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What is Bike Smut?: An Interview With Poppy Cox

I was first introduced to Poppy Cox when fellow T&S writer Kat and I attended an amateur porn film festival. Poppy’s cleverly crafted skit made an impression on us because it was one of the more explicit, yet still charming mini-films. In it, Poppy wakes up beside her male lover and tries to tempt him into a morning romp but he rolls over to continue snoozing. She dresses for the day, mounts her bicycle and rides to a serene grass field, where she masturbates happily in the grass, her two wheeled companion beside her.

So I was a bit familiar with bike smut when I drove to sit down with the vivacious woman at a small coffee shop in SE Portland. Upon entering, we recognized each other immediately.

Can you explain Bike Smut?

Bike Smut is an international touring film festival celebrating human powered transportation and sex positive culture. Each year, we present a new program of short films about bikes and sex made by cyclists, queers and perverts from all over the world. I would consider myself a “bike-sexual.” I’m mostly straight, however one of the things I consider before I’ll date anybody is: do you ride a bike?

Pedalpalooza is 3 weeks of (nearly all) free bike events that happen every year in June in Portland. They are not organized by any one or group of people, but instead are totally open source. Anyone can organize an event and it will be put on the official calendar. The world naked bike ride is the biggest event that happens as part of it each year. My bicycle is a huge part of my life. When I go out or go to work, I ride my bicycle. I know how long it will take me, and I know how I’m going to get there. And if I had to guess, I bet 90% of bike commuters would agree with how I feel.

And how does that relate to your work?

In this car-centric, patriarchal society, it can be considered one of the biggest oppositions to that, to ride a bike. I consider it an act of freedom, to refuse to drive a car. All different types of people are bicyclists, so there’s a great deal of diversity but we have that major thing in common.

Who Gets Left Out: Respectability Politics Round Table, Part Two

One of Melissa Gira Grant's Carceral Feminist Cat memes at carceralfeministcat.tumblr.com
One of Melissa Gira Grant’s Carceral Feminist Cat memes at carceralfeministcat.tumblr.com

You can read part one of this dialogue here.

Emma Caterine: Red Umbrella Project has definitely encountered issues around pressure to conform to respectability politics from larger groups who fund or sponsor us in different ways. It is telling that I can’t mention many of the specifics for fear of re-opening old wounds. Particularly the issue of trafficked people, especially children, is presented as something we “have” to deal with, account for, and fight against despite the fact that it does not fall under our purview. I know not at all groups that work with sex workers restrict themselves from working with survivors of trafficking (i.e. Sex Worker’s Project) and I admire their work. However, I think the pressure to always bring up trafficking any time sex work is mentioned is definitely a part of respectability politics, even replicated by advocates who are or have worked in the sex trades. Thoughts and experiences?

Sarah Patterson: This is definitely an ongoing discussion within Persist. Since some of our founding organizers have had experiences in the sex trades that might be regarded as trafficking by some definitions of the term, a need to hold space for trafficking survivors has been of particular import to us. Also, health access for all people in the sex trades is part of our mission, so trafficking survivors are absolutely included as folks who can and should access our services. But how to do that, without playing into the binary-driven debate of trafficking survivors versus sex workers, rather than trafficking survivors and/or sex workers? Even using the phrase “trafficking survivors and sex workers” suggests that they are independent groups, which we know is not necessarily the case, based on individuals’ experiences or whose definition of the terms you are using.

Sometimes it seems as though any deviation from the heavy emotionality and highly negative filter given to most anti-trafficking language/semantics is read as “happy hooker” code. I aim for as much neutrality as possible when I speak about the sex trades, in an effort to be as inclusive of as many experiences as possible, but it seems as though even neutrality gets skewed to the “pro-sex work” side in such a highly ideological debate. I suppose therein lies the trap of it…

Talking Dirty with Tonya Jone Miller


I was flipping through BUST magazine last month when I came across a story about a Portland-based phone sex operator who makes all sorts of cash talking about food fetishes. Impressed and intrigued, the first thing that came to my mind was my all-time favorite South Park episode where Stan’s dad gets caught jerking off while watching the Food Network late at night. After his wife blocks the channel, he starts calling the Food Network hotline and talks to a sultry-voiced woman about deglazing and how moist the pan roasted chicken is. So when I heard about Tonya Jone Miller, I was beyond thrilled to think that conversations like this really happen in the non-animated world, and that a real live woman might be getting rich bringing foodie fantasies to life.
To my disappointment, Tonya tells me that the food fetish thing isn’t super-common but was a fun angle for the story, which appeared in BUST’s food issue. She is, however, a successful, full-time indie phone sex operator with plenty to say about her business.

Activist Spotlight: Ceyenne Doroshow on The Red Umbrella Diaries, Recipes, and Resilience

Ceyenne Doroshow. (Photo courtesy of Lily Fury)
Ceyenne Doroshow. (Photo by John Mastbrook, courtesy of Lily Fury)

Ceyenne Doroshow originally made a name for herself on stage as one of the seasoned performance artists and audience favorites of the Red Umbrella Diaries’ storytelling nights. She is featured as one of seven sex workers who tell their story on the newly released documentary The Red Umbrella Diaries, which will have its world premiere in Portland, Oregon today. In her compelling memoir cookbook, Cooking in Heels, written with Red Umbrella Project’s Audacia Ray, she tells her story: a black transgender woman’s triumph over adversity with the help of her passion for cooking. Doroshow stays busy as a published author, a public speaker, a documentary star, and a stage darling while never forgetting her roots. She remains committed to doing activist work, whether that means incorporating her lived experiences into her performances, lending her voice to trans rights conferences across the country, fostering LGBT youth, or working at The River Fund helping impoverished families. Lily Fury transcribed this from a series of conversations with Doroshow.

What have been some of the more memorable reactions to your book?

Being nominated for the MOTHA (Museum of Transgender History and Arts) awards and voted for by women like Janet Mock…I remember the same day Audacia Ray e-mailed me a review of my book that literally brought me to tears. It wasn’t a long drawn out review, but it got straight to the point, emphasizing [that] “This book changed my life.” And that was the take home that you want to take back into society whenever you do projects, whenever you bare your soul.

It’s not just a cookbook, it’s a memoir cookbook that shares something people rarely share. There’s no school to go to when dealing with the transgender child, and there were actually parents that got in contact with me to thank me or because they had made mistakes, and it was incredibly gratifying for me that these parents recognized their mistakes through my memoir…I set out to hopefully help one person and I found out I’m helping a whole lot more, and it’s really empowering.

Can you speak about your experience being outed publicly as a sex worker and serving time?

I was railroaded. This was something that usually someone would just get a desk appearance, probably a fine, and get out, but Governor Christie wanted to make me an example…I had to serve 30 days in jail, I didn’t get a warning, I didn’t get what like most people would get—if you’re of a certain level of stature in life, you’re allowed to fix your stuff.

They put me in protective custody with [another] trans identifying person, which was safer to an extent. But being in protective custody, which is really cruel in itself, is 23 hours being locked in a cell and having to defecate in front of someone, having to bear your most private pain, your tears, with a stranger you don’t know. But at the same time, it was gratifying that there was somebody there with me in that cell. Had there not been anybody, I would have come out far more damaged.

But they had these vents in the jail and I could talk to other inmates and some of them recognized me from Jersey City and some of them recognized me from the newspaper. To…add insult [to injury]…my newspaper article was floating around the cells because the CO’s had actually shown them to the inmates and the other guards. Which had made me horrified, but at the same time I had nothing to be ashamed of. It was more the process of…them wanting to publicly shame you to the point where you may not want to live or you may become suicidal. There’s no therapy for that. In my opinion, there’s no therapy for coming home because when you come home your security is broken because the whole process of trusting the system…is revealed to be a lie.

Activist Spotlight: Melissa Ditmore on Responsible Advocacy and No-BS Research

amelissaditmore2Dr. Melissa Ditmore is one of the sex workers’ rights movement’s most cherished academics. For twelve years, she has worked as a freelance research consultant, with an impressive list of clients that includes AIDS Fonds Netherland, UNAIDS, The Sex Workers’ Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center, and The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). Her work has focused not only on sex workers’ rights, but also those of similarly marginalized groups like migrant workers and drug users. She edited the groundbreaking anthology Sex Work Matters and the history Prostitution and Sex Work, headed seminal research like the Sex Workers’ Project’s “Behind Closed Doors,” and she’s written regular pro-sex workers’ rights pieces for RH Reality Check and The GuardianThe project she’s most known for, though, is the gargantuan effort that produced Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, a two volume labor of love that has already become a movement classic since its publication in 2006.

Jessica Land: How did you come to edit the Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work? It’s such an important work for both academics and sex workers’ rights activists, but buying the Encyclopedia isn’t feasible for many people due to price. For this reason, I’m almost giddy every time I find the volumes in a library. Is the Encyclopedia widely available in library settings?

Melissa Ditmore: I am always thrilled to see the Encyclopedia in libraries and in their catalogs! As you say, it’s an expensive book, as are most reference works. Reference books are intended for libraries, so this is how most people will get access to it. It had a second printing, so it sold well, mostly to university libraries and public libraries. Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story about a fictional encyclopedia that influences history. What I want for the Encyclopedia is for some of the history to be easily found and remembered, and being in libraries is key to that.

The publisher wanted to do this, and contacted Priscilla Alexander, who co-edited Sex Work, about taking it on. She was interested and asked me to work on it with her. As we worked on the proposal, it became clear that her job was too demanding for her to be able to do both her job and such a large editing project. And it was a large project: Priscilla helped with the initial list of entries, and there are 342 entries by 179 authors. Priscilla remained on the advisory board and was very helpful throughout.

Your vast contributions to sex work research have served the interests of sex workers’ rights activists for twelve years. You’ve been involved with a wide range of organizations, from the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) to PONY (Prostitutes of New York.)What are some of the harder things you have confronted?

PONY once received an inquiry from a female law enforcement officer in the American south, and I followed up. This officer told me that a well-connected officer she worked with was abusing his power to commit extreme violence. She said that he used his badge to force women into his car, and then he would take them far away from the place they met. She believed he had murdered women, and she feared for herself if she brought attention to it, but could not live with staying quiet either. While PONY had helped other people with referrals to attorneys and even introduced them to someone who successfully pressed charges against a serial rapist in NYC, PONY had nothing to offer her in her region, and this guy may have murdered again. She only got to vent, and I hope she found the courage to report her violent co-worker to the feds, as she made it sound like the equivalent of internal affairs there would not be helpful or concerned. That was deeply distressing for both of us.

Readers of Tits and Sass know that murders of sex workers are all too common and often happen without diligent investigation, as documented in the recent book Lost Girls.