Thursday, June 18, 2009

"mothers, tell your children not to do as I have done": sex work through the viewpoint of parents

So, this country music video, affiliated with this organization, tries to get those slavering, sick, depraved men who are into porn and strip clubs to "maintain their self-control" by reminding them that the stripper or porn starlet they are watching is "somebody's daughter/somebody's child/somebody's pride and joy/somebody loves her for who she is inside/she has a mother and father/she's somebody's daughter.../ when her beauty is defiled I demean us both.."

Bitch offers some weak second waveish criticism here:
This is actually only one of several music videos made for, offering “freedom from the crushing grip of porn.” Are strip clubs and pornography frequently problematic? Yes. If it’s ruining your family life should you seek counsel and remedy? Well yeah. Are there better ways to address it than imagining her mom and dad at her college graduation/birthday party/dance recital? And reinforcing images of all women as “our little girls all grown up?” Oh yeah! This video adds to some recent conversations on the prevalence of porn in society, and while I'm pretty uncomfortable with most porn and strip clubs, if the Somebody's Daughter campaign is all about casting men as sexual perverts for liking porn and women in the sex industry as a dependent innocents, then I doubt it's adding anything new or progressive as far as curbing the more harmful aspects of pornography and "gentleman's clubs"....though I have to give them some credit, this is by far one of the unsexiest videos I’ve ever watched.

(But thanks for the bit about how casting women in the sex industry as dependent innocents isn't progressive, Bitch magazine.)

What I really think we need to talk about in reference to this video is the question it raises, a question that opponents of sex worker's rights & decriminalization of sex work often ask, a question they ask as if it's the ultimate question and all debate can be defused by it:

"What if your daughter wanted to be a prostitute too?"

[Or stripper, or porn actress, or phone sex operator, sex cam worker, etc etc etc, insert relevant branch of sex work in the right spot...]

I think it's important to face the melodrama and taboo evoked by this question head on. Though perhaps my opinion might not matter that much, because I'm not planning on having children, I say, "If my daughter wanted to work in the same profession I do, I hope I could be proud of her and respect her choices."

The question posits workers in the sex industry as passive victims of objectification, rather than skilled artisans controlling the way they are viewed. It implies that any work that has to do with sex is shameful and victimizing, not a part of "who she[you] is [are] inside", as the country video puts it. That no mother *could* be proud of a skillful sex worker daughter, or be anything but horrified, ashamed, and deeply concerned. That sex work could never be seen as a respectable profession. And that has much more to do with this society's view of sex than with what actually takes place in the sex industry.

(Furthermore, it is not a universal view, but culturally specific, as demonstrated by the fact that geishas, Japanese sex workers/entertainers/artists, were honored and mothers put their daughters through a several year apprenticeship in the exacting art so that they could continue the family name within the trade--which was obviously viewed as a positive outcome.)

The fact that my mother isn't proud of all the work I do, not just the more wholesome activism, but my escorting, does disappoint me. I understand the cultural context, the prejudices that have been passed down to her, behind her view of my working as being a horrible fate that's befallen me, and I don't blame her entirely, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. As I write in my interview in Alexa of The Real Princess Diaries' My First Professional Sex project:
They know. My mother prays for me. She thinks it’s a symptom of a mental disorder, as does my father. The one time I was arrested, my father wrote a letter to the DA calling me a heroin addicted mentally ill prostitute who should not be allowed to leave the court room, who should be sent to jail or drug treatment immediately. He wrote a pathos ridden paragraph about how every day they worry I might contract HIV (although I practice safer sex than the vast majority of the general population–I practice safer sex than *he* does.) I always wondered why he was dumb enough to send that letter to the DA–not my lawyer or the judge–why he was dumb enough to think the DA could possibly have my interests, rather than the goal of a conviction in mind.

I know my father did it because he thought it would help, but with good intentions like that, who needs malevolence? I haven’t spoken to him since. I don’t *blame* my parents–there’s a huge cultural divide there, they are Russian and come from a culture with totally different values. But sometimes I do long for a mother who would be proud of me, like the depictions I see of Carol Leigh/Scarlot Harlot’s relationship with her mom.

So, yes, as Carol Leigh/Scarlet Harlot's mother's support attests--her mother appears in many of her video documentaries about her sex work and sex worker's rights activism, standing firm in her approval of what her daughter does in interviews--there is a way for parents to move beyond prejudice in their view of their child's sex work. But that's not the reality for the vast majority of us. In fact, most of us don't even bother to come out to their parents b/c of the overwhelming disapproval, pity, and anguish we're (justifiably) sure we'll experience--most of the time I wish I hadn't been dumb enough to come out to my mother and brother, who then told my father. Some of us internalize our parents' and this culture's whorophobia and sadly, are even ashamed of ourselves sometimes.

I'd love to hear any comments about this touchy subject I've brought up. The less silence there is around it, the less prostitution abolitionists can use the question of parents and children to silence debate about sex work in general.

Monday, June 8, 2009

just watched The Girlfriend Experience on Comcast

Everyone's said something, if not exactly IT, better before, so here are a few scattered impressions just in case you wanted to hear yet ANOTHER sex worker chime in:

*First off, I don't think I could ever fuck a chasid as a client. All that Ortho Jew upbringing, it'd be like a Catholic ho fucking a priest. The scene where he stripped to his tzitzit might be the most personally shocking bit of film I've ever viewed. But something about how he held her & shook in such an Ashkenazi unrestrained sort of way rang true somehow. Soderbergh knows his Jews, I guess.

*I can't really emphasize with an empty headed, apolitical, high femme capitalist, even if she is in ostensibly the same profession I am. & I GET that half the film was a muted recession era American Psycho showing us affluent Manhattanites scrambling to maintain their standard of living in new economic circumstances, but still. I thought the whole point of the black market, and being in a recession resistant, if not recession proof business was--you get paid for taking more risk so you don't have to talk and think that way ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Improve and grow your business, and gag me with a spoon.

* High end escorts, how do you not sleep in your own beds at night? I shudder. The *displacement*.

*I found myself agreeing with her boyfriend a lot when he spoke to her. Serpent Libertine said, yeah, of course the escort got it in the end, but why did they make an escort that acted so selfishly and childishly to begin with?

*So is there something wrong with me that I look down slightly on women who consider dating clients, who think about a relationship after just a few (or ONE) meeting in a commercial context? Is it that I'm just not heterosexual enough in the right way? Should every cis male, no matter how you meet them, be a prospect? Okay, now I guess I'm just being cruel. At least they did have a character voice this critique, her older less traditionally pretty escort friend foil (whom she, of course, ignores.) Seriously, though, I have never seen this work in the history of hookerdom. One can feel close to clients within the boundaries established, sure, and it's even important to feel close to them in some sense or another. But you can't turn a *transaction* into such a fundamentally different kind of interaction.

*Though I disagreed with the journalist's facile differentiation of the "real you" from how one behaves in a call. G does not do and say everything Caty does, but G does behave in a way that is authentic to Caty towards her clients.Abridged and appropriate behavior for a situation is not the same thing as a false front.

*I did find myself actually agreeing with the asshole hobbyist reviewer (a thinly veiled portrayal of that asshole who owned Big Doggie or something?) How does this girl keep clients? "Flat affect" indeed! Sasha Gray was robotic, and anything but a Girlfriend Experience. If I was her client, I would have felt like I was sitting with my absentminded, sullen teenage daughter, who wanted to finish eating dinner with me and issuing polite, programmed responses so she can watch "Gossip Girl". It was dissapointing, b/c Sasha Grey looked like she had great presence, & I was really looking forward to her performance, and came in with no expectations b/c I'd never seen any of her pornos. And I'm not gonna be sexworkerphobic about another branch of the business and say porn actors can't actually act, b/c the 70s porn I like certainly has people with a little something to them even in the most moronic scenes. Nina Hartley exudes sassy authority everywhere she goes, and could fill a role made for her as easily as breathing.

*So are we not supposed to sympathize with her? And even high femmes are not that vapid about conversations and obsessive about clothes in their journals, I guarantee you.

*Though the one time I did find myself emphasizing with her was as she cried (while confiding to a client, ughhh) about the hobbyist's awful treatment of her. I'm so glad I have never found myself on a review board--maybe I've stayed in a print medium too long, seen too many blue collar guys who are good earners but internet illiterate, or maybe no one can spell my nomme de whore on the net, but thankfully, I've never had to read such poison about my performance.

*Doofus, most clients will never have a specific compliment to make about your outfit, no matter how expensive and perfect it is, unless they have a fetish for some accessory or other.

Friday, June 5, 2009

keep tuning in

I wanna write something about the new drug czar, though so many already have, beginning with my first impressions of him and his bravery in taking a stand disciplining an officer in a "controversial jaywalking incident" (I just love saying that), to his rebranding of the drug war (keeping prohibition on the books and coercively shuttling us into treatment centers isn't the end of the drug war, it's just better PR for it), and then his comments on how legalization isn't in his vocabulary, as indeed by law in terms of his job description it shouldn't be, but how I don't see his recent statements as a coded plea for us to change those laws as drugwarrant's Peter optimistically does.

Couldn't Obama have chosen anyone but a former cop for this position? Of course, this shouldn't surprise, after the broken campaign promises about lifting the federal funding ban on needle exchange. But so it goes.

Be careful, I might drag out my old co-authored paper with Will Hall on how forced treatment goes against harm reduction principles. If I can find it. (I hear a collective sigh of relief, with the sound of fingers crossing in hopes I won't find that boring little number in my files.)

In the meantime, check out Alexa's of the Real Princess Diaries new project,My First Professional Sex.My interview is here.