Portland

The author with Cupcake Girls Bri and Amy (Photo by

The author with Cupcake Girls Bri and Amy (Photo by author’s coworker)

“But how should I address the invitations?” the young brunette across from me asked.

“Husband first, so ‘Mr and Mrs blank,’” advised the older woman next to her, and everyone nodded.

I blinked and made a note, tried not to look confused or judgmental. I was at a planning meeting for It’s a Cupcake Christmas!, a benefit for the Cupcake Girls. They talked about logistics, about raffle prizes, about how much money they wanted to raise, and I played with my mug of tea, not sure what to make of these nice ladies who bring cupcakes to strippers, all of whom were younger than me and married.

Their mission statement reads, “We exist to bring non-judgmental support, consistent caring, community resources and peace, love and cupcakes to women in the adult entertainment industry.”

It sounds simple, but I didn’t get it. That’s why I was there, because I didn’t know what to make of them. This was like a “behind the scenes with the Cupcake Girls!” deal, and we’d scheduled a real sit-down interview over tea the upcoming week and between the two of those I hoped to have a better grasp on what was up with them. In the meantime I wanted to make the most of my sneak peek into how they worked but I kept getting sidetracked by questions like “Who goes first on the invitation?” I didn’t even know people my age cared about such things outside of like, Gossip Girl.

The first time I heard of the Cupcake Girls I was really confused. “The Cupcake what?”

My friend tried to explain:

“They’re Christians, they bring cupcakes to the club and spread the message of the Lord.”

“They bring actual cupcakes?”

“I think sometimes they do hair and makeup too. But they’re trying to make church look less scary and win Christ followers.”

“No way!”

I couldn’t wait to meet these people.

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Terra Barrow, Philadelphia police officer and former phone sex operator (photo via nbcphiladelphia,com)

Terra Barrow, Philadelphia police officer and former phone sex operator (photo via nbcphiladelphia,com)

Here’s another reason to not want to get out of bed in the morning—this Wednesday, the EU’s parliament voted in favor of criminalizing the purchase of sex.

Instead of following the hype about the “Duke University Porn Star”, why don’t you skip the crap and read what she has to say (in xojane, weirdly enough, which is redeeming itself for about a zillion offensive It Happened to Me pieces by giving her a venue.)

There’s no reason the GOP should be discouraged from convening the 2015 Republican Convention in Nevada by legalized prostitution, states Jeremy Lemur, a spokesman for The Resort at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel in Pahrump. Lemur assured convention goers in a blog post that brothel workers could be trusted to keep secrets, and besides, they’re voters, too.

God, we just don’t even know what to make of this story: A  recently created website accused Philadelphia police officer Terra Barrows of running a phone sex business. The thing is, Philadelphia’s finest already knew about Barrow’s old side-job—in 2011, Internal Affairs’ Police Board of Inquiry chose not to punish Barrow based on a competing phone sex operator’s allegations about her moonlighting because phone sex is not “specifically enumerated as prohibited outside employment.” Though now, the Philadelphia Police Commissioner is rushing to close that loophole, since “[t]here are certain types of jobs that are just inappropriate for a police officer.” Barrow states that she got into phone sex to support her ailing father, and that she never portrayed herself as a police officer or revealed her real name while working the lines. Oh, and the reason competing PSO Donna Burns ratted on Barrow to Internal Affairs? She says the cop stole her site designs and her client database and bullied her and other competitiors by telling them she was a police officer working in Homeland Security.

Tits and Sass co-editor Caty Simon gives her take on Heather Lewis’ Notice, an autobiographical novel about a street working trauma survivor, at Emily Books.

Elle Stranger lets readers of Portland’s Thrillist know about eighteen ways to make a stripper furious. An anonymous dancer echoes Stranger’s advice to tip if you’re at the rack in the Portland Mercury, reddit reading fedora wearing comment writers are outraged in response to the very suggestion that they should be compensating people for their labor, and no one is surprised.

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Photos courtesy of Soren High

Ziploc bags overflow with disposable handwarmers, hand sanitizer, crackers and nuts. Thick cotton socks and toothbrushes, tampons and lollipops are piled nearby. A few women and a couple of men stand or sit along a heavy wooden table, chatting lightheartedly and stuffing goodies and toiletries into bags. Two children toddle around, munching crackers and playing with yarn.

Luchador in north Portland is holding its first Nudes for the Needy drive. It’s like many other holiday donation events, except for one thing: it’s headed by adult entertainers. Petite, bespectacled pole dancer Soren High brushes her dreadlocks away from her face as she hurriedly carries blankets and boxes around the room, delegating tasks to her volunteer friends.

“I’ve been homeless before,” she explains. “From about 2005, on and off until 2009. I lived in my car, with my boyfriend at the time. I lived under bridges. I know what life is like when you’re homeless, and I want to give back.”

When asked what sparked her desire to organize an event, Soren answers candidly. “I literally woke up one morning and felt like I needed to do something good. I started chatting about making blankets and giving them to family, but somebody else proposed a blanket making party, and here we are.”

The temperatures have been unseasonably frigid for Portland this year, with snow falling early in the month of December, and temperatures of 13 degrees recorded. The normal average temperature at this date is about twenty degrees warmer. “At least five deaths of street-folks were recorded within a matter of days,” Soren posted on her Facebook, rallying help in a hurry to hand out blankets and supplies on December 9th and 10th. I spoke with her about organizing in the community.

How did this begin?

Nude for the Needy started as a Christmas present for my family. I meant to make snip-n-tie blankets for everyone in my family and give them to a person in need as their gift. The idea bloomed into asking several of the girls that I work with to help with the project to come together and bring donations and a blanket. I know how amazing it feels to be given a blanket when you’re cold, or to receive food when you’re hungry. You remember that person for the rest of your life.

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Bryan Saunders' "Extreme Makeover: Fuck Mattress Edition" (inadvertently?) improved labor conditions for street sex workers while it lasted (Photo via the Daily Dot)

Bryan Saunders’ “Extreme Makeover: Fuck Mattress Edition” (inadvertently?) improved labor conditions for street sex workers while it lasted (Photo via the Daily Dot)

Myanmar began a debate around decriminalizing sex work. The founder of the Sex Workers in Myanmar network (SWIM), Thuza Win, hopes the law will be changed before the 2015 general elections.

Research by University of Michigan economics professor Raj Arunachalam conducted among Mexican and Ecuadoran brothel workers and street sex workers found that beautiful sex workers make more money.  In others news, the sky is blue. (The interesting thing about the study, though, is that each subject’s beauty was measured by other sex workers.)

Tennessee artist Bryan Saunders revamped the decrepit mattress street sex workers used to entertain clients at a local park. He called the project EXTREME MAKEOVER: FUCK MATTRESS EDITION, and provided new sheets, a comforter, an array of condoms, new panties, and a trash can for the location. Slixa points out that the project’s value as a harm reduction and workplace safety measure outweighs its artistic merits. Apparently, after seven days, some of the panties were missing, all of the chocolate flavored condoms were.gone, and the flowers placed on the site were trampled on. It’d be great if someone had the bright idea to replenish the supplies and extend this undertaking to other outdoor sex trade venues.

Acclaimed queer sex worker author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore reviews Mindy Chateauvert’s new book, Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk for SFGate. (Stay tuned for Tits and Sass’ own review of Sex Workers Unite as soon as we get our review copy in the mail.)

Chinese gay rights groups are calling for Southern Television Guangdong to publicly apologize for using hidden camera footage of an undercover reporter meeting with a male sex worker.

Strip club owners unite to fight sex trafficking? We’d rather hear more about strippers fighting trafficking, thanks. Remember, sex workers themselves are most effective at combating this problem. Anyway, the strip club owners’ tactics sounds like more of the same: further surveillance of their employees.

“Feminist” hashtag #realjobsnotblowjobs made its debut on twitter this week. @ThatSabineGirl said it best when she tweeted in response, “bcos it’s feminist to slut shame women while you’re saying they’re forced into sex work against their will, apparently.” Hurray for consistently whorephobic internet feminism and its discontents.

A trans sex worker, Marco Noé López Castillo, was found strangled to death in San Pedro Sula, a Honduran red light district, recently. Nine killings of sex workers have occurred in the district since early December.

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Portland's vegan eatery turned strip club, Casa Diablo (Google street view)

Portland’s vegan eatery turned strip club, Casa Diablo (Google street view)

Equality Now and other abolitionist groups campaigned against the UN’s recommendation to decriminalize sex work. Don’t read the articles linked unless you have a strong stomach. Melissa Gira Grant documented a particularly exasperating twitter exchange with Equality Now’s Rachel Moran on her blog, in which Moran claimed that “‘sex workers’ don’t exist.” Scott Long also provides some valuable context.

The New York Times belatedly discovers camming. Sadly, the article feels the need to quote Kathryn Griffin. Luckily, Sienna Baskin of the Sex Workers Project is also on hand to lend some perspective.

Stoya gives her two cents about the Great Porn Condom Debate in Vice Magazine.

The law firm of Outten and Golden LLP just filed a lawsuit on behalf of dancers against the strip clubs New York Dolls, Flashdancers and Private Eyes. Dancers who have worked at these clubs and want to join the lawsuit should call Outten and Golden at 212-245-1000.

Of course you want to know how weird government regulations led to Portland’s vegan strip club.

Sex workers created a twitter phenomenon this week with the hashtag #banfreebies, satirizing societal attitudes about sex work by flipping them around and using them to moralize against non-transactional sex: “Freebies think being a freebie is empowering or it’s their choice. But that’s just false consciousness.”

African sex workers’ rights group SWEAT alerted local police that a group of about thirty five children, aged nine to twelve, were being kept in a brothel in Guateng.  But when the police finally decided to act on the report they went to the wrong house. By the time they figured out this blunder and went to the correct address, there were no children on site.

New York will establish a special court for sex trafficking and prostitution. Perhaps the court will offer better options than incarceration, but Lori Adorable responds on her tumblr, saying, “Providing more social services for individuals in the sex industry who are there by force, coercion, or choice would be fabulous, but that’s not what happening here…You mean to say that the criminal (in)justice system will FORCE those in the sex industry into treatment, rehab, and other lines of work while denying them any agency they do have. Doesn’t sound so compassionate anymore, does it? Sounds more like the fascist, racist ‘social hygiene’ shit that it is.”

A stripping history is apparently no obstacle to a security clearance.

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