books

(photo by worth1000.com user garrettkipp. image via worth1000.com)

(photo by worth1000.com user garrettkipp. image via worth1000.com)

Sex work comes with a lot of fringe perks: convenient hours, creative work uniforms, and basically having the coolest job on the planet. One of the lesser-known perks of sex work are the gifts we receive: the tokens of appreciation that the men that favor us hand out around the holidays. Most of the time we get the traditional pretty girl-type gifts. A box of chocolates. An austere piece of jewelry. Maybe a bottle of perfume.

Any veteran sex worker will tell you that he or she has also unwrapped something a little…peculiar. It’s true—we get a lot of weird gifts (it’s worth noting that weird isn’t necessarily synonymous with bad). We’ve learned over time how to gracefully accept some, shall we say, unconventional presents.

Our clients and customers try, they really do, to mixed results. Bless their hearts.

We wondered: What sort of oddities have our readers received?

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aoliveWritten by Lia Claire Scholl and published by Chalise Press, I Heart Sex Workers is positioned as “a Christian response to people in the sex trade.” As such, I, a Christian sex worker, posted about it on my blog IN CAPITAL LETTERS TO SHOW MY EXCITEMENT SAYING “I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE I HAVE THE MIGHTEST OF NEEDS!” It’s a saying you’ll often see on the blogosphere, though for me it’s not just a meme; the degree of social isolation I feel from my Church and my cognitive dissonance between these two aspects of myself mean that I do sorely need someone somewhere to reach out their hand and welcome me as a Christian and a sex worker into Christian life.

This book is not that hand. Rather than being a direct response to people in the sex industry, this book is more of a 101 for people outside of the industry on what it is we (whores, strippers, camgirls, dommes, etc)  do and why we do it. The book begins with the story of Tamar from the Old Testament, who pretended to be a hooker to force her family to honor their obligations, in an aptly titled chapter called “Playing the Harlot.” Each of the book’s four sections opens with a similar biblical story, telling it from a first-person perspective and illustrating how each example would be viewed today as a form of sex work. Personally, these are my favorite parts, so much so that I want “Tzadkah mimeni”—the Hebrew phrase “more righteous than I” that Tamar’s father says when he finds out what she’s done—tattooed somewhere. Reading these retellings, I can’t help but think Scholl is trying to prompt Christians to see sex work in a new light, perhaps even as people making a legitimate choice in their lives. Unfortunately, Scholl stops short of actually saying these words. She does offer some choice ones though, such as the exhortation that  “we need to grow up about sex,”something I wish people in general, not just Christians, would hear.

I actually found reading this book painful—I could feel the tension in Scholl’s writing; she’s treading the impossible line of not condoning sex work, lest she alienate her audience, and not condemning it either or painting us as helpless victims as this, as she writes herself, is one of the major failings of non peer-based organizations, the savior complex. Still, the overarching feeling I get is that she is trying to justify sex work to people whose value systems find us reproachable. Discussions of agency, of privilege, of “the cycle of sex work” (as opposed to the cycle of retail or factory work?) all seem . . . well, patronizing. This book is not for me, and while I appreciate the incredibly delicate position Scholl is in and think this book is a huge step in the right direction, it’s not a direct challenge to religious arguments against sex work, which is what we really need. It’s also not an invitation for sex workers to shed the internalized shame we’ve grown up in and reach out to organized religion.

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HERE. Book Cover6HERE. is Lindsay Kugler’s “mini-memoir,” covering a year in her early twenties living in Austin, being in a codependent relationship, and working on My Free Cams. She also worked as a social worker and writes about dealing with clients from both worlds in a style that reads like poetry, with negative spaces that leave you wanting more while you cackle.

One time while trying to find one of JC’s medicine bottles I found a soiled copy of The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton. I first encountered it in one of my sexuality courses I took at Arizona State and I wondered why JC would even have a copy. I imagined him pushing through a bookstore to find something so salaciously titled to bring it home and find it was less Penthouse and more personal theory.

HERE. feels like stumbling upon someone’s very relatable diary. Haven’t we all done the equivalent of getting drunk and crawling into a cardboard box so someone would happen upon us and give us sympathy? Originally self-published through Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center before being picked up by University of Hell Press, Kugler’s debut also has my all-time favorite About The Author line: “She is a college dropout who has never cared about school.” I loved doing this interview and can’t wait to read what she writes next.

How did you get started camming?

In the context of the relationship that I was in, I was not getting a lot of attention and I was not getting a lot of sexual fulfillment. I had first gone through Craigslist Casual Encounters being like, “I’m just interested in being on cam with someone via Skype and I don’t even really want to see you. I just kinda want to take my clothes off and that would be it.” And I got a few responses and talked to some people and then they were like, “You could make money doing this.” At the time I was working for AmeriCorps, so I was working 40 hours a week making like no money as a case manager, and I was like, “You know, I could use some extra income.” So I looked into it and really how I got started was sort of a mixture of needing to get paid and also needing to fulfill this void that I had in my life. [READ MORE]

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image via flickr user Brendan Riley

Beach season is upon us, which means it’s time to exploit the opportunity to read trashy books free of judgement. Gone are the days when it was protocol to leave ashtrays out for your houseguests, but you’d have to hide your copy of Valley of the Dolls. Nope, these days sexless secretaries commuting in pantyhose and sneakers can ride public transit proudly rocking a real (not Kindle) copy of Fifty Shades, because she’s advertising her deeply buried kinky side.

If a terribly-written BDSM novel by a layperson is at the top of the bestseller list, I’m thinking ACTUAL sex workers can do better; or we can simply indulge in penning one of these cheesy hypothetical sex worker reads (warning, political incorrectness to follow).

The Hooker Booker: Sympathetic tale of a former escort who is washed up and is now a phone madam.

From Slippers to Stripper: A clichéd downward spiral tale about a classically trained ballet dancer who started stripping.

Whore in Times of War: The exploits of a traveling prostitute who follows areas of conflict to service sex-starved military men and United Nations workers.

Phone Sex Train Wrecks: A collection of phone sex blooper transcripts.

Highbrow Hooker: The story of a well-bred WASP whose is left to her own devices when her family disowns her.

Gold Digger Pulls the Trigger: A wronged sugar baby gets the ultimate revenge on her deceitful “daddy.” [READ MORE]

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mariePrior to the publication of her debut novel, Marie Calloway was best known for the stories “Adrien Brody” and “Jeremy Lin.” There’s been a lot of commentary on the sexual themes in Calloway’s text, but no discussion by sex workers of Calloway’s treatment of her month escorting in London. Charlotte Shane and Caty Simon rushed to fill that void.

Caty: I guess I should start with full disclosure: I have chatted a bit over the past few months with Marie Calloway on the internet and she seems to be really sweet for a literary enfant terrible. But I didn’t know her from Adam when I first read her work in 2011.

Charlotte: I feel strangely protective of her in spite of never having met or corresponded with her. So it’s good to air out our biases.

Caty: I’d like to focus on the parts of her book examining sex work, because otherwise we could be here all day having the same debate that’s consumed the rest of the media about whether she’s a worthless narcissist whose very existence is endemic of essential problems with confessional writing, women and sex, and internet culture, or whether she’s a brave, feminist descendant of Bataille and Jean Rhys, who galvanizes strong responses from her readers because people are uncomfortable with her brilliance and…blah blah blah, you know where this is going.

Charlotte: Right, we’ll stay limited to T&S relevant moments. [READ MORE]

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