Courtney Trouble

Kitty Stryker with Andre Shakti. (Screencap from Ban This Sick Filth, courtesy of Kitty Stryker)

Kitty Stryker with Andre Shakti. (Screencap from Ban This Sick Filth, courtesy of Kitty Stryker)

I’m in the middle of being flogged by Courtney Trouble for Banned in the UK (NSFW), an anti-censorship porn critiquing obscenity laws. It’s getting a little hot and heavy and my ass is getting red when the tails whip around and smack the cameraperson, my lover, in the face. We all dissolve into giggles.

And they say there’s no authenticity in porn.

I have a boner to pick with Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation), an actress and one of the producers of an “intimate and ultimately harrowing” documentary about porn performers (because even when a documentary is expressing disgust and pity for sex workers, it’s still sexualized). Directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus are very concerned about the impact of porn on culture; it was the subject of their first documentary, Sexy Baby. During an interview at the Sundance Film Festival about the film (which was bought by Netflix), Ms. Jones said, “Women should feel pleasure and have sex and feel good about it—and there’s a lot of shame involved with porn,” adding that “[i]t’s performative, women aren’t feeling joy from it.”

I’m an amateur-ish porn performer and one of the directors of a little company called TROUBLEfilms. As a queer owned, queer focused operation, fulfilling cis male fantasies is not really high up on our list of priorities, but I guess since everyone knows that “only men are visual” all porn is basically the same, right? And of course as the casting director of this company, I am blasé about performer safety and health—it’s not like we have a multi-page document of model rights and our ethical standards.

If only porn was as progressive as Hollywood—oh, wait, except there’s more representation in the porn industry for female directors and producers than in the mainstream film industry.

But I’m going to put aside my sarcasm for a minute, because this is a serious issue with serious consequences. There’s been a lot of discussion about “authenticity” in porn and how amazing and valuable and feminist a quality it is, but I call bullshit on that discourse. Indie porn performer Arabelle Raphael made a great point last year by stating that porn is still labor, and as such, it is by its very nature performative. All labor requires some sort of performance, from smiling at customers you dislike to being polite when you hate your boss. Labor in the entertainment field, whether that be acting on stage, screen, or in adult movies, is even more explicitly staged. Activist sex worker Siouxsie Q wrote about how when she was working with a feminist pornographer, the actual, negotiated sex she wanted to have with a real life play partner was considered “too much” to be “authentic” as defined by that director. So who decides, then, what is authentic and what is performative? Are these actually opposite ends of a spectrum?

(Editor’s note: Content warning—NSFW images after the jump.)

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Claudette, Swiss intersex sex worker and grandfather, immortalized by Malika Gaudin Delrieu's photography: "I have the sex of the angels, why would I be ashamed of it?" (Photo by Malika Gaudin Delrieu via the Huffington Post)

Claudette, Swiss intersex sex worker and grandfather, immortalized by Malika Gaudin Delrieu’s photography: “I have the sex of the angels, why would I be ashamed of it?” (Photo by Malika Gaudin Delrieu via the Huffington Post)

Amnesty International will be debating their policy on sex work this weekend at their annual meeting in Chicago. (You can sign this petition supporting an Amnesty policy change in favor of decriminalization here.) Unfortunately, the only article we could find on the event is littered with quotes like this one: ” “Virtually all people who prostitute themselves were first prostituted as children…,” [Illinois Attorney General Lisa] Madigan said.” Hmm, wanna cite a source for that, Ms. Attorney General?

Katha Pollitt takes vengeance on our friend Melissa Gira Grant for daring to criticize her valorization of Lean In feminism by lambasting Grant’s new book, asking, “Why Do So Many Leftists Want Sex Work To Be The New Normal?” Maybe because they’re actually listening to us sex workers? (And there aren’t quite so many of them—as far as we’re aware, sex work is still criminalized in the U.S.) Pollitt also managed to very mistakenly characterize Tara Burns’ piece for The New Inquiry as the work of someone too privileged to speak for “the women at the heart of this debate: those who are enslaved and coerced—illegal immigrants, young girls, runaways and throwaways.”

Speaking of Melissa, this subtly whorephobic Telegraph interviewer sure is frightened of her: “Melissa Gira Grant can be quite scary…her fist strikes the table. Every interviewer she has spoken to…has asked her how she became a sex worker—and she’s angry about it. ‘Why do you want to know?” she demands, blue eyes icy with rage. “Why is this important to you?’ ” Those ex-sex workers demanding their right to privacy—they’re terrifying!

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending $398,213 on a project studying whether paying male Mexican sex workers for being free of sexually transmitted diseases will increase condom use. Ummm, the results of this research are pretty inevitable, aren’t they?

HuffPo profiled photographer Malika Gaudin Delrieu’s work on Claudette, proud intersex sex worker and senior citizen.

Vice Magazine made us roll our eyes with a piece entitled “Young Native Girls Are Being Sacrificed To The Canadian Sex Trade.” Mmmm, smells like white savior complex. Noticeably absent are quotes from Indigenous sex workers’ rights activists like Naomi Sayers or Jessica Danforth.

Today is the last day to take this Red Umbrella Fund survey on funding for sex worker organizations. The RUF plans to use the survey’s results to advocate for more and better funding opportunities for sex workers’ groups and networks.

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Deeply ironic image of a protester on her way into the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in Ireland to debate the criminalization of payment for sex. (Photo by Eric Luke/The Irish Times)

Deeply ironic image of a protester on her way into the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in Ireland to debate the criminalization of payment for sex. (Photo by Eric Luke/The Irish Times)

Registration for the Desiree Alliance Conference is still open with hotel room discounts until July 7th.

Tensions over escorting simmer in rural Australian towns, where touring sex workers follow the market that transient miners create, even after the Queensland Supreme Court upheld a ruling that allows hotel owners to refuse accommodations to sex workers.

Beijing police rejected the ruling of a Guangdong court in southern China stating that “happy ending” massages are legal.

Kenyan activists have raised the alarm over increasing attacks targeting gay men, male sex workers and transgender women after three brutal assaults, all within the span of several weeks.

Scotland’s bill to criminalize clients of sex workers seems to have failed. No official coverage on that yet, but MSP Rhoda Grant, the proposed law’s main backer, issued a statement on her web site today about how disappointed she was, which was then taken down. Diligent sex workers’ rights activists kept screenshots, however. [Update—Scottish sex workers’ rights org SCOT-PEP issued a press release announcing the defeat of Grant’s bill.-ed.]

Ireland will pay several hundred former residents of Catholic-run Magdalene laundries at least 34.5 million euros ($45 million) to compensate them for years of unpaid labor and human rights abuses, the government announced Wednesday, following a decade-long campaign by laundry survivors.

Meanwhile, The Irish Times reports that a law criminalizing payment for sex has been recommended by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice. Tellingly, the article quotes a representative of Ruhama, one of the organizations behind the Magdalene Laundries, in which countless sex workers were incarcerated and abused, as being in favor of the bill.

Apparently, “rescuing” sex workers against their will is something honeymooning couples can enjoy together now.

Courtney Trouble, progressive porn maker extraordinaire, asked quirky indie actress Ellen Page what she thought of feminist porn, and she responded with a rousing endorsement. We personally have always wanted Ellen Page’s approval.

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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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Kitty Stryker and Siouxsie Q looking foxy for the mainstream media (screenshots from the CNN Money video)

Kitty Stryker and Siouxsie Q looking foxy for the mainstream media, TARDIS dress and all (screenshots from the CNN Money video)

Anti-trafficking ideologues are wringing their hands in dismay and blaming the Hawaii police for not being able to find the hordes of sex trafficking victims that surely must be out there somewhere. Yet arrests are turning up no trafficking victims whatsoever.

A Pennsylvania cop going undercover accepted a blowjob from a suspected prostitute before arresting her. He was so unashamed of his actions he detailed them in his police report, and the police department also found no problem with this officer’s behavior.

Laura Agustin is characteristically awesome on Alternet, asking why migrant sex workers need saving.

More coverage from the London Evening Standard on the Westminster Council study which demonstrated that the recession is putting London sex workers at more risk of violence. We love the fact that the image used here is one of sex workers protesting, rather than the usual cliched graphic of high heels in low lighting, and we love that members of the British government are urging the wider adoption of the Merseyside model (treating crimes against sex workers as hate crimes.) We could do without the xenophobic undertones here, though–“those foreigners are taking our sex work jobs!”

Amber Dawn and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore have a dialogue in the Advocate about sex work, memoir writing, cycles of violence, and queer community.

The New Orleans Police Department want to squelch wild rumors that a missing teacher is the victim of sex trafficking Russian mobsters. If they didn’t want this sort of hysteria, maybe they shouldn’t have spread trafficking panic during the Super Bowl.

Rachel Kramer Bussel covers the Feminist Porn Awards for the Daily Beast. Courtney Trouble, Madison Young, and Tristan Taormino make an appearance.

Calling Margaret Thatcher a prostitute is insulting to sex workers, National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s second deputy president Christine Olivier told members of her union. “It implies that they are collectively at par with the reactionary Thatcher rather than members of the working class. So comrades [from] KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] may you use another word when you refer to Margaret Thatcher,” she went on.

So it looks like women who were trafficked into domestic labor in the United Arab Emirates are running away and going into sex work. I bet anti-sex trafficking crusaders are gonna have a hard time getting their heads around that.

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