Home The Week in Links The Week In Links—September 20th

The Week In Links—September 20th

The "Peep Show" section of Lauren Mccubbin's large-scale installation art project on the lives of sex workers, A Monument to the Risen, in which viewers put coins into a slot in order to watch video interviews with sex workers. Audacia Ray is on the screen in this photo. (Photo via artist's website)
The “Peep Show” section of Lauren Mccubbin’s large-scale installation art project on the lives of sex workers, A Monument to the Risen, in which viewers put coins into a slot in order to watch video interviews with sex workers. The Red Umbrella Project’s Audacia Ray’s interview is playing in this photo. (Photo via artist’s website)

Amy Paul, an Ottawa sex worker, was found murdered in a local hay field this Tuesday after her family reported her missing on September 9th. Meanwhile, Amber Smith, another local sex worker who was reported missing two days after Paul, was found safe.

SWOP-NYC and SWANK challenge Sudhur Venkatesh’s fallacious “research” on sex work, in which he claims, among other things, “that sex workers ‘always’ carry ‘extra panties’ with them to sell to men as souvenirs and that escorts ‘keep working to pay for clothes and shoes’ even though they are ‘beaten, twice a year on average. ‘ ” Too bad respectable publications like Mother Jones and the Guardian were all too ready to swallow all this absurdity.

New York strip club Rick’s Cabaret dancers won a four year battle for minimum wage in federal court.

Studio 360 interviews Jill Soloway on her movie Afternoon Delight, in which a stay-at-home mom takes the stripper who gives her a private dance home to be her nanny: “Men know not to take strippers home, but women don’t.” Melissa Gira Grant comments wryly on Twitter: “My alt.chick movie: jaded sex worker befriends hipster housewife, feels again, commits to rescue her from marriage.”

Kitty Stryker, Tracy Quan, and the founder of Seekingarrangement.com talk sugarbabying to pay for college on HuffPo Live.

Fox okayed the pilot for a TV drama, The Whole Shebang, produced by Jennifer Garner, in which a soccer mom inherits a run down male strip club. We’re wincing in vicarious embarrassment already.

Spolia Magazine interviews long time sex worker ally artist Lauren Mccubbin about Monuments to the Risen, her large-scale art installation concerning the lives of sex workers. The interviewer actually asks her if she’s seen “Lovelace.”

The three Kink.com performers who tested positive for HIV this month, Cameron Bay, Rod Daily, and an unidentified third performer, called for condom use in porn. The Huffington Post interviewed Bay in an exclusive about disturbing experiences she had on the Kink.com set.

Cardiff police want to “tackle” street sex work, whatever that means. The only concrete measure we could identify from reading this BBC article was the the idea to “divert street sex work/prostitution into non-residential areas to reduce the impact on residential neighbourhoods.”

A new poll found that 60% of Canadian men approve of decriminalizing prostitution, compared to just 38% of women. The survey also reported that support for decriminalized prostitution was higher among all Canadians over the age of 35 — much higher than the 18- to 34-year-olds. “Sort of runs counter to the popular perception of a liberal youth growing more conservative as they age, doesn’t it?” The St Catherine’s Standard opinion columnist muses.

In the Indian city of Madurai, trans women despair of succeeding in business after retiring from sex work because of the wide-spread discrimination against them.

A Swedish pub was cleared of discrimination charges after bouncers denied entry to several Asian women in what owners claimed was an attempt to cut down on prostitution.

A study including of 195 participants quite justifiably claims to be  “First Ever Survey of Irish Indoor Sex Workers.”

A Fair Observer profile examines incomplete legalization of full service sex work in Germany, and notes how it has reduced violence against sex workers.

The Scholar & Feminist Online features a photovoice project by ten women sex workers in South Korea’s Yongsan red-light district, an area targeted for demolition. Photovoice is a form of participatory photography in which the subjects themselves generate photographic works as a form of social commentary.

South African newspaper the Daily Maverick profiles the life of Leigh, a Muslim trans sex worker.

Prostitution scandals are used as a political football in a Senate scuffle over Obamacare.




  1. Laughing at Sudhur Venkatesh’s research. I’m probably not buying enough shoes. Rent takes up my shoe-shopping income. Gotta have a walk-in closet for everything! Including all those extra panties I don’t sell because I don’t carry them with me (clearly I’m missing opportunities for an upsell).

    On a serious note, since I’ve never been beaten by a client, I have to wonder if someone likes him thinks I’m an anomaly or if my twice a year beatings are going to some other poor girl instead. The thought that I am supposed to earn a set amount of violence every year is disturbing.

    • Yeah, the “extra panties” bit was hilarious. This bit from the Guardian review of his book is also funny:

      “But again and again Venkatesh’s “failure” to produce formal research aids the book. He finds the process of interviewing prostitutes’ clients difficult because “their loneliness was my loneliness”.”

      Uh, dude, I don’t have time to be lonely. If you are lonely, that’s your problem.

  2. 195 is a huge number for sex work studies, and this was the first ever study of sex workers in Ireland. Given the fact they face an extreme version of the nordic model, its a pity that you seem so snarly about this attempt to let sex workers be heard in a country that is silencing them.

    • I am all for any small step in the right direction, but they’re blowing smoke if they’re saying that less than 200 people are a substantive portion of the sex worker population in Ireland. What I guess I’m saying, ultimately, is that we need more to fight the encroachments of the Nordic Model.

      • It depends on what you mean by a “substantive portion”. It’s nowhere near a majority, but as a sample size in a study, it should certainly be sufficient to give a decent overview of the escort sector in Ireland. We’re a small country and there’s no reason to believe that sector is too big for 195 to be a meaningful sample. Suzanne Jenkins’s landmark PhD study of escorts, Beyond Gender, only had 483 respondents and that was global in scope.

        The one thing I would take issue with is the description of it as the FIRST study of Irish indoor workers. There have been previous, but most are unpublished and/or only involved a very small number ( <15 or so).

      • Ireland has a population of 3.5 million, and sex workers are fewer in number there than in neighbouring countries. In a country where sex, never mind sex work, is heavily stigmatised, regulated and controlled, even 195 participants is actually something of a coup. I can’t comment on the wider applicability of the data set or the sample, but for Ireland it’s practically a groundbreaking study simply by virtue of having happened.

    • it made a series of interesting findings besides the victims of crime number
      62% said that they suffered long term anxiety after being victims of crime
      50% are between 25 and 34 years of age
      76% began between the ages of 18 and 24, while only 6.8% reported beginning before the age of 18.
      75% had some college or university education
      27% said it was a secondary income
      97% worked for themselves and kept all their earnings
      30% saw between 11 and 20 clients in a week, while 28% saw between 6 and 10.
      76% said they never drank alcohol while working and 93% said they never used drugs.
      I suspect that the first statistic will be immediately conflate “victim of crime” with “assault”, then “sexual assault” will follow shortly, and then, practically immediately, all of the other numbers will be completely discounted.

  3. “A new poll found that 60% of Canadian men approve of decriminalizing prostitution, compared to just 38% of women. The survey also reported that support for decriminalized prostitution was higher among all Canadians over the age of 35 — much higher than the 18- to 34-year-olds. “Sort of runs counter to the popular perception of a liberal youth growing more conservative as they age, doesn’t it?” The St Catherine’s Standard opinion columnist muses.”
    The idea that this might have something to do with conservative vs. liberal politics when social + electoral politics of all stripes are so uniformly anti-sex work is kind of ridiculous. It seems to be the very simple politics of self-interest here. Older men are more likely to be participating in the sex trade as buyers than women of any age are to be participating in any respect.

    I also wanted to comment on the Kink.com story as someone who worked for them once and then vowed to never do it again. Kink has gotten a reputation for being a progressive porn company based mostly on their marketing + community involvement– which they do because it helps them avoid censorship, prosecution, eviction, community outrage + various other forms of social + legal censure. Again, it’s a matter of self-interest. The way they treat their workers has never lived up to their progressive public image. They’ve always put profits over workers’ well-being, and it’s bizarre to me that people in the BDSM + sex worker communities seem shocked again + again when this stuff comes out (not that anyone seemed shocked here, just in general). They’re a massive company in one of the shadiest industries; of *course* they’re gonna put profit first.

    • Yeah, we’ve covered a lot of stories in the WIL before about the labor abuses Kink.com’s been guilty of. I’m really confused about the condom issue now. At first, I felt like since what seemed to be a majority of porn performers were against Measure B, I should stand with them in solidarity. But now, whatwith some of the disgusting anti-intersectional things Hartley, the Free Speech Coalition’s poster girl, said in her kinky.com article, and with Bay and Daily’s plea to the porn world, I think all performers should have the option to use a condom, even if they shouldn’t be made mandatory industry wide.

      • Thanks to the links here, I spent some time reading about the HIV cases and it was heart-breaking. This reminds me so much of the NV brothels. They view testing as the be-all, end-all to disease prevention, whereas the brothel workers themselves had to push for condom use (in the 80s). While condom use is now mandatory in the brothels but not in porn, I’m wondering when the actors in porn will push for mandatory usage. (Brothels seem to be the only comparable situation to porn in the US, which is why I’m using them as an example.)

        One performer stated he got 3 STIs in his first month of work. Shocking and disturbing. So many non-porn sex workers can work for YEARS without getting a single STI. I can’t speak for porn since I’m not even remotely involved, but as a sex worker it seems that the industry needs to change. It’s not protecting the workers. I hope to see more stories from porn actors and hope they can create the change they need (whatever that ultimately might be).

        • But it is very hard to even just get the basic facts straight.

          For instance, at that news conference the other day, it appeared that 6 people were presented that got HIV from a porn set. But if you go to other sites–such as Salon, which posted a great article about this yesterday–you will see that actually probably only one of those six got HIV from a porn shoot. And the performer with the 3 STIs you mention, well, people have been talking about him and criticizing him for a long time, pointing out his many apparent lies. Here is some of that criticism:

          Also, the author of the HP piece linked to above has been heavily criticized for the narrative she sets up of Cameron Bay as being an innocent victim of porn and for getting even the most basic facts wrong. The second sentence, for example, says: “a few months ago, she performed in her first-ever porn scene.” Uh, no. She did her first porn scene a few years ago, in 2010. There is criticism of that HP writer here:

          So, again, we should make sure we know what the basic facts are.

          • JR — A site that outs sex workers because they feel entitled to access databases put there for worker safety (disease-testing and age verification). That should be enough expansion for you.

          • Thanks, Caty, for the link. I had read that article, but wasn’t aware that it mentioned the same site I linked to.

            Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with the point I was making. Again, 6 people were presented at that news conference as if they had all gotten HIV from a porn set. Many simply accepted that as the truth. Many accepted HP’s reporting that Cameron Bay did her first porn scene in July of this year. As I said, you don’t have to go to pornwikileaks to find criticism and what appears to more closely resemble the facts. You can go to Salon.

          • Note that there’s a difference between Porn WikiLeaks (which used information stolen from STI testing databases to out sex workers and is down now) and TRPWL, which is just capitalizing on that name to talk gossip about the porn + cam industries, sometimes outing workers in the process. Both of them suck.

    • As a very kinky person who has paid for kink.com porn in the past and thought that I could feel good about it because of how they claimed to treat their performers, I am disappointed to learn that I was wrong.

      This sucks. I wonder why I wanted to believe that kink.com was a progressive worker-friendly company, when in general I am completely skeptical of any other (non-co-op) corporation making similar claims. Yeah, I’m basically in the Karl Marx fan club. I guess I just believed in kink.com and didn’t do research because…well, I wanted to believe it was true.

      I’ll investigate this further and be more critical in the future.

      But in the meantime, what’s a girl to do? I don’t watch much porn at all, but is there any out there that I can view without feeling guilty?

      And God, remind me not to read the fucking comments in any news article about porn performers. People are so fucking mean. The actors got HIV and granted interviews about it and then a bunch of douche canoes in the comments crack jokes and moralize and say that they got what was coming to them. Would it really kill someone to say “I’m sorry that happened to you and I hope that you can get the health care you will need?” Fuck!

      • You’re not at all alone in this–I’ve heard a lot of people saying that they really wanted to buy into the Kink.com ethos and now they curse their enjoyment of the porn.

        Ughhh, comments on any article on sex work on a mainstream site are serious threats to our mental health.

  4. PS: Have read Nina Hartley’s essay on Kinky.com. I have to wonder about the hierarchy in porn. I know one exists — it’s obvious — but I’d love to hear some porn actors talk about this and how it affects their work and their safety.

    • My computer said the site was possibly infected/risky so I couldn’t read the kinky article, but I heard some odd things about it like her claiming there was no injection drug use among porn performers and stating that condoms don’t help prevent gonnorhea (sp) or chlamydia.

      • There were a number of what I thought were discrepancies, including what you state. Like her claiming condoms fall apart while ruining a woman’s pussy if she uses them for sex for more than 2hrs (not true in my experience — lube is a god-send, but Hartley has had way more sex than I). She claims that natural sex is so much better (it sure feels better), but I also know from experience that you can tear yourself up with friction if there isn’t enough lube. Friction is friction, whether it comes from skin or latex (polyurethane seems to create less friction than latex). She also claims AIDS has only been around for about 40 years, when Elizabeth Pisani states it’s more like 100. She states that there have only been about 3 cases of HIV in the porn industry when I could swear there have been more outbreaks and victims reported in the last several years. She doesn’t discuss the numbers of non-HIV STIs porn actors suffer. She discusses the testing they undergo, which is about to go onto a 2wk cycle, almost like brothels. Speaking of brothels, she mentioned they don’t test for Hep C and herpes. I could be wrong, but I think Belladonna has talked about the herpes epidemic in porn.

        I’m hoping T&S can get a roundtable of porn actors to discuss their concerns. I think it’s fairly obvious that newcomers don’t have the power to ensure their safety that someone like Nina does. I feel like there is a problem with porn that needs to be addressed, one way or another. Sex work doesn’t have to ruin your health or take your life.

  5. I’m a fairly new performer in porn, but I have some insight into this. There’s not a lot of confirmed facts, but from what I hear: None of the 3 HIV+ people actually got the virus on set. And the 4th, most people think was just someone the AIDS Health Foundation made up. Apparently they’ve done that before.

    Condoms are a choice already. The problem is, there are so few companies that shoot with condoms. So you can feel free to shoot only with condom companies, but you’re just not going to get a lot of work. In my opinion, the only possible way mandatory condom laws would ever work is if it’s US-wide, and actually enforced. Because it’s not enforced now, so no one listens, and if it was they’d just move cities. Unlikely they’d move out of the country though, so in my opinion that’d be the only way to get condoms in porn.

    The last on-set HIV transmission was about 9 years ago, that’s true. There’ve been performers who’ve caught HIV, the test showed that, but didn’t transmit on-set, such is the case now. However, other STDs are quite common.


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