Politics

“I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”—Paul Davis

“What’s the difference between a hooker and a politician? There’s some things a hooker just won’t do.”—an old joke I first heard from a lobbyist

Regardless of your opinion on reproductive justice, single-payer health care, or self-employment taxes, there’s someone running for office who will reflect that position. No viable candidate, however, supports sex worker rights. When it comes to the sex industy, a candidate need only be sex worker-adjacent to be subject to a vicious attack, no matter his party. Sex workers truly have no friends in major party politics in the United States (sure, Libertarians, in theory, but once they decide to run as Republicans they tend to neatly pull back on select issues of personal choice). This election year’s sex work-adjacent scandals are pathetically unimportant and an indication of campaigns that are desperate for distractions. One deals with a 15-year-old raid on a strip club; the other with a state-run jobs website that “accidentally” listed some adult-industry jobs. One’s a Republican attacking a Democrat; the other’s a Democrat attacking a Republican. [READ MORE]

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ava

Ava Talley, trans and sex workers’ rights activist and performer in Mariko Passion’s Whorrific Cabaret

Donate before June 8th to Tits and Sass contributor Mariko Passion’s Whoriffic Cabaret at the Hollywood Fringe Festival on June 16th. Read trans and sex workers’ rights activist Ava Talley’s tribute to Mariko’s work and the upcoming festival here:

“Sex/Love workers of all persuasions will have the opportunity to showcase their talents at Whorrific Cabaret, a musical storytelling event that has been produced by Mariko Passion many times in different spaces, which aims to bring together sex and love workers, allies and clients who have talent and an opinion. This cabaret happens June 16th, 5:30pm at Three Clubs in Hollywood and is part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival: an annual, uncurated, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community.”

AB 1576, the bill requiring condom use for all porn productions shot in CA, passed the CA appropriations committee. The concept of “forced consent” was repeatedly invoked. ‘“I don’t know what that means and how that can exist, but in what other industry would we accept forced consent as a concept?” an attorney from Mind Geek asked.’ Not to be all Inigo Montoya, but I do not think that means what they think it means.

Really tragic: Alyssa Funke, a young porn performer, killed herself after cyberbullying from ex-high school classmates about her sex work.

This Newsweek profile on Somaly Mam is a rebuttal to every hysterical trafficking narrative ever. She auditioned girls to be the faces of fictional trauma-narratives, and fabricated her own past. “‘If your goal is fundraising, you actually have an incentive to pull out the most gory story,’ Papi explains, ‘and so we get completely false realities of the world.’” Between this and the study on youth sex workers the popular trafficking narrative is taking some blows. [READ MORE]

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Monica Jones stands to thank her supporters around the country. (Photo via Janet Mock's and SWOP-Phoenix's twitter accounts)

Monica Jones stands to thank her supporters around the country. (Photo via Janet Mock’s and SWOP-Phoenix’s twitter accounts)

Sex workers’ rights activist and social work student Monica Jones was due to defend herself in court today after cops set her up on charges of “manifesting prostitution” when they targeted her for attending a SWOP-Phoenix protest against oppressive Arizona State University social work school diversion program Project ROSE. However, the trial was postponed until April 11th due to a constitutional challenge brought by the ACLU. Dozens of Monica’s supporters packed the courtroom, and Monica stated, “We will be back with twice as many people.” Read more about the story in Melissa Gira Grant’s RH Reality Check piece or this Truth Out piece,or watch this MSNBC interview with Monica. Of course, you could always look back on Tits and Sass’ own interview with Monica, and our interview with SWOP-Phoenix member Jaclyn Moskal-Dairman about Project ROSE. We stand with Monica Jones!

The media collectively wrung its hands all week over Belle Knox, the Duke University Porn Star. Responses ranged from columnists tut-tutting over the “troubled young woman” to outright whorephobia. Then of course there were the oh-so-sensitive pieces about her family’s response to her outting, e.g., “Welcome home, daddy, I’m a porn star!”

Stoya tells the New York Times that there’s a lot people can learn about privacy from porn performers: “Maybe it would be easier to navigate the dissolving boundaries between public and private spaces if we all had a variety of names with which to signal the aspects of ourselves currently on display.”

Then the New York Times lost any brownie points it earned with us via Stoya’s op-ed by running a long piece on a Justice Department study on the sex industry that used to word “pimp” repeatedly, compared sex work to cancer, and claimed that $150 an hour is “the common going rate for prostitution.”

Indian sex worker activists asked candidates for all forty-two seats in the upcoming elections to agree to their demands for sex work to be listed in the labor department’s list of professions, for offending sections of the Anti-Trafficking Act to be abolished, and for the government to recognize an autonomous board of sex workers. Otherwise, sixty-five thousand registered Indian sex workers will not be voting for them.

Ten officers with guns and bulletproof vests raided San Diego strip club Cheetahs in quite a show of force for a routine permits check. They took photographs of all the dancers, even going so far as to take a photo of each of their tattoos, leaving the club workers feeling violated.

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("Nose art" by Alberto Vargas)

(“Nose art” by Alberto Vargas)

I will forever associate foot fetishism with terrorism. Although George W. Bush had been in office for almost a year, 9/11 was when “the Bush years” really got rolling. I’d been politically curious my whole life, and activism-oriented in recent years, energized and excited by the emerging global trends that were dubbed the “anti-globalization movement.” A friend and I had just submitted an article discussing the murder of Carlo Guiliani to Onward!, a now-defunct anarchist newspaper. Guiliani was killed by police during protests against the G8 summit in Genoa, in July 2001 and our article contrasted his movement martyrdom to that of the Kent State Four, and the less famous Jackson State Two. It was exciting to be wanking theoretical, especially about how we, as US-based members of A Movement, might effectively organize domestically for change without an obvious and tangible Big Bad (i.e. The War) to rally people around.

Hahahahahaha!

The article was outdated before the issue went to press. Suddenly, years of organizing and strategizing around the IMF and World Bank policy were blown out of the water and there was a new, even more mass-murderous game in town. Soon we’d have two big, obvious wars, not to mention the racist detentions of Arabs and Muslims right here in Brooklyn, a wave of attacks on mosques, massive crackdowns on civil liberties, endless new, tangible evils, and not much more by way of an effective mass movement.

When the first plane hit the north tower, I was in Manhattan, near the Empire State Building, talking to a foot fetishist. I worked the Tuesday morning shift at a phone sex bank—someone had to. This was the fourth Tuesday I’d swiped in ten minutes before 8 a.m., picked up my headset and booth sign stating my stage name and “girl number,” settled into a vacant cubicle on the talking floor and logged in for early morning action.

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A lone red umbrella at the Supreme Court for the hearings on the anti prostitution loyalty pledge. (photo courtesy of  Chi Mgbako and the Leitner Center?)

A lone red umbrella at the Supreme Court for the hearings on the anti prostitution loyalty pledge. (photo by Rebecca Iwerks, courtesy of Chi Mgbako )

On April 22nd, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. concerning whether the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath (APLO), written into the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The contested legislation is the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, or the Global AIDS Act, which states that no funds made available by PEPFAR “may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” In August 2005, DKT International, a nonprofit working to improve access to reproductive health services in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, filed a lawsuit against USAID, challenging the anti-prostitution requirement. The case, DKT v. USAID, won in lower district courts, temporarily keeping the enforcement of APLO away from U.S. organizations; however, in February 2007, the U.S. Circuit Court reversed this ruling. In September 2005, the Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. (AOSI) filed a similar suit against USAID. This case was accepted by the Supreme Court in January 2013.

The Anti-Prostitution Pledge is an example of U.S. commitment to moral ideology over public health. Sex worker activists on Facebook organized the Red Umbrellas at the Supreme Court demonstration for this hearing.

Addendum: At the time of publication, the Supreme Court had just struck down the PEPFAR Pledge as of one hour ago. However, this editorial’s point still holds: OSI should have held a stronger stance on decriminalization, and there is still much work to do for sex worker activists to push forward from the momentum of this court decision.

There were only two red umbrellas in front of the Supreme Court, in spite of eager support on the Facebook event page. Actually, one of these red umbrellas was striped: only half-red and half-white, a last minute compromise during a rushed subway scramble. As described in Melissa Gira Grant’s article in The Nation, even these two unassuming umbrellas were folded away and stuffed like contraband beer into organizer David Perez’s brown paper shopping bag. We stood on the Courthouse steps, behind a group of chipper public health advocates in yellow t-shirts. Our 9:00 AM meet-up time was inopportune, as we were a few dozen places late of a seat at the hearing. Umbrellas aside, we really left neither a visual nor numerical impression. [READ MORE]

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