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2018’s Best Writing and Reporting on Sex Work

photo via Elvert Barnes

How August Ames’ Suicide Is Changing the Porn Industry by Tina Horn
After the tragic death of August Ames left workers reeling, a sprawling industry realized it needed to do better.

Don’t Ask Sex Workers to Solve the Problems of Violently Angry Men by Gaby del Valle
Sex workers are not ethically obligated to fuck the unfuckable.

The New Orleans Police Raid That Launched a Dancer Resistance by Melissa Gira Grant
After a week of police raids and a failed human trafficking investigation, the dancers of NOLA drew a line.

Stormy Daniels’ strip club arrest highlights how evangelical Americans are criminalizing sex work by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
Strip club laws have nothing to do with protecting women and everything to do with appeasing the Christian right.

Columbus Officer Was Under Investigation When He Shot and Killed Donna Dalton by Melissa Gira Grant
Dalton’s murderer had already received eight complaints against him.

Stormy Daniels Isn’t Backing Down by Amy Chozick
“Part of what has made Daniels such an effective adversary to Trump is that she seemingly can’t be humiliated or scandalized. She doesn’t have a carefully crafted image or a political base to maintain. Threaten to leak her sex tape? ‘I’ll leak all of them, and you can have as many as you want for $29.95,’ she says.”

Abused then arrested: inside California’s crackdown on sex work by Sam Levin
Homeless Black and Latinx women were targeted.

Donald Trump Played Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal by Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Michael Rothfeld, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Rebecca Ballhaus
Stormy Daniels was right.

A Stranger Truth by Ashkok Alexander  Ashkok explains how as the leader of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s campaign against HIV he depended on one of the most threatened and marginalized communities—India’s sex workers—to help snuff out the country’s HIV crisis.

2018’s Best Writing by Sex Workers

The Stormy Daniels Effect: When Prostitutes Unite, Powerful Men Tremble by Juniper Fitzgerald
Is our power born from our stigma?

How White Women Fuck Up Reparations by Jay St. James
“Reparations don’t come due when you’ve reached your self-set level of financial comfort, they’re paid from the start of your financial independence in appreciation of all the breaks and hands up you’ve been given and all the ways society has been specifically tailored to maximize your success at the expense of my survival.”

It’s International Whores’ Day. Let’s talk about why strippers need better labor laws. by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
It’s time to protect the original gig economy workers.

Secret Life of an Autistic Stripper by Reese Piper
“Central to autism is a difficulty experiencing life in real time. Many autistic people can’t filter out information, which makes it difficult to zone in and focus. But in the private rooms at the club, there were no outside stimuli. The rules were clear, the distractions minimal, so I could focus and interact.”

“They Want Us Dead”—Anti-Trafficking Laws Attack Drug-Using Sex Workers by Caty Simon Anecdotes on survival from some of the most marginalized sex workers. (Eds. note: Caty would be entirely too humble to ever admit that she’s best-of material, so I added her articles and vetoed her deletion of them. – Josephine)

Stop Using Us As Clickbait! by Red, founding editor of Working It 
Editors can’t seem to resist a good sex work confessional story, but is it really adding anything new to the conversation? Or is just a more carefully disguised advertisement?

Revolting Prostitutes by Juno Mac and Molly Smith
A book so deeply gratifying and validating, like a soapy cloth wiping away some of the classist sex positive nonsense fugues that obstruct progress and necessary development in sex work activism.

Full Disclosure by Stormy Daniels
Our suspicions about the president’s dong were confirmed.

Black and Brown Sex Workers Keep Getting Pushed to the Margins by Suprihmbé
Who got protected and who got forgotten during the #thotaudit.

Sex Working While Jewish In America by Arabelle Raphael
“Sometimes I see clients and have fans that support Trump. They are fine consuming my sexual labor but do not care about my safety or my rights.”

 

Gender Critical Feminism is Fascism

 

Meghan Murphy was booted from Twitter recently for spewing transmisogynistic and anti-sex work garbage. Cue: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead! Meghan Murphy as an individual human person is a complete joke, having edited Feminist Current for nearly a decade, a site consisting of random pepperings of George Soros conspiracy theories muddled together with the language of feminism. Nonetheless, her “gender critical” ideas are gaining traction among so-called feminists and fascists alike, and that’s the part that worries me.

Many “gender critical feminists”—aka TERFs and SWERFs—have aligned themselves with violent allies, proclaiming, much like the alt-right does, that “men aren’t women” and “sex work isn’t a thing.” In a pitiful blog post with endless martyred complaint about her locked Twitter account, Murphy whines:

While the left continues to vilify me, and liberal and mainstream media continue to mostly ignore feminist analysis [sic] of gender identity, people like Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro (and hundreds of right wingers and free speech advocates online), and right wing media outlets […] have attempted to speak with me and understand my perspective […] the left seems to have taken to ignoring or refusing to engage with detractors or those who have opinions they disagree with or don’t like [while] the right continues to be interested in and open to engaging.

Raise your hand if you see a lucrative YouTube rant about “Red Pilling” on the horizon!

The alliance between “gender critical feminists” and the alt-right has been forged on mutual bigotry: hatred for trans people and sex workers. “Gender critical feminists” are willing to sacrifice access to medical care, abortion, and self-determination in their alliance with the alt-right for the sole purpose of harassing, doxing, and generally inciting violence against trans people and sex workers.

Historically, factions of white feminism have flirted with fascism, from the overt racism of the Suffragists in the US to the Christian Temperance Movement here and abroad.

It’s time to give serious consideration to the fact that these factions are still alive and well.

Jason Stanley recently described fascism as having three distinct and alarming qualities: a mythic past, cultural division, and a targeted attack on truth. The alt-right exemplifies these qualities, from “Make America Great Again,” to the carefully cultivated division between “patriots” and The Other and ruthless attacks on the press wherein oppressors suddenly lay claim to victimization. Let us not forget that Hitler wrote an entire book about his “struggle,” detailing the myriad ways he believed himself oppressed.

Gender critical feminism is helping to perpetuate a mythic past, cultural division, and a targeted attack on truth, and it’s time for all the Meghan Murphys of the world to be exposed as the fascist bootlickers they are.

Sex Working While Jewish In America

(Photo via Flickr user Howard Lifshitz)

We are witnessing the blossoming of a white nationalist nation. Being the person that I am is not easy in the United States right now. It’s not easy for my friends, my family, or millions of Black people, Jews, and LGBTQI people.

I’m an Iranian, Tunisian, French and Jewish sex worker. I immigrated from France to the U.S. as a child. I still hold a fair amount of privilege; my skin is light, unlike that of many of my family members, and I am a high-income sex worker. With that, I’m still confronted with Islamophobia—many people assume I’m Muslim because I’m Middle Eastern—and anti-Semitism both in my personal and professional lives.

I was raised with Judaism but I’m a secular Jew. I’m a Hebrew school dropout. My feelings about religion are very complicated and honestly, it often makes me quite uncomfortable. Every time I walk around New York and see white Hasidic Jews, I feel both otherness—we are culturally different and I’m not a nice Jewish girl—and a connection to them.

The thing that makes me feel most Jewish is knowing how much people hate us. People hate them as people hate me. I’ve been to Nazi death camps and I remember looking at a flyer in one camp’s museum. There were excerpts from a pamphlet the Nazis passed out during the war. It was titled How to Spot a Jew, containing several highly racist caricatures presented as what to look out for. Those racist caricatures all looked like me. I don’t need to have religious garb on to be recognized as Jewish, and I still see those caricatures being used in reactionary media today.

I’ve been conflicted about saying anything about anti-Semitism under my work persona. I struggle with being politically vocal while still trying to make money and remain appealing to wealthy clients.

But when I’m faced with these prejudices at work, it hurts to be silent. I feel like I’ve lost. My racial identities come up too often at work to ignore. I once posted a photo online of myself post-menstrual sex, and someone’s response was: “Now I know why Hitler gassed the Jews.” People frequently point out my big nose. I’ve been called a “terrorist,” “camel pussy”, and “kike” on client-facing social media quite a bit.

When I was younger and new to sex work, I was afraid to set boundaries and money was scarce, so I took jobs that I wouldn’t take now that I’m in a better financial situation. I think all performers of color are faced with this experience. I’ve been in a movie called Women Of the Middle East, and have been cast as a belly dancer many times. I was always being given the information that I would be participating in a racial fetish scene only after I had traveled, paid for testing, been booked, etc. I’ve had a director make jokes about needing machine guns as props for Middle Eastern vibes, and I’ve had to fuck a white man in a turban with black eyeliner. Clients still ask me to wear hijabs.

Dennis Hof (1946-2018)

The late Dennis Hof with Heidi Fleiss and Ron Jeremy. (photo via the creative commons)

Dennis Hof passed away last week at his Love Ranch brothel after a night of celebrating his 72nd birthday and political campaign. The days following have been filled with an outpouring of discourse about his death, much of which is contentious as people reflect on the so-called legacy Hof left behind. Between his business empire and celebrity fame, Hof exposed the nation to regulated prostitution and Nevada’s brothels in a novel and undeniably impactful way. His celebrity existed within a paradox of tolerance—rural communities in Nevada were often against the brothels, which perhaps itself contributed to his ability to stay in the spotlight. “I’m always looking for a new angle and something funny to keep my name and the name of the Bunny Ranch in the national media,” Hof told the Reno Gazette Journal in 2005.

This quest for the limelight was achieved for some time through exposing legal full-service sex work. However, it recently took a political turn with Hof winning the Republican spring primary for a seat as an assemblyman. His name is to remain on the upcoming November ballot for the Nevada Assembly, and many are saying he is set to win, despite being dead. With him running on a Republican ticket, conservatives are still likely to vote for him so as to ensure a Republican gets appointed to the seat afterwards.

Much of the coverage of his death is fixated around one question that everyone seems to be asking: are his brothels continuing operation, and if so, under whom? Madam Suzette (Suzette Cole) is reported to be receiving Hof’s brothels but, even with the inheritance, the Nevada system has several requirements in place that will need to be met before she can run them legally. In fact, the Love Ranch brothel was shuttered shortly after his death. Hof’s executive assistant, Zack Hames, appears confident in moving forward with the operation of Hof’s brothels, commenting that “it’s business as usual.” Other coverage has focused more on the polarized reactions to his passing, illustrating how while some are celebrating it, others are deeply grieving his loss. This split is highly visible in the sex work community.