EMPOWER

Behold that jubilant smile, and that everpresent, oh-so-stylin' riding crop. Terri Jean Bedford is a woman who knew she was going to win. Along with the two other sex worker plaintiffs of Bedford v. Canada, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, Bedford won the day today when the Canadian Supreme Court struck down Canada's anti-prostitution laws. Looks like Canadian sex workers have a lot of decriminalized whipping to do. (Photo by Jack Boland/QMI Agency Files, via northumberlandtoday.com)

Behold that jubilant smile, and that ever present leather jacket and the oh-so-stylin’ riding crop. Terri Jean Bedford is a woman who knew she was going to win. Along with the two other sex worker plaintiffs of Bedford v. Canada, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, Bedford won the day today when the Canadian Supreme Court struck down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws. Looks like Canadian sex workers have a lot of decriminalized whipping to do. (Photo by Jack Boland/QMI Agency Files, via northumberlandtoday.com)

What a triumphant end to this week of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Work: today, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down the country’s prostitution related laws in a unanimous decision on Bedford vs. Canada, calling all three statutes—prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating in public with clients—over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.” A resounding, grateful shout out is due to the eponymous Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, the three sex workers who began this court challenge in the Ontario court system. However, this victory is not unmitigated—the court gave Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme on full service sex work that could be judged constitutional. In the meantime, Canada’s anti-prostitution laws are still in effect. But, if twelve months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the Supreme Court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, vague, and excessive, full service sex workers will be free to legally practice their trade; hire drivers, bodyguards, and accountants; and screen their clients as they see fit.

Here’s more on the story from the Business Insider; the Toronto Star; BBC News; a Globe and Mail op-ed expressing worry about the fact that the court’s decision, is in a way, “an open invitation to Parliament to write new criminal laws”; another Globe and Mail editorial on the ruling’s implications re: the right to self-defense; an Ottawa Sun piece on local sex workers’ reactions to the decision, quoting a representative of Canadian sex workers’ rights organization POWER; a Herald News article on the comments of staff at Stepping Stone, a Halifax support and outreach organization for sex workers, after they heard the news while celebrating their Christmas party; a CBC News blog round up of twitter reactions to the ruling; a Vancouver Sun profile of how Pivot Legal Society, an organization which was instrumental in this landmark victory, is taking the good tidings; and an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen on how the decision represents Canada’s movement towards more progressive politics.

Oh, wow, so much coverage this week 0n movement actions around the world for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th: here’s a video and an article on the protest in Kenya, in which sex workers marched along with members of the GLBT community, demanding an end to violence against both groups; the L.A. Times on vigils in Los Angeles and New York, along with a summary of violence against sex workers throughout the year; Best of New Orleans on SWOP-NOLA’s December 17th second line parade through the French Quarter;  SWOP-LV’s press release on their event in the Las Vegas Sun; a radio interview with SWOP-Denver members (about three quarters through the audio file); the Times Colonist on Victoria, BC sex workers’ rights organization PEERS’ march (though they call it “Red Umbrella Day”);  HuffPo on SWOP events throughout the U.S., with a slide show of photos of some of this year’s sex worker murder victims; a piece in the Bristol Post on  Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Commissioner marking the occasion by publicly supporting the Ugly Mugs scheme, Naharnet on a protest in Skopke, Macedonia; Turkey’s Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Organization’s statement for the day; Rabble with statements from sex workers’ rights organizations Zi Teng, EMPOWER, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and Maggie’s on the issue, plus a lament for non gender normative Indonesian migrant sex worker murder victim Rosa Ribut; a speech by sex worker activist Gina de Vries at the San Francisco event, urging the movement to center the voices of trans sex workers of color; and finally, an Australia Broadcasting Company radio interview with sex worker activists Jane Green and Ryan Cole at the Melbourne protest: “Don’t call me darling. That’s patronizing.”

Whew. We’re overwhelmed. And oh-so-delighted.

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Mariko Passion, from "Colonizer Fantasy" series (Photo by Alex Safron, copyright Mariko Passion 2010)

Mariko Passion, from the “Colonizer Fantasy” series (Photo by Alex Safron, copyright Mariko Passion 2010)

Participants: Ho Lee Fuk 1, Nada 2, Christian Vega3, and Kate Zen; moderated by Mariko Passion

We at Tits and Sass wanted to run a series on racial fetishization in sex work. We were interested in questions like “What is it like for sex workers of color to labor in an industry where customers’ racist attitudes are often allowed to run rampant and may even be encouraged by management or workers themselves as a way to generate more income?” “How does your race shape the way you create and market your work persona?” “Are there advantages as well as disadvantages to being of color and working in the sex industry?” Mariko took this idea, found participants, and ran with it, creating an East Asian sex worker round table. We’d also love to hear from non-Asian sex workers of color on their fetishization in the sex trade and how they cope with it, capitalize on it, and rise above it.

Note from Mariko: This is just one roundtable. No social justice lens was used to select the voices heard here, and to be transparent, all the participants have a four year degree and all except one are part of pretty exclusive circles of global activism and First World/class privileged cisgendered folks. This post is not meant to be THE voice of East Asian sex workers, just an interesting, well voiced snapshot.

What are some racialized marketing techniques you have experimented with in your sex work?

Ho Lee Fuk: My ad did say Asian, and I had a full face pic, but it was both to advertise my race and to warn off clients who weren’t seeking [an] Asian [provider]. Of the great and minor disappointments in life, there’s nothing like getting dim sum when you really want lasagna.

Nada: I just try to be myself, I don’t put ASIAN ASIAN ASIAN everywhere.

Kate Zen: Oh, I market it consciously. Especially here in Quebec, where there are fewer Asians around.

Ho Lee Fuk: There are like four male sex workers in the whole East Bay (location, location, location!), and I was the only Asian. Which meant I didn’t have to compete with these muscle girls with nine inch cocks working in SF. I was kind of the prettiest dish on the knick-knacks table at the church bazaar.

What is one scene involving Asian race play that you refuse to do? What is your criteria for rejection?

Kate Zen: I’m kind of ashamed to say that I don’t have a strong criteria for rejection. If you pay me enough money, most dominant roles are fair game, since it’s all clearly pretend to me anyways. I feel that my client’s personal ignorance is his own problem. I don’t usually make it my job to educate him. However, I don’t often switch or play submissive roles, which is more often the Asian stereotype—so sometimes, just by insisting on a dominant role in every scene, I feel that I am rejecting many Asian stereotypes. In fact, it’s a relief that I can say: “Hey Mom! I’m not exactly a doctor like you wanted, but sometimes, I still get to wear a stethoscope!”

Nada: I refused to be a yoga teacher. I think it is the worst kind of appropriation in the West. But don’t worry—I only apply this criteria to my own actions. I understand everyone will do what they need to in their own lives.
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Still of Robin Weigert, right, and Johnathan Tchaikovsky in the movie Concussion, playing a high end escort catering to lesbian clients and her husband. (Photo by RADiUS-TWC)

Still of Robin Weigert, right, and Johnathan Tchaikovsky in the movie Concussion, playing a high end escort catering to lesbian clients and her husband. (Photo by RADiUS-TWC)

We covered NYC’s new prostitution courts last week.  This week, Robin Richardson of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center sent a great letter to the editor in the New York Times discussing the courts and challenging the criminalization of prostitution. In even more exciting news, the Melissa Harris-Perry Show hosted a dialogue on the courts and on sex work featuring Deon Haywood of Women With a Vision.  It was a remarkable discussion, the likes of which we’ve never seen before on network television.  In November, Melissa Harris-Perry will also be hosting a panel discussion, featuring Deon Haywood and formerly incarcerated activists and scholars, on female incarceration at Tulane University.

Following recent (often negative) media exposure, brothel workers in Nairobi, Kenya have taken to confiscating recording equipment such as smartphones from clients to protect their privacy.

Sex workers’ rights activists are starting to respond to Equality Now’s campaign, which we mentioned last week, condemning the UN and Global Law Commission’s recommendations to decriminalize sex work. India’s National Network of Sex Workers and the African Sex Worker Alliance have both released statements.

The Los Angeles Times ran a positive review, rife with comparisons to “Belle de Jour”, of “Concussion,” a film about a housewife turned high end escort who caters to women clients exclusively. How we wish this were actually a market that existed in the real world. One thing, though: as our contributor Lori Adorable notes in her tumblr, “Just FYI: I often insist on meeting my clients in public first, and it is not really that unorthodox and definitely just for business. Try harder, people who review media about sex work.”

Ed Sheeran, who won prizes for a shitty song about a sex worker, said of Miley Cyrus ” I think encouraging young people to twerk might be a bad thing. It’s a stripper’s move. If I had a daughter of mine, I wouldn’t want her twerking.” If we had a daughter, we wouldn’t want her listening to Ed Sheeran.

A Bangkok police official defended the role of sex workers by claiming they reduced rape, angering local sex workers’ rights organizations. Chantawipa Abhisuk, director of the Empower, responded saying, “The belief that prostitution can help reduce rape cases in society is just a misunderstanding. There are still many rape cases in our society and they are usually perpetrated by someone close to the victims, not by some total stranger.”

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Siouxsie Q as sex working musician mermaid Fish Girl (courtesy of the play's Facebook page)

Siouxsie Q as sex working musician mermaid Fish Girl (photo by Micah Goldstein, courtesy of the play’s Facebook page)

This story by Missy Wilkinson about the business slowdown in New Orleans strip clubs during the summer nails that “bad season” feeling so common in hot climates: “It’s also a time when she experiences a phenomenon she calls ‘bad-busy’: a club crowded with people who may pay the cover charge and buy a drink, but who won’t spend money on dancers.”

The Caribbean Sex Worker Coalition Conference ended this week with the Montego Bay Declaration, demanding human rights for sex workers from the Caribbean states.

NY Magazine interviewed Mark Kunich about his nonprofit gay porn studio, Boystown, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Russian LGBT community. The first release is called “Put It In Putin.”

Stopthetraffik.org’s video, in which a Janet Jackson-esque dance routine in Amsterdam’s red light district is supposed to Teach Us a Lesson about trafficking, seems to be everywhere this week. Eithne Crow explains why it should go fuck right off to where it came from.

SF Weekly ran an excellent profile of Siouxsie Q James’ new play, Fish Girl, and her work on The Whorecast.

Police evicted about five hundred sex workers from one of Bangladesh’s oldest brothel districts last week after hardline Muslims from the local Islahe Quom Parishad group attacked women working at the site, injuring thirty. An op-ed in a local paper records the sex worker community’s response.

The National Organization for Men Against Sexism apologizes for not having censored Emi Koyama’s anti-anti-trafficking discourse talk sooner.

Liquid Lapdance Pants to store strip club customers’ jizz? Really? Strippers the world over groan collectively.

Jezebel and Mammamia have discovered that porn stars get their fans to buy them things on Amazon wishlists, and they are shocked, SHOCKED. (Yeah, and that’s been happening since Amazon’s inception, keep up.) Jezebel’s Tracie Egan Morrison jeers at sex tape star Farrah Abraham for asking for a for a $52 crib mattress and $12 mattress cover: “It’s like, either keep your kid out of your weird sugar daddy arrangements or at the very least, get her the good, expensive shit.” Yeah, shame on that slut for not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars on baby stuff that quickly becomes useless as the kid grows out of it. Typical rude slut behavior.

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Stoya plays Marie Antoinette at Molly Crabapple's recent art opening. (Photo by Jennifer Loeber)

Stoya plays Marie Antoinette at Molly Crabapple’s recent art opening. (Photo by Jennifer Loeber)

Seven sex workers’ rights organizations have been denied the right to intervene in the Supreme Court case deciding the constitutionality of Canada’s prostitution laws. However, many religious and abolitionist groups supporting the prostitution laws will be allowed a hearing, much to sex workers’ rights advocates’ outrage.

Nassau County is the first county in NY state to disallow condoms as evidence in prostitution cases. The NY Times covered the continuing struggle to get the no-condoms-as-evidence bill passed in the state legislature since 1999, quoting Sierra Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, extensively.

Texan rad fems discover escort review sites the way Columbus discovered America, and don’t allow an opportunity to create legislation based on  trafficking hysteria to go to waste. The New Statesman’s Helen Lewis is also full of puritanical outrage about Britain’s Punternet.

Similarly, the Australian media discovers camgirls.

Alternative porn star Stoya gets a great profile in the Village Voice, in which she talks about her homeschooled childhood, loving New York, and speaking for herself in her Vice column and her tumblr rather than allowing journalists to distort her words.

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