Portland

 

Orange Is The New Black actress Laverne Cox in Arizona backing trans and sex workers' rights activist Monica Jones' appeal against false charges of "manifesting prostitution" (Photo via Monica Jones'Facebook)

Orange Is The New Black actress Laverne Cox in Arizona backing trans and sex workers’ rights activist Monica Jones’ appeal against false charges of “manifesting prostitution” (Photo by Leah Jo Carmine, via Monica Jones’ Facebook, courtesy of Monica Jones)

Laverne Cox supports Monica Jones’ appeal against trumped up charges of “manifesting prostitution”! We couldn’t have dreamed up a more exciting celebrity cameo in our wildest activist dreams. Catch up on Monica’s case by looking through Tits and Sass’ Monica Jones tag, and stay tuned for an exclusive Tits and Sass update on her appeal by her SWOP-Phoenix comrades.

Coverage of the Portland Cupcake Girls’ Spa Day in the local press had a few of our readers writing in to us and other venues, infuriated. Apparently, neither the Oregonian nor the Cupcake Girls understand that strippers are not all unloved waifs and that actually, they can make themselves up and even (gasp!) pay for their own salon visits without the group’s charity. In fact, they do so consistently in order to work in a field in which their appearance must be immaculate. Read Red’s longform piece on shadowing the Cupcake Girls for more on these well meaning altruists’ fundamental misunderstandings about the sex industry.

Despite the fact that the former head officer was sexually assaulting the very women he was supposed to be helping, the Hamilton trafficking unit carries on, making fake dates with workers through online ads and attempting to rescue them. No charges have yet been filed in the past year and a half, though the former head, rapist Derek Mellor, faces a continued disciplinary hearing in September.

Sex workers in Jakarta have returned to work with the end of Ramadan, a fact that the Public Order Agency finds less than thrilling.

“We will address the issue soon. We hope both streets will soon be free of sex workers,” he said.

Sounds like he has a solid and not at all abusive plan.

The Economist makes an argument for decriminalization that, essentially, boils down to a pro-gentrification (“get the seediness off the streets”) point.Worlds collide when the interests of white male privacy and sexuality come up.

Margaret Corvid writes about some of the prices incurred by the loss of the fourth wall, as internet presence and accessibility becomes mandatory for many sex workers. Tighten your privacy settings, y’all.

MediaUpdate pays tribute to Nokuphila Kumalo, the sex worker assaulted and murdered by South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa.

Without even a photograph of her, it is difficult to put a face to her name. Access to the fragments of her life prior to her murder is also hindered by the stigma associated with sex work. Although the oldest profession in the world (apart from politics) it remains shrouded in secrecy and shame, criminalised in most countries and regarded with contempt by mainstream society. 

Mthethwa’s trial begins in November.

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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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