Home Blog Page 3

Activist Spotlight: BARE on the Mass Closure of Strip Clubs in New Orleans

via BARE’s Instagram

An unholy mix of gentrification and trafficking hysteria created the perfect political climate to allow law enforcement to shutter several New Orleans strip clubs, leaving scores of dancers unemployed. The Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers rapidly sprung into action; they disrupted the mayor’s press conference and organized the Unemployment March the following night, which drew national attention. I talked to them about the situation in NOLA, their strategy, and their future plans.

So, to start, what is BARE? How long has BARE existed and what kind of activism does BARE do?

Lindsey: BARE is the Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers. We are an organization run by strippers, for strippers. I started coming to meetings a few months ago, but some of our members have been at this since the Trick or Treat raids of 2015. What we do first and foremost is provide a voice that’s been previously underexposed during the city’s assault on strip clubs: the voice of actual strippers. We’re attempting to work with city officials to influence policies and decisions that affect us. Outside of that, we really just want to foster community among dancers and show the people who don’t understand us that we are valuable members of the New Orleans community. During our first ever charity tip drive, participating dancers donated all of their tips from a Friday night’s work to a women’s shelter. Strippers literally paid that shelter’s rent for six months!

Lyn Archer: I arrived in New Orleans after being laid off from two seasonal jobs in a row, one in secretarial work and one in hospitality. I was on unemployment and got a job cocktail-waitressing at a Larry Flynt drag club. One night, a few weeks before Christmas, the club closed without notice and let everyone go. That’s when I saw how quickly fortunes could reverse on Bourbon Street and how little protection there is for workers. My first week on Bourbon, I was the likely the only stripper that didn’t realize that Operation Trick or Treat had just happened. I entered a work environment where strippers were scared, mgmt was over-vigilant, and customers were scarce. Everyone seemed confused about “the rules.” I later learned that’s because what’s written into the city code about “lewd and lascivious conduct” is different than state law and different than federal law. But these supposed “anti-trafficking” efforts are a collaboration of badges. Undercover agents from many offices move through the clubs. I began researching and writing on this for my column in Antigravity, called “Light Work.” I began to see how a feedback loop between press, law enforcement, self-styled “anti-trafficking” groups and civic policymakers can cause so much destruction for people they haven’t even considered. The club I started at was the first to close. The club was inside a building that was the house Confederate president Jefferson Davis lived in. The house I live in was the home of a Confederate general. We are working against, while inside-of, unfolding histories that are deeply, deeply violent. The more I learn about the history of sex worker resistance in New Orleans, the more I know this fight is lifetimes old and will replicate itself if we do not end it entirely.

It’s our 2018 call for pitches!!!

This picture is a pitcher pitching a pitcher because we’d like to emphasize that we want your pitches.

Happy New Year, readers! Per usual, we are taking our January hiatus—-just a small break from publishing while we do a little site maintenance. Tits and Sass wouldn’t exist without you, so perhaps considering resolving to write something this year?

We’re soliciting for your pitches! New writers, please familiarize yourselves with our contributors’ guidelines. A gentle warning: first time writers are usually edited rigorously (but kindly!). E-mail your pitches to info@titsandsass.com.

As usual, pitches from workers who are of color, trans, and/or genderqueer will always be prioritized, but don’t feel pigeonholed into writing on topics of identity. We know you’re experts on a wide variety of topics.

We love pop culture and media analysis, takes on breaking sex worker news, event coverage, and essays that illustrate the way the personal is political. We’re less keen on hyper-personal narratives but exceptions are sometimes made for the truly extraordinary. Pitch us almost anything you want, but listed below are a some specific topics we’re always looking for.

Porn workers: you didn’t get nearly enough coverage in 2018. We want to hear from you—-particularly about the ways your industry is both influencing and being shaped by the tech industry.

Sex working in the Trump administration: Has a second gone by when you aren’t reminded that Donald Trump is president? What are the sex worker angles? Migrant workers, we want to hear from you on how you’re navigating this especially hostile landscape and what other sex workers can do to help.

Movie, book, and television reviews: Vanity Fair said that the past year was a great one for sex worker portrayals in entertainment. What say you? We generally prefer reviews of entertainment that’s fairly current, but older material isn’t off the table.

The newest trends in criminalization we should watch out for: How are law, policy, and anti-trafficking discourse being leveraged against us black and grey market workers in this new year, and how are we adapting and resisting?

Survival workers and trafficking survivors: We want to make Tits and Sass accessible to your analyses and perspectives, so often shut out of the sex workers’ rights movement. Tell us what you’re thinking about and what issues are relevant to you.

Naked Music Monday: This column’s only parameter is that it must have some music. Write us the perfect playlist for a session or strip club shift. Is your favorite artists latest single sex work adjacent? Analyze it for us. In the past, writers have covered Cardi B and Beyoncé plus pole dancing with Bruno Mars, given us inspirational playlists and endorsed art haus indie for a session.

Support Hos: Does a sex working character on your favorite TV show warrant a closer inspection?

Activist Spotlight: Americans workers, show us who’s doing the work on ground in your area.

Don’t forget, if you need advice, we have some irregular advice columns. E-mail Dear Tits and Sass for any of your general sex work inquiries.  If you need advice about making a risky decision as safe as possible, send that to Ms. Harm Reduction.

 

I Partied With The Robot Strippers Before The CES

Human strippers with robot strippers. (photo via The Busty Bruiser)

When hypnotizing videos of robot strippers went viral recently, the internet was abuzz. (At least it was in my circles, comprised primarily of current/former sex workers and horny writers who never miss an opportunity to crack a Philip K. Dick joke.) People marveled and hypothesized about the potential implications these gyrating mannequins might have on the strip club landscape: Were these robots here to replace ladies who dance for a living? Were men actually like, into this? Should your friendly neighborhood strippers start worrying about being usurped by rechargeable batteries and knees that will never need replacement? It seemed that everyone who encountered this quirky bit of tech-lore was either mesmerized, amused, or vaguely hostile to the idea; but was anyone actually turned on? (Turns out, the answer to all of these questions is basically: not really.)

An old friend with tech media connections was able to score an invite to an exclusive media-only event being held at Sapphire, a major pillar of the Vegas strip club scene. We were lucky enough to check out the robots up close and personal before they make their debut on the CES Expo floor later this week. I spoke with the robots’ creator, Giles Walker, about their inception and how they came to be the most buzzed-about attraction at the biggest tech event of the year.

Despite all of the jokes and speculation about emotionally-stunted nerds in basements building girlfriends for themselves, Walker doesn’t even come close to the socially-awkward engineer I had envisioned. In fact, he’s a British sculptor with deep roots in the London punk and art scenes. With his spiked ear-gauges and cheeky fedora, Walker looks more like the guy who wants to sell you rare Japanese Sex Pistols b-sides on eBay, not the Dr. Frankenstein of sexy late-stage capitalism. An active member of art collective, The Mutoid Waste Company, which erects guerrilla-art installations all over Europe, Walker first began incorporating motors into his found-object sculptures in the mid-1990s using scavenged parts from junkyards. “When I first started I was just a broke punk, you know? I didn’t have $10 in my pocket, so I had to use whatever I could find on the street.” Today, the robots are constructed using mannequin limbs, windshield-wiper motors, a gate-opening motor, and CCTV cameras.

The dancing fembot concept first began to take shape for Walker after the broadcast of an infamous “sexed up” report on British television convincing the nation to go to war in Iraq.At the time, Walker says, “I started noticing these CCTV surveillance cameras on every single street corner in London, it was nuts. And those things are total garbage! They don’t even protect people, they only protect f*ckin’ property!” 

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…”