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Posts Tagged ‘sex work is work’

My friend Brooke Magnanti has a new project named Body of Work on the new platform Substack, and to call attention to it I’d like to share my favorite of the posts she’s published there so far. It’s both a moving memoir and a powerful rebuke to the sheltered puritans who pretend sex work is “The Worst Thing a Woman Can Do“, which is incidentally the title of this piece.

My dad was mowing strangers’ lawns on the day that he died.

He woke before sunrise – the habit of a blue collar lifetime – with his schedule for the day written out on a piece of college-ruled paper, copied from the app where homeowners booked him for reasonably priced lawn services. He had the rest of the week drawn up as a grid too, with blank spaces for last-minute jobs that might pop up on his newly purchased smartphone.

He loaded the truck with the tools of his trade: edgers and whips, a spade and a rake, a refurbished secondhand push mower, and drove the ride-on mower (also a refurb) onto the small trailer behind his 15-year-old F150. He put a lunchbox with two turkey sandwiches and four bottles of frozen water into the cab. They would melt during the hot Florida spring day, keeping his food cold and providing hydration as he worked in the full sun.

Sometime after 8am, he started having abdominal pains. The worst of his life. My father – no hypochondriac, also the habit of a lifetime – called 911. The hospital did some tests and discharged him by 10am, diagnosis mild constipation, prescription two kinds of laxatives. He didn’t feel better. His last few outgoing texts were to friends letting them know he couldn’t meet up later, he was sick. He went on to complete 3 of the 5 jobs on his schedule.

He died that night. 70 years old, retired not even one day of his life. When we found his phone, most of the missed texts and calls were from the app, set to automatically ping when he didn’t check in online for his agreed jobs.

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“What, are you too proud to scrub a toilet?”

That was a question I have heard a lot. After coming out as a former sex worker in 2009, I could count on at least one know-it-all standing up to pronounce more or less this exact accusation at every book signing, public speaking event, or festival I appeared at.

The question askers never stuck around to hear, really hear the answer: it’s hard to get a job in the UK as an American student, I couldn’t work more than 15 hours a week, no one was allowed to hire me if any qualified EU applicant was available, and that wouldn’t have made a dent in my bills anyway. ‘Too proud to scrub a toilet’ also seemed to be the takeaway most columnists went with when discussing my writing. According to everyone with a public opinion my problem was not lack of cash but that I was too proud, or precious, or whatever to do real work. I was spoiled.

Thing is, I wasn’t just spitballing about whether or not scrubbing toilets pays the bills. I knew already, from experience, that it would not – because cleaning was the very last job I held before moving to London. I worked for months at a hostel in Aviemore while writing up my PhD thesis. In between changing beds and mopping bathrooms, I collated data on forensic pathology cases and assembled chapters on the processes of human decomposition. Because I also was the hostel’s cook and lived on site, I was able to save almost everything I earned. I thought this would put me in good stead for the autumn, when I planned to submit my PhD back in Sheffield, then move to London to look for work.

Long story short: my calculations of expenses for life in the capital city were way, way off. By the time I paid the extortionate deposit and rent on a sad little room in Kilburn, I was already out of cash. But with my PhD not yet approved I couldn’t apply for science jobs. So I became a call girl. A choice that I thought (also mistakenly as it turned out) would be lucrative, not require a particular visa, and that I could leave behind as soon as I started my “real” career.

That was then.

This is now: I’m scrubbing a toilet in a million dollar house in one of my county’s fanciest neighborhoods. American Standard. The water in the American Southwest is mineral-heavy and leaves rings on everything; I’m not so much scrubbing as chipping away at stalagmites of built up lime.

It’s the first toilet I’ll clean today, the first of four bathrooms in this house, but it’s not the last time I’ll think about those people who imagined I was too proud to scrub a toilet. I’ve been scrub-a-toilet poor before; it’s not that big a deal. No, instead they were telling me the thing they considered to be the last-resort job of choice before “selling your body.” Their deepest fear, the most undignified thing short of being a whore (which as we all know is the worst thing a woman can do).

That’s the calculation according to society. Whore is worst, cleaner is second worst, and no one in their right minds would do either. Let alone both. Yet the jobs persist. Even in a recession. Even in a pandemic. Key workers both. Not the front lines, accumulating accolades and sometimes hazard pay, but the back lines, doing jobs few want to admit always need done.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic it seems cleaning after oneself is still a job for someone else. Lifestyle columnists Sarah Ditum and Janice Turner raised a few eyebrows when they staunchly declared the unavailability of house cleaners in the first wave of covid to be beyond bearable. Not for them picking up the mop, or worse yet, asking one’s husband and children to chip in. No, went the logic, cleaners wanted the work. They loved their clients.

I’ve heard people say things like that before almost word for word. People who are the customers of sex workers. Do I have to tell you women like those are just the sort of people whose husbands I once would have fucked for money? I know it, and I guess they know it too.

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If you too are in possession of a house and neither the time nor the inclination to clean it, you could book me or someone like me through any number of websites and apps. They all have slick, modern sites, enormous market capitalisations, and most importantly in this buoyant gig economy: they employ none of the people who show up at your door to do the work.

The landing pages show clean, modern homes resplendent in bare wood, white tile and brushed metal fixtures. Homes with six-burner gas ranges and fresh cut peonies in fishbowl vases. The kind of homes that few of the cleaners could ever dream of calling their own. The vibe is upscale, quiet suburb or cool high-rise urban.

And if you don’t mind what happens to your body, to your health, then there are always jobs like this, just not careers. With ubiquitous smartphones and widespread internet services that previously were available mainly to the well-heeled can be booked at the touch of a finger. In many ways the rise of sex workers on the internet when I was an anonymous blogger presaged the way many would soon be working in the 21st century.

My entry into cleaning for apps is straightforward. Sign up, submit a photo of my driver’s license, wait for a background check. Answer a few (very few) questions on my experience as a cleaner. I have a bit, from the aforementioned pre-London days turning over an 80-bed hostel in the Scottish Highlands for a summer, to helping out friends with holiday cottages.

I’m accepted on the platform and my rate is set at $15 per hour. That’s 4 dollars an hour above the nearest city’s minimum wage, more than twice the Federal minimum of $7.25, but well below anything that could result in the “thousands” the app’s ads on Craigslist promised. Up to thousands, I remind myself. Technically that means anything above zero. I’m assured through a short series of videos that work is straightforward and easy to come by, and that any problems I might experience with the app itself are quick to figure out. I’m told if I book 10 jobs this week my rate goes up, maybe as high as $22. I complete the series of Youtube videos that constitute training and log on.

There are no jobs. At all. Not today, and not tomorrow.

There’s one in three days! I click, eager to “claim” before anyone else does (because that must be what’s happening, right? There are no jobs because they’re already taken?) But when I google the location I find it’s in central Colorado – a 330-mile round trip from where I am now. Sure, there’s a $20 “bounty” for picking this one up, should I choose. But I decide to forego it. There is zero chance at this rate I will ever earn more than $15 an hour through the app.

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We live in the age of the side hustle. Everyone I’ve met since moving back to the US has one. The fine artists with an Air B&B, the candle maker who cleans for them, the solar installer who is also a part-time fire captain, the fire captains who sell third party phone cases on Amazon. The jiu-jitsu instructor with a window washing business. The college professor who works as a part-time paramedic on ski patrol. The ski patroller who proctors exams at the college.

There is no mystery as to why. None of these people are rich or have any illusions of becoming so. Side hustle as a phrase sounds cool, as if a few hours of your week here and there will make it rain and make the Moet pour. The reality is more prosaic. Life in the land of opportunity is expensive. With a stunted public transport infrastructure, cars are a necessity if you want to get by in most of America. The college degree has more or less taken the place of a high school diploma, sought out even for entry-level customer service, and the expansion of the student loan industry leaves many in debt long beyond their 40’s. Credit rating determines everything from your ability to rent accommodation to even whether or not you get a job, obliging people to spend and keep spending in the name of being a trustworthy consumer. Being a consumer obliges you to work. Once entered, the cycle has no end. Not even retirement, for those (unlike my father) lucky enough to contemplate it: in 1985, 10.8% of people over 65 in America were still working. The number in 2017 was double that, and expected to become still higher when the twilight years of Baby Boomers give way to geriatric Generation X.

It gets worse. A shocking number of America’s personal bankruptcies are due to inability to pay medical bills. From a high of 1.5 million in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act came into law, it declined to 770 thousand in 2016. And yet the problem is not solved: the requirement to buy insurance even on price-capped markets still leaves a lot of room for expenses in the form of deductibles that can be thousands of dollars or more. People still avoid accessing preventive care and instead end up in the emergency room, sometimes not until they are on death’s door. We may be in post-Obamacare America, with many on the left making noises about some form of universal, free-at-the-point-of-delivery healthcare, but the wolf of sudden medical emergency could turn up and destroy your life anytime. Even in the coronavirus pandemic America did not manage to elect a candidate who promises universal healthcare.

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Four-Toilets is not a bad job as these things go. I know that immediately. It isn’t a 330 mile round trip to get there, for starters; only an hour from my house. The place is owned by a couple of about my age, pet- and child-free. They are not hoarders, and while some of it requires elbow grease (the aforementioned hard water in toilets situation) they’ve not left cleaning so long that any of it is out of hand, save a giant walk-in shower I spend about a third of the allotted five hours scrubbing.

The man goes out, and when he comes back, has brought me a sandwich. I don’t have time to eat on the clock of course. The app’s clients feed in the size of the job and the app gives them an estimated finishing time (no breaks). I do the last toilet, vacuum and mop, and am done bang on the hour the app predicted. I can’t help but wonder if there was a box they ticked that said “our house is already pretty clean” (it was) or if, in the future, similarly-sized jobs with less scrupulously tidy clients will be assigned the same five-hour time slot.

I don’t think about that, just sign on to the app to confirm completion of the job, load up my car (you are required to bring all supplies, including mop and vacuum, and more recently, PPE), and accept a shyly-offered $30 tip from the man. They want to book me again, once every fortnight. I say I’ll have a look on the app but I’d like that.

I have no illusions: few jobs will be as straightforward as this. On the drive home, I start making a list of what I need to replenish. Paper towels, microfibre rags, oven cleaner, furniture polish. Pick up some limescale remover! And some drain unclogging liquid. The tip covers my time driving to and from the house, and the gas, just about. It reminds me of being an escort when the client’s tips usually covered my transport.

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Twenty-one years ago today, on January 2nd, 2000, I started escorting full-time; now today I’m officially semi-retiring.  I had originally hoped this day would come much sooner, but life happened and financial disasters befell me, and it wasn’t until two years ago that I realized the time had finally come to scale back my professional life.  When I first went full-time I had already been doing various kinds of sex work (compensated dating, sugaring, stripping, etc) on and off for fifteen years, and after today I’ll still be seeing my regular clients (and other gents who have seen me at least once before) and a very few who come recommended by friends.  Even during the past 21 years I’ve done several different kinds of work (agency escorting, bachelor parties, running my own agency, independent escorting, and even a long-term exclusive gig).  So, this isn’t a simple, linear matter of retirement as it is in straight jobs, and yet it does feel like an ending.  I’m no longer using traditional advertising, no longer allowing myself to be solicited via text message by marginally-literate cretins, no longer screening so as to avoid said cretins (not to mention violent costumed rapists), and no longer seeing anyone without planning days or weeks in advance.  This doesn’t mean I’m cutting back on activism just yet; I plan to keep writing regularly for a while, and doing public appearances when those become a thing again, and in fact I may possibly have more time and energy for such activities now.  But even in that department, things have changed; when I first became an activist there weren’t all that many of us in the US, and now I’m glad to say there are thousands.  So all in all, I feel like it’s time to put away my dancing shoes, and settle into my role as an “elder stateswoman” of the demimonde, leaving the field of action to my much younger sisters…including those who weren’t even born yet when I started.

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This is a question about what level of censorship power we want to give to payment processors.  –  Danny O’Brien & Rainey Reitman

Down Under (#410)

This is what prohibitionists call the “failure” of decriminalization:

New Zealand sex worker has won a six-figure payout as part of a settlement after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a b[rothel] owner…The settlement was an important reminder that all workers, regardless of the type of work they did, have the right to freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace, said Michael Timmins, director of the office of human rights proceedings…the woman[‘s]…identity, and all other details in the case, remain…confidential…

The Gun in the Room

All laws, even “progressive” ones, are more heavily enforced vs minorities:

…of the [tickets Seattle] police have i[nflicted using the bike helmet law] since 2017, at least 43% were given to people struggling with homelessness…Since 2019, that number was 60%.  The total is almost certainly an undercount…In total, Seattle police have issued only 117 helmet citations since 2017, at least 50 of which were given to [homeless] people…Last summer’s protests served to amplify a growing [but long-overdue] skepticism of the criminal justice system’s reach, particularly when it comes to nonviolent [behavior arbitrarily defined by the state as] crime.  The wide-scale rejection of the so-called war on drugs typifies the shift most dramatically, but…all…citations — for drug use, traffic stops or bike laws — tend to reveal most clearly the disparities of the criminal justice system…In Seattle, for example, one in four jaywalking tickets issued between 2010 and 2016 went to a Black pedestrian

A Procrustean Bed (#965)

Authoritarians pretend this is more humane than prison:

Passages [is] one of eight privately-owned pre-release facilities in Montana…To [be sent to] Passages means to submit a 24-hour schedule for each day, subject to approval, accounting for every single minute, around the clock.  There’s little privacy; the women sleep four to a small hotel-sized bedroom…Their possessions are rigorously inventoried…inmates…of[ten]…wind up back in prison…because…of…infractions [that] are not crimes on the outside…The…program effectively requires women to be inmates and low-wage workers at the same time.  Either role is difficult, but trying to do both at once is mentally and physically crushing…“Honestly, most people would rather just stay in prison because once you’re done with prison then you’re done,” said…former [inmate Tara Norman…Room and board is $15 a day, so if you start your stay with 90 days of drug treatment, you could be starting your pre-release over $1,200 in debt.  You can’t complete the program until your drug treatment fees are paid off…There are endless fees for room and board, counseling, instructional materials, laundry, and other necessities.  Months can pass where the inmate is working but has no money left from her check because it’s all going to pay for fees and expenses…

Permanent Record (#1036)

If prohibitionists really want to “rescue” sex workers, why do they keep trying to shut us out of other jobs?

A medic was outed by the New York Post…for posting…pictures on OnlyFans for extra income…The article…attempted to make something scandalous out of the fact that the 23-year-old had posted nude photos to the popular subscription site.  It…quoted an anonymous FDNY paramedic turned morality cop who snarked that other first responders “make more money by pulling extra shifts, instead of pulling off their clothes”…The [hit post] was quickly decried by critics on Twitter, including [politician] Alexandria Ocasio Cortez…who tweeted at the publication, “Leave her alone. The actual scandalous headline here is ‘Medics in the United States need two jobs to survive.’” The tweet received over 300,000 more likes than the Post’s tweet of its story….one of Kwei’s friends started a GoFundMe page in her name, writing that [Lauren] Kwei had turned to sex work in order to support herself and her family and was now at risk of losing her job…A representative for SeniorCare EMS [said]…Kwei is still employed and it does not intend to let her go over this issue…[but] the GoFundMe…attracted more than 1,500 donors and raised $33,000—far above the stated goal of $5,000…

As I wrote last week, “many more people than ever before are watching, and increasing numbers of them do not at all like what they see“.

The Course of a Disease (#1088) 

Swedish model fanatics just won’t stop trying to impose their filth on the UK:

Parliament has passed a controversial bill proposing the UK adopts the “Nordic model”…[which] is opposed by sex workers and [human rights] groups including Amnesty International…who [explain] that the legal model it proposes is driven by ideology, not evidence and puts workers’ lives at risk…In [prohibitionist propaganda], the Nordic model criminalises clients and third parties in the sex trade, leaving workers unharmed, whilst supporting them to leave the industry.  However, evidence from countries where it is [impos]ed shows that it has created more dangerous working conditions, whilst still criminalising workers and not supporting exit for those who want to leave the industry…

You Were Warned (#1095)

Congress won’t stop until it controls the internet:

[Politician] Lindsey Graham…[has] introduced legislation that would…implement a sunset for Section 230, the 1996 law that grants legal protects to tech platforms for third party content posted on their sites.  The law has come under fire from [pro-censorship politicians including]…President Trump[, who] has said he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act…the annual defense policy bill, because it does not include a Section 230 repeal…[politicians] have long [made absurd claims]…against [the law that]…they have failed to back…up with evidence.  [Politicians pretend]…repealing the law could serve as a check on increasingly powerful companies such as Facebook…

The Next Target (#1097)

Prohibitionists care only about “messages”, not facts:

…the campaign against Pornhub appears to be more about moral grandstanding and leveraging generalized shame around pornography than addressing the real problem of child abuse and exploitation…Morality in Media…and Exodus Cry have been teaming up to portray Pornhub as a uniquely prolific and unrepentant purveyor of smut featuring minors and abuse.  But [because facts]…do not support this contention…crusaders…resort to using statistics in weaselly ways…for instance…Shared Hope International peppers its calls to shut down Pornhub with general stats about child sex abuse material…they [all] suggest that the only feasible solution is to take drastic aim at porn or digital privacy more broadly—sometimes both…Conflating role-playing with actual abuse is also a common feature of anti-Pornhub advocacy …In the past few days, Pornhub announced new policies surrounding content and removed all videos from non-verified accounts…these changes have long been on the list of porn performer and producer demands…[but] little coverage has acknowledged this…nor the broader labor and intellectual property issues behind it…

The EFF and Vice also published strong criticisms of this latest front in the War on Whores.

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I think the ideal philosophy is to only care about the fact that you do your job with integrity.  –  Kiran Deshmukh

Social Autoimmune Disorder

Cops think they can never have enough pretexts to harass people:

Dallas [cops]…arrested 88 people in [just the first half of this year for]…driv[ing through a particular neighborhood, claiming they committed the thoughtcrime of]…looking for sex…All but one of those arrested were people of color.  [And now] Dallas [politicians want to make it easier for them to dramatically increase the score by]…allow[ing them] to [arrest people for the “crime” of] passing through [that neighborhood three times]…in…two hours…[using the all-purpose excuse of] trafficking women for sex.  The penalty is a fine of up to $500…[if pigs claim they] suspect[ed their victims]…of being pimps…

An Example to the West (#329)

An interview with Kiran Deshmukh, president of the National Network of Sex Workers in India:

I still remember Meena Seshu…telling us that we had to band together…to fight back.  I still remember that exact day this realization sunk in:  A gangster was on the streets making a scene and threatening us with knives.  All the women who’d usually shut their doors and sit tight poured out into the streets.  One woman undid her saree on the road, and the others used it to tie the gangster to a nearby pole.  The women beat him up so much and so badly that not a single gangster has created a scene in our area since then.  Once women band together, they become formidable opponents…Sex workers…work put food on the table and feed their children.  Society, on the other hand, views the world in a moral–immoral binary…Society will point out how our work is related to our bodies and how many men we “sleep” with…two people having consensual sex is justified but if you attach sex to money, it’s completely immoral.  Why?  You’re all saying it’s totally fine to have sex for free?…As for tragedy, if a woman enters sex work due to a tragic situation, but eventually decides to continue in the same profession, why would you bother her with the circumstances that influenced her choice 30-40 years ago?…

Don’t Call It Trafficking (#934) 

Remember, this is not slavery, but lucrative, flexible, voluntary work is:

Most [drug] rehab programs that require work act essentially as temp agencies, farming the [pati]ents out to…third parties, such as tree trimming services, dairies, poultry processing plants or oil refineries.  The wages are remitted not to the workers but to the rehab centers…the…workers…receiv[e]…no pay, no Social Security credits, [and] no unemployment insurance payment…Other rehab-affiliated programs, notably the Salvation Army, have their patients perform grossly underpaid work for their commercial enterprises — if they did not have this captive workforce, they would have to seek [fairly-paid] labor from the open market…

You Were Warned (#1007)

But please, tell me more about the “wings”:

It is now broadly recognized that Joe Biden doesn’t like Section 230 and has repeatedly shown he doesn’t understand what it does…[now] his…top tech policy advisor, Bruce Reed, along with Common Sense Media’s Jim Steyer, have published a bizarre and misleading “but think of the children!” attack on Section 230 that misunderstands the law, misunderstands how it impacts kids, and…suggests incredibly dangerous changes to Section 230..[among] its myriad problems…is…citing FOSTA as a “good example” of how to amend Section 230…

Rotting Fruit (#1015)

Why are men with so much to lose so goddamned stupid about sex?

[Paul Alexander,] the owner of a charter-jet company…has been charged with sex trafficking after [NYPD cops claim he]…offer[ed them] sex with a 12-year-old girl and 14-year-old girl for $300…In March, an underage girl went to the police and told them Alexander…had been…pimping her out…An undercover cop posing as a customer met with Alexander—who showed him nude photos of the girls, charged him $300 for sex with them, and suggested he ply them with drugs and pot so they would be more cooperative…Alexander…has…a 1996 sexual assault conviction…and in 2003 he was convicted of possession of…child [porn]…

Dangerous Speech (#1092)

Backpage case judge claims it’s OK her husband has publicly attacked Backpage because the Backpage case “isn’t about Backpage”.  Seriously.

…the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals…[has] ordered federal prosecutors to respond to the defense’s request for a “writ of mandamus,” which would order U.S. District Court Judge Susan Brnovich to remove herself from the case.  The order…[comes only days after] a hearing in…[which] Judge Susan Brnovich claimed that inflammatory comments made by her husband, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, about Backpage.com’s alleged guilt in facilitating illegal sex work, were unimportant and did not warrant her recusal.  “This case is not about Backpage,” she contended at one point…an assertion that might come as a surprise for anyone familiar with the federal government’s superseding indictment in the case, which mentions Backpage more than 600 times[it also] seem[s] a startling statement given that the prosecution’s theory of the case from jump has been one of vicarious liability, in which the government seeks to hold Lacey and Larkin responsible for alleged illicit acts supposedly connected to 50 ads cited in the indictment — ads never seen by Lacey and Larkin and posted by persons unknown to them, among the millions that once existed on the site…

The Next Target

Prohibitionists care only about “messages”, not facts:

Pornhub has released…statements about…Visa and Mastercard [announcing] their cards would no longer be accepted on the platform, following…Nicholas Kristof[‘s spurious]…allegations against the company…”These actions…come just two days after Pornhub…[banned] unverified users…from uploading content — a policy no other platform has put in place, including Facebook…Any assertion that we allow CSAM is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue…Pornhub’s safeguards and technologies have proven effective:  while…Facebook reported that it removed 84,100,000 incidents of CSAM over two and a half years, Instagram reported that it removed 4,452,000 incidents…over one and a half years, and Twitter reported that it suspended 1,466,398 unique accounts for CSAM over two years, the Internet Watch Foundation…reported [only] 118 incidents of CSAM on Pornhub in a three year period”…

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Three weeks from today, I’ll be officially semi-retiring.  For those who somehow missed my previous announcements and reminders, what this means is that as of January 1st, I’m only going to see clients I’ve seen before.  I won’t be taking new ones unless they come recommended by people I know personally, and I won’t be doing any short-notice gigs unless everything is exactly right.  So for the most part I’ll only be seeing guys I’ve seen before, with enough notice to fit the dates into my existing schedule without having to turn handstands.  No more answering calls from unknown numbers, no more answering cold texts, no more screening, no more feeling annoyed because someone wants a same-day appointment and I feel I have to accept because I don’t want to turn away a blessing.  In other words, I’m eliminating all the parts of the job I dislike, the parts that stress me out and wear me down, and keeping all the stuff I like.  I’ve often said that one of the funniest of prohibitionist idiocies is the idea that the worst part of whoring is the sex; that’s the easy part!  The bad part is all the same crap one has to deal with in any other business, and I’ve never been especially good at business.  So I’m shedding as much of the unpleasant stuff as I can, and keeping as much of the pleasant stuff as I can manage, and with Aphrodite’s help, it will all work out for the best.

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 [A Biden victory] is not a victory for sex workers.  –  Penelope Saunders

A False Dichotomy 

Cathy Reisenwitz on the dogma that sex without “enthusiastic consent” is rape:

…most of our choices in life…[a]re not straightforwardly coercive or cooperative, but somewhere in-between…This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that consent versus coercion isn’t a binary.  It’s a spectrum…On one end of the spectrum you have slavery and rape.  On the opposite end you have enthusiastic consent.  But most choices fall somewhere in the middle…When we say we are “forced” to make a choice, we mean that there’s no acceptable alternative.  We say we’ve been forced to do something if the alternative is death or jail.  When we say we’re “pressured” to make a choice, what we mean is there’s no appealing alternative.  We say we’ve been pressured to do something if the alternative is unpleasant or inconvenient.  The difference then between force and pressure is a difference of scope, not kind.  They’re both coercion, but are different levels of coercion…

Don’t Take My Word For It (#873)

While it’s not surprising to see male sex work increase during the pandemic, I’m extremely skeptical of claims, such as those in this story, that the clients are predominantly female.  Anti-queer stigma is much higher in India than in the US, so naturally male sex workers there are going to claim – as some did for decades in the US – that most of their clients are female in order to save face.  But as usual, the claims in this story don’t ring true, and the quotes from the interviewees only serve to underscore that.

Pyrrhic Victory (#992) 

Seattle cops have a positive fetish for illegal surveillance:

…a…Seattle Police…detective…signed up for and used facial recognition app Clearview AI, which…i[s a] violation of the City of Seattle’s Surveillance Ordinance…Nick Kartes…signed up for Clearview in September 2019 using his “@seattle.gov” work email address…he logged into the service over 30 times, as recently as April 22…the devices used to log into Detective Kartes’ account were connected to the City of Seattle network…This follows an established pattern, highlighted this summer, where Seattle police regularly flaunt the law…

But don’t worry, toothless local laws will definitely stop this!

Panopticon (#993)

Amazon’s fascist collaboration with cops just keeps getting worse:

…While people buy Ring cameras and put them on their front door to keep their packages safe, police use them to build comprehensive CCTV camera networks blanketing whole neighborhoods.  This…allows police departments to [shift] the cost of buying surveillance equipment…onto consumers by convincing them they need cameras to keep their property safe…[and] evades the natural reaction of fear and distrust that many people would have if they learned police were putting up dozens of cameras on their block…Now…police in Jackson, Mississippi, have started a pilot program t[o convince]…Ring owners to patch the camera streams from their front doors directly to…police…footage [of] your…coming and going…your neighbors taking out the trash, and the dog walkers and delivery people who do their jobs in your street…can now be live streamed directly onto a dozen monitors scrutinized by police around the clock.  Even if you refuse to allow your footage to be used that way, your neighbor’s camera pointed at your house may still be transmitting directly to the police[, plus all cops need do is ask and Amazon will grant warrantless access to your camera without your consent]…


The Pro-Rape Coalition (#1033) 

Censors’ fixation on Pornhub spreads to Thailand:

Thailand’s government said…it had banned Pornhub and 190 other websites showing pornography, prompting social media anger over censorship…many Thai users trended the #SavePornhub hashtag on Twitter and criticised the shutting of a site in a country…which has a globally-known sex industry…A few dozen activists protested the block outside the digital ministry, holding banners saying “free Pornhub” and “reclaim Pornhub”…Internet research firm Top10VPN said it saw a spike in searches from Thailand for Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which help circumvent censorship, by 640%…after Pornhub was [censored]…

And India:

The Cyber Police agency of the Indian state of Maharashtra — the region that includes populous Mumbai — has formally accused several platforms of “transmitting sexually explicit and obscene content online”…[the sites include] Xvideos and Pornhub.  Inspector General of Police Yashasvi Yadav [made furtive movements in his pants while sharing his fantasy that]…”the actresses in these videos have been exploited, lured or compelled to perform the obscene acts. We will be treating the actresses as ‘victims’ and not ‘accused persons’”…

To Molest and Rape (#1048)

Since costumed rapists are essentially immune to criminal law, civil law has to do:

A new lawsuit [has been] filed against [typical and representative] Louisville [cop] Brett Hankison…a…sexual predator…who…[has] willfully, intentionally, painfully and violently…[raped at least 10 women over the years and achieved recent notoriety for the murder] of…Breonna Taylor…LMPD has…fired Hankison for his role in the [murder, but ignored all the rape complaints]…nine o[f the] women who…Hankison [raped have made statements in the lawsuit, filed by Margo Borders, a lawyer he raped in 2018]…

(State) Violence Against Women

Two hardline prohibitionists at the top do not bode well for sex workers:

…Phoenix Calida…[of] SWOP-USA…says of a Biden win, “I see things getting worse for sex workers, actually.”  Calida’s assessment is due in part to Biden’s sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill…“‘Tough on crime,’ which Biden has really promoted his entire career, is really not helpful at all to sex workers…Biden is like, ‘Let’s not defund the police, let’s give them more money!’”  Advocates’ concerns around…Kamala Harris, are both more numerous and concrete.  “You couldn’t get a candidate with a worse record on sex work,” says [Penelope] Saunders of [Best Practices Policy Project].  In 2008, Harris called San Francisco’s Proposition K—an attempt at halting the enforcement of laws against prostitution—“completely ridiculous.”  Harris also infamously pursued the shutdown of Backpage and the prosecution of the site’s owners despite warnings that shuttering the site would put sex workers in greater danger and make it harder to investigate sex trafficking cases. (It did.)  She also helped develop the devastating SESTA/FOSTA, specifically as a means of targeting Backpage…[and supports]…the EARN IT Act, a bill…which threatens sex workers’ ability to use encrypted messaging services…as well as free speech online…opponents of the bill…are calling it “SESTA/FOSTA 2.0.”…

Elephant in the Parlor (#1078)

Compare the ugly, racist, agency-negating whore stigma used by Democrats in this article to attack someone closely associated with Trump, to the ugly, racist, agency-negating whore stigma used by Republicans just a month earlier to attack someone closely associated with Biden, and then tell me again how they’re so different and why sex workers should trust either pack of fanatics:  “President Trump’s top campaign strategist, Jason Miller…admitted to hiring prostitutes and receiving sexual favors at multiple ‘Asian themed’ massage parlors, an industry known to have connections to sex trafficking rings…”  “Progressives” want sex workers to believe they’re on our side, but they go straight for the anti-whore slurs the second they think it will win them cheap points on the “other team”.

Social Distancing (#1084)

Prohibitionists don’t care who has to suffer to advance their twisted agenda:

India’s sex workers suffered a setback…following a U-turn by the country’s human rights body, which said [sex workers] should not be registered as workers or guaranteed financial aid from the government amid the fallout of COVID-19.  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last month asked state governments to recognise sex workers as informal workers, which would have entitled them to benefits and aid from a $23 billion fund for India’s poor during the coronavirus pandemic…the watchdog’s non-binding advisory was hailed by [human rights experts]… as a boon for the rights of an estimated 800,000 sex workers across India, [but prohibitionists, led by the evil and deeply-derangd Sunitha Krishnan, worked to intimidate the commission by issuing veiled threats of expensive and troublesome legal complaints based in bad “]sex trafficking[” laws.  In response to these threats]…The NHRC…issued a new statement that said sex workers could not be registered officially or categorised as informal workers….[but] should instead be given help on “humanitarian grounds” during the pandemic…

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So it looks as though another wave of COVID is starting, and with it another wave of bargain-basement Canutes making arbitrary declarations about the value of individual human lives and pretending human rights are a luxury.  As I wrote back in May, my problem with “lockdowns” and other abridgements of liberty is, was, and always will be megalomaniacal politicians setting themselves up like Jehovah at the Last Judgment, proclaiming that this person is “essential” and that one “nonessential”.  The only really “nonessential” jobs are politician, bureaucrat, and cop, and a disproportionate number of the people declared “nonessential” by these control freaks are women and ethnic minorities; funny that.  And yet all the bootlickers choose to characterize concerns for service providers’ livelihoods as “white women bitching because they can’t get a haircut”.  It’s vile.  Some have said the rulers should close down everything that isn’t necessary to “keep people fed”, but that is still a bullshit standard; humans need things other than food, and such arbitrary rules are what lead supermarkets to rope off “nonessential” sections as they did in Michigan and the UK.  Establish objective criteria (occupancy and spacing, etc) or do nothing at all; anything else is discrimination.  Discrimination on the basis of profession is just as wrong as on the basis of race, sex, etc, and there is no clause in the Constitution that says equality under the law can be suspended when it’s politically inconvenient.

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It is time that we all listen to the…voices…[of] sex workers. – LaLa Zannell

Paint By Numbers

A permanent dumb “awareness raising” stunt:

Lykins Square Park [in Kansas City]…will be the site of what is likely the first memorial in the nation to victims of sex trafficking…glass artist Hasna Sal dreamed up and executed the memorial, called “Into the Light”…[after] hear[ing and masturbating to]…sex trafficking [fantasies]…Kristy Childs…runs [prohibitionist group] Veronica’s Voice…[and admits] she…calls [all sex work by the dysphemism]…trafficking [but still repeated the Shahada anyhow]…the memorial…is made up of four stained glass panels [which reveal their Christian religious nature by their titles]…Damnation, Isolation, Redemption, and Salvation…

Note that this is just a fancy version of the tired old racist “black man’s hand over white woman’s mouth” image so beloved by the fetishists. Also note (at the link) the pretense that strip clubs only employ girls below 18, and that they “age out” as soon as they’re legal.  These people really do live in an ugly fantasy world.

Legislators Gone Wild (#1028) 

Nevada politicians have accomplished by royal decree what they couldn’t accomplish legally:

…hundreds of legal[ized] sex workers in [Nevada] lost their major source of income when brothels and other businesses [were forcibly] shut down mid-March.  While most other industries have been [allowed by politicians] to resume some level of operations, Gov. has indicated that the state’s brothels are “not on his radar” to reopen [even though other] services allowing physical contact…[such as] tattoo shops, estheticians, and massage parlors [were allowed to] open since May.  Women who work in Nevada’s legal sex industry…[are] being [persecuted] not because of the risk their business poses but because of a bias against their industry…

Social Distancing (#1031)

Swedish criminalization harms sex workers by creating a climate of fear:

It’s a common misconception that Canadian sex workers cannot, or should not, file taxes on their income because their industry exists in what many consider to be a legal grey area, with fears over arrests and other reprisals…[as in the US,] even income from illegal activities is taxable…This year, only those who were able to navigate the tax filing process had access to critical financial support…[but sex worker activist] Valerie Scott…[explains that] the current legal status of Canadian sex workers makes it feel too risky for many in the industry to file taxes at all.  “To be known as a sex worker, to file taxes as a sex worker, to have any information with the government in any form [is] exceedingly dangerous…There are so many ways we can get caught up.  We’re sitting ducks”…

Nonessential

The power to declare something “non-essential” is the power to ban it:

Supermarkets in Wales will have discretion to sell [items declared by politicians to be] non-essential…in “exceptional circumstances”, the Health Minister has said, following a major public backlash.  Vaughan Gething said supermarkets would be able to sell non-essential items to customers “in genuine need” during the so-called fire break lockdown…[politicians had at first arbitrarily proclaimed] that retailers allowed to remain open could not sell goods [politicians arbitrarily] deemed non-essential…such as bedding…children’s clothes…and…sanitary products…Gething [bloviated that] allowing non-essential retailers to open would “undermine” [politicians’ totalitarian power to declare some human beings “nonessential”]…

What Were You All Waiting For? (#1048) 

45 years after it became their official position, ACLU finally bothers to call for decriminalization:

The…ACLU…[has] released…a comprehensive review of over 80 studies about sex work…show[ing] that full decriminalization has the greatest benefits for public health and safety…The [report]…analyzed studies on…full decriminalization…“Nordic” models…[and] legalization models that require sex workers to register or impose other regulations…ACLU’s [LaLa Zannell said]…“millions of people are asking what we can do to reduce abuse by law enforcement, racial disparities in our criminal justice system, and our overall jail and prison populations…One policy that can achieve all of these goals…is to recognize that sex work is work and treat it like any other industry”…

Quiet Genocide (#1050)

A firsthand account of China’s torture of Uighurs:

Ӧmir Bekali…a…Kazakh [businessman, was]…visit[ing]…his family in…Turpan…[when cops unexpectedly] showed up…to arrest him…he…was thrown into a small…cell…for a week…with no explanation…the room…contained more than 36 others, who, like him, had their arms and legs constantly shackled…“My feet and my hands were tied up with iron shackles and they beat my hands…feet…back and…stomach…They put needles [under] my nails and…iron sticks into my sexual organs”…Police also hung him from the roof of the cell by his wrists so his feet could not touch the floor, and later smashed his knuckles with hammer-like instruments…he…was [then] moved to a…prison camp…[for] seven months…with no access to lawyers, phones to contact his family with, nor any real explanations for his arrest.  In November 2017, he was transported to…a…”re-education camp”…there are 40 people to a 16 square-metre room…Twenty-four hours a day, prisoners are shackled.  Iron chains are tied around their necks, fixed to loose iron blocks that…weigh around eight to ten kilograms, forcing [them] to always be hunched down…prisoners…are woken up at 5am and given a meagre serving of bread and soup.  They are then forced to repeatedly sing songs which praise the Chinese Communist party…and…Xi Jinping personally…As Ӧmir often expressed his discontent with his arrest, he found himself tortured once again.  He…was beaten “half to death” and made to stand facing a wall for twenty-four hours without food or drink on some occasions…After 20 days, Ӧmir was finally released…[thanks to] his wife…pressur[ing] two Kazakh Ambassadors to finally [intercede for him]…

Lack of Evidence (#1051)

The only “evidence” these racist sociopaths need is being Romanian:

The trafficking of Romanian women into the UK sex trade has reached an “industrial scale”, [prohibitionists fantasize]…Scottish Community Safety Minister Ash Denham…[participated in a circle-jerk] with Romanian…[prohibition]ists…[misogynist] group UK Feminista…[prohibitionist politician] Diana Johnson…and [other assorted masturbators, fascists, control freaks and busybodies from both] the UK and Romania…[The participants shared a lot of nonsensical claims supported by bogus] research.  Last month 24 people were arrested in the UK and Romania in a Police Scotland-led operation.  Dawn raids [and massive robberies] were carried out [and justified by calling the victims a] gang…

Sometimes prohibitionists openly admit that “sex trafficking” is nothing but a dysphemism for “sex work”.

I Spy (#1057) 

Remember, Twitter claims this surveillance isn’t surveillance:

Dataminr aggressively markets itself as a tool for…police[-statery]…using sophisticated machine-learning algorithms…[tha]t company insiders say…[a]re often nothing more than garden-variety racial profiling, powered…by a small army of human analysts conducting endless keyword searches…Dataminr…has…relied on prejudice-prone tropes and hunches to determine who, where, and what looks dangerous.  Through First Alert, its app for public sector clients, Dataminr has offered a bespoke, scariest possible version of the web:  a never-ending stream of notifications of imminent or breaking catastrophes to investigate.  But First Alert’s streams were assembled…by teams of “Domain Experts”…hunting social media for danger and writing alerts for cops’ iPhones and laptop screens…these staffers…were pressed to search specific neighborhoods, streets, and even housing complexes for crime…

The Clueless Leading the Hysterical (#1083)

There has literally never been a case of a kid getting drugged candy in his trick-or-treat bag:

Indiana State Police [once again tried to foment hysteria by telling] parents [there might be] marijuana edibles in their children’s Halloween candy…Police [pretend] that [adults never like sweet things] so…marijuana…candy…is [therefore some kind of intentional deception intended to ensnare penniless brats for some inexplicable but nefarious reason]…

Once again: nobody is going to give expensive cannabis edibles (which can cost $2 to $3 or more per piece) to your spawn for free.

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They could give us condoms, but instead they offer us thoughts and prayers.  –  Thierry Schaffauser

Here We Go Again 

“Sex trafficking” propaganda has always been deeply racist:

There w[as] once [propaganda] that Chinese restaurants corrupted young, innocent women, leading them down a dark path of opium addiction and prostitution.  Several [prohibitionist organizations] spread this myth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries…the Boston Journal, November 1, 1903 [panted]…“The picture of a girl’s ruination through the medium of the Chinese restaurant is too horrible to depict…The Chinese restaurant is doubtless the most degrading phase of the great social evil…The suppression of the Chinese restaurant would mean the salvation of thousands of girls annually in America”…in January 1910,  [politician] John L. Donovan…filed a bill to prohibit women from entering Chinese restaurants unless they were over 21 years old and accompanied by a non-Chinese man…the bill was [of course] unconstitutional…[and] thus…rejected…but…[brought] forward once again [a year later with support from a prohibitionist]…doctor…William F. Boos[, who fantasized]…“More than 10% of the doctors of the United States, as well as many of their wives and many trained nurses, are addicted to the use of morphine, and numbers of Boston young women who patronize Chinese restaurants, because of a taste for chop suey and other characteristic Chinese dishes, end by becoming confirmed opium smokers in Chinese dives”…

Chop suey causes “sex trafficking”!

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Ever notice how often predatory cops’ targets are underage?

A Los Angeles [cop named]…Miguel Cabrera…met an[other cop fantasy role-playing]…as a 17-year-old girl on a mobile dating app [o]n…Oct. 21, 2019…Cabrera…[h]as [been] on [paid vacation for the past year]…

Deafening Silence (#427)

Commies are still enamored of the fantasy that sex work magically vanishes under communism:

…prostitution…was outlawed in…[East Germany], which referred to it as a “criminal refusal to take part in socialist life.” And to enforce the crackdown, the party looked to the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police force, which had 91,000 full-time staff and twice as many unofficial informants.  And yet…prostitution still existed…everywhere, all the time, with the knowledge, tacit agreement and even encouragement of the state and party leadership.  And as Axel Nixdorf reveals in his new documentary, Prostitution in the GDR: Socialism, Stasi, Sex, it not only brought in foreign currency, but also knowledge and power that could be used against individual citizens…certain hotels were an absolute market for sex — if you were paying with foreign currency, that is…In the harbor town of Rostock, the Free German Federation of Trade Unions ran the International Sailors’ Club, wh[ere]…only sailors with a valid shore pass — and women, of course — would be allowed entry to the establishment.  For Rostock historian Steffi Brüning, that is a clear sign that the state knew exactly what was going on at the club…

The Course of a Disease (#953)

Good long read on the havoc wrought by Swedish criminalization in France:

…[in] April 2016 [France imposed a prohibitionist regime based in Swedish criminalization, which]…is…why [Vanessa] Campos was working in a place where she could easily be killed…While sex work has taken place at the Bois de Boulogne for decades, it used to primarily occur on the outskirts of the woods –closer to other sex workers and roads full of light…When Campos died, many European countries paid attention to her murder.  France didn’t.  Despite the European sex worker community’s outrage and the clear line they drew between the law and her murder, only one French politician even bothered to comment…In the six months between June and December 2019 at least 10 sex workers were killed in France.  That’s double the already startling rate of one sex worker death per month that France had in 2014…the majority of France’s sex workers, multiple healthcare associations, and influential NGOs like Médecins du Monde [blame the law,] yet…the…official assessment of the legislation…[includes] not a single page…[on] how the law has affected sex workers at all…

Social Distancing (#1042)

Indian activists battle prohibitionism disguised as “public health”:

…the National Human Rights Commission [of India] has urged the government to recognise sex workers as informal sector workers and provide them access to welfare benefits.  The NHRC’s recommendation came in its “Advisory on Rights of Women” issued…as part of a series…in the wake of Covid-19…lockdown[s which]…led to a sudden loss of employment, particularly in the informal sector with no alternate sources of money, food or shelter and it has “disproportionately affected” women who comprise a substantial proportion of such workers…HIV positive sex workers are unable to access antiretroviral therapy…which are essential for their survival and many sex workers are outside the purview of government schemes as they lack identity documents…

Disqualified (#1077)

A look at Hacking/Hustling’s report on shadowbanning:

Shadowbans are complicated, in part because they don’t just impact marginalized users…the term itself gained mainstream prominence after President Donald Trump tweeted about it.  Nor are social media platforms transparent about their shadowbanning process, making it difficult to verify when a user is shadowbanned and when they aren’t.  So what are sex workers up against, and how are shadowbans impacting the American public at large?  The answer is as urgent as it is complex…

The Implosion Begins

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This was written at the request of a sex worker who wanted to explain the business to someone close to her who objected to sex work and believed most sex workers were trafficked.  The writer is a well-known person who wishes to remain anonymous.

As part of my job, I have interacted with bankers, lawyers, doctors, government officials and diplomats of the highest professionalism.  So it is no exaggeration when I say that sex workers are among the hardest-working professionals I have ever met.  It takes great skill to be a successful sex worker; the physical act of sex is only a small part of the job.  You have to be a therapist and a mind-reader, anticipating your clients’ moods and needs.  You need to be an entrepreneur and a time-management specialist.  You need to always be on your game, because word of a bad experience quickly gets around; unlike most other jobs, you can’t keep screwing up or your clients will ultimately stop seeing you.  You also need to keep yourself in shape and pace yourself so you don’t burn out.  You’re often working by yourself, so you have to ensure you don’t get too isolated.  Most women get into sex work for the money, but who doesn’t seek the most money for any job?  This is one job where success leads to more success and even higher rates.  You don’t wait for a promotion; you promote yourself.

Despite lurid headlines about sex trafficking, there are relatively few examples of that in the United States.  Statistics show that virtually all sex workers in the United States are in the business because they want to be sex workers; even Asian massage parlors are filled with workers who want to be there.  (Occasionally you may read about a bust, but then the charges are quietly dropped later because prosecutors can’t prove the women were coerced.)

Here are examples of some of the sex workers I have been privileged to know:

  • A gifted PhD from an Ivy league University, with well-respected published papers under her name, who decided she could make far more money with her beauty and charm than working in a think tank after getting her doctorate.
  • A zoologist who supplements her income with sex work so she can afford a nice apartment.
  • A single mother who found that sex work allowed her to finish her college degree and provide a better life for her son.
  • A high-profile business executive who does sex work when she’s traveling on business in other cities because she gets a kick out of it.
  • A life coach in her late 40s who turned to sex work because a bad investment left her short of the money she needed to build her core business.

Each of these women had their own reason for deciding to engage in sex work, but they all loved doing it.  They got to meet many kinds of men, from different walks of life, some of whom become close friends.  They are empowered and set their own schedules to fit their lifestyles.  And yet this is what some want to call “exploitation”.

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