via flickr user panavatar
VICE sent a reporter to Florida to report on the ass shot underground, where not-doctors inject everything from Fix-A-Flat to mineral oil into the buttocks of those seeking a bigger booty. Last week the accompanying documentary debuted online, and it’s worth watching, but be warned that the images of procedures-gone-wrong are horrifying. Reporter Wilbert Cooper talks to Miami-area plastic surgeons and follows Corey Eubanks, who is on probation for charges related to an association with Oneal Ron Morris, “The Duchess,” who had one of her clients die from complications from injections (there is some misgendering of Morris at the beginning of the documentary when Cooper is speaking with a detective about the case). There’s a segment in famous Miami strip club King of Diamonds where Cooper interviews dancers about their procedures and one dancer tells him that she estimates 75% of her coworkers have had some kind of ass augmentation. [READ MORE]
Image via SWOP-Phoenix on Facebook
We often have cause to complain about media coverage of sex work, but we haven’t had occasion to talk about how good stories can be edited into inadequate ones as they travel from reporter to final outlet. The fate of Jordan Flaherty‘s story about Project ROSE (Reaching Out to the Sexually Exploited) is a great opportunity to look at what happens when a journalist tries to show the public the whole story but is met with resistance from his employer.
Flaherty traveled to Phoenix in October to cover ROSE and the accompanying protests by SWOP-Phoenix. ROSE is a “concentrated arrest-alternative/intervention program for adult victims of prostitution or sex trafficking.” In practice, it’s mass arrest sweeps during which those taken into custody on prostitution charges are told they can either go through ROSE, starting with a trip to their headquarters at a church, or they can go to jail. And there are problems with the process, ones Flaherty wanted to make sure his finished work represented. Al Jazeera aired a version of his television segment that eliminated key information about ROSE, so Flaherty has made repeated attempts to get a fuller version of his reporting out to the public. He has encountered difficulty in doing so. I spoke with him last week at a time when his story had been posted on Truthout, but as of yesterday, Al Jazeera America has claimed copyright violation, requiring Truthout to remove the story from their site. The story is still available in a couple of other places. Another cut of the television piece is available although it’s not one Flaherty considers complete, either. This written version of the piece as aired is the only one remaining on Al Jazeera America.
Below is an edited Q&A that took place by phone on Monday, January 6th.
How did you first come across Project ROSE?
The issue of the legal treatment of sex workers is something I’ve been following for a while, especially these kinds of programs that say that they’re helping sex workers but are doing mass arrests. These programs have been getting very positive treatment and I was interested in looking at something like that with a more critical eye. When I heard about Project ROSE it just seemed like an example of the way in which people are conflating sex work and trafficking. [READ MORE]
A friend sent me this video last week, rightly pegging it as relevant to my interests. The song is “The Way Out” by Porcelain Raft, the performing name of multi-instrumentalist Mauro Remiddi. It is expansive and atmospheric electronic pop that might be a little too downbeat for a packed club but, as in the video, a perfect track for a quiet afternoon shift. The video stars a very capable pole dancer, employs an elegant one-shot format, and has a subdued mood. It’s more Exotica than Showgirls. Its events threatened to upset me, but the story has a satisfyingly dark conclusion. I reached out to director Michael Lawrence to ask him about his process. Watch the video and read our Q&A below. [READ MORE]
The search for the supposed Long Island Serial Killer began in December 2010, when the bodies of four women who had worked as prostitutes were found in the course of the search for a fifth who had disappeared that May. No suspect has been found to date. I spoke with New York contributing editor Robert Kolker via chat to talk about his first book, Lost Girls, which is a study of the five women who disappeared there and their surviving friends and family. Chat edited from its raw form.
Bubbles: Did your personal attitude about prostitution/prostitutes change a lot over the course of reporting this book?
Kolker: When I first reported on the serial-killer case, I was coming into the subject with no real knowledge of sex workers or sex work. In hindsight, I had a lot of preconceived notions. My first impulse, as a reporter, was to join the crowd and try to report on the whodunit aspect of the case. I didn’t occur to me to learn much about the victims at first because I assumed, naively, that they had no stories at all—that they were “dead” long before they were really killed. (I actually thought of Season 2 of The Wire, in which the bodies of trafficked girls are found in a shipping container. I thought these women were like that—people who were social outcasts who might never be identified.)
Then I quickly learned they all had families, of course, and loved ones and friends. And as I got to know the families I realized that sex work, in part because of the Internet, attracts a very different sort of person from the stereotype. I wanted Lost Girls to be about that change—about the lives of these women—as much as I wanted it to be about the case itself.
About that change in their lives?
About the change in the world of escorts. How the shift from outdoor to indoor sex work has allowed a wider variety of people to find the work appealing.
The ease of entry.
Now, I’ve talked with plenty of escorts who say that the Internet has actually made their work safer—that they can do background checks on clients and so forth—and so I didn’t want this book to beat up on the Internet itself. But I do think the field has changed and the professional challenges have changed, even as the risks remain in place. [READ MORE]
Image via Exotic Mag
Portland, OR, frequently cited as the U.S. city with the most strip clubs per capita, and an annual vagina beauty pageant, crowns a Miss Exotic Oregon each year. Local strip club ad rag Exotic (which also publishes a column by Tits and Sass Portland correspondent Elle) hosts the competition, a fine celebration of the strong theatrical elements of Portland stripping. In a town where stage performances are still strongly appreciated, dancers don’t hesitate to augment their pole skills and acrobatics with detailed costuming, stage sets, and choreography.
Sometimes one of them goes even further, bringing a level of emotional commitment and thematic strength to her performance that wouldn’t look out of place at Miss Exotic World. Thanks to my fellow Tits and Sass contributor Kat, I’ve been watching this video in amazement all morning. This is Jordan, who represented downtown’s Golden Dragon at this year’s competition, and her performance is a ten-minute-long tribute to Alanis Morissette. She has two supporting partners in her set, a male dancer playing her lover, and another female dancer he cheats on her with. It’s next-level pageant performance art. [READ MORE]