realms of the sex work community and place it in the wider community.  Fundamental to this goal is deconstructing the visual vocabulary of sex work imagery online to investigate the overarching questions, “Is it possible to reclaim the word ‘whore’ through creative practice as research?” and “What role does photography play in contemporary online sexual consumption?”  I have an interest in ensuring photography is relevant in the fight for the full decriminalisation of sex work.  We must celebrate the fact that sex workers are now image makers; we must challenge the exclusion of sex workers from online visual spaces; and we must talk about the posthumous humiliation of sex workers via the standard practice of releasing morgue photos.  The prohibitionist war on sex work is underpinned by their belief that their photographic rhetoric is photographic truth, and we must name the game when it comes to the middle-class masses being in an uproar about the apparent gentrification of sex work via some mythical photoshop gentrification tool.

whoretography03I wonder if I have made this article sound too clinical and academic, but it has not been an easy two years.  I have an overwhelming sadness for some of what I have seen; people’s understanding of sex work is based on a carefully constructed visual lie.  The media are in cahoots with exclusionary bullies to peddle that lie, and it bloody royally pisses me off that middle-class feminists seek to deny sex workers access to the digital revolution and visual online spaces.  I undertook a Master’s Degree because I was seeking a better theoretical understanding of my craft, and in stepping away from weddings I unwittingly stumbled across my life’s photographic purpose.  I am committed to setting up a visual activist platform and sex work-positive publishing house.  I have amassed over 20,000 images and a lot of what I have seen makes me cry.  I have seen child abuse victims marketed as teen sex workers; prohibitionists create rescue images with a tonal quality reminiscent of colonial missionaries “saving the natives from themselves”; the publication and subsequent outing of sex workers by newspapers; the dire consequences of the pixilated face in propelling stigma; and the shaming of sex workers as a police tactic to help in the gentrification of up and coming hipster neighbourhoods.  The way people have weaponised the camera as a tool of violence against sex workers is in marked contrast to the way we use the camera as an agent for couple cohesion in wedding photography.  I am on a mission to shift the political landscape of sex work by forcing people to understand its visual landscape.  Photography is currently used to silence the intentions, actions and feelings of sex workers and to make their lives more precarious; we need to change this, and I hope you will help me to make this happen.

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So what if…women…are doing this…of their own free will? – Rachel Moran

The Immunity Syndrome pornhub-sexual-wellness-center

Porn isn’t sex education, but Pornhub supports it:

Porn is often blamed for miseducating people about sex…[and] members of the adult industry often counter that porn is simply entertainment and shouldn’t be expected to teach the public about the birds and the bees — but now Pornhub, one of the world’s most popular tube sites, has decided to get in the game of sex education.  On Wednesday, the site launched its new Sexual Wellness Center, an online sex-ed hub run by Dr. Laurie Betito…It has information about everything from the female reproductive system to sexually transmitted infections to testicular cancer. Betito will answer reader questions about love and romance…“[W]e wanted to provide our fans with a trusted educational platform they can utilize as their go-to resource for information and advice when it comes to sex,” said Corey Price, Pornhub’s vice president…

Shift in the Wind

While the prohibitionists continue to scream their filthy fantasies at the top of their lungs, thoughtful people are quietly coming to realize how truly awful anti-sex laws actually are:

To better control their working conditions, sex workers need the removal of punitive sex work laws, rights to security, and to be regarded as authorities in what does and does not improve their lives…Even though sex work was legalized in Hungary in 1999, sex workers continue to face mistreatment by police and other authorities…sex workers are routinely and arbitrarily fined, arrested, and detained under vague laws.  Sex workers are also regularly targeted for administrative fines on unsubstantiated grounds, such as littering or violating pedestrian or traffic regulations, in order to meet police quotas…As a result of regulations that are impossible to comply with for the majority of sex workers…a significant proportion of sex work continues to takes place illegally, even though sex work is officially legal…In a 2011 survey…more than 10 percent of the 246 respondents had been [raped] by…police…and 43.4 percent…had experienced verbal or physical assault by authorities…

Smoke and Mirrors

Another of those cases whose reported details don’t add up:

Marcel RaAnthony Richard…is charged with human trafficking and compelling prostitution.  If convicted, he faces up to life in prison…The teen, who is not being named because she is the victim of an alleged sex crime, has a history of using suggestive screen names and chatting online about sex with older men…The teen’s testimony…was peppered with “I do not recall” and “I do not know.”  She was often unclear about dates, times and events…She testified Richard had posted classified ads on Backpages.com [sic].  The ads…included…photos of a woman that was clearly not the teen…she [also] testified that she was high when she first talked with police and…[some things she said then weren’t] true…police were unable to find any specific locations [she described] nor could they locate any of the other people that the teen said she came in contact with [while supposedly being pimped by Richard]…

Checklist

Huge sums of money given to cops to inflict violence on adults for consensual sex is, alas, not news these days.  But the NYPD is being given a new list of “sex trafficking signs” that describe a very large segment of the population:

New York City…[is creating] a dedicated hotline that will allow [people to rat sex workers out to the cops]…the Vice Unit has been restructured, including the addition of 25 more detectives who will [actively hunt sex workers full-time and]…placing a greater emphasis on pimps and johns…Some of the warning signs people may exhibit are:

  • Signs of physical and/or sexual abuse
  • Lack of memory of recent events
  • Limited freedom of movement
  • Being unpaid or paid very little
  • Having limited access to medical care
  • Seeming to be in debt to someone
  • Working excessively long or unusual hours
  • Having high security measures in the work and/or living locations
  • Showing signs of fear, anxiety, depression, tension, or paranoia
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Having a strong fear of authorities
  • Appearing malnourished or showing signs of repeated chemical exposure
  • Having numerous inconsistencies in his/her story…

Most of the US population is “in debt to someone”, and most women, minorities & young people will show signs of “strong fear” of pigs who are harassing & questioning them about personal matters, including so-called “inconsistencies” due to the disorienting tactics cops intentionally use during interrogation.

Real People (#422) 

A profile of the woman who set up a home for retired sex workers in Mexico City:

After years of working the streets of Mexico City, Carmen Munoz wondered what happened to sex workers like her when they got old – so…for the next 13 years she lobbied the city authorities to provide a retirement home for elderly and homeless sex workers.  With the support of several well-known artists, neighbours from the Merced and fellow sex workers, she finally persuaded them.  The city gave them a large 18th Century building, just a few blocks from Plaza Loreto…It took a lot of work to clean up the building, a former boxing museum, but in 2006 the first women moved in.  They named the shelter Casa Xochiquetzal, after the Aztec goddess of women’s beauty and sexual power…

To Molest and Rape 

Stop faking!

A federal lawsuit brought by a Cincinnati woman against several guards and medical staff from the Warren County Jail [states that she]…was held at the jail in May 2013, after turning herself in on a four-year-old warrant for deception to obtain drugs…the jail’s nurses refused to give the woman her prescribed medicine for her epilepsy, causing her to experience seizures and withdrawal, leaving her debilitated in her jail cell…her jailers [then] Tased her, [stripped] her…turned off her running water and forced her to drink out of the toilet…[they then] held…[her] facedown…[and] at least two [pigs]…climbed on her and raped her…and…orthopedic surgeon said bone shattered on her shoulder was caused by blunt-force trauma consistent with sexual assault and would later have to be surgically treated…six days into her sentence, the woman was sent to the hospital by her tormentors, where doctors found sperm in her urine…one of the defendant nurses, Krys Lambert…said that the inmate was “playing” them, and even refused to give her medications after the jail doctor prescribed them…the guards covered the windows with black garbage bags to conceal the assault…

The Public Eye (#639) jacqthestripper-not-like-other-guys

Sex workers reaching out to the public via art:

Sex workers…are celebrated in We’re Still Working: The Art of Sex Work, a stellar exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center [in San Francisco], on view through Feb. 25…Comprising pieces created by artists who, in one fashion or another, identify as sex workers, We’re Still Working presents an array of experiences in an industry condemned by the majority of Americans as immoral and threatening to public health and safety.  To counter assumptions and harmful stereotypes about who sex workers are personally and professionally, co-curators Maxine Holloway and Javier Luis Hurtado selected the work of artists who deploy a heady mix of humor, anger and sarcasm in their respective practices, all in defiance of society’s judgement…

Something Rotten in Sweden (#662)

San Diego ramps up its anti-whore pogroms:

More than 400 people were arrested in a three-day statewide sweep aimed at [harassing & impoverishing sex workers]…”Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” also resulted in the [arrest] of 28 [underage sex workers] and 27 women…142 male suspects were arrested on suspicion of solicitation, 238 suspects on suspicion of prostitution and 36 male suspects on suspicion of pimping…”This operation sends a clear message to those who would pay for sex in San Diego County,” [vomited out] Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan…

Finding What Isn’t There (#672)

Are people really so stupid they can’t understand that calls to a hotline represent only the prevalence of beliefs, suspicions and paranoia, not actual crimes?

Reports of domestic human trafficking continued to increase in 2016…according to…the Polaris Project…Almost three-quarters of the calls were made in regards to [fantasized] sex trafficking [despite the fact that it’s only a small fraction of] labor trafficking…

The Mote and the Beam (#701)

More on the useful idiots who are trying to destroy the internet:

Lawsuits in New York and California are attacking an important tool protecting online free speech by alleging the interactive computer services…promote terrorism…Without Section 230 protections, innovators would not create online public forums for fear they would be held liable for terrorist attacks or every comment made on their websites…courts have repeatedly dismissed the actions citing Section 230, and rejecting allegations that social media companies provide material support.  At least one of the cases filed against Twitter has been dismissed twice.  The others are similarly unlikely to succeed…

The War Goes On 

We’re seeing more editorials critical of the War on Whores:

Whenever a liberal feminist politician talks to a socially conservative politician, no doubt they’re conspiring to harass sex work.  This truism revealed itself again as Sen. Dianne Feinstein…told…Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing that “human sex trafficking was the second largest criminal activity in the United States.”  Human trafficking costs are estimated at $9 billion a year…Since the drug trade is worth $100 billion, and Medicare fraud is estimated at $60 billion, Feinstein’s estimate was not in the same league, never mind ballpark.  She also repeated the debunked untruth that the “average age” of trafficking victims was 12-14 years.  How many six-year-olds do you see strutting on Fourth Street?  A Department of Justice study released in June 2016 concluded there could be as few as 4,500 underage youth in the sex trade, and only 15 percent had pimps.  Feinstein’s fake statistics fuel the growth of sex trafficking laws that punish actual adult working women and their clients to satisfy politicians’ lust for power…

An Example To the West (#708)

As glad as I am to see this story getting wider press, the use of minimizers like “some” or “not all” to mean “the vast majority” really grates on my nerves, as does the ignorant assertion that sex work is illegal in most countries (totally false, though most do have laws which allow cops to persecute us).  Bonus:  white women like Rachel Moran and Ashley Judd coming to India to negate the voices of tens of thousands of women as “a tiny minority”.  Note Judd’s incompetent parroting of Gloria Steinem’s moronic comments about “body invasion”, which makes it sound as though she shares arch-lunatic Sheila Jeffreys’ belief that intercourse is “unnatural”.

That Old Black Magic (#708)

It’s good to see at least a few judges recognizing these fantasies as such:

A mother accused of trafficking a Nigerian woman into the country and forcing her into prostitution has been acquitted after several inconsistencies emerged in the alleged victim’s evidence.  The complainant had previously told a jury she underwent a “voodoo process” in her home country during which she swore she would not report the alleged trafficker, Joy Imasogie…the alleged victim told the jury that she had stopped working as a prostitute in 2008…However…evidence…showed that the woman continued to work as a prostitute after this date…The woman told [bureaucrats] she was still working as a prostitute and that she advertised her services on the internet.  She also said she didn’t want help to leave that way of life.  The judge also noted that the alleged victim was found in the same house as the accused’s husband and €14,000 in cash on a date after she said she fell out with Ms Imasogie…

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I like to see people dressed when they’re in public.  –  Tom Weathersby

I don’t generally like these “Top Ten” video things, but I wanted to honor the passing of John Hurt, possibly one of the most underrated actors of our time, by reminding you of his many top-notch performances.  The links above the video were contributed by Brooke Magnanti (“steakification”), Tim Cushing (“easy” and “first”), Emma Evans (“paging”), Lucy Steigerwald (“police”), and Carol Fenton  (“counseling”).

From the Archives

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If all the little black books in the world were opened, far more than golden showers would trickle out.  –  Brooke Magnanti

License to Rape

Another excuse to justify rape:

…Inmate visit procedures for Rikers Island state visitors are subject to search at any time.  Before anyone is allowed to visit an inmate, he or she must pass through a metal detector and have items such as handbags pass through a fluoroscope machine. If the metal detector sounds an alarm, prospective visitors might face a “pat frisk” search…Jasmine Quattlebaum…was led to a private area by a female [screw] who asked her during the pat frisk to unbutton her pants…“Once I put my hands back up, she pulled my panties out, takes her two fingers, and just jams it in between my crotch…I slapped her hand away a little bit”…When she objected…the [screw] “tried to pull both of my hands together with one hand, and she tried to still put her fingers into my crotch”…her experience is one many female Rikers visitors experience, according to information from 311 complaint calls obtained by The Intercept…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

After arresting one of their own, pigs oink a lot of nonsense about how the families they damage in stings were magically damaged before (but presumably didn’t know it):

Dunwoody [Georgia] Police say a months-long [violation of peaceful citizens’ private lives] has netted nearly 60 arrests…Police Chief Billy Grogan [bloviated that sex work]…“damages families” [yet somehow arresting fathers doesn’t]…DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said the arrests should send a strong message…“Both supply and demand must be eradicated if we are to stop…consensual sex”…Among the accused customers arrested is Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Chris Quinn…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling 

My friend Cris Sardina of Desiree Alliance on the ridiculous “statistics” spouted by prohibitionists:

…If you look at any leading anti-trafficking organizational rhetoric…hundreds of thousands of sexually exploited people…are held captive by hundreds of thousands of pimps…[Norma Jean] Almodovar satirically makes a valid point in questioning Polaris’ statement as to why neighbors wouldn’t take notice of the lines of men waiting outside to be sexually serviced in the approximate 15 minutes they would have from the door to the sexual act itself?  In truth, these much cited numbers would entail victims to service 25 to 48 men daily during a 12 hour shift, with no time to take care of daily functions such as using the bathroom, eating, sleeping, or texting the Polaris BeFree Textline…andrew-sustaita

Scapegoats 

Presented without comment:

A [Houston, Texas] sheriff’s deputy is out of a job after a [not remotely] shocking allegation…[involving] production of obscene material that includes sexual contact with a dog…Andrew Sustaita Jr…was relieved of duty after his arrest…

End Demand

On what planet is “end demand” anti-client bullshit “disregarded” in “sex trafficking” propaganda?

[New Hampshire’s] Trafficking in Persons Council announced its new “End Demand” campaign…“Conversations about sex trafficking almost exclusively disregard the role of the individual buying sex — the ‘john,’” TIPC Chairwoman Jillian Gilchrest said [moronically]…

Sold Out

Pride Toronto has voted to ban police from having any official presence at future parades, making good on a demand made by Black Lives Matter Toronto last year…

Size Matters (#566)

If Rainbow is “notorious”, I’d hate to see what adjective they use for me:

Seattle-area madam Rainbow Love has again avoided prison time for operating a string of Seattle-area “temples”…Love, 51, pleaded guilty to pimping- and drug-related crimes…[and] was sentenced…to inpatient drug treatment, rather than jail…

Choke Point (#593) 

Think you’re safe being a sexual minority just because money isn’t involved?

Recent censorship enacted at FetLife is the result of financial discrimination by multiple credit card processors who have ceased business with FetLife for what the processors claim are “Illegal or Immoral” reasons.  It began for users one week ago when FetLife announced changes to content guidelines, stating “We can no longer allow FetLifers to publicly share sexual pics and vids containing blood visible in them.”  Then without warning, Fetlife deleted hundreds of groups and literally thousands of fetish categories that represented a range of kinky communities (like ones with hypnosis, blood, and humiliation in the name).  This was in response to to significant pressure from FetLife’s credit card processor…

A Woman’s Point of View kate-murray

Given all the “sex trafficking” rhetoric and agency denial, I smell a whiff of Swedish rot here rather than actual decriminalization:

Four female [New Hampshire] representatives have sponsored a bill that proposes establishing a committee to study decriminalizing…sex work…[yet] one of the bill’s sponsors…Kate Murray…said…”I have no interest in legalizing prostitution…this is about…human trafficking with the goal of protecting the victim”…the committee would study reports about sex work and human trafficking by Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundation and Anti-Slavery International…and…would also study prostitution laws in Germany, Great Britain and New Zealand where it is legal…

To Molest and Rape

Your regular reminder that rapist cops aren’t solely an American aberration:

a garda detective has been suspended after a woman accused him of demanding sexual favours…this…is the third garda from the same district to be suspended, transferred or disciplined over separate sexual assault cases…the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC)…shows 70 allegations of sexual offences were made between 2010 and 2015. However, so far, only one of these cases has resulted in the DPP directing there be a criminal prosecution…

Permanent Record

The prohibitionist Seattle Times once again prints a story containing the typical libel against sex workers without consulting any sex workers for the story, despite the fact that this particular reporter knows several of us and has our phone numbers:

[New and awful Washington state] legislation would extend the statute of limitations from three to 10 years for the crimes of human trafficking, commercial sex abuse of a minor and promoting the commercial sex abuse of a minor.  “For victims of human trafficking, the very nature of that relationship is that they’re under the control of their trafficker,” [attorney general] Ferguson [fantasized while touching himself]…Many victims are reluctant to go to police and are so traumatized by their exploitation that by the time they come forward, “three years has gone by and there’s no justice for that victim”…Embedded in the bill to extend the statute of limitations is a request to alter the legal definition of commercial sex…[to] change “fee” to “anything of value,” which could mean drugs, food or even a bed for the night…

The War Goes On 

Lawheaded idiots are amazed that their persecution of Backpage didn’t magically make sex work go away:

Backpage.com…shut down its erotic services section where most prostitution ads were posted.  But in New Orleans, people posting ads for prostitution have found an easy workaround:  Just post them in the section reserved for people looking for dates.  At least 60 ads had been posted in the “Women seeking men” section of the website…Jan. 17…Some of those ads contained emojis that [fetishists fantasize]…the prostitute may be underage…the volume of ads began rising significantly on Jan. 10, the day after Backpage announced it was shuttering its adult services section…

Elephant in the Parlor (#705)  

My friend Brooke Magnanti on politicians & whores, including a quote from me:

The rich are jaded souls.  Kinks that we otherwise associate strictly with lifestyle BDSM seem to litter stories about wealthy men caught in compromising positions…For some sex workers, golden showers are bread-and-butter work.  Dominatrix friends admit to chugging diet cola by the litre in preparation for such dates…Nearly every sex worker has at some time met someone powerful and famous.  Because it isn’t just about the kink, it’s about the discretion…Maggie McNeill, an escort in Seattle, remarks: “I personally could wreck the careers of a dozen politicians.  And there are roughly half a million [sex workers] in the US”…

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Dr. Kate Lister runs the wonderful, informative and entertaining Whores of Yore Twitter account, and when she recently decided to start a website to go with it I invited her to tell my readers about it.  Kate’s mission is much the same as mine: to demystify and destigmatize sex work by improving communication between sex workers and the general public.

whores-of-yore-logoLast month, on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (2016), I launched the Whores of Yore website; it was the culmination of a year’s hard work on a wonderful project that took me completely unawares.  Whores of Yore grew out of a Twitter feed, that grew out of a research project on medieval sexuality, that grew out of a PhD into women and medievalism.  I am a post-doctoral researcher at Leeds Trinity University (UK) and was reading into medieval attitudes surrounding sexual sin, when I found a London court record from 1340 of two “notorious strumpets”; Alice Strumpette and Clarice la Claterballock.  I thought that was just wonderful.  The wry wit in the aliases made me laugh, as I am sure they were supposed to.  But, beyond being funny, the fact that such names would be adopted said more about sex work in the fourteenth century then many academic texts I have read; there was a real humanity to it.  I started the Twitter feed @WhoreofYore to share snapshots of history like that.

I had not foreseen any interest in the feed, but very quickly the followers grew and online articles began to be published about the content.  I started getting feedback from followers who were reacting to the material I was posting in ways I could have never predicted.  Twitter is a great leveller; your voice is on an equal footing with everyone else, and the feedback is instant.  In the beginning, getting daily, uncensored and anonymous feedback about your work is daunting, but I learnt to listen, to respond and serve.  I do get trolled, but follower feedback also made the feed better; it encouraged me to break away from a western focus, include more trans voices and bring in a daily dose of #HistoricalHottie (photographs of handsome men from history to balance up the eye-candy on offer).  But, what changed my research was that Twitter allowed me to engage directly with the sex worker community.  Suddenly, the history I was researching was no longer dead and buried; it was correcting my terminology on Twitter, and calling me a cunt when I got things wrong.  Without realising it, I had been guilty of viewing sex work only through a historical, academic lens; it wasn’t real to me.  But when a sex worker from Australiawhores-of-yore-screencap made contact with me to say she enjoyed the feed, but please could I stop using the word “prostitute” and use “sex worker” instead, I finally got it.  History is powerful because it frames contemporary debate, but it is not to be archived away and accessible only to (well meaning) academics; it should engage with lives today.  I was using the word “prostitute” in a clinical, academic way, but that perpetuated narratives that exists outside of historical research and the ivory tower.  That was the moment that I saw a project that could make history relevant to contemporary issues.  I wanted @WhoresofYore to facilitate an active process of feedback, reciprocal communication and attribution between sex workers, historians, activists, and anyone else who had a view to express.

As sex workers are stigmatised, often criminalized people, historically, they have had little opportunity to speak without intermediaries.  Rather, their stories and voices have been assumed by journalists, activists, and academics (like myself – the irony is not lost on me).  However, with the advent of social media platforms, this is rapidly changing; social media has allowed sex workers a public voice, a space to engage with those speaking for them and about them, like never before.  Online sex worker communities have been formed, alliances made and agendas set.  “Nothing about us without us” is the mantra of the sex worker rights movement; the web and social media provide a platform for the sex worker voice to be heard, and invited academics to genuinely listen to the group they research.  I wanted to build on this dynamic with a website and further bridge the gap between academic, historical research, and the sex worker voice; I hoped the website would create a space that enabled a process of democratisation and facilitate a discussion, rather than a lecture into the study and history of sexuality.

I wanted the website to feature articles on the history of sexuality and sex workers, but to retain an emphasis on sexuality and contemporary voices.  To that end, I created a several article sections: sex history, sex talk, sex worker voices, LGBT History, politics and the law and an interactive timeline of sex workers throughout history.  I put out a call for article submissions on the Twitter feed, and articles started to roll in.  I have been extremely fortunate and BASIS Yorkshire (a charity who work with street sex workers and some of the most vulnerable members of the sex work community) have agreed to write a monthly blog about their work.  BASIS is very private and protective of the people they work with, so to be able to facilitate a space for them is a real honour.  I also have a sex therapist, Drew Lawson, who is regularly blogging on the site and answering all kinds of questions about sexuality.  I work with the archivist at Delta of Venus, the web’s largest collection of vintage erotica, to bring a selection of historical pornographic images.

kate-listerBut, this is only the beginning.  So far, the project has been entirely self-funded, but I am looking into investment to grow.  The project will expand to include podcasts, vlogging and interviews with historians, activists, members of the sex work community, and those who feel they are marginalised by their sexuality.  The history of sexuality will be placed side by side with sexuality today in the hope we can join up some of those conversations.  The purpose of this archive is not to create a goldfish bowl for others to stare into, but to provide a platform and invite people to share their experience and story; if you have an article to bring to the conversation, please email me.  Shame and stigma are broken down through conversation, and when we listen to one another; I hope that’s what this project can play a part in.  As Shannon L. Alder once wrote, “Never be ashamed of who you are.  True shame always belongs to the person that enjoys being ashamed of who you are.”

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Sex workers are literally dying because of [brothelkeeping] law.
–  Wendy Lyon

Whores and Wives

Let’s hope this means Snopes will start doing more to debunk “sex trafficking” lies:

Snopes.com’s founders, former husband and wife David and Barbara Mikkelson, are embroiled in a lengthy and bitter legal dispute in the wake of their divorce.  He has since remarried, to a former escort and porn actress who is one of the site’s staff members.  They are accusing each other of financial impropriety, with Barbara claiming her ex-husband is guilty of “embezzlement” and suggesting he is attempting a “boondoggle” to change tax arrangements, while David claims she took millions from their joint accounts and bought property in Las Vegas…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Could this bootlicking be any more pompous?

Like many other law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California, Long Beach police have turned their attention to eliminating the scourge of human trafficking…The department formed a task force and vowed to arrest people who profited from and exploited the sex trade…[except] when one of their own officers was accused of trying to exploit the illicit sex trade the department wants to stamp out…William Scott Holder…was arrested last year in a…sting in Corona…[but] remains employed by the department…

Check Your Premises

Remember that these statements are being made by supposedly rational adults who have the power to inflict violence on others at will:

[A confused & self-contradictory propaganda] notice from the Malheur County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Office didn’t [make much sense]…“Victims of sex trafficking and prostitution are forced, coerced and manipulated into this lifestyle against their will…prostitutes…still may be charged no matter what…Because if you don’t charge them, then there’s no incentive to change…we don’t throw them out to the same manager, or pimp, if you will…Most often, they won’t [pretend the cop narrative is true], so you do everything you can to [force] them…to [pretend] that they were or are victims”…[cops pretended that] the 11 men charged with commercial sexual solicitation…responded to decoy ads police placed on “known sex trafficking websites” [even though there is no such thing]…

Profit from Panic 

Three quarters of a million no-strings dollars to spread propaganda & infantilize women:

The Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, was awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant…from the U.S. Department of Justice…The charity’s victim assistance program partners directly with local law enforcement to help human trafficking victims become more independent…”We help them go from not being able to tie their shoes to being independent and able to sustain themselves,” [chief propagandist Chuck] Anderson said…Typical signs that someone may be a victim include signs of physical abuse, tattoos or brand marks, especially ones that say “property of,” and possessing large amounts of cash…

Wait, large amounts of cash?  I though the “pimps” took every penny?  I guess people who can’t tie their shoes can’t count, either.

Imagination Pinned Down kazaam-poster

Another example of how people’s memories can be rewritten by others:

…[many people]…recall…a movie called Shazaam…in the early Nineties …the movie starred the American stand-up comedian Sinbad…as an incompetent genie who granted wishes to two young children…[some claim] detailed scene-by-scene recollections of the film…hundreds of Redditors…have used the popular social news site to discuss their memories of Shazaam.  Together they have scoured the internet to find evidence that the movie existed but each has repeatedly come up empty-handed.  Sinbad himself has even taken to Twitter to deny that he ever played such a role…It all began in 2009 [when] an anonymous individual took to…Yahoo! Answers to pose its users a simple question. “Do you remember that…movie in the early 90s where sinbad the…comedian played a genie?”…it took another two years for somebody else to ask about it again online…last year…things took [off on Reddit]…In 1996, the basketball player Shaquille O’Neal played a genie who helped a young boy find his estranged father in a commercially unsuccessful film…[named] Kazaam

The Naked Anthropologist

Dr. Laura Agustín is back with a novel dramatizing the problems faced by migrants:

European borders are the gates of Hell, lurked over by hounds of police and organized crime…illegal migrants and smugglers are outsiders doing whatever it takes to make good, often by selling sex…In the realm of undocumented migration, knuckling under to thugs can be the sensible alternative to drowning at sea, and putting up with rotten jobs preferable to pointless lives back home…The Three-Headed Dog is international mystery in a downward-spiralling scenario for human mobility…

With Friends Like These…

You might be forgiven for thinking that an article which starts out like this would be pro-decriminalization:

Jamie Rosseland…remembers the day her mugshot and charge were published in a Jacksonville newsletter [ironically] called the Victim’s Advocate as part of a column called “Shame, Shame, Shame”…those publications fuel a stigma against women who are arrested for prostitution…

Unfortunately, you’d be wrong; the rest is a typical “whores are mindless victims” mess which quotes (among others) arch-prohibitionist Pete Holmes, the Seattle city attorney paid to lap up Swanee Hunt’s “end demand” vomit and puke it out again all over reporters.

The Mote and the Beam (#332)

Once the courts waver in slapping down attempts to destroy legal protections, it won’t be long before the vultures start circling:

The families of three fatally shot victims [from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando]…filed a lawsuit against Google, Twitter and Facebook…[pretending] the tech companies provided “material support” for the radicalization of Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired shooter Omar Mateen…The suit [pretends]…all three tech giants…”knowingly and recklessly” [chose not to censor]…accounts associated [by unnamed “authorities”] with ISIS…and allowed the extremist group “to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits”…

The most dangerous part of the suit is that Mateen, an adult, was magically “radicalized” against his will by these mind-control messages; i.e., they paint a disturbed murderer as the passive victim of hypnotic rays beamed through the internet.  Sound familiar?  This is what happens when you allow a precedent to be established that people are passive victims of anyone who can be “othered”, especially when the so-called villains are multi-billion dollar corporations who may be bullied into paying up because it’s cheaper in the long run than fighting these nuisance suits.

Soap Opera (#520) 

Just when you thought the “anti-pimp personal hygiene products” trope couldn’t get any stupider:

…America and Penelope, “The CyberCode Twins,” are developing Beacon of Hope…once activated, [it] can give authorities real-time updates on victims’ whereabouts.  The trackers are embedded into tampons and pads, which would be available from dispensers at highway rest stops, gas stations and casinos.  At the press of a button, a woman in trouble could get a tracker tampon and carry it in her purse or pocket…Beacon of Hope is part of a larger movement to show how tech can be used more broadly to combat…human trafficking…

To Molest and Rape rapist-pig-barrett-boeker

Once again: if you think it matters whether a costumed rapist was “on duty” or not at the time of the rape, you are part of the problem:

An assistant warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola…[committed] rape inside the prison walls.  Barrett Boeker…was charged with one count of second-degree rape…and [arrested]…[Boeker committed] the rape [while off duty]…on Nov. 30 at [his] home on Angola property…the…victim was “not an inmate”…

Traffic Circle (#675)

Wendy Lyon demonstrates that criminalization of sex workers via “brothel keeping” laws is not a mere police & prosecutorial misuse of such laws, but an intended use from the beginning:

…Supporters of the [Swedish model]…regularly insist…that [it]…“decriminalises” [sex workers]…On the rare occasions they’re pressed on it, they usually witter on about how this law is “intended to punish pimps”…that the law is…aimed at…sex workers themselves…can be proven clearly enough just by looking at how the law is actually used in real life…nearly all the reported prosecutions [in Ireland] have in fact been of sex workers, not of anyone managing…them…Go back to the original debates over the 1993 Act and you see very clearly that sex worker prosecutions are a feature, not a bug, of the brothel-keeping law – which was intended to address the public nuisance factor of brothels…it was clearly envisaged by the law, at the time it was introduced, that a sex worker would be prosecuted under it – even in her own home, if she allowed someone else to sell sex there.  This is not a law about pimps…

Too Close To Home (#682)

This is a man who claims he wants to “protect” women, and portrays the men we choose to have sex with as “sexual predators”:

New documents in an ongoing lawsuit against the King County Sheriff’s Department [reveal] that…Sheriff John Urquhart told investigators in his department to ignore a woman who [reported that] Urquhart raped her…[in] 2002…numerous people were made aware of the [report]…a deputy also complained that Urquhart and the woman had an affair but…the sheriff didn’t want that complaint documented.  Urquhart denies the allegations, [claiming] the woman [is mentally ill]…

That last is no surprise; Urquhart thinks women aren’t mentally competent to understand which sexual acts are consensual & which aren’t.

Power Play (#698)

Still think you don’t live in a police state?

Never let it be said that Kamala Harris gives up after being told her totally bogus legal crusade is totally bogus.  She’s now filed brand new charges against the execs who run Backpage.com — despite having the very same lawsuit thrown out a few weeks ago…Harris…knows that she has no legal basis for arresting the execs behind Backpage…because three years ago she signed a letter whining about how she had no legal authority to arrest Backpage because it’s (rightly) protected by Section 230 of the CDA…The press release from Harris claims that the reason for the new charges is that she’s “uncovered new evidence” but that’s a load of hogwash.  The new charges still include bogus “pimping” charges, but now also have a bunch of [bogus] “money laundering” charges as well…

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Abolitionists have failed to acknowledge the utter mundanity of most sex work.  –  Frankie Mullin

License to Rape

Prohibition turns the body of every citizen into a “crime scene”, which can be violated by “authorities” at will:

…upstate New York school…principal Eric Luther sought [underage student Jane] Doe out…and told her to “go for a walk with him”…two members of the New York State Police were stationed outside the…office…[and] the district superintendent, Robert Finster, [was] in the principal’s office, along with Amy Bird, the principal of the middle school.  Upon learning that other students had accused her of possessing drugs, Doe insisted that the allegations were false…Doe offered to let Luther search her backpack in front of her, but…school officials had a more humiliating search in mind.  Doe had to leave her backpack…while Luther and Bird took her to the nurse’s office…With [school nurse Kelly] Avallone and Bird looking on, Doe…[was forced] to disrobe completely…[and] stand exposed for several minutes…while they inspected her shirt, bra, boots, pants and underwear…Then nurse Avallone allegedly offered to perform a rectal exam…Jane [refused, but]…Avallone…[forced]…her…to…bend over [while she]…pried Jane’s buttocks apart with her hand, exposing Jane’s rectal cavity…Avallone [then] pried apart the opening to Jane’s vagina and shined her flashlight inside…there was absolutely nothing concealed…When Luther returned Doe’s backpack…her belongings were rearranged and…Luther admitted to searching the backpack outside of her presence.  All Luther had to say…was “Stop having your name associated with people with drugs”…

The Red Umbrella 

It’s always great to see good December 17th essays from allies:

…No one “dies of prostitution” any more than they do from domestic partnerships.  That women are killed in prostitution, as in relationships – the sphere in which women are most in danger of male violence – is the result of specific conditions:  misogyny, poverty, racism, stigma.  To claim that sex work is intrinsically violent is to let men off the hook…When deaths occur in other industries (there were 27 in agriculture this year, 43 in construction)…the usual response is to ask how working conditions can be made more secure, not whether the industry should be scrapped.  Of course men don’t need to buy sex, but nor does London need more luxury flats.  These arguments should have no impact on the right of workers to be protected…

Maggie in the Media 

Full of Themselves

Of all the semi-whores, none are as pompous as licensed massage practitioners:

…seven…Kitsap County [Washington massage businesses were defamed]…as suspect by cop-turned consultant Lavon Watson, who has made a new career out of investigating the rising tide of what some call “Illicit Massage Businesses,” or IMBs…They are easily identifiable if one knows what to look for, say those [persecuting]…them.  But they are not easy for authorities to shut down…Their proliferation has blurred the lines in the massage industry, with many legitimate massage practitioners reporting advances by their clients.  Their presence also worries those fighting human trafficking…Massage Network Solutions [is] a group of local therapists that met…with Watson, a retired Redmond police officer and massage therapist himself…while police and prosecutors here have [dumped dirty money into persecuting so-called]…pimps involved in human trafficking, storefronts — licensed by state and local governments to operate — might be furthering sex slavery…

First They Came for the Hookers…

Just in case you think being a “legal” sex worker protects you:

[Reporters for WSB in Atlanta dutifully promoted cop propaganda by accompanying pigs]…as they raided three local strip clubs looking for illegal activity.  [Prior to]…the raid [cops spent public money ogling strippers and getting lapdances for]…about a month-and-a-half to two-months…Sandy Springs police issued nine citations at Flashers, mostly for permit violations, and one for a solicitation for an illicit sexual act…At the Dollhouse…police issued 19 citations…[and] arrested [a dancer]…police issued six citations at Mardi Gras [and]…arrested [another dancer]…

Gingerbread House

The rescue industry is big business:

Phoenix will launch a project next year to convert an apartment complex into supportive housing for victims of human trafficking, an effort city officials [pretend] is the first of its kind in the country.  The City Council…unanimously approved plans for Phoenix Starfish Place, which the city expects will serve primarily sex-trafficking victims.  The project includes buying a vacant affordable rental complex, designing trauma-focused services and providing residents with vouchers to subsidize rent…[prominent “sex trafficking” fetishist & profiteer] Dominique [“Body Fluids”] Roe-Sepowitz…is [involved] with the project…

Shifting the Blame (#33)

Called it.  Four and a half years ago.

Suffolk County’s disgraced former Police Chief James Burke, long suspected of keeping the FBI in the dark about the Gilgo Beach murders, faces a new accusation from a sex worker who says there’s a link between him and the killings…The escort, who according to an affidavit has been in the profession for five years, discussed multiple times she said she partied with Burke in 2011 at an unknown Oak Beach home and engaged in “rough sex”.  Numerous people, prostitutes, and drugs, including cocaine, were at the gatherings, she said, adding that she observed former chief Burke use cocaine at the two parties she’d attended with him present…

“People, prostitutes and drugs”.  Because prostitutes aren’t people?  That kind of thinking is why those bodies ended up on the beach & their murders still haven’t been solved.

I Saw My Brain

Another pogrom in the pocket police-state that is Polk County, Florida:

More than 100 people, including [a bureaucrat]…were arrested in a six-day [pogrom]…in Polk County…the [persecution] was aimed at people who either advertised sexual services online or responded to prostitution ads online….[lying sows] posted fake online ads, and male [rapist pigs] responded to ads posted online by others…

Choke Point (#610)

It looks like there’s a new payment processor, PervoutPay, which promises to be sex work friendly.  Of course, all their ad copy I’m seeing is about porn, and this testimonial from Lance Hart has a strong whiff of whorearchy:  “We offer a legitimate service that is legal, yet we ask our customers to lie about what they are paying for…That has to make the customers feel at least a little weird(er) about paying us…like this is some kind of back alley deal.  PervOutPay is a big step forward in legitimizing sex work…”  Note the equation of “legal” and “legitimate”, which is bullshit; my business is as “legitimate” as Hart’s despite its illegality.  So what about it, PervoutPay?  Are you going to screw over escorts who try your service, or are you truly interested in “legitimizing sex work”?

To Molest and Rape pervert-cop-jason-miller

Serial sex offender let off easy, later assaults teen boy. Guess his profession:

Jason Miller was a New Jersey cop when he was caught on his dash cam pulling male motorists over to show them his penis, unzipping his pants to give them a close-up view of his genitals before walking back to his car without writing any citations…turning off his dash cam to allow himself to shove his genitals in their faces without it being recorded.  But there were times he forgot to turn the camera off, which led to his arrest after the department received two anonymous tips…He…struck a plea deal to avoid serving jail time or having to register as a sex offender…He was also forced to resign and forbidden to ever work as a New Jersey cop again.  On [December 15th]…he…was arrested again; this time for following a 16-year-old boy into a Burger King bathroom and sexually assaulting him…Miller claims the teen came onto him…

Utter Cluelessness

Just because we can’t find “victims” doesn’t mean the “problem” isn’t “overwhelming”.  Pizza!  Words With Friends!  EVERYBODY PANIC!!!

Aimee Schroeder…starts her day [t]rolling through listings on Backpage.com.  Her task is to pinpoint which Twin Cities ads are selling…children…for sex.  Photographs of girls…with bruised bodies and the track marks of drug use tip her off to possible sex-trafficking crimes…Schroeder keeps an eye out for small hands and children’s clothing…Imran Ali [is] the Washington County assistant attorney who is heading up the county’s year-old effort to [profit from hysteria over]…sex trafficking…because Washington County is a hub for major highway connections, sex work is often headquartered there…Pete Orput [fantasized while secretly touching himself].  “I can order up a human being to come to my house and sell her body to me, and then I can order a pizza — and I’ll bet the gal beats the pizza to my door”…Victims can get sucked into trafficking a number of ways, including through…”Words With Friends”…

The Clueless Leading the Hysterical (#687) 

This is what a moral panic looks like:

Aoshilong, a Chinese clothing manufacturer that sells its line on Amazon, produces leggings for little girls in various prints…According to a December 12 story from WFTX…in Fort Myers, Florida, that was uncritically repeated by many other outlets, “the pants are covered with marijuana leaves”…an…anti-drug activist [vomited out]…”Anything that normalizes marijuana with kids is child abuse”…which is more plausible:  that a Chinese manufacturer of decidedly mainstream clothing made leggings for little girls printed with marijuana leaves…or that a few hyperventilating cannabiphobes mistook Japanese maple leaves for marijuana leaves?…

Opting Out (#694)

For those of you who still insist I’m an alarmist:

Last month, the UK moved forward with the latest version of its ridiculous “Digital Economy Bill” which will put in place mandatory porn filtering at the ISP level — requiring service providers to block access to sites that don’t do an age verification check.  But it was at least somewhat vague as to which “ISPs” this covered.  The bill has moved from the House of Commons over to the House of Lords, and apparently we now have at least something of an answer — and it’s that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook will be covered by this regulation…The debate over regulating Twitter got pretty silly pretty fast.  At least one person noted that the UK was at risk of looking like idiots…

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