memoir

LVMadam3_Layout 1The Las Vegas Madam: The Escorts, The Clients, The Truth is the tell-all memoir of Jami Rodman, the madam who came to fame by employing former Olympic middle distance runner Suzy Favor Hamilton as a high-end escort. It covers her childhood all the way up through the formation and subsequent closure of the escort agency she started, Haley Heston’s Private Collection.

“Real life is complex. I got lucky, most don’t. This story is for them—the families pulled into the mess, the misplaced mothers, the stolen lives. May tomorrow be a better day.”

From the moment I read those words in the dedication, I had a bad feeling that this book was going to be written more to play to outsiders’ expectations than to advocate for the people Rodman worked with. Her employees were among the highest-earning escorts in the industry. If Rodman believed that even these privileged few qualify as having “stolen lives”, I had a feeling that she and I would have little in common.

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THE BEAVER SHOW : BOOK LAUNCH
During my first few years working, I would get my hands on any stripper memoir I could read, obsessed with finding out how other women experienced this bizarre life I ‘d embarked on. I was relieved at finding how common some of my insecurities and struggles were, and occasionally disappointed to discover that none of my thoughts on the business were as original as I had hoped.

The Beaver Show, by Tits and Sass contributor and blogger Jacqueline Frances (AKA Jacq the Stripper), was a reintroduction to my love for stripper lit, and brought with it a sweet nostalgia for my fish-out-of-water feelings as a baby stripper. The book chronicles Jacq’s first days working at clubs in Australia, then follows her to stints in New York City, New Mexico, Alberta, Canada, and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Like me, Jacq goes from feeling confused, clueless, and decidedly like an imposter, to riding the high that comes with early success, to settling with the persistent irritation that I think is unavoidable after you’ve been in the business a few years. She begins the book with a short personal essay she wrote in fifth grade, where she says that her proudest moment to date is dancing onstage in cool costumes. From there, we follow her to her first day at work. [READ MORE]

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afastgirlSuzy Favor Hamilton’s autobiography, Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness, catalogs the Olympic runner’s experience with mental illness, her career shift from professional mid-distance running to high-end escorting, and her eventual outing and diagnosis as bipolar. Following the birth of her daughter and her retirement from running, Favor Hamilton found her career path fraught and unsatisfactory, its travails amplified by her growing problems with postpartum depression and bipolar. Eventually, the media outed her as a sex worker, exacerbating her struggles.

From growing up picked on by her bipolar brother in small town Wisconsin, to her love/hate relationship with the athletic talent she built into a career, and the way that relationship shaped her psyche and primed her for sex work, Fast Girl covers a wide range of material. It is also one of the more honest memoirs I’ve seen on the day-to-day struggle of being bipolar, and how the disorder can escalate.

I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. My thoughts upon reading the book were filtered through my own experiences with the illness: some of these ideas may seem strange if you haven’t lived with bipolar disorder, or lived with someone who copes with it.

In my experience, an important thing to understand about living with bipolar disorder is that it doesn’t always make sense to those who don’t suffer from the disease. Triggers might be minor, like someone looking at you wrong. You might never find out exactly what association triggered your most recent bipolar episode. Sometimes you do know exactly what the trigger is, but even when you know, you can’t really stop it, only remind yourself your perceptions aren’t reflecting reality.

At times, bipolar made my work in a strip club a hell in which I was irrationally afraid of accepting drinks, terrified that every customer was laughing at me. It made me second guess every moment so thoroughly that suicide sometimes felt like a logical post-shift endeavor. At its worst, this illness makes me question everything about myself: my agency, my sanity, my humanity, my very perceptions. My body and mind became communal property- things for others to manage without my input, sometimes overriding my preferences.

Accepting treatment for a mental illness like bipolar can feel like a violation to me. I have to accept that it’s not about me, it’s about what people around me want for me. Maybe I want it, too, but accepting that treatment means accepting I won’t be the arbiter of what’s “right” for myself. That is left to the family members who can no longer handle my outbursts, or the doctor who thinks that no matter how I feel now, it’s worth reaching for something even better by shifting the med dosages, even at the risk of the new doses making me sick.

That level of outside authority is one that women who’ve grown up in a patriarchal society are already used to. We’ve had it enforced from birth that our wishes and agency are second to the men around us, second to our families, second to the comfort of our community, etc. Favor Hamilton’s story is rife with that conflict, even in instances unconnected with her mental health or sex work. From the other department’s coach in college who videotaped her breasts as she ran, with no negative consequences; to the coach who dictated her sex life after her marriage; to the spectators and competitors who claimed her main talent was her beauty; to her dad’s pushiness and embarrassment in response to her swimsuit calendar modeling, the list goes on and on.

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(Image courtesy of Red Umbrella Project)

(Image courtesy of Red Umbrella Project)

Prose & Lore is a literary journal published by the New York sex workers’ rights organization Red Umbrella Project. Memoir stories about sex work are collected in two issues per year (Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer). We at Tits and Sass have been following Prose and Lore since the journal began, and the fourth issue is even more fantastic than those that preceded it. Prose & Lore Issue 4 features 20 original, true stories about experiences in the sex trades, written by sex workers who were supported in writing their stories through Red Umbrella Project’s peer-led writing workshops in NYC and by mentor editors who worked with folks from outside of NYC.  Contributors include new writers we have our eye on like Ava Talley and Leigh Alanna, our very own Tits and Sass co-editor Caty Simon and longtime Tits and Sass contributors Lori Adorable and Elle Stranger, Tits and Sass interview subject and harm reduction pioneer L. Synn Stern, and veteran Desiree Alliance activist Cris Sardina. Issue 4 came out  on July 15th – order ebook or print copies directly through RedUP or enter to win one of five free copies on Goodreads. Interested in writing for the next issue? Details will be posted on this page and RedUP’s tumblr.

Here we feature an excerpt of the journal, the piece “Got Milk?” by Janet, about her experience working as a pregnancy fetish and lactation fetish provider during and after her pregnancy. Janet’s wry humor and honesty about finding a way to make bank as a single mom student escort who was terrified that getting knocked up would leave her unemployed had us cracking up through just about every paragraph.  Janet was born and raised in New Jersey and has been a sex worker for 18 years, half her life. She started dancing at lock doors and strip clubs, but after getting tired of the dancing scene, she went on to work at various services as an escort in New York City and Northern New Jersey. She has traveled and worked escort services up and down the East Coast. She is currently working as an independent escort wherever it tickles her fancy.

How does one really decide to be a lactation fetish provider? I would love to say I calculated the short time I had the true potential of making bank, especially with my great fucking nipples and high milk production, which I made it my mission to keep up. I was a single mom and horny as hell. Working while breastfeeding was the only sexual outlet I had and it helped pay some bills. Well, only a small part of that one is true. I was a single mom and it helped pay some bills, but the rest is what I like to call a stereotypical situation avoidance strategy.

I certainly was not out to be the next unwed single mom college dropout. I wish I could have thrown teenage in there but I had done this dumb shit before and like they say, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I was working on baby number two and in my junior year in college, full-time status, I may add, and technically single. I was already relying strictly on sex work to pay all my living expenses, and living in Northern New Jersey was expensive even then, more than a decade ago. I never really thought it was but everyone that I met was surprised to hear I lived alone as a single mom. They would inevitably go straight to, “Oh, what do you do?” Answering with, “Full time college student” would not work. So I avoided socializing outside of work and the occasional recreational sexual escapade when working was not my cup of tea. This way everyone I spoke to already knew what I did and that I was a full time student. Once I was naked it was pretty obvious from the stretchmarks that I had kids.

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Daddy (2014)

by Tara Burns on June 13, 2014 · 4 comments

in Books, Porn, Reviews

adaddycoverMadison Young’s memoir Daddy tackles head-on the daddy issues sex workers are always accused of having. Young skillfully and responsibly presents her journey from a little girl who misses her daddy to an accomplished gallery owner, feminist erotic film producer, author, and “sex positive Tasmanian devil.” She begins by tackling the issue of consent: yours. “I cannot hear the consenting ‘yes’ seep from your lips,” she writes, “but by the simple turn of this page you will be physically consenting to this journey, this scene, between you and I.”

I remember first hearing of Young years ago when a friend quoted her now-famous line, “How many anal scenes does it take to open a feminist art space?” Young made her place in the few areas of the sex industry I have no experience with: San Francisco, the mecca of sex worker culture; pro-subbing on Kink.com; and shooting dozens of anal scenes for mainstream porn. Although our experiences are different, I found myself nodding and occasionally clapping through every interview and article of hers I read over the years.

Usually, I am eager to read sex worker memoirs because of the ways that other peoples’ stories of sex work echo and offer new perspectives on my own experiences. Madison Young’s book was different: I had no idea what it was like to be a pro-sub porn star in a full time D/S relationship, and I wanted to know.

The first thing I noticed was the beauty and honesty of the writing. Young obviously has major skills with words and relating to an audience. She promises to lay her “heart bare, simple, raw, beating, human, and emotional with truth of honesty and vulnerability, fear and heroism,” and she delivers.

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