gay male sex workers

Velvet Collar is a comic book series written and produced by worker Bryan Knight and drawn by queer comic artist Dave Davenport. It depicts the lives of five male sex workers. In the course of the series’ narrative, an escort listing service is shut down by the feds—a thinly-veiled representation of the Rentboy raid and subsequent prosecutions.

Dale Corvino, who as Ask Dominick was Rentboy’s advice blogger, interviewed the creators of the comic series for Tits and Sass. He spoke with Knight in person in New York, while corresponding with Davenport, who is based in Los Angeles. Corvino is now a board member of the Red Umbrella Project (RedUP). The org’s 2014 documentary Red Umbrella Diaries was generously supported by Rentboy’s founder, Jeffrey Hurant. RedUP will be coordinating with SWOP Behind Bars to provide support for Jeffrey while he serves his sentence related to the Rentboy prosecution. Of this effort, RedUP Program Director Lola Garcia says, “While workers are our primary concern, nobody deserves to be jailed for involvement in the sex trade, provided they are not coercing sex workers (i.e. sex traffickers).”

The interview that follows has been edited for length from Corvino’s emails with Davenport and a transcription of Corvino’s conversation with Knight.

Dale Corvino: The Velvet Collar Kickstarter discusses representation of sex workers in alternative comics. Chester Brown is probably the most prominent creator who mines the topic, but he is admittedly writing from the trick’s perspective. Other depictions often feature characters with limited agency, as you point out. (Though there are a few inspiring exceptions to this rule.) In the queer comic space, sexuality is often depicted; sex work rarely. Does the project of depicting workers as fully realized protagonists in the comic space challenge both the comic genre and the queer comic sub-genre?

Dave Davenport: Definitely. But I’ve known sex workers at all points of my life, a good deal of my friends have been so at one time or another, and I may have had to hustle to make the rent at one point in my life. It’s a part of life, it always has been, and always will be. It needs to be a part of comics as well.

Bryan Knight: First, I’m telling stories about real people who have done or are doing illegal things…and whatever ethics we may have about it, there’s that first fundamental block. The practice has a long stigma and people are going to reflexively flinch. Second thing, there’s sex. There’s graphic sex. I made the choice not to censor that part of their lives because it happens. Not only in the transactional sense, but as a part of their private lives…it’s about as real an experience as I could fully capture.

As for queer comics…in early queer comics, we didn’t worry about mainstream acceptance, we made it for our friends. We weren’t concerned about sales or reputation because we were already fucked!

Right now gays are in the mainstream, we have marriage, and part of that strategy has been desexualizing everything we are so this particular comic pushes us back into that realm where sex and identity are intertwined…the narratives of acceptance have been, “We’re just like you!” but the truth is, we’re not…a lot of naked truths get exposed and that’s what I plan to bring to the comic genre.

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Monica at a protest last May. (Photo via SWOP Phoenix Facebook page, courtesy of Jones and SWOP Phoenix)

Monica Jones at a protest last May. (Photo via SWOP-Phoenix Facebook page, courtesy of Jones and SWOP-Phoenix)

Monica Jones’ conviction for “manifesting intent to commit prostitution” was overturned this week! Jones said:

…My conviction being vacated is important but it is a small win in our larger fight for justice. There are so many trans women and cisgender women who might be charged under this law in Phoenix and similar laws across the country. There is so much more work that needs to be done so that no one will have to face what I have no matter who they are or what past convictions they have.

Tits and Sass contributor and Portland dancer Elle Stanger is quoted extensively in this Willamette Week article about Oregon strippers drafting two workplace protection bills for the consideration of the state legislature.

According to UNAIDS, the Asia-Pacific region will not meet the current goals of ending the HIV epidemic in fifteen years unless these countries change laws which are currently hostile to vulnerable target demographics. Unfortunately, US moralism has tied a lot of funding up in ways that mandate such unfriendly legislation, so it becomes a race to see which matters more: ending HIV… or funding.

Quelle surprise: brothels are run like businesses!  The women who work at them are like women anywhere else!  Insert mandatory crack about fake names here:

The receptionist politely rattles off a roster of exotic names, “Armani, Honey, Candy, Diamond …” names which I’m quietly confident wouldn’t be found on any of the ladies’ driver’s licences.

I see what you did there.

The nuns of the Chicago Convent of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo are suing nearby strip club Allure, claiming that it’s a venue for prostitution.  This is their second attempt to close the club; the first involved them picketing it for violating zoning laws.  This is one lawsuit where I hope the club wins.

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