The Week in Links

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The late Shannon Williams. (Photo via the GoFundMe page for Williams’ memorial, courtesy of Kristina Dolgin)

Shannon Williams, co-chair of SWOP-USA,  St. James Infirmary volunteer and Whorespeak activist, died this week after unexpectedly being diagnosed with a brain tumor.  There is a fund for her three children here. Williams became briefly notorious after being arrested in 2003 for prostitution while working as a high school teacher in Berkeley. She was a sex worker activist for over twenty years, and helped found SWOP, the largest sex workers’ rights organization  in America.

A cop in Arkansas was recently fired after he blew the whistle by revealing his department had a policy of sleeping with sex workers, then arresting them.  We need rescue from who, now?

Sex workers and activists in Sonagachhi, India held a candlelit vigil to protest police and government inaction after an escort was strangled by a client earlier this month.

These are probably my favorite two articles yet about my lawsuit against Casa Diablo: In These Times amply covers the labor issue while Tits and Sass contributor Tara Burns gives it the most detailed coverage yet,  including discussion of the sexual harassment charges, over at Vice. Both work in a few good meat puns.

Lubunca, the sex worker argot of the queer red light spaces in Turkey is being adopted by another marginalized Turkish group that has long overlapped with the brothels and bathhouses: the mainstream LGBT community.  The trendiness of Lubunca with civilian LGBT people, however, is destroying its utility for queer and gay-for-pay sex workers.

In advance of the Super Bowl, the Arizona Republic published a story about how anti-trafficking organizations pushed for the use of  “sex trafficking” instead of “prostitution.” Our ol’ pal Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, whom some of you may remember from her role as head of Project ROSE, the coercive Arizona State University social work school diversion program for sex workers, offers her two cents:

A victim should also be considered trafficked even if she is no longer actively controlled by someone, she said.

Instead, she said, women can be forced into prostitution by their life situation. She referred to it as ‘trafficked by circumstances.’

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Fees and fines are illegal, kids. (Photo courtesy of Red)

The Willamette Week broke the news that I, Tits and Sass Week In Links editor Red, and my fellow dancer Amy Pitts are suing my former strip club this week after months of tedious and stressful settlement negotiations. Shorter and less informative video clips on the suit can be found here and here, but probably the best coverage so far is this New York Daily News story, which makes more meat puns than I would normally find decent.

Alaskan sex workers are raising money to go to Juneau to lobby the Alaskan legislature. You can support their campaign and learn about their efforts here: Nothing About Us Without Us!

Bengals defensive back Adam Jones was ordered to pay over $12 million for his part in a fight and shooting that broke out at the Vegas strip club, Minxx.  Jones made it rain, dancers started fighting over the money, and eventually shooting broke out, injuring three people, including  one security guard who was paralyzed from the waist down.

New MTA safety ads warn against pole dancing in subway cars: “Poles are for safety, not your latest routine.”

Tits and Sass contributor Naomi Sayers responds brilliantly to an interrogation around C-36 and the assumption that it protects sex workers, while outlining sex work activists’ next steps in a post-C-36 Canada.

Nigerian full service sex workers are offering three days of their services free if General Muhammadu Buhari wins the upcoming presidential elections in February. Clever reverse Lystrata tactic!

Porn actor Jiz Lee writes that people should be as concerned with ethical porn consumption as they are with ethical porn, since illegal distribution not only allows consumers to not pay for workers’ products, it also allows producers to evade the very safety standards set in place to protect performers.

Benjamin Frederickson worked as a HIV positive sex worker in the Midwest and New York for years, documenting his life and his work with Polaroids that are now being shown in an exhibition at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York until February 28th. [READ MORE]

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Learn about sex work through a video game? Pass the Mountain Dew. (image via Flickr user royalport)

Learn about sex work through a video game? Pass the Mountain Dew. (image via Flickr user royalport)

A team of academics at Concordia University in Canada are developing a video game to counteract C-36.  The objective: to make money as a sex worker and survive.

The sex workers in Freetown, Sierra Leone are earning a small percentage of what they used to because of the Ebola crisis. Their customers are afraid that they may be infected. In addition, many of them no longer have their second jobs, so competition between them has become more severe, encouraging their customers to haggle more.

Kristin Davis, AKA The Manhattan Madam, has a few things to say as she begins her prison sentence:

I did not work with anyone who was forced to be an escort. But this would not be the case if prostitution was legalized everywhere. And if we legalize prostitution under the auspices of controlling the sex industry to keep it safe, we will end up fundamentally controlling the women working in the industry.

Sex workers in Canada say C-36 is affecting their incomes, although not lessening their need for money!  There’s this gem of a quote from a former sex worker who supports C-36, saying that she’s never met a prostitute who got into it because it was her career goal.   Let’s just imagine if that was a requirement for the legality of other jobs. McDonalds would never have another employee. School toilets would have to become self-cleaning. All toilets would have to become self-cleaning!

Writer Noah Berlatsky just keeps them coming lately!  This week it’s an article pointing out the ways that the desire for a sensational narrative obscure the mundane realities of sexual harassment, assault, and exploitation, including state involvement and the absolute ubiquitousness of routine violations. [READ MORE]

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Bianca Baxter, RIP. (Photo via Baxter's Google + profile)

Bianca Baxter, RIP. (Photo via Baxter’s Google + profile)

Ballroom dance star, actress, model, and former Playboy Playmate, Bianca Baxter, aka Barbie Mizrahi, passed away on December 21st.  You can contribute to the fund for her service here.

Ashley Renee Benson was found murdered in a Doubletree Inn in Portland, Oregon. Her family, whom she spent Christmas Day with, said they had no knowledge of her sex work. The police say contact with family is rare in cases like this:

“A lot of the time in human trafficking cases, the victims are not able to live one place and they’re not living apart from the criminal activity or their abusers.”

The police have quickly co-opted her into the trafficking framework, all evidence to the contrary.

A woman in Adelaide, Australia died under similar circumstances, and is suspected to be a sex worker although her identity hasn’t yet been established.  The way she is being written about is already significantly different, however: she’s being described as a woman who potentially came to Adelaide to work in the sex industry, no mention of trafficking.

A woman from Queens was arrested for running a brothel and “promoting prostitution,” after being found with hundreds of condoms in her car and three younger women who admitted to being sex workers but denied being trafficked.  No matter, the police were determined to fit them into the trafficking framework anyway.

A New Zealand brothel worker made history by winning a sexual harassment case against the manager of her brothel, although the IBTimes appears to find the grounds a little questionable:

What makes the case interesting is that the woman was never assaulted or raped, ripped or dismissed, trafficked or forced to do things she did not like. The victim was Williams (name changed), who worked at a Wellington brothel, and her boss used to say certain things that made her feel uneasy.

Although verbal sexual harassment is understood as harassment in most other industries, apparently nothing short of trafficking qualifies as harassment in the sex industry.

Street workers in Malawi are in conflict with bike taxis over methods of payment: according to one taxi operator, street workers use the taxis and then refuse to pay cash, offering an exchange of services instead.

Newsweek takes an unexpected (and unexpectedly pro-sex worker) look at Anita Sarkeesian’s sex work politics and her ongoing refusal to engage with sex workers around our requests for her to, please for God’s sake, stop saying “prostituted women.”

“What this tells us is that she sees men as creatures able to make sexual choices,” [Maggie] McNeil says, “but she sees women as creatures who can only have sex for traditional reasons—love, or romance or whatever. But if women are [having sex] for tactical reasons, then she sees this as somehow suspect—that a man must be doing that. Hence the [term] prostituted; someone has done this to her.”

Maddie Myers picks up the bat for us that Sarkeesian left in the dirt with this thoughtful post on Grand Theft Auto:

We need to think about what these games say about not just the people who make them, but the thousands and thousands of people who buy them, for whom this depiction of sex workers as disposable victims has become normalized past the point of even seeing the horror in it. If these games are always going to exist and never change, fine. But that does not excuse our own ignorance of them. And that does not remove our responsibility to talk with other people who play games, especially young teens, about what is being depicted.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has lifted the ban on blood donations from gay men, but still requires a year long wait after having gay sex, paid sex, or sex with an injection drug user.  Which, effectively, means there’s still a ban on gay men, sex workers, and people whose partners are IDUs or sex workers. I didn’t want to give you my blood anyway.

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A graphic Amanda Brooks made to illustrate the devastation abusive client Percy Lawayne Isgitt wreaked on her and Jill Brenneman. (Image via Amanda Brooks' blogs, courtesy of Amanda Brooks.)

A graphic Amanda Brooks made to illustrate the devastation abusive client Percy Lawayne Isgitt wreaked on her and Jill Brenneman. (Image via Amanda Brooks’ blogs, courtesy of Amanda Brooks)

You can contribute to longtime sex worker activists Jill Brenneman and Amanda Brooks to help them pay their medical expenses using the email abrooks2014@hush.com through Giftrocket. Brenneman and Brooks were abused and terrorized by a client over a span of two and a half years—they discussed their devastating story with Tits and Sass co-editors Caty and Josephine earlier this week.

Amber Batts is suffering the results of Alaska’s new anti-trafficking laws, which have resulted in her being charged with eight counts of felony sex trafficking for running an escorting agency. She’s been offered a plea bargain which would require her to register as a sex offender for life even after serving 10 to 25 years in prison.  Batt’s best chance against the conviction that would ruin her life is a good lawyer, but her lawyer just quit because she was unable to pay. Donate to her legal fund at crowdrise.

Mistress Anja, a pro-domme in Singapore, talks about how she got into her work and why she stays in it (because it’s a job that pays extremely well, spoiler).

Melinda Chateauvert, Savannah Sly, and Tits and Sass’s own Maggie Mcmuffin are interviewed in this article about Seattle SWOP’s symposium for December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Melissa Petro and Tits and Sass contributor Tara Burns wrote powerfully about the themes of the day, Petro for Al Jazeera and Burns for Vice. Missy Wilkinson also did a write up of SWOP-NOLA’s December 17th march in New Orleans for Gambit.

First the Swedish model and now mandatory testing: bill C-36 has passed in Canada and one public health organization there is advocating legalization, regulation, and mandatory testing, all for sex workers’ own good of course. The Canadian Public Health Association has taken the stance that legalization and regulation would create the safest climate for sex workers, allowing for the creation of

conditions that enable sex workers to access necessary health services and sexual health education initiatives to promote safer sex practices.

Although the CPHA’s paper outlining its stance uses some good language, it also has some baffling misstatements, claiming that sex workers have a higher instance of HIV and sti infection, for one. A higher instance than whom is left unsaid, but for the most part we have much lower rates of infection than the civilian population.

The Guardian asks how exactly Canada’s laws on prostitution managed to make a full 180 in one year.

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