Great Sex Work Moments in Pop Culture History

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Can You Make Six Figures A Year Off Reply Guys? Caroline Calloway Thinks So.

The week before the health department shut down all bars was a brutal one at my club. The upside was that there were so few customers and so little cash changed hands that it didn’t feel like we were getting exposed to much of anything besides boredom. The owner was berating dancers for not working more amid this virus hysteria, and getting their names wrong while he did so. Nobody was jumping to pick up dead shifts, and most of his dancers had abandoned their work ethic and any sense of duty to attend a Tool concert.

Around the same time, it was apparent that Fox News had begun to acknowledge that a pandemic was indeed occurring. This meant that the owner, in turn, had started to take it seriously. Now he was even more proactive than the health department, and we had to come in at 10:30 a.m. and empty our lockers because he urgently needed to eradicate the viruses thriving inside them.

We left with our trash bags full of mangled, body-spray-doused spandex. Like the rest of the country, some of us adopted the sleep schedules of koalas. Some of us obsessively consumed the news like we were trying to crack a code. Some of us measured time only by examining our pubes. Some of us took advantage of liquor stores being deemed essential. All of us watched Tiger King. After getting past the initial shock and unorthodox food cravings, many of us joined the masses of Royally Fucked sex workers everywhere in creating OnlyFans accounts. 

I haven’t done the OnlyFans thing partially because I am on pandemic unemployment assistance as an independent contractor. It took multiple applications and waiting for the state to to wait on the federal government, but it’s been a godsend. I can stop panicking until July 31st. I’m also not on OnlyFans because it’s a lot of hard work and that’s only exacerbated by this whole end-of-days thing. 

I’ve watched my friends navigate OnlyFans and discover that there’s all kinds of paraphernalia to research and buy, like glitchy Bluetooth selfie clickers. One friend ordered an interactive phone-app controlled vibrator, and was devastated when it malfunctioned during her first live show. Another friend has been making content in her microscopic studio apartment. She assembled and installed a Murphy bed and has done an impressive job of taking hot photos that don’t give away the limited space in which she’s working (shit, I’m impressed just by the bed itself). 

A third friend was completely thwarted from pursuing an OnlyFans hustle when her driver’s license was rejected for being too beat up and the DMV couldn’t get her in until May 16th. She’s been discreetly selling videos on an app that is not sex-worker friendly (LOL, like any are) and crossing her fingers that she doesn’t get busted.

A fourth friend recently couldn’t deliver on the type of video a subscriber was requesting, because she’s quarantined with her ex and he was in the next room. And like many strippers who went from physically demanding jobs to staying home, she’s gained weight. It’s not easy to shoot, edit, and post nude photos and videos when you’re struggling with your body image.

A fifth friend isn’t comfortable working online because she’s pursuing a career in a male-dominated field where she doesn’t want to be outed as having been a sex worker. Instead, she’s putting all her stuff in storage and moving into a yurt. 

If so many people I care dearly about weren’t using OnlyFans as a way to make ends meet while bracing for a depression and worrying about dying, it would be at least slightly comical that “minor influencer” Caroline Calloway bragged on Sunday that she was “currently looking at a $223,800 annual salary from OnlyFans.”

A Judge’s Notes: The Fourth Annual Vagina Beauty Pageant

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DJ Dick Hennessy with Miss Beautiful Vagina 2013, Jordan

I was dressed modestly in a knee-length black dress, white Converse, and a denim jacket, and felt as comfortable as any stripper can when behaving as a civilian at a strip club event. Although Portland is home to about 45 strip clubs, its downtown entertainment district only has five, but on this Thursday evening, Club Rouge was already thumping with activity. I proudly displayed my black and pink VIP pass to the door attendant, feeling like vaginal royalty. About three dozen women of various ethnicities and body types strutted and mingled.

The judging panel was comprised of local Portland celebrities and industry folks: Tres Shannon, the delightfully eccentric owner of Voodoo Donuts, heavily bearded Jedediah Aaker, promoter of Tonic Lounge, who sports a leather thong in IFC’s Portlandia, traveling drag performer Miss Sasha Scarlette, an owner of a marijuana dispensary who wished to remain anonymous, and the unnamed owner of the upscale Stars clubs, who looked like a slightly more heterosexual John Waters. I was the only judge with an actual vagina. “I feel a lot of pressure was on your shoulders to maintain order and balance,” host and creator of the Annual Vagina Pageant, DJ Dick Hennessy, later told me.

20 contestants, 19 of whom were strippers, were vying for the title of Miss Pretty Vagina 2013. Scoring was based on three categories: Stage Talent (20%), Attractiveness (20%) and Vagina Beauty (60%). One young lady, appropriately dressed as a cute (yet clichéd) school girl, was introduced as having never stripped a shift in her life. While I admire the bravery of any woman willing to bare all in an industry competition, I was already dreading watching an amateur “dance.”

Club Rouge and Hennessy had attracted a diverse crowd. Twentysomething bros laughed and drank among well-dressed older men, a pack of women whispered into their hands and pointed at the strippers, and the Old Guy Who Sells Roses was weaving his way through the audience, muttering “Rose for the lady?” Dancer Ari from the Boom Boom Room giggled to me, “I just saw my dentist. He asked me, “How’s everything going? I asked him, “Like, in my mouth?” A fish-faced middle-aged man stood behind the judges, his mouth agape, not moving except to lick his lips every few minutes.

The bartender laughed at me when I asked “Do you serve hot tea?” and instead I settled for ice water with a lemon, dunking in my own smuggled tea bags. Once the contest began, the next four hours were a blur of vaginas and stilettos.

SESTA Vs. Stormy Daniels

(Image via Flickr user Donkeyhotey)

The fact that porn workers have always been popular scapegoats for the broadest strokes of politics and media is hardly news for those who work in the sex industry. There are myths claiming pornography leads to violence and there is the historical fact that porn workers have protected our civil rights. Protecting our First Amendment rights is just scratching the surface of sex workers’ contributions to labor and women’s rights movements, among others, since antiquity. Although more is at stake for sex workers than free speech, the passage of FOSTA and SESTA will not only affect us but civilians too, especially in light of the repeal of net neutrality. In a titillating cross-section of lawmaking and scandal, we have on one side Stormy Daniels suing 45 for unlawful payoffs and calling him to account publicly for his associates’ threats against her, and on the other side, legislation that has already silenced common sex workers, with the overlaying intersections of race and class; good whores and bad whores; victims and perpetrators; and misinformation all around.

You might see liberal celebrities championing Daniels, but you won’t see them championing sex workers’ rights.

A ‘Whore’ By Any Other Name Is Still A Rose

Amber Rose, via her Instagram page.
Amber Rose. (Via her Instagram page.)

Recently, Amber Rose has been in the spotlight for giving her opinion on The Breakfast Club 105.1 regarding Kim Kardashian’s 17-year-old half sister Kylie Jenner’s relationship with 25-year-old rapper Tyga. Rose was asked if Jenner is too young to date the “Rack City” rapper, and she responded with: “She’s a baby. She needs to go to bed at 7:00 o’clock and relax.” She also said Tyga should be ashamed of himself for leaving his family for a minor.

Let’s untangle this celebrity web. Rose has a close friendship with celebrity exotic dancer Blac Chyna. Chyna dated Tyga for a little over two years and had a child with him. Tyga split with Chyna last August and allegedly began a relationship with Jenner. In case you didn’t know, Jenner’s older half sister, Kim Kardashian, is married to Kanye West, whom Rose had a relationship with from 2008 to 2010, during which her modeling career launched when she posed for a Louis Vuitton print advertisement that featured West’s sneaker line. Later, Rose dated rapper Wiz Khalifa, with whom she had a son.

So that’s why The Breakfast Club asked Rose about Jenner. The interview spread like wildfire throughout social media. When Khloe Kardashian caught wind of Rose’s comments, she took to Twitter to attack Rose. In one tweet, she brought up the fact that Rose had stripped as a minor, saying, “Please don’t worry about my sister who has a career [modeling] and her shit.”

Rose’s romantic history is regularly the topic of gossip, but her background is more interesting. Raised in South Philadelphia, Rose became a stripper to support her family at the age of 15. In 2012, she did an interview for NecoleBitchie.com where she stated that when she and her mother became homeless, being an exotic dancer at a young age was simply a means of survival. She compared her situation to men who also live in poverty selling drugs to feed their families.

So in response to Kardashian, Rose clapped back in a series of tweets that highlighted Kardashian’s hypocrisy. She even tweeted “I’ll be that lil whore to support my family like ur sister is a whore 2 supports hers.”

How Everyone Has It Wrong On Blac Chyna

Blac Chyna. (Via Youtube)

Recently, Blac Chyna has been relegated to being nothing more than a sex worker by opponents and supporters alike, people who reference her “finesse” and gloss over the abuse she’s suffered, reinforcing a dangerous narrative. Her humanity and her role as a mother are edited out of the persona people are now creating for her, as if being a sex worker makes those things less authentically part of her.

Blac Chyna is a mother who left her abusive partner Rob Kardashian several times in the last few months, and had his abuse of her play out in the court of public opinion. She happens to have been a stripper, a model, a sought-out video vixen, and a business owner of multiple companies not related to sex work, so to reduce her to a one-dimensional caricature of a sex worker strips her of every bit of her life off the pole.

Men are resources regardless of your occupation. Cis men come with access to respect, personal safety, often a degree of financial stability, and societal power that women are so often denied. To comment on what Blac Chyna was or wasn’t given during her relationship with Kardashian and cite it as the only reason she stayed exhibits a myopic and biased view of a person who engages in sex work. All people can benefit from proximity to men, proximity to whiteness, and the combined resources of both identities. That’s not exclusive to sex workers. Furthermore, financial abuse is often a tactic used by abusers, especially ones of Rob Kardashian’s means, and we can’t ignore that he got even more generous with his gifting once she started leaving him. We can’t blame her for being pulled into a cycle of abuse, and we shouldn’t keep running score of what women and femmes receive in a relationship as a ledger of emotional and physical debt they owe to the provider, regardless of their occupation.

I first became aware of Blac Chyna when friends would tag me in posts of a trailer video for Kardshian and Chyna’s then-upcoming reality show, Rob and Chyna, in which Chyna screamed into her phone at Kardashian: “Are you still texting bitches, yes or no?!” It was supposed to illustrate how possessive and mentally unstable she was. All I saw was someone responding to a deep lack of trust in their relationship and obviously being emotionally tormented by their partner’s actions. I felt her pain and empathized with her reactive search for reassurance from the one causing it. Sis knew he was talking to other women as sexual interests and she had just lost her first child’s father, Tyga, to his pedophilic interest in her current partner’s teenage sister, Kendall Jenner. I didn’t see anything funny to laugh at in that trailer video.