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Peta Brady’s Ugly Mugs—An Analogy

(Photo by Julie Bates, via Jane Green and sexliesandducttape.)
(Photo by Julie Bates, via Jane Green and sexliesandducttape.)

As a writer, a former sex worker, and someone who has been quite vocal in my writing about the industry, I’ve been approached quite a number of times to write about the play Ugly Mugs by Peta Brady.

I’ve declined each time. Firstly, because I have not seen the play. I’ve only read about it online and read sex workers’ concerns about its content. Secondly, because I wondered how much I could really contribute after reading such powerful and articulate pieces by people such as Jane Green on the subject. But I was asked again, and this time I had just been on the phone to an old friend talking about an incident that happened many years ago. And something inside me clicked, something that made me feel compelled to tell my story.

When I was in high school I had a diary. Like most teenage girls’ diaries it was full of angst and bad poetry, interspersed with observations of the people and situations around me.

I was not a popular girl in school. I had been given the “slut” label very early on and it stuck. I guess, if you were using the vulgar base meaning of the word “slut,” I was one.

I ran around with boys. I liked getting their attention. I was not afraid of sex, sexuality, sexual pleasure, and sexual gratification. I masturbated as often as I could. I watched porn videos and read Playboy magazines.

I was very lucky that despite being shunned and shamed by the “popular kids,” I had a friend, a girl who was pretty much just like me, who shared my obsession with sex and sexuality.

My girlfriend and I would swap my diary back and forth and fill it with our own dirty stories, our fantasies about the different boys (and sometimes girls) that we knew. We would tell our deepest secrets and horniest stories to each other within those pages. We also used it as a way of communicating what others were saying about us. What the rumors were about which girls were going to “fight us” after school. Where they’d said they’d be “waiting for us.” Which boys to stay away from because they were the ones who ran around telling the rest of the school about the things we had done.

It was our little safe haven. Our solidarity. Our secret.

I’m not quite sure how it fell into the wrong hands. I think I had it in my bag at a sleepover party. I don’t know why I would have even taken it with me… but I did. And when I got home the next day I realized it was missing.

This Week in Pole Dance and Popular Culture

Enrique Iglesias’ “Dirty Dancer” premiered Wednesday with what I think is the best actual pole dancing (and floor work) I’ve seen in a music video. I don’t think the athletes in the video are what any of us would refer to as “dirty dancers.” The futuristic strip club reminds me of a defunct Portland club that opened in the former space of a super-mod sushi restaurant called Electrofish Lounge. They kept all the furniture and decor and added a pole, and it looked a lot like this except for the surveillance camera hawks. Charlotte wants to know why Enrique is dressed like Justin Bieber.

Taking a cue from Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears pulled a male audience member on stage during her performance at Staples Center in LA on Monday night. He looks a lot more comfortable than Steve Nash, no? While one, let alone two feather boas is a total no-no (they shed everywhere and sweat plus feathers is a bummer), it’s pretty accurate. The jumping on the pole and straddling the guy from behind is a classic bachelor/birthday stage dance move.

America’s Got Talent featured an androgynous self-proclaimed “pole-fessional” who made it past the first round using two spinning poles and dancing to Katy Perry. Catherine says, “Gotta love a man in stripper heels and body glitter!” I kinda don’t think the black Mary Janes go with the silver though.

It’s Not About Me: Responsibility In Sex Worker Writing

writingishard4New sex worker writers often justify their sex work with respectability politics.

I did it. I fucked up with my very first piece, in a big venue, the Guardian, contrasting my sex work to that of hypothetical trafficked workers, so-called “miserable slaves.” Even after taking feedback about that mistake, it took me a while to quit using my own favorable personal circumstances to make sex work more palatable to my readers.

I think that I did it because I was intoxicated with the power of my writing, and I thought my experience was important. Guess what—sometimes it’s not. My education and my privilege and the good working conditions I enjoy doing sex work are far less important than the broader picture—the narratives of austerity, migration, and marginalization that are the true story of sex work, the one that needs to be told in order to defuse myths and build support for sex worker rights. While I campaign for sex workers’ rights, in part, because they would benefit me and my family, I need them far less than the most marginalized, criminalized, and stigmatized among us.

I hope to educate others with an account of the process of making my writing better reflect the sex worker community. This essay is meant to be a start of a conversation. I invite reply, correction, and contribution.

Tell all the stories.

A sex worker writer should learn as much as possible about the conditions of all kinds of sex workers, from porn stars to street-based workers to parlor workers. This is not only essential for a good perspective, it’s good journalism: keeping track of multiple streams of information can produce great story ideas. I learned about the Merseyside murders and the Soho raids; about the rescue industry and about the party politics behind recent parliamentary debates on the Swedish Model and decriminalization. Through Google alerts, blogs like this one, and the indispensable Honest Courtesan, Sex Work Twitter, and Facebook groups like COYOTE and My Favorite Abolitionist, I keep track of sex workers’ rights news across the globe. Even when I am not covering an issue, perspective gained through continual study has helped me to put my reporting in better context and choose better stories.

The Week in Links: August 12

The totally irrelevant cover of the New York Post, Wednesday, August 10

Melissa Petro (once deemed “hooker teacher” by the New York Post) responds to the Post‘s Wednesday headline.

Wendy Babcock, Toronto-based sex work activist and law student, passed away on Tuesday.

There are only five days left to donate to the SWAAY Epic Step billboard.

Irish sex workers rights organization Turn Off the Blue Light recently claimed victory in a dispute with Google. The group had paid for an advertisement with Google AdWords, but found that, beginning in May, people looking for their site through the search engine were instead diverted to anti-sex work campaign websites.

A patron at the Pretty Woman Lounge, a Detroit strip club, shot and killed a club employee after being denied admission.

Even though she turned down an offer from Vivid to appear in an adult movie, apparently most Americans still think Pippa Middleton is a porn star.

Three American pole dancers and one Argentinean took home top honors at the International Pole dancing Competition last weekend in Denver.

Lee Grace Dougherty and her two brothers, who allegedly shot a cop in Florida and robbed a bank in Georgia, were caught Wednesday morning in Colorado. Since Dougherty worked as a stripper in Cocoa Beach, some clever writers at the New York Post (perhaps the same ones who wrote the “stox” headline above?) were sure to make up puns about her “rack” in reporting the story.

Q: Why did Jesus die on the cross?

A still from the infamous Nodis commercial

I saw this one day too late for Easter, but the dominatrixes among our readership might still enjoy watching this Nodis commercial that’s apparently caused quite a stir in Italy. Jesus, who’s got his hands all tied up by a dominatrix, can still use his Nodis bluetooth earpiece to make a phone call to his dad (who is God, by the way). The Catholics Bishops Conference is calling for a boycott of the company.

Hopefully I’m not the only one who thinks this is funny.

A: He forgot the safe word.