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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.

 

 

 

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.

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…”

Queer Muslim Sex Worker (2017)

(Photo courtesy of Amy Ashenden)

Queer Muslim Sex Worker: These are labels that aren’t supposed to go together, but in the life of Maryam, a genderfluid Pakistani Muslim person living in London, they do. A newly released, independently-funded podcast with this title by journalist Amy Ashenden aims to shed light on how Maryam’s different identities are sexualized, vilified, and ostracized in their own ways.

As she navigates her various forms of closetedness “like a maze,” Maryam’s candor lets the listener in on how stressful this life is. In fact, it is so stressful that she’s often had suicidal thoughts because of it. At the end of the podcast, Maryam relates how since finally being disowned by her family after hiding her sexuality and her experience in the sex industry from them, she’s been unable to focus on her responsibilities, dealing with the trauma of abandonment by numbing out with alcohol and partying at strip clubs. I feel for her because I can relate to that sense of hopelessness.

In a culture with highly communal values, your life is not your own. Your life actually belongs to your family, and anything you do or say can either bring honor or shame to them. For this reason, it’s extremely rare for Muslims to talk openly about gender and sexuality.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t Muslims who are LGBTQ, it just means they’re not welcome in the Muslim community. As Maryam observes, “I’ve never seen a queer Muslim person who came out to the community and was welcomed with open arms.”

If being gay is bad news to the community, being a sex worker is even worse. However, the Muslim community itself creates the necessity for survival sex work by rejecting members of the community who are queer. As Maryam explains that she is saving the money she earns from webcam work to support herself in case she is rejected or disowned by her family for being gay, she illustrates how Muslim youth are not exempt from one of the most typical ways young people first become involved in sex work: by being disowned by their parents for being gay. The ability to take ownership of our bodies and sexuality is even something that draws people like us to do sex work.

My recommendation to Muslim youth who ask me about coming out is always to wait until they’re financially self-sufficient. We already know what happens to people like us. “I think I’d be sort of exiled from the community until I changed my ways,” Maryam says sarcastically when asked what would happen if she came out.

When traditional Muslim family values clash with the individualism that is the hallmark of Western culture, we take up a new fight beyond oppressive regimes and occupation back home and racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment here. Now we’re fighting for the freedom to be ourselves, beyond those labels and intersecting identities.

Quote of The Week

I am proud of the work I’ve done as part of the Women’s March policy table – a collection of women and folk engaged in crucial feminist, racial and social justice work across various intersections in our country. I helped draft the vision and I wrote the line “…and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements.” It is not a statement that is controversial to me because as a trans woman of color who grew up in low-income communities and who advocates, resists, dreams and writes alongside these communities, I know that underground economies are essential parts of the lived realities of women and folk. I know sex work to be work. It’s not something I need to tiptoe around. It’s not a radical statement. It’s a fact. My work and my feminism rejects respectability politics, whorephobia, slut-shaming and the misconception that sex workers, or folks engaged in the sex trades by choice or circumstance, need to be saved, that they are colluding with the patriarchy by “selling their bodies.” I reject the continual erasure of sex workers from our feminisms because we continue to conflate sex work with the brutal reality of coercion and trafficking. I reject the policing within and outside women’s movements that shames, scapegoats, rejects, erases and shuns sex workers. I cannot speak to the internal conflicts at the Women’s March that have led to the erasure of the line I wrote for our collective vision but I have been assured that the line will remain in OUR document. The conflicts that may have led to its temporary editing will not leave until we, as feminists, respect THE rights of every woman and person to do what they want with their body and their lives. We will not be free until those most marginalized, most policed, most ridiculed, pushed out and judged are centered. There are no throwaway people, and I hope every sex worker who has felt shamed by this momentarily [sic] erasure shows up to their local March and holds the collective accountable to our vast, diverse, complicated realities.

—Janet Mock’s tumblr statement on the erasure and subsequent re-addition of sex workers’ rights content in the agenda document this week for the Women’s March On Washington