WEAR YOUR VOICE: Black and Brown Sex Workers Keep Getting Pushed to the Margins

Incel is such a strange word to me. It’s not a term I use often. Like, “cock” and “cuck,” the word incel conjures up a “lone wolf” white boy who sits on 4chan counting his colored and gendered enemies, plotting mass destruction.

I returned to Twitter after a light weekend break to see a new hashtag making its rounds—a man who calls himself David Wu started a campaign against camgirls and other cyberthots on Facebook and it made its way over to Twitter. Cisgender, presumably heterosexual incels were reporting “thots” to the IRS because, apparently, “hoes don’t pay taxes.” The main folks being targeted were women who use and advertise SnapChat Premium accounts. Although the word “thot” connotes a Black woman and has been specifically weaponized against Black women and girls’ sexuality, it was cisgender white women who apparently felt the most attacked and were the loudest voices “fighting back” against the incels.

During this social media moment of mass harassment and hysteria, I saw the phrase “this is a war on women” from white and Black women alike, and many were not sex workers or directly related to the community at all. I wondered what each of them meant. Often the category of “women” excludes trans women and nonwhite or Black women. Deviant women, often not considered women at all. But then there are other classes of women within those classes, like women who are sex workers. Sex workers are comprised mostly of cis and trans women but there are men in this profession as well. However, this campaign solely targeted women, and used a racialized word to further drive home their point: to target working class and poor women, mostly women of color.

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Black and Brown Sex Workers Keep Getting Pushed to the Margins by Suprihmbe

November 29, 2018


TITS AND SASS: Review of BONDiNG

“It’s your life story!” a friend texted me on April 24th along with a screenshot of Netflix’s new show Bonding. It was one of five or six texts I received that day from friends and clients making sure I’d heard about this new program that follows a dominatrix/grad student in and out of the dungeon. As a dominatrix/grad student myself, friends were sure I’d be interested in the show. I’d already heard about it on social media, where opinions were pretty starkly divided between sex workers and non-sex workers. I wasn’t exactly interested in this show so much as I was morbidly curious, because I could tell from these reviews and from the show’s own promos that Bonding was not made for someone like me.

Hell, Bonding isn’t really even about someone like me; it’s really about the dominatrix’s best friend, Pete (Brendan Scannell). An audience surrogate, Pete starts the series as a vanilla naïf knocking on a dungeon door, summoned there to be Mistress May (aka Tiff)’s (Zoe Levin) bodyguard, or, as I shrieked while watching the promo, “a FUCKING body guard!” No domme I know can afford to pay twenty percent (later in the series, forty percent) of her income to a bodyguard, as Mistress May inexplicably decides to do. We don’t really need to, either; we often work in incall spaces with receptionists and other dommes. But a story about two women sex workers working together for safety wouldn’t allow us an audience surrogate, and if there’s one thing a non-sex working show runner like Bonding’s Rightor Doyle wouldn’t abide, it would be throwing the audience in head-first into a world populated mostly by sex workers.

At least, Pete (aka Master Carter) doesn’t start out the series as a sex worker. As it progresses, however, Mistress May coerces him into doing the work. As former pro-domme Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith writes at The Spinoff, “[Mistress May] treats [Master Carter] like a prop, and manipulates his financial need in a way that is deeply uncomfortable to watch.” Forcing Pete to play the role of Master Carter also makes no practical sense: who are all these straight male clients who want a male dom in on their sessions? The series is littered with this kind of nonsense logic, from May taking a golden shower session in a carpeted room to May claiming to be “full service” after clarifying she doesn’t have sex with clients to May showing up to work wearing a submissive’s collar. There was clearly no sex worker consultant or even a BDSM consultant on set; the actual bondage in Bonding is so bad that it’s laughable. And as dominatrix Mistress Blunt notes in her review for Vice “a nuanced understanding of power dynamics, consent and negotiation are utterly missing.” But as I said, this show clearly wasn’t made for someone like me. The target audience presumably doesn’t even notice that May’s corset is ten sizes too big.

Are such inaccuracies really such a big deal in fiction, though? Does it matter if the friend who thought my life story was on Netflix now assumes my life involves a buff house slave who pays me money to serve me coffee in the morning? When that slave also stalks Mistress May onto a vanilla date, yes, it does. Bonding isn’t just a throw-away comedy; it also attempts to depict violence against sex workers, and when it expends such little energy affording us the basic respect of an accurate depiction, the violent scenes just feel like an affront.

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Review of BONDiNG by Emily Dall'Ora Warfield

May 13th, 2019


THE ROOT: Sex Workers in New York Want the Cops to Stop Preying on Them; Proposed Legislation Could Make That a Reality

ALBANY, N.Y.—TS Candii stepped outside of her apartment complex in the Bronx last summer and was immediately stopped by an officer from the NYPD. First, he accused her of being a sex worker, a profession she has participated in, but not on that day, Barbii told The Root. Then he asked her to become a confidential informant, to rat out drug dealers in the neighborhood, offering her $1,500 to agree. She didn’t. And that’s when the situation escalated.

Candii understood well what was happening. She had been stopped by New York City police at least twice before that day for “being a black trans woman,” she said

Feeling as though she had no choice and worried for her safety, she complied, and the officer let her go.

“Every time I’m walking outside, I feel like I’m profiled for prostitution because I am a transgender woman,” Candii said inside of a McDonald’s inside of the state capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday morning. “I honestly feel like I’m a criminal. I feel like my existence is illegal in the state of New York.”

Candii’s story is similar to those of the more than 100 current and former sex workers from New York City who went to Albany to advocate for two pieces of legislation they say would protect them from abusive policing. Currently, a 1976 New York state law allows police officers to arrest people for loitering for the purpose of prostitution, even though “purpose” is not clearly defined. Several assembly members and senators wrote a letter to the NYPD inspector general last month questioning the wisdom of policing sex trafficking alongside sex work between consenting adults. As of now, sex work is illegal in New York state and virtually everywhere else in the union.

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Sex Workers in New York want the cops to stop preying on them by Terrell Jermaine Starr

May 8th, 2019


VICE: A Sex Workers Union Is Organizing Against Instagram Discrimination

A group of sex workers is starting to organize against Facebook and Instagram for removing their accounts without explanation. Around 200 performers and models have included their usernames in a letter to Facebook asking the network to address this issue.

“There are performers who are being deleted, because they put up a picture of their freshly painted toenails,” Alana Evans, president of the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG), a union that advocates for adult industry professionals’ rights, told me in a phone call. “It became really obvious that either people were being unnecessarily reported and removed without Instagram caring or Instagram just outright not replying at all, and locking them out.”

In an April 22 letter to Facebook, the Adult Performers Actors Guild’s legal counsel James Felton wrote:

“Over the course of the last several months, almost 200 adult performers have had their Instagrams accounts terminated without explanation. In fact, every day, additional performers reach out to us with their termination stories. In the large majority of instances, her was no nudity shown in the pictures. However, it appears that the accounts were terminated merely because of their status as an adult performer.

Effort to learn the reasons behind the termination have been futile. Performers are asked to send pictures of their names to try to verify that the accounts are actually theirs and not put up by frauds. Emails are sent and there is no reply.”

The letter goes on to note that celebrities like Kim Kardashian violate Instagram's community guidelines by posting pictures of themselves in "varying states of dress" without repercussions. The letter specifically mention posts by Kourtney Kardashian, where the celebrity is photographed mostly nude, but carefully positioned to cover her breasts. Instagram's community guidelines forbid nudity, including “sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” and female nipples.

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A Sex Workers Union is organizing against Instagrams Discrimination by Samantha Cole

May 6th, 2019


TRUTH OUT: Anything Other Than Decriminalization Leaves Sex Workers Behind

Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights takes a global view of commercial sex and the legal regimes that govern it. Authors Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring the reader through Britain’s messy Victorian prostitution laws, the U.S. prison-industrial complex, the false promise of “utopian” Scandinavia, and finally conclude with a critical look at decriminalized New Zealand. In this interview, they discuss policing, borders and work as they relate to sex work.

Samantha Borek: An entire chapter of Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights is dedicated to the “Nordic model,” and how Scandinavia is held up by many liberals and feminists as being a beacon of socialist values. In reality, this “utopia” is borne of a lot of puritanical, racist values. How can such a “socialist” region lack the resources to address sex workers in a meaningful way?

Juno Mac and Molly Smith: The answer is sort of in the question – it’s not about lack of resources, it’s about the desire to punish certain groups of people. The Nordic countries have the resources to help sex workers if they wanted to do so; the problem is that they don’t want to help people who sell sex. In the book, we quote a policy maker in Sweden agreeing that, “of course the law has negative consequences for women in prostitution but that’s also some of the effect that we want to achieve with the law.” The Norwegian government sent a fact-finding mission to Sweden in 2004, which resulted in a report into the effects of the Swedish approach to prostitution. The report that found “the law on the Purchase of Sex has made working as a prostitute harder and more dangerous” – but a few years after that report, Norway implemented the Swedish model anyway. So, it’s not a mistake or a lack of resources that the law produces these harms for people who sell sex – policy makers know about the harms of the law going in. The harms are, at the very least, part of the point.

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Anything other than decriminalization leaves Sex Workers behind by Samantha Borek

May 5th, 2019


ATLAS OBSCURA: How Lesbian Potlucks Nourished the LGBTQ Movement

JEN MARTIN AND LIZ ALPERN lived in “that house.” Many queer friend groups have one. It’s the kind of place where a pot of soup is always boiling, where bread is always in the oven, where someone is always willing to read your tarot cards. Friends stopped to visit the Brooklyn apartment on weeknights. It was a space to cook and eat, to work and relax.

For years, Alpern, a chef, had contemplated expanding her house’s welcoming vibe into a formal event, a soup night that would promote queer chefs. After the 2016 presidential election, as Alpern wondered how to support swelling social justice movements, she thought: Why not turn her soup idea into a fundraiser? The first event—a donate-what-you-can dinner—happened the night after the 2017 Women’s March. Protestors returned to New York from D.C. with sore feet and crumpled banners. Exhausted but still revved up, they piled into a local cafe for soup and community. The love, says Kathleen Cunningham, a Queer Soup Night organizer along with Martin and Alpern, was palpable. Yet friends kept asking: What kind of soup could they bring to the potluck?

“We have this joke in Queer Soup Night land: that we’re not a potluck,” Alpern says. But it’s no wonder the trios’ friends were expecting collective cooking. Potlucks have been a hallmark of queer women’s spaces since the 1950s, when the Daughters of Bilitis, the U.S.’s first modern lesbian organization, began meeting in secret over coffee in San Francisco. Nowadays, the potluck is synonymous with lesbian tradition—so ubiquitous that lesbians have been known to potluck everything from protests to sex parties.

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How Lesbian potlucks nourished the LGBTQ Movement by Reina Gattuso

May 2nd, 2019


ALLURE: A Beginner’s Guide to Impact Play

Impact play, simply put, refers to any form of impact on the body for sexual gratification purposes. Many sexual partners practice impact play the most common way, through spanking, but those who are more experienced will often bring toys into the mix or try a slew of other acts. Impact play is a prevalent kink with a wide umbrella.

Some people prefer various toys, such as whips, floggers, and paddles. Each instrument delivers a different sensation. While it can be tempting to spend money on beautiful black leather BDSM accessories, for those new to the experience, it's best to start small and use what you have at home. Your hand is the most obvious answer, but even a kitchen spatula can double as a paddle. In addition to saving money, using what you have on you familiarizes you and your partner with where to hit on the body, how hard is comfortable, and what you're each looking for out of a scene. Are you unsure what a "scene" means? Keep reading. Allure created a glossary of common impact play terms and what they mean. After you brush up on our kinky dictionary, learn how to negotiate with your partner, where it's safe to hit on the body, and what kink guidelines encourage for post-play etiquette. We spoke to a New York City professional dominatrix and a sex therapist to ensure you have accurate and important information, so you can explore impact play from a place of understanding and confidence.

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A Beginner's Guide to Impact Play by Sophie Saint Thomas

May 1st, 2019


ALLURE: Pick a Safe Word, It's Kink Month May

This May, Allure is going to be celebrating kink by rolling out stories on various kinky behaviors, such as balloon fetishes, impact play, and golden showers. Sex under the sheets between married cis men and women has been hogging the spotlight for several thousand years or so, and we wanted to continue expanding the scope of our sex coverage. In case you want a primer before we truly kick things off, kink refers to any sexual activity that falls outside of society-approved heteronormative standards. Most of us are somewhat kinky, others are vanilla, and some of us are proud freaky perverts with fetishes galore and a passion for BDSM, so let's talk about a few of the kinks and fetishes I'll be taking you through in-depth during Kink Month.

For those who are new to the kink scene (hi, welcome), a fetish refers to an attraction to an object — say, balloons. It can also refer to an attraction to a specific part of the body, such as a foot fetish. BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism, and refers to an erotic power exchange in which one partner is dominant and the other is submissive. People into BDSM do fun things such as strike their partner with a flogger or beg their domme to pee on them.

We all deserve to be kinky and proud and to learn about possible new sexual interests (like whips, floggers, and golden showers). As with any conversation surrounding sex, it's also important to note that you can date whomever you want and do whatever you like with them as long as all parties are consenting — we won't judge as long as you don't judge the kind folks who explain how to safely urinate on your sub or talk about why they find balloons so sexy. We'll be linking to all our kinky articles below. Pick a safe word. See you soon!

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Pick a Safe word, it's Kink month May by Sophie Saint Thomas

May 1, 2019


THE NEW YORK TIMES: We Live in Packs

SAN FRANCISCO — Men are dogs, some more so than others.

There are those, for example, who wear puppy hoods, harnesses, chain collars and tails while out and about. Sometimes they appear in packs. While hardly as mainstream as walking the red carpet with kink-adjacent accouterments, dressing up doggy style has become more visible in San Francisco and beyond.

Puppy play enthusiasts are part of a larger community interested in bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism, collectively known as B.D.S.M. Participants primarily consider it a form of sexual role play, because they get to act like puppies — friendly, frisky, often nonverbal — and gain pleasure from doing so. Adherents, lots of whom are young gay men, adopt pet names: Pups named Turbo, Wonkey, Level, Twitch, Trigger, Cakes, Amp and Mowgli spoke to me for this story.

“You stop using words and start communicating in growls. It’s really fun,” said Phillip Hammack, 42, a University of California Santa Cruz psychology professor who goes by Pup Turbo. “You’re disconnecting from the human side of thinking about every little thing you’re doing. You’re being instinctual and playful.”

Jason, a 27-year-old entrepreneur in Boulder, Colo., who goes by Pup Level, said that pup play has accentuated the tendencies he had before he began practicing it. He said his puppy gear allows him to “be more who I am.” (The Times agreed to not use his last name to prevent professional consequences.)

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We Live in Packs by Blake Montgomery

April 26th, 2019


USA TODAY: As a former sex worker, here's why we should decriminalize what consenting adults agree to do

Sex work is often described as the oldest profession in the world, but in today's world it is more of an umbrella term that encompasses many forms of transactional relationships between consenting adults.

Nowadays, we have cam girls, high-priced escorts, exotic dancers and street-based sex workers amongst dozens of other forms of sex work.

People from all over the world participate in the facilitation and consumption of sex work. But in marginalized communities such as black and brown people, transgender people, and other groups who are denied access to the same resources, education and employment afforded to white people, for some, sex work is the only form of survival. I, myself, found sex work because my employment opportunities were limited as a transgender Latina woman.

I had a degree and a strong work history, but I was discriminated against to the point that I was doing sex work for survival. And for the most part, I enjoyed it. I made my own schedule, I had a say in my wages, and it felt affirming and empowering to be desired enough to be paid for sex.

Throughout history, people have exchanged the commodity of sex for money to survive against poverty, to empower themselves against miserable life circumstances, and to challenge societal norms. That's why my organization and I are fighting for decriminalization around the world to lessen violence against sex workers and to change the conversation about what sex work is and why it, and us, are valuable to the world.

Respectability politics, stigmatization, misogyny, and criminalization, cause sex workers to face exorbitant violence and dehumanization.

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As a former Sex Worker, here's why we should decriminalize what consenting adults agree to do by Alex Corona

April 26th, 2019