akynos.

(Via @NYCStripperStrike Instagram account)

A slightly different version of this piece was originally posted on Akynos’ blog, blackheaux, on November 8th

A personal history of being a Black stripper

It’s about fucking time! That’s all I can say about this stripper strike organizing.

I am excited to see more and more gentlemen’s club/exotic dancers taking this business seriously enough to take matters into their own hands. I think for far too long those of us in the adult entertainment industry have gotten engulfed in the socially acceptable invalidation of stripping as actual work, so that we’ve allowed ourselves to neglect so many of the labor violations, discrimination, and downright illegal actions by management, patrons, and staff that just couldn’t fly in other legal businesses.

I remember seeing dancers getting sexually and physically assaulted by patrons, while the bouncers employed because our naked bodies afforded them that job would do absolutely NOTHING. I recall one time a patron ejaculated on my ass as I gave him a standing lap dance at the bar. I went to the bouncer on duty at the time. He shrugged his shoulders and dismissed me.

The male staff who were employed by the club as stage managers or bouncers were also known to sexually violate us. Although they were employed by the same space we all occupied at the same damn time, they felt they were entitled to free feels and who knows what else from the dancers. If it was a nice day, they’d just insult you for even working in such a grimy industry.

Then there was the highway robbery in fees the club would charge the dancers who were coming in there to work—i.e., bring the establishment business. When I was in the game in the 90s, house fees were only just being implemented. They went from $5 to $20 in what seemed a matter of weeks.

Public perception often shapes law and policy, and vice versa. Without legal precedent or social acceptance we become prey to shoddy business practices.

I was 17 years old when I entered the clubs. I started with Al’s Mr. Wedge in the Bronx. It was the club I worked at exclusively then for a few reasons: Another club, The Goat, was closed by the time I got in the game. And besides, the legendary talk around this club sounded as if it was just too much for my bougie ass. For some reason, I just didn’t like Golden Lady, because its size and structure intimidated me.

And all my attempts at auditioning at clubs like Sue’s Rendezvous and whatever the name of the juice bar near Dyre Ave proved fruitless. I was too dark.

I recall once I went into Sue’s with a friend of mine, this mixed chic by the name of Jackie. Tall, light skinned, sorta looking like a young Mariah Carey, she was half White and Black. I went into Sue’s with her with the confidence that I would be allowed to dance in another club and increase my chances of making money. Young and naive, it didn’t dawn on me that when they told me Jackie could audition and I couldn’t it was the result of discrimination against my complexion.

Jackie ended up working at the high-end clubs in the city. Me and my Black ass had to keep it gutter and stay where they were not too picky.

I want people to stop being surprised that racism, colorism, and other biases against womxn (and Black people/or anyone with “dark” skin) exist. Determining who is worthy of making a living can be as superficial as how far from Whiteness they appear to be.

This shit is real.

Racism is real.

And colorism is also as fuckin real. The world is not existing in a post-racial/post-colorism mindset. It will never ever be like that. Now with racist humans writing code, even algorithms are becoming racially biased.

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Caty’s picks:

Media Coverage of Sex Workers Erases Our Voices by Lily Fury
Tits and Sass contributor Lily Fury’s Establishment piece confronts a problem which we’ve devoted thousands of words to on this site: the flattening, sanitizing, and sensationalizing of sex workers’ stories by the mainstream media. The quotes she elicits from interview subjects like Shagasyia Diamond and Akynos Shekara on their misrepresentation and erasure by journalists in favor of whiter, more well-heeled, and respectable representatives of our profession are searing: “The white victim is always the victim people feel sorry for,” Shekara observes. And Fury turns the endless debate about listening to sex workers on its head, asking: “Should non-sex-workers be allowed to speak for us? Is there a way for journalists who haven’t worked in the sex industry to write about it responsibly?”

I’m A Sex Worker Who Was Raped, Here’s Why I Didn’t Fight Back by Holiday Black
[Content warning: graphic description of sexual assault] This was the piece I saw linked most often this year within my sex worker peer group. I wish we all didn’t identify with it so much, but Black excels in depicting the profoundly fucked up reality we live in.

My Hopes & Fears About Becoming A Mother After Being A Sex Worker by Melissa Petro
Petro delves into intimate territory with testimonies on the often fraught relationships sex workers have with their mothers and reflections on how this shapes us if we become parents ourselves. I couldn’t get this quote from Meg Valee Munoz out of my head: “There’s this painful thing that happens when you’re a sex worker and become a mother. You start to realize how incredibly intense a mother’s love is, yet start to question why your own mother’s love was not strong enough to reject stigma and accept you.”

#Black SexWorkersLivesMatter: White-Washed “Anti-Slavery” And The Appropriation of Black Suffering by Robin Maynard
Feminist Wire posted this stunning manifesto in 2015, but since we didn’t point it out last year, I’m taking the chance now. Maynard’s piece explains why the prohibitionist lobby’s use of the term “slavery” drowns out the concerns of Black sex workers. In the process, she creates an information-packed primer on Black feminist and sex worker movements against the prison industrial complex.

The Peculiar Political Economics of Pro-Domming by Lori Adorable
Adorable is at her brilliant best here inquiring why pro-dommes confuse the paid performance of control with material power: “I…don’t see how a half dozen or so fin-dommes have transformed ‘fuck you, pay me’ dirty talk into a semi-coherent rhetoric of wealth redistribution on certain strains of social justice Twitter.”

The Tedium of Trans Sex Work by Sarah
In a wryly funny and insightful piece, Sarah tells us about the extra heaping of objectification that comes with being a sex working trans woman: “[Clients] want some kind of once-in-a-lifetime bucket list sexual experience, have no idea what that is, and expect that you’ll be able to provide it—because that’s what they think trans women are there for.”

Porno-Enlightenment: How Pornography Propagates A Liberal Worldview by Angel Archer
Angel Archer/Rebeka Refuse stands out among sex worker writers in her sharp command of Marxist analysis. In this piece, she examines porn as part of the political ideology of liberalism, tracing the connection from the Marquis de Sade, to the Cold War, and on to Pornhub.

What Trump Means For Sex Workers by Juniper Fitzgerald
In impassioned but incisive prose, Fitzgerald explains why Trump’s election should make us think about guiding the sex workers’ rights movement away from my-body-my-choice libertarianism into a collectivism which defies what the President-Elect stands for.

As A Sex Worker, I’m Terrified For The Next Four Years by Hennessy Williams
On a more personal note, a couple of weeks after the election, Williams gave voice to the the way we all fear for our safety under Trump, especially those of us who are people of color and LGBTQ.  She also spoke to the cognitive dissonance of seeing clients who rejoiced in the new regime: “Already, I’ve heard my clients who work in the pharmaceutical and finance industries express excitement about how their industries will flourish under Trump, giddy with the results many Americans took as bad news.”

Josephine’s picks:

Why Prince Was a Hero to Strippers by Lily Burana and Naked Music Monday: Prince by Bubbles (Susan Elizabeth Shepard)
Because Prince was uniquely important to strippers.

Support Hos: Deadpool by Maggie McMuffin
A Marvel superhero film whose romantic lead is a kick-ass sex worker: what could be better? McMuffin’s review is a delightful read even if you’re not a comic book geek.

“Junkie Whore”—What Life is Really Like for Sex Workers on Heroin by Caty Simon
The writer draws from her personal life and the lives of other opioid-using sex workers to illustrate how inaccurate the junkie whore trope truly is.

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(Photo by Ed Barnes, courtesy of Akynos)

(Photo by Ed Barnes, courtesy of Akynos)

Akynos is a multi-platform sex worker artist. Her many talents include photography, burlesque, and performance. She’ll be appearing this week in the San Francisco Bay Area Sex Worker Film and Art Festival from May 15th-24th, where she’ll perform in the Sex Worker Soliloquies series and teach classes in the Institute of Sexworkology, an all day workshop. More photos of Akynos in action after the jump.

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Incredible Edible Akynos stars in "Whore Logic" at the San Francisco Sex Workers' Film and Arts Festival (Photo by PJ Starr)

Incredible Edible Akynos stars in “Whore Logic” at the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival (Photo by PJ Starr)

The San Francisco Bay Guardian profiles this year’s Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival, focusing on contributions by festival co-founder Carol Leigh/Scarlot Harlot, Mariko Passion, James Darling, Siouxsie Q,  Juba Kalamka, Courtney Trouble, Amber Dawn, and Rhiannon Argo.

Toro Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka, outraged pretty much everyone this Monday when he stated publicly that the sexual services of enslaved Chinese and Korean ‘comfort women’ during WWII were a wartime necessity for the Japanese army. He also told reporters that there was no clear evidence that the Japanese military coerced women into service, which any historian can tell you is blatantly false. “Anyone can understand that the system of comfort women was necessary to provide respite for a group of high-strung, rough and tumble crowd of men braving their lives under a storm of bullets,” Hashimoto said. Oh, well, boys will be boys and rape will be rape, right?  Mr. Hashimoto then went on to suggest that U.S. servicemen in Okinawa should “make more use” of the local sex industry to “relieve the sexual energy of the Marines,” which may or may not be a good idea but is unlikely to be taken seriously considering the source. Local Okinawan women’s orgs have demanded an apology from the mayor, feeling that his comments express the misogynist racism mainlanders harbor against Okinawans.

Even anti-trafficking activists oppose using condoms as evidence of prostitution.

A Virginia woman answering what she believed to be an online dating ad was recently arrested for prostitution: “She says he [the undercover police officer] shoved a fistful of cash in front of her face and issued a command: ‘TAKE IT!'”

The Human Rights Watch reports that police in China frequently beat, torture and arbitrarily detain suspected sex workers, often with little or no evidence that they engaged in prostitution.  Condoms as evidence of prostitution are a favored tactic of the Chinese police, and sex workers are often arrested with no evidence against them besides the fact that they were carrying condoms.  Raids on brothels are timed, often occurring a few days ahead of politically sensitive events or whenever someone in government orders an anti-pornography campaign to please the leadership, and it’s during these periods that police officers demand steep bribes or sex, torture sex workers to coerce confessions, or lock them up for as long as two years without trial. Those who wish to see if their eyes can remain dry after reading the Human Rights Watch study on this can find it here.

The New Zealand Herald profiled one such Chinese crackdown on the notoriously thriving sex trade in the city of  Dongguan.

A North Queensland motel has won a legal battle against a sex worker who successfully sued for discrimination after being told she could not work as a prostitute on the premises.

Career focused social media site LinkedIn has forbidden escort and massage advertisements, even in countries in which prostitution is legal. Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof is quoted retorting: ““If it’s OK to do that, is it OK to drop Dairy Queen too because it serves too much fat and calories? Is LinkedIn going to be the moral arbiter, and drop Coca-Cola or anybody who works for a cigarette company?” Dr. Brooke Magnanti also takes issue with the site’s policy in her column in the Telegraph. She points out that “escorts who want to use LinkedIn as a business opportunity will continue to do so. They will just employ code words and careful screening – as they already do on virtually every other social network in the world.”

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