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From Belle Knox to working the World Cup, the headline writers of the world’s publications had cause to write many headlines about sex work. In chronological order, we bring you the worst ten of the bunch, each gross, reductive, and hateful in its own special way.

I Begged For Change To Stay Out Of The Sex Industry,” XOJane, Feb. 6 2014

XOJane’s “It Happened To Me” feature is generally offensive (“It Happened To Me: I Had First World Problems”) but this edition might take the cake. A lot of bad things happened to this woman while she was impoverished, but her equivocation over whether or not to become a high end escort after watching Secret Diary Of A Call Girl wasn’t one of them.

Welcome Home, Daddy, I’m A Porn Star!” The Daily Mail, Mar. 10 2014

We know the Daily Fail isn’t exactly known for its rigorous journalism, and they are in the business of aggregation, so it’s not surprising that they had the single worst headline about Belle Knox.

Sex Workers Are Excited For The World Cup Because They Think It Will Make Them Rich,” The Atlantic, Apr. 15 2014

Sex workers are realists, and painting Brazilian workers as naive dreamers with Pretty Woman fantasies featuring dollar wielding American white knight clients does them a grave disservice.

Why Do So Many Leftists Want Sex Work to Be the New Normal?” The Nation, Apr. 21 2014

It’s news to us that SO MANY leftists want that, but it would seem that wanting rights for all workers should be a part of any decent politics. Katha Pollitt really goes in on the “the sex workers we hear from are all too privileged to be credible!” theme here, not realizing that her example of a New Inquiry-contributing, grad-school attending sex worker has a story that doesn’t back up her thesis.

Tech-Savvy Prostitutes Trade Pimps for Web Pages,” NBCNews.com, Jul. 11 2014

It’s a story straight out of 2007: Sex workers use the internet to advertise! [READ MORE]

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(Image by antonia!, via Flickr and the Creative Commons)

(Image by antonia!, via Flickr and the Creative Commons)

I am non-monogamous by choice, not just by de facto circumstance because of the fact that I am an escort. I live with one of my serious partners, and have a few other partners and sexy friends. I’ve never been suited to monogamy, and sex work has always played a role in that for me. When I was a baby sex worker and dancing at a sleazy club, my emotionally abusive boyfriend at the time asked me to quit, after initially telling me he was fine with it. His reasoning was that he just couldn’t stand the thought of me even flirting with other men. I quit quickly after that conversation, telling myself it was because I hated the work and not because of his jealousy. It was mostly because I didn’t want to lose him, though. He continued to abuse me after that, eventually forcing me to isolate myself emotionally from anyone other than him. His jealousy forced me to work jobs that were even less emotionally healthy for me than dancing at that club or PSOing and camming were. He used heteromonogamous norms to assert complete control over every aspect of my life. Eventually, I woke up and quit him for good. He retaliated by smashing out the windows on my car. I consider myself pretty lucky to have never been physically assaulted by him.

After that, I refused to have anything to do with anyone who felt they had any dominion over my sexual choices. I was in a couple of relationships that were monogamish in between then and now, but always with the understanding that I was free to have sex with whomever I pleased if the circumstances were right. Now I will only be in relationships with people who fully understand that I am my own person who makes my own choices, both sexually and emotionally. While I am not the sort of person to tell people what do with their lives or how to structure their relationships, I find the expectation that every relationship should be monogamous to be highly problematic.

Last week I awoke to the news of what happened to Christy Mack, the adult film star who was sexually assaulted, severely beaten and nearly killed by her ex-boyfriend, mixed martial arts fighter Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver. According to a statement she released last Monday, she and a friend were attacked by Koppenhaver when he showed up at her house unannounced and found them there together. One part of her statement stuck out to me, and I’ve been thinking about it all week. In Mack’s words:

When he arrived, he found myself and one other fully clothed and unarmed in the house.

What really got me was the choice to state that her friend and she were fully clothed. This woman was assaulted by her ex to the point of being hospitalized in serious condition, and she still felt pressure to highlight the fact that Koppenhaver had not caught her in an act of sexual indiscretion. It shouldn’t matter; not only because he is her ex, it just shouldn’t ever matter. Catching someone having sex with someone else should never be an excuse to attack them.

[READ MORE]

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War Machine's rationalizations (Screenshot of War Machine's tweet)

War Machine’s tweeted rationalizations—note the number of retweets and favorites (Screenshot of War Machine’s Twitter feed)

“Don’t hit women or whores” reads an oh-so-helpful comment under one of the many reports of the brutal assault and attempted rape of porn actress and dancer Christy Mack by her ex partner, War Machine (formerly known as John Koppenhaver), this past week. And that’s one of the nice ones. Most of the not-nice ones start with “what did you expect?” and get worse from there. Koppenhaver himself seems to see his role in the attack as a tragic victim of fate, a “cursed” man who had hoped to be engaged to the woman he broke up with in May, whose house he broke into in August.

While, in the face of the graphic and horrific story that Mack released, Koppenhaver’s view seems woefully out of touch with reality, the truth is, he’s right to predict sympathy for himself. Assaulting a sex worker, especially one that you once deigned to be in a relationship with, is viewed as pretty understandable. Just by watching TV or using the internet (ever), how many hundreds of jokes and not-jokes did Koppenhaver encounter excusing and encouraging him to do just that? It might be tempting, for the sake of our views on the state of humanity, to label his on-the-run tweets as a disingenuous ploy for public understanding, but I believe it is the less likely explanation of the two. What reason have we to believe that Koppenhaver was special, that he was somehow immune to the prevailing cultural narrative about the worth of those who do sex work? Why wouldn’t he think of himself as a lamentable casualty of an unfair system?

[READ MORE]

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Annie Sprinkle: a woman who needs to get back in touch with her movement rather than speaking over it (Photo by Creatrix Tlara, via her flickr and the Creative Commons)

Annie Sprinkle: a woman who needs to get back in touch with her movement rather than speaking over it (Photo by Creatrix Tlara, via her flickr and the Creative Commons)

As a general rule, I absolutely love being called “adorable.” It reaffirms a lifetime of well-intentioned cheek pinches and makes me feel like I still look youthful as I approach 30. But being an adorable person is a very different thing than being part of an adorable movement. So when Annie Sprinkle took to Facebook to chastise sex workers who decided to “act up” at a conference called “Fantasies that Matter–Images of Sex Work in Media and Art,” and used condescending terms like “adorable” and “well intentioned” to describe sex workers who seek a voice in discourses about them, well, I got just adorably incensed.

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All photos courtesy Dick Hennessy Productions/Hypnox

All photos courtesy Dick Hennessy Productions/Hypnox

ATTN: NSFW PHOTOS AFTER THE JUMP

At 10 p.m. last Thursday, I sat myself in the judges’ row at Club Rouge in downtown Portland for the fifth annual Vagina Beauty Pageant. There were six judges, two poles, 22 competitors and 23 vaginas. Wait, what?

“Didja hear the story?” pageant staff photographer Hypnox shouted over the music. “Apparently, when she was a young lady and used a tampon for the first time, she inserted it but the blood didn’t stop flowing.”

The Vagina Pageant has been criticized for its somewhat anatomically incorrect moniker. However, I’d like to state that while it might be called the Vulva Pageant, within seconds of the contest’s beginning I really did view the inside of a vaginal canal and would see several more throughout the evening.

I spied my coworker Juniper Knox from Lucky Devil Lounge across from me, fondling a blow up doll’s breasts and lip syncing to Aaliyah. Nearer, judge Rachel Reckless sat stretched and crossed her long tattooed legs, sipping her drink through platinum-capped teeth. Beside her was Jedidiah Aaker of Portlandia fame (he’s the bearded guy in the thong). To my left was Nik Sin, all 3’6” of him looking devilishly handsome. Nik has appeared on Oddities, Portlandia, Jerry Springer and Maury, and has toured the country doing his Mini Marilyn Manson impersonation. Judge Tres Shannon, of world-famous Voodoo Donut, looked across the room. “I should check on my friend, Poster Boy. He doesn’t know anybody,” he said.

“He smells bad,” I said.

“He has butter on his dick.”

That wasn’t what I expected to hear. Although I already feared that I knew the answer, I asked “Why?”

“He gets lap dances.”

Suddenly the house lights were raised, “so that the judges could see better.” I cringed at the thought of the inability to hide treacherous razor burn and blemishes. Red light absent, shit was gonna get real. [READ MORE]

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