Candida Royalle at the 2013 Cinekink Awards. (Photo by Cropbot, via Wikimedia)

Candida Royalle at the 2013 Cinekink Awards. (Photo by Cropbot, via Wikimedia)

Candida Royalle was born in 1950 to a New York City that, to her, appeared buttoned-up and fucked-up about sex. She left that city, and the world, for good just a few days ago after several years of wrangling with ovarian cancer.

Following in her musician father’s footsteps, Royalle pursued an arts education, funded first by art modeling. The art modeling, in a career path familiar to many sex workers, quickly evolved into nude modeling and eventually into performance in about 25 feature length porn films. “I got into adult movies to support my art habit,” she explained in an August 2014 interview.

After a stop-and-start filmography, punctuated by periods of uncertainty and guilt, she left performing altogether in the hope of making a better pornography for us all by founding her own company, Femme Productions. Her first few years of film-making were particularly interesting, featuring older models; a wide range of body types; severe, “unsexy” shooting techniques; and weird, dystopian plots. Her film Revelations (1993) features a married couple living in a fascist, sex-hating future. The wife finds an old stash of dirty home movies which sexually transform her and ultimately result in her arrest. Royalle spoke frequently about wanting to create pornography that focused on feminine pleasure, and which made space for erotic storytelling that was not clichéd and shallow. Her goal was to create films that women would watch and that partners would watch together.

Over the past few decades, her production company became more successful and branched out into a wide array of sex toys, books, and even a biographical documentary which was in production before Royalle passed away. She was a heartening role model for women who could no longer directly sell their own sexual labor (by choice or necessity), but for whom leaving the industry altogether was not an option.



MELODYcoverMelody: Story of a Nude Dancer is one of the first autobiographical graphic novels ever published in Canada. The author and artist, Sylvie Rancourt, was a stripper in Montreal in the 1980s. She would write, draw, print, and distribute her comics in the clubs where she danced. Badass, right?

In spite of my recent attempts at being an illustrator, I’m very new to the graphic novel community. My first impression of Melody was surprise at the (ahem) normcore nature of her work. I expected a highly sensationalized story not unlike Pamela Anderson’s Stripperella (may Stripperella rest in peace). Melody, however, is quite the opposite: it reads like the visual diary of a girl unsure. Unsure of what? Everything. [READ MORE]


The cast of Red Umbrella Diaries, used with permission.

The cast of “The Red Umbrella Diaries”. (Courtesy of Red Umbrella Project)

Week in Links has been on hiatus. It’s come back to you in a new form: Month in links! This is gonna be good, you’ll see.

In the meantime, momentous things have happened!

In August, despite protest from such well-educated and experienced sex workers and sex work researchers as Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, and Meryl Streep, Amnesty International voted to develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of sex work.  The move is based on international agreement among public health, HIV, and human rights organizations, from the WHO to the Lancet, UNAIDS, and beyond, but still faces opposition from the prohibitionist moral police.  Despite a year of highly visible police brutality and murders and protests against this brutality in the United States, prohibitionists continue to advocate for End Demand and other versions of criminalization that increase law enforcement power over sex workers.

Which is both very funny and very sad, because stories like this one, about police entrapping and raping sex workers, are only slightly less common in the news than stories of another police murder, and probably happen unreported with even greater regularity.

In the wake of the Amnesty vote, DC is contemplating decrim, Seattle is still pushing hard for End Demand (and Seattle SWOP is pushing back, here’s our own Maggie McMuffin talking about it); internationally organizations in South Africa are pushing for decriminalization as well, as are public health groups in Zimbabwe, while Vietnam officials say they need red light districts.

While the Amnesty vote encouraged LAMBDA legal to finally come out in support of decrim, gay male sex workers took a hit the very next week as the Feds and Homeland Security raided Unlike virtually every other raid on an escort site ever, this one was met with outrage and media commentary in support of Rentboy. With overblown commentary like “Is Rentboy the new Stonewall?” (Katherine Koster and Derek J Demeri speak for a lot of us when they respond with an emphatic “no) the history of raids on women escort sites and sex worker protests of that phenomenon was erased. Men, you know, have sexual agency and are able to decide what’s best for themselves, even as sex workers, while women’s sexual agency and ability to self determine must always be in doubt.  Did HuffPo post videos of sex workers affected by the seizure of MyRedbook?

So LAMBDA, what’s good? Will LGBT organizations support all sex workers, or just gay male ones? Where’s your support for Amber Batts, a woman who served essentially the same function as Rentboy for some Alaskan sex workers, and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for “trafficking”? Lily Burana has some opinions on the disparity in coverage, and she’s not alone.



Ceyenne Doroshow. (Photo courtesy of Lily Fury)

Ceyenne Doroshow. (Photo by John Mastbrook, courtesy of Lily Fury)

Ceyenne Doroshow originally made a name for herself on stage as one of the seasoned performance artists and audience favorites of the Red Umbrella Diaries’ storytelling nights. She is featured as one of seven sex workers who tell their story on the newly released documentary The Red Umbrella Diaries, which will have its world premiere in Portland, Oregon today. In her compelling memoir cookbook, Cooking in Heels, written with Red Umbrella Project’s Audacia Ray, she tells her story: a black transgender woman’s triumph over adversity with the help of her passion for cooking. Doroshow stays busy as a published author, a public speaker, a documentary star, and a stage darling while never forgetting her roots. She remains committed to doing activist work, whether that means incorporating her lived experiences into her performances, lending her voice to trans rights conferences across the country, fostering LGBT youth, or working at The River Fund helping impoverished families. Lily Fury transcribed this from a series of conversations with Doroshow.

What have been some of the more memorable reactions to your book?

Being nominated for the MOTHA (Museum of Transgender History and Arts) awards and voted for by women like Janet Mock…I remember the same day Audacia Ray e-mailed me a review of my book that literally brought me to tears. It wasn’t a long drawn out review, but it got straight to the point, emphasizing [that] “This book changed my life.” And that was the take home that you want to take back into society whenever you do projects, whenever you bare your soul.

It’s not just a cookbook, it’s a memoir cookbook that shares something people rarely share. There’s no school to go to when dealing with the transgender child, and there were actually parents that got in contact with me to thank me or because they had made mistakes, and it was incredibly gratifying for me that these parents recognized their mistakes through my memoir…I set out to hopefully help one person and I found out I’m helping a whole lot more, and it’s really empowering.

Can you speak about your experience being outed publicly as a sex worker and serving time?

I was railroaded. This was something that usually someone would just get a desk appearance, probably a fine, and get out, but Governor Christie wanted to make me an example…I had to serve 30 days in jail, I didn’t get a warning, I didn’t get what like most people would get—if you’re of a certain level of stature in life, you’re allowed to fix your stuff.

They put me in protective custody with [another] trans identifying person, which was safer to an extent. But being in protective custody, which is really cruel in itself, is 23 hours being locked in a cell and having to defecate in front of someone, having to bear your most private pain, your tears, with a stranger you don’t know. But at the same time, it was gratifying that there was somebody there with me in that cell. Had there not been anybody, I would have come out far more damaged.

But they had these vents in the jail and I could talk to other inmates and some of them recognized me from Jersey City and some of them recognized me from the newspaper. To…add insult [to injury]…my newspaper article was floating around the cells because the CO’s had actually shown them to the inmates and the other guards. Which had made me horrified, but at the same time I had nothing to be ashamed of. It was more the process of…them wanting to publicly shame you to the point where you may not want to live or you may become suicidal. There’s no therapy for that. In my opinion, there’s no therapy for coming home because when you come home your security is broken because the whole process of trusting the system…is revealed to be a lie.


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(Photo by Lane V. Erickson, via Shutterstock)

One of the more difficult aspects of living as a sex worker is never knowing exactly whom you can trust. Sometimes even allies can say offensive things or break confidentiality. In the wake of such indiscretions, it’s sex workers themselves who are left to navigate that broken trust and the increased vulnerability that comes along with it. I know this pattern leaves me wary, and it is perhaps this wariness that led many sex workers to mistrust the Give Forward fundraising campaign initiated on behalf of Heather, a sex worker in West Virginia who survived an attack at her apartment by a serial killer posing as a client.

The Give Forward campaign was launched shortly after the attack on July 18th by a man and a woman local to the area who knew each other, but who did not know Heather before Falls’ death. In an article on The Daily Dot by Mary Emily O’Hara from July 31st, the woman involved with the campaign, Laura Gandee, is quoted: “I got a text message from a friend telling me that Heather was hungry, upset, and feeling all alone in her apartment, and asking me if I could I take her some food and go comfort her…Of course I said I would, if she was willing to let me.” The article doesn’t reveal who this friend was, and while it implies that Heather was willing to let a stranger into her home after the trauma of Falls’ attack there, it does not indicate her comfort with Gandee’s visit in her own words. Gandee went on to say that, “I have spoken to a number of people who are part of a movement to ensure sex workers’ rights. At first they were very skeptical of our campaign because they couldn’t believe anyone from outside their circle would step up to help someone in their industry after a tragedy like this. I told them West Virginians are different.”

Gandee’s words conjure images of any number of rescuers sex workers have known, armed with ostensibly good intentions, and confident in their own efficacy in situations with which they have little familiarity. While many cultures in the United States and elsewhere, including those of West Virginia and other parts of the South, value loyalty and neighborliness in a crisis, it’s equally true is that sex workers often live in dual spaces of invisibility and hypervisibility. Many of us operate in the underground economy. Often, our friends and family don’t know about our work until we are arrested, outed, or otherwise thrust into the spotlight. Our work, and entire parts of our lives, are unknown to people one day and revealed the next to be judged by anyone with a half-formed opinion on sex work.


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