solidarity for some?

I can’t even imagine what would happen in this movement if the tables were turned: a sex worker from a much different background with much different experiences coming into our community and telling us what is wrong with the way we work, and then blogging about it?  What would that look like?  PLEASE THINK ABOUT THIS.  Cuz I know that we DO know how this feels, we just have yet to make the correlation.

None of us are “THE” definitive experience of sex work.  We are all unique, just like everyone else.

So when we start drawing lines about who is a pimp, who works for peanuts, and the awful question of “why we do what we do”, (whether that be in an illegal system or within the legal and quasi-legal establishments), we are just dishing the same grief and disgust we all receive ourselves.  We are going further then the anti’s even, distinguishing who qualifies for solidarity within this movement.  This business of brothels has everyone’s panties in a bunch and ready to pull the trigger and throw around some weight from this movement, that frankly, we don’t have.

What will happen to this movement when we start drawing lines about what is acceptable business practices for sex workers?  There are far worse things than fines and padlocks.  Why stop there?  Let’s go after women with douchebag boyfriends who live off their money, or maybe even crack a whip on women who don’t identify as sex workers cuz they don’t take off their panties.  They don’t belong in this movement either, right?  Forget about our common core values of addressing violence and incarceration, right?  The very two things the brothel system is doing a better job of than us.

I am posting this up here, even though I feel like this stuff has gone way too far, cuz I want the world wide web to know that not every sex worker is co-signing this brothel hating.  There is a difference of personal blogging, and posting on BNG, which has quickly become the mouthpiece for this movement and is accepted as a united front by the world wide web and media.  Having said that, I am both glad and frustrated by the lack of editoralizing on this blog.  There is unequal representation of sex workers everywhere in media, and this back and forth has perpetuated that. I really think it should be addressed when sex worker-on-sex worker hating takes center stage in our public and private forums.

I also want the women at Bella’s to know that they have allies among this movement… and yeah, even among workers who are independent and/or illegal.  I know you have your reasons.  We all do.  And I will be damned if we have to justify ourselves and the way we work to anyone.  Even other sex workers.  Make your money, ladies.

This might be a good time to review our commitment to showing solidarity to autonomous communities within sex work, and look at the principles we have been exploring for years.  When we do ally work in unfamiliar systems of sex work, it is important to respect that we are guests within that community.  To take ownership of a community in order to justify condemnation would never be tolerated in any other context or overlapping community of sex workers.  Period.

The question we should be asking the brothels is “How can I be of service?”

If our help isn’t needed, we accept and respect that equally.  We wouldn’t have it any other way ourselves.

33 Responses

  1. Ahh kitty, I would leave it to you to misunderstand, misinterpret me and my intentions and then slap me in the face. I tried that how can I be of service? thing in the beginning. it didn’t work.

  2. I am so sad. As someone who saw the effects the time these ladies spent at the brothels had on them each, right after their experences, I think they have every right to be upset. As I understand it, neither is upset with the workers, per se (except Mariko, who is upset with someone who spilled tabasco sauce on her computer)- they are upset with the system. A system they both felt some serious repercussions from.

    Mariko and Amanda both work very hard in this movement, and have never wished to exclude anyone. Let’s not disparage their experiences. Some compassion might go a long way here.

    Solidarity for some, indeed. Certainly at the expense of our own, it would seem.😦

  3. At every oppurtunity we explain the difference between decriminalization and legalization and why we advocate for decriminalization. However, if Neveda were to lose it’s legal status and the State were to make criminals of all the brothel owners, operators and workers, it would be disasterous for all workers in this industry and a huge set back and defeat for the movement.

  4. I blogged on my personal blog for a reason: this is a personal journey for me and will continue to be. I wanted to try something I had not tried before.

    I recorded some (not all) incidents, my feelings and reactions. I judged one particular system but not the people. I liked my colleagues. (You haven’t heard me go off on strip clubs yet, have you? Talk about judging a system…)

    This was one brothel experience and I plan on having more. It may be MY definitive experience, I don’t yet know. I do know it’s not everyone’s experience — something I repeatedly wrote within my posts and comments. I also repeatedly point out where my own personal issues collide with brothel work — in an attempt to paint the experience in a truly personal light because, really, that’s all I can do.

    I think I have the right what I want on my own blog. Or maybe I should ask some sort of social justice/solidarity/public relations committe first before I dare post what I think? Do let me know.

  5. The question really is:, ‘what is your primary purpose’? Are you a worker and want access to systems of rights? Are you healthcare providers/outreacher worker who just happens to work in the sex industry? Are you a sex industry worker who also provides outreach? Are you an artist and rely on working in the sex industry to support your expression? Are you a mother and just want to support yourself and your family in the best way possible for you? Are you a client who wants have better service or just the best price? Are you a client and a worker and do you wear both hats effectively? Are you a sex industry worker who writes or a writer who works in the sex industry just have something to write about?

    The larger issue is the lack of agreed upon principals in the US sex worker rights activists movement. The Europeans and sex worker rights activists over there have several layers of principals already in place backed up by socially responsible practices that the US does not have in general let alone in sex worker rights world. Universal heath care for example.

    Anyway, this issue of not being able to negotiate for labor and work conditions is a universal challenge but more so for workers who’s only options are to be criminal and regulated.

    Regardless of the outcome of Prop K, we must come together and decide what are the principals sex worker rights activist want to operate from to move our issues forward. There’s already loads of structures and ground work already in place to pull from.

  6. Maxine,

    I know how BUSY BSUY you are with Prop K. You’re someone I have continually thought about while digesting my first brothel experience. Questions around worker rights became much more important to me within a legal framework. Just because it’s legal does not mean it’s automatically good. (You seem to recognize that.)

    XX

  7. and also the “How Can I be of Service?” question, it would sure be nice if you actually asked that of me and to me in your life, instead of trying to stick a rusty knife in my ass?

  8. […] and digesting what kitteninfinite wrote on BoundnotGagged. I don’t even want to blog on there anymore now. But then I just went back to see what others […]

  9. I just wanted to voice my opinion here and echo what Kitten said. I see nothing in that post of a personal attack, only a call to remember the anti-oppression principles we all worked on at the DA conferences and hold for this movement.

  10. Maxine, I’d be interested in learning more about the European models of activist principals. Could you do a post here or direct us to links explaining them perhaps?

    “The Europeans and sex worker rights activists over there have several layers of principals already in place backed up by socially responsible practices that the US does not have in general let alone in sex worker rights world. Universal heath care for example.”

  11. http://www.sexworkeurope.org/site/images/PDFs/dec_brussels2005.pdf

    http://www.salli.org/info/lib/brussels2005manifesto.pdf

    http://espu-ca.org/wp/?page_id=16

    http://www.walnet.org/csis/groups/icpr_charter.html

    Here’s somethings to start with.

    All movements and groups form around principals, the US prostitutes rights movement hasn’t spent the time doing this yet as far as I know.

  12. If people can’t speak their truth about their own experiences, then what kind of “movement” is it, anyway?

  13. I guess my other post with several links got stuck in moderation,,
    But here is some of the stuff from the now defunk cyprian guild which met in the 1990’s in SF and then the founder and several of the members got busted which convinced me that decrim has to happen before or while groups are forming, otherwise, its just matter of time.

    CODE OF ETHICS FOR THE CYPRIAN GUILD: AN ASSOCIATION OF SEX PROFESSIONALS

    1.) Have a sincere commitment to provide the highest quality attention to those who seek our professional services.
    2.) Conduct our business and professional activities with honesty and integrity. Project a professional image in all aspects of our practices.
    3.) Acknowledge the confidential nature of the professional relationship with clients and respect our clients and other guild member’s right to privacy.
    4.) Perform only those services for which we are qualified, and utilize techniques which protect health and safety as necessary.
    5.) Keep all business agreements or renegotiate in a timely fashion.

    This code of ethics is a statement of the standards by which Guild members agree to conduct business and is a declaration of the general principles of acceptable, ethical, professional behavior.

    WHO WE ARE

    The Cyprian Guild is a trade association and social network for former and current providers of commercial erotic entertainment, services and education. We define a provider as an artisan who has sold his/her own erotic services for profit, also known as a sex worker. Our members may or may not be self-employed, or they may employ others, but they qualify as voting members if they meet our definition of a provider and have at least one year experience.

    OUR MISSION AND PHILOSOPHY

    The Cyprian Guild’s primary purpose is to advance the professional interests of its members. Our meetings, held in San Francisco, provide an opportunity to learn about the many aspects of operating a successful erotic enterprise. Topics such as marketing, pricing, applicable laws and taxes, customer relations, and safety are some of the items discussed. We develop and abide by professional codes of conduct which allow us to distinguish ourselves in the marketplace as knowledgeable, competent and responsible providers of erotic entertainment and services. The Guild is also interested in community building and public community education projects and member advocacy. Greater respect and a higher social valuation of sex businesses can be achieved by promoting high standards and quality service, while addressing reasonable public concerns about safety and order. We believe that no form of consensual adult sex should be illegal or unfairly discriminated against, and that this tenet should also apply in the marketplace. Prostitution should be decriminalized and recognized as a legitimate business activity.

    STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

    The Cyprian Guild’s mission is to enhance the business and professional interests of its members. This mandate may include encouraging the skill development necessary for competent, ethical execution of commercial erotic entertainment and the following examples:

    1.) Formulation and use of ethical, responsible, profitable business practices.
    2.) Safeguarding health and safety of members and the public by encouraging and practicing safer sex techniques, or engaging in no or low risk activities. The Guild will enhance member’s understanding about sexuality, health, pleasuring techniques or other relevant topics by providing current information and sharing resources.
    3.) Public forum participation with the goals of improving the social and legal status of our business and reducing any perceived risks to society.
    4.) Protecting membership interests by working with government agencies toward mutual benefit whenever possible.
    5.) Seeking professional counsel for member benefit.

    Circa 1990’s

  14. I spent twenty years in the sex industry. The first three and a half years I spent on the streets of New York. I was just a teenager.

    I have worked the strreets, houses, escort and independent. Worked for pimps (the real pimps) and madams.

    Believe me I have stories. Believe me I have stories. After twenty years, you bet your ass I do.

    I choose to keep those stories away from the public. We have many enemies and although at times it could be cathartic for me personally, any of those stories will only further the oppression against us. That is how it goes for us.

    Unity in propoganda and unity in action. You want to gain the right not to be arrested, not to have your kids taken away and ther right to work outside of a ghetto system, get your shit together.

    Don’t post fodder that the enemy will surely use against us.

  15. Lisa with all due respect and admiration for all that you and others are doing out in California. And I truly do admire and support all of your effort, but I have to disagree with you on this issue.

    There is no greater enemy, in my opinion, than isolation. An isolated sex worker, an isolated sex worker rights advocate, are the easiest targets for all who oppose sex worker rights. A movement for social justice is strongest in force. We can not afford to cut people out of the movement because their experiences and ideas are diverse. Nor can we ask them to be silent. We can not suspend rights in order to gain them.

    If we are at a point where we have to take away rights and invalidate our own side, how can we expect other sides to respect us and and our demand for human civil and labor rights.

    I’ve seen more and more of this kind of thing in the last six months. It truly scares me and despite being a current sex worker, I am seriously considering whether I belong in this movement at all. I came into this movement to respect, hear and empower peoples rights to choose, to live, to be,
    If we are at a point where we are taking away rights from our own side, in order to further rights of our side, I don’t belong here and don’t want a part.

    I truly care and respect each of you. I’m not trying to make anyone wrong. This is respectful disagreement as I question whether I belong in this movement in it’s evolving state. If this truly what the movement sees as best, you have my respect, my best wishes, but count me out.

    respectfully and in peace

    Jill

  16. I’m not sure I fully understand all of what kitteninfinite was referring to in this post, but acknowledging the bad and what needs to change as well as the good in the industry is exactly why many sex worker rights activists have more credibility for me than the abolitionists.
    I think withholding information about bad things that you know about for that reason (and I am aware that there are others) is really just giving them one more weapon to use, since it is popular on the abolitionist side to claim that sex worker rights advocates are just “high-class call girls” who have never known a day’s hardship in the sex industry. That is, in fact, the most common argument that I have seen them use.

  17. Jill, Djiril, I think you have excellent points. This is a movement and an industry of people with incredibly diverse experiences and choices. There is no one “right” model for sex work, but there are models that are better for some and harmful for others. I’ve had experiences that both empowered me and left me shattered, as I’m sure most of us have.

    But we cannot achieve our goals without solidarity for all, without creating a space to hear everyone’s story, good and bad (as subjective and diffuse as they are), in my opinion.

  18. I didn’t see the issue as withholding information as much as it was how grievances are handled and being fair to all parties involved. Since there is so much disrespect operating institutionally on all levels as well as internally, workers only choice frequently can be to take it to the streets. Hence Prop K. The mandate to stop arresting workers has been sitting on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ desks for 12 years.
    When there isn’t any agreed upon principals at any level, its easy to have disputes. Much of ground work that activist have done in Europe and India has to caucus around principals on an institutional human and civil rights level but how disagreements are handled depends on that republican booststrap thang.
    The links didn’t get posted, but there are some under the ‘lnks’ on espu’s website.

  19. Two topics that are always focused on at labor school, grievance training and oppression awareness.
    One of the best trainings for anti oppression is put on by the theater of liberation (also known as the theater of the oppressed) and there are several kinds of grievance/ conflict resolution training depending on which level you want to focus on. For sex industry workers and activist, we have to have a high level of proficiency in conflict resolution skills with in our selves, amongst co workers and co activists and then the larger public.
    It’s really allot we have to deal with when we don’t even have any basic agreed upon principals or about what our goals are and the police are chasing both legal and illegal workers.

  20. Oh and I for got to mention that the haters keep showing up and occupying our lives with their lies too.

  21. I can not see a scenario that we benefit by moderation. I hate to beat this issue to death but our credibility comes from dealing pragmatically with issues, our movement too small and spread out to expend resources policing our own community for content.

    A canned scripted message that is delivered while shutting out the people and rights of the people in our movement that are somehow different from an agreed upon message is only going to harm. We simply, in my opinion, do not have the resources and upsides of moderation/censored views so are outweighed by the downsides. People outside the movement already have a slant against us as sex workers. We can’t afford to further that with a political position that ignores reality of a significant percentage of sex workers. That appears disingenuous to the outside, confirms the stance of the abolitonists who sell our movement as out of touch, unresponsive to those harmed in the sex industry and elitist in only taking the side and causes of sex workers that are not harmed. We might as well punt the ball to them on 2nd down if we are going to give them as easy a score as denying voice to those harmed.

  22. Maybe my comment was misunderstood. If we were discussing these issues in person, perhaps there would be fewer misunderstandings.

    I must admit I was mortified reading Mariko’s posting in regards to her Neveda experience. All of us know a woman who has got a Neveda brothel horror story and I am quite certain that we are all on the same page as to advocating for decriminalization as opposed to legalization BUT, didn’t Melissa Farley just make a big scene in Neveda recently when she released her book? And weren’t we all quite upset at her “research” findings and all those personal horror stories she included about brothel workers, which served her agenda of making brothels in Neveda no longer legal but in fact turning every worker into a criminal.

    Not to take away from someone’s personal trauma but all I was saying was to be very careful what we put out there and who in the end will benifit from what we post or what we say or what we write and to try as best we can to make sure that it is us and not them.

    I think that when we discuss the bad things that happen to us as sex workers and I mean in general terms, it is better to put it in the context of how a majority of the bad things that happens to us is directly related to our criminalization.

    I also want to add that many women prefer not to be independent and do prefer to work with and for other women.

  23. Lisa, I have only heard a very few of the stories you have to tell about being a worker for 20 + years. I truly believe that if you told your story to the public, in your own words, with your own voice, that the public would be on your side.

    Melissa Farley will do what she does, but they are losing ground. They really are. You could see when they came to the DCCC meeting and talked. You could see they were feeling vulnerable. you could see that they are worried.

    Lisa, your stories are very valuable. I think the way to beet Farley is to get your story out more often and in a better way than Farley. The more sex workers speak out the better. I don’t necessarily think total honesty is always good. But Lisa I think you should let yourself be interviewed for the newspaper. Even if it has to be anonymous.

  24. Melissa Farley knows how to market herself and her product. She isn’t a riveting speaker, she isn’t charismatic, nor is she particularly warm. Her research is flawed and has numbers that are absolutely unreasonable. Yet she sells this. Sells it well. Why? Because she realized what the most common perceptions people have about the sex industry and confirms them. She takes it a step further than validating their views. She tells them they are so right that it is much worse. Then she points out her flawed studies and they are sold. She offers no solutions. She disdains virtually all that have been in the industry even those that agree with her because they cut into the spotlight and cut into the speaking fee pie.

    Why would be cede the ground to Farley? Every time a scandal blows out the first person out there is Farley. We can’t hide from the negative in the sex industry and expect to be taken as credible.

    Take the negative and give solutions to solving those negatives and we now have their market plus the added perk of having what they don’t. Solutions.

    Doesn’t it make more sense to allow those that most need the human rights that we all advocate for and believe in to have voice? And to acknowledge their experiences as part of our mission to advance sex worker rights?

    I agree with Lisa. Virtually all of us know someone that has been mistreated in the Nevada brothels. Instead of shutting the people we know out, we need to be there to offer solutions. Decrim is a solution. K in California is a solution. Pushing the very reasons we are advocating for rights under the carpet and talking just about rights is under cutting ourselves and our movement.

    Beyond that I have heard it this weekend. People are now concerned that they shouldn’t post here. Is that really a message we want to deliver? Are so advanced as a movement that we can say sorry to these people but we no longer need them unless they want to use our words instead of theirs?

    People can be pissed of at me all they want to about my posts this weekend. But these issues need to be spoken. As a current sex worker because a health crisis has created a dynamic where that is the only option, I wish we had decrim in place. Whether my reasons for entering the sex industry are part choice, part need, so what? If some prick decides to rape and beat the shit out of me…… I have to hide that from the cops and health care providers. If I have to hide that from the movement i love and cherish, then it is time for me to advocate for dogs or anti war or something else.

  25. I have pushed too hard today. Because of the above referenced health crisis and the fact that my body is screaming to me that i have pushed too hard, I won’t have another post for a few days.

    peace

  26. Kitteninfinite,

    I am at Bella’s now. I’m going to share your words of encouragement with the rest of the girls.

    Thank you…

    Rachel

  27. I have read through this whole long discussion which is unusual for me. I have to say I think Amber Rhea said it best:

    “If people can’t speak their truth about their own experiences, then what kind of “movement” is it, anyway?”

    Personally, I think the Nevada brothels could be improved with some honesty, but everyone is too afraid. I also think this Farley person seems to be scaring people into silence and that seems crazy to me.

    For me, I am an independent person. I do not want to fit in one of Maxine Doogan’s little boxes and spend hours going through her indoctrination procedures where I learn the proper way to have a grievance. You are not my mama, Maxine. You are not my union boss. You are not my husband and you most certainly are not MY pimp. You do not represent me or speak for me. You are certainly not authorized to negotiate on my behalf.

    The fact is that the truth is out there. Anyone with Google can figure out that the current legal brothels in Nevada are badly in need of reform. The Amsterdam situation has become all about crime and violence and illegal traficking of 14 year old Nigerian girls. The Hells Angels are hot on the trail of Prop K and are salivating at the prospect of getting to San Francisco early thanks to Maxine’s Prop K.

    We have real problems here. We can find and promote solutions. We need honesty, not propoganda. Let’s not shut down the conversation. Let’s be adults and figure it out.

  28. Outstanding, you’re an independent sex worker that is deeply concerned about trafficking of 14 year olds that happens to buy into the false rad/fem assumption that legalization and decrim are the same thing and that we support US style legalization.

    And independent escorts advocate criminalization and the swedish model which put them out of business. You know all this about Maxine but don’t know the difference between legalization and decrim. Since you want to talk issues not personalities, allegedly, why the focus on personalities? Why would an independent escort advocate status quo or the swedish model?

    fucking pathetic

  29. You have obviously never worked in a city controlled by gangs. I have. The situation in San Francisco is better than that. This stupid Proposition K is going to bring gang wars to this city. Indies in San Francisco will be forced to choose an affiliation or just simpley get killed or beat to a pulp. Do you even know anyone in a gang? I do and they are following Prop K real close. Things are not perfect here, but Prop K will make them worse.

    Not to mention that it gets rid of SAGE which is not perfect by any means, but they do get women out of prostitution who should never be here in the first place. Face it, not everyone can handle it. Why cut off help to our sisters who want out?

    Yeah we need to change the law and yeah we REALLY need pressure put on the cops and DA to prosecute crimes against us. But this stupid Prop K is just going to make things worse for us, not better.

  30. Don’t throw your condescending bullshit at me. You my dear are nothing more than a hater with a really bad undercover disguise. You remind me of the men with the really bad hairpieces arguing it’s their real hair even though it crosses their forehead horizontally.

    You’re right, fucking gangs are salivating as they watch KQED for the latest updates on K as they plot to simply force independent escorts to chose sides or be killed or beaten to a pulp. Who the fuck are you trying to kid with this shit? Pitching the sale that you are an independent escort who happens to favor criminalization over decrim.

    Ok, lets talk SAGE. Under TVPRA only rad fem abolitionist based orgs get access to the funding pie due to the “anti prostitution oath” thus who is cutting out who? I personally am happy there are orgs out there to help those who do not belong in sex work get out. I don’t know of any sex worker rights activist that supports anyone being forced to be in the industry or anyone being in the industry who shouldn’t be.

    Keeping us criminals is going to make things better for us? An independent sex worker that is focused on 14 year old trafficking victims and that advocates for SAGE and against decrim. My threshold for your abysmal undercover routine is nearing it’s end. You want to come here and be honest about who you are and express your views, no problem. I am the first to advocate your right to your views and I will advocate your right to post here even though I so disagree with you. Keep pushing the lies and insulting us with your faux/horrendously transparent effort to pretend to be one of us, I will post your entire fucking IP address, that way everyone can take the time to know who you are.

    Save the condescending bullshit about never having worked in a city controlled by gangs. I worked LA, Boston, New York, and Providence, among others, so you stick the I’m badass from SF up your ass.

  31. anon indie, you want your moment to express your views, contact me at zeta.igriega at gmail We can schedule you on XXBN talk radio as a guest and you can demonstrate to all that you are the independent sex worker and not the rad fem hater. Don’t call in with a blocked phone number because we don’t put guests on the air with block.

  32. Ok, been away from this thread (and blogs in general) for a while, and now I come here and see this “anonindie” person is appropriating my words… oh GREAT.

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