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


TEEN VOGUE: Why Sex Work Is Real Work

In this op-ed, Tlaleng Mofokeng, MD, founder of Nalane for Reproductive Justice, explains why she believes sex work should be decriminalized across the globe.

The government of Amsterdam, a city known worldwide for its Red Light District, will ban the popular guided tours through that area starting in 2020. The ban stems in part from complaints calling the tours a nuisance that lead to congestion in the narrow canal-side streets. But city officials have also said the ban is out of respect for sex workers. “It is no longer acceptable in this age to see sex workers as a tourist attraction,” city councillor Udo Kock said, according to The Guardian. There’s one problem: Many sex workers are opposing this plan.

Sex work is legal in Amsterdam, but it isn’t in many other places, though some people are working to make it so. In South Africa, where I am based, for instance, sex workers are calling for decriminalization and legal reform. They argue that sex work is work, as affirmed by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. This situation in Amsterdam, and the continued criminalization of sex workers around the world, is yet another example of how we disregard the needs and opinions of the people most impacted by policies. But even more so, it’s another example of how we misunderstand what sex work actually is. I am a doctor, an expert in sexual health, but when you think about it, aren't I a sex worker? And in some ways, aren't we all?

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Why Sex Work is Real Work by Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng

April 26th, 2019


REFINERY29: Non-Visual Porn Is The New Way Women Are Getting Their Kicks In The Bedroom

On the whole, free porn is a notoriously misogynistic world of aggressive thrusting, hairless bodies, and over-exaggerated moans (that is, it's almost always devoid of genuine female pleasure). Independent feminist directors like Erika Lust, inclusive platforms like CrashPadSeries and Pink Label TV, and the rise of "ethical porn" (which protects performers and celebrates diversity), have done their bit to remedy this in recent years. But mainstream porn remains a largely visual – and frenetic experience – that caters to the male gaze.
A new platform has launched that turns this outdated genre of porn on its head: it's entirely devoid of imagery. Quinn, which debuted on the 13th April, features just auditory and written porn, a USP which founder Caroline Spiegel (Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel's younger sister, no less), says makes for "a more fun, chill, and clean experience for women. It’s all about pleasure and good vibes," she tells Refinery29. With fans and creators of NSFW content still reeling from Tumblr's total ban of adult content last year, the launch of a new platform for sexy stories and audio couldn't be more timely.
Quinn users can listen to people having sex, read user-submitted stories and fantasies, and post their own, with categories including "accent" and "gentle"; user-penned erotica with titles like "Orgasmic Meditation" and "Hot Yoga"; and a lot of breathy moans from both men and women (sample title: "Snugglefuck"). If you're already a fan of the 'brain orgasm' or 'tingles' induced by ASMR, you'd be depriving yourself by not giving Quinn a chance.
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April 26th, 2019

VICE: Dominatrixes Tell Us What Makes a Good Sub

The Ritual Chamber is one of Canada’s foremost spaces for BDSM play and workshops. It’s located on a nondescript street in Toronto. From the outside, the Chamber looks like any other well-kept house: exposed brick, manicured shrubs, and a sleek exterior. You’d never find it if you didn’t know it was there, which is by design. Most clientele requires complete discretion for their visits.

Inside the main room, the walls are lined with whips and floggers. There are leather cuffs hanging from the ceiling and a large St. Andrew’s Cross in the corner. Other rooms have themes: a doctor’s office complete with stirrups and IV drips; a schoolroom with an undersized desk and oversized blackboard; there is a room with mirrors everywhere, adorned with smoking chairs and a Victorian couch. Earlier this week, I sat on the couch across from domnes Lady PimRed Diamond, and the Chamber’s owner/headmistress Shahrazad. While I’ve dabbled in kink, it’s not really my scene. If I had to define my major fetish, I’d say it’s people being kind to me. Still, conversations about the subject are endlessly fascinating. That day, I was there to learn about effective submission.

“A person shouldn’t start out by labeling themselves submissive. I would recommend they start by having experiences,” said Shahrazad. The headmistress’ tone was patient and kind, playing in stark contrast to her costume of stockings and military garb. She gave of a vibe that was benevolent but authoritative. Like an elementary school principal, if an elementary school principal also knew the proper technique for safe testicle torturing. As she spoke, Lady Pim and Red Diamond nodded along in solidarity. “Slowly exposing yourself to the type of play you are curious about lets you decide what kind of submissive, bottom, or switch you are. Or if you are any of those things at all. The best way is always easing in, asking questions to people you trust, and figuring out what’s right for you.”

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Dominatrixes Tell Us What Makes a Good Sub by Graham Isador

April 25th, 2019


TRUTH OUT: Criminalizing Sex Workers Drives Rape and Gender-Based Police Violence

Mainstream feminism too often puts ‘police violence’ and ‘male violence against women’ into different conceptual categories — if, indeed, it considers police violence to be a topic of feminist concern at all. This is especially the case for the violence that is ‘normalised’ as part of policing: arrests, most obviously, but also violations such as intimate searches, and harassment such as stop-and-frisk. The result is that police violence gets left out of mainstream feminist anti-violence work. However, when we think of police violence not only as state violence but also (often) as male violence against women, the criminalisation of prostitution comes into focus in a new way: as a key driver of male violence against women.

The infrastructure of criminalisation saturates our political consciousness. It is the bobby on the beat, the jail on the Monopoly board, the crime-drama TV show (with its inevitable murdered prostitute), the car-chase footage on the news. In this saturation, such images are rendered mundane, sidelining questions of the legitimacy or purpose of these modes of control. As Angela Davis writes, the prison ‘is one of the most important features of our image environment,’ yet it functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers. This is the ideological work that the prison performs — it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.

Theorist Beth Richie uses the term prison nation to mean a ‘broad notion of using the arm of the law to control people, especially disadvantaged people and people from disadvantaged communities.’ Her term encompasses not only the physical infrastructure of prisons and jails, but also ‘surveillance, policing, detention, probation, harsh restrictions on child guardianship… and other strategies of isolation and disposal.’

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Criminalizing Sex Workers drives rape and gender-based police violence by Juno Mac and Molly Smith

April 25th, 2019


BITCH MEDIA: Can we change the direction of gendered AI?

During last November’s Cyber Monday, I bought a new home companion. She had a coral shell, an Australian accent, and answered to “Hey Google.” The more we spoke, the more I thought about her consciousness. How was her personality programmed? What were her defining characteristics? And as I pondered these questions, I couldn’t get past the obvious fact that she was, first and foremost, a she. The growing number of personal digital assistants such as Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), and Alexa (Amazon) illustrate that, even in our attempts to create a posthuman world, we still use the architecture of gender to imagine the future.

The feminization of artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t a culturally novel phenomenon. The latest embodiment of AI—personal digital assistants—stands rank with other popularized cyborgs and bots also considered she. The most literal is the disembodied heroine of Spike Jonze’s 2013 rom-sci-fi Her, in which lonely human Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls for his personalized operating system, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). More recent is Alex Garland’s 2015 sci-thriller Ex Machina, in which the AI, Ava (Alicia Vikander), takes form in a humanoid robot. And let’s not forget the twin-barrel−blazing fembots of Austin Powers, the programmed-to-not-be-desperate Stepford Wives, and the teen-fantasy bombshell of John Hughes’s cult classic Weird Science. For decades, shebots and sheborgs have been computed into pop culture, and it’s clear what they all have in common: sexy subservience.

Dr. Miriam Sweeney, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and digital-media scholar, researches how the feminization of AI plays proxy to society’s embedded patriarchal attitudes about women’s “natural” workService and caregiver jobs, which rely heavily on emotional labor and the maintenance of social relationships, are disproportionately held by women as a hangover from women’s historical bondage to the domestic sphere: the home. The feminization of AI becomes the natural next step in hardwiring a connection between domestic labor and “women’s work.” It also depicts our understanding of what the perfect model of service should look like: docile, passive, obedient, feminine. This depiction, Sweeney maintains, tacitly approves men’s fantasies of sexual domination and aggression. While slapping a waitress’s butt might be met with conflict or punishment, asking Siri about her bra size won’t have any real-life consequences.

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Can we change the direction of gendered AI? by Dejan Jotanovic

April 25th, 2019


BITCH MEDIA: The Power to turn the Patriarchy into Stone

Last spring, I had a minimalist portrait of Medusa tattooed on my forearm. It’s my favorite and most visible tattoo, a constant reminder to be unapologetic in casting a harsh gaze against the patriarchy. But the story of Medusa is often seen as a tragedy: she is known for being powerless against Athena and Poseidon, doomed to a lonely life as a monstrous Gorgon, which most renditions describe as punishment. Many believe her story to be one of revenge and torment, but in rereading the myth of Medusa and Athena, a new mythological world in which women are protective of each other in a patriarchal society and their relationships are meant to serve as a lesson for others reveals itself. Whether in competition for affection or authority, women in patriarchies are repeatedly pitted against each other, but a feminist analysis of the myth of Medusa reclaims her curse as a powerful protection against the male gaze.

Though there are different versions of the Medusa myth, Roman poet Ovid’s Medusa was a mortal woman who had sworn to a life of celibacy. She had long, golden locks of hair, and is described as being exceptionally beautiful. Poseidon, god of the sea, lusted after Medusa and raped her in Athena’s temple. After catching word of Poseidon’s attack on Medusa, a supposedly jealous Athena turned Medusa’s lovely hair into snakes and cursed her with the ability to turn men who looked at her into stone.

Medusa, along with her two immortal sisters, was one of three Gorgons, which comes from the Greek word gorgós, meaning “fierce, terrible, and grim.” All three sisters were seen as monstrous for having the power to kill men. Medusa, however, was the only mortal and the most attractive of the three. She was also the most powerful, killing more men than either of her sisters, which also made her the most threatening and the most feared. As the Medusa myth is retold in a patriarchal and male-dominated society, the fact that she was a victim of rape is overshadowed by her terrifying appearance and ability to turn men into stone. This retelling sweeps the original violence against Medusa under the rug to center the violence she commits against men.

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The Power to turn the patriarchy into stone by McKenzie Schwark

April 23rd, 2019


THE GLOBAL POST: Sex Workers Need Decriminalization, Not Stigma

With the news that New York state intends to bring in a bill to decriminalize sex work, prostitution in the United States is back in the headlines. The response from anti-prostitution activists was fast and furious, and they immediately began lobbying and picketing to stop this from happening.

To criminalize or decriminalize: that is the polarizing question feminists have been asking themselves since the feminist sex wars of the 1980s.

The arguments on the anti-side are bleak. Prostitution is violence against women. Prostitution oppresses women. Women won’t be free until prostitution is eliminated. Therefore, the only responsible policy is to recognize that women are abused in prostitution, and to target the male buyers and pimps to end demand. Anti-prostitution activists favor the so-called Nordic model where the buyers are criminalized, and the sellers are given the resources they need to get out of the trade.

Until a few years ago, I too was an anti-prostitution scholar and filmmaker. But interviewing and getting to know sex working women who choose sex work challenged my thinking on the Nordic model, amongst many other things. The women I met made me see that the Nordic model is not a stop-gap to women’s eventual sexual equality; it simply prolongs our inequality by continuing and reinforcing the stigma against women’s sexuality and sexual freedom.

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Sex Workers need Decriminalization, not Stigma by Meredith Ralston

April 23rd, 2019


DAILY BEAST: How Porn Stars Balance Sex Work and Parenting: ‘My Kids Are Trained to Respect Privacy’

MILF. Mom. Stepmom. All three terms made Pornhub’s top-10 most-searched in 2018. Women’s No. 1 searched term in 2018 was “Daddy,” according to xHamster’s trend report. As the interest in fauxcest continues to climb, adult performers are increasingly fetishized as parents—but for some porn stars, being a mommy (or daddy) isn’t just sexy role-play, it’s real life. Not only do adult performers struggle with striking the same work-life balance as everyone else, they have the added responsibility of keeping their careers hush-hush. Some performers keep their two lives so segregated, they won’t even admit to being parents; others create boundaries and a framework within which to abide by.

Known as the “Taboo MILF,” Penny Barber has made a career out of indulging these types of desires, and much of her site focuses on mommy-son role-play. Barber happens to be a mother off-screen, too. Her kids, who are in elementary school, think Mom makes indie movies—which isn’t entirely untrue. Keeping her work separated from her kids’ realm feels “effortless” once the foundational limits were established, one of which is privacy.

“My kids are trained to respect privacy, which I assume other parents don’t have to worry about as much,” says Barber. “For example, if they see that I’m on my computer, they have to ask, ‘May I approach?’ before they come over, just in case I’m editing on Photoshop or have my email open or something.” Barber’s also taken additional precautions, like setting her computer to log out when it’s not in use.

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How Porn Stars balance Sex Work and Parenting by Aurora Snow

April 20th, 2019


BBC: Should prostitution be a normal profession?

Amsterdam’s Red Light District – with its winding alleyways filled with crimson-glowing windows where women attract passing customers – has become not only a tourist destination and cultural icon, but also a high-profile example of a place where safe, legal sex work has been practised for decades.

But that might soon end. Dutch parliament is currently preparing to debate the legality of prostitution in the Netherlands. With the industry facing opposition from both the Christian right and feminist left, sex workers in the Red Light District are under pressure to protect their right to work.

Could these debates lead to big changes in sex work around the world? And how could that affect the jobs and lives of the people in the industry?

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Should prostitution be a normal profession? by Ed Butler, Laurence Knight, and Bryan Lufkin

April 20th, 2019