COUNTER PUNCH: Florida’s Sex Wars: the Battle to Decriminalize Sex Work

On May 3rd, the Florida legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 540 that extends the Soliciting for Prostitution Public Database to include “johns” and “pimps” as well as sex trafficking victims and sex workers.

In a follow-up press release, the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars warned state legislators, the “registry will be open to the public & aims to name & shame adults in the sex industry.”  Going further, it argued: “Every member of the Florida House and Senate has now shown how little regard each member has for the brave sex workers and victims of sex trafficking who testified about the unavoidable harm this bill will create in their communities.”

Speaking with the desperate voice of those who know what they are talking about, SWOT warned:

When we are killed because our names are placed on a registry, we will hold the Florida legislators responsible. When our kids are taken away from our safe homes, put into Florida’s dangerous foster-care system, perhaps cruelly beaten or sexually molested, we will also hold Florida legislators responsible.

It concluded, “Listen to sex workers and stop these arrests.”

Sex workers have been persecuted since the nation was founded. Today, while sex work is legal in only a handful of rural counties in Nevada, it is estimated to be a $14.5 billion enterprise.  Many men — from Presidents Trump and Kennedy, to tycoons like Jeffrey Epstein and Robert Kraft, to celebrities, sportsmen and all-too-many ordinary men — have been customers of sex workers.  The Fondation Scelles estimated that in 2012 there were one million prostitutes operating across the country.   Who knows how many sex workers there are as the economy tightens.

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Florida's Sex Wars: the Battle to decriminalize Sex Work by David Rosen

May 17th, 2019


NPR: Demystifying Kink

Before we jump in today, a warning - the next eight minutes we'll be having a frank discussion about sex that might not be suitable for all listeners. Over the last few weeks, we have been bringing you stories about sex - the conversations we have about sex, the ones we don't and how those conversations shape society. We have heard about LGBTQ sex education, waiting for marriage, and porn literacy. Today, my co-host Ailsa Chang brings us a story about a community we rarely hear about on public radio or otherwise.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: The kink community - kinksters, as they're known. Specifically, we're looking at what the rest of the world can learn from kinksters about sex and communication. And again, we're going to be spending the next seven minutes talking frankly about sex, which might not be suitable for all listeners. And NPR's Mallory Yu recently sat down with a group of these folks. She joins me now. Hey, Mallory.

MALLORY YU, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right. I just want to get some terms out of the way first, starting with the word kink.

YU: I'm going to let Evan, who is part of my roundtable, handle this one. We didn't use last names of several of the people at this roundtable because they were worried about current or future employment. Anyway, here's Evan.

EVAN: Kinky is anything that is outside of the, you know, fictional narrative that we have of the norm of sexuality.

CHANG: Outside the norm.

YU: Exactly. So we're talking about things like BDSM, which is a subset of kink. And people might be familiar with some of those terms from the movie "Fifty Shades Of Grey," which was very controversial in the kink community.

CHANG: Because they felt it misportrayed a lot of things in that community.

YU: Exactly. But it was a lot of people's introductions to that kind of sex. And then there's vanilla, which is sex that's not kinky.

CHANG: Wait. Vanilla - is that like a put-down, like anybody who's vanilla is boring?

YU: No, not necessarily. It's more just a way to differentiate between what is kinky versus not kinky.

CHANG: All right. So a lot of our series is about how we talk about sex, how we don't communicate enough about sex, or when we do communicate, we do it very badly. And that is exactly why you and I wanted to focus on the kink community here.

YU: So something that I heard a lot in my reporting was this idea that everyone is a little bit kinky, right? And I think that's supported in the research because there's this guy, Dr. Justin Lehmiller. He's with the Kinsey Institute. He interviewed 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies. And what he found was that a vast majority of them, both men and women, had fantasized about some form of BDSM.

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Demystifying Kink by All Things Considered

May 17th, 2019


ALLURE: A Beginner's Guide to Golden Showers and Piss Play Fetishes

While to some, golden showers are the butt of a Donald Trump joke, to others, they are an extremely erotic experience. Golden showers are one form of piss play, which is exactly what it sounds like: sexual play involving piss. Though they may seem easy to make fun of because most of us grew up with bathroom humor, we should probably be nicer when it comes to the topic of golden showers because a lot of people are into them, and kink-shaming isn't cool.

Some people engage in golden showers as part of BDSM. BDSM involves a power exchange in which one partner is submissive and the other partner is dominant. In this particular scenario, the dominant partner typically pees on the submissive. Other people just try them out because they're horny and bored. Let's talk about all the reasons people love golden showers and what you should know if you're interested in trying out this particular kink.

This particular kink is actually incredibly ordinary, according to the experts. "Urophilia — golden showers, piss play, and the like — is such a common kink that there are piss parties full of folks who want to explore this," says New York sex therapist and relationship counselor Michael DeMarco. New York City-based professional and lifestyle dominatrix Goddess Aviva adds, "It’s so common! People love to be peed on. And quite a few of them also like to drink it." In fact, an Australian survey says that around four percent of men have a piss play fetish, and Pornhub stats show that searches for "golden shower" (along with related terms) increased exponentially in 2017 after it was alleged that Donald Trump enjoyed watersports.

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A beginner's guide to golden showers and piss play fetishes by Sophie Saint Thomas

May 16th, 2019


THE GUARDIAN: Indian sex workers lobby for pensions and healthcare

Sex workers across India are lobbying candidates in the country’s general election to support their demands for better health and welfare services in return for votes.

“We wanted to see which party accepts sex workers as part of the community,” said Kusum (who goes by only one name), president of the All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), which is coordinating efforts. “Some express support for us behind closed doors, but never in public.”

The network has 5 million members, who between them have 20 million dependents – yet sex workers have little influence. Indian society and politics are too conservative to discuss sex work openly, much less debate or acknowledge their rights as citizens, said Kusum.

“That is why we are making a special effort in this election to get some visibility and get our voices heard. Our vote is important because we all come to a consensus and collectively decide which party to vote for,” said Kusum, who is based in New Delhi.

In Kolkata, sex workers are taking their demands directly to candidates for the first time. Sex workers have lobbied two-thirds of the 150-plus candidates standing in West Bengal, where Kolkata is located, to sign declarations of support for their demands. Election results are expected on 23 May.

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Indian Sex Workers lobby for pensions and healthcare by Amrit Dhillon

May 16th, 2019


REUTERS: No sewing please, we're sex workers: Thai prostitutes battle stigma

A group of women sit around a table making dreamcatchers with colorful bits of yarn, chatting about their families, work and the thick smog enveloping Chiang Mai city in northern Thailand.

Just another workplace scene, except the women are all sex workers who meet their clients at Can Do Bar, which they own as a collective, benefitting from health insurance, fixed hours and time off - which are typically denied to sex workers.

The bar was set up in 2006 by Empower Foundation, a non-profit founded in Bangkok’s Patpong red-light district for sex workers who are still stigmatized despite widespread tolerance of Thailand’s thriving sex industry.

Thousands of Thai and migrant sex workers have learned from Empower to negotiate with bar and massage parlor owners for better conditions, and to lobby the government to decriminalize their work to improve their incomes, safety and wellbeing.

“People say we should stop doing what we do, and sew or bake cookies instead - but why are only those jobs considered appropriate?” said Mai Chanta, a 30-something native of Chiang Mai, who has been a sex worker for about eight years.

“This is what we choose to do, and we feel a sense of pride and satisfaction that we are just like other workers,” said Mai, dressed in a calf-length skirt and a t-shirt that reads “United Sex Workers Nations”.

Millions of women across the world choose sex work to make an income. Yet only a few countries - including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Senegal and Peru - recognize it as legal, leaving prostitutes elsewhere vulnerable to abuse.

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No sewing please, we're Sex Workers: Thai prostitution battle stigma by Rina Chandran

May 15th, 2019


ALLURE: Introducing Ferly, a Tech Startup Creating a Sex-Positive Space for Women

Even if you're aware of your sexual desires, becoming confident with your kinks and needs can take work. As many of us were raised with sexual shame or stigma, even if we logically know that our wants are normal, getting to a place where we freely share our desires with our partner(s) can take time and effort. You may use a meditation app; now there's a mindfulness app specifically created to embrace your sexuality.

Ferly is a sex-positive app that aims to create a digital space for female-identifying folks to get in touch with their sexuality and what pleasure means to them. "We describe Ferly as your audio guide to mindful sex," co-founder and CEO Billie Quinlan tells Allure. "Ferly is a space for womxn to bring awareness into their sexuality so they can explore their beliefs, unpack narratives, and discover pleasure in new and exciting ways. It's a shame-free, accessible and fun way for womxn to invest in their sexual well-being."

Ferly is not a dating app, but rather a resource of podcast episodes on the science of sex, guided meditations, and body-mapping, and sensual stories created by London-based Billie Quinlan and Anna Hushlak. The app is available starting in June of 2019 on iOS, with Android to follow, and costs £10 per month or £60 a year, or roughly $12 USD per month or $78 a year.

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Introducing Ferly, a Tech startup creating a sex-positive space for woman by Sophie Saint Thomas

May 14th, 2019


ADVOCATE: Special's Ryan O'Connell Wants to 'Show the Humanity in Sex Work'

With Special, the Netflix show he created and stars in, Ryan O'Connell has redefined how gay sex is portrayed on TV. Sex is "awkward, funny, humiliating, affirming, all within the span of, like, five minutes," he says. O'Connell set out to depict onscreen sex in an authentic way, something rarely shown with LGBTQ people, and that includes having his character lose his virginity to a sex worker.

Like O'Connell, the character he's based on is gay and has cerebral palsy. To show a character with a disability who has a sex life adds to the groundbreaking nature of the show and it puts the onscreen character in a group with very few others.

On this week's episode of LGBTQ&AO'Connell discusses creating Special, why we shouldn't be afraid to talk about sex work, and the queer community's "garden variety self-loathing."

Jeffrey Masters: After your car crash, you didn't correct anyone who assumed you had a limp because of the crash and not your cerebral palsy. Why was that easier for people to accept and relate to?
Ryan O'Connell: There's a lot of ignorance around what cerebral palsy is, and honestly, it's not entirely their fault because, truly, cerebral palsy looks different on everybody.

Whenever I had to explain to someone that I had cerebral palsy, it always was met with confusion and I hated it. So then, with an accident, you're just like, "Oh, I got hit by a car." And people are like, "Oh my God, that's so sad. It could have happened to me."

And I think that just made me feel like much, much more digestible to everyone else.

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Special's Ryan O'Connell wants to 'Show the humanity in Sex Work' by Jeffery Masters

May 14th, 2019


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


ALLURE: A Guide to Pegging Your Partner With a Strap On

Can pegging make your partner a better lover? Some people, including experts in the sex and relationships field, certainly think so.

"When I have sex with cisgender men, the ones who receive anal penetration are much better lovers than those who haven’t," says kink-friendly sex therapist Liz Powell. Well, if that's not enough motivation to explore this misunderstood and even controversial activity, I don't know what is.

Of course, the decision to try pegging with a strap on is completely up to the individuals involved, and many folks are wonderful sexual partners regardless of whether they're interested in this form of sexual exploration. But what is pegging, why is it so hot for some of us, and what supplies and knowledge are needed to try it safely? Allure spoke with Powell and a professional dominatrix to learn all you need to know.

First of all, what is pegging?

Traditionally, pegging refers to a cisgender, heterosexual male receiving anal penetration from his cishet female partner with a strap-on dildo — and, actually, it's a word surrounded by a bit of controversy.

 

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A Guide to Pegging Your Partner With a Strap On by Sophie St. Thomas

May 8, 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