Friday the Thirteenth

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.  –  P.J. O’Rourke

Today is the third Friday the Thirteenth since I’ve been writing The Honest Courtesan, and there will be three such days this year (today, April 13th and July 13th); as it so happens, three is the maximum number of such days in any given year, though each year has at least one.  In my very first column on the subject (Friday, August 13th, 2010) I explained how the superstition arose and why even superstitious whores should consider it lucky for us rather than unlucky:

Given the origin of beliefs about Friday the 13th…even the superstitious whore has nothing to worry about…since Friday is the day sacred to our patron goddess, and 13 the most feminine of numbers, Friday the 13th should be good luck for whores even if it really were bad luck for Christian men.  Now, I’m not really superstitious; I don’t believe that a day can bring either good luck or bad.  But considering that the reasons for fear of this day are so closely related to the reasons our profession is maligned and suppressed, perhaps whores and those who support our rights should make every Friday the Thirteenth a day to speak out in favor of full decriminalization and an end to the institutionalized persecution of prostitutes.

Nine months later (on Friday, May 13th, 2011) I explained why it’s especially important for my readers who aren’t sex workers to speak out:

A number of advocates are working to respond to the lies, propaganda and misinformation wherever we find them, but…we’re often accused of distorting facts to make ourselves look good, and no matter how assiduously we work to present a balanced view this is a natural and credible accusation against anyone who advocates for some issue which directly concerns her.  That’s why allies are so important; it’s much harder for the prohibitionists to shout down people who don’t have a dog in the fight, but merely support prostitutes’ rights on moral grounds.  Every Friday the Thirteenth I will ask my readers, especially those of you who aren’t yourselves sex workers, to speak up for us in some way; talk about the issue with someone who will listen, make a post on a discussion board, comment on a news story which spreads disinformation, or even just post a link to this column.  If you aren’t confident in your ability to debate, even a simple phrase like “I think adult women should have the right to decide why and with whom they want to have sex” or “everyone has the right to equal protection under the law” might have a tiny but important impact on those who overhear.  Because in the final analysis, they’re the ones we have to convince; rational people already support some type of prostitution-law reform and fanatics cannot be convinced by argument because their minds are already made up, but the silent majority – the fence-sitters and swing-voters, the ones who answer “unsure” or “no comment” on polls – are the ones who can and must be made to understand that we are not intrinsically different from other women and deserve the same freedoms and protections that non-harlots take for granted.

Last time around I also offered a synopsis of prohibitionist victories since the last such day, but since I already offered a similar list just two weeks ago I think that would be inexcusably repetitious.  And though there are several other days dedicated to fighting for sex worker rights (namely International Sex Workers’ Rights Day on March 3rd,  International Whores’ Day on June 2nd and International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th), human rights are not something to be discussed only once a year; even six occasions to speak out on the subject are not enough.  For me and many others, every day is Friday the Thirteenth, and so it must remain until people wake up and understand that no collective, “authority” or government has the right to tell women what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan)

Protest Against BackPage Harms Sex Workers AND Trafficking Victims

The coming November 16, 2011 protest against Backpage by CATW, NOW-NYC and Prostitution Research and Education is another example of harmful actions and campaigns by elitist feminist academics against both consenting sex workers and trafficking victims.  These alleged feminist activists claim they are fighting human trafficking by protesting Backpage  to force the closure of its adult advertising, but his is theatrical garbage activism that is toxic to the very people they purport to be trying to help.

 

I am a consenting sex worker.  I was, at one time, a human trafficking victim.  I am still doing sex work in my 40′s because I need the money to pay bills, including medical needs related to multiple blood clots in my lungs; without sex work I could not afford the medical care that I need to survive.  It is not the right of alleged feminists to take my income or that of so many of those like me.  We work to live and to pay our bills, just like you high and mighty CATW, PRE and NOW-NY activists…well, most of you anyway; many of your ranks are college students that know little about the issues faced by those of us who did not get high school or college options.

 

Backpage adult advertisers are nearly all independent sex workers who are neither pimped nor trafficked, and shutting down Backpage would eliminate a major advertising venue that we use to stay independent.  You would know this if you asked us rather than feigning expertise.  We need our jobs and will keep them, but the closure of advertising spaces makes us vulnerable to the very pimps and traffickers that this garbage activism claims to be fighting.  When our independence is taken away we become vulnerable to predators that will exploit our labor because we lack options.  When I was a teenage trafficking victim and advertising venues closed for whatever reason, I wasn’t freed from prostitution.  My sadist pimp didn’t suddenly end my captivity and free me; he just put me on the street instead, which was far more dangerous to my safety and exposed me to the harsh elements.  I would truly like to see these supposed experts work the street for weeks in the winter in a northern city and come back and tell me that I was better off because advertising failed and I was out in the cold.  Still a slave, just a much colder and much more vulnerable one getting into cars alone.

 

You high and mighty abolitionist activists disgust me; if you knew anything about this issue you wouldn’t be taking this rubbish approach.  Yes, you can trot out your “survivor” activists who were harmed in the sex industry to advance your position, but these survivors are allowing their pain to misguide them into promoting a criminalization model in order to ostensibly end harm to prostitutes by ending prostitution.   I, too worked to advance that garbage until I woke up and realized the harm I was causing as an abolitionist filled with the bullshit lies of abolitionist feminism, a movement led by vacuous intellectuals who were never prostitutes and choose to assuage their pain by tearing away the rights of those in the sex industry.

 

Let me tell you what your efforts to “eliminate” prostitution actually accomplish:  You team with law enforcement officers who disingenuously claim to care about trafficking victims but are actually seeking to arrest more prostitutes.  We suffer as a result of your alleged “concern”; the risk of arrest keeps us from having access to law enforcement when we are the victims of crime while doing our jobs.  Pimps and violent clients know that we can’t go to the police and won’t because we fear the police, getting arrested and all the consequences that come with arrest.  We can’t be honest with our doctors when we suffer brutal rapes and assaults because we can’t explain our injuries without exposing ourselves to legal risk.  You think that’s a positive?  Try having a violent LEO client brutally rape you, suffocate you with a trash bag and hit you in the head so many times that you are taken via ambulance to the ER, incoherent with a major concussion, and are not even able to honestly explain how you were injured.

 

You think it’s worthwhile abolitionists?  Try meeting with a “reputable” businessman who realizes you are legally defenseless and so feels safe in overpowering you, tying you to a bed and beating and sodomizing you with a bamboo cane while forcing you to count the strokes.  You take 493 violent blows all over your body as I did; the bastard shoved my underwear and fee into my mouth and left me blindfolded, bleeding and tied to a bed.  Please….  Come tell me feminist anti prostitution activists protesting Backpage how I benefit from your activism.  Tell the other sex workers who saw me immediately following these assaults if I was better off with your criminalization.  And now you wish to further criminalize prostitution AND close our advertising venues.  Great.  So I and others like me can be criminalized and shoved into the hands of pimps and traffickers.  You and your activism disgust me.

 

Tell me how your efforts helped me or the “submissive girlfriend” of a man who wished to beat her so hard before my eyes that I truly doubted that “girlfriend” actually consented.  I’ve seen these people first hand.  I’ve been harmed by them.  I’ve been absolutely vulnerable to them, and this man was one of them.  I could do nothing but reject his offer to hire me; I had no way to report my suspicions to the police without risking arrest myself, and as a prostitute I had zero social credibility even if I did go to the police.  Likewise, the “girlfriend” had no protection from being arrested if she was ever found.  I went to a friend who is also a police officer and asked for advice, and was told to leave it alone:  there wasn’t enough evidence and as a sex worker I wouldn’t be deemed credible enough for law enforcement to take action, yet I would expose myself without helping her.  Maybe she will get lucky like I did and get away through a fluke, but it sure as hell won’t be because Backpage was shut down or because we are all made criminals; instead, there will be far more like her.  Perhaps some who are independent escorts now will end up like her, brutally harmed because their options for safety were taken away by grandstanding activists and their clueless and self advancing politician and law enforcement allies.

 

Feminist anti-prostitution activists protesting Backpage:  you are harming both consenting sex workers and trafficking victims.  You can write all the pretty press releases about fighting trafficking, sexual slavery and pimps that you want to, but I have lived the reality of your “work”.  Someone has to expose your lies and self-serving career advancement tactics that harm the rest of us.  I have been hurt in the sex industry – a lot – and the hurt continued because I was and am a criminal, deprived of rights.  I can call you on your BS from the perspective of someone who has been harmed because of you, and I am happy to do it because you are toxic, harmful frauds.  Preach to your choir and get your support there because those of us that are hurt by you know who you are; we know what you are doing and we are paying the price for your toxic activism.  Now come tell me how I benefit from your “work”.

Jill Brenneman Interviewed by Maggie McNeill

Regular readers of Bound, Not Gagged need no introduction to Jill Brenneman, a regular contributor to this blog with a unique perspective on sex worker rights.  You see, Jill is what many prohibitionists like to claim we all are:  a woman who was forced into prostitution in her teens by a brutal pimp.  But though she participated in the prohibitionist movement herself for several years (and really, who could blame her?) she was open-minded enough to see the truth and reason in the arguments for decriminalization and intellectually honest enough to be repulsed by the lies and misrepresentation rampant among the prohibitionists.  She thus became an outspoken advocate for sex worker rights, and the one person whose opinion on the “sex trafficking” issue I most respect.

After Jill commented extensively on my February 7th column Amanda Brooks suggested I interview her, and I thought that was a fantastic idea so I contacted Jill and she generously agreed.  The interview was conducted mostly via email on February 11th-13th and completed by telephone on the 13th, and though Jill suggested I edit it down I have done this as little as possible because I wanted her to be free to tell her story in her own words.  Jill has read over the completed interview twice and has approved it for presentation in The Honest Courtesan in four parts, from February 21st to February 24th.  I feel I must warn you that it is not light reading; the first two parts are the most graphic, disturbing narrative I have yet published or am likely to publish again, and I must caution sensitive readers to consider carefully before proceeding.  The interview is quite long, but Jill and I both feel that it’s important to show the ugly side of the world of prostitution as well as its attractive side; our opponents are liars, but we are not.  If we hide facts which might make us look bad we are no better than the prohibitionists, and the suppressed information would then become a weapon in their hands.  The truth shines light into dark places inhabited by filth who exploit women and Jill understands, as we hope most people will one day, that only decriminalization will grant free whores the power to help the law to uncover these monsters and liberate the girls they victimize.

Desiree Alliance 2.0

Since this year’s conference is going to be a week-long event, I know that many sex workers/conference attendees will be Tweeting/blogging/whatevering about their time in Las Vegas. For those who want to follow what’s going on from their own computer, I encourage everyone who is attending DA and publicizing it to add their names and links in the Comments section below.

Sex Worker Literati Reading Series Launching August 6th in NYC

SWLweb
Photo by Sinead McCarthy, design by Sinclair Sexsmith

Best-selling author David Henry Sterry and sexuality rights activist Audacia Ray, both former workers in the sex industry, are proud to announce Sex Worker Literati, a new free monthly reading series that features sex workers, former sex workers, and people with stories about the sex industry who will read, monologue, perform, and shimmy their ways into your hearts, minds, and naughty bits. The series kicks off at 8 pm on Thursday, August 6 at the Lower East Side staple Happy Ending (302 Broome Street), which fittingly enough was once an erotic massage parlor. On the first Thursday of every month, Sterry and Ray will showcase a diverse set of performers who have stories to tell about the business of sex.

The reading series is inspired by a new anthology edited by David Henry Sterry and RJ Martin, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Work & Money published in July 2009 by Soft Skull. After Sterry asked Ray to contribute a piece to the anthology, they began to discuss collaboration possibilities. The results are the Sex Worker Literati reading series and the website hoshookercallgirlsrentboys.com, which features writings by sex workers, sneak peeks at the book, and videos featuring anthology contributors.

The Sex Worker Literati inaugural reading on August 6 features six performers from all corners of the sex business. Blues diva and pinup girl Candye Kane, Times Square wild girl Jodi Sh. Doff, Scandinavian/African rent boy Damien Decker, and ex-teenage ho/ award-winning filmmaker Juliana Piccillo are all contributors to the anthology. They will be joined by renowned artist and former nude model Molly Crabapple, who is the illustrator and co-author of the graphic novel Scarlett Takes Manhattan and former go-go dancer and porn producer Sam Benjamin, author of Confessions of an Ivy League Pornographer.

Those in far-away lands who are unable to attend the reading series in New York will be able to enjoy some of the performances online: videos, photos, and stories will be published on hoshookerscallgirlsrentboys.com. We are also planning events for the anthology around the country, so check the website or become a fan on Facebook to find out more.

August 6th Inaugural Reading Line Up


aug6books

Molly Crabapple is an artist, author, and the founder of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, a 90 city chain of alt. drawing clubs. Called a “Downtown phenomenon” by the New York Times and “THE artist of our time” by Margaret Cho, Molly has drawn for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Marvel Comics. During college, she was a professional naked girl. Her first graphic novel, Scarlett Takes Manhattan, is out now from Fugu Press.

Candye Kane may still be a well-kept mainstream secret but in most underground circles, her diva status is legendary. She has been making music professionally for over two decades and toured worldwide since 1992, performing for amazingly diverse audiences. She played at the French Embassy in Rome for the President of Italy, headlined the Rhythm Riot, a rockabilly and R&B festival in the UK, and belted it out alongside Ray Charles at the Cognac Blues Festival. She slayed em’ at the Cannes Film Festival, kept them enthralled at New York Gay Pride and most recently, helped organize a thirteen city tour of the Netherlands for special needs kids. Learn more and hear her sing on her website.

Jodi Sh. Doff, writing as Scarlett Fever. Scarlett Fever was born with the first issue of BUST and has gone on to publish in Penthouse, Playgirl , Bust, Tear (Italy), Olive Tree Literary Review, Cosmopolitan, Stim.com and CommonTies.com; been anthologized in Best American Erotica ’95, Bearing Life (Feminist Press – as Jodi Sh. Doff), Between the Sheets (Penthouse Anthology), and The Bust Guide to a New Girl Order . She has been active in prostitutes rights, harm reduction and outreach. Scarlett has been working on a memoirs of her ten years in the pre-Disney Times Square topless business for what seems like forever. She is proud to have been a chapter of “historical reference” in Lily Burana’s Strip City. There is also a serial killer love story, with some rather disturbing parallels to her own life, in the works. That said, Ms. Doff grew up in the suburbs as someone else entirely.

Sam Benjamin is a graduate of Brown University (1999), a former go-go dancer, and the director of over one thousand Los Angeles-based interracial gangbangs, gay and straight. His book, “Confessions of An Ivy League Pornographer,” is a memoir of a youth well spent.

Damien Decker‘s writing has appeared in $pread magazine and the anthology Unhoused Voices. He has been featured on The Daily Beast and is currently working on a memoir. Damien was born in Zambia but moved as a young child to Scandinavia to become one of the first black people in northern Europe. He recived his degree in USA and is a former college, semi-pro, and national team athlete. Damien is a multilingual jack-of-all-trades who speaks fluent Swedish, Norwegian, English, plus enough French to not starve when in Paris and enough Swahili to know when mother was angry. He currently resides in New York.

Juliana Piccillo is a soccer mom, filmmaker, writer and sex worker’s rights activist. She has an MFA in Creative Writing.

New French sex worker union founded

Just to make sure people know about last week’s events in Paris, which included the founding of a new sex worker union. It’s easiest for me to post links to the abundant media coverage, many of which have photos. I hope this is okay.

(Posted by Laura; edited for formatting by Melissa, who apologizes her French is so slow)

A Sex Worker-based Approach to Media

Though I know not everyone here is on the SWAN bandwagon, I do think they’re doing some good work.

Here are two news items from their feed about how they’re dealing with mainstream media, sex worker media and getting out their messages. Though these news items are vague on the how-to of it all, I like the concepts.

media sensitization seminar

sex worker training on community media