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An Excerpt from Prose and Lore, Issue #3 (2014)

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

Prose & Lore is a literary journal published by the New York sex workers’ rights organization Red Umbrella Project.  Memoir stories about sex work are collected in two issues per year (Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer.) We at Tits and Sass have been following Prose and Lore since the journal began, and the third issue is even more fantastic than those that preceded it. Featuring selections from movement heavies like our own contributors Mariko Passion, Tara Burns,  Lily Fury, Lori Adorable, and Peach E. Keen, plus Kitty Stryker, Rachel Aimee, and  Audacia Ray, as well as promising new writers like Dion O. Scott and Leigh Alanna, each and every one of this issue’s pieces are affecting and visceral in their prose, from a frightening account of a client gone suddenly violent to the tale of the slow erosion of a relationship with a subtly whorephobic partner.  You can buy a single copy of the new issue or sign up for a print or digital subscription to the journal, including back issues. Those in New York city can attend free readings by the authors on Wednesday, January 29th and Monday, February 10th at Culture Fix and Brooklyn Community Pride Center respectively.

Here, we feature an excerpt of “Crippled Pleaser,” by Dynasty (W) Rex, a story of endurance and take-no-shit survival focusing on Rex’s experiences stripping as a Black woman with lupus and arthritis, with her dancing schedule often punctuated by hospital visits. The excerpt focuses on the piece’s club scenes, but we encourage you to get a copy of Prose and Lore so you can read about the grueling hospital stay which makes up the story’s core.  I think the thing we love the most about “Crippled Pleaser,” though, is how well it captures the phenomenon of sex worker outfit envy.

It was the middle of a sweaty summer night in Sunset Park, New York and I was on my way to Gold Rush, the sleaziest titty bar I could find through the internet. The large, but hardly swanky, dive was almost empty around 4:30 p.m., an odd point between the time that day workers come in after work, and when more adamant partiers come in after drunken nights. Even with barely enough people to fill a single table alongside the stage, it was lit up like a Christmas rave: strobe light blaring, music screaming from mounted speakers. I was relieved to find that there were only three men in the club to witness my arrival in dirty, black, barely-there shorts and a tube top. Not because I looked bad, but because after an all day excursion looking for jobs I had aggravated my limp. After a couple of awkward ass pops around middle pole on the stage that served as my audition, I was hired by Dave, the owner and manager at Gold Rush. I was asked to stay onstage for two more songs to start my shift.

Dave, a stocky man with a financial demeanor, is watching my bare feet and ankles pointedly, as if to sear the skin. I wasn’t quite sure if his look was one of approval or disgust. He pulled me aside by placing a sweaty palm on the underside of my arm as I’m walking offstage towards the stairs that led to the dressing room where some of the other girls were making mean faces at one another, or maybe discussing amongst themselves the very same thing that the owner/manager is so obviously about to say to me.

“I’ve been,” he started, “I’ve been watching you on stage, and your legs look funny. Are they always like that?” he asked, perhaps regretting the choice to hire me on the spot after my audition.

“No, I hit them against the bar when I was coming down the pole,” I retorted quickly, so as to not be found out, hoping that the fact that I had not been dancing long would be allow me to continue the night without embarrassment. There was positively no way I was about to tell this dude that I have a disability that makes my fingers and toes swell and my whole body ache. That would essentially amount to announcing my unfitness for the job that is easiest to attain and most lucrative to stay with.

Confessions of a Professional Dater

The term “sex worker” usually makes me cringe. By most people’s standards, as an escort, I certainly fall into that occupational category. Living in a country where prostitution is illegal in all but a single state means that labeling myself a “sex worker” is hardly pragmatic. Besides, to call men like myself (straight male escorts) “sex workers” is almost insulting. How great would my life be if I could just sell sex? I have very few clients whose primary interest in retaining my services is sexual intercourse, or even sexual physical contact. Critics of the show I happen to be a part of have no frame of reference for what my profession entails. I will be the first to admit that the show, with eight 30-minute episodes per season, is not exactly made to be educational. Those critics have said repeatedly that women don’t have to pay to get laid. I have said repeatedly that they are correct, but that both women and men most definitely pay for “sex.”

I was raised on the Discovery Channel. Both of my parents were educators and naturally curious people. In my home growing up, there was no shortage of animals fucking on our TV screen. Those scenes were usually over in a matter of seconds, as compared to the sometimes hours of observation and analysis of the courtship rituals that led up to the act. It’s always been fascinating to me that although sexual intercourse among mammals is pretty much homogeneous, the courtship rituals and mating systems that get individuals to the act are incredibly diverse. That (entire process) is “sex.” Intercourse is by far the least interesting aspect. It’s a series of hip thrusts in a few positions. The mating game that happens before intercourse, on the other hand, is captivating. For us human animals living in the “modern world,” our mating game is the world of dating. I am a sex worker, but I am primarily a “professional dater.”

The Happy Hooker (1975)

Aside from having one of the best theme songs in the world, Willie Dynamite being the film with the best so far, The Happy Hooker was also one of the cutest films I’ve watched in a long time.

We’ve been here before, so I don’t need to stress how much I love 70s fashion. I mean, it’s garish sometimes, but so is the austere minimalist stuff Phoebe Philo was selling us a couple of seasons ago, so… I also adore Xaveria Hollander for riding a bike to sessions, because I am a bike-riding sex worker myself.

I suppose this story is pretty normal, right? Lady has a taste for independence and uses sex work to better her life. Lady sees a hole in the market and uses her ability to fill it. This story is cute, even if it’s not groundbreaking. Actually, she’s charming. I think we are supposed to understand that she’s kind of irresistible. I doubted her appeal at the beginning, but afterward I was in love!

University of Toronto Panel: “The Myth of Ending Demand For Prostitution”

Prostitutes are the new black in Canada. I’m proud to say that by and large, Canadian people seem pretty sympathetic to this a hot legal and social issue (despite annoying comments like “they should legalize and tax it.”  I wish I could emblazon on everyone’s brain that earnings from prostitution are already taxable). Prostitution laws in Canada are facing their most serious legal challenge in 20 years, and so far the prostitutes seem to be winning. The government’s stance of—I’m paraphrasing here—“Who cares if they get killed? They’re just prostitutes” has gone over poorly with the public and the courts.

Recently there was a panel organized by legal wunderkind Lisa Kelly on the new plan of the Conservative Canadian government to follow the Swedish model of criminalizing the purchase but not the sale of sex. The highlight was the discussion on how anti-client laws still made the prostitute the figure of stigma; that being seen talking to a prostitute could open you up to a world of hurt, legally speaking. They did share some fairly shocking policies. Some municipalities write a “Dear John” letter to men merely seen in areas where prostitution occurs when they have no evidence that they were, in fact, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and send it to the address of the registered vehicle. Not only does this violate a variety of legal rights, but the letter could go to the person’s wife or boss or friend. I imagine Hertz is sick and tired of receiving these letters. So the result of “client centered” prostitution laws is that the prostitute is a socially contaminated figure, and merely being accused of talking to her or being in her vicinity makes you a bad person, and the police will gently suggest that maybe you shouldn’t be on streets with prostitutes on them in the future.

An Excerpt from Prose & Lore, Issue 4

 

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

Prose & Lore is a literary journal published by the New York sex workers’ rights organization Red Umbrella Project. Memoir stories about sex work are collected in two issues per year (Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer). We at Tits and Sass have been following Prose and Lore since the journal began, and the fourth issue is even more fantastic than those that preceded it. Prose & Lore Issue 4 features 20 original, true stories about experiences in the sex trades, written by sex workers who were supported in writing their stories through Red Umbrella Project’s peer-led writing workshops in NYC and by mentor editors who worked with folks from outside of NYC.  Contributors include new writers we have our eye on like Ava Talley and Leigh Alanna, our very own Tits and Sass co-editor Caty Simon and longtime Tits and Sass contributors Lori Adorable and Elle Stranger, Tits and Sass interview subject and harm reduction pioneer L. Synn Stern, and veteran Desiree Alliance activist Cris Sardina. Issue 4 came out  on July 15th – order ebook or print copies directly through RedUP or enter to win one of five free copies on Goodreads. Interested in writing for the next issue? Details will be posted on this page and RedUP’s tumblr.

Here we feature an excerpt of the journal, the piece “Got Milk?” by Janet, about her experience working as a pregnancy fetish and lactation fetish provider during and after her pregnancy. Janet’s wry humor and honesty about finding a way to make bank as a single mom student escort who was terrified that getting knocked up would leave her unemployed had us cracking up through just about every paragraph.  Janet was born and raised in New Jersey and has been a sex worker for 18 years, half her life. She started dancing at lock doors and strip clubs, but after getting tired of the dancing scene, she went on to work at various services as an escort in New York City and Northern New Jersey. She has traveled and worked escort services up and down the East Coast. She is currently working as an independent escort wherever it tickles her fancy.

How does one really decide to be a lactation fetish provider? I would love to say I calculated the short time I had the true potential of making bank, especially with my great fucking nipples and high milk production, which I made it my mission to keep up. I was a single mom and horny as hell. Working while breastfeeding was the only sexual outlet I had and it helped pay some bills. Well, only a small part of that one is true. I was a single mom and it helped pay some bills, but the rest is what I like to call a stereotypical situation avoidance strategy.

I certainly was not out to be the next unwed single mom college dropout. I wish I could have thrown teenage in there but I had done this dumb shit before and like they say, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I was working on baby number two and in my junior year in college, full-time status, I may add, and technically single. I was already relying strictly on sex work to pay all my living expenses, and living in Northern New Jersey was expensive even then, more than a decade ago. I never really thought it was but everyone that I met was surprised to hear I lived alone as a single mom. They would inevitably go straight to, “Oh, what do you do?” Answering with, “Full time college student” would not work. So I avoided socializing outside of work and the occasional recreational sexual escapade when working was not my cup of tea. This way everyone I spoke to already knew what I did and that I was a full time student. Once I was naked it was pretty obvious from the stretchmarks that I had kids.