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Surviving As Working Class After Backpage

Content warning: This post contains discussion and accounts of trafficking, debt bondage, and exploitation, both in the context of sex trafficking and trafficking in another industry. There are also brief references to experiences of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, custody loss, structural violence from criminalization, and violence against sex workers.

In the last four months, I have been in the most unusual employment circumstances of my life. I am kept in a small box with no access to even basic human needs like hot meals and showers. I am forced to stay there until my employers are ready to use me again. I am only permitted to shower when my employers are not using me. Up to a week in between showers has passed.

I am not paid for all of the work that I have performed. I am forced to share my small box with strange men when my employers demand it. These men have become aggressive and verbally abusive toward me. I am not allowed to know if the men have been violent to others before I work with them. I have been harassed sexually by my employer and I’m viewed as a sexual object by an overwhelming number of the men that surround me.

I am paid less than minimum wage for the hours that I work. I am kept apart from my family and do not see my home for months at a time. In fact, since taking this job I have not seen my home once, though I was promised I’d be brought home every three to four weeks.

I do not have access to healthcare despite having been the victim of a violent physical assault by one of the people they had living with me in my box. I’ve asked repeatedly to go home to see a doctor, but my employers keep me in my box. They keep moving my box around the nation so that I am too far away to escape and return home. I suspect they keep my pay minimal so that I cannot afford to escape.

I first saw the signs from Truckers Against Trafficking at truck stops around the nation. They were your basic public awareness flyers with signs about how to recognize human trafficking. Then at the port of entry in Wyoming, I saw a different poster from Polaris asking, “Do you want out of the life?”.  I thought for a moment and realized that I do feel as if I am being trafficked and I do want out of “the life”.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I should call Polaris for help, but I can’t. Because I am no longer a sex worker.

This all began after I left sex work.

My Date With SF’s Douchebag PUA With A Rape Van

This could have been mine.
This could have been mine.

So, by now many of you have probably seen last Friday’s article on Jezebel about “Jeffy,” AKA jlaix, Captain_Derp on OkCupid (although he seems to have deleted his account), or Jeffrey Allen. Jezebel was inspired by a post on Mission Mission, concerning spottings of his “rape van,” emblazoned with hand-painted portraits of Tupac and Pedo-bear. Katie J. M. Baker found a local woman, “Amanda,” willing to go public about her ultimately fruitless correspondance with Jeffy on OkC. Well, I’d already gone a bit further.

Being an adventurous and somewhat awkward internet dater in the SF Bay Area, I went on a date with this fine specimen of manhood in December. And yes, it was all that you would expect—and more. Upom leaving the house, I told my roommate that it was either going to be the best date ever or the worst experience of my single life. It turned out to be both, and also an excellent insight into the psyche of the so-called pickup artist (PUA, in their terminology).

I’ve been a sex worker for about four years now. Having been a nude model, peepshow dancer, stripper, porn performer, sensual massage provider, and dabbler in pro-domming, I now make my living mostly as an independent escort. While working in strip clubs, a friend introduced me to Neil Strauss and his book The Game, and told me that the techniques described inside worked even better on male customers and would open wallets like nothing else. I devoured the book (and also the Vh1 reality series starring Mystery, a man famous for his love of furry hats and success at leveraging drunk girls’ low self-esteem for blowjobs). Turns out, she was right. Drunk, entitled men really respond to “negging” (backhanded compliments made to prey on insecurities), “peacocking” (wearing bright or outlandish clothes to attract attention, something strippers have been excelling at for years), and other PUA tricks.

So when I wound up sitting at a Mission bar next to a self-proclaimed master PUA, I was armed and ready.

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.

Why The #NYCStripperStrike Is So Relevant And So Long Overdue

(Via @NYCStripperStrike Instagram account)

A slightly different version of this piece was originally posted on Akynos’ blog, blackheaux, on November 8th

A personal history of being a Black stripper

It’s about fucking time! That’s all I can say about this stripper strike organizing.

I am excited to see more and more gentlemen’s club/exotic dancers taking this business seriously enough to take matters into their own hands. I think for far too long those of us in the adult entertainment industry have gotten engulfed in the socially acceptable invalidation of stripping as actual work, so that we’ve allowed ourselves to neglect so many of the labor violations, discrimination, and downright illegal actions by management, patrons, and staff that just couldn’t fly in other legal businesses.

I remember seeing dancers getting sexually and physically assaulted by patrons, while the bouncers employed because our naked bodies afforded them that job would do absolutely NOTHING. I recall one time a patron ejaculated on my ass as I gave him a standing lap dance at the bar. I went to the bouncer on duty at the time. He shrugged his shoulders and dismissed me.

The male staff who were employed by the club as stage managers or bouncers were also known to sexually violate us. Although they were employed by the same space we all occupied at the same damn time, they felt they were entitled to free feels and who knows what else from the dancers. If it was a nice day, they’d just insult you for even working in such a grimy industry.

Then there was the highway robbery in fees the club would charge the dancers who were coming in there to work—i.e., bring the establishment business. When I was in the game in the 90s, house fees were only just being implemented. They went from $5 to $20 in what seemed a matter of weeks.

Public perception often shapes law and policy, and vice versa. Without legal precedent or social acceptance we become prey to shoddy business practices.

I was 17 years old when I entered the clubs. I started with Al’s Mr. Wedge in the Bronx. It was the club I worked at exclusively then for a few reasons: Another club, The Goat, was closed by the time I got in the game. And besides, the legendary talk around this club sounded as if it was just too much for my bougie ass. For some reason, I just didn’t like Golden Lady, because its size and structure intimidated me.

And all my attempts at auditioning at clubs like Sue’s Rendezvous and whatever the name of the juice bar near Dyre Ave proved fruitless. I was too dark.

I recall once I went into Sue’s with a friend of mine, this mixed chic by the name of Jackie. Tall, light skinned, sorta looking like a young Mariah Carey, she was half White and Black. I went into Sue’s with her with the confidence that I would be allowed to dance in another club and increase my chances of making money. Young and naive, it didn’t dawn on me that when they told me Jackie could audition and I couldn’t it was the result of discrimination against my complexion.

Jackie ended up working at the high-end clubs in the city. Me and my Black ass had to keep it gutter and stay where they were not too picky.

I want people to stop being surprised that racism, colorism, and other biases against womxn (and Black people/or anyone with “dark” skin) exist. Determining who is worthy of making a living can be as superficial as how far from Whiteness they appear to be.

This shit is real.

Racism is real.

And colorism is also as fuckin real. The world is not existing in a post-racial/post-colorism mindset. It will never ever be like that. Now with racist humans writing code, even algorithms are becoming racially biased.

“Some People Won’t Want It”: Cameryn Moore on Telling Sex Work Stories Onstage

CamerynFinal
Photo by Caleb Cole

Cameryn Moore is an award-winning playwright/performer, sex activist and educator, and, oh yeah, a phone sex operator. Her work in theater, literature, and activism/advocacy is both a challenge and invitation to adventurous audiences everywhere. She is the creator and performer of a trilogy of sex- and kink-positive solo shows: “Phone Whore “(2010), “slut (r)evolution” (2011), and “for | play “(2012). These shows have toured to 34 cities around North America so far. She is premiering her next solo show in Montréal in April 2013, and working up a fifth show for touring in 2014. Her screen adaptation of Phone Whore is scheduled for release in July 2013.

In addition to her work in solo theater and film, Cameryn is the creator and producer of Smut Slam (“where erotica and storytelling collide”), a first-person, real-life sex-story open mic that is spreading across the US and Canada like a puddle of cum on a cheap mattress. She writes a weekly column for the Charlebois Post, an online Canadian theater magazine, and frequently posts NSFW status updates to Facebook.

What are some things to think about as a potential stage performer?

Don’t go onstage if you’re not comfortable there. Maybe you’re more comfortable writing and having someone else perform it, although I like to see everyone speaking with their own voice. Think about whether you want to be a solo performer or work with a cast. If you want to make it good, you have to write and rewrite, rehearse, memorize. Join a community writer’s group, take community theatre lessons, learn from fundraising experts about where you can find money. Basically, get as much help as you can, as soon as you can.