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When Exotic Dance Costumes Were Actually Costumes

When I came across (on tumblr) this old photo of a proud stripper, showing off her turquoise fringe satin jacket and the matching chaps that bare her French-cut tan lines, I had to know where and who it came from. These days, Rhonda B-Chaparro, aka Odd Artist, works more with melting and painting found plastic objects, but she used to have a business sewing exotic dance costumes.

Is The Customer Always Right? On Professionalism and Boundaries, Part 1

summer-august-lazy-work-seasonal-ecards-someecardsBelow, four in-person sex working professionals discuss how to maintain boundaries while keeping clients happy, the most common problems that cause conflicts with customers, and what they think professionalism means in the context of a career plagued by stigma and illegality. Part two will be posted tomorrow. The women weighing in are Lori Adorable, Amanda Brooks1, Charlotte Shane, and Tizzy Wall.2

Charlotte: Sex work is very much my primary career, so I tend to think of it as I would any other personal service job, meaning I want a client to “get his money’s worth.” I want him to have the experience he wants to have. But I’ve also developed a pretty strong sense of boundaries over the years, and there are a lot of things I don’t allow and wouldn’t be willing to do no matter how much a client complains or cajoles. Do you think about your work in terms of satisfying the client? How do you negotiate that “the client is always right” mentality (yours or theirs!) with your own boundaries and preferred way of doing things?

Amanda: I’ve never felt I had to do anything the client or strip club customer wanted just because they were paying me. Quite the opposite. (I guess this means I have an “attitude”). However, I do feel they’re paying me to have a good time or have a need met. I consider it my job to give them my full attention and find a way to make them happy. I like making clients happy because it pleases me and offers personal satisfaction in my work. By “happy,” I don’t mean I do everything they’ve ever dreamed of. There’s always a middle ground.

Of course there have been times when I’ve shut off that inner voice and allowed a boundary to be pushed because of the money — but it always snaps back into place naturally, damn the consequences. I’m not someone who responds well to being told what to do or having my sense of privacy invaded. Add my stubborn refusal to fake it and it becomes a real mess, especially when I end up doing something I really don’t want (like have sex) just because I know it’s expected. Not to derail this into issues of consent; this is about personal satisfaction and playing a particular role that doesn’t fit me as well as it used to. As most service-industry workers probably feel, the less happy I am, the more I should be paid.

Smell Ya Later: Pheromone Perfume in the Strip Club

When it comes to perfume at the strip club, most strippers usually fall into one of two camps. There’s the Calgon body spray I’m-not-even-going-to-try types, and then there are those who swear by their Pink Sugar/Kim Kardashian/Viva La Juicy I-can’t-believe-she-stole-my-signature-scent-even-though-it’s-readily-available-at-Nordstrom variety. Really, an exotic dancer’s fragrance need only be subtle enough not to give her customers away as soon as they step through their front doors.

Or could a perfume be subtle enough to prey upon a man’s animal instincts and rake in a ton of cash as a result? Pheromone lotions, perfumes, and massage oil are readily available now; even Paris Hilton’s signature scent boasts a special secret pheromone ingredient. What if we can spend less time chatting up customers and let them follow their noses to the champagne room instead? Is this pseudoscience or a viable way to start earning more? Kat and Catherine decided to leave off the cucumber melon for a few weeks in order to test this craze out. You really couldn’t ask for a better environment to experiment on unsuspecting male subjects than the strip club.

The Name Game: Privacy in the Cyber Age

The pseudonym is perhaps one of the most titillating aspects of sex work. Non-sex workers are intrigued by the names we choose to define our personas; there are a million little devices to help them even create their own hypothetical sex worker name. Names can seem insignificant or interchangeable, but over time they become such an intensely personal, integral part of a worker’s identity. Sex work is already taboo, so picking a name has limitless bounds—we can come up with the most absurd, unconventional, socially unacceptable creation. No wonder civilians are so captivated; we get the opportunity to let our freak flag fly high and call it whatever the fuck we want.

It’s a common misconception that sex workers operate under different names because we’re ashamed of our work. The issue comes up even more as sex workers have carved out a space in the world of social media. Since many types of sex work are illegal, sex work (hell, even sex blogging) carries a huge stigma, and most of us would like to create a space where our clients can’t track down our parents or partners. Creating a fantasy is part of our job description; we may be a client’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean we stop having private lives.

Post-SESTA/FOSTA Self-Censoring for Twitter, Reddit, and other Social Media

In the immediate aftermath of SESTA/FOSTA passing, before it’s even been signed into law, we’re already seeing discussion of sex work on the internet hit.

Some companies, like Patreon, seem to have preemptively changed their policies last year while the legislation was being written. Others have started publicly changing their policies today and it should be expected they won’t be the last. Cityvibe, an advertising site that mostly concentrated on LA, is down in the last 24 hours. (Eds. note: since the writing of this article, TER has restructured, and Craigslist has removed its personals section.Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer just left the company, as well, which means we’re going to see a new direction in that department.

On Reddit, after the site posted new policy updates, here’s a message that was sent to moderators of r/SexWork, an important educational and harm reduction discussion forum:

What does “zero tolerance” mean? No one really knows. What is clear is that sites like Reddit will try to unload their responsibility to comply with this law onto users and volunteer moderators. Though paid Reddit admins can remove posts themselves, Reddit is instead threatening an entire community with closure if they ever miss a post Reddit determines to be over the line.

I have to say, at least, that it’s nice they even reached out. Reddit has already closed r/escorts, r/Hookers, r/MaleEscorts, and r/SugarDaddy, among others.

Some tech companies may hold out until there’s legal action taken against them, but I can’t imagine any company wants to be the first.

So. What can you do? Right now, most users on these sites are a in the dark with no clear path forward. A social media site can shut down your account whenever they want, for any reason, with no recourse or appeal. The First Amendment implications of this are still untested.

One measure people have discussed is self-censoring your profile. This is a shitty thing to have to consider, but it IS possible keywords could be used to decide what profiles are “risky” to flag for removal.

I can’t decide for you if removing your old tweets is worth your time. It’s possible this could matter a lot. It’s possible it won’t matter at all. For some people, old tweets have sentimental or historical value, while for others removing them could be a serious matter of safety.

Self-censoring is an unfortunate thing to have to resort to, but I believe right now it’s most important to maintain our networks and followers. Deleting your account is doing the dirty work for the tech companies – you may be able to avoid losing your account so you can continue participating in the community and being involved in a broader political discussion.

If you decide to delete tweets, there are a few ways to do it. This guide will be based on using a desktop or laptop and not a cell phone, since some of these features are not available on phone.

There’s an app called TweetEraser that offers a service to search and delete tweets in bulk. (Eds. note: Some people have also recommended an application called ShameEraser.)

You’ll have to sign up by linking your Twitter and authorizing it within the app. The initial load of tweets can take a really long time, but then you should be able to search for terms fairly easily. Here’s what it looks like: