Blast From the Past

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Quote of the Week

Only when human sorrows are turned into a toy with glaring colors will baby people become interested–for a while at least. The “righteous” cry against the white slave traffic is such a toy. It serves to amuse the people for a little while, and it will help to create a few more fat political jobs–parasites who stalk about the world as inspectors, investigators, detectives, and so forth.

What is really the cause of the trade in women?¬†Not merely white women, but yellow and black women as well.¬†Exploitation, of course; the merciless Moloch of capitalism that fattens on underpaid labor [… T]hese girls feel, “Why waste your life working for a few shillings a week in a scullery, eighteen hours a day?”

Naturally our reformers say nothing about this cause. They know it well enough, but it doesn’t pay to say anything about it. It is much more profitable to play the Pharisee, to pretend an outraged morality, than to go to the bottom of things.”

From feminist icon Emma Goldman’s bad-ass 1917 response to “white slavery” hysteria.

DuBarry Was a Lady (1943)

Du Barry Was A Lady (1943)

This film! Gene Kelly, Red Skelton, and Lucille Ball (who is a most epic redhead in color, I have to say) star in this musical where a hat check boy busts his head and dreams he is Louis XV, and Lucy is his Madame Du Barry. Sex work is, obviously, never mentioned. I mean, this film was made in 1943 y’all, I’d be expecting quite a lot if I needed them to say she was what she was. But. BUT. Anyone who knows their Ho-story knows that Madame Du Barry was a Courtesan. Courtesans fucked for cash . . . among other things, obviously.

Let’s Talk About Pretty Woman (1990)

Editors Note:
There’s no sex work film as iconic as Pretty Woman, which is why we needed a total of three Tits and Sass-ers to tackle it. We figured we might as well start today, on Richard Gere’s birthday, with Bettie’s thoughts on the highest profile hooker with a heart of gold, followed by Charlotte’s take on Gere’s turn as provider instead of client in American Gigolo, and ending with an anonymous escort’s rebuke to the world Pretty Woman presents. Is there something about Vivian and Edward that still needs to be said after all that? Feel free to leave your own PW thoughts in the comments.

I have to admit, I’m not really a fan of Pretty Woman anymore. I used to be, before I started working. Now, though…

But it’s not because it’s an awful film. Indeed, it’s probably because it’s so good that I find it abhorrent. Even writing this review about it is getting on my nerves. That’s how far I’d like to stay from it at this point.

So, the story (as you all know) goes like this: Woman is a prostitute. Woman gives guy directions and ends up in his hotel room doing what prostitutes do when they are working. Guy’s kind of a dick…or socially awkward, whichever works for you, so he decides that instead of spending the week alone and perhaps trying to get another woman to spend time with him, he’ll just have Woman stay, for $3,000 and use of his credit cards. Woman thinks that’s swell. They spend time together (after she goes through a transformation the likes of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady…or Sabrina, without the trip to Paris) They fall in love.

The last scene where he’s on the white limo with the rose in his mouth is just, ugh. My nerves are bad. Why didn’t he use the Esprit SE? I would totally fall for a dude in one of those.

Blast From The Past: Striptease (1996)

Until several days ago, Striptease was a glaring oversight in my otherwise comprehensive history of sex work film viewing. I thought I should rectify that problem in light of my grousing about Demi Moore’s ham-handed anti-trafficking efforts, so I did. Sort-of. (Halfway through, I had to turn it off. It is unwatchably, un-fun-ly bad.)

Here are the highlights of what I saw before then. They should tell you everything you need to know:

Annie Sprinkle and the Founding of December 17th

photo by Julian Cash

Sex work activist Annie Sprinkle was the mind behind the original International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. After the conviction of “Green River Killer” Gary Ridgway, Sprinkle and activists from SWOP decided that a holiday was necessary to commemorate people in our community who have been the victims of violence, and to draw the public’s attention to the danger of working without legal protection and under harsh societal stigma.

Eight years later, the holiday is unfortunately as poignant as ever, as the Long Island serial killer has been occupying headlines for the past year. Annie spoke with me about the origins of December 17th, and the most memorable moments in her several decades of activism.