Maggie Mcmuffin

Vee Chattie. (Photo by Mandy Flame, courtesy of Vee Chattie)

One of the best people I have met through sex worker groups is undoubtedly Vee Chattie. We met in person a couple of years ago in the back seat of a car on the way to a hearing at the Capitol.

Vee develops hard-hitting performance art and organizes activist events, but the bulk of their work is stand-up comedy. They took a brief hiatus from stand-up when moving to Seattle a few years ago, but came back to it with force, hitting multiple open mics per night and making a name for themselves as not only a hilarious stand-up, but a tough person who is cool to hang out with. What follows is an edited and condensed version of an interview I did with them via text messaging:

What was the impetus behind The Comedy Whore?

Basically, every time I went to an open mic, comedians (mostly the young male ones, go figure) would ask me questions about work. At first, I just told them I’d answer the question if they bought me a drink, and that request was completely ignored. So, I thought I could just invite them for a sit down and they could ask the questions in a more formal way. And also I could record it and use it for the entertainment value rather than just going home annoyed.

Also, you’ve got them on record being ridiculous. So they can’t ever deny being shitty (if they were being shitty rather than ignorant).

Honestly, it doesn’t take that much to get a comedian on record being shitty.

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Caty’s picks:

Media Coverage of Sex Workers Erases Our Voices by Lily Fury
Tits and Sass contributor Lily Fury’s Establishment piece confronts a problem which we’ve devoted thousands of words to on this site: the flattening, sanitizing, and sensationalizing of sex workers’ stories by the mainstream media. The quotes she elicits from interview subjects like Shagasyia Diamond and Akynos Shekara on their misrepresentation and erasure by journalists in favor of whiter, more well-heeled, and respectable representatives of our profession are searing: “The white victim is always the victim people feel sorry for,” Shekara observes. And Fury turns the endless debate about listening to sex workers on its head, asking: “Should non-sex-workers be allowed to speak for us? Is there a way for journalists who haven’t worked in the sex industry to write about it responsibly?”

I’m A Sex Worker Who Was Raped, Here’s Why I Didn’t Fight Back by Holiday Black
[Content warning: graphic description of sexual assault] This was the piece I saw linked most often this year within my sex worker peer group. I wish we all didn’t identify with it so much, but Black excels in depicting the profoundly fucked up reality we live in.

My Hopes & Fears About Becoming A Mother After Being A Sex Worker by Melissa Petro
Petro delves into intimate territory with testimonies on the often fraught relationships sex workers have with their mothers and reflections on how this shapes us if we become parents ourselves. I couldn’t get this quote from Meg Valee Munoz out of my head: “There’s this painful thing that happens when you’re a sex worker and become a mother. You start to realize how incredibly intense a mother’s love is, yet start to question why your own mother’s love was not strong enough to reject stigma and accept you.”

#Black SexWorkersLivesMatter: White-Washed “Anti-Slavery” And The Appropriation of Black Suffering by Robin Maynard
Feminist Wire posted this stunning manifesto in 2015, but since we didn’t point it out last year, I’m taking the chance now. Maynard’s piece explains why the prohibitionist lobby’s use of the term “slavery” drowns out the concerns of Black sex workers. In the process, she creates an information-packed primer on Black feminist and sex worker movements against the prison industrial complex.

The Peculiar Political Economics of Pro-Domming by Lori Adorable
Adorable is at her brilliant best here inquiring why pro-dommes confuse the paid performance of control with material power: “I…don’t see how a half dozen or so fin-dommes have transformed ‘fuck you, pay me’ dirty talk into a semi-coherent rhetoric of wealth redistribution on certain strains of social justice Twitter.”

The Tedium of Trans Sex Work by Sarah
In a wryly funny and insightful piece, Sarah tells us about the extra heaping of objectification that comes with being a sex working trans woman: “[Clients] want some kind of once-in-a-lifetime bucket list sexual experience, have no idea what that is, and expect that you’ll be able to provide it—because that’s what they think trans women are there for.”

Porno-Enlightenment: How Pornography Propagates A Liberal Worldview by Angel Archer
Angel Archer/Rebeka Refuse stands out among sex worker writers in her sharp command of Marxist analysis. In this piece, she examines porn as part of the political ideology of liberalism, tracing the connection from the Marquis de Sade, to the Cold War, and on to Pornhub.

What Trump Means For Sex Workers by Juniper Fitzgerald
In impassioned but incisive prose, Fitzgerald explains why Trump’s election should make us think about guiding the sex workers’ rights movement away from my-body-my-choice libertarianism into a collectivism which defies what the President-Elect stands for.

As A Sex Worker, I’m Terrified For The Next Four Years by Hennessy Williams
On a more personal note, a couple of weeks after the election, Williams gave voice to the the way we all fear for our safety under Trump, especially those of us who are people of color and LGBTQ.  She also spoke to the cognitive dissonance of seeing clients who rejoiced in the new regime: “Already, I’ve heard my clients who work in the pharmaceutical and finance industries express excitement about how their industries will flourish under Trump, giddy with the results many Americans took as bad news.”

Josephine’s picks:

Why Prince Was a Hero to Strippers by Lily Burana and Naked Music Monday: Prince by Bubbles (Susan Elizabeth Shepard)
Because Prince was uniquely important to strippers.

Support Hos: Deadpool by Maggie McMuffin
A Marvel superhero film whose romantic lead is a kick-ass sex worker: what could be better? McMuffin’s review is a delightful read even if you’re not a comic book geek.

“Junkie Whore”—What Life is Really Like for Sex Workers on Heroin by Caty Simon
The writer draws from her personal life and the lives of other opioid-using sex workers to illustrate how inaccurate the junkie whore trope truly is.

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The cast of Red Umbrella Diaries, used with permission.

The cast of “The Red Umbrella Diaries”. (Courtesy of Red Umbrella Project)

Week in Links has been on hiatus. It’s come back to you in a new form: Month in links! This is gonna be good, you’ll see.

In the meantime, momentous things have happened!

In August, despite protest from such well-educated and experienced sex workers and sex work researchers as Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, and Meryl Streep, Amnesty International voted to develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of sex work.  The move is based on international agreement among public health, HIV, and human rights organizations, from the WHO to the Lancet, UNAIDS, and beyond, but still faces opposition from the prohibitionist moral police.  Despite a year of highly visible police brutality and murders and protests against this brutality in the United States, prohibitionists continue to advocate for End Demand and other versions of criminalization that increase law enforcement power over sex workers.

Which is both very funny and very sad, because stories like this one, about police entrapping and raping sex workers, are only slightly less common in the news than stories of another police murder, and probably happen unreported with even greater regularity.

In the wake of the Amnesty vote, DC is contemplating decrim, Seattle is still pushing hard for End Demand (and Seattle SWOP is pushing back, here’s our own Maggie McMuffin talking about it); internationally organizations in South Africa are pushing for decriminalization as well, as are public health groups in Zimbabwe, while Vietnam officials say they need red light districts.

While the Amnesty vote encouraged LAMBDA legal to finally come out in support of decrim, gay male sex workers took a hit the very next week as the Feds and Homeland Security raided Rentboy.com. Unlike virtually every other raid on an escort site ever, this one was met with outrage and media commentary in support of Rentboy. With overblown commentary like “Is Rentboy the new Stonewall?” (Katherine Koster and Derek J Demeri speak for a lot of us when they respond with an emphatic “no) the history of raids on women escort sites and sex worker protests of that phenomenon was erased. Men, you know, have sexual agency and are able to decide what’s best for themselves, even as sex workers, while women’s sexual agency and ability to self determine must always be in doubt.  Did HuffPo post videos of sex workers affected by the seizure of MyRedbook?

So LAMBDA, what’s good? Will LGBT organizations support all sex workers, or just gay male ones? Where’s your support for Amber Batts, a woman who served essentially the same function as Rentboy for some Alaskan sex workers, and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for “trafficking”? Lily Burana has some opinions on the disparity in coverage, and she’s not alone.

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Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree, American Horror Story: Freak Show's intersex sex worker (Screenshot from American Horror Story )

Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree, American Horror Story: Freak Show’s intersex sex worker (Screenshot from American Horror Story)

Adapted from a g-chat between Caty Simon and Maggie Mcmuffin:

American Horror Story: Freak Show draws on the traditional connection between perfomativity and sex work. Acting has always been connected with prostitution, since before the Jacobean era to very recently. And by connecting performance in a freak show with sex work, the show is pathologizing both.

The show’s creators might argue that they’re humanizing these “freak” characters, but why else would they see the freak show as a perfect setting for a horror story if they weren’t pathologizing it? In a lot of these characters’ stories, sex work is naturally connected to freak show performance—it’s just one rung down a ladder of degradation. Yet, despite that innate problem with American Horror Story’s sex worker representation, many of its central characters this season have been revealed as sex workers, so Maggie Mcmuffin and I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at the first five episodes.

Maggie McMuffin: A lot of the time, historically, freak shows were a way for people with disabilities to make their living on their terms. For the most part, they were very non-exploitative.

Caty Simon: I think that AHS does capture some of that feeling of family, the connection of a marginalized group taking shelter with each other against the world. But they also play on these supposed deformities for chills and laughs. And AHS’ Freak Show does constantly threaten its participants with exploitation. Both the Strong Man and Elsa are shown to be dictatorial and oppressive bosses.

Four depictions of sex work in the first five episodes—at least that’s a good amount of representation if nothing else.

So, how about Jimmy Darling, the first time we see him, in those head-to-toe leathers that scream “midcentury hustler”?

Maggie: Oh god, they do, he’s clearly going for that Marlon Brando swagger and it works.

Caty: I really liked the fact that he serves female customers via a Tupperware party. That’s so cutely 50s.

Maggie: I love that it’s the women at that party who we see talking the most and expressing their sexual needs.

Caty: It’s true to life in that the clients fetishize his disability—his flipper becomes all about its fingerbanging fun potential.

Maggie: The men from Elsa’s flashback don’t talk much. We don’t hear much from the boys Desiree is seeing. But those housewives are all about getting off.

Caty: I did think it was a bit of a cop-out in that it’s a portrayal of a male sex worker serving women clients when we know, realistically, how tiny that market is. But I did love his saucy grin as he worked.

Maggie: True. I’m torn between that and enjoying seeing the female gaze get played to.

Caty: And we do see Andy the bar hustler serving a male clientele later, so that balances it out somewhat.

I think this first instance of sex work contrasts quite a bit with how it’s shown later. There’s no degradation, no dark shadow world and dim lighting to match, he’s just happily making bank while he can. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a romanticized portrayal, either.

Maggie: Nope. It’s very straight forward. It’s funny—the tupperware party—but let’s be real: most house party situations are hilarious. Bachelor parties are hilarious to me, every one of them I’ve worked.

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A graphic Amanda Brooks made to illustrate the devastation abusive client Percy Lawayne Isgitt wreaked on her and Jill Brenneman. (Image via Amanda Brooks' blogs, courtesy of Amanda Brooks.)

A graphic Amanda Brooks made to illustrate the devastation abusive client Percy Lawayne Isgitt wreaked on her and Jill Brenneman. (Image via Amanda Brooks’ blogs, courtesy of Amanda Brooks)

You can contribute to longtime sex worker activists Jill Brenneman and Amanda Brooks to help them pay their medical expenses using the email abrooks2014@hush.com through Giftrocket. Brenneman and Brooks were abused and terrorized by a client over a span of two and a half years—they discussed their devastating story with Tits and Sass co-editors Caty and Josephine earlier this week.

Amber Batts is suffering the results of Alaska’s new anti-trafficking laws, which have resulted in her being charged with eight counts of felony sex trafficking for running an escorting agency. She’s been offered a plea bargain which would require her to register as a sex offender for life even after serving 10 to 25 years in prison.  Batt’s best chance against the conviction that would ruin her life is a good lawyer, but her lawyer just quit because she was unable to pay. Donate to her legal fund at crowdrise.

Mistress Anja, a pro-domme in Singapore, talks about how she got into her work and why she stays in it (because it’s a job that pays extremely well, spoiler).

Melinda Chateauvert, Savannah Sly, and Tits and Sass’s own Maggie Mcmuffin are interviewed in this article about Seattle SWOP’s symposium for December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Melissa Petro and Tits and Sass contributor Tara Burns wrote powerfully about the themes of the day, Petro for Al Jazeera and Burns for Vice. Missy Wilkinson also did a write up of SWOP-NOLA’s December 17th march in New Orleans for Gambit.

First the Swedish model and now mandatory testing: bill C-36 has passed in Canada and one public health organization there is advocating legalization, regulation, and mandatory testing, all for sex workers’ own good of course. The Canadian Public Health Association has taken the stance that legalization and regulation would create the safest climate for sex workers, allowing for the creation of

conditions that enable sex workers to access necessary health services and sexual health education initiatives to promote safer sex practices.

Although the CPHA’s paper outlining its stance uses some good language, it also has some baffling misstatements, claiming that sex workers have a higher instance of HIV and sti infection, for one. A higher instance than whom is left unsaid, but for the most part we have much lower rates of infection than the civilian population.

The Guardian asks how exactly Canada’s laws on prostitution managed to make a full 180 in one year.

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