image via 50 Dollars Not Fifty Shades on Facebook

image via 50 Dollars Not Fifty Shades on Facebook

There’s a new campaign circling social media encouraging people to not only look into the abuse and lack of consent within the book Fifty Shades of Grey, but to also boycott the movie, with a philanthropic twist. According to their Facebook page, “#50dollarsnot50shades is a grassroots, women-led campaign, encouraging people to boycott the 50 Shades of Grey movie & give a $50 donation to [a] domestic violence shelter or agency. The money you would have spent on movie tickets and a babysitter or movie tickets, popcorn and drinks will go towards serving victims of abusive relationships like the one glamorized in the 50 Shades series. Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do.”

As someone who not only practices BDSM professionally and personally and dislikes the poor excuse for BDSM erotica that is the Fifty Shades franchise, I thought that this idea was actually quite clever. Instead of supporting a movie and book series whose leading man doesn’t talk about consent with newbie Ana while also meeting all of the signs of being a domestic abuser, why not make a donation to a local women’s shelter for domestic violence? Brilliant.

Or maybe not. The campaign is not as grassroots as it claims, but instead is run by anti-pornography activists. 50 Dollars not 50 Shades is sponsored by the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC), the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), and Stop Porn Culture. It is also affiliated with PATHS of SaskatchewanAntiPorn.org and Pornography Harms which is apparently part of the NCSE. [READ MORE]

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(Via Kitty Stryker’s Twitter feed)

 

Rashida Jones replied (respectfully!) to Kitty Stryker‘s post earlier this week on Tits and Sass, and the two engaged in brief dialogue.

Thailand is amping up arrests of sex workers in an attempt to appear to be compliant with US regulations on trafficking.

SWOP-Seattle has written an open letter to lawmakers, asking them to stop bills that would enact the End Demand model in Seattle. You can sign the letter here.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have developed software that supposedly mines escort ads for information that can suggest the worker is being trafficked:

Traffic Jam gives police a rapid way to sort sex ads, spotting indirect language that may suggest sex trafficking, or grouping ads with similar language that may have been written by the same person.

A trafficking sting last weekend in Illinois resulted in the arrest of nearly 600 clients and 23 “so-called traffickers.” Given the ever-growing breadth of what that word is coming to encompass, one must wonder: were they pimps, boyfriends, coworkers sharing a space, or family members living off a sex worker’s income? Money and effort well spent?

No. And there is no rise in sex trafficking during sporting events, even Polaris and the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women agrees.   This myth conflates sex workers with trafficking victims and encourages serious misuse of funds and time, like the Cook County trafficking sting in Illinois last weekend noted above.

For the first time in the 102 year history of the Alaskan Legislature, there’s an actual advocate for sex workers present: Tits and Sass contributor and longtime activist Terra Burns is in Juneau, educating the legislators on the effects of their laws on real live women.

“They really target things that people in the sex industry do to increase their own safety,” Burns said. “Things like working indoors or working together or even buying condoms for each other.”

She adds that Alaska’s well-intended legislation has unintended consequences.

“I think it shows they are more likely to victimize workers themselves than they are to protect the workers,” she said.

Despite ostensibly having heard or at least read what Terra has to say, Berta Gardner, the bill’s sponsor, says

“My bill does not affect sex workers — it affects victims of sex trafficking,” says Gardner. “It doesn’t touch sex workers who are voluntary sex workers in any way, shape, or form.”

And Terra is using social media to raise money for her efforts! The ability of sex workers’ to use social media will never not be news, apparently.

Also?  Strippers age. Mic follows the true life stories of real women who get older, and how they deal with it.

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Rashida Jones at the premiere of I Love You, Man, at South by Southeast in Austin, in 2009. (Photo by Flickr user thomascrenshaw)

Rashida Jones at the premiere of I Love You, Man, at South by Southeast in Austin, in 2009. (Photo by Flickr user thomascrenshaw)

Rashida Jones, one of the producers of Hot Girls Wanted, a new documentary on the amateur porn industry, recently proclaimed that women do not derive pleasure from performing in porn. “It’s performative,” she explains, “women aren’t feeling joy from it.” She proceeds to ask, “What is the real cost [of performing in porn] to your soul and to your psyche?”

Sex workers are, by now, quite familiar with this kind of paternalistic analysis and “concern.” They quickly responded to the comments via social media, justly critiquing Jones for fetishizing authenticity. However, there were also the obligatory “sex work is just like any other job” comments, which I’m not so sold on. Although sex work is, of course, legitimate labor and should not be exempt from any kind of labor analysis, I’ve never been comfortable with the argument that selling sex is just like selling a latte. I’m also of the minority opinion that people really should love their jobs.

Responding to Jones’ comments, Kink Weasel tweeted, “Let’s apply that to other jobs: Does the checker at the grocery tingle at the thought of bagging groceries?” Similarly, Cathy Reisenwitz tweeted, “I’m sorry, barista. I need to give this latte back. I didn’t see any joy from you while making it.” The implication is that all service industry jobs are joyless at times; joy is not a measure of any job’s worth.

But I disagree. Preceding homo sapiens in the philosophy of evolution is “homo faber,” literally, “man the creator.” We are what we create, what we make. And if our creations are fundamentally joyless, that’s a problem. Especially if we are in the business of sex.  I will forever remember the first client who physically repulsed me. And although I’ve, coincidentally, also worked as a barista, I can’t say that the joylessness of barista life ever compared to the gut wrenching, soul rattling experience of blowing a guy whose vile smell and equally rancid demeanor remain etched in my mind’s eye.

I understand the desire to demystify sex as “just like [insert any vaguely uninteresting activity].” I really do. This political tactic takes sex—and sex work—out from under the veil of ignorance and stigma and puts it in its rightful place amongst the vast array of human experiences. It says, “Hey! These punitive policies surrounding the expression of sex should be made obsolete!” And it’s true, they should! But we’re not quite there yet.

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Kitty Stryker with Andre Shakti. (Screencap from Ban This Sick Filth, courtesy of Kitty Stryker)

Kitty Stryker with Andre Shakti. (Screencap from Ban This Sick Filth, courtesy of Kitty Stryker)

I’m in the middle of being flogged by Courtney Trouble for Banned in the UK (NSFW), an anti-censorship porn critiquing obscenity laws. It’s getting a little hot and heavy and my ass is getting red when the tails whip around and smack the cameraperson, my lover, in the face. We all dissolve into giggles.

And they say there’s no authenticity in porn.

I have a boner to pick with Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation), an actress and one of the producers of an “intimate and ultimately harrowing” documentary about porn performers (because even when a documentary is expressing disgust and pity for sex workers, it’s still sexualized). Directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus are very concerned about the impact of porn on culture; it was the subject of their first documentary, Sexy Baby. During an interview at the Sundance Film Festival about the film (which was bought by Netflix), Ms. Jones said, “Women should feel pleasure and have sex and feel good about it—and there’s a lot of shame involved with porn,” adding that “[i]t’s performative, women aren’t feeling joy from it.”

I’m an amateur-ish porn performer and one of the directors of a little company called TROUBLEfilms. As a queer owned, queer focused operation, fulfilling cis male fantasies is not really high up on our list of priorities, but I guess since everyone knows that “only men are visual” all porn is basically the same, right? And of course as the casting director of this company, I am blasé about performer safety and health—it’s not like we have a multi-page document of model rights and our ethical standards.

If only porn was as progressive as Hollywood—oh, wait, except there’s more representation in the porn industry for female directors and producers than in the mainstream film industry.

But I’m going to put aside my sarcasm for a minute, because this is a serious issue with serious consequences. There’s been a lot of discussion about “authenticity” in porn and how amazing and valuable and feminist a quality it is, but I call bullshit on that discourse. Indie porn performer Arabelle Raphael made a great point last year by stating that porn is still labor, and as such, it is by its very nature performative. All labor requires some sort of performance, from smiling at customers you dislike to being polite when you hate your boss. Labor in the entertainment field, whether that be acting on stage, screen, or in adult movies, is even more explicitly staged. Activist sex worker Siouxsie Q wrote about how when she was working with a feminist pornographer, the actual, negotiated sex she wanted to have with a real life play partner was considered “too much” to be “authentic” as defined by that director. So who decides, then, what is authentic and what is performative? Are these actually opposite ends of a spectrum?

(Editor’s note: Content warning—NSFW images after the jump.)

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Monica at a protest last May. (Photo via SWOP Phoenix Facebook page, courtesy of Jones and SWOP Phoenix)

Monica Jones at a protest last May. (Photo via SWOP-Phoenix Facebook page, courtesy of Jones and SWOP-Phoenix)

Monica Jones’ conviction for “manifesting intent to commit prostitution” was overturned this week! Jones said:

…My conviction being vacated is important but it is a small win in our larger fight for justice. There are so many trans women and cisgender women who might be charged under this law in Phoenix and similar laws across the country. There is so much more work that needs to be done so that no one will have to face what I have no matter who they are or what past convictions they have.

Tits and Sass contributor and Portland dancer Elle Stanger is quoted extensively in this Willamette Week article about Oregon strippers drafting two workplace protection bills for the consideration of the state legislature.

According to UNAIDS, the Asia-Pacific region will not meet the current goals of ending the HIV epidemic in fifteen years unless these countries change laws which are currently hostile to vulnerable target demographics. Unfortunately, US moralism has tied a lot of funding up in ways that mandate such unfriendly legislation, so it becomes a race to see which matters more: ending HIV… or funding.

Quelle surprise: brothels are run like businesses!  The women who work at them are like women anywhere else!  Insert mandatory crack about fake names here:

The receptionist politely rattles off a roster of exotic names, “Armani, Honey, Candy, Diamond …” names which I’m quietly confident wouldn’t be found on any of the ladies’ driver’s licences.

I see what you did there.

The nuns of the Chicago Convent of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo are suing nearby strip club Allure, claiming that it’s a venue for prostitution.  This is their second attempt to close the club; the first involved them picketing it for violating zoning laws.  This is one lawsuit where I hope the club wins.

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