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]
What’s got two thumbs and 93 unregulated strip clubs? This state!
You can’t just take at face value the unofficial slogans of the Portland Chamber of Commerce. “There are more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country,” “You’re never more than fifteen minutes by foot from a microbrewery,” and “We do too have a professional sports team in one of the major leagues!” That first statement, especially, is one that gets thrown around a lot. A lot a lot, by people who’ve never set foot in a club and yet find it one of the charming defining characteristics of the Rose City. Portland has a strip club culture like nowhere else, complete with its own magazine, celebrities, and scandals.
This week, a curious reader wrote into the city’s Pulitzer-winning alternative paper, Willamette Week, to ask if this is actually true. It is. If, like me, you took issue last summer with Tampa’s claim to this title in every article about the RNC, you’ll be please to see that the WW writer calculated a 1:9,578 ratio for Portland and 1:10,813 for Tampa. That’s a close enough margin to where the two cities could probably trade places on the list depending on the fortunes of a few clubs. It’s unquestionable, though, that Portland is the single easiest place in the U.S. to open a strip club, and that’s what lies at the bottom (lol) of its saturated nudie-bar market. [READ MORE]
An author has posted an ad on Craigslist seeking a young woman to have sex with him and keep a diary about it for a month, after which he’ll write a book about the experience and self-publish it on Amazon. Literary experimentation for our times? Product of reading too much Henry Miller? Really complicated scam to get a young fuckbuddy for a month? Sugardaddy who’s low on sugar? What the FUCK is really going on here and who is the kind of person who gets on board with this?
The book will detail every aspect of a mutually-agreed to romantic affair between myself and a young FEMALE lover (perhaps you), experienced over 30 days, as in the novel. The difference between the first book and this one will be verite: everything in this new volume will be the truth as both participants see it. If you agree to participate in this project, you will keep a diary of all of your thoughts, impressions and memories of the thirty day affair that we will share. I will then combine your written thoughts with my own to present the reader with two versions of the same erotic story. One love affair, as seen separately by the man and woman.
In case it gets taken down, here’s the screenshot below. We encourage someone to write in and apply to get the free copy of his first book!
screenshot composite from The Onion
The Onion posted a story last Wednesday headlined “Stripper Thinks Customer Flirting With Her.” You can get the gist of it from the headline; it is funny for the first, most obvious reason, but also because it’s a little true and sometimes strippers do think customers see them as human. While increasingly vicious as its satire becomes reality at a depressing pace, The Onion is more often than not gentle towards strippers. While we normally have more unfunny shit anti-stripper humor to rant about than not, we also enjoy pointing out examples of stripper and strip club-based humor that don’t rely completely on dehumanizing or mocking us. I’m sorry to kill all the funny by talking about it, but to crib from a Flann O’Brien quote I just read in a discussion of satire, we’ll chance it. For once, it’s nice to read humor about strippers that doesn’t joke about us as dead bodies, talk about our deadbeat boyfriends, or play on our assumed lack of parental supervision.
The main trick The Onion utilizes is taking an accepted stripper artifice and running with it to an absurd literal conclusion. This contrasts with their mode of treating a non-event as a news story; for instance, Stripper In Dressing Room Ignores Girl Crying On Cell Phone or Stripper Who Said “No, I Don’t Have Any Body Spray” Was Lying would fit the format of their office stories, but they’re too strip club-specific to work for a broader audience as workplace jokes. The writers instead must deal with stereotypes in the same way they deal with those of athletes (“Pro Athlete Lauded For Being Decent Human Being”). As I looked through their stripper story archives, I was pleasantly surprised to realize their stripper jokes relied more on absurd literalism than mockery.* Here are the ten best of the bunch. [READ MORE]