Sex and the State: Registries, Rights and Punishment Panel. L-R: Joseph Fischel, Deon Haywood, Roger Lancaster & Maurice Tomlinson All photos by author

Long ago before I had ever begun to use the term “sex work” or could even have guessed at what aå Sex and Justice conference would entail, I began processing my experiences in sex/work by telling my story. For a long time I kept that story in the place where I had left it: journals, then later in an edited and now-forgotten anonymous blog. I open up about parts of it here and there and I wonder, and worry, about the consequence of being completely open and honest and telling the whole story in a place that is not private or anonymous.

I went to the Sex and Justice conference in Ann Arbor to try to figure out what it is about sex that invites regulation and criminalization. More and more, however, I began to focus on the act of telling stories about sex (particularly when criminal law is a part of it): the consequences, obligations, and complications of telling something that is personal and yours alone. Speaker after speaker, in the context of “sex and justice,” had something to say about sex workers telling the truth of their experience.

At the first plenary (Sex and the State: Registries, Rights and Punishment) Deon Haywood, executive director of Louisiana’s Women With a Vision had 10 minutes to talk about her group’s successful “NO Justice” campaign. The campaign had successfully overturned a 19th century “Crimes Against Nature” law, which required people who offered oral or anal sex for money to register as sex offenders—disproportionately affecting poor women, people of color and trans individuals. [READ MORE]

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all photos courtesy of the author

One of my favorite male sex worker movies is The Great Happiness Space. The documentary film from 2006 follows the work lives of the staff members of Stylish Club, Rakkyo, one of the top host clubs in Osaka, Japan. The film was shot at a time when male host clubs were becoming more popular and attracting increased media attention. I was interested in the film as I had spent some time between 1998 and 2007 working in hostess clubs in Tokyo.

Friends back home had been indignant when I explained to them the nature of a hostess’ work. By performing a subservient role, they had argued, I was enforcing gender oppression, and shouldn’t I feel bad about that? I was curious to see the flipside, expecting to see a subversion of the gender roles played out in the hostess club where the woman dotes on the male customer. Perhaps I was looking for something to point at to say: Look: it’s OK; the industry caters for women too. I came away from the film thinking more about women in the sex industry, however, than men. [READ MORE]

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