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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a movie review column, mostly because its been a long time since I’ve seen a movie; I don’t really like watching movies alone, and since Grace and I don’t always enjoy the same films and I was frightfully busy all last year, movies were just something that had been pushed way down in my time-triage hierarchy to somewhere below “clean the bathroom” and slightly above “stand outside and look up at the stars.”  But now that I’m living with Jae I’ve had to make adjustments, and movies have re-entered the picture (at least on occasion); Saturday night we watched a film which she thought would interest me on two levels, and I was not disappointed.

My NormalMy Normal (2009) is the story of Natalie, a young lesbian (Nicole LaLiberte) working as a dominatrix in New York; though she enjoys her work, she views it as a temporary gig on the way to a career in filmmaking.  She befriends her drug dealer Noah (Ty Jones), who has aspirations to be a screenwriter himself; soon afterward she enters into a new relationship with Jasmine (Dawn Noel), whom she meets at a club.  But while Noah accepts her work and the two of them collaborate on a screenplay based on her life, Jasmine finds herself increasingly troubled by Natalie’s work and sexuality, and pushes away from her out of fear and jealousy.  Eventually, though, Natalie learns that her sex work is neither something to be ashamed of nor a secret impediment to her goals, but rather a source of skills and connections that will enable her to realize them.

This is an independent film with good production values and a talented cast; it has a few noticeable editing issues and a couple of clumsy plot contrivances (such as the fact that Natalie and her three dominatrix friends all leave the dungeon where they work to pursue various life paths at apparently the same time).  It also suffers from a bit too much “Hollywoodness”: the first scene was way over the top and IMHO pandered too much to popular media BDSM stereotypes; the denizens of the lesbian bar were all young, attractive and conventionally-groomed; and the end was a bit too neat to be realistic (not to mention the fact that its use of recursion came across as cute rather than profound).  But despite these problems it is a fun, light film with likable, engaging leads and a satisfying conclusion, and its pro-sex work, anti-stigma message make it a breath of fresh air.  In a medium where most sex workers are portrayed as either pathetic victims or nigh-superhuman temptresses, the depiction of Natalie and her friends (and the enterprising drug dealer) as ordinary human beings doing their jobs and getting by like anyone else was both refreshing and inspiring; even the title carries the powerful message that no matter what outsiders may think of the lives of sex workers, they are absolutely normal for us.

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The war on sex offenders poses perhaps the greatest political challenge for those seeking to dismantle the carceral state.  –  Marie Gottschalk

Divided We Fall

Gay folk who promote anti-whore crusades are about the sleaziest sleaze there isanti-whore queers

A Kiwi couple needs public help in a quest to take part in a…bootcamp which would help their dream of putting a stop to the forced sex trade industry.  In 2013 Xavier Hartstonge and partner Jesse North created the not-for-profit organisation SweatsHope with the vision of halting the forced sex trade industry in…India…Six people will be selected to receive an all-expenses paid trip to…spend two weeks working with a business coach, life coach and personal trainer…The organisers hope to turn it into a reality TV show.  Hartstonge…says we all know the sex trade is happening, yet we choose to close our eyes…“It’s about empowerment, showing these women they do have the choice and no longer have to do this…It’s modern day slavery and should no longer be tolerated”…

Yes, that’s a gay man demonizing a kind of sex he isn’t interested in.  Breathe deep of the putrid stench of that irony.

The Hooker Vote

The fact that Hof endorsed Ron Paul in ’12 should tell you that this has nothing to do with the candidates’ actual positions.  From a press release that was probably sent to everyone who blogs on sex work:  “Prostitutes at Dennis Hof’s…Moonlite Bunny Ranch…announce their support of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign…” The so-called “Hookers For Hillary” campaign’s embrace of “health care reform” seems primarily an attempt to demonize “illegal” sex workers by casting us as vectors of disease who need to be micromanaged by the benevolent state and licensed pimps like Hof lest we spread plague like a host of scarlet-clad Typhoid Mary Magdalenes.

Shift in the Wind

Is Al Jazeera swinging away from anti-whore hysteria again?

…Because sex work is legal in Ecuador…are, for the most part, allowed to conduct their work openly, without fear of being arrested. In other cities such as Kampala, Uganda; Manila, the Philippines; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Islamabad; Skopje, Macedonia; and Kiev, Ukraine, where it is illegal, sex workers conduct their work in the shadows, which makes it more likely that they will be subject to violence and limits their power to negotiate safe sex…For refugee sex workers in particular, an arrest for prostitution could jeopardize their asylum claim or result in deportation.  The high stakes of getting caught thus force them to take even greater risks, such as working alone or on the least safe stretches of road…refugees, notably those clustered in cities, often engage in sex work.  But international institutions need to do much more than just turn a blind eye to this informal form of employment.  By publicly acknowledging refugee sex workers and establishing support protocols, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international organizations could help them do their work more safely and ensure their rights — to health, information and dignity — are respected…

Worse Than I Thought

Landlords of massage parlors, spa managers and even motel managers who knowingly allow prostitution on their premises could face prison and fines under [new Rhode Island laws]…The pandering law…would be amended to include those who allow prostitution on their premises, because they derive money from the illegal activity.  That includes landlords, managers, owners of spas or businesses, or any other place where commercial sex is practiced or allowed.  Under both bills, the penalties for a first offense would be one to five years in prison, and fines between $2,000 and $5,000…

It’s like they’re competing with each to see who can inflict the most mindlessly-draconian sentences:

People who solicit prostitutes would face increased penalties under a bill that [unanimously] passed the Florida House…The penalty for a first offense would increase from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree misdemeanor.  A second offense would be a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a third offense would be a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison…

Amsterdam (#45)

Dutch “authorities” outlaw more aspects of sex work, then feigning surprise when the number of illegal whores increases:

The number of licensed brothels and escort agencies in the Netherlands fell to 674 in 2014, compared with 1,127 in 2006…The figures also show six out of 10 local authorities have no licensed sex business within their boundaries….researchers say the decline may be due to the rise in the online sex industry…Justice minister Ard van der Steur says it is difficult to get a grip on the size of the unlicensed industry but that exploitation, human trafficking and forced prostitution are a serious issue…

Chauvinism

You’ll notice that none of these laws really affect picket-fence queers:

…Gay rights groups have made great strides in repealing anti-sodomy laws on federal and state levels, and these efforts should be commended.  And yet, prosecutions for sex crimes are growing faster than any other type of crime, with an exponentially rising rate of arrests and convictions.  Gay men are arrested in cruising stings, HIV-positive men are sent to prison for merely being sexually active, and sex workers and clients are arrested for victimless crimes.  Much of these prosecutions disproportionately affect queer folk, despite advances in civil rights for LGBT people.  Have the baldly homophobic laws of the 20th century really gone away? Or are they merely being repackaged and rebranded for a more gay-friendly public?…

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Read this essay by rapid neofeminist Sarah Ditum, keeping in mind that the source of all this bile is that a man went to a strip club:

…Lapdancing is a kind of entertainment that trades on power — men’s power over women, the economic supremacy that gives men the disposable income to buy a woman right out of her clothes, the ritualised submission of the naked women pantomiming sexual frenzy for the men in suits, the little assertions of possession that comes every time a man crosses the line and puts his hand on the skin he’s paying to see. Feminism is the politics of rejecting men’s power over us.  Not eroticising that power, not exploiting it to rinse a little cash benefit out of our own inferiority, but refusing it…Ask…how feminism can tolerate any [sex work]…

First They Came for the Hookers…(#341)

Licensed strip clubs are no longer allowed in Saskatchewan, but the government says it will make an exception for charitable events once a year.  Premier Brad Wall announced…that his government would reverse its decision to allow licensed strip clubs because of concerns about human trafficking and sexual exploitation…

Sex Rays

the Dutch central bank has fired a 46-year-old female employee claimed to have been working after hours as a highly paid prostitute – specialising in sadomasochism.  The woman, who had been with the central bank for eight years…had allegedly been offering her services under the name “Conchita van der Waal”, advertising under the motto: “the kinkier the better”.  Ms van der Waal also offered to engage in sexual role play…one of the roles in which she was photographed online was that of an SS commandant…the…bank’s code of conduct…forbids “indecent behaviour” – and stipulates that no employee should act in a way which could harm the reputation of the bank or lead to negative publicity…

Catastrophic Consequences

Sex workers in Edinburgh are facing increased health risks following the controversial police crackdown on saunas…Fewer women are attending the specialist NHS clinic set up to support them – and…sexually transmitted infections have increased.  Sex workers are also giving up on condoms, with saunas refusing to stock them because police can use possession of them as evidence of selling sex…many women had moved away from saunas and now operated from other venues, like flats or lap-dancing bars…

The Missing Word

The US’s current anti-trafficking policy…produces a tangle of finite good and possibly infinite harmful effects…stories of “sex slaves” produced by some advocates and propagated with alacrity by the media and accepted by…US law makers—has permitted…an incoherent spectrum of immigration and criminal law enforcement operating without much critical oversight, let alone public understanding…the media here [follows a]…template of treating exploited (male) workers as migrant labours while reserving the term “trafficking” for (female) “sex trafficking victims”…

Guinea Pigs Motel 6

Pay attention to this: a motel chain is systematically ratting out guests to cops:

The popular hotel chain, Motel 6, has recently decided to partner with the police to violate the rights of their guests.  Without the consent of the guest, or even informing them whatsoever, Motel 6 employees will now turn over the guest information to the police, who will then run a background check on the subject…I highly doubt that all, or even 10%, of the 1,100 Motel 6’s in North America have a huge sex trafficking problem. I doubt many of them have real “major” crime issues at all. Yet, Motel 6 is allowing the police to run the names of all their guests, regardless of probable cause, incident, or reasoning…

Guest Columnist:  Kaytlin Bailey

There’s the old chestnut that’s supposed to help you relax in front of an audience, “imagine them in their underwear,” and its dark twin — the classic nightmare of being naked in public.  For comedians, the Naked Comedy Showcase provides a chance to experience both scenarios…According to New York host and producer, Kaytlin Bailey, “It’s a rush…there’s something about being in the survival mindset and that amount of adrenaline that really brings the performer in to the room and they’re present from moment to moment and that’s great to watch.”  The brainchild of Boston-based comedian, and nudist Andy Ofiesh, Bailey took over hosting and producing duties in…2014 and has been playing to standing-room-only crowds ever since…

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Kaytlin Bailey first wrote to me several years ago; she had started hinting at her sex work experience in her comedy act and wanted my opinion about coming out more fully.  I was honored that she had confided in me, pleased when she started to make it in comedy, and proud for her when she decided to fully own her experience.  We went out together one of the nights I was in New York last summer, and I’m grateful she replied positively to my request for this guest column.  Her story isn’t funny, but it is, I think, a triumph.  Her one woman show will debut in New York City at The Tank Theater July 10th, 11th & 12th. You can follow her on Twitter at @kaytlinbailey.

kaytlin headshot yellowPeople tell me I’m brave.  I try to remind them that I might be stupid.

I will never sleep with anyone ever again who doesn’t know.  Not after he threw me up against a wall, or held me down on the sidewalk until I apologized for the things I had “done to him” five, six, seven years before we met.  I was never afraid of a client, but I was terrified of a man I loved very much, who I thought I knew very well.

I started working as an independent escort when I was 17.  There were other things going on in my life:  I was the president of my high school debate team; I maintained an impressive GPA; I had a nice, age-appropriate boyfriend to whom I had dutifully lost my virginity months before; my parents gave me a generous allowance; I didn’t drink or smoke pot.  I had never been raped, but I was sure that if I ever was I would report it and that my rapist would be punished.  I had never been hit by a man.  All of that came much later. For the first few months I couldn’t even legally rent my own hotel room; I remember one incident where after-school detention cost me over $1,000.

There were, of course, consequences.  Making $400 an hour before I had any bills to pay, and spending hours in bed with deeply-unhappy rich men, gave me a lot of weird ideas about money & intimacy.  I maxed out my Roth IRA for a few years and paid for a few decadent dinners with my friends, but mostly I parked wherever I wanted to; every morning I parked directly in front of the “no parking” sign in front of my high school, and never cared about the tickets because I thought I had “fuck you” money.  I continued to see clients until it wasn’t fun anymore; I had the luxury of doing that.  I went to college, got a few degrees, then started working in politics.  At first I loved it; then I burned out, started doing open mics, became a comic and moved to NYC, in that order.  And that’s when I met the man I thought I was going to marry.

kaytlin on barI had so easily dismissed the slut shaming language of my hometown, the colloquial idea that there was such a thing as “the marrying kind”, or that anyone interesting enough to fall in love with would want such a woman (the kind I imagined busying herself with making cupcakes and saying no to perverse invitations).  I saw the Madonna/whore complex, and maybe I bought into it a little too much; if there were really only two types of women, I was going to be the free & wild kind.  I rejected the pervasive and perverse myth that when a man and woman go to bed together the woman gets up having lost something, and the man gets up having won something.  I thought it didn’t matter how many men I slept with, because I was still me.  And so I told him, and even though I hadn’t seen a client in over 6 years it broke his heart.  His whole body crumpled up, and he shook first with grief, then with rage.  He wanted so badly to make sense of me, to reconcile his love for me with things he thought he knew about “whores”.

Sometimes he would press me to give him the narrative of a desperate woman using her body as a last resort, or a victim of some horrific crime, or a stupid girl who got tricked into turning tricks.  He was enraged by the truth, and couldn’t accept that I had been curious and turned on by the idea.  I was not ashamed of what I had done until I saw what it did to him.  It drove him mad, and so I left him even though I believed that he loved me.  I left him because I knew that if I didn’t, he would kill me.  And after I left I believed for a really long time that he was right, that there was something fundamentally wrong with me.

After I left him I started telling my story; I wanted to see if people who didn’t love me as much as he did could get past what they thought they knew about being a whore.  They could.  I started by telling audiences, tentatively at first.  As a stand up comic I can tell my story with quite a bit of winking distance with lines like “its hard to go from making $400 an hour without a high school diploma, to making $10 with three degrees.”

I know there are consequences to telling my story.  I’m afraid that stupid people on the internet are right.  I’m afraid that when the sum total of my life is calculated I will have taken more than I have given.  I’m afraid of giving birth to children that hate me.  I’m afraid to tell my parents; what if I tell my Dad and it drives him to suicide?  What if I give my mom the ammunition she’s always wanted to prove I’m not just difficult, but crazy?  I’m afraid that I will find myself old, living in poverty, and neglecting myself and my dependent (a smelly dog who, justifiably, resents me).  But at the same time, I’ve always suspected that people without a complicated history aren’t taking full advantage of life’s exhilarating opportunities.  Sometimes I think I’m wired weird; maybe I’m crazy, or a “bad investment.”  Maybe I’ve put myself in a percentile of people who are undatable…unloveable?  But that’s what New York City is for; it’s where all the unmarriageable go to mate with each other.

kaytlin goofyI’m not an activist or a role model.  I know it’s complicated & I don’t pretend to have a prescription for making anything “better.”  I’m not even sure that the human experience can be made to be “better”; it’s pretty messy for everyone, even “the marrying kind” of girls.  People ask me if I’m worried I’ll be pigeonholed.  Yes, but also no.  Was Dave Attell pigeonholed a porn addict?  Jim Norton a pervert?  Amy Schumer a slut?  Chelsea Handler an exhibitionist?  Well, yes, they were, but it didn’t limit them.  I don’t know the future, so I’m choosing to talk about my experience, and I hope my audience finds me.

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I don’t understand the logic.  -Anders Varveus

So this week the internet went out in our entire building, and it won’t be fixed until tomorrow; I finished Saturday’s & yesterday’s columns on my laptop in a local pub, and I had to finish this one via cell connection so if there are formatting issues, that’s why. The links below are from Emma Evans (“headline”), Jasper Gregory  (“lose”), Radley Balko (“laws”), Grace (“call”), and Wendy Lyon (“spontaneous”). The video is the first in Jae‘s favorite YouTube series; they’re really extremely clever & well-done.

From the Archives

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The students do NOT have to eat the Oreo if they do not wish to do so.  –  Mrs. Porter

I’m slowly beginning to catch up, though I still have quite a way to go to be comfortable with my work schedule.  This week’s video was supplied by Popehat, who also provided “protect” and “Jew”; the links above the video came from Wendy Lyon  (“resistance”), Jasper Gregory (“cookie”), and Jesse Walker (“911″).

From the Archives

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Whole libraries of sex work laws have been written and enforced because lawmakers listened to nothing other than their own fears and paternalism.  –  Chris Hall

R.I.P. Sashimani Devi Sashimani Devi

Sashimani Devi, the last [devadasi]…at the Jagannath Temple in eastern India, died on March 19 in the city of Puri…She was 92…she was one of about 25 women assigned to care for Jagannath and other images of deities at the temple, conducting ritual baths, rubbing the statues with lotion and performing private songs and dances at bedtime…Sashimani…remained proud of her status until the end of her life, though she complained that temple authorities had reduced her role in temple rituals and paid her a miserly pension.  She told one interviewer who asked about the god Jagannath: “He is my husband and I am his wife.  There is no dispute about it.”  She was the last to perform a dance that had been practiced in the temple for 5,000 years…Laws criminalizing the dedication of devadasis began proliferating in the 1930s, and elite temples like Jagannath began to turn away from the practice, though “thousands and thousands” of devadasis are dedicated, to this day, at smaller temples throughout India…

Here We Go Again

Chris Hall looks at the connection between the belief in snuff films and the belief in “sex trafficking”:

Of all the myths about porn, sex and crime to get a footing in popular culture, the belief in snuff films is one of the most improbable, yet enduringly resilient.  For decades, journalists, politicians, law enforcement officials, and anti-porn crusaders talked about snuff films as if their reality had been as firmly documented as the address of the White House….[despite the fact that] no actual snuff films have ever been found…snuff movie hysteria is just a single link in a very long chain of moral panics around sex and sex work which stretches back centuries…the myths of white slavery and snuff films…depicted vast networks of deliberate, organized evil preying on society’s most innocent.  There are actual videos of murders by serial killers or terrorists, but…a true snuff film would be one where the victim is specifically kidnapped and murdered in order to make the film and distribute it through a vast, secret criminal network.  Similarly, white slavery would necessarily involve a nightmarish web of kidnappers and pimps working cohesively in a well-organized criminal subculture…the existence of snuff films and white slavery would reveal a shadowy, near-omnipotent “other” infiltrating respectable society…

Above the Law 

A…New York [City cop]…has been charged with multiple counts of rape related to a sexual relationship he’s alleged to have maintained with a teen girl more than 20 years his junior…38-year-old Vladimir Sosa…was arrested in the Bronx [after the girl]…confessed to her mother about the relationship last month…

The Notorious Badge 

Here’s an amusing example of prohibitionists’ obsession with the film Pretty Woman:  On its 25th anniversary, a “sex trafficking” fetishist publishes a letter asking Richard Gere to espouse the “end demand” creed of the “sex trafficking” religion and denounce clients.  I am not making this up.

Hall of Shame

Mistress Matisse: “If you’ve eaten poison and need to make yourself vomit, you should watch Dennis Hof and Nancy Grace debate sex work.”  I concur; Grace is one of the few creatures who can make Hof seem less-than-wholly-vile in comparison.

Shift in the Wind

More editorials like this, please:

It is unfathomable why adults are still being prohibited by law from engaging in sex work – whether as an individual providing or receiving such services – in and outside of Jamaica.  To make matters worse, it is also illegal for you to “knowingly” benefit from the proceeds of sex work regardless of your relationship to the individual…This is preposterous….a child whose parent works tirelessly as a sex worker to send him or her to school…can, in fact, be charged for benefiting from their parents earnings from sex work….if you are the parent of a sex worker with a chronic illness such as cancer, you can be charged for allowing your daughter to pay for life-saving chemotherapy.  What would you do if the person who supports you financially is a sex worker?  Would you still feel the law is justified – that prostitution should be illegal?

Standard Operating Procedure

Yawn.  Are people still pretending this was unpredictable?

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department…In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties…The stunning allegations are part of an investigation…into claims of sexual harassment and misconduct within DEA; FBI…[ATF] and the U.S. Marshals Service…The congressional committee charged with federal oversight is already promising hearings and an investigation…

“Stunning”. LOL! Prostitute tester advert

Sex Work is Work

A brothel is advertising what many would consider a dream job: prostitute tester.  The job entails rating sex workers for overall quality, cleanliness, value for money, and safe sex practices.  The advert by the Berlin brothel…reads:  “Practical experience with many years of brothel visits necessary.  You should enjoy having fun with people and you should not be afraid of contact.”  Ideal candidates for the position would hold a university degree (preferably in business), have experience with brothels, and be able to show a health certificate indicating they are disease-free…a multilingual individual is desired, with knowledge of French a plus…

Torture Chamber 

[Florida prison guards] contaminated inmates’ food, sprayed them with chemicals for no reason and threatened to break their fingers and to kill them…These practices flourished under former Warden Samuel Culpepper…inmates…said they were stripped naked or down to their boxers at the whim of guards and had all their belongings and their mattresses taken away, then left around the clock on a cold metal bunk for 72 hours or more…[where] they would shiver, cold and petrified, waiting to be gassed…guards would sometimes heat up the gas canisters before activating them, making the chemicals more potent and stick more stubbornly to inmates’ skin…

Bait and Switch

Here’s a long, detailed account of how an ordinary man was tricked and railroaded by cops and prosecutors, his life destroyed for their profit:

…he believed she was nineteen, and he adamantly denied at all times that she looked underage.  He…thought she was lying about her age to try to get more money from him.  It took cops almost half an hour of merciless interrogation and lie after lie to get something even arguably incriminating out of him.  They kept telling him about how he tried to have sex with “that girl” who was sixteen.  When he asked why they were fixated on the fake age of a fake escort, the police report noted that as him seeing no problem with the age of sixteen…

Marching Up Their Own Arses (#452)

For a change, many outside the demimonde recognize anti-whore douchebaggery for what it is:

All sex workers are trafficking victims who desperately want out of the industry.  That’s the premise…of the new A&E show 8 Minutes, which is slated to premiere April 2….vigilante pastor (and former cop) Kevin Brown…sets up dates with sex workers, only to ambush them with attempts at rescue instead of payment—all filmed, hidden camera-style.  The…series has been called “awful” by the Daily Beast, while VICE referred to Brown and the series creators as “manipulators seeking out women for their own gain.”  A Change.org petition…garnered just under 2,000 signatures.  And…even local law enforcement condemned his methods…But none of this criticism has deterred A&E from airing the show…[so] about two dozen…groups that work with…sex workers signed a letter demanding a meeting with Tom Forman, the producer…

Worse Than I Thought (#524)

We can always count on Elizabeth N. Brown:

…the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” (JVTA)…was [stalled]…by party-line disagreement over an abortion-funding provision.  Thank goodness.  This is one time that lawmakers using abortion as a political tool may actually be a boon for civil liberties…One should always be skeptical when politicians insist on new laws to target things that are already targets…it belies efforts to grant government agencies new powers and more money without people paying much attention…One under-looked but worrisome aspect of the bill would set up several cybercrime-fighting units within the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement…By conflating all prostitution with sex trafficking, organizations that receive federal anti-trafficking grants can use it to go after prostitution more generally — something conservative rescue-orgs like because it fits their anti-prostitution agenda and police departments like because they can now use this money toward existing vice efforts.  And the more arrests and/or “rescues” they make, the more money they get…

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We’re not anti-fairies but it’s in danger of getting out of control.
–  Steven Acreman

There was a good assortment of links this week, but only one video of note again.  And again, that one video was provided by Mistress Matisse; the links above it were contributed by Jesse Walker (“fairy”), Grace (“horse” and “art”), Sarah Woolley (“RIP”), Angela Keaton (“naked”), Eddie Cunningham (“movie”), Lucy Steigerwald (“rules”), and Gideon (“cleaning”).

From the Archives

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