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Community Funds For Sex Workers Affected By Backpage’s Closure

(Photo by Flickr user 401(K) 2013)
  • Lysistrata fund: @Molly-Doom at Venmo or sara.vinik@gmail.com at Paypal for donations, contact sara.vinik@gmail.com or LaFemme.Molly.Doom@gmail.com if you need to receive funds. Limited resources at the moment, but they are trying to solicit more.
  • Donate to @$CharlottePage through Squarecash and the money will be distributed directly to sex workers in need.
  • Donate to Vee Chattie’s fundraiser through Venmo, or email her at veechattie@gmail.com to ask to receive funds.
  • There’s also a Generosity page for donating to low-income people affected by the closure of Backpage here, focusing particularly on “trans folks, people of Color, differently-abled folks and others with bodies who are discriminated against under our white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalistic government.”

We urge readers to comment with contact information for any additional community funds they know about. Feel free to contact me personally re: distributing donations at simon.caty@gmail.com as well.

 

 

 

Are You There, God? It’s Us, Sex Workers

(Photo by Flickr user gen_genxx)
(Photo by Flickr user gen_genxx)

Many people think of whores as being as far from God as possible. We are seen as “fallen women,” people whose moral deficiency has put them at odds with God. When God, morality, and religion are discussed in tandem with sex work, these conversations often promote religious dogma which serves to justify the marginalization of sex workers. Sex workers are rarely heard from on their own relationships with religion or spirituality, even though we have roots in religious and spiritual life as far back as Biblical times, with Rahab of Jericho and the Empress Theodora standing out as two early examples of celebrated historical religious sex workers.

Ideas of “morality” and “decency” inform the rule of law in the United States. Narratives around sex work and morality as defined by “God”—specifically, white Protestant notions of God—often allow punitive laws against sex work in the U.S. to persist. Yet, when asked about their own relationships to a higher power, many sex workers discussed relationships with monotheistic forms of religion:

“I was raised by my dad, who grew up Catholic but is probably an atheist or at least agnostic,” West Coast escort and stripper Red recounts. “My mom was a frummie (very, very very orthodox Jewish) convert in her youth who loosened up a lot and that was the only religion I got. I didn’t live with my mom so I only went to Hebrew school the once and shul a handful more times, but I saw her on weekends so we did Shabbos, either at hers or her friends, and that stuck with me.”

“But when I was a teenager I got really depressed,” she continues,” and during that [period] I read this biography of Muhammad that said that the whole point of Islam (and also Judaism) was to leave the world better than you found it. I found out later that in Hebrew this is called tikkun olam and it’s a Thing, it’s the whole point of everything, but …that’s not what 6 yr old me got out of Hebrew school or shul for sure! It was a revelation. And it saved my life and continues to save my life since my therapist insists we can’t opt out and I have a duty to stay alive and keep trying to make things better however I can. ”

Others described less orthodox relationships to a higher power:

“My conception of a higher power is a feminine energy, which for lack of a better word I call Gaia,” Oakland street and internet-based worker Keika explains. ”She is not associated with any organized religion. She is the spirit of the universe whom I meditate and pray to. I can turn to her like others turn to God.”

“I first discovered Buddhism when a neighbor had a Buddhist boarder who taught me and my friends how to chant nom yo ho renga kyo,” independent massage worker Julee Deree of San Francisco recounts. “As I grew into my teenage years and a body that looked like a Playboy centerfold at a very young age (tall, long legs, huge boobs), I used chanting to help me deal with the unwanted sexual attention that I was getting, and generally to calm me down during times of stress.”

One common thread in sex workers’ descriptions of their relationships to higher powers is the way sex workers’ resilience and resourcefulness are reflected through these relationships.

Sex Workers Are Tired of Your Literal Shit

(Via Flickr user Bjorn Soderqvist)
(Via Flickr user Bjorn Soderqvist)

I worked as a nanny, and in a daycare. (Twice! I worked in daycare twice!) Once, one of the Pre-K kids’ parents gave their five-year-old a laxative, no, I don’t know what they were thinking either, and I was called to remove the giant column of shit that ensued from the toilet. There was nothing else for it but to put on industrial size gloves and reach in and manually remove it.

So believe me when I tell you that I’ve dealt with a lot of literal shit in my day.

I dealt with it and moved on. And I thought that entering this new phase of my life as a hooker I would be leaving poverty and, with it, all the gross, sad things we deal with resentfully to stave off poverty behind. Like shit!

So you know the one thing I was not expecting to have to deal with as an adult, a very intelligent and charming and attractive paid companion for other adults?

Shit.

And yet, the amount of times I have ended up dealing with shit—left on sheets, left on fingers, left caked on ass hairs—well, I’m sure you get the idea. 

2017’s Best Writing By Sex Workers


No One In The Porn Industry Likes A Broken Vagina by Andre Shakti
2017 was a year suffused with the healthcare issue, so this Andre Shakti piece was never more needed. There’s plenty of discussion about the emotional labor of sex work, but very little talk about the physical labor: what is it like being a sexual athlete? What does it do to your body? What is it like to work in an industry which attracts those with invisible disabilities, composed of independent contractors who have trouble accessing affordable and stigma-free health care? Shakti explores these problems and offers some sound policy solutions, referencing her own struggle with chronic yeast infections which nearly tanked her career.

Top Six Reasons Melania Trump Should Get Involved in Anti-Trafficking Campaigning by Vanessa D’Alessio
Who better to spearhead a campaign based on propaganda and untruths than the First Lady herself? (Who was definitely never an escort, no ma’am.)

Once You Have Made Pornography by Lorelei Lee
Lorelei Lee with a searing, and all-too-relatable prose ballad on all the brutal and tragic ways civilians deny our humanity, how we learn to defend ourselves through our years in the industry, and how, ultimately, it is the love of other sex workers that makes it all worthwhile: “They will call the person who used your image for their own narrative fearless. They will make claims of shining a light. They will say they’ve explored a subculture. That they’re lifting the veil. People who have viewed these few seconds of tape or this single still image will say they’ve seen your humanity. Lucky you, you’ve been humanized. Prior to this, your humanity was unviewable.”

We don’t do sex work because we are poor, we do sex work to end our poverty by Empower Foundation
The sex workers of Empower with yet another eloquent manifesto, detailing the facts on the ground behind being the breadwinners in their families, whose income builds Thailand up, but having to navigate a criminalized landscape despite all that.

Sex Work Is Inherently Traumatic by Kit Snicket
“…but not the way you think it is, and if you’re a civvie it’s probably partially your fault.” Snicket’s essay is a marvelous companion piece to Lee’s, exploring the micro to Lee’s macro in its dissection of sex workers’ personal relationships with non-sex workers . And just like Lee’s piece, it is sharply and lyrically observed, and all-too-identifiable: “Every so often I’ll make friends with someone, usually another woman, but not always. Everything will seem great until I start meeting her friends and this civvie broad introduces me as ‘this is Kit, she’s an escort,’ uttered in a stage whisper as if I’m an alien from another planet, there to be exhibited.”

Call #FreeBambi What You Like, It’s Racism by Peechington Marie
A Black ex-sex worker on the exhaustion of existing in a racist movement and how heartened she was when it finally started to shift towards something better, only to be disappointed tenfold.

How I Became A Husband, Father, And Sex Worker by Da Xiong
This gem comes from Sixth Tone, an excellent media site featuring “fresh voices from modern China.” This reflective, plain-spoken oral history of a closeted gay man’s 12 years sex working in Shenyang, supporting his wife and family with it in the latter half of his career, is complusively readable. (For those who want more from Sixth Tone, we recommend this poignant account—“Love In The Lowlands As A Mongolian Lesbian Tomboy.”)

For Black Sex Workers, The Deck Is Already Stacked Against Us by Domina Cascarilla
Cascarilla paints a shrewdly observed picture of how white clients use her to compare themselves to the Other, forcing her to disassociate her light-skinned self from other Black people in order to improve her standing with them, and how she uses them right back to help her family survive.

Surviving As Working Class After Backpage by Kelly Michaels
On the obstacles a sex worker faces transitioning into a straight job.

As a female sex worker, I’d like to propose my own Google-style gender equality manifesto by Holly Lang
Hey, remember in August when we all got a good laugh reading that load of typical sexist nerd boy tropes about gender as biologically determined destiny in that Google employee’s manifesto? This parody in The Independent by Holly Lang on how science tells us men just aren’t good enough at sex to be capable sex workers is still funny: “Men…are more interested in things like data and logic and numbers than they are in people, making sex with a man the equivalent of blundering against a robot with a hard-on.”

Why The #NYCStripperStrike Is So Relevant And So Long Overdue by MF Akynos
We loved this straight talking, hilarious, and wide-ranging piece by Akynos, originally posted on her blog blackheaux, so much that we near-begged her to repost it on Tits and Sass. Akynos looks back on a long career as a darker skinned Black dancer and escort and the colorism and racism she has had to face because of it, with entertaining side-bars on how industry racism even shows up on TV in Secret Diary of A Callgirl.

If You Want to Understand The Violence White Men are Capable Of, Ask Any Sex Worker by Juniper Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald’s writing acutely illustrates male entitlement as a bellwether of male violence. Her sharp coda: “…we should all be extremely distraught by the fact that our entire country would have much more information about the Las Vegas shooter if sex workers could come forward without fear of immediate arrest. The social and legal control of sex workers’ bodies, the fact that even post-national tragedy the people with the most information cannot come forward for fear of arrest, demonstrates the pervasiveness of violence against sex workers and the toxic, masculine control of our bodies. And once we stop blaming the sex industry for that violence and start blaming the entitlement that leads white men down a path of violence, perhaps the United States will cease to be the world’s leader in mass shootings.”

I Sold Sex To Pay For My Unpaid Internship. Poor Kids Are Still Battling The Class Gap by Paris Lees
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this essay is that no editor hassled Lees to go into salacious detail about being a trans sex worker, so instead we’re left with this thoughtful examination of why she had to do sex work in order to establish a foothold in journalism, Britain’s class system, and the possibility of basic income.

what’s in a name? by suprihmbé/THOTSCHOLAR
A thoughtful and patient primer on the racialized terms we use in sex worker discourse. “White women’s flippant use of these words has always made me feel some type of way, mainly because these words have been used to describe Black women/femmes since we were little ‘fast’ girls. To see white women and white sex workers using all of these terms colloquially bothers me. While heauxdom is something a majority of them (and by them I mean able-bodied, cis white women) can dress to escape, Black women and femmes, whether cis or trans, civilian or sex worker, cannot escape these labels so easily. And white sex workers, in particular, grind my gears when it comes to discussing race, because many of them are so invested in feeling extra marginalized, and when Black and brown sex workers point out inequalities, we are either dismissed, talked over, or called ‘divisive.’ They don’t like to think of themselves as oppressors (white) within an oppressed minority (sex workers).”

Sex Workers Are Not A Life Hack For ‘Helping’ Sexual Predators by Alana Massey
Ah, the incredible vindication that followed the post-Weinstein era, watching the careers of one prominent sexual predator after another laid to waste. Too bad that glorious feeling was tainted by listening to civilians opine that famous abuser X or Y should’ve just seen a hooker. Thank god Alana Massey is here to explain lucidly and succinctly why this notion is bullshit: “The idea that Louis CK or any other man who has been accused of predatory behavior would spontaneously develop a healthy respect for boundaries in the context of hiring a sex worker is magical thinking in a world where sex workers remain dangerously stigmatized and frequent targets for violence.”

Stigma Against Sex Workers Must End by Tansy Breshears
Breshears tackles whorephobia in the Black community in the Root with confrontational honesty: “The thing is, the judgment is so much worse when it comes from your own people…”

Fundraisers For Sex Workers Struggling Post-SESTA

Editor’s note: Inclusion on this list does not indicate that Tits and Sass is endorsing a particular fund.

Newwhoreizons is “a wealth redistribution club by [sex workers] for [sex workers].” $newwhoreizons on cash.me to donate, newwhoreizons on a private Instagram account for information—DM to request to join the club or ask for help.

Lysistrata is a member-led sex worker fundraising collective which originally formed after the Backpage adult ad closures. They maintain a standing emergency fund for marginalized sex workers as well as promoting and signal boosting individual fundraisers and events. You can donate on Paypal, Venmo, squarecash, or directly through their website. They also have a monthly donation option. You can request emergency assistance over email at lysistratamccf@gmail.com.

Note: Both the organizations above have stated that they are currently receiving more requests for help than donations.

The Black Sex Worker Collective is hosting its first community strategy meeting this coming Saturday, April 15th. Non-Black workers may attend as long as they don’t take up space and make sure to allow Black sex workers to speak and lead. You can donate to the collective here, tax-free through their fiscal sponsor Project Prosper.

CUSP in Alaska is raising money for street outreach supplies to help the many Anchorage workers who’ve been driven into street-based work since this SESTA-fueled series of ad platform closures. They’re going to start a needs-assessment program, and if they receive enough money, they will be expanding their efforts into subsidizing workers’ phone bills.

The Third Wave Foundation is starting a cross-class, multiracial, intergenerational giving circle for women, queer, and trans people with experience in the sex trade to raise money for sex worker-led organizations. Third Wave is framing this as a response to silence from the funding community in general to the passage of SESTA. Participation in the first round of the giving circle will be confined to the NYC area and the deadline for application is April 15th. They are specifically encouraging people of color as well as working class and low-income people to apply for these stipended fellowships. The circle will begin with $150K already raised and fundraise from there—it looks like a promising way for low-income and marginalized sex workers to access philanthropic resources.

As you can see, this list is a bit thin so far. Readers, feel free to link any other fundraisers you’re aware of for sex workers hit hard by SESTA in the comments.