STRONG FEELINGS: Sex Work is Work with Jessica Raven

Stopping sex trafficking sounds like a great idea—and it is! But often, anti-trafficking laws actually make sex workers more vulnerable. We talk with sex work decriminalization advocate and all-around amazing guest Jessica Raven about the myths and realities of the sex trade, and how all us can better support people working in it.

EPISODE NOTES

Jessica is the executive director at The Audre Lorde Project and an activist and organizer advocating for sex workers—first with Decrim Now and now with the brand-new Decim NY. Her passion for the work stems from her own experiences with gendered violence, homelessness, and the sex trade. We fell in love with her insight, her voice, and her incredible compassion. You will too.

Listen to the full episode: 

Sex work is Work with Jessica Raven by Strong Feelings podcast

March 7th, 2019


ROLLING STONE: Sex-Work Decriminalization Is Becoming an Issue For 2020

To put it in standard public relations parlance, sex-work decriminalization is having something of a moment. New York lawmakers Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos have announced plans to introduce a bill making New York the first state to decriminalize sex work, and last month a California senator introduced a bill making it easier for sex workers to report violent crimes. And the country’s most famous sex worker, Stormy Daniels, has in part used her new platform as a way to advance the cause, tweeting about sex workers’ rights issues and speaking at multiple sex workers’ rights rallies across the country.

Given the newfound visibility of sex workers’ rights, and the overlap the movement has with women’s rights and workers’ rights as a whole, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are in the position of having to address an issue that has previously been on the margins of the national conversation. But it’s unclear how many of them plan to do that.

Case in point: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who, in a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, was asked whether he supported sex work decriminalization. “That’s a good question and I don’t have an answer for that,” he said.

Read the full article:

Sex Work decriminalization is becoming an issue for 2020 by EJ Dickson

March 6th, 2019


THE LINK: Sex Editorial - Sexually Submissive Men Have Something to Say

It’s pretty much unquestionable that BDSM is having its 15 minutes of fame culturally.

The massive popularity of the book 50 Shades of Grey and it’s inevitable, on-screen adaptation prove that the public is eager to learn more about the world of BDSM, which commonly stands for bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, though there are variations under that moniker.

It’s not surprising that BDSM is enjoying more mainstream success; a study revealed that 51 per cent of men and approximately 39 percent of women were sexually aroused by the idea of having a dominant or submissive sexual partner. These results also reveal that more men than women are attracted to the idea of having someone be sexually submissive to them.

What is lacking about the mainstream depictions of BDSM is variety. 50 Shades of Grey centres around the love/sex story of two characters, the naive/innocent student journalist Ana and the mysterious and damaged businessman Christian Grey (the namesake of the movie).

A lot of cultural dialogue around the subject, including mainstream media sources, have imposed a heterosexual idea that reinforces existing gender binaries, where the man is the dominant partner and the woman the submissive.

It ignores the experiences of sexually submissive men and dominant women, arguably because they flout social customs. We live in a sexist patriarchal culture that promotes and profits off the physical and emotional submission of women.

Men who are sexually submissive are essentially giving the finger to social norms, and that isn’t comfortable to people who promote a mainstream, church-on-Sundays, mashed-potatoes-every-Wednesday kind of existence.

Pseudonyms have been used for the people interviewed, to protect their privacy, as well as their current and future employment opportunities.

Calvin Hobbes

Hobbes is a submissive latex-loving man, who loves to serve his Mistress. “I feel complete when I’m submissive—whether that’s in a sexual context or in terms of being obedient to my partner in day-to-day life,” said Hobbes.

 

Read the full article:

Sex Editorial: Sexually Submissive Men Have Something to Say by Ayesha White

March 5, 2019


TRUTHOUT: New York Sex Workers Are Working to Decriminalize Their Trade

Bianey García arrived in New York City from Mexico in January 2005, 14 years old, alone and without a warm coat. “It was difficult getting here with no family,” she said. “When I got here, I didn’t have anything.” A year later, she was homeless in an expensive city, and still living as a boy.

Then there was a man, she said. He brought her to a restaurant in New Jersey, she remembered, giving her chocolates and flowers, “telling me that he loved me, that he’d do everything for me.” She fell in love with him. She was living on the streets and in the subways, so when he offered her a place to live as his partner, “I thought, ‘Why not?,’ to feel safe, protected — but it wasn’t real.”

“At that time, I was scared of being deported, I was afraid of being arrested because of living in the street,” García, now 28, said. Yet the man coerced her into having sex with other men for money, she said, and giving the money to him. He threatened to call ICE on her if she refused.

García planned her escape from him, saving money from trading sex on the side, not telling him. Being on her own was hard, too. After she transitioned at 18, she had trouble finding other types of work as a trans woman. “I ended up doing sex work again,” she said. “I needed it to survive.” With that came the threat of police.

Read the full article:

New York Sex Workers are working to Decriminalize their trade by Melissa Gira Grant

March 4th, 2019


TRUTHOUT: Decriminalizing Sex Work Is a Matter of Survival

In the summer of 2018, after more than a decade of housing instability, Nona Conner was facing homelessness again. She’d been evicted from the apartment she was staying in. Anxious to find another place to live, she restarted her old GoFundMe, titled “Black Transwoman Housing Crisis,” to get the money together.

She was relieved when there were enough donations for a security deposit and one month’s rent. It took her three months to raise it all. In the meantime, she’d been sleeping on friends’ couches, renting hotel rooms, and spending as much time as possible at her job at Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), a grassroots organization where she works with queer, trans and gender nonconforming people of color to access jobs and job skills during the day.

Before working at CASS, steady employment evaded Nona’s grasp nearly as much as steady housing. Born and raised in Southeast Washington, D.C., Nona was 15 when she ran away from a physically, verbally and emotionally abusive home. She went downtown to K Street and started selling sex to make ends meet.

“I tried getting several jobs. I would call there, sounding like a woman, and introduce myself as Bri — I went by Bri before I legally changed my name to Nona — but then I’d get there in person and they’d see that the name on my resume and the way that I looked didn’t match up with what was on my ID,” Nona said. “They’d go on with the interview for one or two minutes, say they’d give me a call. But I knew what they meant.”

 

Read the full article: 

Decriminalizing Sex Work Is a Matter of Survival by Jordan N. DeLoach

March 2nd, 2019


NPR: Getting Out Of The Commercial Sex Industry

Many workers in the commercial sex industry have trouble getting out because they enter at a young age, have no family support and have been traumatized on the job. An organization based in LA called Treasures provides these women with a safety net that includes support groups, peer mentoring, education, job counseling, and sometimes even child care.

As part of Treasures' outreach program, founder Harmony Dust Grillo and her staff visit juvenile detention facilities, massage parlors and, of course, strip clubs.

"This is definitely an epicenter of the commercial sex industry," says Grillo from the driver's seat of her car.

The mother of two with shoulder-length blonde hair scans a busy midday boulevard in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. It's a familiar four-lane landscape of chain restaurants, retail and gas stations.

Grillo, wearing jeans and a leather jacket, lightly drums her fingers on the steering wheel. She sees and points out what others might miss, right under their noses. "Another motel, another motel. Lots and lots of motels," she says.

Read the full article: 
March 2nd, 2019

THE JOURNAL OF SEXUAL MEDICINE: Are Role and Gender Related to Sexual Function and Satisfaction in Men and Women Practicing BDSM?

Published studies show good psychological health of people involved in bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, and sadism-masochism (BDSM) activities; nevertheless, there are few studies on characteristics related to gender, role in the BDSM scene, sexual functioning, and satisfaction among BDSM practitioners.

The aim of this study was to explore gender and role differences, prevalence of sexual complaints, related distress, and sexual satisfaction in BDSM participants compared with the general population.

A group of 266 Italian consensual BDSM participants (141 men and 125 women) were recruited with a snowball sampling technique. An anonymous protocol, including self-reported ad hoc and validated questionnaires, was used. The control group was composed of 100 men and 100 women who were not significantly different from the BDSM group for the sociodemographic data and were randomly extracted from an Italian database on sexual functioning of the general population.

Self-reported demographic factors, including favorite and most frequent BDSM practices, the Sexual Complaint Screener, and the Sexual Satisfaction Scale, were completed by the participants.

Read the full article: 

Are Role and Gender Related to sexual function and satisfaction in men and women practicing BDSM? by Daniela Botta, Filippo Maria Nimbi,​ ​Francesca Tripodi​, Marco Silvaggi​, ​Chiara Simonelli

March Issue 2019

 


GOTHAMIST: Inside The New Movement To Decriminalize Sex Work In NY

Bianey García arrived in New York City from Mexico in January 2005, 14 years old, alone and without a warm coat. “It was difficult getting here with no family,” she said. “When I got here, I didn’t have anything.” A year later, she was homeless in an expensive city, and still living as a boy.

Then there was a man, she said. He brought her to a restaurant in New Jersey, she remembered, giving her chocolates and flowers, “telling me that he loved me, that he’d do everything for me.” She fell in love with him. She was living on the streets and in the subways, so when he offered her a place to live as his partner, “I thought, ‘Why not?,’ to feel safe, protected—but it wasn't real.”

“At that time, I was scared of being deported, I was afraid of being arrested because of living in the street,” García, now 28, said. Yet the man coerced her into having sex with other men for money, she said, and giving the money to him. He threatened to call ICE on her if she refused.

García planned her escape from him, saving money from trading sex on the side, not telling him. Being on her own was hard, too. After she transitioned at 18, she had trouble finding other types of work as a trans woman. “I ended up doing sex work again,” she said. “I needed it to survive.” With that came the threat of police.

She recalled a warm night in 2008, on Roosevelt Avenue and 86th Street in Queens, when she was arrested for the first time along with someone she was dating.

“I was walking with my boyfriend,” she said, “and then an undercover police car stopped in front of us, and [the officers] pushed me to the ground and take my purse. They search my purse, they found condoms, and they used that as evidence of prostitution. Even when they was arresting me, my boyfriend told them we were in a relationship, and they don’t care. They said [to him], ‘You have to go, or you'll be arrested.’”

 

Read the full article: 

Inside The New Movement To Decriminalize Sex Work In NY by Melissa Gira Grant

February 25th, 2019


MEL: THE FOOT FETISHISTS OF WIKIFEET ARE THE WEB’S GENTLEST KINKSTERS

Ludacris has a thing for feet. According to a 2004 interview he gave to Today, the rapper, actor and one-time Fear Factor host judges a lady’s date-worthiness by how sexy her feet are, rejecting anyone who “tricks” him by pulling a displeasing foot out of her boot. “I have a foot fetish,” he explained.

That a household name like Luda came out and admitted he had a fetish was titillating at the time, but the fact that feet were his fancy was somewhat less so: According to a 2007 study of more than 5,000 adults, foot fetishism is the most common non-vanilladesire. And as evidenced by Ludacris’ admission, it’s also the most seemingly mainstream. Nowhere is that more apparent than on wikiFeet, a celebrity foot fetish site, founded in 2008, that bills itself as “the most extensive online message board and photo gallery of women’s feet on the Internet.”

According to The Guardian, more than 700,000 people visit wikiFeet every week to rate and review the feet of over 30,000 famous women’s feet. Some of these feet are attached to A-listers like Ivanka Trump, Whoopi Goldberg and Emma Stone, but the vast majority of them are C- and D-list feet submitted by a global network of users who pull them from public sources like social media, magazine covers, film stills and Google Images.

If you’re a foot fanatic, I’m sure you’ll find wikiFeet’s selection — sortable by nationality, foot size and birthday — to be robust and satisfying. If you’re not, I’m equally sure you’ll find absolutely nothing sexy about it — the images are zoomed-out, G-rated and no more erotic than your standard Getty photo. The comments are equally tame and nothing like the ones you’d find on a typical porn site. “Beautiful soles, with elegant form!!!!” reads one. “Very nice #bath” is another. They’re also very, very knowledgeable about feet.

Read the full article:

The foot fetishists of Wikifeet are the web's gentlest Kinksters by Isabelle Kohn

Feb. 2019


VICE: How Trans Sex Workers in Paris Are Coming Together to Stay Safe

Near the sprawling Bois de Boulogne public park in western Paris, a white van belonging to a trans sex worker has been completely wrecked. The bed is torn apart, the bumpers shattered and trash dumped on the ground around the vehicle. "This really pisses me off," fumes Samantha as she surveys the damage to the van.

Samantha is a sex worker and employee of the Bus des Femmes – an organisation that works to provide sex workers in the area with a range of welfare services. She considers herself an expert on the Bois de Boulogne – where, in April of 2018, trans sex worker Vanessa Campos, 36, was killed while trying to protect a colleague from being robbed.

"You're looking at a kind of intersectionality with these girls; the combined stigmas of being trans, a sex worker and an immigrant," Françoise Gill, the president of Bus de femmes, later explains to me.

Samantha is on her weekly rounds to check in on the area's sex worker community – a group that has felt considerably less safe since the French government introduced a €1,500 (£1,350) fine in 2016 for anyone caught paying for sex. Even though prostitution is legal in France, the fine was partly intended as a deterrent. But instead of working as planned, clients now regularly ask the women for sex in secluded areas to avoid the police. In a Médecins du Monde survey conducted with nearly 600 sex workers in France, 63 percent said they have seen their working conditions deteriorate, while 42 percent said they have experienced more violence since the law change.

Read the full article:

How Trans Sex Workers in Paris are coming together to stay safe by Manon Walquan and Edouard Richards

Jan. 11th, 2019