Caty: Ciara’s given us many music and video masterpieces over the years: “Like A Boy” (is there anything better than her going soft butch?), “I’m Out” (a song that values ass shots, selfies, and texts as much as us harlots do), and “Never Ever” (cleverly riffing off syrupy 80s soft rock? Especially appealing to the sex worker sensibility, given how much of it we have to listen to appease our baby boomer clients). But her true hooker anthem is the unalloyed brilliance that is “Ride.”

Do not try this at home. Ciara in "Like a Boy."

Do not try this at home. Ciara in “Like a Boy.”

Josephine: Truth! Ciara’s created a plethora of handy tracks over the years.  “Goodies,” her breakout single, was played nonstop at work in its day, a perfect song for customers who just don’t understand that we won’t go home with them. The music video for her single “Work” is beautifully subversive; a band of gorgeous women dancing their asses off in a construction site, a space that is classically reserved for men only. Kind of like a strip club! But you’re right, “Ride” is easily her Unintentional Sex Work Anthem. [READ MORE]

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The late Shannon Williams. (Photo via the GoFundMe page for Williams’ memorial, courtesy of Kristina Dolgin)

Shannon Williams, co-chair of SWOP-USA,  St. James Infirmary volunteer and Whorespeak activist, died this week after unexpectedly being diagnosed with a brain tumor.  There is a fund for her three children here. Williams became briefly notorious after being arrested in 2003 for prostitution while working as a high school teacher in Berkeley. She was a sex worker activist for over twenty years, and helped found SWOP, the largest sex workers’ rights organization  in America.

A cop in Arkansas was recently fired after he blew the whistle by revealing his department had a policy of sleeping with sex workers, then arresting them.  We need rescue from who, now?

Sex workers and activists in Sonagachhi, India held a candlelit vigil to protest police and government inaction after an escort was strangled by a client earlier this month.

These are probably my favorite two articles yet about my lawsuit against Casa Diablo: In These Times amply covers the labor issue while Tits and Sass contributor Tara Burns gives it the most detailed coverage yet,  including discussion of the sexual harassment charges, over at Vice. Both work in a few good meat puns.

Lubunca, the sex worker argot of the queer red light spaces in Turkey is being adopted by another marginalized Turkish group that has long overlapped with the brothels and bathhouses: the mainstream LGBT community.  The trendiness of Lubunca with civilian LGBT people, however, is destroying its utility for queer and gay-for-pay sex workers.

In advance of the Super Bowl, the Arizona Republic published a story about how anti-trafficking organizations pushed for the use of  “sex trafficking” instead of “prostitution.” Our ol’ pal Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, whom some of you may remember from her role as head of Project ROSE, the coercive Arizona State University social work school diversion program for sex workers, offers her two cents:

A victim should also be considered trafficked even if she is no longer actively controlled by someone, she said.

Instead, she said, women can be forced into prostitution by their life situation. She referred to it as ‘trafficked by circumstances.’

[READ MORE]

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La Bare (2014)

by Bubbles on January 23, 2015 · 0 comments

in Movies, Reviews

image via La Bare

image via La Bare

The news that Joe Manganiello was making a documentary about the Dallas male strip club La Bare thrilled me, because I loved Magic Mike and his performance in it. When it finally came to Netflix, I roped Matthew Lawrence into watching and chatting with me. It was no Magic Mike, but the real-life Magic Mike, Randy “Master Blaster” Ricks, didn’t disappoint. Below is an edited version of our real-time viewing experience. There’s probably spoilers.

Matthew: How many stars does Netflix THINK you will give this movie? For me it’s only one and a half!

Bubbles: Two for me! Seems like you don’t know me at all, Netflix.

Matthew: My Netflix is hampered by my boyfriend’s mysterious love of The Vampire Diaries, so maybe it assumes I will hate any documentary narrated by a True Blood cast member?

Bubbles: I’m so happy. I loved Magic Mike so much.

The film opens on two male strippers in cowboy hats and sleeveless shirts, about to perform for a bachelorette party.

Bubbles: Haha, it’s ok to take her number if she isn’t engaged. These outfits are fantastic.

Matthew: Those hats! I am in New England, I don’t see hats like that ever.

Bubbles: OK, so, it kicks off with the Flaming Lips “Free Radicals,” one of what I assume are many interesting musical choices. Is there a “businessman” male stripper? I guess that would be “Richard Gere Armani Suit” male stripper

Scene changes to the office of La Bare, where the manager talks about the club’s early days, when it switched from a topless club with female dancers to a male strip club named “La Bare.”

Matthew: Hahaha, nude in French or whatever.

Bubbles: “Which means nude in French or whatever.” Jinx! 9/11 killed the male stripping business? Had you heard anything about this?

[READ MORE]

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Trixie isn't taking any of your shit. (Still from Deadwood)

Trixie isn’t taking any of your shit. (Still from Deadwood)

Editor’s note: Extreme spoiler alert. Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch Deadwood before reading this, if for some inexplicable reason you haven’t yet.

I started watching Deadwood when the cabbie I was sleeping with at the time told me it was a Wild West show about a town run by whores. “You’ll love it!” he assured me. Turns out he was almost entirely wrong about the plot, but he was right about me loving it. The sex workers are a small part of the overall action, yet the majority of female characters are sex workers. And for me, the sex workers are the heart of the show, its moral and empathic compass. But empathy and ethics can have a price, especially for the marginalized.

Creator David Milch explains that the creation of Deadwood was based on his desire to explore the formation of civilization out of chaos. Chaos is what the territory of Deadwood is when the series opens. It’s the go-to headline for any sporting event or Republican or Democratic convention that sex workers flock to where the money is. In terms of boom towns like Deadwood it’s largely true, not just because of the presence of fast and loose cash, but because of the freedom of movement, both social and physical, offered by the very lack of civilization Milch is exploring.

That life in the still-lawless camp of Deadwood allows a certain amount of freedom as well as deprivation is obvious, and that lives lived on the margins of a camp like Deadwood offer liberty and danger, even to women, even to sex workers, is made apparent immediately in the first episode. Thirteen minutes in a gun goes off in Al Swearingen’s saloon-brothel.

“Aw, hell,” says right-hand man Dan Dority despairingly. “That fuckin whore.”

And so we meet Trixie (Paula Malcomson), who enters with a literal bang, as she’s just shot and killed a client in self-defense.

“He was beating on me! I told him not to beat on me!” she explains hopelessly, knowing already her bruises won’t be an adequate excuse to her boss. Swearingen beats her himself, adding a reminder to everyone that she’s not allowed to own a gun. Unfazed, Trixie immediately sneaks her servant friend, Jewel, money to bring her another gun.

The freedom allowed her here may not be immediately apparent to a civilian, but the fact that she was allowed to defend herself against a beating, to shoot someone without being fired or killed, and allowed to continue working with everyone’s unspoken knowledge that she’s just going to acquire another gun, is massive. This freedom will be lost by the untimely end of the show, when civilization comes in the barbaric entrepreneur figure of George Hearst.

In the meantime, the sex workers of the first season have a singular amount of screen time, especially with the arrival of Joanie (Kim Dickinson) and the other girls of Bella Union, the new brothel, waving brightly from owner Cy Tolliver’s festively festooned wagon. This entrance highlights something that hasn’t been visible till now: Swearingen’s joint, the Gem, is a rough-and-tumble working class saloon and brothel. While the Gem girls wear loose shifts and little or nothing else, the Bella Union workers are adorned with the Wild West fashion you’ve been dreaming of: beribboned corsets, garters, thigh highs, hair in tumbled curls and cascading updos. I’d watch the show just for their clothes. Unfortunately, it’s the men running this here town and you know there’s going to be a clash with a fancy new brothel steppin’ on Swearingen’s turf.

In the background of Swearingen and Tolliver’s turf war, being used as pawns, are the vibrant women who work for them. I’m focused on Joanie and Trixie here, and the handful of other sex workers who are allowed plotlines. While they’re considered tools in the political struggles between Tolliver and Swearingen, and then between Swearingen and Hearst, the camera shows this to be a misjudgment and a mistake on the part of the men (one that only Swearingen learns from, belatedly). While not exactly happy, Joanie and Trixie are lively presences, not the passive background decor sex workers function as on shows like The Sopranos. Even when they’re silent, we can feel their judgment, and so can Tolliver and Swearingen.

[READ MORE]

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Fees and fines are illegal, kids. (Photo courtesy of Red)

The Willamette Week broke the news that I, Tits and Sass Week In Links editor Red, and my fellow dancer Amy Pitts are suing my former strip club this week after months of tedious and stressful settlement negotiations. Shorter and less informative video clips on the suit can be found here and here, but probably the best coverage so far is this New York Daily News story, which makes more meat puns than I would normally find decent.

Alaskan sex workers are raising money to go to Juneau to lobby the Alaskan legislature. You can support their campaign and learn about their efforts here: Nothing About Us Without Us!

Bengals defensive back Adam Jones was ordered to pay over $12 million for his part in a fight and shooting that broke out at the Vegas strip club, Minxx.  Jones made it rain, dancers started fighting over the money, and eventually shooting broke out, injuring three people, including  one security guard who was paralyzed from the waist down.

New MTA safety ads warn against pole dancing in subway cars: “Poles are for safety, not your latest routine.”

Tits and Sass contributor Naomi Sayers responds brilliantly to an interrogation around C-36 and the assumption that it protects sex workers, while outlining sex work activists’ next steps in a post-C-36 Canada.

Nigerian full service sex workers are offering three days of their services free if General Muhammadu Buhari wins the upcoming presidential elections in February. Clever reverse Lystrata tactic!

Porn actor Jiz Lee writes that people should be as concerned with ethical porn consumption as they are with ethical porn, since illegal distribution not only allows consumers to not pay for workers’ products, it also allows producers to evade the very safety standards set in place to protect performers.

Benjamin Frederickson worked as a HIV positive sex worker in the Midwest and New York for years, documenting his life and his work with Polaroids that are now being shown in an exhibition at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York until February 28th. [READ MORE]

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