October 24, 2010

Red Umbrella Diaries: Bad Behavior – November 4

Hosted by Audacia Ray
Happy Ending, 302 Broome Street between Forsyth and Eldridge, in New York City
Thursday, November 4. Doors open at 7 PM, reading starts at 8.
21 and up – FREE

15% of the bar tab supports The Red Umbrella Project’s Storytelling Workshops

Starring:

Joanna Angel – writer, producer, director, model and AVN award-winning adult film star – is more commonly referred to as the “Queen of Punk Rock Porn” in the adult world.

A nerd by nature, Joanna holds a B.A. in English from Rutgers University and although her name and brand are synonymous with a much more risqué art, she remains a director, writer, actress, adult entrepreneur and comedian. Joanna has been published in Carly Milne’s “Naked Ambition,” and was a featured sex columnist for Spin Magazine in 2006. She is also a diligent blogger who captures her daily experience for fans on the BurningAngel blog.

When forming the BurningAngel empire, she drew upon her strengths as a powerful, intelligent and creative woman, added her innate sense of comedic timing, and – with a lot of chutzpah and her unique vision – created a whole new genre of adult film. http://joannaangel.com

Desiree Burch is an NYC-based comedian, emcee, writer, and New York Neo-Futurist, best-known for her acclaimed solo show “52 Man Pickup” which has played alt-theater venues in New York and London as well as the Hollywood and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. One of New York Magazine’s “10 New Comedians that Funny People Find Funny,” Desiree has supplied laughter for MTV, VH1, NBC News, The New York Post, Comedy Central, Huffington Post and more, and can also be seen in the upcoming feature-length documentary “I Heart New York.” She is a Yale graduate and previously hosted/curated the reading and variety series Smut. (“Art that should carry a Parental Advisory Label” – NY Times). http://desireeburch.com

Goldschwanz is a Berlin & London based independent escort, dedicated activist, writer & visual artist. She smashed her promising academic career to become a sex worker, and has since checked out the European adult industry, starred in scat movies and fetish clubs, and has been an usherette at porn movie theatres, a party host, and sex coach. She blogs at “Hookers’ Republic,” a dirty, entertaining, and revealing treatise on sex worker issues, and documents her life and travel with images, print columns, comic strips, and poetry. She also performs multifaceted stand-up comedy to crack mind-mapping and stereotyping and tackle political issues with grim humor. She has performed in London & Berlin and this is her debut in NY.

Honolulu native Christine Macdonald worked the darker side of paradise as a nude exotic dancer Waikiki. Her articles, The Customer is Always Trite, Embarrassing Stripper Moments and Stripper Scoop: your top five questions answered earned her cover spots as Editor’s Picks on Open Salon; she has also been featured and recognized as a rising author on the popular publishing site Scribd. An avid supporter of equal rights, Macdonald founded Another way to say it Greetings, a greeting card company that caters to her friends in the GLBT community. She plans to launch these cards following completion of her current project. Christine is currently writing a memoir about her experiences as a stripper from 1987 to 1996, and was selected as the October 2010 NAMW Member of the Month.She is a self-proclaimed stripper cliché and recovering narcissist.

October 21, 2010

Best of Shaming Me Into Blogging More

This week, The Village Voice published their “Best Of” listings for 2010 – and I was thrilled to have been listed not once, but twice!

I was selected as the Best Sex Blogger of 2010 for this here blog, which I’ve been writing since 2004. Says The Voice, “no New Yorker scribbles about sex better than Audacia Ray, the brains and beauty behind Waking Vixen.” They also say that my writing is “thoughtful and often lewd” – the latter is not so much true, and may cause me to get a solid number of emails from those who miss the good ole days of me blogging the minute details of my sex life. I don’t so much miss the play-by-play writing, but I do miss writing here regularly, and I’m hoping to finish some posts I’ve got percolating in my drafts folder soon soon. Over the last few years, I’ve grown from being huddled in my room writing about things to being out in the world trying to make and do things better. Which is more useful than navel-gazing, but I do miss the writing.

Oh, and my second Best Of mention! The Red Umbrella Diaries was noted as the Best Way to Meet Sex Workers (For Free). Creepy? Yeah. But a nice bit of recognition nonetheless. My favorite line of the write-up, as the writer tries to puzzle out what the hell this thing is exactly: “It’s not exactly a turn-on… but it’s certainly captivating.” It’s always amusing-slash-frustrating to me when the Red Umbrella Diaries gets described as an erotica event, but I also know that it’s hard for many people to grapple with the idea of sex and money, and especially sexual experiences that might not be all that sexy.

Thanks for the support and continued interest in my work over the years. It means a great deal to me to have a community of people rooting for me, challenging me, and giving me stuff to think about.

October 19, 2010

Little-Known Medication Offers Safe and Accessible Alternative to Surgical Abortion

I spend most of my blog time over at the International Women’s Health Coalition blog, Akimbo, which I edit. This post is part of our International Access to Safe Abortion Week series of posts.

Access to safe abortion has changed over the past several decades – not just because of the ever-shifting global legal and funding landscapes, but also because of health technologies. For thousands of years, women have used herbal remedies to end unwanted pregnancies, but more recently medicines developed in labs provide a non-surgical safe abortion option.

Millions of women worldwide have safely terminated their pregnancies with medication since mifepristone -or RU 486- was first introduced in the late 1980s. Research in the past two decades has identified a highly effective regimen for early medical abortion with a success rate of 95 to 98 percent, consisting of 200 milligrams of mifepristone followed by 400 or 800 micrograms of misoprostol. Whether taken in a health center or at home by women themselves, the regimen offers an option that many women prefer to surgical procedures such as manual vacuum aspiration or dilation and curettage (D&C).

Because mifepristone is a registered abortion drug, its sale and use are not permitted in most countries with restrictive abortion laws. In contrast, misoprostol is an anti-ulcer medication that is registered under various trade names in more than 85 countries. Research has found that misoprostol used alone is about 85 percent successful in inducing abortion when used as recommended, offering a safe and accessible alternative for women who have no other option.

Not enough women know about misoprostol as an option for safe abortion, so we’ve collaborated with Gynuity Health Projects to release “Abortion With Self-Administered Misoprostol: A Guide For Women,” available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

Gynuity has also done research about the registration of misoprostol around the world, and has produced the map below, which shows where misoprostol is registered and available for off-label use (solid purple), where it is also approved for medical abortion (stripes), and where it is not approved for any use (yellow). You can also download a PDF of the map, with English or Spanish text, here.

As with anything related to women’s health, access is more complex than the legal registration of a medication. The publication “What Women Want – Meeting Global Demand for Medical Abortion” [link downloads a PDF], produced by Marie Stopes International (MSI), details the complexities of access to medical abortion. Both mifepristone and misoprostol are increasingly available in black markets in Africa and the Middle East, regions with the most restrictive laws around these drugs. Prices for the pills also vary widely from country to country; depending on legal status and local markets, pills can cost anywhere from $1 to $30 each. In 2007, the World Health Organization added misoprostol to their Essential Drugs List, and more recently it was “redefined as an essential medicine for incomplete abortion/miscarriage management,” according to MSI. However, the process of registration and approval for new medications can be lengthy. In the U.S., for example, the approval of new drugs can take eight to ten years.

While it is certainly important for health care practitioners to be trained on the administration of medical abortion so that they are capable of providing comprehensive information and services to the women they work with, it is also important for women themselves to have access to life saving information. MSI puts this really well in their “What Women Want” guide (pg 21):

Within the public health community there is increasing acknowledgement of the potential afforded by demedicalising the provision of some healthcare services. The increasing shift from surgical to medical abortion is an example of demedicalisation in practice: medical abortion requires less technology, can be carried out in non-clinical settings, does not necessarily need to be delivered by high-level providers such as physicians, and users can play a more active role in the process through self-administration of medication. Furthermore, some women and men prefer less clinical environments.

Medical abortion has the potential to transform traditional relationships between reproductive healthcare providers and their clients. In contrast to surgical abortion, medical abortion is not done to women but by them, with appropriate support provided by health professionals.

Wherever unwanted pregnancies happen –which is to say, all around the world– there will be women who choose to terminate their pregnancies. It’s essential that women get the information they need to make informed and safe choices about their bodies and reproductive health. The availability of misoprostol, and the distribution of multilingual information about how to use misoprostol, are both steps in that direction.

October 6, 2010

October 10: Talking About the Taboo at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Providence

This Sunday, I may be breaking my New Year’s Resolution. Pretty dramatic, eh? My resolution was to abstain… from attending conferences this year. So far, so good!

But I’m ruining it all on Sunday, I think. I will refer to the thing I’m participating in as an event, or a conversation, or a workshop – it is all those things. But my hosts are calling it a conference, so my resolution is broken.

“It” is the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health’s second annual conference, Talking About the Taboo: Discussing Difficult Issues in Human Sexuality, which takes place this Sunday in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The event, which runs from 1 to 5 pm, brings together all aspects of sexuality, the pleasure, education, advocacy and medical worlds, and will take subjects that are traditionally “taboo” and elucidate them, showing that the taboo can be fun, interesting and educational and most importantly, able to be discussed in thoughtful, provoking ways.

I’m participating in two different pieces of the event – a panel of experts and a solo workshop.

The “Talking About the Taboo” panel, from 1:40 to 2:30, will feature many sexuality experts willing to share with you their work in the field of sexuality. From medical providers, rape crisis counselors, to dominatrixes, you are sure to find someone to teach you something new! Listen to our panel, take a small group class or chat it up with our experts throughout the event.

Our guest panelists will include: Dr. Charlie Glickman, Princess Kali, Audacia Ray, Sinclair Sexsmith, Dr. Logan Levkoff and Anita Hoffer!

My workshop “Media Tactics, or How to Do Sexuality Activism Without Looking Like a Jerk” is from 3:45-4:25. Here’s my writeup: Unless you live in a totally sex positive bubble, you see news items and media representations every day that make you angry. In this session we will discuss tactics for speaking out about sexuality in our culture, with an emphasis on online media. Topics include: best practices for participating and building relationships in online communities, being right versus being effective, and when to fight and when to walk away.

Hope to see you in Rhode Island!

But if you’re not there, Kink On Tap will be recording the sessions and podcasting them.

October 4, 2010

Indian Sex Workers Fight Back Against Misrepresentation

Last week, VBS TV (the video arm of Vice Magazine) debuted a 30 minute documentary called “Prostitutes of God”, which features some of the members of VAMP, a group that is part of the organization SANGRAM (I visited them last fall on my trip tot India). The representation of the women and their lives in the video, however, was painted with a very broad brush – one that obscures the complexities that women in sex work face in their work, worship, and family lives.

VAMP members were very upset by how they are portrayed in the film. They have used their media savvy to speak up about the film – read their below statement and watch the video directed to the film’s producers – and have channeled their rage to make sure that the filmmakers are held accountable for their work and the damage it does to sex workers. This problem of misrepresentation in the media certainly isn’t one that is exclusive to sex workers, but the standard issues of representation are compounded by the fact that sex workers are the subject of the film and that the film’s producers are from the global north and the subjects are from the global south. Furthermore, class inequities result in a film that doesn’t delve into the root causes of poverty, just obsesses over their manifestation in the sex industry.

The VBS filmmakers got up close and personal before betraying the film’s participants too – the interactions with the sex workers in the film are chummy, and frequently take place in the sex workers’ homes, but in the film these relationships are twisted so that the filmmakers endanger and mock their subjects. In the second episode, the filmmakers visit with a young woman whom they later reveal is HIV positive and who they assume is spreading HIV like wildfire among the community. During the third episode of the film, the filmmakers visit with a trans woman who is a sex worker – they misgender her, mock her in the film, and don’t contextualize the experience of trans women in the sex industry at all, but depict her as a freak and a transvestite.

Here’s VAMP’s response:

This brief (3.5) minute clip by the Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP, Prostitutes’ Collective Against Injustice), encapsulates a succinct response to ‘Prostitutes of God’, a sensationalized and factually flawed documentary produced by Sarah Harris for VBS TV. Countering the distorted perspective in the film, women from VAMP present their incisive views about sex work; religion and faith; livelihoods; issues of consent; ethics and cross-cultural sensitivities while making documentary films.

The women in Sangli from VAMP recorded video responses to the film. In the age of the internet, women in countries far away who used to be the objects of white people’s gaze with no right of reply now have access to the representations that are made of them, and the technological means to answer back. A naive westerner may seize the headlines, but there’s now scope for there to be a debate and to bring those who in the past would have remained voiceless victims into that debate to represent themselves. It is a great opportunity to put the record straight.

This clip has been produced by Sangli Talkies, the newly-launched video unit of SANGRAM / VAMP.

Since this video went online last week, it’s created a bit of a stir – as it should.

Bebe Loff, Associate Professor and Director of the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights at Monash University in Australia, has written a piece for RH Reality Check, “Prostitutes of God:” Film Mocks, Belittles Sex Workers.

Paromita Vohra, a Mumbai-based filmmaker, writes about the ethical issues in her piece Vamps, victims, and videotapes in the Mid Day.

These writings, in cooperation with many comments and notes from sex workers and allies from around the world, has gotten at least a bit of a response – the film has been edited to remove the information about the HIV status of one of the women, which was revealed without her consent. We’re all keeping the pressure on; ultimately we hope to get the film taken offline, with a public apology issued. But in the meantime, chipping away at it bit by bit is important.

Gone are the days when filmmakers from the global north could swoop in and document things they perceive without consequence. But media makers shouldn’t view the act of their subjects watching the end product as a hindrance to telling the story, as it seems that these filmmakers have. “Subject” is no longer even a good word – media making, especially when it is about a community, should be collaborative in order to have a chance at reflecting even a modicum of honesty.

September 29, 2010

Public Bodies: Fox News, Sex Worker/Teachers, and Privilege

Tonight, I did a segment on Fox 5 News New York, with host Ernie Anastos and guests Councilman Fernando Cabrera and attorney Arthur Aidala, to talk about Melissa Petro, an elementary school art and writing teacher in the Bronx who was outed this week as having a past as a stripper and a prostitute. Melissa is an acquaintance who I see out and about, and who performed at Sex Worker Literati last fall (watch her read her story about stripping in Mexico), which she preludes with talking a bit about being a teacher.

But when I say that she was “outed,” that’s not really the whole story. The NY Post broke the story on Monday with an “exclusive” – air quotes because the story is basically that someone found Melissa on the internet, the NY Post sent a photographer to stalk her, and it became a story. So it’s not especially exclusive if the info is already public, nor was she outed, since she’s been writing about her experiences in the sex industry for several years and in her writing has acknowledged the risk of outness. Read her Huffington Post piece about Craigslist and her Rumpus piece about being Not Safe for Work (as a teacher).

As I’ve written about before, I turn down a lot of media because I don’t have the time or energy, or I think it will be traumatic for me or unhelpful for the movement. In fact, I turned down a request from Fox News on Monday. I accepted the invite today because I just felt like I should pay it forward. I would want my colleagues to step up for me in the media spotlight if it were ever necessary. Furthermore, the way that Melissa is being lambasted by the media is wholly unreasonable, and the what about the children?! and OMG hookers!! discourse on the whole event is ridiculous. Tonight, I was prepared to defend Melissa and speak my kind of sense about the value of what she did. Which I know doesn’t mesh with the Fox Newsspeak, but that’s part of the fun.

Here’s the clip:

I walked out of the studio feeling good, but also thinking a lot about my privilege and the ways I wield it, and the complexities of race and class that are playing out in this situation. I am very much like Melissa (which is a big part of the reason I felt like I should do some media on this). I have big heaps of privilege: white, cis, middle class, educated privilege which allows me to not only make choices about the kind of work I do for a living, but also has enabled me to make a choice to be out and (sometimes) proud. My experience of sex work was definitely about money, but it wasn’t for survival. I could have found other ways.

I think its valuable to use my privilege in this way, to go on television and argue my point of view, even though I don’t harbor any illusions of it making big change. It also makes me feel the gulf between my privilege and the legions of other sex workers who cannot be out, whose work and lives are shrouded in the self-preservationist need to be secretive, whose economic circumstances make sex work their best option. Furthermore, the situation with Melissa Petro makes me think about the gulf between her and her students and their families – her (and my) upwardly mobile creative white conventional flaunting ladyness and what Councilman Cabrera establishes as good working class Black and Latino people who have morals.

Although I think that what is happening right now in these conversations about sex work, morals, and what’s becoming conduct is useful and important, I also know that it is dangerous. When middle class sex workers like me or Melissa Petro make our lives an example of how to destigmatize sex work, open up the conversation, and be whole people who are also sex workers, we also wield our privilege in a problematic way. When we say “Hi, I’m a good friendly teacher/girl next door/upstanding citizen,” unless we say so explicitly, we are also setting ourselves apart from people in the sex trade who are not those things. While middle class sex workers gain acceptance, the gulf widens, and many many other people continue being the victims of violence at both individual and institutional levels. It’s important not to reinforce these hierarchies, but there are so many rewards for doing so. As the sex worker rights movement, we must learn to move everyone forward, not sacrifice those whose stories aren’t salable or don’t quite fit or make people uncomfortable.

Red Umbrella Diaries October 7: Healing Touch


Hosted by Audacia Ray
Happy Ending, 302 Broome Street between Forsyth and Eldridge, in New York City
Thursday, October 7. Doors at 7 pm, reading from 8-10
21 and up – FREE

15% of the bar proceeds benefits the Sex Workers Project

Starring: Tobi Hill-Meyer, Ducky Doolittle, Laura G. Duncan, Alithea Howes, and Sarah Sloane.

Tobi Hill-Meyer is just about your average multiracial, pansexual, transracially inseminated queerspawn, genderqueer, transdyke, colonized mestiza, pornographer, activist, writer.

Having been less than thrilled with both her own experience in mainstream porn and the amount of representation trans women have in queer and feminist porn, she directing and produced Doing it Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project, winning the Emerging Filmmaker award from the Feminist Porn Awards in the process.

With more than two decades working in the field of sexuality, Ducky Doolittle graduated from behind the peepshow glass to the front of the class. Today she is a celebrated Sex Educator and the author of “Sex with the Lights On: 200 Illuminating Sex Questions Answered” Ducky is also a certified Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Counselor. Harvard University has cited her as their “favorite, most informative and hilarious” sex educators ever to grace their campus. MTV said, “Who do you want to talk about sexuality with? Ducky DooLittle. She knows it all!” Ducky is the President of Love U Parties, a healthy-for-the-body sex toy company.


Laura G. Duncan is a sexual health researcher, educator and writer currently living in Brooklyn. Her research deals with issues of sexuality within medicine, focusing on health literacy and accessibility among underserved populations. She has taught sex education at a high school, health non-profit and medical school and she currently works as an abortion doula with The Doula Project. She also performs a multimedia research presentation on teledildonics and sexual robotics in venues around New York City.

Alithea Howes takes her clothes off in bars and teaches people how to be kinky. She has been performing burlesque since 2005 and stunning audiences with her creative twists on the art of burlesque. After becoming a professional dominatrix in 2006 she began teaching classes on the art of kink and has taught for TES, DSF, and GD2 among others. She is also a writer, a storyteller and an artist. Find her on facebook, fetlife (under the name Coraline) or look her up at www.marycyn.com

Sarah Sloane travels the US & Canada as a sex, relationship, and kink educator, sowing her wild oats (and selling sex toys) along the way. She speaks to thousands of people each year, and gets a total buzz from watching the “aha!” moments that happen to attendees during and after classes. She’s also a grudgingly prolific writer (with regular columns on Fearless Press and on other websites), activist, and sex-positive business coach & consultant. Her current adjectives include queer, butch-ish, curmudgeony, left-wing, and unapologetic introvert.

The Sex Workers Project provides legal services and legal training, and engages in documentation and policy advocacy, for sex workers. Using a harm reduction and human rights model, we protect the rights and safety of sex workers who by choice, circumstance, or coercion remain in the industry.

September 14, 2010

Band Aids, Saving Face, and Endangering Sex Workers: The Craigslist Saga

Craigslist’s self-censorship of its adult services ads will do nothing to end sex trafficking, though it might make it a little more challenging to post adult ads on the site. As a former Craigslist sex worker myself, I know that not all commercial sex interactions are sex slavery. In fact, many transactions facilitated by the Internet involve independent sex workers who have greater control over their working conditions than they would without access to online advertising.

Prostitution–and today’s Internet iteration of the business–is a perennially popular issue for politicians to crack down on because elected officials get the opportunity to speak up for supposedly voiceless and exploited people (13 of the 17 attorneys general making the fuss right now are up for re-election this year). However, people in the sex industry are not voiceless, and we must be consulted when policies that directly affect our safety and well-being are under consideration. There are many different kinds of work experiences in the sex industry, and targeting a single website as a means of combating sex trafficking is not only highly ineffective, but puts people who are not coerced into sex work at risk.

There are thousands of both illegally and legally working sex workers – prostitutes, dominatrices, body workers, exotic dancers, webcam performers, and many others – who utilize websites like Craigslist to advertise their services in an independent capacity. The Internet has now made it more possible than ever for individual sex workers to take control of their businesses instead of relying on agencies, pimps, gentleman’s clubs, and brothels, which are frequently the sources and sites of grievously exploitative labor practices that include but are not limited to trafficking. Individuals who work indoors and advertise online, as I did, are safer than street workers because we frequently rely on online networks to screen clients, maintain bad date lists, and share information about best practices for health and safety. Removing online spaces for this community building, which often starts with advertising, drives independent workers underground and forces them to rely on groups that do not have their best interests at heart.

The attorneys general are right to combat sex trafficking. Coerced labor and coerced sex are clear evils. However, ending sex trafficking takes careful strategy, and what the Federal and State governments are doing to combat trafficking is not working. The federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (link starts auto-download of PDF) has resulted in just over 400 sex trafficking convictions in the last decade, and very few survivors of sex trafficking are receiving aid from state and federal agencies. Furthermore, sex trafficking is over-represented in media coverage of human trafficking. The International Labour Organization estimates that for every person trafficked into prostitution, nine people are trafficked into forced labor situations that include agricultural work, domestic labor, and many others. Furthermore, though public debate conflates sex trafficking and sex work, they are not the same thing. The 10th Edition of the Trafficking in Persons Report released by the Department of State in June clearly states that, “prostitution by willing adults is not human trafficking regardless of whether it is legalized, decriminalized, or criminalized.”

Until it censored adult services, Craigslist was exploring ways to better combat trafficking and exploitative labor practices within the sex industry, and was discussing best practices for this with Craigslist. Losing this avenue for advertising also means that law enforcement officials and social services that strive to improve the health and well-being of people in the sex industry are less able to identify and do outreach to such persons.

It’s true that many forms of sex work are criminalized, but prohibition is not an effective means of halting a practice, especially an income-generating one. Instead of shutting down Craigslist, the attorneys general should engage in conversations with people who work in the sex industry about how to identify sex trafficking and differentiate it from sex work. Instead of arresting individual trafficking survivors or consenting sex workers, we must support individuals who do not want to be in the sex industry in securing safe housing, accessing health services including mental health and addiction treatment when needed, and obtaining the education and training needed to find jobs that pay a living wage that is comparable to or better than earnings in the sex industry.

August 29, 2010

Red Umbrella Diaries Blog Carnival: Demand Side

This month’s blog carnival leads up to the September 2nd Demand Side live event at Happy Ending, starring Caveh Zahedi, Daniel Lukes, Emma Lee, Puma Perl & Big Mike – and one of the stories below.
For the blog carnival, I’ve got a bunch of pieces that look at the demand side from a few different angles: stories from patrons of the sex industry, stories by sex workers about patrons of the sex industry, and policy and activism pieces.

Stories by Johns

Two Girls in SoHo, by Bête de Nuit

A couple of weeks ago I was in Soho but I didn’t intend to see a prostitute. I was sitting in Soho Square, a pleasant little park near to Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. I thought to myself that, if I wanted to, in a couple of minutes I could be in a flat with a naked girl.

I had a particular girl in mind. I won’t say her name. I have seen her several times before and I know that she doesn’t like publicity. We have discussed the issue. She doesn’t have any reports on her on PunterNet.com. Also I read something recently by a prostitute where she wrote that she and others don’t like that kind of publicity.

Read the full post here.

Ode, by Hooker Addict:

But, she had stringent screening requirements. She is, after all, a professional. Part of her requirements for accepting new clients was having references from two other providers. At the time, though I’d done a fair bit of whore-fucking, it was girls whose names I barely knew, much less knew how to get in touch with again to ask for a reference.

So I set out to meet the requirements. I searched the boards for escorts with less stringent requirements. I found that even among the members of the small ‘community’ not everyone was willing to give a referral. Some providers preferred to keep their client list to themselves. So, I fucked a bunch of hookers. Oh well.

I fucked all different shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities, GFE’s and quickies. Always with an eye on the goal, the right references that would get me in to see the creme de la creme.

Read the full post here.

Memorable Ladies, Part 2 by Chevalier:

Ashley Apple is simply effervescent. Picture a young, energetic, and very friendly puppy. But also mature and grounded in a way that the younger ladies — and puppies — aren’t, always. She always seems incredibly happy and I suspect it rubs off on everyone she’s around. She has one of the most positive outlooks on life of just about anyone I’ve ever known, and I’m not restricting that to the P4P community. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a negative word from her about anyone. I know this is a service industry and the ladies are purposefully in a positive, upbeat mood when they’re with us. But Ashley’s level of cheerfulness still stands out compared to just about all of the other ladies I’ve known. (In the same vein, she apologizes even for minor things that I shrug off; I think it’s not from a customer relations perspective so much as that she hates to disappoint not just clients but people in general.) Incredible joie de vivre. She always lifts my spirits and leaves a smile on my face, and I’m sure it’s the same with other people she meets.

Read the full post here.

Stories by Sex Workers

For William, by story:

the slow, the strange, the confused, the disabled, the ill, the unstable, the retarded, the insane, the special, the different, they do not stop being human; they don’t have less yearning.

this is why i do this work. the drunkards and horny frat boys are less obvious than william in their need. but it is all the same. our culture has created a void of touch. i normally can’t find the authority to ascribe moral characteristics to sex work, but i am sure in this moment with william that this is healthy. it is full of sweetness and longing and fulfillment of that longing.

Read the rest of the post here.

Quiet Riot Girl Interview with Emily Jones:

My favourite clients are up-front, succinct and polite – almost formal – in their approaches. They tell me the details I require and then it’s quick and easy to schedule a meeting. These ones are the most likely to follow my rather roundabout but important security procedures, too. They also understand that it’s not necessary to describe their physical appearance, or, god forbid, to send pictures of themselves – you wouldn’t ask a potential hairdresser if she minded your face, would you?!

My clients usually also have that stereotypically British trait (no matter their race) of being adorably kind and almost apologetic in their caution not to hurt or offend me.

Read the full post here.

Pieces About Policy, Activism, & Research

State Feminist shaming keeps Swedish politicians quiet about sex-purchase law by Laura Agustín:

Every Swede knows that the famed law against buying sex – sexköpslagen – is a hot potato. Few politicians have commented one way or another on the evaluation of the law announced on 2 July, and only one government official claimed it proves the law is a success. Given that the report has been strongly criticised as empty of evidence and methodology but full of ideology in its very remit, debate has been curiously muted, even for the time of year.

Read the full article here.

Sex Work Clients: A Call to Arms, by Kitty Stryker
Anyway, one of the questions I get asked a lot is how I think clients can help working girls. In the light of criticism around the often-recommended Swedish Model, the consistent shutting down of propositions in the Bay Area to decriminalize sex work, and the increasingly alarming laws being considered about the criminalization of clients in the UK, I figured now was probably a good time to offer up some suggestions on how to help people in prostitution by being a decent client.
Read the full post on Carnal Nation.
Johns’ Voices Research Study:
This research was designed in such a way that the results could be used to highlight the voices, experiences, issues and concerns of sex buyers. The topics that were covered and the questions that were asked were developed so that the data collected may be used to speak directly to current debates concerning the social, legal, political and health issues relating to the buying and selling of sex in Canada.
One of our goals was to collect information that could be used to enlighten current policies, practices and understandings pertaining to prostitution by including one of the most valuable voices on issues surrounding commercial sex in Canada – those of clients!

Learn more and download the preliminary report here.

August 23, 2010

$pread is Dead, Long Live $pread

On Sunday, $preadsters past and present gathered at my apartment in Brooklyn for a serious conversation about the future of the magazine. After several hours of lively debate, and some misty eyes, we decided that the best thing to do is to discontinue the publication of $pread magazine. It’s a sad and heavy thing, but unfortunately the only way things can go at this point.

Six years ago, in the late summer of 2004, I was forwarded a call for submissions for a sex worker magazine in the works. I pitched a piece, and it didn’t really go anywhere. I kept writing my personal blog, working out my shit around doing sex work, my attempts at non-monogamy, and tried to find my voice and my community. But then I kept hearing more about the magazine, called $pread. And I kept bugging the editors. I wanted to help. But more than that, I wanted to meet and know other sex workers. I wanted to be known and understood by them. In the early winter, I responded to a panicked ask – they needed some content to finish up the magazine before it went to print. ASAP. I delivered several news pieces and then jumped into the process of making a magazine. Which none of us knew how to do.

Here I am, working the door (a job that I did at lots of $pread parties) at our launch on March 17, 2005, sporting a t-shirt with the first version of the $pread logo.

After the debut of the first issue, I became the News and Shorts Editor. And then, one issue later, I became an Executive Editor (one of two). In January 2008, I made the decision to leave $pread after more than three years of intense volunteering with the project.

It isn’t an understatement to say that $pread, and the people involved with it, transformed my life.

$pread helped me claim my voice as a sex worker, and fight to make space for other sex workers to do the same. Working on $pread made me believe that storytelling is the building block of movement building, and that both making our own media and challenging discourse about sex workers in mainstream media are crucial elements of the struggle for sex workers’ rights. $pread led directly to the creation of Sex Work Awareness and was the inspiration for the Speak Up! media training (which started as a session at the 2006 Desiree Alliance conference called “Journalism for Sex Workers”). And $pread has certainly been in my mind as I’ve developed the Red Umbrella Diaries.

It’s very sad to see it end, but it will have a graceful exit. And, perhaps more importantly, we are planning ways for the magazine to remain accessible as a resource well into the future.

Here’s the official $pread statement:

Hello $pread fans. We regret to inform you that, while we expect to publish 5.4, the Crime and Punishment Issue and 6.1, the Race Issue (guest-edited by a fabulous collective of sex workers of color) by January, $pread will close its glittery doors soon after the dawn of the New Year.

Once the remaining two issues have been posted, we will fulfill subscriptions for those of you who are owed them with the option of back issues, or, if you’re feeling generous, a waiver to help us with closing costs. We apologize for those of you who have only recently come to know us, and to all our longtime supporters. After all these years, five all-volunteer years to be exact, we have come to the conclusion that an all-volunteer magazine is simply unsustainable in the current publishing climate. Short of a donation of $30,000, we will be unable to sustain the magazine past January.

For those of you with a hankering for $pread merchandise and back issues, make sure to go to the $pread Shop (www.spreadmagazine.org/shop) in the next few months. For those of you who do not currently have a subscription, please purchase the next two issues individually. Once we print the next two issues, we will donate the materials to our outreach partners as well as lay the foundation for a physical archive, complete with all the $pread memories of yore, blemishes and all.

We hope that you will look forward to a $pread retrospective in book form, featuring highlights of our five years of publishing. We will also package a ‘$pread Scrapbook’ for sex worker advocates looking for tips and tricks on publishing a magazine by and for people working in the sex industry. We are producing these materials in the hopes that our model will help motivate the continued movement for social justice among our many and varied communities, in the same way Danzine inspired our own publication. We also close our doors in the comfort of knowing that right now, around the world, sex worker-run and sex worker-supportive media such as ConStellation (www.chezstella.org) in Montreal, Flower in Beijing, and Red Light District Chicago (www.redlightdistrictchicago.com) are holding forth on the issues that matter to our communities.

$pread was motivated by the motto “Illuminating the Sex Industry.” We submit these five years of blood, sweat, and tears to you as a testament to this founding sentiment. May the struggle to end the stigma, discrimination, and violence perpetrated against our communities end in justice, and may the flashy strobe light of sex worker rights never go out, but illuminate the sex industry for the world to see.