Red

Red is a mildly burned out stripper at what Kat termed "the weird club." She alienates her Instagram followers by taking many many pictures of her pets and not enough dressing room selfies. She watches too much TV and accepts donations of books and cash. Red is also our new Week In Links editor, and she blogs at clarawebbwillcutoffyourhead.tumblr.com (Go see Byzantium immediately if you don't get that reference)


(Via Flickr user Bjorn Soderqvist)

(Via Flickr user Bjorn Soderqvist)

I worked as a nanny, and in a daycare. (Twice! I worked in daycare twice!) Once, one of the Pre-K kids’ parents gave their five-year-old a laxative, no, I don’t know what they were thinking either, and I was called to remove the giant column of shit that ensued from the toilet. There was nothing else for it but to put on industrial size gloves and reach in and manually remove it.

So believe me when I tell you that I’ve dealt with a lot of literal shit in my day.

I dealt with it and moved on. And I thought that entering this new phase of my life as a hooker I would be leaving poverty and, with it, all the gross, sad things we deal with resentfully to stave off poverty behind. Like shit!

So you know the one thing I was not expecting to have to deal with as an adult, a very intelligent and charming and attractive paid companion for other adults?

Shit.

And yet, the amount of times I have ended up dealing with shit—left on sheets, left on fingers, left caked on ass hairs—well, I’m sure you get the idea. 

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The intro sequence of >i> Flesh and Bone .

The intro sequence of Flesh and Bone.

Flesh and Bone is on Starz, and predictably over the top, and you know it will be from the moment the credits start. A tiny ballerina dances amidst red dust that’s maybe blood, maybe drugs, who even knows, accompanied by a cover of that Animotion song “Obsession.”

Flesh and Bone is a dance story, and as such, it needs a wide-eyed young woman in a new and anxiety-provoking dance environment: sadistic and deeply unhappy gay impresario Paul’s (Ben Daniels) company. The show adds some seriously Black Swan elements of grotesquerie and personal torment, and then its own unique take on compromise.

And that’s what made it interesting to me. Not the dancing, although I like it. And not the relatively few strip club scenes, which is how I got sold on it. I’m interested in the way it works with compromise, or what some would call prostitution. Not just actual whoring—although yes, also that—but the other dictionary definition, the exchange of personal values for some other kind of gain. What do we do for money, the show asks, in between shots of beautiful bodies stretched to improbable limits and monstrous shots of pain and suffering. What’s the price for a chance at success, and what does that cost?

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The cast of Red Umbrella Diaries, used with permission.

The cast of “The Red Umbrella Diaries”. (Courtesy of Red Umbrella Project)

Week in Links has been on hiatus. It’s come back to you in a new form: Month in links! This is gonna be good, you’ll see.

In the meantime, momentous things have happened!

In August, despite protest from such well-educated and experienced sex workers and sex work researchers as Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, and Meryl Streep, Amnesty International voted to develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of sex work.  The move is based on international agreement among public health, HIV, and human rights organizations, from the WHO to the Lancet, UNAIDS, and beyond, but still faces opposition from the prohibitionist moral police.  Despite a year of highly visible police brutality and murders and protests against this brutality in the United States, prohibitionists continue to advocate for End Demand and other versions of criminalization that increase law enforcement power over sex workers.

Which is both very funny and very sad, because stories like this one, about police entrapping and raping sex workers, are only slightly less common in the news than stories of another police murder, and probably happen unreported with even greater regularity.

In the wake of the Amnesty vote, DC is contemplating decrim, Seattle is still pushing hard for End Demand (and Seattle SWOP is pushing back, here’s our own Maggie McMuffin talking about it); internationally organizations in South Africa are pushing for decriminalization as well, as are public health groups in Zimbabwe, while Vietnam officials say they need red light districts.

While the Amnesty vote encouraged LAMBDA legal to finally come out in support of decrim, gay male sex workers took a hit the very next week as the Feds and Homeland Security raided Rentboy.com. Unlike virtually every other raid on an escort site ever, this one was met with outrage and media commentary in support of Rentboy. With overblown commentary like “Is Rentboy the new Stonewall?” (Katherine Koster and Derek J Demeri speak for a lot of us when they respond with an emphatic “no) the history of raids on women escort sites and sex worker protests of that phenomenon was erased. Men, you know, have sexual agency and are able to decide what’s best for themselves, even as sex workers, while women’s sexual agency and ability to self determine must always be in doubt.  Did HuffPo post videos of sex workers affected by the seizure of MyRedbook?

So LAMBDA, what’s good? Will LGBT organizations support all sex workers, or just gay male ones? Where’s your support for Amber Batts, a woman who served essentially the same function as Rentboy for some Alaskan sex workers, and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for “trafficking”? Lily Burana has some opinions on the disparity in coverage, and she’s not alone.

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What a fantastic day! (image via Flick user purplesherbert)

What a fantastic day! (image via Flick user purplesherbert)

Season Two of True Detective maintains the original’s fixation on sex workers. I’m wary, but love me some Tim Riggins, so I’ll be watching!

Tits and Sass contributor Juniper Fitzgerald is the latest in a chorus of voices pointing out that the current trafficking hysteria is just history repeating itself.

Children from families in poverty are also people with agency, struggling to get by just like the rest of us, often exploited by the very social service organisations assumed to be helping them: this and other revelations at the link:

“It made me wonder how someone can go to school every day while coming down off methamphetamine, having been out doing sex work the night before – and never have that picked up by anyone at the school?”

Some of the participants told Ms Thorburn they had been abused by organisations set up to assist them, with claims of sexual exploitation and sexual assault. This resulted in them returning to the streets and shunning any further assistance.

More on that, and a little more.

File this one under grotesque abuses of power: Guards at the detention center on Nauru paid the asylum seeking female inmates for sex, circulated videos of the acts among themselves, and then claimed it was all square because prostitution is “legal in Australia.”

Bree Olson does have a point: when we’re outed, there’s nothing left for us but the sex industry. Don’t expect those feminists who talk about rescue to have your back—the silence will be deafening.

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Pinocchio, man! (Courtesy of Sylke Ibach)

Glenn Kessler is on a roll debunking the hysterical claims of prohibitionists, and this week he slams the “average age of entry into prostitution is 13” stat with four Pinocchios.

In the latest example of anti-trafficking laws destroying futures rather than saving lives, we have two Oregon teens, one of whom is expected to be sentenced to four years in federal prison, after which she can’t access FAFSA or expect most jobs to hire her.

So, if disabled men also pay for sexual services, what happens to them when paying for it becomes a crime?  Good question!

Last week’s episode of Carte Blanche, a South African reality show, introduced Gita November, site co-ordinator for South African sex work organization SWEAT, without any condemnation and in fact called her “inspirational.”

The production team behind 8 Minutes says they weren’t expecting the independent sex workers they got, which is still no excuse for how they treated them—and, as the article notes, they weren’t equipped to help trafficking victims either, so it’s just good all around that the show got cancelled.

Last week was the annual Red Umbrella March, which carries new urgency in Vancouver as Canadian workers face End Demand repercussions, although Vancouver police have stated they will not be enforcing the new law.

Faisal Riza, a queer sex worker in Indonesia, is doing harm reduction outreach and education among Indonesian sex workers. Although the climate in Jakarta is less oppressive and homophobic than in the past, it’s an ongoing struggle.

Sex workers from all over Europe, many representing hundreds of thousands of workers in unions, gathered in Lyon to lobby for decriminalization and against the End Demand model, which threatens their lives as well as their livelihoods. [READ MORE]

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