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An Excerpt from Prose and Lore, Issue #2 (2013)

(Image courtesy of the Red Umbrella Project)
(Image courtesy of the Red Umbrella Project)

Prose & Lore is the Red Umbrella Project’s literary journal, which collects memoir stories about sex work in two issues per year (Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer). The stories are original to Prose & Lore, and about 75% of the authors in each issue are previously unpublished. Many of the contributors participate in RedUP’s memoir workshops and drop-in writing sessions. You can buy the new issue here, or pony up for a Prose and Lore subscription here. On Tuesday, July 23rd at 7 pm at the Bureau of General Services, Queer Division (27 Orchard Street in Manhattan) contributors to Prose and Lore will be giving a free reading.

This is an excerpt from contributor Mandy Tz’s piece, “My Almost First Time”, describing her first experience attempting full service sex work after working as a webcam girl. Mandy is a white trans woman who enjoys nothing more than telling a heavily tattooed man begging to worship her that she can’t hear him cause she has “Ace of Spades” blasting from her speakers. She may seem sensitive from her piece but she’s actually an evil, merciless slut devoted to instituting female supremacy. You can contact her for plans of future co-femme world domination at

…I open the attachment on the email. It’s a picture he took of himself by using the mirrored ceiling of an elevator. Oh, wannabe artsy types. But he was cute for a pasty white guy as old as my dad. So I thought, yeah sure why not. I told him I’d love to meet up. He said he could meet on Thursday night and I said I was free too. I didn’t realize until Thursday morning that it was Valentine’s Day. Hmmm, I wondered, should I be suspicious of that?

I hit up one of my girls who had been doing this sorta stuff for a while. “I wouldn’t be worried,” she told me in that tone of confident knowing that she spoke with even when she was clueless, “I’ve had lots of Valentine’s bookings. They feel lonely. Hell, sometimes it means they will pay you more.” Though I do ask for it, I am often wary of taking advice, especially on doing sex work, from cis girls. It is a completely different dynamic and though generally we are expected to be very similar things and to meet certain standards, trans women who detract in any wayfrom those standards are judged much more harshly. My outfit, makeup, legs, hair all have to be flawless, ‘cause if and when my top comes off, my clients aren’t happy to see the tiny little nibs. And this particular girl had, amongst other things, told me she had worked without makeup and had worked in flats, things I didn’t and still don’t think I could get away with. But for some reason I believed her this time. I was desperate to believe this would go smoothly: I had little money, my exgirlfriend was kicking me out of our apartment, and I really wanted to get laid, even if the sex was shitty. I didn’t want sex, I wanted affirmation that I would be okay.

Naked Music Monday: “What A Way To Make A Living”

image via The Gloss
image via The Gloss

Hooking is  definitely one of the better jobs I’ve had, but it’s still a job, and sometimes it gets me down. A slow week, a jerk client, a particularly gross newspaper article, being outed by a friend—it can be hard to keep your spirits up and your head in the money-making mindset amid all that noise. At those times, I like to take refuge in quality pop music and pithy political analysis. These songs combine both.

Dolly Parton, “9 to 5”

We all gotta work, and Dolly Parton (my hero) has always been pretty savvy about using what she’s got to get ahead. She also knows it’s not easy, and she never sugar-coats it either. If there’s a catchier, more incisive pop song about working women negotiating capitalism’s daily grind, I want to hear about it (I mean that, please tell me about it, I love that shit). This song never fails to perk me up before a particularly dire day or night of work. Whichever 9 to 5 you work, Dolly is there for you.

Salt-n-Pepa, “None of Your Business”

“Opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got one”.

The Racism of Decriminalization

“Place of Power.” (Painting by author from her finite gestures series)

Since I began writing this piece, both Scarlet Alliance and SWOP NSW have issued an apology to migrant sex workers for their part in the SEXHUM research. This is an unprecedented move in the right direction for peer organizations. I hope that there will be more attempts in the future to empower migrants and POC, including Aboriginal sex workers, toward self-advocacy. I also hope that in the future, such a statement and its denunciation of non-peer-led research will be initiated by organizations without the need for heavy internal and external pressure from migrant sex workers first. Indeed, I hope that no statements like this are necessary in the future because this complicity with typically unethical outsider-led research will cease to occur in the first place.

As sex worker activists we love pointing fingers at the anti-trafficking industry, whorephobic art and media, and researchers with save-the-whore complexes. Yet, the sex worker activist movement itself is similarly stigmatizing towards migrant POC sex workers. Our movement has promoted the New Zealand decriminalization model for decades without being critical of New Zealand’s criminalization of migrant workers. The global sex workers’ rights movement heralds decriminalization at all costs, while often overlooking the racism involved in its partial implementation. The argument is that decriminalization of sex work will end stigma and benefit all workers equally. However, POC migrant sex workers (PMSW) still experience stigma, raids, and racism within the purported decriminalized sex worker heavens of New South Wales, Australia and New Zealand.

A Tidal Wave, Not A Fire Hose: Access To Condoms In New York And Why It Is Important To Decriminalization Struggles

(Image from the film: Advocating in Albany, (No Condoms as Evidence), Red Umbrella Project)
(Image from the film: Advocating in Albany, (No Condoms as Evidence), Red Umbrella Project)

I’m a community organizer for Red Umbrella Project, and for the past year and a half I’ve been one of the leaders in the struggle to ban the use of condoms as evidence of all prostitution-related offenses in New York. We recently had a great victory in this campaign with a NYPD directive issued that bans the use of condoms for three misdemeanor offenses: prostitution, loitering for the purposes of prostitution, and prostitution in a school zone. Unfortunately that still excludes most prostitution-related offenses which, while targeted at clients, managers of the sex trades, and human sex traffickers, all too often are an initial charge filed against those doing sex work, especially transgender women of color. So our battle continues. But I feel it is important to clarify for people in the sex trades around the world why it is that we as a peer-led group by and for people in the sex trades place such great importance in this issue. While some may say that advocacy of any goal short of the decriminalization of all prostitution laws is selling out, the decriminalization of condoms opens the door for greater possibilities in organizing around other decrim efforts both in New York and elsewhere.

Handcuffs empower no one. Red Umbrella Project knows, from the arrests and incarcerations of our comrades, family, and friends, that the criminal justice system is toxic to the lives of people in the sex trades, especially those most marginalized within it. All too often sex work criminalization goes hand-in-hand with the criminalization of trans women and queer youth of color, undocumented people, and low-income women of color. Believing strongly that a peer-led model personally empowers the lives of people in ways that even the most progressive justice system cannot, we oppose the tearing apart of our communities by arrest and incarceration.

Quote of the Week

Four years ago, I quit my full-time teaching job to be a whore—to travel the world and to make art. […] These days I continue to work as an escort in LA, but I am at the tail-end of my sex work career. Burnt out and jaded, I have seen and done it all. In the past, whenever I wanted to get out of the sex work profession, I wasn’t able to. So often you make a choice but then for different reasons you have to continue doing the work, so it isn’t a choice at all. Without sex work I was mostly doing shit minimum wage jobs like hustling for donations for the environment outside of grocery stores. Because I feast and famine quite frequently I find myself doing survival sex, and this can be very traumatic. I can’t go back to teaching because I have a criminal record. I was banned from the district for five years.

Prominent activist and artist Mariko talked to Melissa Petro about her experiences in the sex industry. This bit beautifully highlights how much criminalization sucks and does no good for sex workers, ever.