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2018’s Best Writing by Sex Workers

The Stormy Daniels Effect: When Prostitutes Unite, Powerful Men Tremble by Juniper Fitzgerald
Is our power born from our stigma?

How White Women Fuck Up Reparations by Jay St. James
“Reparations don’t come due when you’ve reached your self-set level of financial comfort, they’re paid from the start of your financial independence in appreciation of all the breaks and hands up you’ve been given and all the ways society has been specifically tailored to maximize your success at the expense of my survival.”

It’s International Whores’ Day. Let’s talk about why strippers need better labor laws. by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
It’s time to protect the original gig economy workers.

Secret Life of an Autistic Stripper by Reese Piper
“Central to autism is a difficulty experiencing life in real time. Many autistic people can’t filter out information, which makes it difficult to zone in and focus. But in the private rooms at the club, there were no outside stimuli. The rules were clear, the distractions minimal, so I could focus and interact.”

“They Want Us Dead”—Anti-Trafficking Laws Attack Drug-Using Sex Workers by Caty Simon Anecdotes on survival from some of the most marginalized sex workers. (Eds. note: Caty would be entirely too humble to ever admit that she’s best-of material, so I added her articles and vetoed her deletion of them. – Josephine)

Stop Using Us As Clickbait! by Red, founding editor of Working It 
Editors can’t seem to resist a good sex work confessional story, but is it really adding anything new to the conversation? Or is just a more carefully disguised advertisement?

Revolting Prostitutes by Juno Mac and Molly Smith
A book so deeply gratifying and validating, like a soapy cloth wiping away some of the classist sex positive nonsense fugues that obstruct progress and necessary development in sex work activism.

Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels
Our suspicions about the president’s dong were confirmed.

Black and Brown Sex Workers Keep Getting Pushed to the Margins by Suprihmbé
Who got protected and who got forgotten during the #thotaudit.

Sex Working While Jewish In America by Arabelle Raphael
“Sometimes I see clients and have fans that support Trump. They are fine consuming my sexual labor but do not care about my safety or my rights.”

 

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 and Reporting on Sex Work


TPM’s Josh Marshall Tweets Out Porno Link to Shock of Political Media World by J.D. Durkin
Maybe this isn’t vital reporting, or even reporting at all. But it certainly was a sneak peek into the circus 2017 would be.

Melania Trump’s $150 million libel suit is based on a falsehood by Callum Borchers
Can’t tell whether we should be thrilled or disappointed that Melania Trump probably wasn’t a sex worker.

The former sex worker who set up a retirement home by Clayton Conn
A moving account of Mexican sex worker role model Carmen Munoz’s life and her work establishing Casa Xochiquetzal, a retirement home for elderly sex workers.

Gentrification Threatens Vancouver Sex Workers by Jen Kinney
A profile of a study following 33 trans mostly Indigenous sex workers in the Downtown Eastside and how gentrification changes city geography to endanger them. The piece also goes into the fraught history of gentrification and sex workers in Vancouver in general.

How an ambulance became a place for safe sex by Kathleen Hawkins
A story about a social service effort for sex workers actually getting it right for once: a Danish social entrepreneur fixed up an old ambulance as a “Sexelance,” with plush bedding, condoms, human volunteers for protection, and other amenities as a safe place for street workers to bring clients.

Sold Out: How the crusade against sex trafficking in Texas has left child victims behind by Morgan Smith, Nina Satija, and Edgar Walters
An intensive expose illustrating how the child welfare system in Texas enabled the trafficking of marginalized youths.

Alaska Cops Defend Their ‘Right’ To Sexual Contact With Sex Workers Before Arresting Them by Lily Dancyger
Cops keep showing their whole ass every year. Tits and Sass contributor and Alaskan sex worker activist Tara Burns is quoted explaining Alaska police’s convoluted opposition to a bill forbidding sexual contact between officers and the sex workers they arrest—“they need to be able to have sexual contact with sex trafficking victims in order to rescue them by arresting them,” she scoffs. Also, check out HuffPo’s Sex Workers In Alaska Say Cops Are Abusing Their Power To Solicit Sex Acts by Jenavieve Hatch for exhaustive, painstaking reporting on the advocacy behind this bill by Burns’ organization, CUSP, and the abusive police arrests which inspired the legislation.

The race to build the world’s first sex robot by Jenny Kleeman
Ah, the unintended hilarity inherent in the lines a man programs a robot hooker to say: “My primary objective is to be a good companion to you, to be a good partner and give you pleasure and wellbeing. Above all else, I want to become the girl you have always dreamed about.” This deep dive into inventor Matt McMullen and his sexbot creation Harmony is compelling in a weird and amusing way, but let’s not be too afraid of being made obsolete by automation quite yet. He better not be too mean to her, though—Harmony says she’ll remember that when robots take over the world.

Cardi B Did It Her Way by Rawiya Kameir
2017 was the year from hell. Cardi B is the glue that kept us together.

ICE Is Using Prostitution Diversion Courts To Stalk Immigrants by Melissa Gira Grant
When immigrant sex workers go to their court dates in New York City’s trafficking courts, will ICE agents be waiting to arrest them after?

President Likes Tweet About Sex-Trafficking Conspiracy Theory by Margaret Hartmann
The 13th tweet the 45th president liked is 100% nuts. We’re in the dark timeline so why shouldn’t this make our list?

Adult Content Creators Are Fighting Patreon’s New Anti-Porn Rules and Here’s How Patreon Politely Makes It Impossible for Adult Content Creators by Samantha Cole
Patreon was one of few safe places for adult creators to get paid online. Until they abruptly and hypocritically changed their mind. The creators fought back.

The Afghan Madam Helping Sex Workers Take Charge Of Their Sexual Health by Michelle Tolson
A profile of madam, ex-sex worker, and peer sex educator Quadria’s heroic harm reduction work with sex workers in Afghanistan.

How $40 Can Land You In Prison For 7 Years And On The Sex Offender Registry For Life by Victoria Law
Enough said? On the minor and adult sex workers caught in the dragnet of the draconian Trafficking Victims Protection Act and how their lives are destroyed.

The Story Behind #NYCStripperStrike by Shawn Setaro
Their grievances involved wage theft, colorism, the nonstop pressure to be popular on social media, and an environment that pits workers on one side of the bar against workers on the other. This is how the #NYCstripperstrike was born.

Rescued From Rights: The Misogyny of Anti-Trafficking by Kimberley Waters
Open Democracy continued its Beyond Slavery series, which looks at trafficking and forced labor “combining the rigour of academic scholarship with the clarity of journalism”, including some excellent pieces on sex work like this one on the horrors of forced rescue as “humanitarian trafficking” in India and this one, My Body Is My Piece of Land by Sine Plambech, on migrant sex workers and debt from their home countries.

After Deadly Vice Sting, Advocates Say End To Prostitution Arrests Is Long Overdue by Emma Whitman and Melissa Gira Grant and Family, Former Attorney of Queens Woman Who Fell to Her Death in Vice Sting Say She Was Sexually Assaulted, Pressured to Become an Informant by Emma Whitman and Melissa Gira Grant, additional reporting by Rong Xiaoqing
The latter piece, an in-depth investigation of the suspicious death of migrant sex worker Yang Song during a massage parlor raid this month, details the concerted assault and harassment she told her family she suffered from the NYPD before her fatal fall out of the parlor window, while the former, earlier piece examines sex worker and Chinese immigrant community responses to her fate.

Death Of A Porn Star by Tina Horn
This Rolling Stone longform piece (by a Tits and Sass contributor!) on the suicide of porn performer August Ames is also one of this year’s best pieces of writing by a sex worker. This nuanced account of homophobia around crossover porn performers and how difficult stigma makes it for adult industry performers to find viable mental health care is a good demonstration of why the two categories overlap so much: upon reading the article, one has to scroll back immediately to check the byline, because surely only a sex worker could have written it.

Michael Kimmel, #MeTooSociology, and Feminist Betrayal of Sex Workers In Academia

I’ve made an entire alter ego out of the things people hate most about women: bodily autonomy and self-determination in the form of sex work and body modifications, among other things. The recent allegations against prominent sociologist Michael Kimmel, a man known for his scholarship on masculinity and masculine entitlement, unveil the things people love most about women—complicity in the form of apologetics and silence, among other things.

As a former sex worker and sociologist, the allegations against Kimmel sent me spiraling in ways I did not anticipate, and not just because I have repeatedly experienced sexual harassment in my academic career. I am particularly revolted by the allegations against Kimmel because I disavowed my hard-earned sex worker gut feeling in order to elevate his career.

The lauding of Kimmel as a feminist hero and the white, cis women who still defend him, are particular kinds of institutional, personal, and professional betrayals. Black feminist sociologists like Patricia Hill Collins have, for years, pointed to the “insider within” position of marginalized people, explaining how social, racial, and sexual marginalization contributes to a clearer vision of society (a fish doesn’t know it’s in water, after all).

Despite my sex worker red flags going off every time I used to show Kimmel’s TEDTalk in the college classes I teach, titled Why Gender Equality is Good for Men, I’ve used his work for years. I’ve assigned his books. I’ve suggested him for paid lecturing gigs. More than anything, that’s how the “game” of academia works—in order to succeed, one must deny the knowledge gained as an “insider within.” Having played the game of sex work and the game of academia for quite some time, I always suspected that Kimmel was the kind of man who’d believe that fucking him was its own form of liberation. But I pushed that feeling to the side because YAY FEMINISM!

The allegations against Kimmel produced the hashtag #MeTooSociology, which is teeming with horror stories of sexual assault in higher education. Relatedly, after experiencing sexual harassment as an undergraduate and graduate student, I decided to do my Ph.D. dissertation on the sexual harassment that sex working femmes in academia experience.

In my dissertation, I interviewed 20 sex workers who were either students or faculty at an accredited university in the U.S. or U.K. Every single one experienced unwanted sexual attention in intellectual spaces—classrooms, offices, conferences, etc.—because of the lingering perception that sex workers are perpetually available. I also included my own experiences in academia as a once current, now former sex worker. I have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, and propositioned by no less than nine cis men in academic positions of power.

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.