The Week in Links—August 8th

by Red on August 8, 2014 · 7 comments

in The Week in Links

 

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.

A very well-paid male London escort has gone public in support of decriminalization, adding questionably, “Being vocal about the profession keeps you safe.” We can think of more than a handful of dead women who might have begged to differ.

Zimbabwe has its share of migrant sex workers, as we’ve reported before. This article focuses on the town of Chipinge, and features the notable euphemism “thigh vendors.” One worker explains: “We are living a good life through having sex with our reliable clients.”

After a horrifying interview with a former male client, London psychotherapist Pippa Hockton turned to offering therapy to street-based sex workers. Now she runs a therapy charity called Street Talk, which offers therapy to street based sex workers. While the article places an emphasis on being “saved” through leaving the industry, only a third of her clients over the years have ultimately done so, while she continues to provide health care referrals and support to those who remain.

India’s AIDS program won accolades at the International AIDS conference, but not without caveats. India is one of many countries that still doesn’t promote universal sexual and reproductive health education and rights, which affects the success of their programs.

Sex workers in Australia have been given a reprieve after  facing the loss of welfare benefits if they became unemployed, as the government previously failed to recognize sex work as “gainful employment” and would have mandated a longer waiting period for benefits, a waiting period also faced by unemployed people under 30.

The Peruvian government will be spending 194K to research male sex workers, who have much higher rates of HIV infection than the rest of the population.  The study will examine why they are so at risk and could result in a skill building system, education workers on safer sex practices.

A study by Zhang Xudong, presented at the recent International AIDS Conference, found that young female sex workers in China’s Kunming city lack practical knowledge of safer sex practices, resulting in high rates of pregnancy and sti infection. Most participants were from school dropouts from rural areas, lacking access to sexual and reproductive health information.

Sex workers in Nigeria demonstrated for labor rights, once again giving the lie to the abolitionist claim that sex work is a rich white woman’s game.

Derby sex worker charity Women’s Work provides a buffer between sex workers and police, allowing them to report crimes and assaults without fear of arrest.

 

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmen August 8, 2014 at 9:44 pm

As funny as those cupcake girls are, I would have loved a fresh cupcakes in my dancing days! I guess maybe I would have ignored then after the cake, but YUM.

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Caty Simon August 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Seems like whether one loves them or hates them, everyone eats the cupcakes. Or, at least, that’s the impression I get. But, to update the story, the CC girls are finally taking input from a task force of dancers.

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Celine Bisette August 9, 2014 at 3:24 am

Oh, that’s good to hear! I had mixed feelings about them…

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Amy-Marie Merrell August 15, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Hi Tits and Sass – Amy-Marie Merrell here from The Cupcake Girls. In our efforts to be a support in cases where needs do exist in the industry, we can often do amazing work. And – like any other people or project – we can fall short.

One way we want to distinguish ourselves is that we want to hear any criticism, really listen and understand it, correct it and grow more effective as a result. We are not looking to defend or worry (too much) about our short-term image, as we are in this for the long haul. We are serious when we say we exist to provide nonjudgmental support and resources to adult entertainers. It’s more important for us to get this right than to put our energy into damage control.

Along these lines: one thing we regret is our lack of substantive response to the piece that Red wrote here in Tits and Sass back in May. Red’s piece had been a certain indication to us that we had a problem in how our efforts were being perceived in the industry. We were too slow to process it, respond and make needed changes. Some of us had even copied out some of the excellent questions Red asked in her piece about our role in the industry to bring to our board in a meeting this month.

Alas, this was too late. The Oregonian’s coverage of our Spa Day triggered a negative reaction – where many voices now expressed some of the concerns that had been voiced by Red. The Oregonian story, which we believe was written with the best intentions by the reporter, nonetheless was way off-key. It carried the tone that women in adult entertainment are somehow in need of pity or that they don’t pamper themselves – both things which of course are inaccurate and stereotypical. These were not things that anyone from The Cupcake Girls had said to the reporter – there was a quote along these lines from a partner of ours. But clearly we are the ones who need to do a better job of educating journalists who cover us that it is harmful to paint adult entertainers with a broad brush.

Through our experiences we have learned that there are absolutely needs in the industry – the independent contractor status of dancers means they don’t have the typical supports a corporate worker would have – automatic enrollment in healthcare, tax withholding, 401K benefits, dental, etc. And then add on top of that the pressures of sexism, the biases, the slurs, the hatred – and there are women who find themselves with unmet needs. There are even basics such as stripper injuries.

In our experiences we have learned that under these pressures, some women are leading double lives, which can be isolating. Some women get into the work for the wrong reasons as well, and need help. We have provided assistance that ranges from connections to mental healthcare, chiropractic work, financial planning, and drug and alcohol supports.

There are absolutely women who are empowered and flourishing in the industry, who make a great living and enjoy what they do. Their work is nothing short of a feminist act, pushing back on all of the bullshit that would hurt their sisters.

However, in our efforts to secure resources for women – pro bono supports such as dentists, doctors and lawyers – we have focused a lot on talking about the needs side of the continuum. In order to secure these resources, we have to overcome the perception that all women in adult entertainment are making a ton of money and don’t need help. This week we took a full review of our own communications, and realized we have overgeneralized the needs in an effort to win over community partners.

So the Oregonian story touched off a wave of criticism, but we take responsibility that our own communications may have sent the reportage in this direction – or at the very least did not do enough to correct for it. This story triggered the petition and the Willamette Week story, and then a massive debate between those in the industry who know & appreciate us, and others who found us irritating at best, offensive at worst.

There is a happy ending to this story, and some remarkable good can come out of this. We have met with the writers of the petition, the Willamette Week story, as well as other dancers that have been most vocally critical of us. We sat with them and took down all of their excellent feedback. We have found also that many of our detractors were not fully aware of the substantial and sometimes excellent work we do to provide resources to women. We are all coming to a place of better mutual understanding and respect.

We have invited the dancers who were most vocal in their criticism of The Cupcake Girls to sit on a newly-created Industry Advisory Board and they have graciously accepted. We hope that this will help us better communicate our efforts, and ensure we are more effective in our effort to provide services to women, men and transgender adult entertainers. We need to work harder to ensure that our communication around these efforts raises the discourse instead of oversimplifying. We have taken spreadsheets of feedback from these amazing women, and plan to implement changes to make us more effective at being a support in the industry.

The backlash we have experienced has been incredibly painful to us. Growth often is. I’m sure that we felt about as misunderstood and as stereotyped in some cases as did the adult entertainers who were angry at us. Our founder Joy Hoover bore the brunt of it, and to her credit, apologized for times where she made poor choices of words, and invited in her most vocal critics as advisors. She has not pushed back, but rather has taken it all in to look for what we need to learn. That makes us proud of our organization. We are a nonprofit that is continually seeking to be of assistance, not to be the source of offense or drama. We need to be held to a high standard.

We are ALWAYS open to feedback from adult entertainers about the work that we do. Please do reach out to us via info@thecupcakegirls.org if ever there is a concern or an issue about our operations. You will be heard.

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Former Stripper Who Loves Health Care August 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Is there any reason why you shouldn’t just hand your organization over wholesale to those dancers who joined your Advisory Board? Turn it inside out: Give them the resources to do this work, and support them by doing the work they ask you to do.

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The Cupcake Girls August 22, 2014 at 12:13 am

That is an interesting idea. We would love to get as much involvement from the adult entertainment community, and from the wider community, as we can. What we do takes an incredible amount of time and effort. For instance, we recruit people with financial skills who can help us with our financial reporting as a nonprofit, we need people with digital skills to help us with our website. We need people who are out networking in the professional and healthcare communities to win over resources such as dentists and attorneys to provide pro bono services. Running a nonprofit requires a lot of different skills, and actually a ton of time. We have a team that fields all of the requests for needs that come in – for instance we had 23 such requests this month. Someone needs to be available to take all of these requests and make sure that the needs are met. Our 20 directors each put in a minimum of 10 hours per week, unpaid. We have 80 other volunteers who give time to our 12 different teams – often putting in that much unpaid time as well. We also have a Board of Directors who volunteers their time and resources as well as taking on the legal responsibilities of running a nonprofit.

These are not commitments that we ask of the advisory board participants – we are asking for attendance at quarterly meetings where they can advise us on our efforts. But to any degree they or anyone from the adult entertainment community would want to volunteer their time, skills and services, we would absolutely welcome it.

If you’d like to speak more about this topic or have additional questions on our organization, feel free to email us at info@thecupcakegirls.org!

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The Cupcake Girls August 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm

That is an interesting idea. We would love to get as much involvement from the adult entertainment community, and from the wider community, as we can. What we do takes an incredible amount of time and effort. For instance, we recruit people with financial skills who can help us with our financial reporting as a nonprofit, we need people with digital skills to help us with our website. We need people who are out networking in the professional and healthcare communities to win over resources such as dentists and attorneys to provide pro bono services. Running a nonprofit requires a lot of different skills, and actually a ton of time. We have a team that fields all of the requests for needs that come in – for instance we had 23 such requests this month. Someone needs to be available to take all of these requests and make sure that the needs are met. Our 20 directors each put in a minimum of 10 hours per week, unpaid. We have 80 other volunteers who give time to our 12 different teams – often putting in that much unpaid time as well. We also have a Board of Directors who volunteers their time and resources as well as taking on the legal responsibilities of running a nonprofit.

These are not commitments that we ask of the advisory board participants – we are asking for attendance at quarterly meetings where they can advise us on our efforts. But to any degree they or anyone from the adult entertainment community would want to volunteer their time, skills and services, we would absolutely welcome it.

If you’d like to speak more about this topic or have additional questions on our organization, feel free to email us at info@thecupcakegirls.org!

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