Ask Ms. Harm Reduction!

by Ms. Harm Reduction on May 27, 2014 · 22 comments

in Ask Ms. Harm Reduction, Health, Strippers

Ms Harm Reduction has the answers for you! (Photo of Dorothy Howe via the Daily Mail)

Ms. Harm Reduction has the answers for you! (Photo of Dorothy Howe via the Daily Mail)

Tits and Sass strongly believes in a policy of harm reduction and education. We want nothing more than for our readers to be happy and safe from harm. Thusly, we are pleased to introduce a new advice columnist: Ms. Harm Reduction. She’s here to answer your questions about, well, just about anything in an anonymous and shame-free way. Do you have a question about drug use, sex, your personal life, workor anything else? Do you have a query for Ms. Harm Reduction? Send them to

Dear Ms. Harm Reduction,

I’m a stripper who enjoys her work and likes to party. I’ve noticed many of my workmates have been indulging in the latest MDMA party drug, Molly. How do I safely use Molly while I work?

Desperately Desiring Molly

Dear DDM,

Ms. Harm Reduction has to wonder why you would choose to do your hard-earned MDMA among the ruffians we call our customers. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your drugs in the company of your bosom companions, in the privacy of some psychedelic boudoir somewhere? However, if you’ve set your ecdysiast heart on E at the club, we do have some pointers for you.

An MDMA testing kit, a must for any debauchee worth her salt. (Photo via EZTest site)

An MDMA testing kit, a must for any debauchee worth her salt. (Photo via EZTest site)

  • Invest in an MDMA testing kit and keep it in your locker. Not to reveal Ms. Manners’ advanced age, but back in her day, Dancesafe kits were one of the only options. Now there are many. We recommend ​EZ Test. Now you can test your pills and/or duck into the dressing room if you must take complementary drugs from customers, coworkers, or club staff.
  • Drink more water than you usually do, but don’t overdo it. Too much water can be just as bothersome as too little water when taking a stimulant.
  • Keep your quirky drug tics in check! They’re not as charming to those who surround you as you may think. For example, if you know that you become a texture-obsessed stroke freak as soon as you imbibe any Molly, be wary of that sort of behavior and make sure you call a halt to it before you realize you’ve been petting your customer’s shirt for the past ten minutes.
  • Make sure someoneanother dancer, a friend, a significant otherknows you’re indulging, and have a ride home set up with this sober companion. Your driving expertise while intoxicated may be unparalleled, but trust Ms. Harm Reduction, you don’t want to be all by your lonesome while crashing. Also, be sure to check in with this designated drug chaperone when making a decision you may not be likely to make when your faculties are intact: “I think I might go back to this customer’s isolated house in the woods for him to murder me at his leisure. Good idea, yes or no?” (A good chaperone will say no, by the way.)
  • Finally, and most importantly, stay away from mixing other substances, especially alcohol, with your Molly. Have a carealcohol and a stimulant drug like E together will produce a speedball effect, with your body becoming all befuddled and not knowing whether to speed up or slow down its metabolism, and this can be disastrous.

Ms. Harm Reduction would like to emphasize that she is in no way endorsing the use of Molly or any other illicit drugs. A policy of sobriety is the surest way to keep one’s faculties intact. But Ms. Harm Reduction is also very pragmatic and is keenly aware that the kids these days like to have fun. You can only have fun when you’re out of harm’s way.

Dear Ms. Harm Reduction,

I hate to admit this, but sometimes I drink too much at work and then drive home. I know that’s not safe, but I have a really hard time working sober. Are there any safer options for me?

Stripper Will Imbibe Grossly

Dear SWIG,

Ms. Harm Reduction can only chuckle and sigh as she reflects upon the wanton days of her youth. The boys! The dancing! And, oh my, the drinking.

Ms. Harm Reduction knows that sometimes “I’ll just have one cocktail” turns into “Oops, I drank seven cocktails.” She understands that sometimes a dear customer can be a just a wee bit pushy in his insistence that his favorite dancer share a bottle of champagne with him. Ms. Harm Reduction has even heard that some strip clubs require dancers to meet a drink quotaa minimum number of drinks soldas part of their job description. Ms. Harm Reduction secretly believes in her heart of hearts that sometimes temperance can be overrated.

A portable keychain breathalyzer, another handy dandy device for the sybarite on the go. (Photo via Boise Weekly)

A portable keychain breathalyzer, another handy dandy device for the sybarite on the go. (Photo via Boise Weekly)

So, you enjoy drinking and stripping. Good for you! Here are some tips.

  • Invest in a portable breathalyzer. Ms. Harm Reduction is a disappointed to learn that many strip clubs do not offer a breathalyzer for their staff members to use. They should—not only for the benefit of staff members, but also the patrons!
  • Can a trusted workmate give you a lift or offer you a place to sleep? Do not sleep at a bouncer’s house. Do not sleep at a manager’s house. And under no circumstances should you consider sleeping at a club patron’s house.
  • Can you afford a hotel room? You could split the cost with a fellow inebriated work mate. Remember, one night in a hotel room will always be less costly than a D.U.I. And you can take a post-work bubble bath!
  • Can you afford a cab ride? A cab ride will also strain your purse less than a D.U.I.

If those options simply aren’t on the table, Ms. Harm Reduction reluctantly suggests sleeping in your automobile. She absolutely shudders at this suggestion as it is most assuredly risky (and also illegal in most states), but she also believes that anything is safer than driving soused. But how?

Analyze your setting. Are you in an urban setting or a rural one? Is the neighborhood safe? The best place to go car-camping would be in a well-lit parking garage with a lot of foot traffic. Park in a mostly empty level. The next best choice would be in an empty corner of the well-lit parking lot of a big box store. The least ideal choice would be to park on the street of a relatively safe neighborhood.

  • Hide your work gear in the trunk. Hide your money, too. You don’t want any n’er-do-wells happening upon it.
  • Have an implement that can be used as a weapon, just in case. Do you have pepper spray? A knife? A gun? A large rock? Ms. Harm Reduction wants you to be protected at all costs.
  • Make sure your car key is not in the ignition or on your lovely person. Hide it under the seat.
  • Do you have a mobile phone? Set the timer on the phone for approximately five hours, so you can get a reasonable amount of beauty sleep.
  • Crawl into the passenger or back seat and try to relax and put away your cares. Ms. Harm Reduction recommends sheep counting, but counting almost any sort of farm animal will do.

After five hours, take a walk outside for fresh air. How do you feel? If you still feel all at sea, set the timer for another two hours. Back to sleep. Repeat until you feel comfortable driving.

Ms. Harm Reduction wants you to know that she does not advocate drinking while working but understands that sometimes our judgement can err. Imbibe wisely.

Ms. Harm Reduction

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine May 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I love this column idea! Yay!

I have been getting into trying alcohol alternatives lately, like phenibut. I have a hard time working sober but have been hating how drinking makes me feel.


Bella Robinson May 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I think going out of one’s way to tie sex work into drug use is problematic, especially since out of all the US sex workers only 3% are addicts. Also not mention that doing any type of sex work while under the influence of anything is a bad idea, as its a good way to be robbed raped, murdered or arrested. With all the harm reduction platforms available I wonder why tissandass keeps running articles tying sex workers into drugs, and the tone is almost as if they are PROUD to be addicts. Many activists have told tissandass that their drug narrative is harmful to the movement of sex workers rights, so it seems they just don’t care about sex workers getting their rights, or decriminalized, as long as they can keep publishing problematic crap. I have no doubt that articles like this will be READ at trafficking panels and they will INSIST all sex workers sell their bodies for drugs and that is why we need to be rescued and criminalized. Thanks Tissandass for throwing the other 97% of US sex workers under the bus with your need to GLORIFY your drug use. As always tissandass is keeping it classy.


Caty Simon May 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm

As I wrote to you in response to similar commentary in the FB sex worker communities, “I happen to be a drug using sex worker, and just b/c we’re a minority doesn’t mean we should be ignored in the movement. Also, whether you like it or not, strip clubs are places where drugs appear, and sex workers should have harm reduction advice to deal with them if they choose to use them. Providing harm reduction info for any population isn’t “perpetuating stereotypes,” it’s protecting our people. And if you READ the piece, as usual, you’d see that a) we explicitly say we don’t promote drug use, but acknowledge the reality that some will indulge and we’d like to see them do so safely and b) Most of the post is about alcohol, which is something a lot of strippers deal with at the club.
We talk about all those things you mentioned all the time–TAS has posted plenty of decriminalization centered pieces. The fact that we give any space at all to harm reduction and it outrages you says a lot about your feelings towards your drug using sex worker brothers and sisters.”
Furthermore, who are these many activists? I’ve seen plenty of comments on twitter today lauding this column, some even saying it’s their favorite among TAS posts so far. And yes, using drugs at work without any information about how to protect yourself is a good way to get raped and robbed–which is why it’s imperative for us to provide harm reduction info for our community so that they can avoid that. And finally, I’m sorry, but abolitionists–who will twist our words no matter what we say–will not stop us from providing what is literally knowledge that can stand between life and death to our community.


Berlin May 28, 2014 at 7:54 pm

This comment is so judgmental. So just because a minority of sex workers are also drug users, we should just throw them under the bus? This post in no way glorifies drug use, but because it gives actual advice in a non-shaming manner, it’s “problematic.” Uh, it’s called harm-reduction and it can save lives. The notion that somehow writing an article offering advice on safe drug use will impinge on your (our) fight for rights just proves you could care less about all sex workers, just the ones who fit your profile of what a good sex worker looks like eg. doesn’t do drugs. doesn’t work the street. educated. etc. I’ve heard it all before and that kind of whorearchical bullshit doesn’t help any of us.


Scarlet Heart May 29, 2014 at 2:30 am

This column is neither glorifying drug use or assuming that all strippers are non-stop binge-drinking party heads. It takes into account that often yes you often are expected to imbibe when you are working at a club. Sad but unfortunately true. I know many girls who aren’t huge drinkers and hate getting drunk at work, but it’s what the customers and management sometimes encourage. I also know from working in a few of the larger high-profile brothels in Australia that if you are not what’s known in the game as a “party-girl”, you will simply not get bookings. The clients straight-out ask if you party(ie: use drugs) and if you say no they ask for another girl. This is often actively encouraged by the management, I have heard of one or two madams who give girls cocaine or ice in order to create a party atmosphere. (this is mainly why I chose to work privately or only in genteel little boutique brothels because I prefer to not be around drugs)
So yes I think this post is absolutely necessary in order to educate girls on how to handle this kind of thing, and I’m about the most squeaky-clean person you could meet.


Maxine Doogan May 28, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Wow, it looks like you spend so much time managing your drug experience I wonder how you make time to make money but maybe making money isn’t the priority.


Caty Simon May 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Ad hominem attacks! Always the go-to for proving one’s point if one can’t avail oneself of logic. As for your question, Maxine, I’m glad you’re so worried about my business, but I’m doing just fine, despite the time I also put in promoting harm reduction posts on Tits and Sass (yes, I know, what a deplorable waste of time and resources–almost as if a lot of people weren’t happy to get the info in this piece, explicitly tweeting to say so).


Bella Robinson May 28, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Harm reduction is done on forums for drug addiction and harm reduction, and it is never been done with any other occupation so why you insist on creating stigma towards sex workers and glorifying that some sex workers make bad decisions like being under the influence while doing sex work is NOT HARM REDUCTION. Harm reduction is talking about all the bad shit that can happen when we work an use drugs at the same time. You just seem to ignore the voices of other sex workers that are telling you how harmful this is to gaining rights for sex workers. While my activist is based on gaining rights for all sex workers, you activists seems to only include 3% of the sex workers that are drug addicts. Please, please, please take these drug discussions to a private platform and stop reconfirming societies belief that we all sell our for drugs. How many sex workers need to be robbed, raped, murdered or arrested because you GLORIFIED doing drugs while doing sex work.


Leigh Alanna May 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm

What you are saying when you say these comments (whether you intend to or not) is that you would prefer the Sex Worker Rights movement to be pure (or unconfused, or undistracted, or whatever way you would put it) than that actual sex workers be safer than they are now.

That’s not a sex worker rights movement that I want to be a part of. Sex Worker Rights mean for all of us, not for “only the issues that affect all of us” (because that leaves, um, none), and there aren’t any sex workers that deserve our care, consideration and help less than any others, drug users very emphatically included.

And, can we maybe have a bit of perspective here? You’re suggesting that Tits and Sass is somehow not being inclusive of non-using sex workers — as far as I can recall, this is only the second article EVER focusing on drug use in the sex work community. Two articles, out of hundreds, is too much for 3% of the community? That doesn’t seem right, even statistically (especially when you consider that people living on the intersection of drug use and sex work are less likely to have support in either community AND less support from civilian communities — if there is any group that needs an outsize portion of our attention, it’s people who aren’t getting it elsewhere.)
But I’m a big believer in pragmatism, too, so let’s look at it from that perspective. For what social justice movement have respectability politics ever worked? What demographic of people have achieved meaningful progress by throwing their most vulnerable members under the bus? Saying “Our community is only for some of us” means that we have fewer resources, fewer voices. And it’s not going to convince any whorephobes that we’re worth their care — there’s no amount of extra-marginalized people you can sacrifice, ideologically speaking (or perhaps more literally, since you’re suggesting that we withhold potentially life-saving advice) that will suddenly make feminism, or advocates of criminalization or end demand models, change their minds — I mean, end demand advocates are kind of a great example here. They’ve taken what was essentially a respectability politics movement (even if it was not intended to be so at the time) — of sex workers saying “we’re happy, we love our jobs and we choose them freely!” as complete and total justification for disregarding everything we say.
So, for the good of “the movement” and for the good of the individuals that make the movement, supporting sex workers who use drugs is an absolute must.
It’s all of us or none of us — there’s no middle ground there.


danielle May 28, 2014 at 8:32 pm

3% of sex workers being drug addicts (which is a figure that’s changed in each group I’ve seen you post it in – previously you said it was 3% of drug addicts are sex workers, and either way a figure about a marginalised population within a marginalised population is dubious at best) doesn’t mean only 3% of sex workers have tried drugs at work, though, and it certainly doesn’t mean only 3% of sex workers will be exposed to drugs at work! Surely it’s better to have this information available for the safety of all sex workers, than to throw some under the bus for the sake of making us look good. The NZPC offers a needle exchange programme and I’ve never even heard that brought up by our local abolitionists.

Also, it’s worth noting this information is primarily directed at strippers – these issues are much more likely to come up in a club environment than in most full service situations.

And just so you don’t accuse me of identity politics, I work in a brothel where customers regularly bring in drugs on the weekends – I have never tried any drugs with a customer, and prefer not to drink at work either; this shouldn’t be relevant but I’d rather not have my opinions dismissed because you assume I have a drug habit. :+)


Robin D May 28, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Um, no, that’s not what harm reduction means. Here’s what the Harm Reduction Coalition has to say about it:

“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.

Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.

However, HRC considers the following principles central to harm reduction practice.

Accepts, for better and or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being–not necessarily cessation of all drug use–as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
Affirms drugs users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.”


Harm reduction organizations do share information on their websites. They also do direct outreach to drug users, have syringe exchanges, drop-ins, etc. It’s woefully inadequate though, as it is very poorly funded in comparison to abstinence-only resources, and the need is HUGE. I don’t know where you are getting your numbers and doubt they are accurate, but regardless, a very large number of people use drugs – about half the US population over their lifetimes, and almost all if you include alcohol, which you should – and most of them don’t have dependencies. Those people need harm reduction information and resources also (and at least the first letter writer is almost certainly in that category, the other might or might not have an alcohol dependency). And, who better than Tits and Sass, who have a regular advice column for people writing in already (and rightly so), to give advice that is tailored specifically to the needs of its audience? There’s no private forum that could do that as effectively, and frankly, public discussions are a really good way of *busting* stigma, including and maybe especially whoriarchy bullshit. The sex work community, as you demonstrate regularly, has a real problem with trashing people within the community who don’t hold up this “respectable” image that some people want to portray. So kudos to Tits and Sass for fighting back.

That’s the thing about human rights. They’re not supposed to be conditional. They apply to all humans.

Good luck propagandizing, suppressing information, and making people shut up because they discuss issues you dislike hearing about, by the way. I hear that’s been working out really well for Somaly Mam, the NSA, and the mainstream US anti-trafficking movement (what with the defecting survivors they keep racking up).

The only people who see glorification in simple advice to reduce harm (with explicit statements advising against using at work, and not condoning drug use) are people opposed to harm reduction practices. These are the same things you hear from the people who oppose syringe exchanges and the availability of naloxone – as though it’s better to make a drug user’s day harder and/or more dangerous (or that it’s evil to make it slightly easier) than it is to save lives.

How many people need to be robbed, raped, murdered, and arrested because some people want to play a losing “respectability” game, suppress information and discussions, propagandize, and pretend they have the right to set everyone’s agenda?


danielle May 28, 2014 at 8:23 pm

This is an excellent article! I’m a full service worker, not a stripper, but I work in a club environment and drinking & drugs are pretty common, especially on weekends. It’s useful to have this information to share with my co-workers. Thank you!


Bella Robinson May 28, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Great no doubt the government will continue to argue that prostitution and drugs usually go hand and hand and we can all stay criminalized, thank you for derailing our efforts towards decriminalization, and creating more stigma, hate and violence against your brother and sisters. I have spoke to 32 activists and sex worker today that all find this PROBLEMATIC, and I have even spoken to people running needle exchange harm reduction programs, and they say ” the tone of this article does sound like it is glorifying drug usage, not harm reduction”. Tying any ILLEGAL activity into sex work and having sex workers publicly admitting they are doing even more illegal activities will only harm our efforts at decriminalization. You do realize the trafficking organizations are reading every word we publish publicly. Law enforcment already insists that prostitution is linked to other crimes and brings these crimes into our communities. Another point I have made over and over again is that there is already a platform for drug harm reduction and NO OTHER OCCUPATION ties drug harm reduction to their profession, so why do it to sex workers. If your not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.


Berlin May 29, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Exactly, anti-trafficking, police, radfems are ALREADY linking our work to criminality and drug use—so why not focus on keeping ourselves safe in the here and now?


Robin D May 29, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Both letter writers work in the legal sex work industry actually. They are strippers.


jenny heineman June 11, 2014 at 11:11 am

It’s really quite backwards to censor a movement because of the false perceptions of its opposition. Censorship will never pave the road to human rights.

The master’s tools…


Martine May 29, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I really love this a article!!! Absolutely amazing idea for the website! Awesome! Congrats 😉


Megs May 30, 2014 at 9:13 am

I’m very excited to see a harm-reduction column on T&S. I think it reflects a refusal on the part of the editors to ignore aspects of sex work and the realities of some workers because they don’t fit some bullshit ideal of what all workers need to be. Telling someone they’re failing your movement because of choices, needs and circumstances in their life that you cannot possibly fully account for or understand is pretty goddamn useless.

Harm reduction, however, saves lives.


Lease May 31, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I work in harm reduction for drug users and am a drug user myself. I am not, nor have I ever been a sex worker. I really enjoy reading tits n sass and I am sad to see posts by sex workers saying admitting drug use ‘hurts’ the fight for human rights. Imagine it was reversed and drug user advocates were saying that nobody in harm reduction should admit to doing sex work or it would ‘hurt the cause’?

It is a judgemental, useless argument because facts are facts, people do what they do and in what universe should admitting reality hurt a human rights movement?

I don’t get all huffy because people have assumed that because I’m a good-looking drug user, that I must do sex work. In-fighting just weakens us. Respectability politics are played to ruin your movement’s progress. Why not reject that and all labels placed upon you?

Harm reduction saves lives. Harm reduction is free condoms, education, it’s empowering. Harm reduction is not the glorification of drug use. It is the recognition that people do what they do and best they do that safely.


story June 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm

i slept in my car a LOT when i was stripping, not because i was drinking but because i was traveling. the tips given were great – i personally preferred the lighted parking lots of big box stores since many garages and hotel parking lots have attendants who knock on the window to tell you it’s not a place to sleep. unfortunately, all the options for places to sleep require some driving which isn’t a great option. still, if your abode is farther away than a big box parking lot, harm reduction suggests making the shorter drive. i don’t think sleeping in the club parking lot is a good idea.

i also put velcro around my windows and made curtains out of sheets that i could velcro to my windows. this stopped nosy people from peeking in. finally, make sure you are walked out to your vehicle and are not being followed. inebriation can lead to lack of awareness about skeezy customers trying to follow you. if customers know you are drunk, they are more likely to see you as a target so upping your own care about their proximity to you when you leave the club is a healthy idea.


John Punter June 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm

(Slight tangent warning) Strippers have often told me that it’s illegal for the bartender to slip them a virgin version of a cocktail, unbeknownst to the custy. Obvious need for legislative action, if that’s really true.


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