Television

Appropriately bleak looking promo for Slave Hunter (via msnbc.com)

Appropriately bleak looking promo for Slave Hunter (via msnbc.com)

In 2011, I had the privilege of speaking on a local television program, Face to Face with John Ralston in Las Vegas. At the time, I worked on a national research initiative called the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC), a federally funded project. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) created CSEC in an effort to curb the alleged epidemic of sex trafficking of minors. I say “alleged epidemic” because, as most sex workers’ rights advocates know, research on sex trafficking often employs shoddy methods. Indeed, many “studies” on sex trafficking have proven to be deeply flawed or outright fabricated. The most famous example is Richard Estes and Neil Alan Weiner’s study, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (same name, unrelated to the DOJ study.) When we hear that 300,000 children are sex trafficked into the US every year, for example, we should assume that statistic comes from Estes and Weiner’s study. Their research has been largely debunked by scholars of sex work (not to mention sex workers themselves) and not just because they operationalize the number of children “at risk” of commercial sexual exploitation as “users of psychotropic drugs,” among other things, in their study. They also claim that undocumented children are at higher risk for sexual exploitation, yet they fail to thoughtfully analyze the economic and social reasons why an underage, undocumented person might exchange sex for something in return.

Along with CSEC’s primary investigator, Dr. Spivak, I was asked on Face to Face to debate claims made by then-Las Vegas vice detective Chris Baughman. Indeed, CSEC proved over and over that underage people in the sex industry are in much more complicated situations than anti-trafficking movements would have us think. Baughman’s appearance was also a promotional opportunity—at the time, his new book Off The Street, a “true life story of [a man] fighting to protect a class of women who are too easily forgotten and readily dismissed,” had just hit the shelves. Despite grabbing onto the nonsensical trope that sex work is never a victimless crime, Baughman was a rather soft-spoken and open-minded man behind the scenes. I can say with the utmost sincerity that I’ve never had such a fruitful interaction with a cop. He listened intently as I recounted, off air, abuses I’d faced as a sex worker in Las Vegas—not at the hands of brutal pimps, but from the sadistic wiles of Las Vegas’ finest. I explained that my sisters and brothers were routinely giving blowjobs to cops in exchange for police protection. I told him I was in the process of filing a civil suit against Las Vegas Metro and that I’d experienced significant backlash from the head of vice because of it. He took out a business card, wrote down his personal contact information, and instructed me to call anytime. “We’re both trying to end abuses associated with the sex industry,” he said. “Let’s work together.” I agreed.

That was two years ago. Not much has changed in Las Vegas save for more punitive policies intent on eradicating the sex industry (funded by right-wing Christian non-profits that somehow manage over a million dollars in profit every year). And, oh yeah! Chris Baughman now has his own television program with Aaron Cohen called Slave Hunter. The new MSNBC series reveals, “in captivating detail,” what happens in the sex trafficking underworld. Posing as potential clients, Baughman and Cohen arrange to meet sex workers for the purposes of “[putting] in motion a plan to allow them to escape their bonds and build a new life outside of sex trafficking.”

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Gimmie some sugar, baby. Josie, as Evil Dead's Ash, hanging with R2D2.

Gimmie some sugar, baby. Josie, as Evil Dead’s Ash, hanging with R2D2.

I like to scan the men bathed in flashing red light at their tables, strategizing. Star Wars and comic book character t-shirts are the easiest. Anyone who gives off the vibe of working in tech. Sometimes I can recognize a tattoo, or, sometimes it’s just a good hunch. Really, most of the men in these places under 30 will light up when I talk about how I spent a few hours playing Skyrim in my underwear, even if it would be better if I lied and said it was Call of Duty.

I’m hunting for nerds in the strip club. [READ MORE]

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(image via http://nerdquestionoftheday.com)

(image via http://nerdquestionoftheday.com)

by Josephine and Caty

The year is 3056 and some things never change. You’re filing your nails in the dressing room. Just another dull night in the Martian strip club. Perhaps you’re idly thumbing through an old Cosmo as you wait patiently within the brothel at the end of the universe.

It’s not always this slow, it’s just that time of the year…Right?

You hear some odd whirring and clanking over the music. What the heck was that? That was nothing, you think. Probably someone trying to parallel park a junky lunar module outside. Whatever. Time to hit the floor.

A man across the room looks weirdly familiar. You approach him and say hello.

He responds in the most cliché way possible: “Do you want me to take you away from all this?”

Why does this man look so familiar? Could it be? Is he…the Doctor?

Hey, it could happen. Even Time Lords have needs.

We wondered, what would our good Doctor be like as a client or a customer?

 

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That's the face I make when snide detectives blindside me with blackmail videos from my former career as an escort. (Screen shot from Elementary, season one, episode eight.)

That’s the face I make when snide detectives blindside me with blackmail videos from my former career as an escort. (Screen shot from “The Long Fuse,” S1E8, Elementary, CBS)

I’m a sucker for procedurals (while also being deeply ambivalent about them), so of course I was going to watch Elementary, CBS’s not-so-new-now take on Sherlock Holmes; I was immediately sold because female Watson. Played by Lucy Liu. And Jonny Lee Miller as a weird, twitchy, tattooed, recovering-addict Sherlock Holmes. I’m beyond over the BBC’s Sherlock, Howling Cabbagepatch’s shark-face, and the disappointing but predictable treatment of domanitrix Irene Adler—not really surprising considering the writers, but I digress.The formulaic nature of procedural mysteries is inexplicably soothing to me, and, however lackluster (and aren’t they the definition of “formulaic”?) they have the serious merit of being one of the only genres to consistently feature sex workers. Sure, they’re usually dead sex workers, but I don’t give up hope. The times they are a-changin’, and live lovable sex workers have carried their weight on some critically acclaimed cable dramas: Deadwood, Copper, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. I have faith that network procedurals will catch up soon.

In a way, Elementary has. For a procedural that features a sex worker body count of zero, the instances of live sex workers on the show are fairly high. I was alert from first watch: while the pilot didn’t have any dead sex worker bodies, I waited for the inevitable. As episodes went on I started to relax and feel hope, and then suddenly, in E08, “The Long Fuse”: Lisa Edelstein, aka Elementary’s first Sex Worker!!! made it through an episode unharmed. She was treated with sympathy as a working-class girl whose escorting career, after paying for grad school and a successful business, was now being used as blackmail against her by a creep who had violated her privacy and filmed their call. [READ MORE]

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swarovski.jpgI spent the better part of last June gluing rhinestones to this one wall in my apartment. At some point during the second week I started wearing a toolbelt full of E6000 glue, wadded up paper towels, sparkly bits and the syringes I use to control where the glue goes. I should mention that the toolbelt was being worn instead of pants as opposed to on top of pants. I should also mention that my apartment has horrible ventilation and I was probably kind of high on glue fumes. The glue fumes may have contributed to my decision to climb the radiator instead of using a ladder.

On the night of the 14th there was a knock on my door. The only person who knocks on the inside door is my superintendent. His name is Jorge. I yelled “Come in” and then realized that he might be upset about the fact that I was sticking things to the wall with heavy-duty glue. Fortunately, Jorge is a very special creature. He took in the whole spectacle, exclaimed “Oh my god!” and proceeded to gush in his Puerto Rican-Brooklynite accent about how much he loved where I was going with the concept. Then he ran upstairs and came back with a giant box of “Sarchovskys? Warsovskys? Whatevah. I thought you might be able to use them for your project.” See, at some point in the past decade someone had left a giant box of Swarovski crystals at his apartment. Happy Birthday to me. No, seriously. The next day was my birthday. [READ MORE]

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