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“Whore” Is A Good Place To Start

(Photo by Flickr user elasticsoul)
(Photo by Flickr user elasticsoul)

When I was just a teeny tiny bottle of airplane-ready champagne, I was called a whore by a boy in my middle school science class for having the audacity to own breasts and opinions at the same time,while only being willing to share the latter. Once I got to college, men started to call me a whore in the streets when I refused their advances and they called me one even more loudly when I taught myself not to allow their presence to register on my face. I was called a whore by clients more often when I would refuse certain services, but not when I would provide them willingly. But since you could put a pair of eyeglasses on a calcified ostrich turd and its opinion would have as much gravity as those of boys, strange men, and clients, these words never especially bothered me.

I’ve always been peripherally aware of the importance of reappropriating the language of sex work but never felt I really had skin in the game until I felt how badly “whore” burns from certain tongues and with certain intentions. Since “whore” was thrown around my whole life as shorthand for “woman who does things I don’t like,” I never felt especially connected to it as it related to sex work, even when doing sex work that reflected the most literal understanding of the word. I’ve even been known to say things like, “Um, sex workers are dying out there. Does it really matter what we call ourselves?” I’m aware now that starting a sentence with “um” reflects fluency in Sanctimonious Cunt more than it reflects nuanced understanding of the issues sex workers face. Forgive me, I was an unsophisticated bottle of André at the time, a mere shadow of the Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam I am today. But back to being a whore.

In late July, a man who claimed to love me and who had never taken issue with my profession before called me a “whore” to my face. He told others I was a “whore” when he needed to discredit me as quickly and mercilessly as possible. Prior to our falling out, my work in the adult industry had been something that concerned him only when I reported pushed boundaries or feelings of regret and insecurity. He was supportive and sometimes downright titillated, insisting on christening my new work outfits by getting lap dances in them before anyone else did. I happily obliged because I loved him and got to choose my own soundtrack. When things quickly deteriorated and I feared for his new girlfriend, I warned her about malicious and dishonest behaviors of his which I thought she should be aware of.

His first line of defense to her was my work and it was his first line of offense against me. Obviously, he had been driven to threaten me with violence because I was a deranged stripper that thought he loved me; he just had to set me straight. The very idea was ludicrous, loving a sex worker. When he used whore stigma against me, it was to explain why he never wanted monogamy with me and how I had always been just a source of fucked up sex and that all his stated affections had been part of a game designed to entertain himself.

Who Makes Your Money: WePay and Eden Alexander

eden01Eden Alexander’s current fundraiser is live here.

This weekend, a Twitterstorm erupted when payment processor WePay shut down a medical fundraiser for porn performer Eden Alexander. Alexander found herself in an unforgiving position after the complications she experienced from an allergic reaction to a prescription drug were misdiagnosed when a doctor assumed that since she was in the sex industry, her symptoms were those of drug use. The delay of proper care meant her condition worsened, and she couldn’t work. Like other self-employed Americans, Alexander doesn’t have sick days, and friends who were helping care for her set up a fundraising page on GiveForward to raise money for her.

GiveForward is a WePay-powered site where people can set up medical fundraisers. WePay came across tweets from Alexander’s friends offering adult materials in exchange for donations to Alexander’s fundraiser (yes, a payment processor was monitoring a user’s social media). They decided that this qualified as accepting payments for prohibited pornographic materials and shut down the fundraiser. Kitty Stryker, one of Alexander’s friends who set up the initial fundraiser, wrote about it here.

And then they experienced the wrath of Sex Worker Twitter and that of some allies with large follower bases. Coverage of the incident showed up on Gawker and The Rumpus, in blog posts by feminists and sociologists. Thanks to Molly Crabapple’s strong influence across Geek Twitter, Patton Oswalt tweeted about it. By Saturday afternoon, WePay had issued an official statement about the Alexander fundraiser, giving as their reason the offering of adult materials as rewards, and offering to help her restart her campaign. They did not mention if they would shut it down again if, say, a friend of Alexander’s, maybe another adult performer, offered a video or a photograph to someone who donated. This is something out of the control of a person who starts a fundraiser, although the founder of WePay said just the fact that Alexander retweeted those unasked-for incentives implicated her in a hypothetical exchange of funds for porn.

An Open Letter From A Detroit Extras Girl

by user wootam! on Flickr
by user wootam! on Flickr

This is one of three responses to Josephine’s “An Open Letter to the Extras Girl” that we’ll be running this week. First up is M, a dancer who, like Josephine, works in Detroit.

On a sweltering August afternoon in 2012, I walked through the impossibly heavy glass doors of the glitziest strip club in Detroit. I had done copious amounts of research on the strip clubs in the area, spending nearly a month scouring reviews online and taking trips to clubs in the area. This particular club was the shiniest and it was filled with executives, physicians and lawyers. Promises of riches sparkled like the strobe lights overhead. Even though I had never stripped before, I forged ahead, fearless. Go big or go home, that was my motto.

Looking back, I was somewhat naïve. I had no particular urgency to my sales pitch. I was simultaneously working my “normal” job and stripping. It wasn’t as though I couldn’t pay my bills. So I started with the thought that I would only dance, no extras whatsoever. Perhaps I was conceited enough to think that my pretty face, tight body, and educated mind would be enough to make me money. Unfortunately that notion was completely false.

Tell Us: What Puts Your Panties In A Bunch?

Mmmmkay?  (image via imgur.com)
Mmmmkay? (image via imgur.com)

If there’s one thing we love here at Tits and Sass (besides vagina pageants and corny films about sex work, that is) it’s complaining. And it’s our dedication to this fine art that led us to conceive of a poll where you, our dear readers, could weigh in on the worst things about your jobs. We excluded the most obvious and serious options (the stigma; the illegality; the cops) and focused instead on some of the more precise sources of annoyance, usually client based. Voting will be open until Wednesday at 11:59pm PST, after which we’ll have another vote on Friday to rank the top three responses in each field. Leave out anything we missed in the comments and please, feel free to rant.  

Coming Out: Lilly Muse

a shocked musical theatre aficionado. photo by CarbonNYC on flickr

A couple of months ago I was at auditions for a musical at my community theater, and during the interminable waiting period I found myself chatting with a group of middle-aged women (why not the shy 20-year-old hottie in flannel? Sigh). Easy conversation bumped along, from “what are you singing?” to “I’m such a horrible dancer” to “yes, I am the kind of mom who plunks her kid in front of the TV so I can pee in peace.” Eventually, we were bound to land on work/money, which is a subject I stay pretty quiet about as long as I can, what with being a dirty whore and all.

The women were discussing a man, a local theater staple, who had to move out of town due to financial hardship. They agreed that times are indeed tough, especially in our city, “unless you want to do something somewhat soul-crushing,” one of them said. My ears always perk up at the term “soul-crushing,” yet without missing a beat, the rest of the group groaned aloud in agreement, as if they’d had this exact conversation the day before. “I did that for a while,” the woman continued carefully. The murky reference awarded no response from the others, so I chimed in, “what, like waitressing?”