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Hypothetical Sex Work Memoirs

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image via flickr user Brendan Riley

Beach season is upon us, which means it’s time to exploit the opportunity to read trashy books free of judgement. Gone are the days when it was protocol to leave ashtrays out for your houseguests, but you’d have to hide your copy of Valley of the Dolls. Nope, these days sexless secretaries commuting in pantyhose and sneakers can ride public transit proudly rocking a real (not Kindle) copy of Fifty Shades, because she’s advertising her deeply buried kinky side.

If a terribly-written BDSM novel by a layperson is at the top of the bestseller list, I’m thinking ACTUAL sex workers can do better; or we can simply indulge in penning one of these cheesy hypothetical sex worker reads (warning, political incorrectness to follow).

The Hooker Booker: Sympathetic tale of a former escort who is washed up and is now a phone madam.

From Slippers to Stripper: A clichéd downward spiral tale about a classically trained ballet dancer who started stripping.

Whore in Times of War: The exploits of a traveling prostitute who follows areas of conflict to service sex-starved military men and United Nations workers.

Phone Sex Train Wrecks: A collection of phone sex blooper transcripts.

Highbrow Hooker: The story of a well-bred WASP whose is left to her own devices when her family disowns her.

Gold Digger Pulls the Trigger: A wronged sugar baby gets the ultimate revenge on her deceitful “daddy.”

The Week in Links: August 12

The totally irrelevant cover of the New York Post, Wednesday, August 10

Melissa Petro (once deemed “hooker teacher” by the New York Post) responds to the Post‘s Wednesday headline.

Wendy Babcock, Toronto-based sex work activist and law student, passed away on Tuesday.

There are only five days left to donate to the SWAAY Epic Step billboard.

Irish sex workers rights organization Turn Off the Blue Light recently claimed victory in a dispute with Google. The group had paid for an advertisement with Google AdWords, but found that, beginning in May, people looking for their site through the search engine were instead diverted to anti-sex work campaign websites.

A patron at the Pretty Woman Lounge, a Detroit strip club, shot and killed a club employee after being denied admission.

Even though she turned down an offer from Vivid to appear in an adult movie, apparently most Americans still think Pippa Middleton is a porn star.

Three American pole dancers and one Argentinean took home top honors at the International Pole dancing Competition last weekend in Denver.

Lee Grace Dougherty and her two brothers, who allegedly shot a cop in Florida and robbed a bank in Georgia, were caught Wednesday morning in Colorado. Since Dougherty worked as a stripper in Cocoa Beach, some clever writers at the New York Post (perhaps the same ones who wrote the “stox” headline above?) were sure to make up puns about her “rack” in reporting the story.

Why You Shouldn’t Study Sex Workers

adontstudyThis is an edited version of a post originally published on Lime Jello’s blog autocannibal

Before I finished my B.A., I encountered a social worker who was working on her M.A. Her politics were generally pro-decriminalization, but she also liked to trade in horror stories about women whose vaginas fell out from having too much sex. She had secured the cooperation of a rescue organization that collaborated with police to be allowed to study their Very Marginalized Whores. She wanted my help nailing down her research question.

“Don’t do this study,” I said. “Find something else to research.”
“OMG why are you so mean?” was more or less her answer.

It does seem a bit mean, since in my first M.A., I studied sex work myself. But it’s for the good of everyone involved that I say this: don’t study sex work. Sure, there will be exceptions—someone out there will have something genuinely new to say on the topic that warrants the research. But academics…we all think we’re that Someone Special. The truth is that most of us aren’t. So let’s find something else to study.

Find Something Else to Study…

1. …because sex workers are human beings, with whole entire lives outside of their jobs.

Once upon a time, I took a couple of classes at a nearby Fortress of Smartitude. The environment was one of relentless bullying by an abolitionist professor, so it was an unhappy time for me, but matters were made worse by my other class. That professor, despite knowing that my interest was in communication and not sex work, pushed and pushed for me to do a “sex positive” project about sex work. After I submitted the first draft of the project I wanted to do, he wanted nothing to do with me. Relatedly, for months after I began my new grad program, my program director introduced me to people as a researcher of sex work—even though my research is on academics’ emotional labor. The point was received: once a whore, always a whore.

But not only are sex workers marked as always whores, they are also marked as only whores. People are truly surprised to learn that I do not plan to make a career out of researching sex work. What else could I possibly be interested in?

Sex work is often only researched in the context of the “empowerment v. exploitation” debate. Making sex work a “special” topic by taking it out of the context of the rest of the world is a way of dehumanizing sex workers. Only when we are seen as our jobs and nothing more can we be carved out of everyday life and marginalized as a field of study unto ourselves.

Peta Brady’s Ugly Mugs—An Analogy

(Photo by Julie Bates, via Jane Green and sexliesandducttape.)
(Photo by Julie Bates, via Jane Green and sexliesandducttape.)

As a writer, a former sex worker, and someone who has been quite vocal in my writing about the industry, I’ve been approached quite a number of times to write about the play Ugly Mugs by Peta Brady.

I’ve declined each time. Firstly, because I have not seen the play. I’ve only read about it online and read sex workers’ concerns about its content. Secondly, because I wondered how much I could really contribute after reading such powerful and articulate pieces by people such as Jane Green on the subject. But I was asked again, and this time I had just been on the phone to an old friend talking about an incident that happened many years ago. And something inside me clicked, something that made me feel compelled to tell my story.

When I was in high school I had a diary. Like most teenage girls’ diaries it was full of angst and bad poetry, interspersed with observations of the people and situations around me.

I was not a popular girl in school. I had been given the “slut” label very early on and it stuck. I guess, if you were using the vulgar base meaning of the word “slut,” I was one.

I ran around with boys. I liked getting their attention. I was not afraid of sex, sexuality, sexual pleasure, and sexual gratification. I masturbated as often as I could. I watched porn videos and read Playboy magazines.

I was very lucky that despite being shunned and shamed by the “popular kids,” I had a friend, a girl who was pretty much just like me, who shared my obsession with sex and sexuality.

My girlfriend and I would swap my diary back and forth and fill it with our own dirty stories, our fantasies about the different boys (and sometimes girls) that we knew. We would tell our deepest secrets and horniest stories to each other within those pages. We also used it as a way of communicating what others were saying about us. What the rumors were about which girls were going to “fight us” after school. Where they’d said they’d be “waiting for us.” Which boys to stay away from because they were the ones who ran around telling the rest of the school about the things we had done.

It was our little safe haven. Our solidarity. Our secret.

I’m not quite sure how it fell into the wrong hands. I think I had it in my bag at a sleepover party. I don’t know why I would have even taken it with me… but I did. And when I got home the next day I realized it was missing.

Kat’s 2011 Top 10 Stupid Headlines About Sex Work

10. Missouri Supreme Court to Strip Club Owners: “Tough Titties” Judges are always talking about boobs and shit. This is actually a big deal but who can resist a good pun, right? Sleaze To Meet You, too, journalists. I hate to break it to you, but you guys have been using the same puns to write about sex work since the beginning of time

9. Park Slope Adderall Ring Nets Stripper-Turned-Med Student / Bank Robbing Stripper And Brothers Caught After Car Chase, Gun Battle At what point do we get to be thought of as simply daughters, sisters, mothers, lovers, adderall-traffickers and bank robbers? Seriously, how does stripping still trump crime sprees? Why don’t we get to hear where the stripper’s loser brothers worked? I bet their employment histories would be interesting.

8. Mother Who Turns Her Life Around After Stripping Dies in Wreck See number 9.

7. How To Kiss A Stripper Without Getting Burned We haven’t had the energy to respond every time Complex used content about sex work to get traffic this year, although we did here and here. (Want to be more irritated? You’re welcome.) This was a bad one though. Yes, watch out for those complimentary French kisses that come with every lapdance. If you want to know how Herpes simplex originated, imagine a Contagion-style montage that leads back to a stripper locking lips with a monkey who then gestures that he left his wallet in his other vest and gets kicked out by the bouncers.