She’s the dead hooker in the trunk. A universal cautionary tale, the drug-using sex worker is too wretched to be relatable, too scorned for even countercultural cred. She is repulsive, unclean and immoral. She is pitiable at best, inhuman at worst—dismissed by police lingo about murders whose victims are drug-using street workers: “No Human Involved.” If she’s white, she’s lucky enough to be merely an abject victim. If not, she’s a deranged criminal. She’s a scarred, blotchy mugshot in your local paper’s coverage of prostitution stings—recycled without regard for privacy by anti-drug PSAs to let kids know that that’s what they’ll look like after years of doing dope. She’s the woman I’ve heard my escorting clients joke about not wanting to fuck with someone else’s dick—not realizing that they are talking to a sex worker who uses heroin, as I force myself to laugh along with them.
If one year during the Toronto International Film Festival you’re engaging a Hollywood producer in conversation and have only a few seconds to pitch your action script before the bouncers drag you out from under the door of her bathroom stall, just fire off a three-word description of the two unlikely antagonists. Hollywood loves oddball enemies even more than unlikely buddy cops: cowboys versus aliens, mercenaries versus dinosaurs, Predators versus future governors of American states. Yet, inexplicably, no movie has been made of Toronto’s contribution to the genre: clowns versus firefighters.
Drive on certain streets that make up known prostitution zones and you could get an automated letter because you may be a John. But no worries if you're not!
She had posted and removed the story twice before and no one cared. To garner more interest this time, she made it darkly funny while preserving the gist of what happened. And she has no regrets. "I made people who probably wouldn't want to hear a sex trafficking story want to be a part of it," she says, "because it was entertaining."Rolling Stone interviews and fact-checks Aziah "Zola" Wells, whose 158-tweet-long story about a trip to Florida (archived here) became an overnight sensation, receiving accolades from Selma director Ava DuVernay and Missy Elliot (quoted in the title), along with many, many others. The Washington Post has released its own report on the story. A movie is reportedly in the works.
Does "human trafficking" mean "modern-day slavery," as President Obama says? No, "the word is a way to target marginalized groups like immigrants and sex workers in the name of a (confused or cynical) humanitarianism." [more inside]
Vox presents a case for legalizing prostitution. In other news, Amnesty International recently announced they were developing global policy proposals advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution as well. Previously
The Guardian view on Amnesty International’s call to decriminalise sex work: divisive and distracting - "Obviously, Amnesty is right to say that sex workers have human rights and that these should be respected. But many Amnesty supporters believe that the trade itself tends to corrupt or to violate these rights, except for a lucky few participants. The broadest coalitions unite around the narrowest agendas. A call to decriminalise sex work is a distraction from Amnesty’s core mission, and dangerous to it too."
“This show, these people, it’s a disaster in my life,” said Kamylla, who spent weeks waiting for the promised assistance, quickly running out of money to support herself, her husband, and her children. They gave her a $200 fee and then did not follow through on promises of medical, dental, housing, and employment assistance, she told BuzzFeed News. “I kept on calling them, and nothing happened.”-- Sex workers who were filmed for A&E’s 8 Minutes, which says it provides resources for women who want to get out of sex work, allege that the production lied to them.
In the upcoming A&E "docudrama" 8 Minutes, Santa Ana vice cop-turned-pastor Kevin Brown, founder of the faith-based non-profit Safe Passage OC, poses as a john and tries to convince sex workers to leave the life. Backed by a team of volunteers, including former sex workers, Brown gives himself eight minutes to make his pitch - ideally before a pimp suspects something is up - and offers to connect the women with shelter, addiction and employment services if they want. Not all of them do. Of course, it's all filmed. (Sex workers' faces are blurred.) And perhaps inevitably, it's drawing significant criticism for putting a vulnerable population at greater risk. [more inside]
"In my experience, the reminder that the sexual fantasy isn’t real, that the women who perform availability aren’t ACTUALLY available, that we aren’t ACTUALLY clamouring to be sexualized by men, that we control when the fantasy starts and stops, and that our performance is just that, a performance that requires compensation… well, some men find that hard to swallow." [more inside]
It's not always obvious, but Cracked does some amazing true life interviewing and reporting buried in a (very) thin veneer of black humour. From John Cheese's writings on growing out of alcoholism to Robert Evans' personal experience articles, they do a surprisingly good job at telling intense, hard-to-read stories. This is their take on sex slavery. Holy shit trigger warnings.
"Little by little, the time passes, and then... well, it's not that you enjoy working here. It's that the situation meets a need." (TW: sexual assault, rape) [more inside]
Behind Claude’s Doors
In 1960s Paris she became known as the world’s most exclusive madam, whose client list was said to include John Kennedy, de Gaulle, Onassis, and multiple Rothschilds, and whose beautiful and cultivated girls often went on to marry wealth, power, and prestige. But among the many secrets Madame Claude kept, perhaps the greatest were her own. William Stadiem, who knew the elusive Claude in the 1980s, follows her trail to the South of France.[more inside]
Korean grandmothers sell Bacchus drinks (energy drinks) and sex on the side. Once part of Korea's economic engine, older Korean women are turning to prostitution to pay for their living costs. The Bacchus women also work the hiking trails where they offer coffee and sex.
After the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canadian prostitution laws (previously), the Conservative Party has introduced new measures that would legalize the sale of sex, but that also criminalize the purchase of sex or soliciting in public, print or online. [more inside]
Project ROSE is a Phoenix city programme that arrests sex workers in the name of saving them. In five two-day stings, more than 100 police officers targeted alleged sex workers on the street and online. They brought them in handcuffs to the Bethany Bible Church. There, the sex workers were forced to meet with prosecutors, detectives, and representatives of Project ROSE, who offered a diversion programme to those who qualified. Those who did not may face months or years in jail.
A sex worker has been awarded $25,000 as compensation for sexual harassment from her manager. [more inside]
There is a land grab going on in Soho under the banner of morality. That night, while Stephen Ward [in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical of that name] was bowing to an entranced audience, 200 of our boys in blue raided more than 20 models' flats, arresting 30 girls and confiscating their earnings. ... They broke down doors, intimidated girls into accepting cautions (ie criminal records) and served civil-eviction papers that, unless you were a lawyer, you would not know had hidden in their depths (20-odd pages) the time and date you were to appear in court if you wanted to appeal. Rupert Everett in defence of Soho's working girls.
The author travels with Indian sex tourists to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down Canada's prostitution laws saying that bans on street soliciting, brothels and people living off the avails of prostitution are arbitrary and create severe dangers for vulnerable women. [more inside]
Don't believe France's reputation as a country where sexual peccadillos are always overlooked. After a vote by the country's National Assembly on Wednesday, it has just joined a growing group of European nations where buying sex is now illegal. France is not alone in its fresh efforts to curb prostitution. The move follows similar bans in Sweden and Norway, while other European countries are also scaling back laissez-faire prostitution policies. Germany is poised to change its liberal sex trade laws, while Ireland is also debating a measure similar to France's. Is the end of legal prostitution in Europe in sight?
(Don't miss the deep and interesting links found within the article.)[more inside]
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper published a special project recently: The Stolen Ones investigates the local child sex trafficking industry, and documents stories from survivors and their families. (SFW, but some readers may find the content disturbing.) [more inside]
The Walk Free Foundation has released its latest report on the contemporary slave trade, the Global Slavery Index (interactive map). As summarized by Al Jazeera, over 29 million people are in some form of involuntary servitude, ranging from kidnapped fishermen to women forced into prostitution to child brides. The countries with the largest populations of enslaved people include Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Back in 2012, J. J. Gould wrote on the difficulties in confronting slavery in today's society: In the West, and particularly in the United States, slavery has long settled in the public imagination as being categorically a thing of the past.... It can mean having a harder time recognizing slavery when it's right in front of us.
How Joe Redner Invented The Lap Dance, Built A Strip-Club Empire, Became A Model Citizen, Fought For Your Rights, And Beat Cancer
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
"My brother Danny lost his virginity at age 25. To a call girl named Monique. Hired by our mother." -- Mara Cohen Marks writes about her brother Danny, suffering from familial dysautonomia and how her mother went above and beyond the call of duty to give him as normal a life as possible.
In a quiet cafe outside San Francisco, "Josephine" -- a local prostitute -- arranges a collection of t-shirts across the table. They're emblazoned with phrases like "Winter is Coming" and "Geeks Make Better Lovers." She wears them in her online ads to catch the eye of the area's well-off engineers and programmers.
Arrested for carrying condoms? Maybe not any more. Last week, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced legislation that will prevent police from arresting or charging someone for sexual solicitation based solely on the possession of one or more condoms. [more inside]
Since the 80s Tony Galeota managed Porky's, a Hialeah dive notorious for drugs, prostitution, and violence, where he was part pimp, part bouncer, and completely untouchable. When he left to open a bona fide brothel in Panama, Galeota thought the country's lax prostitution laws (NSFW) would make him rich. Instead, he's trapped in a labyrinthine legal system, alone and unable to speak Spanish.
A Guide to Houses No Gentleman Would Frequent, and more artifacts of history and archaeology that shed some light on the largely-unwritten world of nineteenth-century prostitution in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Paris, among other locales. Lest it appear too amusingly salacious, the miserable side.
"Seeing women for money, made me a little less sad. It was a brief respite from loneliness, from my skin being hungry for human touch the way a drowning person is starving for oxygen." Paying to Play: Interview with a John
Ontario’s highest court has legalized brothels in a sweeping decision that condemned current prostitution laws for adding to the hazards of a highly dangerous profession.
In December 1974, New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh's front-page account (paywall) of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program documented their illegal domestic intelligence operations against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States. The article eventually prompted investigations by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church and Pike committees. "There have been other reports on the CIA's doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of [George H. White,] an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation." SF Weekly: "Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA doped San Francisco citizens with LSD." MK-ULTRA: Previously on Metafilter. (Via)
Rap legend Too Short has made a career in rap documenting the business of prostitution. In the wake of criticism over a video interview on XXL in which he gave advice on committing sexual assault, he sat down with critic Dream Hampton for a frank discussion that he calls "a wake up call" (possible triggers).
Chris Arnade is a forex trader with an odd pasttime: taking pictures of New York addicts in a series he calls Faces of Addiction.
Teenage bicycle messengers carried messages around American cities in the early 20th century, including red light districts. Social reformer and photographer Lewis Hine documented their lives in image and text.
"A statistical summary of women in prostitution is a chronicle of human wreckage—economic, physical, and chemical." GQ magazine's three-part investigation into the global sex trade is fascinating, if horrifying, reading: Part 1 (on sex clubs in the Phillipines), Part 2 (on human trafficking in Moldova), Part 3 (on sex tourism in Costa Rica).
"In the last few years, the rise of free online porn — content-rich sites that tease viewers to subscribe for more — and pay-site juggernauts like Brazzers have put the L.A.-based adult-video industry against the ropes. Its answer, in part, has been the high-dollar parody, designed to attract ComicCon nerds, science fiction fans and other pop culture aficionados who must collect everything within their target oeuvre." -- The troubled US economy affects pornstars too, so "Porn Defends The Money Shot" (NSFW) [more inside]
Letters from Johns. Letters from Working Girls. Letters from Men Who Watch Pornography. Three projects from Susannah Breslin.
Maggie McNeil is a semi-retired "honest courtesan" who recently countered Ashton Kutcher's "sex slavery" claims (previously) with some statistics and facts. Bobbi Starr is a professional concert oboist, nationally ranked swimmer, and works in some of the hardest porn available. She was recently featured on the (highly recommended) BBC Radio Assignment series. Primary links are obviously NSFW; BobbiStarr.com also has potential trigger warnings.
Chester Brown's autobiographical works such as I Never Liked You (1.3 MB PDF) placed #38 on The Comics Journal's list of the 100 Best Comics of the 20th Century. In his new graphic novel, Paying For It, he "calmly lays out the facts of how he became not only a willing participant in but also a vocal proponent of one of the world's most hot-button topics--prostitution".
Since the fur-coated Boot Girls’ particular services were suggested by the iridescent colors of their calf-length, patent-leather boots and shoelaces, suitors had to be intimately familiar with their semaphore-like advertising before accompanying them to nearby apartments. Naturally, only devoted aficionados could decipher such specific messages with confidence. Other potential clients had to buy special primers, where Berlin’s complex street semiotics were thoughtfully decoded for the uninitiated. - Sex tourism in Berlin during the Jazz Age, along with some illustrations from the period. (Racy rather than obscene, but somewhat NSFW)