Great Sex Work Moments in Pop Culture History

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) proposing to his sex worker girlfriend Vanessa Carslyle (Morena Baccarin) in Deadpool.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) proposing to his sex worker girlfriend Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin) in Deadpool.

When I first saw Deadpool on Valentine’s Day with my civilian partner, I remember leaving the theater on cloud nine, sure that my relationship could withstand anything. The movie made me feel like my job was not an obstacle to be overcome by romantic interests but a core part of me that could be embraced. I remember thinking that Morena Baccarin never had to go back to Joss Whedon to play a laterally whorephobic space courtesan because this film had allowed her to play an amazing sex worker.

I rewatched the film for this review and I have to say that this time it hurt. Watching Vanessa and Wade’s relationship unfurl on screen hit me hard.

Not because it was poorly written, though. Quite the opposite.

My partner and I broke up less than two weeks ago and watching this movie only reminded me of better times. Because Baccarin as Vanessa is awesome and her relationship with the titular hero is everything I have ever wanted from a story about a guy dating a sex worker. And it also represented everything that I wanted from being dated as one, with the addition of bad guys, bullets, and the breaking of the fourth wall.

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Amber Rose, via her Instagram page.

Amber Rose. (Via her Instagram page.)

Recently, Amber Rose has been in the spotlight for giving her opinion on The Breakfast Club 105.1 regarding Kim Kardashian’s 17-year-old half sister Kylie Jenner’s relationship with 25-year-old rapper Tyga. Rose was asked if Jenner is too young to date the “Rack City” rapper, and she responded with: “She’s a baby. She needs to go to bed at 7:00 o’clock and relax.” She also said Tyga should be ashamed of himself for leaving his family for a minor.

Let’s untangle this celebrity web. Rose has a close friendship with celebrity exotic dancer Blac Chyna. Chyna dated Tyga for a little over two years and had a child with him. Tyga split with Chyna last August and allegedly began a relationship with Jenner. In case you didn’t know, Jenner’s older half sister, Kim Kardashian, is married to Kanye West, whom Rose had a relationship with from 2008 to 2010, during which her modeling career launched when she posed for a Louis Vuitton print advertisement that featured West’s sneaker line. Later, Rose dated rapper Wiz Khalifa, with whom she had a son.

So that’s why The Breakfast Club asked Rose about Jenner. The interview spread like wildfire throughout social media. When Khloe Kardashian caught wind of Rose’s comments, she took to Twitter to attack Rose. In one tweet, she brought up the fact that Rose had stripped as a minor, saying, “Please don’t worry about my sister who has a career [modeling] and her shit.”

Rose’s romantic history is regularly the topic of gossip, but her background is more interesting. Raised in South Philadelphia, Rose became a stripper to support her family at the age of 15. In 2012, she did an interview for NecoleBitchie.com where she stated that when she and her mother became homeless, being an exotic dancer at a young age was simply a means of survival. She compared her situation to men who also live in poverty selling drugs to feed their families.

So in response to Kardashian, Rose clapped back in a series of tweets that highlighted Kardashian’s hypocrisy. She even tweeted “I’ll be that lil whore to support my family like ur sister is a whore 2 supports hers.”

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image via @1real_diamond

image via @1real_diamond

What the fuck, Justin Bieber, here’s the pile of money you dropped at a strip club in Houston last month. [READ MORE]

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DJ Dick Hennessy with Miss Beautiful Vagina 2013, Jordan

I was dressed modestly in a knee-length black dress, white Converse, and a denim jacket, and felt as comfortable as any stripper can when behaving as a civilian at a strip club event. Although Portland is home to about 45 strip clubs, its downtown entertainment district only has five, but on this Thursday evening, Club Rouge was already thumping with activity. I proudly displayed my black and pink VIP pass to the door attendant, feeling like vaginal royalty. About three dozen women of various ethnicities and body types strutted and mingled.

The judging panel was comprised of local Portland celebrities and industry folks: Tres Shannon, the delightfully eccentric owner of Voodoo Donuts, heavily bearded Jedediah Aaker, promoter of Tonic Lounge, who sports a leather thong in IFC’s Portlandia, traveling drag performer Miss Sasha Scarlette, an owner of a marijuana dispensary who wished to remain anonymous, and the unnamed owner of the upscale Stars clubs, who looked like a slightly more heterosexual John Waters. I was the only judge with an actual vagina. “I feel a lot of pressure was on your shoulders to maintain order and balance,” host and creator of the Annual Vagina Pageant, DJ Dick Hennessy, later told me.

20 contestants, 19 of whom were strippers, were vying for the title of Miss Pretty Vagina 2013. Scoring was based on three categories: Stage Talent (20%), Attractiveness (20%) and Vagina Beauty (60%). One young lady, appropriately dressed as a cute (yet clichéd) school girl, was introduced as having never stripped a shift in her life. While I admire the bravery of any woman willing to bare all in an industry competition, I was already dreading watching an amateur “dance.”

Club Rouge and Hennessy had attracted a diverse crowd. Twentysomething bros laughed and drank among well-dressed older men, a pack of women whispered into their hands and pointed at the strippers, and the Old Guy Who Sells Roses was weaving his way through the audience, muttering “Rose for the lady?” Dancer Ari from the Boom Boom Room giggled to me, “I just saw my dentist. He asked me, “How’s everything going? I asked him, “Like, in my mouth?” A fish-faced middle-aged man stood behind the judges, his mouth agape, not moving except to lick his lips every few minutes.

The bartender laughed at me when I asked “Do you serve hot tea?” and instead I settled for ice water with a lemon, dunking in my own smuggled tea bags. Once the contest began, the next four hours were a blur of vaginas and stilettos. [READ MORE]

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The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, based on Larry L. King’s The Whorehouse Papers, was a seminal work of sex work-themed pop culture. The successful 1982 film version of the musical, starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, included “I Will Always Love You,” a ballad that would later become Whitney Houston’s signature showstopper in The Bodyguard, and “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place,” a showtune that would become the go-to performance choice of future musical theater strippers across America. Undoubtedly, many young children of the 80s were first introduced to the very idea of prostitution by the film.

But before all that, the Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas, was a real place, and a massive news story in 1970s Texas. The brothel was brought down thanks to the, ahem, consumer advocate reporting of Geraldo Rivera precursor Marvin Zindler. During its final days, the Chicken Ranch was run by Edna Milton (later Chadwell), who had started working (yup) at the brothel in the 50s and later bought it for $30,000. The real life Miss Mona said she’d never had an affair with the local sheriff and that their relationship was all business. Somehow, this doesn’t make her story any less interesting.

Edna died this week after sustaining injuries in a car crash last October. Unfortunately, she never published an autobiography, but went on the record whenever she was asked. Although she often said the fictional stories about the Chicken Ranch were sensationalized, it’s hard to imagine her actual story was in any way boring.

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