In the midst of Girls Gone Wild culture, in which stripping is made to seem effortless and women’s naked bodies are cast as easily replaceable, Kim Price-Glynn enters the Lion’s Den. The Den, a seedy strip club in a small, white, working-class town in the Northeast, is a far cry from the glamorous media images of low lights, glamorous makeup, and dazzling stage sets. Quite the contrary, the Den’s physical layout—run-down and in serious need of repair—mirrors the niche its strippers occupy as the exploited and expendable employees of a club centered around male desire and profit.
Strip Club: Gender, Power, and Sex Work is an ethnography by Price-Glynn in which she explores what she calls the “gendered processes” underlying the organizational structure at a strip club. While working as a cocktail waitress, Price-Glynn turned her attention to the formal and informal processes by which strip club employees, dancers, and customers exercised authority and had their needs and desires fulfilled. Who “wins” when it comes to stripping? Her answer, while attentive to the ambiguities, suggests that males—customers and employees—“win.” Strippers get the short end of the stick.
Price-Glynn doesn’t believe that strip clubs need to be shut down, nor that strippers are caught in cycles of abuse. Instead, she places the “blame” for the exploitative conditions experienced by Lion’s Den dancers on a larger culture of misogyny. Rape culture, the permissibility of violence, and the unique intersection in the club of racism, ageism, and sizeism are overarching social realities that converge to enable the Den’s brand of sexist exploitation. [READ MORE]
In My Skin by Australian Kate Holden is an example of the “my drug whore hell” memoirs to which I am both attracted and repelled. I’m an IV drug-using sex worker but do not subscribe to the NA model of addiction-as-disease and don’t define my life as hell. Most media doesn’t show anything true about my life at all, but instead falls back on depictions of drug-using sex workers as dead hooker jokes, grotesque caricatures of secondary characters with barely any lines. So I eat up all the tell-alls about them I can find, because even if their perspective on drugs and sex work isn’t mine, someone like me is the main character.
Holden’s pre-heroin self was the middle-class girl many of us once were: a scholarly teetotaler, a bohemian who looked up to Anaïs Nin. Her college friends began to experiment with heroin, and, feeling left out, she tried it. She developed a habit and fell into stereotypical behavior: Workplace theft (and a subsequent firing), breaking up with her recovering boyfriend and attempting to quit herself. When she was kicked out of her parents’ house, she became a street sex worker and then a brothel worker. After some time she enrolled herself in a methadone clinic, and eventually weaned herself off both heroin and methadone. While that sketch might sound like a sensationalist women’s magazine article, In My Skin manages enough powerful nuance to transcend genre. READ MORE
I’ve seen the question “where is women’s porn, made for women” before, and I’ve seen it answered, but I’ve rarely seen the question “where is black porn, made for black women?” The Feminist Porn Book asks that question and answers it, as well as others: where is feminist porn made for trans women, for fat women, for women with disabilities? This is not tokenism, but rather an attack on heteronormativity from all angles.
The Feminist Porn Book is both refreshing and challenging right off the bat—it announces its title in big yellow letters on its bright pink cover, the proud opposite of discreet brown paper bag packaging. The volume, clocking in at 432 pages, allows enough room to create a delightful blend of the academic and the historical, the personal and the political, mouthy smut with lengthy footnotes. It situates feminist pornography in its rich history in its first section, from Betty Dodson crashing a Women Against Pornography meeting in her leathers to Susie Bright inventing the genre of porn movie review. Then it gets into the meat of the book, which branches off into many herstories and histories, into the many different politicized identities, theories, and sexualities that make up our porn today; bringing womanism, intersectionality, and labor analysis back to porn while not settling for the more facile simplifications of “sex positivity”. READ MORE
Tits and Sass contributor and wilderness expert Tara Burns has published an Amazon Single about her first two weeks as an escort in Alaska, and it’s free at Amazon.com today and tomorrow. She’s allowed us to publish this excerpt from her memoir. There are a lot of sex worker blogs out there, but Tara’s experiences are definitely unique. The first time I ever met her, she picked me up at the Kenai airport and let me live on her converted schoolbus for a week while we worked at a crazy rural titty bar with linoleum stages, plastic lawn chairs, and dogs running around in the club. That was probably a pretty dull place for her. Enjoy this excerpt and check out her book. Tara also says to our readers “They could write a Kindle book, too! It’s awesome passive income. Get our voices out there!”
I look at the camera he brought. It’s one of those old fashioned ones with a spot for a little tape. There is no tape in it, and he swears it’s not recording anything and he can’t get off without it. I don’t see any place for a little digital card or anything. He says that he used to have baby monitors, which the whores weren’t afraid of since they never record, but one day he got pulled over driving, and the floor on the passenger side was filled to overflowing with porn and baby monitors, so the cops thought he was a pedophile. They took him down to the station for questioning and he explained to them that he was not at all interested in children. Just that the only way he can get off is to watch prostitutes’ feet through a camera screen, leaning over to sniff them sometimes. The prostitutes didn’t let him use digital cameras or anything cause they didn’t want to be recorded. The police advised him to ditch the baby monitor and get an old camcorder like this with no tape. They were mean to him, too, the female detective kept asking if she had nice feet, and they all laughed at him.
First he rearranges the lamps in the room for optimal lighting, and then we sit on the edge of the bed and he sits on the floor. He points the camera at our feet and tilts the screen up so he can watch it. He sets one of my shoes next to him, and one of Mac’s shoes in his lap, both of which he sniffs deeply. He asks us to lie down and not look, he doesn’t want us seeing him. We would laugh. The poor guy is so embarrassed, and the worst part, I think, is that the whores who laughed at him probably didn’t mean to hurt his feelings. They just misread him as having a humiliation fetish. So we lie back, expecting him to start licking and sucking our feet, like most foot fetish guys. But nothing happens. We look at each other questioningly and whisper, “is he touching you?” “no, is he touching you?” [READ MORE]
There was something surreal about reading Susana Maia’s Transnational Desires: Brazilian Erotic Dancers in New York during down time in the strip club where I now work. Perhaps because I was reading about Astoria strip clubs while in an Astoria strip club, Maia’s ethnography hit close to home. Maia and I are both social scientists; we even share some of the same academic mentors. We both felt an uncomfortable alienation in Manhattan strip clubs. We’re both interested in intimacy, desire, gender, and transnational ties for immigrants.
The similarities stop there. Maia saw herself in many of the Brazilian middle class dancers she so passionately describes in the book, whereas I haven’t yet met another South Asian or Muslim dancer in four years of dancing. Maia chose to write about strip clubs as an observant ally and outsider, and she never danced. I, on the other hand, focus on an entirely different subject in my academic work. Stripping keeps me entertained and helps pay my bills. I’m not doing my dissertation on strip clubs, though friends often inquire why not. Maia sees herself as ambiguously positioned between the United States and Brazil. For me, the U.S. is certainly home.
A reader might be surprised to see a lack of citations from the so-called “sex worker rights literature” in this book. For Maia, this is a deliberate choice, as she resists reducing these women to a static “sex worker” identity. The book is about more than just what happens in the strip club for Brazilian dancers. Maia explores race, colorism, downward class mobility, and cultural citizenship as she traces the journeys of nine dancers. She asks why middle class Brazilian women, often highly educated, choose to move to New York and work in the adult entertainment industry. [READ MORE]