In My Skin by Australian Kate Holden is an example of the “my drug whore hell” memoirs to which I am both attracted and repelled. I’m an IV drug-using sex worker but do not subscribe to the NA model of addiction-as-disease and don’t define my life as hell. Most media doesn’t show anything true about my life at all, but instead falls back on depictions of drug-using sex workers as dead hooker jokes, grotesque caricatures of secondary characters with barely any lines. So I eat up all the tell-alls about them I can find, because even if their perspective on drugs and sex work isn’t mine, someone like me is the main character.
Holden’s pre-heroin self was the middle-class girl many of us once were: a scholarly teetotaler, a bohemian who looked up to Anaïs Nin. Her college friends began to experiment with heroin, and, feeling left out, she tried it. She developed a habit and fell into stereotypical behavior: Workplace theft (and a subsequent firing), breaking up with her recovering boyfriend and attempting to quit herself. When she was kicked out of her parents’ house, she became a street sex worker and then a brothel worker. After some time she enrolled herself in a methadone clinic, and eventually weaned herself off both heroin and methadone. While that sketch might sound like a sensationalist women’s magazine article, In My Skin manages enough powerful nuance to transcend genre. READ MORE
I’ve seen the question “where is women’s porn, made for women” before, and I’ve seen it answered, but I’ve rarely seen the question “where is black porn, made for black women?” The Feminist Porn Book asks that question and answers it, as well as others: where is feminist porn made for trans women, for fat women, for women with disabilities? This is not tokenism, but rather an attack on heteronormativity from all angles.
The Feminist Porn Book is both refreshing and challenging right off the bat—it announces its title in big yellow letters on its bright pink cover, the proud opposite of discreet brown paper bag packaging. The volume, clocking in at 432 pages, allows enough room to create a delightful blend of the academic and the historical, the personal and the political, mouthy smut with lengthy footnotes. It situates feminist pornography in its rich history in its first section, from Betty Dodson crashing a Women Against Pornography meeting in her leathers to Susie Bright inventing the genre of porn movie review. Then it gets into the meat of the book, which branches off into many herstories and histories, into the many different politicized identities, theories, and sexualities that make up our porn today; bringing womanism, intersectionality, and labor analysis back to porn while not settling for the more facile simplifications of “sex positivity”. READ MORE
The tagline for American Courtesans describes it as a “documentary that takes you into the lives of American Sex Workers” and telling “a different kind of American story…” The film is (thankfully) less ambitious in scope, focusing on high-end escorts instead of the entirety of the sex trades. What American Courtesans does, and does powerfully, is offer an intimate perspective into the lives of its subjects, giving them a space to talk about their lives and work. The women share stories of both triumph and trauma, showing that there is no single or simple story about work in the sex industries. With exceptional production quality and sincere, candid interviews, American Courtesans moves us further towards changing the popular conceptions of sex work.
The film weaves the stories of eleven current and former sex workers together through interviews and casual conversations with Kristen DiAngelo, the driving force behind the project. Though all of the women ended their careers as independent escorts charging high rates, their backgrounds up to that point are extremely varied. The majority of the women are still working, and quite a few illustrate the fluidity of the sex industries as they describe their experiences in pro-BDSM work, porn, stripping, and other fields of sex work than escorting. The women in the film give the audience a diverse set of experiences in the sex industries. From Juliet Capulet in San Francisco, who talks about escorting as a way to explore her identity as a sexual being, to Gina DePalma in New York City, who was working on the streets as a thirteen-year-old runaway, the audience is reminded that sex workers belong to and come from all communities. [READ MORE]
Dressing slutty in public loses its novelty really fast when you have a dozen pairs of platform heels—made by Pleaser or Ellie, not Jessica Simpson—in your closet. So, for strippers, Halloween isn’t some once-a-year opportunity to slut it up. It’s a once-a-year opportunity to judge other women for dressing slutty, and the stupid costumes that are sexified!
But hey, you’re only young once, and if you don’t get to work off that excess sexual energy at, uh, work, have fun on the one night of the year it’s totally OK to wear underwear in public. I have nothing to say about how Slutty Halloween is a symptom of the decline of the culture or whatnot because I am OLD and I remember my mom and her friends dressing slutty for Halloween back in the 80s for crying out loud. Not a new thing.
But that doesn’t mean that everything needs to be turned into a fucking Sexy (Blank) Costume. Is nothing sacred? No. Nothing is sacred. Here are the costumes that made me click. I had to suffer for this post, and now it’s your turn. Remember, I’m a career stripper, and I’m passing judgment on these costumes, so you know they’re special. I myself will be taking my costuming cues from this piece. Or continuing to work on my Sexy Binder Full of Wom(a)n costume. [READ MORE]