via flickr user Iain Farrell
Leaving academia isn’t just for sex workers, but there are a good number of former academics among our contributors and readers. Once you’ve done sex work and experienced the particular freedoms it affords, academia’s constraints can seem more chafing and its endgame more pointless. This post in particular prompted us to have some of them talk about their experiences with higher education and why they left. Thank you to our participants, who will introduce themselves:
Charlotte Shane: I’m in the US and I went to school here, mostly. I got one graduate degree (M.A.) and then went for another. The second time was when I became…A DROPOUT. I’ve been sex working in one form or another since the start of my first grad school stint. I also have various straight jobs, but none of them are dependant on any degree. (Not even high school, I don’t think.)
chelsea g. summers: Possessing a checkered academic past, I didn’t graduate college until my mid-30s, a few years after I started stripping. I worked the last year or so of college as a stripper, the year between undergrad and grad school, and the first two years of grad school. When I started my Ph.D. program, I quit stripping because I realized my students had fake IDs. It was fine if they were hot for teacher, but I didn’t need them to see the evidence that teacher was hot. Plus, I did my work at a Jesuit college here in New York City. I left my program with an M.Phil in 18th-century British Literature and a staggering amount of debt.
Lux ATL: You can find me on Facebook and Twitter. I spent 12 years in higher education, earning a B.A. in English, an M.A. in Creative Writing, and a Ph.D. in Literary Studies. In 2013 I finished my Ph.D. and officially became a doctor. I taught Freshman Composition from 2006 until 2014. I also spent my entire adult life working on and off as a stripper and occasional nude model. I started stripping when I was 18 and have continued to strip, with breaks in between, until present. I am currently 32. [READ MORE]
Nobody liked Logan.
Dear Tits and Sass,
I was with my boyfriend for two years and we decided to take a break at the beginning of this year, shortly after which I began stripping. We recently got back together and I still can’t pluck up the courage to tell him about my new job, which I love. Problem is, his ex-wife was a stripper and he harbors a lot of negative attitude towards strippers and the sex industry in general, and has said some things that make me uncomfortable telling him (“I couldn’t date another stripper”) as well as the fact I’m scared he would tell my parents out of concern. The longer I keep it from him the worse it will look, and besides I think he suspects it already. Help, please!
Secret Stripper [READ MORE]
The front page of myredbook.com post-seizure (screenshot)
In a terrible blow for Bay Area sex workers, the sites MyRedbook.com and SFRedbook.com were shut down by the FBI, accused of money laundering and facilitating prostitution. Redbook was one of the few free advertising sites left where sex workers could advertise, talk to and screen clients with a degree of distance.
Steph Key, a member of the Australian Parliament, is trying for the third time to make decriminalization a reality in South Australia.
Some brothels in the Dolly district of Surabaya are still running, despite being officially “shut down” last week.
Operation Cross Country, a five-day nation-wide trafficking sting, yielded 168 child victims, many of whom had never been reported missing, and far more adult workers. The children, who are primarily runaways, many of whom weren’t reported missing by their families, will be returned to their families where possible or placed in foster care. In at least one instance a driver was also arrested on charges of conspiracy and promotion of prostitution.
Anne Elizabeth Moore and Leela Corman did a comic strip about what anti-trafficking NGOs really do for Truth-Out’s series Our Fashion Year.
Toronto’s Maggie’s Sex Worker Action Project is raising funds to battle C-36.
Well, Game of Thrones viewers aren’t ever allowed to forget (.gif created from screenshots of Game of Thrones)
Warning: Major spoilers below.
Game of Thrones, HBO’s biggest show, is bringing the fantasy genre to the masses in a major way. Featuring a sprawling cast and storyline that’s been pared down from George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s full of fantastic performances, high production values, international sets and scenery, and some of the most exciting and tense moments on television.
It is also filled with violence against women, particularly, the sex workers who inhabit the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
Westeros combines traditional medieval fantasy lore (think knights and dragons) with the history of feudal Europe. Brothels are everywhere. There are half-naked women running about ready to please whichever male character needs pleasing. But, since it’s a vaguely historical setting, these women must be sad and put upon because as every fan of Moulin Rouge has told me, there were no happy sex workers in the past.
Critics and fans agree that Game of Thrones subverts many classic fantasy tropes. Ned Stark, the noble hero, dies at the end of the first season instead of prevailing. His daughter Sansa Stark is set up to be a damsel in distress, but learns to manipulate her abusers to her advantage. Yet the show still falls prey to many predictable sexist tropes. And of course, many of those tropes extend to mistreating sex workers.
Sex worker activist Velvet Steele speaks at a June 14th Red Umbrella rally in Vancouver. All photos courtesy of the author.
On June 4, Canada’s Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced Bill C-36. According to the Pivot Legal Society, this legislation will, if passed, criminalize “the purchase of sex, communicating for the purpose of selling sex, gaining material benefit from sex work, and advertising sexual services.” It would be functionally impossible to establish brothels, agencies, and sex worker collectives legally under the proposed legislation. This legislation is markedly different from the existing prostitution laws, as buying or selling sexual services has never been a crime in Canada. The Conservative government is adamant that this situation should change. According to MacKay, prostitution is inherently harmful and passing Bill C-36 will provide law enforcement the tools they need to go after “the perpetrators, the perverts, those who are consumers of this degrading practice.”
Bill C-36 comes on the heels of the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision which struck down Canada’s existing prostitution laws last December in the Bedford case (after Terri-Jean Bedford, one of three sex workers who brought the case before the courts). The laws the Court struck down were: communicating for the purposes of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution, and keeping a common bawdy house (which is legalese for brothel, in this context). In their ruling, the judges declared that the laws were unconstitutional because they interfered with sex workers’ ability to take steps to keep themselves safe. The right to life, liberty and security of the person is guaranteed under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the prostitution laws were found to violate sex workers’ ability to exercise these rights. In their ruling, the judges explicitly state that “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes.” They also maintain that “a law that prevents street prostitutes from resorting to a safe haven”—an indoor work space—“is a law that has lost sight of its purpose.” [READ MORE]