male sex workers

Rarri True.

This has been quite the week in Hollywood, specifically within the Kardashian world. We’ve witnessed a particularly messy breakup and have been given insight into the company Blac Chyna keeps.

The morning of the breakup last Wednesday was incredibly entertaining, problematic, and dramatic—like most things pertaining to the Kardashian clan. By now I presume you’re aware of the key plot points, so I won’t rehash, but as a sex worker I was very interested in Blac Chyna’s alleged “mistress”, Rarri True (AKA Ferrari). I went to his Instagram to investigate who would be suitable company for someone at the Kardashian level of fame. His IG had a standard LA/Hollywood aesthetic: nice cars, jewelry, and clothes. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what his occupation was, though. As a full-time FSSW, I had an inkling he was part of the family in some way, and pretty early on, social media pundits such as Youtube personality and drag Ballroom performer Stahr Milan began commenting stating that he is a sex worker/scammer/entrepreneur. (On July 6th, True himself vaguely tweeted, “Don’t listen to the lies, I swear they all lies“, but he also tweeted in May that “If you tell me you ain’t do it then you ain’t do it and if you did then that’s family business“, which might better indicate his attitude towards his potential sex work.) 

This made perfect sense to me in terms of why Chyna would want him in her life. Who could possibly be more discreet and cautious than a sex worker? Who else would be more reliable as she attempts to escape Rob Kardashian?[Editor’s note: Though as of yesterday, it’s clear Chyna’s not taking chances anymore when it comes to her confidentiality, even with Rarri.] What’s a bit different about this story is that typically, celeb relations with sex workers are denied and the sex worker involved is shamed. But Chyna,  hasn’t repudiated Rarri True and has actually remained very calm under what must be terrible pressure to give “answers” about her companion and their relationship. [READ MORE]

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A recent Renboy.com screenshot, before the raid.

A recent Rentboy.com screenshot, before the raid.

Tuesday morning, Homeland Security and Brooklyn police raided the offices of Rentboy.com, arresting its CEO and several current and former workers, seizing six bank accounts, and freezing the website in what the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release bragged was a raid on the “largest online male escort service.”

Coming right on the heels of Amnesty International’s controversial and much talked about decriminalization policy, the raid was a shock to many in the sex work world. Law enforcement agencies appear to be turning their eyes on sex work advertising services in North America, from the crackdowns on Backpage and Redbook, to Canada’s new anti-sex work law—the Protecting Communities and Exploited Persons Act—which includes provisions banning the advertisement of sexual services.

According to the release, it took a crack team of detectives and the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Field Office to work out that despite Rentboy.com’s claim that the site only facilitated companionship, it was actually advertising sex. “As alleged, Rentboy.com profited from the promotion of prostitution despite their claim that their advertisements were not for sexual services,” said New York Police Commissioner Wiliam Bratton in the press release.

Reading the press release, I was immediately struck by its use of rhetoric. Unlike official statements around the crackdowns on Backpage and similar services that are known primarily for advertising cis women sex workers, no mention is made of Rentboy aiding the nefarious work of sex traffickers. As well, unlike in most sex work raids, no mention is made of anti-trafficking organizations reaching out to supposed “victims.” It is a loud and curious omission given that police find it impossible to talk about sex work at all these days without discussing trafficking.

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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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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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Walt Goggins as Venus Van Dam

Walt Goggins as Venus Van Dam

GLAAD released their third annual Trans Images on TV report and were pleased to find that “only one character this year was portrayed as a sex worker, Venus Van Dam on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. This is an improvement over previous years in which the most common profession for trans characters was sex worker.”

Terri Jean Bedford received the second annual Ontario Civil Liberties Association award last Friday, and called on Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory to refuse to enforce C-36.

Non-sex working feminists continue to speak over sex workers regarding the legalization or decriminalization of sex work in India. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, the chair person for the National Commission on Women who began the discussion, is still in favor of legalization, but says that there is a fine line between legalization and decriminalization and the Commission’s recommendations are still being finalized.  The Hindu Businessline does a good rundown of the differences between and drawbacks of legalization vs decriminalization.

Jane Pratt is in the middle of watching XOJane get sold off, yet she still has time to speculate about sex workers’ backgrounds.

Late to the game with this one, but remember that “This is what a feminist looks like,” t-shirt that made waves when the Daily Mail revealed it was manufactured in sweatshops, unlike virtually every other mass market piece of clothing?  The proceeds from these feminist shirts went to The Fawcett Society, active supporters of End Demand campaigns to implement the Nordic model.

Adult Verified Video Chat is auctioning off sex with its female performers, onscreen.  Though the second auction is currently ongoing, no scenes have yet been shot for the first auction, as both the winner and the runner-up had “scheduling conflicts.” [READ MORE]

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