Reaching out and connecting with outdoor (street-based) sex workers.

Hi everyone, myself and a few friends of mine that have a bunch of outdoor (street-based) sex work experience decided to do some training for all of you that are interested in the street-based economy, and how to offer support.

Specifically we drafted two documents, How to be an ally to outdoor(street based) sex workers and how to outreach to outdoor (street based) sex workers, the short version.

My favorite is the how to be an ally document, and it’s short, so I’ll repost that here below.  This is not intended to replace the more general version sex workers put together earlier, but to augment it:

  1. Don’t push yourself on me in the name of help if I don’t want or need it. I have the ability to make decisions for myself. Honor my decisions even if you don’t agree with them.
  2. We have lots of people offering us “help,” but most are NOT actually meeting our needs. Meet my needs, not your desires. If you don’t know what my needs are, it is ok to ask.
  3. If you offer help and I accept, follow through on your promises. Do not lie to us or give us a false sense of hope. Be real about how much you can and will help.
  4. If you offer help, I want it to address my immediate needs! Not something that will help me 5 years from now. For instance, if I don’t have food, a place to sleep or my fix, then scholarships for school have very little relevance in my life.
  5. Some people are happy in this life. Thinking I require help OUT of this life is bad thinking on YOUR part.
  6. Don’t assume I’m strung out and need help kicking. Maybe I’m not strung out or maybe I have no desire to quit.
  7. Don’t pity me or feel sorry for me. Remember, anyone can end up in a rough place in life. When someone pities you, it makes you feel “less than” or ashamed of your lack of ability to get yourself out of the rough situation you found yourself in. Remember, it could be you standing here working next to me later!
  8. If you want to help, make yourself available and perhaps offer options. Let me choose the type of help I want/need, not what you think I need.
  9. Don’t judge me! If you are judging me, you are not in a position to help me.
  10. Don’t tokenize me. Street-based workers come from all different races, genders, religions, socio-economical backgrounds and education levels. Don’t assume that just because “Pretty Women” is your favorite movie, you know me.
  11. Be patient if I need help. Chances are I’m in survival mode, and you need to respect where I am, not where you want me to be.
  12. Respect me. Don’t be afraid to look me in the eye.

Do Chicago Sex Workers need Swedish laws?

By Elizabeth Pisani

Do Chicago sex workers need Swedish laws?

I’m in Chicago for the month of April, just as the Illinois state Senate tries to increase the penalties for buying and selling sex. The bill (which passed the House unanimously last month) will make it a felony to buy sex, so that any vet, doctor, lawyer etc convicted of the crime will lose their livelihood for ever. Which is neither here nor there to many people, unless it’s the doctor that is treating your child’s leukemia. It is avidly supported by End Demand and other abolitionists groups.

These groups look to Sweden as their model, or at least half of it. Arguing that all prostitution is violence of men against women, the Swedes in 1989 made it illegal to buy sex (even from men and transgenders, go figure). Arresting and fining punters was supposed to strike a blow against partriarchy, advance the feminist cause, and, of course, reduce violence against women. Here’s what has happened since the law was passed:

sweden_rape_prostitution_data

At a cost to the Swedish tax payer of over US$ 7 million a year, Sweden has, over the last four years, convicted an annual average of three people for trafficking and 18 for pimping, and has fined an average of 75 men a year for buying sex. Street-based sex work did nose-dive soon after the law was passed, then stabilised and remains constant. There’s no information about what’s happened to women selling sex in other venues, including apartments, clients’ homes, neighbouring Denmark… What we do know is that convictions for rape have increased by 28% since it became illegal to buy sex, and convictions for sexual crimes overall have increased by 68%. Some of this may be because the hoopla surrounding the law did effectively advance the Ice Queen agenda, and more women are successfully prosecuting men under the country’s incredibly vague “rape” laws. But it hardly fills one with confidence that “end demand” campaigns will reduce violence against women overall.

Chicago’s abolitionists are a strange miscegenation of paternalistic feminists (I’ll tell you when you can and can’t consent to sex, dear) and tub-thumping moralisers (extra-marital sex is bad, and convenient, no-strings, paid extramarital sex is much, much worse). They have both failed to grasp the logic that underlies the Swedish approach. If all sex workers are victims by definition, then it is hardly fair to bang them up in jail for the violence that is done to them. And indeed, in Sweden, people who sell sex can’t be prosecuted. In Chicago, on the other hand, we’re busy increasing the penalties for both the buyers and the sellers of sex. So we are:

1) depriving women (and men, and transgenders) of their right to consent to sex, if payment is involved

AND
2) depriving women (and ditto) of a living

AND
3) depriving women (and other prostitutes) of their liberty, if they get caught.

You’d think from the Chicago police department’s Rogues’ Gallery that the only people who get arrested for soliciting and prostitution are blokes and the odd trans. But that just reflects a policy decision only to put up photographs of people with Y chromosomes. If you delve into the stats a bit, you’ll find that women bear the brunt of prostitution-related arrests right now. Look at this:

chicago_prostitution

It’s already illegal both to sell sex and to buy it in Chicago, and indeed all of Illinois. Making it MORE illegal on both sides, which is what HR6195 is proposing to do, is not going to change that. What it may change is the overall volume of arrests, since a felony is more likely to lead to a court case than a misdemeanour, which is what most prostitution charges currently qualify as. More court cases mean more police time in court. And since Illinois cops are paid time-and-a-half with a three hour minimum for showing their face in court, that rather increases the incentive to arrest. And as you can see from the graph above, it’s easier to arrest women than men. So my question to the good feminists of End Demand is this: How, exactly, do they think HR6195 helps women who choose to sell sex for a living?

An Outlaw’s Insurance Policy

2 months ago, I was robbed in my home/incall by a man who demanded his money back BEFORE the sexual activity, and also got away with $250 more of mine AFTER I pepper sprayed him in the face three times.  This was the SECOND time that I had been robbed as an escort, alone, naked and defenseless (except for the pepper spray this time).  The first time, the attacker said he had a gun and he did have sex with me first, making that THEFT OF SERVICES attack a RAPE in my eyes.  (theft of services = theft of consent based on payment= RAPE)

The recent time, according to the police report that I did manage to do this time, was classified as “petty theft.”  Going to the police for petty theft is just as empowering as filling out a police report after someone breaks your car window and steals your stereo.  You know that you have lost and that no one, not the police or you will be able to do anything about your loss.  All you can do is clean up the broken glass and tape up your window.   This is the feeling that sex workers too often have once they have been robbed and/or sexually assaulted.

When I was a stripper in a club, I was fortunate enough to not have experienced this type of violence.  I used to say on panels that I spoke at “I had never been sexually assaulted WHILE a sex worker (only before).” but now that I have lived and learned the life of an outlaw escort, things are different.  This is not to say that strippers and brothel workers are by any means safe because they operate in a house or a club.  Violence against sex workers happens everywhere.

There are many who operate under the premise that women are weaker than men and that a sex worker is someone that will be an easy target for violence or robbery because of her outlaw status.  This post mainly speaks to female sex workers, not to discount the violence that male sex workers might face (but it’s just different).

I had never taken a self defense course, and I had never gotten in a fight.  I was strong in my mind and my body was athletic.  I knew, however that I had not the power or experience to fight a grown man and win.  Fortunately, all of the times that I have been sexually assaulted in my life, none have included physical altercations.  The guy who said he had a gun never showed me a gun, but I decided to not challenge it and sit there while he took back the money I rightfully earned by being with him.

This recent attacker was clearly mad that I had sprayed him in the face, so he came back to my house and slashed my tire.  I bought a stun gun the very next day and went to the Krav Maga training center to inquire about self defense.  For 3 days I entered my apartment through the back door and I turned on lights in my house preparing for his return.  The training was expensive.  There was a membership fee and a first and last payment, and they wanted $160 a month!  I charged the whole thing on the one remaining credit card I had.  I felt like I could not afford to not defend myself.

Being in a fight is a cardiovascular workout!  Adrenalyn is pumping and your breath pattern is altered even though you’re muscles are charged.  For the $160/mo you can work out and take classes as many times as you want but the average person works out 3 times a week.  You can take mixed martial arts, yoga, ground fighting and the main curriculum of Krav Maga defense.   I can’t tell you how much this program has helped my mind, my body and my power expand exponentially!  I have NEVER felt so strong and powerful than when I get to practice kicking a guy in the balls repeatedly at full force or when I learn how to pluck his hands strangling my neck against a wall!  Krav Maga trains women side by side with men.  You partner up with someone in class that is supposed to be your size and weight, but sometimes that isn’t possible and you get to experience sparring with a man.  Taking hits even while holding a pad HURTS.  But, I feel like I am in THE FIGHT CLUB now because anyone who has done this knows the adrenalyn rush you get from taking the impact of hits is almost as great as hitting.  You form a bond with your partner that is unlike any other sport I have participated in.  All of us have come to this training for an unspoken reason and it is from that fulfillment of each of our individual goals that we are bonded.  It is NOTHING like the LACK of comraderie that you feel jogging alongside someone on a treadmill or taking a dance class at the gym.

I am writing here to encourage ANY SEX WORKER THAT MAKES AT LEAST $200/HR per date to INVEST at least that amount in your self defense.  If all you can afford is a short 3 day weekend course, great, but really my feeling is that you need to train constantly to stay prepared.  One 3 day course 3 years ago is not, like J Lo would say “Enough.”  I feel that the battle is constant and that another attack can happen as long as I continue to do this work.  You are not safer because you work indoors.  Craigslist is just the “internet streets”, where the same predators and hustlers are meeting you with the same intentions except they look like straight people who go to medical school and have Blackberrys.

I consider myself in the same risk and danger zones as a street worker.  I am an upper working class anonymous client worker.  Screening is minimal.  I am a graveyard shift agency girl.  I work independently too but my main scheduled work is agency work til 6am.  Agency work operates on a bait and switch and upsell hustle which automatically throws wrenches in a clients potential respect of you as a sex worker.  I deal with de-escalating angry customers as a regular part of my shift and have to also get tips out of those angry deceived customers to make a living.  Interestingly enough, the robberies did not occur on agency time, nor did the time I was arrested from Craigslist; so I am not convinced that the violence is due to being an agency girl although the set up of the hustle I do sets me up for antagonism and sexist violence in an already unequal playing field.  The second time I was robbed I failed to screen properly because i was feeling GOOD not bad.  I had just gotten my hair done, had just had a guitar lesson…this would be the 3rd person that was to come in and out of my house and I just did not expect that the outcome would be so bad AT ALL. Things can get sloppy when you are feeling bad, but ALSO when you are feeling good!

Everyday that I train, I am preparing for my next attack.  I refuse to just stand there and let them take from me again.  I go to class and practice boxing and fighting and then I shower and get ready for my agency shift.  I am more ready for an attack than ever before.  THIS IS THE ONLY INSURANCE POLICY I HAVE.  It is expensive but worth it.  I feel that I cannot afford to not train like this.

It’s very expensive for me and the training is totally inaccessible for most people.  The crazy thing is that Krav Maga is the SAME training that is taught to police officers and military forces, because it is the martial art of the Israeli army (FREE PALESTINE).  I have political views that I must put aside while I train, and aside from the origin of the martial art, there is nothing that indoctrinates the state of Israel anywhere in the training center.  ALSO, interestingly enough the Deputy District attorney of Los Angeles (head honcho cop/lawyer) OWNS and is the Lead Instructor for Krav maga in LA.  I am thinking of approaching him about giving victims of violence who have filled out a police report 2 months of training for free.  It seems like it would be something that a cop/lawyer could go for since it advocates going to the police in some way and doesn’t mention the word sex worker even though many many sex workers would qualify.   I wonder how many of those training beside me ARE cops? are sex workers? or are training to defend against a partner in a domestic violence situation?  I am simmering on trying to pitch the idea to the owner, or just stay silent and anonymous..please check out www.kravamaga.com to find a training center near you!

“The Happy Hooker: Portrait of A Sexual Revolutionary” Documentary

A bunch of us went to the screening of the new Xaviera Hollander documentary here in Chicago a few days ago and were impressed with the film. It’s very positive portrayal and deserves to be seen by a wider audience, but the film lacks distribution at this point. It’s been shown at festivals around the world and the filmmakers are in talks with HBO, but nothing has been finalized.

If you’re intested in seeing it aired, we’re trying to get people to write in to HBO and mention the film in hopes they will pick it up. We had a long talk with the producer after the screening and he seemed geniunely excited that we approved of the film. He even graciously took some naughty photos with Sinful Sinthia in front of the theater. Let’s help these guys out.

Whore Lover: Sex Workers Queering Love

Whore Lover sepia 2SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 18th, 2009 – 8PM. Stories of romance in spite of social stigma, as told from both sides of the bed. Turns out it’s not actually true that sex workers are incapable of feeling love; or too generous, greedy, humiliated or gold-hearted to pursue it. Likewise, the city hosts hordes of humans who love whores. In fact, many of those who have turned a trick or courted a courtesan are luminaries of queer arts and performance.

<p>Whore Lover is a multimedia showcase of the art of balancing between erotic work and play; and establishing long-term intimacy with those of us who charge by the hour. Tales of love, lust and lucre, straight (but not narrow!) from the talented mouths of porn stars, hookers, rent boys, strippers, Dominatrices, and the lovely folks who love them. Featuring art, films,  and performances by: Sadie Lune, Kirk Read, Mariko Passion, Ed Wolf, Lorelei Lee, Ginger Virago, Seeley Quest, and Madsen Minax. Curated by Sadie Lune, and presented by the National Queer Arts Festival with support from the Creating Queer Community program.

<p>

Whore Lover: Sex Workers Queering Love
The Garage Theater
975 Howard St. @ 6th
June 18, 2009 @ 8:00
Tickets: $12-$20
Buy Tickets on-line:
https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/66151

415-885-4006

For more information please visit: http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/QFest09/WhrLvr.html

Rhode Island getting closer to outlawing indoor sex work.

Today is a busy day for Sex Worker Rights.  With news of Craigslist(only in the US) canceling the Erotic Services section, we’ve had a flurry of press calls.  Plus Rhode Island (the only state where indoor prostitution is legal) just had the house pass H5044 Sub A, the vote was 62 to 8, and this is the 4th year they’ve tried it, and it’s gotten way farther (it’s never even got out of committee before).  If you care about this issue, especially if you are in Rhode Island, PLEASE CALL a state senator in RI, by filling out the bottom form at this page: http://www.sec.state.ri.us/vic/ to track down who your senator is. (Yes they make it complicated, so that you WON’T talk to them, prove them wrong!)

LA is dead! Off to Bellas?((scared!))

Ack!  Sitting up late in my hotel room in Vegas..kicking myself because I had signed up for the “adventure” of trying out brothel life by way of Madam Bella who presented to us at the Chicago Desiree conference.  I knew it wasn’t going to be the ideal situation, but hey, it was only 10 days right?

Vegas is 6 hours from LA.  and 6 hours from Wells, Nevada.

I am sort of homeless and playing travelling hooker just to ease my mind of ending fighting relationship with a boyfriend I had sugarmama’d (meaning somewhat non consensually) for the last year.  My emotions are already in turmoil.  And then I read Amanda Brooks’ blog on her experience at Bellas. Terrified.

Is it too late to turn back? to give up?  Yes.  Unfortunately.  It is.  Bellas was my one hope in dark shithole of LA escort market and I had planned this trip based on the fact that I have fallen short of my monthly expense minimum because of my credit card debt and it has caused me to be constantly frantic about money, fighting with the boyfriend over money, taking bigger risks in sex work, GETTING ARRESTED.  Yes, I also must somehow raise money for my legal fund, as I recently get charged with prostitution in the city of LA in May of this year.  Need to pay for the lawyer to fly down for the pre-trial conference (where we will plead NOT GUILTY) on September 5th.

I have subletted my apartment for the month, because of going to Mexico for 2 weeks made it impossible to pay rent, so in many ways, I cannot go back.

I just got into a wicked screaming fight with my ex/boyfriend…finally got him to move out and finally he returned his key to my house…He was blaming me again for irregular bumps on his penis.

I swear the amount of fights with partners where you have to scream to defend yourself against the title of reigning Ms.Disesase is tiring enough to make you give up sex work forever…It doesn’t matter how much you get tested, or how many barriers you use, you can still catch things, break condoms and/or flaw so in an unsupportive partner’s eyes (8 out of 10) you can still be blamed if ANYTHING happens.

I’ve decided to STOP PAYING ALL MY CREDIT CARD BILLS!  Another liberating but scary thing, and start work on something called Debt Settlement, which is something you might hear about on the radio.  If you have debt and it has become your PIMP like me, then you should consider it.  You pay 40% of your total debt with the help of a lawyer, but your credit rating tanks for a year and then you have to buy something called Credit Repair…

I am in the heart of where I’ve had the worst times in sex work–Las Vegas.  I tried casino cruising after Desiree 1 and had no luck.  I tried being a stripper here many many times, when I was in my supple 20s, and didn’t make $1000s a day like the girls next to me.  I HATE VEGAS.  If I don’t go to Wells, where will I go?

Part of me wants to chicken out of the ranch idea and just pay for an Eros visiting ad for a couple of weeks.  But then, I HATE VEGAS and it is 105 degrees out here.  My Comfort Inn is exactly that right now.  I am terrified of giving up my space, my peace, my sanity.

I burned out on stripped clubs because of the repetitive conversations and the repetitive music and stage fees and rules and endless bullshit.  Stripclubs in San Francisco are defacto brothels anyway, just like in Thailand, everyone knows that sex happens in the club and after the club but the local government is paid by club lawyers to turn a blind eye to labor and human rights violations.  But perhaps all that will be changing in San Francisco very shortly, and perhaps I will return there to be a whore.  I burned out on stripclubs because people who were endlessly profiting off of your sexual labor could give a flying shit about you.

I wanted to go to the brothel to experience being legal.  Having experienced jail and being an illegal for so many years, I thought it might be a refreshing experience.  But Amanda Brooks and I are very different people.  So there is a chance I could have a good experience.  But, from her blog, it doesn’t sound like she made a lot of money for the amount of work required.  All I remember reading was “how sore I was” and “the bell was ringing every 5 minutes.”

I have done a lot of hard sex work and have been hardened by the hustle in LA (where most of the money made is by upselling and bait and switch agency work).  You simply can’t make enough money to survive by being honest, using your real picture and posting your actual price.  My honest escort work is supplemental to my agency hustle.  This is why a lot of independent girls try to work in LA and hate it.  You have to be a hustler and willing to not care about most of the people you see in order to make it. In fact, many of the girls who do agency work are anti-prostitution sex worker perpetrators who, together with their drivers love to bully money out of all the “perverts who call them.”  I don’t feel that way about my clients, and actually make my money in de-escalating the suprise of the agency scam and the usually keep me even though they didn’t expect me and tip me another $100 even tho they didn’t expect to do that either…(upsell defined: I am the Jiffy Lube of escorting, go in thinking you’ll spend $39.99, leave with a bill of $300 🙂

You have to be willing to drive long hours in traffic, sometimes at the crack of dawn, sometimes for no shows.  Maybe Bellas wouldn’t seem so bad to agency work in LA.   I have had crackheads and multiple other druggies in motels, alcoholics sloshing around in drool like Nicholas Cage, recently released felons with fake credit cards and more at the low end of my client list.  Because of the hustle I do as an agency girl, I have been told off, insulted, kicked out of mansions and had countless doors slammed in my face–and that has hardened me to not feel guilty about the way I make my money.  This is not to say that there isn’t a high end of the typical $3-400/hr escort, getting paid just to talk to business men, record execs in boutique hotels on sunset strip and more..but LA is dead right now and the money is just not there.  I used to have an “agent” who had a system of spamming craigslist for me.  But, craigslist seems to be on to that game and craigslist is also the favorite tool of sting operations nationwide, and exactly how I fell into the trap that got me busted.

I just got back from an amazing experience singing and doing art work in Mexico City.  I never finished blogging about it for this page, but i did do so on my personal blog.

Will I make it to Bellas or chicken out of the ranch??

check out my fate in a couple of days, because at this moment, I feel like turning back.