ALLURE: How Asian-American Dominatrixes Use Stereotypes to Their Advantage in the Fetish World

In the 1999 film Payback, Lucy Liu plays a dominatrix named Pearl. Clad in patent leather lingerie and fishnets, she stomps on her boyfriend’s balls and recites the lines, “Me love you, baby, me love you long time.” Accurate media portrayals of sex workers of color are hard to come by in general, but from her criminality to her willingness to let her boyfriend beat her up, Liu’s character is a poor depiction of an Asian dominatrix.

Professional domination, a historically taboo career that combines sex work with BDSM, is already sensationalized in pop culture as a world of cracking whips, villainous dungeons, and anguished screams. But combining that with Orientalist, hypersexualized stereotypes — either the fragile “lotus blossom” or aggressive “dragon lady” — can send some in a tailspin of fetishization and prurient curiosity.

Which is why Domina Dia Dynasty and Mistress Lucy Sweetkill, two New York City professional dominatrixes (pro dommes), warned against generalizing their experiences for the entire community.

Lucy, 33, is Vietnamese American, and Dia, 41, is Chinese American. They came into their unconventional career in similar ways, but have opposing personalities. Lucy’s clients often call her “daddy,” because of her authoritative energy, while Dia’s ultra-feminine energy gets her the nickname “goddess” and sometimes, to her displeasure, “mommy.”

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Asian American Dommes use stereotypes to their advantage in the Fetish world by Tiffany Diane Tso

Jan. 2nd, 2019

BLAVITY: How FOSTA-SESTA Legislation Is Wreaking Havoc On The Lives Of Sex Workers

Ever since President Donald Trump signed bipartisan bills Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) into law this past April, panic has set in among the sex work community. Often lumped together as FOSTA-SESTA, this legislation was introduced to Congress with an intent to end human trafficking. However, it has also inadvertently targeted consensual sex workers, forcing many to resort to other more dangerous practices.

SESTA-FOSTA challenges section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act of 1996, which states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Therefore, websites like Facebook, Amazon, Craigslist, Reddit and YouTube were legally protected, should a user post unsavory or offensive content on their own accord.That was before FBI and other federal agencies raided the home of former owner Michael Lacey. Known for its adult personal ads, the controversial website was shut down and seized by the FBI, once allegations related to child sex trafficking were raised.

Now under SESTA-FOSTA, any site believed to be hosting ads related to human trafficking is at risk of prosecution, even if they are unaware that some of their users are promoting trafficking. Because lawmakers' stance on sex work seems to exclude the possibility of consensual sex work, SESTA-FOSTA appears to blur the line between consensual sex worker and actual human trafficking. Some sites preemptively removed its adult content earlier this year, including subreddits containing sexual content. Likewise, sex-work directories, like CityVibe and NightShift, have also been shut down. According to a report from Engadget, Google has even started to purge the Drive accounts of cam performers, who sell clips and videos to clients.

Blavity spoke with Tamika Spellman, policy and advocacy associate for Helping Individual People Survive (HIPS). A Black, trans woman and sex worker, Spellman knows firsthand how society looks down on those who engage in this work.

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How FOSTA-SESTA Legislation is Wreaking Havoc on the Lives of Sex Workers by Ricky Riley

January 2, 2019

DAILYWIRE: Study Recommends Unusual Way To Deal With Past Trauma: BDSM

A scholarly paper published in a a peer-reviewed feminist academic journal decided to examine a most lurid subject: reliving a past trauma and trying to “reconfigure it” by reenacting it using bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.

The abstract for the paper in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, which is published quarterly by the University of Chicago Press, stated:

As part of a much larger ethnographic study of lesbian/queer sex publics, this essay focuses on a particular erotic practice—sadomasochistic reenactments of lived trauma. Informed by queer-of-color critique, feminist performance studies, and psychoanalysis, this essay explores the necessary queer conditions enabling such returns, by which I mean the reenacting through BDSM of one’s own lived trauma in order to reconfigure it. This queerness, as an embodied erotics fed by durational—as opposed to impersonal and anonymous—ties, rides on the relational. That is, it is our fleshy entanglements and shared dependencies that enable these returns, returns that refuse and reconfigure lived trauma. The site of lesbian/queer sex publics thus offers critical reworkings, somatically generating as it does alternatively embodied futures.

The author of the paper candidly admitted taking part in BDSM events and conferences, noting:

While this essay is part of a much larger ethnographic project consisting of eighty-five interviews with queer-, lesbian-, and trans*-identified BDSMers coupled with my own participation at dozens of BDSM events and conferences, I focus on a particular subset of sadomasochists, who, as survivors of gender and sexual violence, reenact their trauma through BDSM. … The lesbian/queer communities informing this project are based in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, specifically Seattle, Los Angeles and Oakland. It is with these BDSM communities that I am most familiar, where I developed the deepest connections, and where I most immersed myself in their respective S/M events and play parties.

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Study Recommends Unusual Way to Deal with Trauma: BDSM by Hank Berrien

January 2, 2019

FORBES: Sex Workers And Immigrants Are Under Attack. Don't Like It? Send DC A Fax

For all their differences, one thing America's sex industry and its migrant labor market have in common is a long and troubled history in which changes to technology and law have played a large part (like in most industries, and areas of life). Since 'Wild West' days, these workers have also gotten very little voice in the systems governing their work.

As a result, US officials have a tradition of ignoring their needs, and taking shots at their homes and incomes instead. In response to recent high-tech, misinformed (and/or misleading) attacks on some of our most vulnerable workers' financial and digital lives, industry members and supporters have started exploring new ways of making their voices heard — in some cases, with distinctly old-school methods.

This year, for example, the new platform Tribunus has allowed web users to weigh in on critical issues when petitions and digital comments are no longer viable steps. On Tribunus' simple site, US residents can contact legislators directly by placing a phone call, sending them a fax, or — if their fax machine is turned off — quickly sending them a paper letter instead.

Tribunus' creator, a Bay Area programmer who asked to be identified as Michael, said he first launched the platform to help defeat a legal measure threatening California sex workers (successfully, after protests and hundreds of letters). Later on, he added pages addressing immigrant family separation and net neutrality.

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Sex Workers and Immigrants are under attack. Don't like it? Send DC a fax by Janet Burns

Dec 5th, 2018

HUFFPOST: Tumblr Is Betraying The Sex Workers And NSFW Artists Who Relied On The Platform

Peachyandplussized was upset.

She had just gotten off a tearful, 45-minute call with her partner, and she was still trying to process the news about Tumblr’s impending ban on all adult content when I got in touch with her. Peachyandplussized had poured so much of herself into her Tumblr. She was thinking now about how long it had taken her, an online sex worker, to build a fanbase on that platform, to make a name for herself.

“I’ve put almost three years into that blog. I’ve put so much money and time and effort,” she told me. “I’ve had to deal with so many people harassing me and threatening me. People putting me through the wringer just because of the content I wanted to make … and people treated me like I was less than a human — for years.”

She talked about the days when she was sick yet still got out of bed and shot videos, took hundreds of photos and purchased props to make her living. Then she let out a frustrated sigh before telling me that now a huge chunk of her income may be gone.

“Now it feels like all of my hard work and the strain it’s put on my mental health was just for nothing,” she added.

On Dec. 17, when the ban goes into effect, any photos, videos or GIFs that display human genitals or “female-presenting nipples” along with any content depicting sex acts will be prohibited. Any nudity related to art, political speech or “health-related situations,” as well as written erotica, will be exempt from the ban. The new policy comes two weeks after the Tumblr app’s removal from Apple’s App Store after “child sexual abuse material” was found on the site. Tumblr says it immediately removed the content. (Tumblr and HuffPost are both owned by Oath Inc.)

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Tumblr is Betraying the Sex Workers and NSFW Artist who relied on the Platform by Julia Craven

THE GUARDIAN: New York to consider changing rape shield law to protect sex workers

When rape shield laws spread across the country in the 1970s to protect sexual misconduct victims from having their sexual histories used against them in court, women could finally come forward without fearing their “promiscuity” would be paraded in front of a jury.

But not all victims were covered by the laws, which were written during a time when society painted some women as virtuous and deserving of protection while others – such as sex workers – often remained unbelieved and unbelievable.

Over the last half-century, the understanding of sexual assault, coercion and consent has evolved, and rape shield laws around the country have been updated.

But in New York, stigmas and misconceptions about trafficking victims and sex workers are still etched into the rape shield statute by treating them differently when they suffer sexual attacks.

“Today, we are literally legitimizing rape by allowing this law to be on the books,” said Lola Balcon, a sex workers’ rights advocate. Now some politicians are seeking to change that.


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New York to consider changing rape shield law to protect Sex Workers by Alexandra Villarreal

Nov. 30th, 2018

DAZED: Why sex workers deserve rights like any other workers

Sex workers have been spoken for, over, and down to for too long. Marginalised, patronised, and totally misrepresented in the mainstream media, it’s no wonder that the reality of sex workers’ lives is so poorly understood by the public. One artist, who makes crude sculptures out of prostitutes’ rubbish in Leeds, home to Britain’s first “red light district”, provides just one example of how sex workers are seen by the general public: drugged-up, dirty and enslaved.

Authors and sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith are hoping to change that. Their seminal new book, Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights, is a radical case study of the past, present, and future of prostitution law. It sets the record straight on a lot of mainstream beliefs about the sex industry and those who operate in it, and lays out what workers in the industry need to ensure their safety and human rights.

From the “original Women’s March” in San Francisco in 1917, to how the Nordic model of prostitution has led to homelessness and deportations in some of the countries that have adopted it, the book is a must-read for feminists and non-feminists alike. As the British government pursues new laws like the United States’ FOSTA/SESTA that has driven sex workers underground, it is more crucial than ever to open Revolting Prostitutes’ neon orange pages.

We spoke to Mac and Smith about the stigma of sex work, seeing prostitution as labour, and why supporting sex workers’ rights doesn’t mean being a cheerleader for the industry.

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Why Sex Workers deserve rights like any other workers by Lydia Morrish

Nov. 26th, 2018

EVERYDAY FEMINISM: If Your Goal In Therapy Is To ‘be Happy,’ You Might Want To Rethink That. Here’s Why.

When I first walked into a therapist’s office when I was 18-years-old, I had one goal and one goal only: “I just want to be happy,” I said.

Up until that point, I couldn’t really remember what that felt like. I didn’t know at the time that I had obsessive-compulsive disorder (as it turns out, it runs in the family) and that my near-constant state of guilt, panic, and rumination wasn’t actually the way most brains operate.

I thought happiness was the whole point of this “mental health” thing. So I became something of an emotional hypochondriac — if I wasn’t happy, something was wrong.

Suddenly my very human experiences like sadness, anger, and anxiety were all “problems” that needed to be “fixed.” I had this unreasonable expectation that, if I worked hard enough, I could minimize the presence of every other emotion to become capital-h “Happy.”

That’s not exactly the healthiest mindset, if you really think about it.

Ask anybody what they want out of life, and they’ll probably tell you the same thing I told my therapist all those years ago — it’s about being happy, isn’t it?

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If your goal in Therepy is to 'be happy',you might want to rethink that. by Sam Dylan Finch

Nov 26th, 2018

ECNMY: How should economists think about sex work?

Sex work, like all work, is the swapping of a person’s labour (in this case, sexual services) for money or goods. People of all genders, sexualities and backgrounds work in the sex industry, and job titles can range from prostitute to porn actor, to stripper, webcam performer, escort, sugar baby, dominatrix, sex toy tester, burlesque dancer and phone sex operator.

It’s a big industry: there are currently about 10,000 people working as lap-dancers in Britain and 72,800 working as prostitutes. (That’s about the same number as all the staff working for the NHS in Wales). And it’s one almost all Brits are involved with, as either a worker or a consumer (over half of Brits watch porn, over a quarter have visited a strip club, and more than one in tenBritish men has employed a prostitute).

But why are we talking about it? (And risking some seriously quizzical looks from our boss if they catch us checking the current cost of an hour’s sex?) Well, it’s partly because where we work and what work we do is such a huge part of our economy. But it’s also because sex work in particular is often ignored in economic discussions because it’s not seen as “mainstream work” (despite the huge numbers of us participating in it) and we wanted to give it some much-deserved attention.

And a quick note before we delve in: we know that to some, sex work is a sensitive, controversial and emotional topic, while for others it’s a taboo we need to eradicate. Either way, we know that most people have very strong opinions about it. While we want to look at sex work’s impact on the economy through the same framework we’d apply to any other job (which includes encouraging a deeper analysis of context and history), we are mindful that even as we type this there are sex workers being negatively impacted by the stigma and dangers that can surround this profession.

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How should Economists think about Sex Work? by Economy team

Nov 27th, 2018th

ROLLING STONE: Are Sex Workers Becoming a Viable Political Bloc?

Not long ago, most porn stars, escorts, strippers and cam-girls wouldn’t feel comfortable entering the political scuffle. But thanks to a confluence of factors — including Stormy Daniels, arguably the world’s most famous sex worker, making herself a symbol of the anti-Trump resistance — the sex-work community has become America’s newest niche political bloc.

Though the movement has been happening for decades, even centuries, explains community organizer Lola Balcon, it’s taken hold in recent years in part as a result of long-term de-stigmatization efforts from human rights groups including Amnesty International, which recommended the decriminalization of sex work in 2016. But it wasn’t until the passage of the so-called Online Trafficking bill SESTA-FOSTA last spring that many workers began to organize locally, forming grassroots coalitions not just to oppose the bill but also to support sex work decriminalization efforts more broadly.

“We have a lot at stake right now. The political climate is unpredictable and volatile,” says Christa Daring, the executive director of Sex Workers Outreach Project USA, a nonprofit aimed at supporting sex workers and campaigning for the decriminalization of sex work. “SESTA-FOSTA didn’t make prostitution any more illegal than it was before, but it made a lot of people’s lives a lot harder and it really threw into stark contrast the amount of criminalization that people were facing.”


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Are Sex Workers becoming a viable political bloc? by Jennifer Swann

Nov. 24th, 2018