Actually, My Hand Feeds Me: A Message To Annie Sprinkle

by Lane Champagne on August 13, 2014 · 39 comments

in Activism, News, Politics, Prostitution

Annie Sprinkle: a woman who needs to get back in touch with her movement rather than speaking over it (Photo by Creatrix Tlara, via her flickr and the Creative Commons)

Annie Sprinkle: a woman who needs to get back in touch with her movement rather than speaking over it (Photo by Creatrix Tlara, via her flickr and the Creative Commons)

As a general rule, I absolutely love being called “adorable.” It reaffirms a lifetime of well-intentioned cheek pinches and makes me feel like I still look youthful as I approach 30. But being an adorable person is a very different thing than being part of an adorable movement. So when Annie Sprinkle took to Facebook to chastise sex workers who decided to “act up” at a conference called “Fantasies that Matter–Images of Sex Work in Media and Art,” and used condescending terms like “adorable” and “well intentioned” to describe sex workers who seek a voice in discourses about them, well, I got just adorably incensed.

The main thrust of Sprinkle’s argument is that sex workers are isolating potential allies in their resistance to groups that wish to share their title. She writes:

We have to more clearly define the words “sex worker” and “whore,” and I feel that we have to include the more specific, defining word “prostitute” in the mix. This weekend there was a lot of confusion as to who could define themselves as “sex workers” and as “whores.” Seems to me, these are broad general terms that need to be really inclusive in order to build the size of the prostitutes rights movement.

My first question is where on Earth I can find these people that are clambering to be identified as sex workers? Did she get an email list? Can she send them to our meetings and protests? We could use the bodies. The truth is, the majority of sex workers are so fearful of stigma and violence that they go to great lengths to go undetected by forces that want to take away their incomes, their housing, their children, and sometimes their very lives.

But back to Sprinkle’s point about the need for inclusivity to build what she calls the “prostitutes rights movement.” The great thing about renaming a movement is that you don’t have to use apostrophes if you don’t want to and you don’t have to truly do sexual work even if you want to be called a sex worker! But to rename sex work activism as a movement of prostitutes is to neglect the solidarity that’s been built over decades between people providing full-service sexual services and those performing other forms of sexual labor but still beleaguered by police aggression, stigma, and marginalization. This includes porn performers, cam girls, dommes, subs, strippers, and more. It does NOT include “sex toy people” and “sex educators” or “bloggers about sex work.” The reason to me is simple: these forms of work involve a sexual element but do not involve a client.

The introduction of the client, whether that is a customer at a strip club or the booker for a porn shoot, is the mechanism that differentiates work with a sexual element to actual sexual labor. It introduces a transaction related to intimacy that is absent from teaching sex education classes to groups and making paintings of vaginas, and it is that transaction that carries whore stigma.

The desire to adopt the identity of “sex worker” is a fairweather ally’s attempt to slum it with sex workers without having to engage in the intimate sexual labor that has at times put workers in real danger. It is a refusal to empathize with their marginalization and give them the microphone and is instead a co-opting of the experience that widens the definition so much as to render it meaningless.

The final insult in the post is the assertion that sex workers mustn’t hurt the precious feelings of the privileged and powerful by excluding them from the title:

If prostitutes don’t allow other people who stand with them to be self identified as “whores” and “sex workers” then prostitutes alienate their allies and people in power and privilege that can help them in their movement towards freedom, safety and justice.

In what other activist movement are the people who need advocates expected to surrender so much? People manage to support LGBTQ rights without asking for one of the letters on their jacket too. Racial solidarity can exist without everyone getting to be an honorary minority during Black History Month. Being a meaningful ally should not start out as a hostage negotiation over who gets access to the terminology. Being a good ally is leading with questions about how to help, not a list of demands that will determine your level of commitment.

There can be no freedom, safety, or justice if sex workers are beholden to the ally’s terms of their liberation. A real ally doesn’t dangle the keys to the kingdom over a sex workers’ head and make her jump. Such attempts to make demands wildly underestimate the skills of sex workers to pick locks and jump fences themselves.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Eithne August 13, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Who wrote this? Be my friend. :3


Maxine Doogan August 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm

ONE of the reasons I coined the term erotic service provider in 2004 and have been specifically defining it as an inclusive term is because many folks I met, like exotic dancers, didn’t like the term ‘sex worker’ to describe themselves as many adult film performers and some webcam performers too didn’t like the ‘sex’ word either. It’s too graphic and they thought it didn’t dignify their legal status but in fact associated them with common prostitutes of which is how I identify myself. I wrote about my experience here.

I didn’t read the piece you are talking about. I don’t have time to read everything. I wish I did. I believe its a very important discussion to have but its a face to face discussion as this medium isn’t optimal to gather consensus, if that is your goal.

While we’re all arguing over what names to call ourselves, the opposition is busy renaming us and rather successfully. They have an agenda, ‘we’ don’t. I’m busy railing against the onslought of bad legislation that wants to rename everyone; prostitutes, adult film performers, strippers, as ‘commercial sex acts’…check out Prop 35 and California SB 1388.

Plus in the end, everybody gets to call themselves what they want anyway. Some see themselves as entertainers, some in the health care field…mental health…escorts, masseuses, whatever.

What matters to me is that ‘sex workers’ who have never performed prostitution use their self identified ‘sex worker status’ to have say over work conditions or rates for prostitutes without our permission. That’s called an unfair business practice. One of the reasons I prefer the labor rights approach is because ‘we’, those of us in the ‘sex industry’, including support staff like phone girls, drivers, janitors….etc… need to come together to discuss the economy that matters to us because only by having that eye opening discussion will folks be able to put down the hostility and move away from the politics of exclusion and instead move towards solidarity.


Erica August 13, 2014 at 9:00 pm

I’m one of those people that are “clambering to identify as a sex worker”. We are not a myth, plenty of us exist, but no one is allowing our voices to be heard.


Isabelle August 14, 2014 at 8:36 am

Hi there, just curious about what your work is, thanks 🙂


Opal August 13, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Stealth trans escort here… This sort of thing with ‘allies’ expanding definitions has an eerie parallel with how, in common parlance, transgender means transsexual, but the political ‘transgender umbrella’ has been expanded to include millions of people who are cissexual and whose gender concerns are limited to, “Gee, what odd fashion choice shall I play with today?”


Creatrix Tiara August 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Huh, wasn’t expecting to see my photo there! (It’s cool, just surprising)

Having performed burlesque in Australia I actually got mixed up in the middle of “are you a sex worker or not”. In Queensland the line between art and sex work for stage shows is super thin – the only thing that differentiates the two is “artistic intent”, but when your art directly involves the erotic things get fuzzier. I’ve had sex worker rights activists berate me both for calling myself a sexworker and for NOT calling myself a sexworker. (I try not to label myself either way.)


Creatrix Tiara August 13, 2014 at 9:16 pm

(oh and the “I’m a honorary POC/honorary queer because I am such a good ally!” thing happens all the damn time.)


Ms. Pris August 14, 2014 at 2:26 am

I think this piece is somewhat reactionary, and unfortunately misrepresents Sprinkle’s post. She specifically talks about prostitutes’ rights because the demonstrators were self-identified prostitutes. She is very well aware of the solidarity between various types of sex workers because she was very active in building that solidarity.

With the advent of hooker chic, there are absolutely people out there who are not sex workers, people who don’t really understand sex work but think it’s cool, who want to call themselves sex workers because they write sex toy reviews on the internet, or because they write internet erotica, etc. I don’t think those people are sex workers. This post does a really excellent job of defining the difference, and I hope that part gets polished up and spread around. The people who want to call themselves sex workers without assuming the risk and labor of sex work, they need to read it.


Eithne August 14, 2014 at 5:31 pm

“The demonstrators were self-identified prostitutes.”

I was one of the demonstrators, and that isn’t true.


Eithne August 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm

We didn’t at any point identify ourselves as prostitutes, working or otherwise. Some of us are in full service sex work, some of us aren’t. But kindly stop projecting that onto us.


Ms. Pris August 14, 2014 at 2:26 am

I forgot to add, you’re right about being a good ally, but Sprinkle has a point too. Whether it’s right or not, she’s being realistic.


Amanda August 14, 2014 at 9:29 am

I’m a sex worker who gets really tired of being told how to properly seduce and treat allies, and what policies are most palatable to them. If you want to be an ally, you accept the movement you’re wanting to help, not the other way around.


Sophia Seductions August 14, 2014 at 11:42 am

Not sure if this applies but I want to know why every person who exchanges money for anything is not called a prostitute or brought up on charges for the act of prostitution.

The action is the same, the result is the same but add the word sex and it suddenly becomes something no one wants any part of…. really think about it. A person performs certain functions with the skills and experience inherent to that individual for the benefit of a company (or even themselves for the self employed) in exchange for something be it money, housing, food, clothing, etc.

Everyone on the face of this planet is a prostitute and engages in prostitution. We all just need to deal with our emotional issues around being bound to survival…. just another 2 cents from another portion of the world…


Eithne August 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm

“Not sure if this applies”

Yeah, it doesn’t apply at all. The reason they’re not treated the same is that certain forms of labour are considered legitimate under capitalism, and certain forms are delegitimised and stigmatised. Sex work is stigmatised, and repressed, often violently. The reasons are manifold, but they might include the control of sex and bodies and the maintenance of the status quo, and relatedly the subjugation of women, PoC, migrants, trans people, and other marginalised groups.

We’re not all prostitutes, because we’re not all treated like prostitutes. If you call yourself that, when you aren’t, it doesn’t make you one, and you won’t be treated like one. So forgive us if we find it offensive when people presume to play dress-up with a punitive identity category that means disproportionate exposure to violence and structural discrimination for those of us who are actual prostitutes.


Savannah Sly August 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm

DISCLAIMER: What I’m writing sounds a bit indignant, but I’m coming from a place of passion. I respect Lane Champagne’s opinions, and am grateful for all contributions to thoughtful discussions around the Sex Workers Rights Movement. Thank you Lane, for opening this dialog.

When I started giving erotic massages ten years ago, I was a sex worker, though I didn’t know it at the time, because I had never heard of the phrase. What I did know was that I had crossed a hard social line from civilian into whoredom, as was evident by the heavy feeling of social shame that manifested tangibly in my gut right up until my first client walked in the door, at which point, the feeling started to dissipate. I’ve learned that this horrible sensation is unseen judgement for my actions, social guilt that fosters self-doubt for my behaviors. This alarming feeling has roiled within me each and every time I’ve transitioned into a new mode of sex work…the first time I took to the stage, the first time I bared it all for a camera, or performed a live lesbian show, or accepted a classic escorting gig, pissed one someone for money, set up someone else’s appointments, or strolled into a brothel…each first was accompanied by learned moral guilt, and you know what the funny thing was? The feeling ALWAYS EVAPORATED when I took the plunge and make my own decisions about what’s right and wrong, as opposed to letting those negative social pressures sway me.

After a decade of diverse whoredom, that awful feeling persists only in one arena of my life, and that is each and every time I choose to speak up about my investment in the Sex Workers Rights Movement. To loudly demand the right to shake my booty for money feels like a deeper social taboo that actually even doing it, probably because it’s so public. I do not often speak to my specific experiences of particular sex acts, but rather to the experience of sex work as a whole, and the harmful stigma associated with whoredom and sexuality in general. When I went on Savage Lovecast to blab about sex workers rights with Mistress Matisse and Delia TS, I got dubious reactions from some other sex workers about my/our ability to speak to the rights of all sex workers, because as far as many people know, we’re just two Pro-Dommes and a Porn Star. They didn’t know that I have plenty of experience working the more heavily stigmatized rungs of the sex work ladder, but that misunderstanding wasn’t what bothered me. What bothered me was that members of my community were apprehensive to support our efforts to speak out on sex worker issues. Frankly, if I heard a social worker, doctor, artist, or any other non-sex worker on NPR talking responsibly, comprehensively, and with conviction about sex workers rights, I would be psyched, because I feel that we need the coverage, we need the support. I’m not one to say who is a sex worker or an ally or a supporter, I let people define themselves. Reminds me of how my status as a pot smoker does not prevent me from advocating for clean needle exchanges or the destigmatization of drug users as a whole, because my vocal support on a misunderstood/taboo subject contributes to a bigger wave that will ultimately shift cultural opinion. When we can get the world to wake up to the fact that all sex work is work, and that consenting adults have the right to conduct their transactional affairs in safety, then we can start making differentiations and demands about the specific labor needs required for various types of sex work. Until that time, I’m all for anyone with the guts and desire to join this movement to do so, regardless of their proximity to the cock.


Leigh Alanna August 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

As Lane Champagne pointed out in the actual article — advocating well and responsibly for the rights of sex workers is a great thing for allies to do (“send them to meetings — we need the bodies!”). What is not acceptable is telling sex workers that they should be grateful for paternalistic “aid” that insults us while purporting to help us.


Leigh Alanna August 14, 2014 at 2:19 pm

“Being realistic” is a lousy argument in favor of putting up with the status quo, when the status quo is that people treat our identities like a joke in ways that make our survival and safety more difficult attain, and that make community building more difficult. Taken the way it’s being used in this thread, “being realistic” means we shouldn’t advocate for decriminalization at all, because, hey, how likely is it that we’re going to succeed? Realistically, we shouldn’t burden people who hate us or don’t care about us with the terrible, awful weight of considering our humanity. Realistically, this kind of BS could be applied to any attempt at social or legal change — because very little changes if people don’t make a concerted effort to change it. What is essentially being said here is “might as well accept whatever shitty treatment is doled out to us, and be grateful for anything that anyone does that is ‘slightly less shitty than average’ because hey, it’s always been that way.” Sex workers can do better than that, and we deserve better than that.


Jennifer Reed August 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm

The piece being talked about is a post on a Facebook page. That the energy was expended to write this piece and post it to this medium as a “service” to sex workers / prostitutes / erotic service providers / adult entertainers / people who engage in the sex trades at a time when systemic violence and criminalization is at a peak reflects why we’re getting our collective arses kicked by those who wish to exterminate us.


Robin D August 14, 2014 at 7:11 pm

More so than TV show reviews? Music lists for stripping? I have seen the author commenting about this piece on fb so I know that this person is definitely someone who engages in activism in “meatspace” – and not in the country that you and I live in.


MistressMatisse August 14, 2014 at 10:04 pm

I have a lot of thoughts about this that, I’m going to take time to really consider carefully… But the one thing I can say now is: I wonder if the spectrum of feeling about this has anything to do with the different countries we live in? Because I think sex work really *should* be framed as a labor rights issue. And that is happening in some places? But Jesus, that seems so very very very far from what’s happening in the US right now. (At least, the parts I’ve been in.) Labor issues, overall, are struggling pretty hard in the US. And just basic fucking civil/human rights as well – I’ve been watching cops make war on the citizens of Ferguson, MO for four days now. I talk to people about sex work rights a lot, and this climate, it’s a lot of work and time to advance the ball down the conversational field enough for the idea of sex work LABOR rights to make any sense to them.
I wasn’t at the event, and so I can’t comment on what happened there. I do agree that sex workers should not accept being treated with condescension. But I can say that when I look around where I am, I don’t see people co-opting the identify of “sexworker” to be cool.


Robin D August 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm

“Labor” would be the people who disrupted the conference, not the artists and sex educators putting it on.


MistressMatisse August 16, 2014 at 12:19 am

I am not disputing what happened at the conference. I’m responding with feedback about what I see in my world.


eva August 15, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I’ve no desire to co-opt anything or pose as something I’m not – I’d just like to be a good ally and activist. What is the best way for a feminist* ex-pat (living in Germany) to support a community I basically have no real-life interaction nor personal experience with but that I sympathize with and whose cause I think is important and worthwhile? I mean, apart from raising my boys to be respectful human beings and speaking my mind to people I know?
Here in Europe everybody is talking about the Swedish model, and sex work is a much more mainstream issue – but, my experience is that non-sex worker activist are usually involved in the organizations that favor the Swedish model, not on the legalization/sex worker front.

Of course, some movements are best made up by people who are personally connected to the issue, others do have room for “bodies”, at demos and what not. What use do you all see for a outsider ally, if any at all?

*not a ghastly feminist, mind you, a live-and-let-live, all-women-deserve-respect-and-labor-is-labor-and-shove-your-condescending-pity-up-your-arse kind of feminist.


diabolique August 16, 2014 at 2:42 am

Annie is right.
Divided we fall.


LoriAdorable August 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Cheers to being adorable while dressing people the fuck down. Your brisk summary of the issues with Annie’s comments is on-point, though I’d argue that very many straight allies are angling for a letter on the jacket + many white people want ‘honorary’ Black status, for very similar reasons. You can get the coooool points (only when you want) and without any of the violence! Super not adorable, that mentality.


Madison Young August 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I wanted to send a post of love and support to my mother figure, my mentor, my friend – Annie Sprinkle. To send her strength and love, Annie is simply is LOVE. Being around her and Mama Beth Stephens has helped me to love more deeply – myself, my community , my family, and the Earth.

For years Annie Sprinkle has been expanding the way that people think about sex, orgasms, art and community through activism, art and performance.

Opening our minds and our hearts is essential in creating social change. We don’t all have to have the same ideas, the same definitions, the same experiences. Our differences make us stronger when those differences are met with love and openness and constructive dialogue.

There has been a great deal of volatile monologues and strong opinions around the term sex worker and what sex worker means. This term is used differently amongst different individuals in different areas of the world. Above all – sex worker is an identity and community in which someone may self identify as. As I have experienced it sex worker is not limited to prostitution but encompasses any individual who identifies as a sex worker and works with in the realm of sexuality and sex as a form of work. Sex is still highly stigmatized and I do believe it is important for us to stand together in our pursuit of creating a world that embraces pleasure, self love, consent, and exploration of sexual desires. The sex worker community often extends to allies, the partners of sex workers, adult film performers and producers, sex educators, sex toy manufactures, sex toy stores, nude house keeping, pro sub/pro dom work, live sex performance, explicit performance art focused on sexuality, and any other form of employment that focuses on sex/sexual pleasure. This is my community. A sex positive, sex worker community that is made up of activists, artists, writers, and people that are working hard in a very stigmatized field, and working together to create change.

It truly saddens my heart to see our sex worker, queer and feminist communities attacking one another, creating further divisions with in our already marginalized communities. My heart aches at the very idea that instead of uniting together, instead of supporting one another, instead of engaging in constructive dialogue with our fellow activists, our fellow community leaders, our fellow humans we would engage in destructive and combative behaviors through social media and the blogosphere. It’s disappointing. I believe we are better than that. I believe we are better than throwing around accusations, throwing stones, throwing hate. Hate does not and can not create positive change. Love cultivates positive change, cultivates more love, cultivates unity.

Our movements (feminist, sex worker, activist movements) need to grow, understand our differences, embrace being more inclusive, engage in loving communication around our differences, meet one another eye to eye with respect. These divisions that I see rising, weaken us and I don’t feel that they are coming from a place of love.

When my child is feeling angry and I see a tantrum brewing from frustration I tell Em “Take a big breath and act from your heart”. I teach my child “Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with the Earth and be gentle with those around you.” I see much going on in the world even with in our communities that is simply not gentle, not coming from our hearts and I see a lot hurt in the world as a result.

I ask you all to take a big exhale and act and speak from your heart, reflect on your words and actions and how they are or aren’t gentle. Meet misunderstanding and differences in opinions with love and gentle dialogue. Starting September 1st I will be embarking on a 6 month life art project “Madison Young Unplugged” in which I’ll be unplugging from the internet (email, social media, etc) for 6 months. I look forward to removing myself from the noise of the internet and focusing on love, art, family, community building, and open community dialogue that happens in person, as we listen and recognize the humanity, love and strength that we all share and the change we are capable of united together.


Lori Adorable August 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I’m curious as to why you wanted to send this message from here, in the comments section of an article on a blog. I suspect it’s the same reason why Lane wanted to send her message from here: our interactions have become public in a way that was unthinkable 40, 30, 10 years ago. You seem to be doing the same thing you’re decrying, the same way Annie did with her Facebook message. Social media (and I include T&S here, as a community blog as opposed to a commercial publication) has changed the way we have conversations and has changed the norms around propriety. The way people tend to respond to this– often on social media– seems to be along generational lines, comparing an article like this to an article that might have been published in a zine 20 years ago, when really it’s more like a conversation that would have happened in person at a conference. That obviously shapes whether or not one sees this piece as a too-public attack vs. open engagement.

This divide seems to be mirrored in how we approach the substance of these conversations, as well. Many (though hardly most) of older generations (here I’d include anyone who didn’t grow up with social media, so those roughly >30-35) lament a lack of historical knowledge or respect, while those who are younger keep saying that things have evolved, and I’m sure this is influenced by my age, but I agree with the latter. Conversations don’t happen as they used to, and terminology, identification, and allyship aren’t constructed how they used to be, either.

I also agree with a lot of the critiques that say we need to be more compassionate in how we argue over activism in public online spaces. These may be more akin to conversations than manifesto in terms of the (expected) back-and-forth but there is a still a false emotional distance that no one has managed to navigate (I suspect this will too change in another generation or three.) It’s easy to be brash and unilateral when criticizing someone when you can just unfriend them afterwards; it’s harder when you have to continue to inhabit the same spaces, physically.

So let’s have that conversation. But I don’t see why we should have that conversation here, because Lane isn’t personally attacking Annie or trying to cut her off from the conversation or the virtual or physical spaces. She’s engaging, and she’s engaging in a way that may be difficult to listen to and hold for Annie + her friends, but other engagement has failed. People have been trying to have these convos with Annie directly on social media + in person, and that has failed. And what she’s done here wasn’t just a matter of ideology or hurtful words– it was an incredibly impactful public *act*, to try to shut down a sex worker protest! That absolutely warrants this kind of response. Gentler attempts have failed, and it’s unfair to ask for infinite patience.

The response wouldn’t have been as total and swift and in some cases harsh if it were done in an equivalent phsyical space to social media, but at some point, people are going to have to move past that. Rules of engagement in substance and form have irrevocably changed along with technology and alongside activism, and even though it is *hard* to be on the other side of this critique– I know it personally!– it is something we need to be able to listen to and hold and respond to and grow from. And Annie hasn’t done that. And you aren’t doing it here either. That’s not growth in our movement, it’s stagnancy and reactionism and entrenchment and a refusal to substantively engage.


Mithu August 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm


I was at the conference and I percieved it in a very different way.
It is great to have people who criticise and point out blind spots. Thanks for that. But I think there are some misunderstandings. So let me be the person who criticises and points out blind spots for a change.
I have a problem with the way Annie is represented in your text. She is like Carol Leigh one of the people who have done so much fort he movement that I war just happy for her to be there. The reason why she said she had the feeling we were „fighting a loosing battle“ was that many of her friends and coworkers are facing long prison sentences at the moment. It is a tough situation at the moment and it is different in our different countries.
But back to the criticism about the conference. The people organizing the conference aren’t the priviledged white women. They are activsts that worked their arses off to make this conference possible. Loads of the people on the panel came for free. The beautiful hall that the conference was held in didn’t belong to them. They managed to make this conference part of a big cultural festival. And they had loads of problems with the organizers of that festival who didn’t want to address the topic of sex work. But they got it through and it was a very life affirming event. And a very mixed one.
One of the critiques is that there weren’t enough people of color on the panel. Well the point is Germany is different from America for example in so far as the Others here aren’t visibly black. They are Greek like Margarita the organizer of the conference who has spend the last years watching her country going to pieces. They are Spanish like María do Mar Castro Varela , who was on the panel together with Maiz. Or they are mixed race like me, Indian and Polish. Yes there was only one trans person on the stage but believe me that wasn’t for want of trying on the organizers part.
And they weren’t transphobic either. I read in another blog about transphobic remarks on the conference and that the organizers didn’t intervene. That is not true, There was one woman who was obviously new to the discussion who was unintentionally impolite and it was immediately pointed out to her. Yes, from the audience. But that was that. She left in tears. And I think she left because she was ashamed and insecure. She won’t try to speak up and learn more soon. She will just shut up. That isn’t what I want. I want people to be able to make mistakes and learn from them. And yes, I know it is awful to always having to educate people. But that’s why allies are so useful. Then I don’t have to educate people myself. And the person who intervened was a cis woman, so she was an ally at that moment as well.
We all have shifting identities. Sometimes we are the ones concerned, then we are allies. Sometimes it is important to have a certain identity: I identify as a woman when I protest fort he right for abortion. I identify as a person of color at other times. And yes some identities are harder to shake off than others. I will always be a woman in the eyes of the world. But getting older that changes too;-)

That is why Annie Sprinkle talked about us all being whores at the end of the conference. It wasn’t allies claiming an identity. It was Annie blurring lines. That is something else completely. Not everybody has to agree with her on that one. But why attack her in a way that is contra productive for any further discussion, why not disagree and talk? I think she made a valid point. Especially thinking about Carol Leights statement earlier on that after she had crossed the line (i.e. became a sex worker) she looked back and the line had disappeared. Yes it is different for sex workers than for allies. But I was sitting next to the son of a sex worker in the audience. His mother was forced to let him be adopted and that had shaped his life – as it did the lives of so many children of sex workers in the 60ies in Britain (and all over the world at all times). Where does he stand?

I do like your spirit and the act of occupying the stage. It was a great discussion that started from there. And then something went wrong. At that time you only wanted to talk to sex workers in the audience. The problem was that sex workers are people and you can’t tell. So only women with dressed up make up were given the microphone. Even though there were other sex workers in the audience who wanted to contribute to the discussion and eventually did. And then Margarita, one of the organizers of the conference, wanted to explain how the conference came about and she was interrupted from the panel. From the same panel that she had happily given to the occupiers. Annie didn’t find that okay – and neither did I – and she said people should let Margarita speak. Annie didn’t want to silence sex workers she wanted people to respect the organizers enough to listen to them. Because the situation is a very specific one in Germany at the moment and that is important to know. In Germany we are trying to stop the government making sex work illegal again after is has been legal for 12 years. That was the reason fort his particular conference and that was the reason why there were sex workers and lawyers and acedemics on the panels. These ware all people fighting for our rights at the moment and when you look at the German newspapers they are doing a great job. Politicians listen to us. At the end of the year we will find out. That is when they decide about a new law.

There was room for dissent and critique. And there were valid points. But at the same time: You didn’t speak for everybody either. You didn’t represent everybody either. All this identity politics is incredibly important and incredibly difficult. When you, the occupiers said there weren’t enough people of colour represented it was strange for me. I am a person of colour and you were all young beautiful white girls. I have listened to so many white women talking about the exclusion of women of colour (sorry for using the British spelling). And I think it’s great. But on the other hand it is to often used as a weapon. We should try to represent everyone. But that doesn’t mean we are not allowed to speak until we do.
This is what Annie meant when she wrote that remark about not biting the hand that feeds you. Granted not the best phrazing. But she only wanted you to see that the people at the conference were actually doing a great job. They were very deferential to you. They took everything on board (even critique that I didn’t agree with. For example that there should have been money for sex workers from abroad to come to the conference. Yeah, that would have been wonderful but there was not enough money there full stop. The organizers worked for no money in the end. They paid their own train fare etc.) Annie didn’t tell anybody to be “grateful”. She talked about respect. I am a firm believer that politics only work when there is mutual respect. And sorry I don’t find your remarks about her very respectful. People should know you her and even if they disagree they should talk to her.

The problem with criticism is that we can only criticise the people that do something, that organize a conference, that write a book, that hold a speech. But it is so important to do things and make mistakes and some of these mistakes aren’t even mistakes. We have to appreciate our work and energy and love. If I speak there will be things that I don’t say. That is okay. That is why I keep speaking.

All the best



Lori Adorable August 18, 2014 at 3:31 pm

There’s too much for me to respond to here, and a lot of it has been addressed elsewhere (, but I really need to push back against your definition of transphobia. It’s not just active hate, it’s not just intentional behavior, it’s expressions of a systemic oppression, hateful or not, intentional or not, and to act as if this one woman and her feelings are more important than trans women and their feelings is not okay. Hopefully she will hold that hurt and do some reading and learn and grow, and at that point be welcomed back into these spaces. There certainly won’t be an institutional impediment for her. Meanwhile, trans women face those institutional impediments all the time along with these microagressions from those who just don’t know any better. It’s important not to lose sight of that. Compassionate critique isn’t always that which leaves people feeling good about themselves; it’s that which provides them space to grow, and it seems that woman is indeed being given that space.


Brazen Lee August 18, 2014 at 6:42 pm


I am an ACTUAL sex worker, who does sex acts for money, and I’m so over non sex working people (esp. “educators”, journos, management staff, etc.) wanting to define, usurp, and co-opt the sex worker movement, just to get some sex worker cred without having to share in the stigma, isolation, and fear that accompanies it.

There are similar arguments in the fat acceptance movement, and while a lot of folks disagree with me, I firmly believe: NOT EVERYONE gets to identify as fat, or a sex worker, or a PoC, or disabled, etc etc. If you’re not dealing with the real life manifestations of the oppression faced by a marginalized group, you don’t get to just claim the moniker.

That is some Bad Ally 101 nonsense. I don’t even care what folks want to call themselves: sex worker, hooker, whore, prostitute, etc. (though sex worker is inclusive in a way that the other terms are not). The point is, if your allyship is dependant on workers being OK with you, a non sex working person, appropriating our language, then you’re not an ally. You can support us without BEING us, speaking over us, and dominating the spotlight. Step the fuck back and check yourself.

Thank you!


RedHuntress August 21, 2014 at 2:27 am

This, oh my god this. I want to tattoo every word of your post on bad allies or at least print it across their toilet paper so every time they need to pee they’re reminded of the importance of not being a shitty ally.

As someone whose only experience in sex work is as a domme, I’ve had times where I questioned if I got to call myself a sex worker. But the fact is while I face less stigma than full service sex workers, I do still face a lot of shaming and stigma. And working with someone’s sexual fantasies is sex work, even though I don’t have physical sexual contact with them. I struggled enough to figure out if this was a title I really fit under or not- so for someone who isn’t in any debatable form of sex work at all to decide they want the title, without any of the hardship, the stigma, or the danger? No. Fuck that shit, that is unacceptable.

I have all the sympathy in the world for my fellow sex workers who are struggling with the whoriarchy, struggling with doing sexual work that they aren’t-quite-sure if it’s sex work or not. But people who aren’t sex workers in any sense of the term but want to take on our labels anyway? Uh, no. Hell fucking no. That is the definition of Bad Allies, and frankly, I get sick and tired of being told to be nice to bad allies because “they mean well!”

All too often, shitty allies will speak over us when we try to tell them why they need to stop doing this stuff, so I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt anymore. As a lesbian, I don’t tolerate bad allies. As an NB person, I don’t tolerate bad allies. As a Jew, I don’t tolerate bad allies. And as a sex worker? I’m not gonna tolerate bad allies. “They mean well” isn’t good enough. Good intent isn’t enough. I refuse to continue settling for shitty allies who do more harm than good.


Brazen Lee August 21, 2014 at 5:43 pm



nada August 19, 2014 at 12:55 am

yeah. her response sucks. In her latest post , she basically says it all – pretty much “Congrats to the organizers and non-sex workers who are the people that is going to make the difference, If it weren’t for the allies , porn would be totally illegal. But really- I really DO support sex workers . I really do…”

Well Annie – IF it were the sex work activist advocating, maybe it wouldn’t be just porn industry that will be talked about. This is why “allies”suck and need to take the back seat. Most sex work activists I know will not see anything successful in only a section of the industry being “legalized”. But you- Annie , have no idea because you have been OUT OF THE LOOP even though you keep putting yourself in the spot light about the sex work movement .

Allies have taken over peer based sex work movement, taken over conversations about trafficking, about art, media, and representation. It is RIGHT that sex workers demand voice back.

This is NOT about sex workers movement fighting each other. It is about movement uniting to call out ex-worker who is CONTINUOUSLY making classist remarks and negating the whole sex work activism.

Sex workers CAN self represent , it is not ALLIES that will make the difference in the end. We are NOT victims or people to be patronized. We need to be at the front and center of this topic of discussion, and allies need to support and believe in us that we can fight for ourselves, self represent, and demand the changes to policies that affect us. If they feel allies are more important, or that we can not do it without you – you need to go somewhere else.


RedHuntress August 21, 2014 at 2:30 am

We deserve better than self-congratulatory ‘allies’ tbh.

Real allies want to know how they can best help a marginalized group.

This lady seems to want to be part of the spotlight, to be seen as some sort of heroic savior swooping in to save the poor hapless sex workers who, oh gosh aren’t we precious, are trying to help themselves.

I’m not a newborn kitten, and I don’t appreciate being treated like one. Rejecting patronizing shit like this is not in-fighting but demanding better, and I’m glad you called it out.

Also, shit, do we have ANY real allies fighting for us? Because I see a lot of sexworker exclusive radfems ‘advocating’ about the porn industry when all they really want is to advance their beliefs about criminalizing it/criminalizing us. I see a lot of wanna-be-edgy, sex-posi people ‘advocating’ for us in ways that help them, while not helping or actively harming us. What I don’t see are any actual fuckin’ allies.


Cris Sardina August 25, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Wow- shit-fuck-and holy damn. After reading all of these comments, that’s all I have to say about it.


Elle September 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

All this political correctness is very isolating. I give erotic massages and I don’t care what you call me. I do feel like I won’t have a voice on any issue because whatever I say will piss someone off and they will try to shame me. Why would anyone want that? Especially, if I am already getting shamed for being a woman, my age, for my skin color, etc. I mean the list is endless.


Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: