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Posts Tagged ‘sisterhood’

Diary #398

Last week was dominated by the sudden death of my friend Laura Lee on Wednesday morning; Matisse and I found out Wednesday evening about 10, but we were asked not to say anything until Laura’s daughter made a public statement.  Working out what to say to the press was a lot to ask of such a young woman, but she handled it with the strength and courage she inherited from her mother.  I never met Laura in person; we’ve been talking for a couple of years now about arranging that, but alas fate intervened.  But she and I have been online friends for years, and we shared the deep bonds of sisterhood that only whores can know with each other.  As I wrote in another diary column more than three years ago,

…when sex worker friends get together there’s a kind of camaraderie that I’ve not generally felt among groups of other adult women; it’s a sense of shared experience, of being denizens of a secret world unknown to the general population.  Perhaps we cleave to each other more tightly because the “good” women of the world reject us; perhaps it’s an outgrowth of the necessity for us to watch each other’s backs.  And perhaps it’s also due to our comfort with displays of affection and intimacy that others would find shameful…

That also extends to our online interactions; Brooke Magnanti and I were good friends and confidantes for years before I met her, and Matisse and I were so close that when we finally met for the first time in person, we were finishing each other’s sentences and people were surprised to hear that we hadn’t ever met before.  And the same goes for my relationship with Laura; we sent each other packages, chatted in DMs on Twitter, and supported and consoled each other through some extremely difficult times.  So when I heard the news, I didn’t receive it with the detached sadness one experiences at the death of a beloved celebrity or casual acquaintance, but with the pain of the loss of a real friend.  The sex worker rights movement has lost one of our greatest warriors, a fierce campaigner for human rights who was willing to go toe-to-toe with horrific evil for the benefit of thousands of women who didn’t even know her.  And those of us who did know her have also lost someone we dearly loved.

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Claudia Christophe is a Chicago-based escort currently on hiatus until 2019.  Nonetheless, she has returned to blogging on her own blog, The Claudia Chronicles, here on WordPress and she may very reluctantly return to Twitter later this year.  Previously, she has been an active participant with SWOP-Chicago under a different identity and remains an ardent sex workers’ rights activist in her own way.

Not one second, not one dime.

Let me make something very clear at the start:  I’m not interested in “not all” protestations.  I’m not interested in “No True Scotsmen” objections.  I’m not interested in catering to willful stupidity.  If we’re all on the same page, let’s proceed.

Sex workers need to screen Potential Feminist Allies (PFAs) the way escorts screen potential clients.  Why?  For the same reason escorts screen potential clients:  to make sure that those who will be sharing intimate space with us won’t violate us in said space.  In the case of the sex workers’ rights movement, that intimate space is the movement itself.  Thanks to the tireless, too often thankless, and overall, unpaid efforts of the worldwide sex workers’ rights movement, our voices and diverse experiences within the sex industry are being listened to with increasing respect.  But in the public sphere, that is the media and halls of power, we’re still drowned out by the voices of mainstream feminists who outright hate us or, at the very least, pity us as eternal victims.  It is the latter group of feminist allies that we have to guard against as the former will never be our allies.

It is tempting to accept help from our “sisters” in the feminist movement if they show even the slightest inkling of sympathy for us; it is equally tempting to lend support to a feminist event, even though there’s no hint that such sisterly support will be reciprocal.  But we have to make sure that the support is for sex work itself and not, ostensibly, just for the sex worker; that is how we get monstrosities like the Nordic Model and all its equally gross mutations.  Feminists who can only support sex workers when we talk about bad clients (because it reaffirms their belief that deep down all of us actually hate sex work and can’t wait to be violently rescued), or feminists who only support us because of similar reproductive organs (excluding male, trans and nonbinary workers), are not allies at all; they are the feminists who will inevitably turn on us as soon as it becomes inconvenient to stand with us.

The way we need to screen these PFAs is not a one-to-one analogy to client screening, but it’s close enough.  Let’s start with real-world identification:  Who are they, individual supporters or an organization?  At this point with a client, I would require employment information for verification but in the case of PFAs, I need references:  what background research did they do to make their decision to support the sex workers’ rights movement?  And how have they cast their votes regarding sex work and the law?  Have they consistently voted for politicians and propositions that promote carceral solutions?  Will they continue to vote for these politicians in the future because they subscribe to a “lesser evil” mentality in the voting booth?  Have they donated money to organizations that promote sex trafficking propaganda and an obviously biased exclusion of dissenting and highly nuanced sex worker voices?  Just like verifying references, employment information, checking for previous violent interpersonal actions, and IDs upon meeting, these would-be allies need to prove that our standards for safeguarding our autonomy are ones they will support also.

I, and many other escorts, have a requirement to meet clients in public first, with a few exceptions.  PFAs all need to meet us in public; we are not the “side-chick”, okay?  If we’re invited to participate in a function, we can’t let them hide our presence and thus lessen the impact of the invitation.  If an organization has come to the conclusion that their previous stance on sex workers’ rights was flawed, then the organization needs to publicly amend that stance at the same or greater volume as previous statements on the subject.  This is especially important if said organization ever promoted legislation and policies that have been proven harmful to sex workers:

This is extremely important if the PFA is a politician or other policymaker or influencer.  PFAs, whether individual or organizational, must take responsibility for any past harm they committed against us before we extend our hand in friendship, and nothing less than this.

And then there’s the money aspect.  The obvious screening analogy to this is the deposit:  would-be allies need to put their money where their mouths are before an alliance is solidified.  This is especially important with any famous, wealthy feminist celebrity who might decide, even for a brief moment, that openly supporting sex workers’ rights will be great publicity.  Oh, so Famous Actress made a statement with a half-hearted support for the movement?  Let’s contain our excitement until it’s backed up with cash or other valuable resources (like writers’ rooms!) that Ms. Actress has access to and we don’t.  If supporting our movement becomes unpopular again for whatever reason, at least let’s not expend our precious resources of time, money, energy, attention, etc., on a fair-weather friend.  Maxine Doogan brought up a similar point in this YouTube video where she called out Hollywood hypocrites who make money off portraying us for a substantial paycheck on-screen, while pleading with politicians off-screen to incarcerate us “for our own good”.  For individuals who aren’t wealthy but are new supporters to the cause, well, time is money and we’ll gladly tell you how best to spend it.  Goddess knows that the coffers of the sex workers’ rights movement are sorely in need of filling.

Harsh?  I don’t think so; this is merely the minimum we should expect.  I have a feeling that there may be an upsurge in new feminist support for the sex workers’ rights movement coming soon, but I also fear that it could be very superficial.  In other words, they might offer just enough support to lull sex worker activists into thinking we have more people on our side than ever before until, as I wrote earlier, it suddenly becomes inconvenient to stand with us…until Ms. Privileged Feminist with the large checkbook and larger voting bloc threatens to withdraw support from her feminist organization of choice for their support of sex workers’ rights.  It’s very important to make sure ally participation in our movement doesn’t become a “trend” with a shelf life shorter than an Instastory.

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Diary #392

It’s just so lovely having Grace nearby.  Instead of having to fly her here and deal with all the logistics of a two-week vacation, all I had to do is take a two-hour drive out to Sunset and I can visit for as long as I like.  In fact, I was able to visit for Christmas, come back to Seattle on Boxing Day, then go back last Saturday and stay until Tuesday.  And you know what I did all day Sunday and Monday?  Mostly a lot of nothing.  Oh, I caught up on some writing on Sunday, and I prepared dinner on Monday, but other than that it was just a lot of being stoned, listening to music, talking, cuddling up on the couch and watching movies.  I need to do this sort of thing a LOT more often; I think I’ll do an Imbolc feast like I used to in the old days, with my sister’s gumbo as the entree.  It’s true that there are still a lot of repairs to do on the place (and I’ve added some tools Grace wants to my Amazon wishlist), and it’ll be a long time before I can find where anything is (when it isn’t still in a box).  But in a year or so it should be a place I can happily invite friends to visit, and I enjoy seeing Grace in the meantime even if it’s still a mess.

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Diary #382

I don’t really mind busy days and weeks, unless the busy-ness derives from unpleasant stuff.  When the things I’m busy with are pleasant, profitable or both, I actually prefer busy times because, left to its own devices, my brain is wont to dwell on far less pleasant things.  I’ve been devoting more effort lately to making it harder to hear the awful things shut up in crates in my mental basement; since I can’t get rid of them there’s no way to eliminate their awful din completely.  However, I can spend as much time as possible in the less-haunted parts of the house; eliminate, ignore or refuse activities that might take me downstairs alone; turn the music up so loud they’re drowned out; and spend as little of the rest of the time conscious and sober as is practical.  Besides work, I spent Sunday evening with Lorelei as usual, and tonight I’ll be with Jae; then Thursday through the weekend my friend Angela Keaton will be visiting (including a party on Friday night!) leading up to my birthday with Lorelei.  And if I or somebody else thinks about it at the time (no promises), I may even have a picture or two from the party to share with y’all later.

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The work you do does not give you dignity; the dignity comes from you.  –  Elena Reynaga

Counterfeit Comfort

The Notorious Badge

An unusual portrayal of sex work in cinema:

…the 1918 silent film The Yellow Ticket…follows Lea, a young Jewish woman who lives in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Hoping to study medicine at a university in St. Petersburg, Lea is forced to register as a sex worker, receiving a “yellow ticket” as proof of her status as a prostitute, or else she will go to prison for being Jewish.  Posing as the deceased Christian sister of her former tutor, Lea reluctantly lives these dual lives until a classmate discovers her at the brothel and she tries to commit suicide…

Broken Record 

Low-population areas come up with the most ludicrous concepts for supposed “gypsy whore” magnets:

Fargo [North Dakota] police arrested two men as part of a two-day sting…[during] the annual Big Iron Farm Show…[spokesow Junell] Krabbenhoft [oinked that]…“Any major event, anything that’s going to draw people to the area,” could attract potential buyers…

An Example to the West (#316) 

The areas Americans dismiss as the “third world” are far ahead of the US in sex worker rights:

…sex workers [are] campaign[ing] for an International Labour Organization (ILO) resolution establishing the right to self-employed sex work, with a view to it being included in the individual legislations of Latin American countries, given that, although sex work is not explicitly penalised in many countries of the region, it is criminalised in many ways…they managed, after five years of failed attempts, to secure a thematic hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  The demands presented included the recognition of sex work, that the relevant authorities in each state intervene to end the impunity surrounding crimes against sex workers, and measures to tackle the institutional violence they suffer…The IACHR…“urged member states to design public policies and regulations that protect the human rights of sex workers…and…put an end to the stigmatisation and discrimination to which they are subjected”…

Traffic Circle (#431)

It’s so nice to see an article in which migrant African sex workers are treated as adults with agency rather than passive, childlike “victims”:

Bar girls and sex workers have a visible presence in Pattaya [Thailand].  Women and girls from neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar have made up a large slice of the sex worker demographic for as long as people can recall…Among the most recent round of newcomers are some women from Africa…Last week Pattaya City police arrested 12 women from Uganda…A Cambodian sex worker…[said] she came to the city to earn a living five years ago.  Pattaya improved her life, she says, and she wants to remain there for as long as possible…”Back at home, I can’t even earn 10% of what I am earning here.  I notice a lot more black girls these days but none of us get intimidated by this.  After all, we also came here to find an opportunity to make a better living”…

SWOP Behind Bars

A good article with a horrible headline: sex work is work, not an “offense”:

SWOP Behind Bars…provides a community and concrete aid [to incarcerated sex workers] when they’re released, from clothing and shoes to stamped envelopes, notebooks and hygiene products.  In a new program, the women also get cellphones…Connecting women to resources quickly after leaving prison is crucial.  “When you’re in prison and you get out and you don’t have any money, you’re almost forced back into sex work.  Which may not be where these women want to be, because it does put them at risk for rearrest,” [SBB founder Alex] Andrews said.  She calls this “state-sponsored trafficking”.  Women are cut off from their families and released without resources for finding jobs, getting an education or pursuing a GED.  Sex work is effectively the only way many of them have to make money…Finding cheap, reliable phone service nationwide has been tricky, Andrews says.  Many services aren’t set up to allow people to purchase phones for others, and she’d like to buy 90 days of service at a time, rather than the usual 30-day package.  Most women coming out of prison aren’t in a position to start paying for their own phone after only a month on the outside.  For the moment, Andrews has settled on Straight Talk, a program that’s offered through Wal-Mart and gets good service even in rural areas.  SWOP can send out refurbished iPhone 5S with 30 days of service for around $100 each.  The organization is accepting donations of used smart phones to help expand the program and lower costs…

To Molest and Rape 

“Former prison transport officer” = “pig who was actively employed when he raped women at gunpoint”:

A federal grand jury…returned a two-count indictment against Eric Scott Kindley…for crimes related to his sexual assault of a woman in his custody, and using his firearm in furtherance of the assault…Kindley was indicted on June 29, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona, for committing similar offenses related to sexual assaults he committed on a different woman in his custody…These indictments stem from Kindley’s arrest in Stockton, California, on June 1, 2017…Kindley operated Group 6, LLC doing business as Special Operations Group, a company that local jails throughout the country hire to transport individuals who have been arrested on out-of-state warrants…In each instance, the victim was handcuffed and restrained, and taken to secluded locations where Kindley [raped] her…Kindley threatened each victim with his firearm and warned her that…no one will believe her…

Send In the Clowns 

This year’s “creepy clown” panic is off to a good start:

An Ohio man who tried to discipline his 6-year-old daughter by chasing her around in a clown mask has been charged after she ran screaming to a stranger’s apartment…Vernon Barrett Jr. donned a clown mask and began chasing his young daughter outside their apartment…the frightened child ran to a female stranger’s car nearby, jumped inside and said she was being chased by a clown…That woman later told police that the man wearing the clown mask pulled the child out of her car.  Unsure of what was happening, the woman called 911…the child [then] ran into the adjacent apartment of…Dion Santiago…[who] grabbed his firearm and fired a shot out of his window…

The Mote and the Beam (#748)

Liz Brown exposes more horrific laws that destroy civil rights under the pretext of “fighting sex trafficking”:

…two significant expansions of federal power…passed the Senate unanimously…Under these new measures, the FBI and immigration agents as well as state and local police can secretly wiretap suspected sex workers, or those who associate with them.  The wiretapping authority…includ[es] consenting adults on any side of a commercial sexual exchange.  The bills call for a new national strategy to reduce “demand” for prostitution, order all U.S. attorneys offices be trained on treating the sex trade as “a form of gender-based violence”…[ban] federal funds [from] any nonprofit that helps people who profit off sex and…broaden…the term “criminal street gang” [to] capture any five or more sex workers traveling together…[the bills provide] a pretext for ICE and Homeland Security Investigations to join in small-town prostitution stings and massage-parlor raids across America…[another] bill (S.1312) gives the attorney general power to file a civil suit against anyone suspected of…planning to commit “any action that constitutes or will constitute” a violation of various federal statutes…This…could allow the feds to preemptively shut down websites, search engines, social apps, browsers, encryption services, or brick-and-mortar businesses because criminals (broadly defined) might communicate there…The new TVPA will also make fighting…”sextortion”…an invitation for the federal government to get involved in teen sexting cases…

The Widening Gyre (#763) 

I am so enjoying watching “authorities” forced to deny the “sex trafficking” propaganda they helped spread:

Looks like the Roseville, California, police department got a little fed up with social media posts going on about local “sex trafficking kidnappers” and “suspicious people.”  And so it came out with this amazing document on its Facebook page…”kidnapping by strangers is a rare crime in the United States.  Stranger abductions of children are so frightening and so unusual that when they do happen, they make national news…children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent (.01%) of all missing children…The Roseville Police Department has never taken a report of anyone being kidnapped by a stranger and forced into the sex trade…We…found no evidence that human traffickers were [at shopping malls] recruiting strangers“…

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I notice that a lot of escorts whine about criminalization, yet don’t want to do anything about it.  How are we ever to evolve change if we attack each other, or if we won’t speak up, or at least get behind someone who is out on the front line fighting for our rights?

It has been said that trying to organize sex workers is like herding cats.  I’ve always found it darkly amusing that prohibitionists paint us as meek, passive, spineless creatures at the mercy of anything with a penis, when in actuality sex workers in general are the most stubborn, willful, independent and even defiant women I know.  In fact, if you look at anti-sex worker rhetoric from prior to about a century ago, you’ll notice that these exact characteristics were used to support the claim that we are “bad” women, because the Establishment likes women meek, passive and spineless and we’re the opposite.  We like to do things our own way, on our own schedule, by our own rules, and we’ve been well-known since Biblical times for rebelling against authority and refusing to jump when told to or speak only when spoken to.  I’m sure you see where this is going: the very characteristics that drive women toward sex work in the first place, the same characteristics which enable us to succeed in a profession without structure, bosses or trade unions, are the very traits that make us difficult to organize.

There is hope, of course.  The submissive or weak-minded are easily driven from the rear by “leaders” who don’t actually lead, but rather stay in safety and shout orders while others take the risks.  But the ornery and self-motivated can only be led from the front, by those willing to take the risks and model the behavior they’d like others to adopt.  Nor can these leaders be motivated by the desire for power, glory or adulation; most sex workers are keen judges of human behavior and can smell hypocrisy and manipulation a mile off.  The only way we’re ever going to win our rights is by ceaselessly fighting the lies prohibitionists tell about us, and relentlessly opposing the police state’s desire to control us.  The best way to do that is by speaking up and being out, by refusing to hide our light under a bushel, by fearlessly living our lives no matter who tries to threaten and terrorize us into submission.  If we do a good job of that, others will follow our examples, and those gifted with the ability to organize will take on those roles.  It won’t be a fast process, but it’s already well underway; there are strong sex worker organizations in many countries, and though criminalization makes that harder in the US it’s gradually happening here as well (albeit at a maddeningly-slow pace).  In her book The Love Project, Arleen Lorrance wrote, “Be the change you want to see happen instead of trying to change anyone else.”  This quote is usually shortened to “Be the change you want to see in the world” and misattributed to Gandhi, but I prefer the original phrasing and try my best to live by it.  I don’t have the power to change anyone else, and I wouldn’t want it; however, I do have the power to behave in the way – independently, fearlessly, honestly and ethically – that I’d like others to behave.  And I can only hope that by so doing, others will like what they see and want to do it as well…not because anyone forced them to, but because they want to in order to win rights for themselves, their friends and all their sisters.

(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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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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