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Posts Tagged ‘sex work is work’

It’s been a while since I’ve had to say this, but as my readership has grown it’s inevitable that I’ve picked up readers who don’t get it.  Some people who visit here, or read my tweets, seem to think they’re on YouTube, Reddit or some other site dominated by testosterone-addled adolescent trolls and can therefore get away with saying any stupid, rude thing that comes into their minds.  So I’m taking today to correct that misapprehension in those of you who may be suffering from it:  this is my online “house”, and if you’re going to visit here you’ll have to play by my rules (which I helpfully spelled out more than six years ago).  A little over a year after that, I penned a helpful sequel called “How Not To Get Your Comments Posted“, which you should read right now if you’ve been coming here for less than five years.  And yet, the narcissistic ninnies still refuse to get that:

A) throwing garbage out of my own space does not constitute “censorship” in any way because I’m not a government and you’re still free to strew your filth anywhere else on the internet that isn’t mine; and

B) I am not your dancing monkey; I am a professional entertainer, so even though I don’t charge people to read my blog or Twitter, if you want me to entertain you in some way that I am not interested in freely giving (such as by engaging in stupid arguments with you), you’re going to have to pay me for that just as you would have to pay me to play the part of your mother, daughter, sister, teacher, secretary, or whoever else you’d like to fantasize about fucking or being chastised by or whatever.  And it won’t even cost you my full rate; for internet argumentation not involving sexy talk, I only charge $100/hour (minimum 30 minutes).

Every sex worker has hard limits, things she won’t do no matter how highly paid, and I’m no exception; for example, I don’t do scat play and I won’t see anyone before noon except as the tail end of an overnight or part of a multi-day gig.  And in the argument department, you can forget about my “debating” you on the topic of whether or not the State has some imaginary “right” to control adults’ sexual choices, or the “right” to send armed thugs to spy on, harass, threaten, brutalize, rob, rape, cage, humiliate or otherwise harm individuals for any consensual act (including the “possession” of some object or substance the state has decided it doesn’t like).  In fact, I have absolutely zero tolerance for bootlicking, toadying, pig worship, partisan cheerleading, authoritarian apologia or any other sycophantic defense of the police state; I have no stomach for evil or for useful idiots who enable evil via their spineless excuses for it, so if anyone posts comments or tweets at me with such filth I will view it as tantamount to the intellectual equivalent of a monkey flinging poop, and that individual will be muted or banned so quickly he may not even realized what’s happened.  I do the work I do because it’s right, not because I’ve been sentenced to it, and I feel no masochistic need to watch the noblest of animals abase itself by groveling to sociopathic control freaks who think every individual is their personal or collective property.

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At the beginning of July, Lynne reached out to me via Paul Maginn to ask if I’d host an essay she wanted to write about her late daughter Pippa (October 18th, 1987 – October 12th, 2015), better known to the world at large as Grace Bellavue.  I was deeply touched that Lynne chose me to help her honor the memory of her daughter, one of the first sex workers in the world to use social media in the way so many of us do now, and one of the first to show us that we could show our faces without fear; Grace touched the lives of many thousands of people she never met, and her untimely death (just a few days short of her 28th birthday) robbed the world of a powerful, amazing woman.  I originally wrote “unique” in the previous sentence, but that’s not entirely true; as you will understand after reading this essay, her mother Lynne is in her own way just as amazing, and her desire to continue her daughter’s work is one of the most beautiful examples of maternal love it has ever been my privilege to witness. 

Can death really stymie a spirit that continues to be heard?

I wonder if you have ever set an intention?  Did you ever wonder how you were going to start, especially when you have an emotional investment in what you believe in?  For myself, it started with fear, then I realised that if you have fear, then there is no love.  I was going to be confronted with things I didn’t want to know or feel.  I was going to grieve all over again for my beautiful daughter Pippa O’Sullivan, AKA Grace Bellavue:  Sex worker, Escort Extraordinaire, real life Advocate, Writer, Social Justice Warrior and observer of all things nefarious locally and internationally.  As a wordsmith, her reach was incredible and life-changing to many who loved her.  Most life-stories begin with a beginning, but this one starts with an end:  A life lost tragically to suicide, which I felt could have been prevented.  A tragic loss of SELF!  I’ve often felt being a mother is about learning strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.  A numbness of thought told her it couldn’t get any worse, but unfortunately it did for me.  My beautiful, amazing daughter gone.  A person so full of life, yet extinguished so quickly that I hardly had time to grasp her essence as she grew to adulthood.

I do believe in a life where there are no mistakes or coincidences.  All events are blessings given to us to learn from.  My daughter was a blessing from the start: half of me, yet unique.  She stood out amongst her contemporaries as gifted and talented; her wisdom and her deep understanding of the human psyche knew no boundaries. I’ve often thought, “How can someone that had enough inner fire to light a city die so tragically?”  There is no sense or reason to it for us, but Grace had personal reason enough to kill herself, alone with her thoughts and just her cat for company.

While I have no wish to openly talk on her early life just yet, it would be remiss of me not to mention that an escort was what she had always wanted to be.  I realised when she turned 18 that if I didn’t support her I would lose the daughter I loved, so I set about accepting what she did and gained a little insight into the industry.  It wasn’t something I talked about openly with family and friends at the start, but I gained respect for her written word and the real love she had for the working girls.  Grace was a chameleon who lived two lives, one as a sex worker and the other as a daughter who was loved and accepted by her family.  She never crossed that line when she was with us.

Grace was one of the first in the world to use social media as a means to be heard; she lived her life as she saw fit, and said just what she wanted to say without barriers.  Many who lived vicariously through her soaked up her words as water into the sponge of their mundane lives.  Grace had an amazing understanding of the human psyche which she shared with the whole world; her fans often wrote to her when they were depressed, at loggerheads with life and in need of reassurance and comforting words.  I saw many she saved with her written word when she was burnt out and had no energy for anyone, let alone herself.  My daughter was the kindest, most thoughtful, most selfless and empathetic person you could come across; she crossed barriers to help the disabled in her sex work, worked in the assimilation process with new immigrants, and won real love with her honesty and openness.

As a campaigner I’ve found that advocating for the empowerment of women is a passion of mine, and I stand right behind Grace and all the work she did toward decriminalization. I am a firm believer that to be an expert in anything you need to time to understand your subject, but also to passionately understand the heart that goes with it.  My continuation of Pippa’s work began when I spoke in a parliamentary hearing last December with a cohort of other sex workers; she had been dead for over 12 months and I wanted to act on her behalf.  I worked within the social justice framework as a clinical nurse for 40 years, advocating for others that couldn’t have a voice, and I drew on that experience to speak about the fact that the rights and safety of sex workers should be seen as an essential component of community expectations about the status and treatment of women.  South Australia has long denied sex workers their human rights and the protection that should be offered to paid workers anywhere, but our politicians have begun to realize that decriminalisation strengthens the ability of sex workers to report intimidation, extortion and any exploitation that is taking place.  In June of this year, our decriminalisation law for South Australia was passed in the Upper House; we hope that this month the Lower House accepts the bill unopposed and we can see some results that accept accountability and safety for all Sex Workers in this state.

While my daughters life is still fresh in our minds and our hearts, we need to honor her advocacy for the labelled and stigmatised, the people she saved on the streets, her fight for decriminalisation of the sex industry in South Australia, and her reach within the social/interactive media and the sex worker network.  I am looking at it as a capacity building measure, where we build on what is working in the world and embrace a “new voice” here in South Australia and further afield.  I will be collating her life works into a book in the near future, and have a WordPress account called ouramazinggrace.com in which I would like anyone to put their thoughts/words and perhaps the contact they had with Grace/Pippa and how she influenced their lives.

It is with Grace…… that I accept her life and all she contributed, to continue her final work.

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Although lucrative, this is a very isolating career.  Your website eases that some, but I was wondering if you ever offer business coaching for providers?  If not, perhaps you are aware of a reputable coach you could direct me towards?  Although I’ve been in this business for a few years now, and I have a stellar reputation, I feel there is room for improvement.

You’re exactly right, this career can be extremely isolating; one of the reasons I moved to Seattle is because of the amazing sex worker community here, which is unlike any other I’ve ever seen in any other city.  We communicate with each other, socialize with one another, help each other out and even date one another; I really wish it could be like this in every city, especially in criminalized regimes like the US where that kind of interpersonal support is vital.

Unfortunately, I’m actually a terrible person to ask for advice on this subject; though I’m a top-notch sex worker, I’m not a very good businesswoman and I’m pretty bad at internet marketing, too.  If it weren’t for my natural gifts and talents, literally decades of experience and the attention my writing brings, I probably wouldn’t make enough to live on.  As I wrote in “Teacher’s Pet” (which is worth reading in its entirety, BTB):

The market has changed considerably since I learned the trade, and I really haven’t kept up; the only reason I do as well as I do is that I’m Maggie Fucking McNeill, a widely recognized sex symbol.  In other words, my brand is already built, and all I have to do is maintain it.  But if I had to give someone else advice on web development, tailoring one’s ads to the clientele one wishes to attract, and all that kind of thing, I’d be utterly hopeless; unless you’re willing to devote over half your waking hours to become a well-known blogger for six years while making practically no money at all, I just don’t think my experience is transferable to your situation.

The only three ways in which I might be able to help are 1) I’m going to post this as Thursday’s column, and maybe someone may pop up in the comments to offer help; 2) If you like, I can forward your information to a screener/booker who may be able to assist;  3)  I can pass your info on to a friend of mine who helps new girls get started in Seattle; I can’t promise she’ll be willing to help or that she’ll be able to tell you anything you don’t already know, but it’s a possibility.  So here’s #1 (keep your eyes open to Twitter today, too) and if you want me to put you in contact with either of those other ladies, do let me know.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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I don’t think it’s any secret to anyone who has read more than a couple of my essays, or known me in person at all, that I am profoundly independent, free-spirited and anti-authoritarian.  I consider the idea that some stranger has even the slightest “rightful” authority over me due to his birth, title, fancy costume, magical talisman, mob consensus or ability to inflict violence upon my person to be ludicrous at best and an abomination against the gods at worst, and the most efficient way to get me not to do a thing is to tell me that I “must” do it, or to “order” me to do it.  And yet, seemingly paradoxically, I rarely turn down a request for a favor from a friend, and if I love someone deeply enough I’ll do almost anything they ask.  As I recently wrote on Twitter, “If you’re sure I love you, you can raise your hand to me & I’ll roll over for petting. But if not, expect that hand to be bitten off.”  What’s the magic formula that transforms me from a tigress to a kitten, from an uncontrollable spitfire to a gentle, kind angel?  Consent.  People who demand, assume or don’t even bother to seek my compliance will never, ever get it, but those who approach me in a friendly and respectful way often will.  And if a person invests the time and effort to win my heart, my freely-given loyalty is extremely difficult to break.

This right to decide who to submit to and who to snarl at belongs not only to me, but to every sentient being.   We all own ourselves, body and soul, and absolutely nobody else has the right to claim ownership over us, to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies and lives, or to determine what is best for us; the concept that the “majority”, some “authority”, or the nebulous “state” has the right to use violence to abrogate our self-determination or punish us for our free choices is a moral abomination on par with slavery, and future generations will look back upon prohibition with the same disgust as we view the idea that one human being can literally own another.  Every free-willed being has the right to consent, to refuse to consent, or to revoke consent to any request or action of another, and nobody has the right either to force consent via threat or violence, or to overrule anyone else’s consent.  And yet, the evil, confused and morally retarded claim this right over others every single day; modern states have a vast apparatus of surveillance designed to spy on the private, consensual acts of sane adults and inflict violence upon them if those acts conflict with the diktats of the State.  And there is a vast and growing cult which plays a Kafkaesque game with the very concept of consent, attempting to turn it from the free exercise of free will by free beings into a convoluted and bureaucratic prison, in which “authorities” impose their will on individuals and negate their consent by pretending that it wasn’t “true” consent under byzantine, ever-changing and ever-expanding rules determined, naturally, by the “authorities”.  In other words, these evil hypocrites overrule the consent of others in the name of “protecting” it.  It isn’t enough that consent be given; we are told it must be explicitly verbal, ongoing, and “enthusiastic”, and that it must be bureaucratically and tiresomely re-ascertained over and over and over again no matter how clearly it was expressed in the first place.  Some “authorities” choose to add even more adjectives to the list, insisting that consent be “creative” and “honest” (presumably, the one seeking consent must cart around a polygraph machine to fulfill the latter condition).  Others insist that consent is compulsory under certain conditions, and those who wish to inflict violence upon others for sex acts they consider “deviant” (including sex work, BDSM and in the past, homosexuality) claim that people who make these choices are suffering from mental disorders such as “Stockholm syndrome“, “trauma bonding” or the Marxist fantasy of “false consciousness”).  Possibly the most bizarre of these, popular among neofeminists for years but now gaining momentum among tyrants pretending to be “progressive”, is the idea that if a person is paid to do something he wouldn’t do for free that constitutes “coercion” or even “violence”.  This dogma is, frankly, deranged; it sounds more like something that might be ejaculated from a Maoist circle-jerk than something an official in a Western capitalist nation (whom, we might note, does not do HIS job for free and is therefore equally coerced) would say in public with a straight face.

Consent is never absolute; it is always conditional and contextual.  But only the free individual has the right to determine the conditions for their consent; that could be anything from “if you say please” to “if you pay me x amount” to “if you do this other thing for me”.  And nobody but the individual has the right to add extra conditions to that, nor to forbid any particular condition from among the individual’s choices.  To do either is to negate the entire concept of consent, which is the same as negating free will.  And an entity without free will is not a human; it is an object, owned by whichever other entity can hold onto it.  The abrogation of consent doesn’t “protect” anyone, no matter what the fanatics claim; it merely disguises an ugly, savage system of might makes right.

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I’m a member of a site from which people can purchase videos and pictures of women, and after a friendly messaging conversation I asked her for a series of pics.  We agreed on a price for a set number of pics and general outline of them; in the detailed description I provided with the money, I asked for her to smile because I loathe the frowny model face and the “open mouth, vacant stare” model face that seems fashionable in glamour photography.  She replied telling me that asking for a woman to smile is sexist.  Now, I get that if I was passing her on the street it might be sexist, but on a site that exists explicitly for the sale of sexually titillating content, this seems ridiculous.  Am I wrong? 

She’s full of shit and has been reading too much feminism.  This isn’t the street, and you’re not demanding uncompensated emotional labor from a stranger; you are a client ordering a custom product from a vendor, and that vendor specifically asked you to describe the product you want.  So when you do so, she tells you you’re “sexist”?  Is it “sexist” for a client who’s a lingerie fan to request I wear stockings to a date he’s paying me for, or for a diner to tell his waitress how he wants his steak cooked?  The very idea is idiotic.  My advice is that you tell her that her pointing out your sexism has caused you to rethink the situation, realizing that for a man to buy sexy pictures from a woman is not only “sexist” but also “objectification”, and you don’t want to participate in that.  Then cancel the deal with this airhead who doesn’t understand that sex work is work, and find an actual professional who understands professional behavior and will respond to a polite and reasonable request that’s outside her boundaries with a polite “sorry, I don’t do that” rather than with a hypocritical and absurd attack on your character.  The online sex market is full of unprofessional ninnies who make it harder for the pros, and you’re not doing anybody any favors by rewarding that kind of unprofessionalism with your money.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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On Monday evening I sent out this tweet, quoting an article someone else had tweeted (CAUTION: loud & obnoxious autoplay video):
People who follow me are mostly used to my hyperbole, but I reckon I touched a nerve because a couple of male internet friends took exception, asking whether I was passing judgment on women who have sex with men because they like them, and questioning whether I thought there was anything wrong with doing things for free that one could charge for, out of principle or affection, such as pro bono legal work or favors for friends.  I think my answer deserves a little expansion, and presentation in a more permanent medium than Twitter.

Like most people, I also do things for others I care about or whom I think it’s right to do things for, without asking for direct monetary compensation; however, I don’t deceive myself that those things aren’t labor.  I sometimes do have sex with men without cash changing hands, but those guys (or their wives or girlfriends) pay me in other ways; currency is not the only form of payment.  The problem isn’t when sexual labor is uncompensated by money, it’s when women buy into the male lie that sexual labor isn’t labor at all, because “mutuality”.  Oh, please.  I cook for people I love; I give them rides all over the place; I help them do manual labor; I wait on them when they’re sick.  And nobody pretends those things aren’t work just because I’m doing them for people I care about; that’s why we have expressions like “labor of love”.  But suddenly, when the work is sexual, everybody wants women to buy into the lie of “mutuality” even though I can sell my sexual labor & few men can; because so many men are willing to stick their dicks into anything warm (alive or not), dick is abundant and of low value.  It is not in any way an equal or fair trade for pussy, no matter what many men like to believe.  Expressed in economic terms, my sexual labor has value & his does not (except to other men); it’s a simple case of supply & demand.  So I’ll give sex for “free” (where that means “no direct cash exchange”) if and only if the recipient (note that word, which designates the one who receives a thing of value) recognizes that what I give him is a gift, a precious thing of high value that I choose to bestow upon him for some reason of my own, and not a thing he’s “owed” or, even worse, a thing that his own low-value participation constitutes “payment in kind” for.  In the case of a physical gift like jewelry, or a gift of labor like cooking a meal or helping a friend with some task, the recipient recognizes that the gift so conferred has value and expresses gratitude (unless he’s a semi-savage without proper manners).  But in the case of sex, men want to pretend that what was given wasn’t a gift but a “mutual experience”, and a woman who disagrees and demands recognition of her value is stigmatized & punished with insults, the threat or infliction of violence and, in barbaric regimes like the United States, organized state persecution, police violence and ostracism.  If that last weren’t true, this would be an academic discussion; however, it is true, and the recognition of the value of female sexual labor is not a mere intellectual exercise, but rather a matter of life and death for millions of women all over the world.

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Though I no longer use different stage names (in fact, virtually nobody except the government uses my legal name any more), I still have different email addresses and different websites for my activism and my sex work.  This blog and this email address are for my blogging and activism, while my escort site (Google my name & “Seattle escort” to find it) and this email address are for hiring my professional services as an escort.  And if you approach me through Twitter I’ll probably point you to whichever of those seems more appropriate.

Now, I don’t mind getting inquiries about my professional services through my activism address (though I will probably switch the correspondence to the other address when I realize what you want); the activism address is a lot better known and some people who want to hire me don’t know where to find the other one, so it’s all good.  However, I find myself rather annoyed when I answer an email to my escort address and find something blog-related.  Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of human psychology, and/or a few months of following my writing, should understand why:  when I see an email come in through that account, I naturally expect it means potential income, and that pleases me on both a practical and a sexual level (because money turns me on).  So how do you think I feel when I find no money is being offered?  Exactly.  And I don’t like feeling that way about communications from my readers, so please don’t do that.  The other day, some chowderhead made an even worse faux pas; he actually used my escort site booking form to request an (uncompensated) interview.  Given that the fraction of booking-form emails which actually turn into paid bills is quite high, I was even more annoyed at this false alert than I would’ve been from a simple email to the wrong address, and when he told me that he used the booking form on purpose because he figured it would get my attention better…well, let’s just say my response was somewhere between “cross” and “I have a good mind to tell you to fuck off”.

But even this irritation is not as powerful as the seriously-pissed-off feeling of opening my escort email to find someone trying to extract money from me by hawking some product or service.  Here’s a word of advice on that: Don’t.  As in, don’t ever do that.  If you want to interest me in your whatever-it-is, send an email offering me a free trial or sample or whatever, and if it sounds good I’ll let you send it to me (with no guarantee I’ll buy it or even like it).  But a straight-up sales pitch or begging letter with not even the pretense of a gift or offer?  Forget it.  And if you’re dumb and rude enough to do that, expect me to immediately install a new filter so future emails from you go straight to the trash.

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