March 10, 2008

“Have you been a whore?”

That is a question I was asked in the process of being vetted for Live with Dan Abrams, a show on MSNBC that airs tonight – a show I won’t be appearing on.

You’ve probably heard about the Eliot Spitzer trafficking/hiring of a prostitute debacle by now, and it’s not going end with his resignation – Spitzer will likely be brought up on criminal charges, because his encounters included paying a woman to cross state lines, which is trafficking.

And so, in sex worker rights circles as well as in Albany, the emails are flying! Everyone’s trying to figure out what statement to make, how to respond to media requests, all that.

The MSNBC request came through Seal Press, the publisher of Naked on the Internet. I said I would talk to the show’s producer and possibly do the show if I could talk about sex worker rights, politics, and trafficking. They were casting for someone who had been a sex worker to talk about the mechanics of hiring a prostitute, and the producer I talked to point blank asked me the question that is the title of this post, though then he quickly backtracked and said, “I’m sorry if I’m not using the right terminology,” and I told him that no indeed he was not. When asked if I have had sex for money, I told him I had been a fetish worker and sensual masseuse (I’ve briefly been an escort too, though for a fraction of the time of the other jobs) – which seemed to disappoint him, and he said things like, “So you weren’t a real… you didn’t have sex…”

MSNBC was only interested in having a woman who had been a prostitute talk about the mechanics of hiring a sex worker – a little salacious how-to on national television, gotta love it. They told me flat out that they weren’t interested in discussing the political interests of sex workers or the issues around sex trafficking as it is today. And while I am not ashamed that I was a sex worker, and I know sound bites are short and cannot be anywhere near as complicated as my shit it, I don’t want to be MSNBC’s whore on television. It does nothing for me personally and nothing for the movement I’m part of for me to be boiled down to the essence of “will fuck for cash. here’s how.”

And because they are awesome and feminist, my publicist at Seal Press also wrote back to the folks at MSNBC and called them on using the word whore at me. So it’s good to have back up. I’m pissed but not surprised by the words thrown around by the MSNBC producer – the folks at Seal seemed much more perturbed than I was about it. Unfortunately, it’s par for the course. Being an author, filmmaker (albeit pornographer), curator, and having a masters from an Ivy League school all dissolves when the media knows you’re a whore.

Though I feel 100% awesome about having turned this request down, the slight guilt I feel is that the perspective of sex workers won’t be represented in this story. I mean, if I were on the show, our perspective wouldn’t really be represented either, who am I kidding. But it’s frustrating – news shows cast for a role they want played. And if you won’t play that role, you don’t get the part.

26 Comments on ““Have you been a whore?””

1

[…] MSNBC want to porn up their coverage of the Spitzer scandal NOT by reporting the news, but by offeri… […]

2
Marcello
3.10.08
8:12 pm

Bravo for turning them down, and you are blessed to have publishers that stood up for you.

3
libby
3.10.08
8:54 pm

nice move.

4
Amber
3.10.08
9:30 pm

Holy shit dude.

What the fuck is WRONG with people??

(And why am I still surprised?)

When I get time (hopefully tomorrow – fingers crossed) I’m going to blog about all this kind of shit.

5

[…] Read Dacia’s full post here. […]

6
j. brotherlove
3.10.08
10:53 pm

How insulting and irresponsible of MSNBC!

I know I shouldn’t be surprised but as recently as yesterday I sat in a panel with Zoe Margolis, Violet Blue and others and got my head blown apart listening to how the media treats women who write about, or engage in, sex (both as a lifestyle or livelihood). It’s unacceptable!

Congratulations on you and your publisher for denying the request of media-pimp MSNBC and calling them to task.

7
Anthony Kennerson
3.10.08
10:56 pm

Absolute props to you, Dacia, for not falling for that bait and becoming a foil for those fools.

In the end, these folks are not in any way interested in the real issues of real people who do sex work; they are only interesting in exploiting the tittilation for instant ratings and the usual moral preening.

It is unfortunate that a genuine sex worker’s voice won’t be represented..but that’s not your fault for that, Dacia; they simply won’t allow that kind of voice to be heard.

I’ll bet you a case of PowerAde, though, that Gail Dines and the antiporn/antiprostitution “feminists” will be the first to get full publicity….and they will be pushing the “punish the evol MEN with the ‘Swedish model'” line right aside the right-wing moralist Repubs with their own “See, them liberal Democrats are corrupting us!!” memes.

Why does this sound like a Karl Rove dirty trick to distract attention from Dubya’s 19% rating, BTW??

Anthony

8

[…] on Fielding Media Requests re: Spitzer Posted on March 10, 2008 by staceyswimme Have You Been a Whore? The MSNBC request came through Seal Press, the publisher of Naked on the Internet. I said I would […]

9
SerpentLibertine
3.10.08
11:48 pm

Unbelievable. I’m suprised it was MSNBC, though, and not Fox News or Nancy Grace!

10
Audacia Ray
3.10.08
11:54 pm

I’m not at all surprised it was MSNBC, they’re the home of Tucker Carlson! Or *were* anyway, since he got canned today (yay!)

11
debauchette
3.11.08
1:47 am

Fucking media. Christ.

12
Seth
3.11.08
10:35 am

The sex worker’s perspective will rarely be represented in a political sex scandal media blitz. News ‘producers’ are driven to feed the frenzy, not truly examine the issues. So, the invitation was to exploit your works. Good call on turning it down

13
Brooke
3.11.08
5:02 pm

We discussed this in an afternoon meeting—the whole staff. And yes, we’re pissed. Because we want to defend you, Dacia, but also because we publish a lot of books about sex work, and we publish quite a few titles that are all about considering a different perspective. This is just further evidence of how narrow-minded the media is. Beyond narrow-minded, though, because it’s agenda-pushing and salacious and gross. And incredibly sad. The whole day’s news on Spitzer is gross and sad.

—Brooke (Dacia’s editor at Seal)

14
RenegadeEvolution
3.11.08
5:21 pm

I got a similar request from a DC network afiliate. Same line, different city. I too declined.

15
Essin' Em
3.11.08
5:40 pm

Oh the ridiculous media.

But media aside, what the fuck? Who asks anyone that?

I’m glad Seal is willing to run interference and stand up for you. That is completely and utterly ludicrous.

I’m glad you handled yourself so well…I wouldn’t have been so…put together.

16
Iamcuriousblue
3.11.08
6:01 pm

Nothing much to add, except kudos for standing up for principal over publicity. You are awesome!

17
Lynsey
3.11.08
9:14 pm

Thank God for people like Brian Lehrer. I heard you on the show today and found the discussion fascinating. At least one of the callers was over-the-top hysterical; I loved your very calm and measured responses.

18
SpaceyG
3.12.08
5:31 pm

Good move, Audacia! That booker sounds exactly like something my ex would have said… IF he was a MSM show booker. Rather, he’s a MSM show writer. The clueless rubes are, sadly, all up in your typical, predictable news product. Needless to say, I won’t be wasting my precious time with any Live With Dan Abrams product for here on out.

19

[…] MSNBC and The Dallas Observer are about as classy as a drunk pimp. […]

20

[…] her interview with MSNBC. The first question the interviewer asked her, point-blank, was: “Have you been a whore?” The supposedly more genteel, public-radio intellectual Brian Lehrer wasn’t much better […]

21

[…] even a whore! (Word choice is deliberate; read sex-worker-turned-author Audacia Ray’s blog post about how an MSNBC reporter called her a whore.) So, here’s where this post comes to a close. […]

22

[…] sex workers. When MSNBC was vetting Audacia Ray for an interview, they asked her right out: “Have you been a whore?” Apparently the NYT can’t even get that much […]

23

[…] networks scrambled to book hookers (kind of like lining up generals during a war), a woman named Audacia Ray says on her blog that an MSNBC producer asked her: Have you been a […]

24

[…] merely used as a titillating eye-catcher; the voices of individuals can be respected rather than tokenized and used for cheap shots. No need to wait for MSM to get their shit together with how they cover sex work, for example – […]

25

[…] the scandal, I got a call from an MSNBC producer, and then I blogged about it, because he asked me Have you been a whore? Here’s me on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC discussing whether or not prostitution should be […]

26

[…] the scandal, I got a call from an MSNBC producer, and then I blogged about it, because he asked me Have you been a whore? Here’s me on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC discussing whether or not prostitution should be […]

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