best of

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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Murder in the Bayou, by Ethan Brown
Eight murdered woman from Jefferson Davis parish in Louisiana had two things in common: a background in drugs and/or sex work. The police blamed a serial killer. But Brown discovered something else the victims had in common: they had all worked as informants for law enforcement of some kind. The rampant police misconduct Brown uncovers in his careful reporting illustrates that the people who should have protected those women are partially responsible for their deaths.

Badge of Dishonor: Top Oakland Police Officials Looked Away as East Bay Cops Sexually Exploited and Trafficked a Teenager, by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Two reporters expose one of the most extreme examples of law enforcement exploitation when their investigation reveals that an alarming number of police officers slept with the same sex working youth in Oakland, California.

“We Can Help One Another”: Drug Use, Survival Sex, And Hope Among Afghanistan’s Marginalized Women, by Michelle Tolson
Michelle Tolson manages to obtain raw, poignant interviews with a mostly invisible population, illustrating why gender-specific support is even more vital for sex working and/or drug using women in Afghanistan in light of problems like the strictures of short-term marriage contracts, the lack of legitimate income sources for women, and heightened stigma and victim-blaming.

The Truth About the Biggest Sex Trafficking Story of the Year, by Elizabeth Nolan Brown
Innocent men are criminalized while migrant workers are called victims. Spoiler: the police exaggerated—when they weren’t outright lying.

Daniel Holtzclaw: Lawsuit Claims Police “Covered Up” Sexual Assault Complaint, by Molly Redden [Content warning: descriptions of sexual assault]
The Guardian details how the lawsuit filed by Oklahoma cop rapist Holtzclaw’s victim Jamie Ligons maintains that the Oklahoma City Police Department was well aware of Holtzclaw’s assaults. They’d received complaints from many of his Black, low-income, sex-working and/or drug-using victims as early as 8 to 10 months before his suspension from the force. But it was only after Ligons, a woman with no record who had a “familial relationship” with the department, made her complaint that the department finally took decisive action.

The Throwaways: How Detroit is becoming a flashpoint for violence against transwomen, by Allie Gross
A spate of deadly violence in Detroit forces us to examine exactly how hard trans women of color have to work to survive.

The NYPD Arrests Women for Who They Are and Where They Go — Now They’re Fighting Back, by Melissa Gira Grant
New York’s Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in Prostitution law gives the NYPD clearance to surveil, stereotype, target, and arrest women as possible sex workers—most of whom are low-income, black, and gender nonconforming.

The Audition, by Sydney Brownstone [Content warning: descriptions of sexual assault]
Brownstone painstakingly traces the roots of an elaborate and long-running faux porn recruitment scheme, in which a photographer invented a friendly adult film agent woman persona to scam vulnerable young women into sleeping with him. His rapes led one victim to attempt suicide.

Threadbareby Anne Elizabeth Moore
A vital condemnation of the global garment industry that illustrates (literally! it’s a comic!) its questionable relationship with anti-trafficking NGOs.

The Disturbing Trend of Vigilante Attacks On Sex Workers, by Frankie Mullin
All of Mullin’s sex work reporting in Vice this year, from her examination of an anti-sex work charity misrepresenting their research on a small sample group of survival workers to portray all sex workers as poorly paid and desperate to her piece on October’s Operation Lanhydrock and the history of raids on migrant massage parlor workers in London’s Soho and Chinatown over the past few years, has been uniformly excellent. But perhaps her best this year was this article on the under-reported phenomenon of vigilante attacks against sex workers cropping up throughout the UK and Ireland. To follow this story, Mullin spoke to outreach centers as well as individual sex workers and gathered the few statistics that were available. She even spoke to a man who started a Facebook thread online in support of a menacing brothel protest in Belfast’s Donegal Pass, in which people posted comments advocating “ethnic cleansing” and “a night of the long knives.” The author ties all this reportage together by considering the utility of extending the Merseyside Model, in which crimes against sex workers are counted as hate crimes, as well as pointing out the connection between the violent rhetoric of criminalization and these vigilantes acts.

How Canada’s Immigration Laws Make Migrant Sex Workers’ Jobs More Dangerous, by Brigitte Noel
Pulling together telling quotes from interviews with representatives of Immigration and Citizenship Canada and Canada’s Border Services Agency, as well as with Asian migrant sex worker advocacy organization Butterfly’s president Elene Lam, Brigitte Noel outlines how Bill C-36 and immigration policies combine to persecute and deport immigrant sex workers.

Pizzagate Rumors Falsely Link Death Of Sex-Worker Advocate To Nonexistent Clinton Probe, by Glenn Kessler
This Washington Post writer employs the paper’s penchant for rigorous fact-checking in service of sex worker rights advocate Monica Petersen’s memory. Petersen was a brilliant researcher who traveled to Haiti for her work critiquing the trafficking narrative. But after Pizzagate blew up, a fresh spate of fake news painted her suicide death there as retaliatory murder by the Clinton Foundation for an anti-trafficking investigation against them—an investigation Petersen never conducted.

Impunity Has Consequences: The Women Lost To Mexico’s Drug War, by Nina Lakhani
Lakhani’s reporting reveals that many sex workers contracted for political events and private parties with cartel members and government officials have gone missing along with thousands of other women in Mexico. The theory is that these drug war victims were disappeared because they knew too much about the connection between high-level drug dealers and corrupt politicians. These women are vulnerable to both abduction and femicide by the cartels and illegal imprisonment and torture by the security forces.

Why Are Strippers More Heavily Vetted Than Uber Drivers?, by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
Same labor model, vastly different regulations. An explanation.

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Bringing you the sex worker coverage you and your cat want to read since 2011. (Photo by jit bag via Flickr)

Bringing you the sex worker coverage you and your cat want to read since 2011. (Photo by jit bag via Flickr)

10.”How Sex Work Got Us This Far In Gay Liberation” by Hawk Kinkaid, 7/29

9.  “Having The Option: Alissa Afonina/Sasha Mizaree On Her Case And Being A Disabled Sex Worker” by Caty Simon, 3/16

8. “The State Is A Trafficker: Why Alaska Arrested Amber Batts” by Tara Burns, 7/17

7. “A Tunnel, Not A Door: Exiting Conditioned, Generational Sex Work” by Lime Jello, 1/13

6. “What The Hell Is Going On With Backpage? Part II” by Caty Simon, 7/21

5. “A ‘Whore’ By Any Other Name Is Still A Rose” by Kenya Golden, 2/23

4. “What The Rentboy Raid Tells Us About The Gendered Rhetoric of Trafficking” by Morgan M Page, 8/26

3. “Did 8 Minutes Lie To Sex Workers?” by Lane Champagne and Bubbles Burbujas, 4/27

2. “Why You Shouldn’t Study Sex Workers” by Lime Jello, 4/16

1. “Seems Legit: Authenticity, Performativity, and Sex” by Kitty Stryker, 2/03

 

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Rihanna playing X-Box. (Photo by Gamer Score Blog, via Flickr)

Rihanna playing X-Box. (Photo by Gamer Score Blog, via Flickr)

2015 was a year in which hip hop and R+B continued to produce excellent soundtracks for the hustle. Here’s my shortlist of the cream of that crop, in no particular order:

Trap Queen-Fetty Wap

Fetty Wap’s infectious “Trap Queen” was technically first released in 2014 online and independently, but only really blew up this year with its major label release, ultimately peaking at number two on Billboard‘s Top Ten. The ditty happens to fall into my favorite hip hop subgenre: two members of the lumpenproletariat in lurv. Fetty Wap enthusiastically enlists his stripper beloved in his drug operation and immediately treats her as an equal and partner-in-crime after he teaches her the zen of cooking rocks. The video features a totally desexualized, smiling Black woman in jeans and a hoodie (what an accurate take on the dress code for a dancer’s day off!) diligently counting their shared money while Fetty Wap clowns around with his buddies, occasionally checking in to give his trap queen an affectionate kiss. (Accurate again: it’s the woman who takes care of business, and not much drug dealing actually gets done if you leave it to the boys.) Fetty and his bae illustrate how two heads are better than one in the hustle as they make financial plans together: “We just set a goal/talkin’ matching Lambos…” Maybe I’ve got a soft spot for the drug dealer-sex worker power couple as depicted in pop culture because of my own history, but you’ve got to admit the track is also just unstoppably cheerful—the antithesis of grim gangster rap, perfect for any psyche-yourself-up-and get-ready-for-work playlist.

Bitch Better Have My Money-Rihanna

Rihanna’s revenge ballad might be aimed at her cheating accountant, but its no-holds-barred titular sentiment is one any sex worker can identify with. “Don’t act like you forgot/ I call the shots” is a bottom line we all have to make sure our clients remember when they try to haggle with and lowball us. And their excuse filled whining in reply just sounds like “blah blah brrrap braaap” to us. All controversy over the graphic video aside, this is another excellent choice for any pre-work playlist. “Pay me what you owe me!”—doesn’t it all come down to that? Plus, brava to Rihanna for making it clear that men are the biggest bitches there are.

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Faithfully bringing you media by and for sex workers since 2011. (Photo by Flickr user carterse, "Winston Retrieves The News")

Faithfully bringing you media by and for sex workers since 2011. (Photo by Flickr user carterse, “Winston Retrieves The News”)

1. “The Erasure of Maya Angelou’s Sex Work History,” by Peechington Marie, 5/29

2. “The Fifth Annual Vagina Beauty Pageant: A Judge’s Notes,” by Elle, 8/8

3. “Discussing Other People’s Lives: Social Work and Student Sex Workers,” by Annie O’Neill and Adrienne Graf, 4/11

4. “I Don’t Care About Clients,” by Olive Seraphim, 2/19

5. “Stop AB1576: Compulsory Condom Use Won’t Make Porn Performers Safer,” by Cyd Nova, 5/20

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