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The Maine Millennial: The Charming Columnist that Casually Understands that Sex Work is Labor

Victoria-Hugo Vidal, the Maine Millennial

Stormy Daniels’ Make America Horny Again is the tour that won’t stop—as she chugs from city to city, local coverage follows. Dozens of cities later, the coverage of her tour is getting a bit formulaic.

Here’s the formula local writers tend to use when covering a Stormy appearance:

cursory explanation of Stormy’s newsworthiness + ironic description of the strip club’s interior + sarcastic line about how this performance’s audience is more sophisticated than the average strip club patrons + the writer self-congratulates for supporting a porn worker + isn’t 2018 crazy?!?!

Which brings me to Victoria Hugo-Vidal, AKA The Maine Millennial, whose Sunday column in the Portland Press Herald on Stormy’s appearance at PT’s Showclub stuck to the formula while surprising me with its earnest description of sex work as labor and unabashed enthusiasm for strippers, but none of the snark. I was so tickled that I had to e-mail her.

Who is the Maine Millenial? What’s the gist of your column?

The Portland Press Herald is the largest daily newspaper in Maine. My column, which runs every Sunday, provides a youth’s-eye view of things in the state of Maine (which currently has the oldest median age in America…please help) and, occasionally, the nation. I was originally hired to be a funny breath of fresh air, but the editors made the mistake of giving me creative control, so I also talk about my recovery from alcoholism and the ongoing grief over the death of my father.

Had you done any research before going to see Stormy Daniels? Did you read coverage by other writers?

I have been following her on Twitter and Instagram and have read all the articles on her that I could find—so I knew to expect the red, white, and blue sequins as part of her act. I also tried to do research on what going to a strip club would entail, but there isn’t really a FAQ article for “how to go to a strip club for the first time for a political-ish performance when you are a twentysomething sober woman and also one of the dancers may have gone to high school with your little brother but you aren’t exactly sure.” I did remember to bring a lot of cash and to dispense it generously to all the dancers. So I think I at least did that part right.

You wrote, “I guess I thought maybe the strip club would feel skeevy and exploitative, and maybe sometimes it does, but on this night, I felt surprisingly comfortable.” Is there a reason you thought strip clubs would feel “skeevy and uncomfortable”? You covered it a bit in your story, but can you expound a bit on why you found PT’s Showclub surprisingly comfortable?

My editor wanted me to specifically address the dichotomy about being a young woman in a place that makes money off of young women’s bodies and attention; he figured that most of our readers have never gone to a strip club before and would be worried about that. Also, I’m a very strong feminist, which my readers probably have realized after almost a year’s worth of my columns (I think the one about taxing Viagra to pay for free tampons was the big clue for them), and he thought readers would want me to point out, even in a roundabout way, that strip clubs (and sex work in general) is seen as exploitative. Also, PT’s, in particular, has a sketchy local reputation—someone got stabbed in the parking lot last year.

The club itself was surprisingly comfortable mostly because the crowd was very mixed—I assume largely due to the Stormy Factor —and also because I had a friend with me (teamwork makes the dream work, guys, it really does). There was also a large lesbian contingent that night and I just tend to feel more comfortable knowing I’m not the only queer woman in the room. (Not to mention the club’s prominent security guys.)

Who are some of your favorite women “hustlers,” besides Stormy Daniels?

CARDI B. Cardi is my absolute hero. Also my grandmother, who went from being a single mother of three living in her mom’s house in rural New York in the early 1970s and who, through teaching herself personal finance and investment strategy, as well as some extreme couponing, went on to put all three of her kids through college and retire happily ever after to a comfortable middle-class life. RIP the OG.

What are your thoughts on Michael Avenatti floating a presidential bid?

I’m not sure how successful he will be, but I agree with most of the policy positions he has stated, and as a lawyer, he’s got more qualification than the current occupant of the Oval Office. Plus, his jawline just screams “presidential.”

From a reader: Are you bisexual?

I am so bisexual that today I am literally wearing socks with rainbow unicorns on them. This is not fake news; I can provide photographic evidence.

From another reader, referencing the column: I want to know what the difference between working and performing is. The girls on shift were working, not performing? Is the performance not work? Or did Stormy just manage to hide the effort put into her work better?

Reader makes a good point. All the girls on shift were both working and performing (boy were they ever); the performance was certainly work and the club was their workspace. Stormy was probably able to hide the effort put into the work better, especially since she was a guest performer and was only on her feet dancing for a few minutes (as opposed to a whole shift) but she had another level of showmanship to her. This is a woman who was clearly born for the spotlight—in person, your eyes are just drawn to her. She was just incredibly charismatic; there was something about her vibe that was more lighthearted than the other dancers. It was a little hard to describe (as auras often are). Maybe she was just happy because she knows something that we don’t….

Michael Kimmel, #MeTooSociology, and Feminist Betrayal of Sex Workers In Academia

I’ve made an entire alter ego out of the things people hate most about women: bodily autonomy and self-determination in the form of sex work and body modifications, among other things. The recent allegations against prominent sociologist Michael Kimmel, a man known for his scholarship on masculinity and masculine entitlement, unveil the things people love most about women—complicity in the form of apologetics and silence, among other things.

As a former sex worker and sociologist, the allegations against Kimmel sent me spiraling in ways I did not anticipate, and not just because I have repeatedly experienced sexual harassment in my academic career. I am particularly revolted by the allegations against Kimmel because I disavowed my hard-earned sex worker gut feeling in order to elevate his career.

The lauding of Kimmel as a feminist hero and the white, cis women who still defend him, are particular kinds of institutional, personal, and professional betrayals. Black feminist sociologists like Patricia Hill Collins have, for years, pointed to the “insider within” position of marginalized people, explaining how social, racial, and sexual marginalization contributes to a clearer vision of society (a fish doesn’t know it’s in water, after all).

Despite my sex worker red flags going off every time I used to show Kimmel’s TEDTalk in the college classes I teach, titled Why Gender Equality is Good for Men, I’ve used his work for years. I’ve assigned his books. I’ve suggested him for paid lecturing gigs. More than anything, that’s how the “game” of academia works—in order to succeed, one must deny the knowledge gained as an “insider within.” Having played the game of sex work and the game of academia for quite some time, I always suspected that Kimmel was the kind of man who’d believe that fucking him was its own form of liberation. But I pushed that feeling to the side because YAY FEMINISM!

The allegations against Kimmel produced the hashtag #MeTooSociology, which is teeming with horror stories of sexual assault in higher education. Relatedly, after experiencing sexual harassment as an undergraduate and graduate student, I decided to do my Ph.D. dissertation on the sexual harassment that sex working femmes in academia experience.

In my dissertation, I interviewed 20 sex workers who were either students or faculty at an accredited university in the U.S. or U.K. Every single one experienced unwanted sexual attention in intellectual spaces—classrooms, offices, conferences, etc.—because of the lingering perception that sex workers are perpetually available. I also included my own experiences in academia as a once current, now former sex worker. I have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, and propositioned by no less than nine cis men in academic positions of power.

Fundraisers For Sex Workers Struggling Post-SESTA

Editor’s note: Inclusion on this list does not indicate that Tits and Sass is endorsing a particular fund.

Newwhoreizons is “a wealth redistribution club by [sex workers] for [sex workers].” $newwhoreizons on cash.me to donate, newwhoreizons on a private Instagram account for information—DM to request to join the club or ask for help.

Lysistrata is a member-led sex worker fundraising collective which originally formed after the Backpage adult ad closures. They maintain a standing emergency fund for marginalized sex workers as well as promoting and signal boosting individual fundraisers and events. You can donate on Paypal, Venmo, squarecash, or directly through their website. They also have a monthly donation option. You can request emergency assistance over email at lysistratamccf@gmail.com.

Note: Both the organizations above have stated that they are currently receiving more requests for help than donations.

The Black Sex Worker Collective is hosting its first community strategy meeting this coming Saturday, April 15th. Non-Black workers may attend as long as they don’t take up space and make sure to allow Black sex workers to speak and lead. You can donate to the collective here, tax-free through their fiscal sponsor Project Prosper.

CUSP in Alaska is raising money for street outreach supplies to help the many Anchorage workers who’ve been driven into street-based work since this SESTA-fueled series of ad platform closures. They’re going to start a needs-assessment program, and if they receive enough money, they will be expanding their efforts into subsidizing workers’ phone bills.

The Third Wave Foundation is starting a cross-class, multiracial, intergenerational giving circle for women, queer, and trans people with experience in the sex trade to raise money for sex worker-led organizations. Third Wave is framing this as a response to silence from the funding community in general to the passage of SESTA. Participation in the first round of the giving circle will be confined to the NYC area and the deadline for application is April 15th. They are specifically encouraging people of color as well as working class and low-income people to apply for these stipended fellowships. The circle will begin with $150K already raised and fundraise from there—it looks like a promising way for low-income and marginalized sex workers to access philanthropic resources.

As you can see, this list is a bit thin so far. Readers, feel free to link any other fundraisers you’re aware of for sex workers hit hard by SESTA in the comments. 

 

 

It’s our 2018 call for pitches!!!

This picture is a pitcher pitching a pitcher because we’d like to emphasize that we want your pitches.

Happy New Year, readers! Per usual, we are taking our January hiatus—-just a small break from publishing while we do a little site maintenance. Tits and Sass wouldn’t exist without you, so perhaps considering resolving to write something this year?

We’re soliciting for your pitches! New writers, please familiarize yourselves with our contributors’ guidelines. A gentle warning: first time writers are usually edited rigorously (but kindly!). E-mail your pitches to info@titsandsass.com.

As usual, pitches from workers who are of color, trans, and/or genderqueer will always be prioritized, but don’t feel pigeonholed into writing on topics of identity. We know you’re experts on a wide variety of topics.

We love pop culture and media analysis, takes on breaking sex worker news, event coverage, and essays that illustrate the way the personal is political. We’re less keen on hyper-personal narratives but exceptions are sometimes made for the truly extraordinary. Pitch us almost anything you want, but listed below are a some specific topics we’re always looking for.

Porn workers: you didn’t get nearly enough coverage in 2018. We want to hear from you—-particularly about the ways your industry is both influencing and being shaped by the tech industry.

Sex working in the Trump administration: Has a second gone by when you aren’t reminded that Donald Trump is president? What are the sex worker angles? Migrant workers, we want to hear from you on how you’re navigating this especially hostile landscape and what other sex workers can do to help.

Movie, book, and television reviews: Vanity Fair said that the past year was a great one for sex worker portrayals in entertainment. What say you? We generally prefer reviews of entertainment that’s fairly current, but older material isn’t off the table.

The newest trends in criminalization we should watch out for: How are law, policy, and anti-trafficking discourse being leveraged against us black and grey market workers in this new year, and how are we adapting and resisting?

Survival workers and trafficking survivors: We want to make Tits and Sass accessible to your analyses and perspectives, so often shut out of the sex workers’ rights movement. Tell us what you’re thinking about and what issues are relevant to you.

Naked Music Monday: This column’s only parameter is that it must have some music. Write us the perfect playlist for a session or strip club shift. Is your favorite artists latest single sex work adjacent? Analyze it for us. In the past, writers have covered Cardi B and Beyoncé plus pole dancing with Bruno Mars, given us inspirational playlists and endorsed art haus indie for a session.

Support Hos: Does a sex working character on your favorite TV show warrant a closer inspection?

Activist Spotlight: Americans workers, show us who’s doing the work on ground in your area.

Don’t forget, if you need advice, we have some irregular advice columns. E-mail Dear Tits and Sass for any of your general sex work inquiries.  If you need advice about making a risky decision as safe as possible, send that to Ms. Harm Reduction.