Activism

(Image via memegenerator, courtesy of femmefurious.tumblr.com)

(Image via memegenerator.net, courtesy of femmefurious.tumblr.com)

I got an anonymous message on my Tumblr after a recent post I made complaining about how fashionable it seems to be for the sex workers’ rights movement to focus on the voices of clients of sex workers. Like me, the anonymous poster felt that clients’ feelings and experiences were being prioritized over theirs. This poor anon felt obligated to give a fuck about men’s feelings. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I really don’t give a shit about clients’ feelings. If I’m not being paid to deal with male bullshit, I have no interest in it.

Yet I, like anon, feel like I’m alone in that position a lot of the time. The illustrious Morgan M. Page/Odofemi, a Toronto-based trans writer, artist, activist, and former sex worker, has written about the clients of trans sex workers and described them as “the missing link in obtaining trans* and sex workers rights”. Entire blogs are dedicated to telling the stories of punters. It seems like people are really keen on the idea that the men who use our services should be there to stick up for us. And why not? They’re being criminalized too (though we’re the ones who suffer the truly awful consequences), and I’m sure many other sex workers will agree that we do get a sense from some clients that they appreciate our humanity. It all sounds very good on paper. So, what’s the problem?

Well, first of all, have a look at the link to the blog about punters’ stories I posted. One of the posts is even titled “Women only sell sex because they have to.” Really? You’re speaking for us now? Excuse me, dude, please do not tell me why I do anything. I am entirely capable of doing that myself. Sadly, the voices of non-sex workers have long been used to drown out those of actual whores, and this divergence into punters’ points of view doesn’t seem any different from here. What are they actually contributing? Are they calling out whorephobia, talking to their friends about how to treat us with respect, designing laws and social policies that make our lives easier? No. What I’m seeing is eerily reminiscent of review-culture, which is about them, not us. I could live with that, if they stopped it there and didn’t tip-toe over to our side of the fence and, armed with their male entitlement, start speaking for us in ways that usually re-affirm victimized whore tropes. I remember one post in particular in which a man moaned woefully—and creepily—about the breakdown of his marriage, his ex-wife’s daughter, and his mental illness (hi, I have one too and I’m not a twat), then suggested that an escort he contacted clearly wasn’t “a real professional” and wasn’t “dedicated to her work” because she didn’t want to deal with him calling her repeatedly weeks before his fucking booking. Why should we listen to that kind of shit? Who is it helping? Hint: NO ONE. Oh look, here’s the post in question. Somehow I don’t think “everyday whorephobia” understands how ironic their blog name becomes when they post this trash.

The point I am trying to make here is that if clients were contributing something valuable or even something innocuous to our movement, I could deal. Instead, they are perpetrating whorephobia. I fear that people who don’t know better will see posts like this and think these men somehow have more knowledge of our lives and the realities of our work than we do. After all, the conversations surrounding punters and activism are largely cisheteronormative, and most of these men bring their male privilege to the table, while not even being aware of these advantages.

[READ MORE]

{ 139 comments }

1483346_233307343510529_403785644_n

Photos courtesy of Soren High

Ziploc bags overflow with disposable handwarmers, hand sanitizer, crackers and nuts. Thick cotton socks and toothbrushes, tampons and lollipops are piled nearby. A few women and a couple of men stand or sit along a heavy wooden table, chatting lightheartedly and stuffing goodies and toiletries into bags. Two children toddle around, munching crackers and playing with yarn.

Luchador in north Portland is holding its first Nudes for the Needy drive. It’s like many other holiday donation events, except for one thing: it’s headed by adult entertainers. Petite, bespectacled pole dancer Soren High brushes her dreadlocks away from her face as she hurriedly carries blankets and boxes around the room, delegating tasks to her volunteer friends.

“I’ve been homeless before,” she explains. “From about 2005, on and off until 2009. I lived in my car, with my boyfriend at the time. I lived under bridges. I know what life is like when you’re homeless, and I want to give back.”

When asked what sparked her desire to organize an event, Soren answers candidly. “I literally woke up one morning and felt like I needed to do something good. I started chatting about making blankets and giving them to family, but somebody else proposed a blanket making party, and here we are.”

The temperatures have been unseasonably frigid for Portland this year, with snow falling early in the month of December, and temperatures of 13 degrees recorded. The normal average temperature at this date is about twenty degrees warmer. “At least five deaths of street-folks were recorded within a matter of days,” Soren posted on her Facebook, rallying help in a hurry to hand out blankets and supplies on December 9th and 10th. I spoke with her about organizing in the community.

How did this begin?

Nude for the Needy started as a Christmas present for my family. I meant to make snip-n-tie blankets for everyone in my family and give them to a person in need as their gift. The idea bloomed into asking several of the girls that I work with to help with the project to come together and bring donations and a blanket. I know how amazing it feels to be given a blanket when you’re cold, or to receive food when you’re hungry. You remember that person for the rest of your life.

[READ MORE]

{ 2 comments }

Tune in here on Tuesday, February 4th at 5:30 p.m. EST/2:30 p.m. PST for our interview with Monica Jones.

Watch the archived interview below! The sound quality improves as it goes on, Bubbles had a learning curve in audio engineering. Beside Monica is Jaclyn Moskal-Dairman of SWOP-Phoenix, present at Monica’s request. You can read Caty’s interview with her here. And here is Bubbles’ interview with Jordan Flaherty about his work covering Project ROSE.

For more information on Monica’s case, visit SWOP-Phoenix.

{ 6 comments }

Monica Jones (via indiegogo)

Monica Jones (via indiegogo)

For Immediate Release; interview to take place Tuesday February 4th 2014 at 5:30 p.m.

Tits and Sass to livestream interview with Phoenix sex work activist Monica Jones, currently facing charges of “manifesting prostitution” during protests of The Phoenix PD’s Project ROSE sweeps

In May 2013, a sex workers’ rights activist and Arizona State University social work student named Monica Jones was picked up by an undercover police officer, set up on charges of manifesting prostitution, and transported to the Project ROSE processing site. Project ROSE is a diversion program organized by ASU’s School of Social Work, directed by Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz in collaboration with Phoenix police. The program allows eligible sex working candidates the “choice” between arrest or “rehabilitation.”

Project ROSE and the police sweeps that funnel sex workers into the program has been met with protest and anger within the sex worker and activist community in Phoenix. Al Jazeera covered the tension surrounding Project ROSE, pulling a fuller version of the story that was shared with Tits and Sass’s readers.

Jones did not qualify for Project ROSE. She was arrested. Activists wonder whether she was intentionally targeted among the protest’s participants as a trans woman of color, or because she is a student of social work at the very same program that conceived of Project ROSE. Though a special prosecutor has been appointed to her case, indicating that she is to be made an example of, Jones is fully intent on challenging the charges levied against her.

We will be interviewing her LIVE on February 4, 2014 at 3:30 PM MST (5:30 PM EST) on our website, titsandsass.com. We welcome you to watch and participate in the discussion on Twitter. Use the hashtag #AskMonica.

Press release available here.

Since February 2011, we at Tits and Sass have committed ourselves to covering issues that touch sex workers the most. Our brand of journalism—by and for sex workers—is a complicated craft that requires patience and sensitivity. Our mission is to make sure sex workers have the platform we deserve.

{ 0 comments }

Victorian sex workers at a December 17th event (photo courtesy of Jane Green)

Participants at the Red Umbrella Rally, Festival of Sex Work, Melbourne 2013 (photo courtesy of the Scarlet Alliance Archives)

After the Sydney Morning Herald published an editorial promoting the Swedish model of criminalizing sex workers’ clients, exploiting the murder of Australian street sex worker Tracy Connelly to further an anti-sex worker agenda, many sex workers responded to the piece by writing to the news outlets that printed or re-printed it. Jane Green wrote a version of the editorial that appears below and sent it to both the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. The Sydney Morning Herald didn’t respond or return phone calls. The Age did, eventually, but after two and a half weeks of discussions decided against running an edited version, indicating they’d provide better access to sex workers “next time.” We at Tits and Sass thank Jane for allowing us to post the what other outlets declined to publish.

As a Victorian sex worker, I looked on in horror at the article seeking to exploit the death of sex worker Tracy Connelly, published in the Sydney Morning Herald days before the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

It is horrifying and traumatizing to the sex worker community to have an article proposing the Nordic Model of criminalizing sex workers’ clients—proven to have devastating effects on sex workers’ health and safety—released on a day used to protest violence against sex workers. Horrifying, but not surprising.

Looking back on the month of sex worker Tracy Connelly’s death, July 2013, which encompassed four high profile sex worker deaths internationally, I am struck not just by the tone of the writing, but by what it highlights to me as a sex worker regarding what the media are willing to, or interested in, discussing. It tells me what is newsworthy about our lives.

[READ MORE]

{ 11 comments }