I’m Alive and So Are You!

So it’s been a while!

Thank you to everyone who has asked or emailed me to check in. It means a lot to me! And if I haven’t written you back yet I will 🙂

A month has gone by and I stepped away from SR mostly because I mentally couldn’t keep up with myself. But I’m back.

In my world, in no particular order:
I start school (again) today
Work is going well. I’m officially a supervisor!
My dear friend who I have been crushing hard on for two years finally realized it was a good idea to try dating me! 😉
Domestic violence is a hard thing to see and hear about
I did one nonsexual escort date and long story short, I got paid $2500 and J and I have gone out to dinner with both the dude and his wife (more on that to come)
I still LOVE dancing
I only have one box left in the house to unpack
We’re flying home next weekend to see the fam
I want to go Hawaii SO BAD. Especially since today is the first really dreary day in Portland.
Have you checked out Bitch media?The falll issue is called Love/Lust and has several excellent pieces on the questioning identity, feminist porn, and more
Still trying to figure out why my most comfortable state is naked. Or rather, trying to be naked more often

What’s new with you all?

Boundaries in Sex Work

Apologies for lack of posts this week! It’s been crazy. Also, apologies for brevity and possible typos as I am typing from my phone!

I had the concept of boundaries come up in various ways last week, in relation to sex work…

First, my new supervisor asked me to step down from my involvement in the support group for sex workers that I just recently got up and running. It has been interesting for me to navigate this conversation, over email. I’m not definitively stepping down yet, although it looks like I may have to. I’ve done all I could so far in asserting my preferences. The confluence of sex work and professional boundaries is interesting, for sure, and I’m intrigued what may lie ahead in terms of creating a safe space for sex workers at my place of employment.

I also was interviewed by a fellow worker about how I view stripping and sex work. In particular and most relevant to this post, she was curious about how I identify (as a sex worker, stripper, etc) and what kinds of boundaries I’ve asserted with customers. The mental and emotional boundaries I have around my personal identification with sex work feel like a moving target, like I can’t quite grasp them. Needless to say, it made it difficult to explain to her that at times I’ve identified as a sex worker, stripper, and dancer for different reasons.

Most recently, I was approached by a customer to engage in some nonsexual escorting: he wants a muse, someone to tease him and turn him on, but he also wants this person to hold firm on his boundary of not having sex (because he wants to remain sexually monogamous to his wife). In the past I have been very clear with myself and customers that I keep my business at strip clubs, but this particular person piqued my interest. So I’m exploring what it could be like. Tonight we are mini golfing and getting dessert.

More to come, on all of this.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a piece that I adored; it’s a concept I have thought much about, and illustrates how social norms and boundaries from monogamy influence intimate partner violence and how sex workers are treated :

Jealousy Is Not An Excuse: Monogamous Norms and Partner Violence Against Sex Workers

 

Patronage & Empowerment

Two pieces I recommend this week related to sex work:

‘Insatiable’: One Woman’s Love Affair With The Porn Industry

and

Erica’s latest awesome comic on being a good strip club patron

Thursday night I worked (danced) and it was a rough time for me! I was so tired at 12:30am- and still had at least an hour and a half to go. It didn’t help that a group of guys came in who barely gave me any energy or money; it wasn’t enough to go off of and forget that I was as sleepy as I was. And yet, I kept smiling and laughing to myself: I’m so tired, I have to get up in seven hours for my other job, these guys are boring and making me even more tired. Why am I doing this? And the answer kept coming back: because I love this job. I love performing, I love getting naked, I love making awesome money doing it (ha, not from those particular guys, but in general).

One unexpected interaction I had was with a young guy (just turned 21) who moved out here not that long ago from Florida… because his ex stabbed him. He disclosed this only after I told him what I do for my day job. “I guess you could call me a victim of domestic violence,” he said. He cried. “The cops just laughed at me.” It’s not your fault. Thank you for telling me. That’s fucked up. I’m so sorry that happened. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship. There are some certain interactions I can count on working in a strip club, and even though I don’t count on interactions like this one, I am thankful I have the ability to navigate them.

2014-07-22stripclub

Control & Support Groups

I have been fairly pissed the past couple of weeks, because for some strange unknown reason, the manager at my club just stopped scheduling me. I’ve worked there almost two years! The first week was the week that made me most mad- it was my regular shift I signed up for, and I have a really limited availability since I work during the week. I was frustrated all week about it, and primarily because my manager just did not communicate with me about why I wasn’t scheduled. He just didn’t tell me anything about it. If it was a mistake, that’s fine- tell me. If there’s a reason, that’s fine- tell me. No communication is just immature, unprofessional, and disrespectful. And then this past weekend, I sent in my shift request late and it was for a shift that I never work, so I expected not to be scheduled. Still, when I wasn’t, I was frustrated.

But it finally gave me a kick in the pants to move beyond my comfort zone and go audition at other places. I auditioned at one new place this past week, and it was exhilarating to be in a new space with new people. I’d like to audition at a few other places and ride the energy of exploring new places. I am such a creature of routine that it usually takes me getting pretty upset or frustrated with something before I try to change it. So here’s to some change!

And I realized why it got under my skin so badly. It reminded me of my experience with school this past year, and someone else controlling how and when and where I use my body. My professor told me, in essence, I needed to choose between education and stripping. And the manager at my regular club told me, by not scheduling me, that I was not going to strip at his club. The lack of agency I felt was overwhelming. Now that I recognize that that was the underlying drive and feeling, I have been more relaxed, knowing I can find another place to dance if need be.

Similar to the constraining feelings of control- this piece on Stripper Economics was recently published by the Portland Mercury, and delves a little bit into the independent contractor versus employee issue. It’s a little flat, but decent coverage of how the work environment is in Portland clubs. It doesn’t seem like the reporter talked to many dancers, which is unfortunate.

In other sex work-related news, I am starting a sex worker support group through SWOC and my work. I am stoked about it! I have had some interesting conversations with various people about it, and I am really excited to have my first one in just over a week. If you’re in the Portland area, 18+, and currently working in the sex industry, feel free to get in touch if you’d like to attend.

This is Belle Knox’s most recent article; it’s fabulous. I love the term “whorearchy.” The sentiments she discusses are spot-on and exactly what I’ve felt the past couple years working in the industry myself. It’s also something I am wary of as I begin the support group: I want to make sure workers of all stripes feel included and respected within the group. Ideally I want the group to be a space of understanding and solidarity. Hopefully that’s what it becomes.

Domestic Violence & Open Relationships

I have had the thought for quite some time, as I think many in the open relationship community have, that the values inherent to the open relationship and polyamory communities can go a long way in preventing gender based violence and domestic violence (here is the most recent piece I’ve seen). Those values go a long way in promoting egalitarian relationships and empower all partners involved to speak up about what they want and need. Nonviolent communication is one of those practices that many people in the open/poly communities practice.

But, I have also long wondered where the intersection is between domestic violence and open relationships: do those egalitarian and nonviolent principles mean that there are not any poly/open folks experiencing domestic violence? I can’t imagine that that is the case, although I am sure it is a tiny pool of people.

And today, at work, my supervisor got a call that very much sounds like a triad torn apart by domestic violence. When my supervisor was describing the call, she said “Yeah, she said it’s her and her partner- another woman- and it’s the guy they were dating that’s being abusive,” giving me this “what the heck” kind of look. The guy THEY were dating? It’s possible “dating” was code for a relationship with a pimp, but otherwise, the situation still made sense to me. I responded with, “Yeah I’ve wondered about that intersection for a while- the one between DV and open/poly relationships.” Her response: “I guess you’ve found it!”

I guess so, unfortunately. Assuming that one community has communication and boundaries down pat and flawless mental/emotional health is a recipe for disaster: nothing is perfect, and no one is perfect. Assuming that wealthy people never experience DV or that poly people can’t possibly experience DV or that the queer community never experiences DV is all highly problematic: domestic violence cuts across all demographics.

I don’t feel excited to have heard about this caller- it is saddening and troubling, like all of the calls I receive or hear about. But I do feel satisfied knowing that at least there is someone at my agency who is poly aware and kink aware, who won’t be weirded out by a call like this one (me!). (I do know several other queer and sex work aware advocates, and several advocates who understand poly and kink, at other agencies. Yay!)

Abusers abuse, and I think it can be unfortunately easy to be manipulated and hurt in even a relationship that was once marked by honest communication. And while open relationships and poly relationships are marked by an intense level of honesty, openness, trust, and personal awareness, any relationship can be damaged by one person trying to gain power and control through violence and abuse.

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“Prostituted Women”

I went to a networking breakfast this morning for work- the presenter was from a local group that does addictions treatment for women who “are in the life,” ie, engage in prostitution. It was what I expected: more on the anti-sex trafficking aisle (why there are aisles to begin with irritates me) and the language was totally othering: “those people,” “these women,” “prosituted women,” etc. I tried to go in with an open mind, but I felt pretty disengaged from how this person and agency approaches sex workers (many of their clients are court-mandated to go once they have been arrested for prostitution- yuck). She also made a comment that when she drives down 82nd she tries not to look at the women working on the streets- for fear of what?? I was dumbfounded and slightly disgusted.

Some positives from the event:

I got to meet a social worker from another DV agency who shared similar thoughts as me, and is also attending the MSW program I will be. That was an encouraging connection to make.

The woman presenting did give some allowances for the fact that she works with a very particular population of sex workers.

I shared information about our local sex workers outreach coalition and our approach to working with sex workers.

It’s unfortunate to me that the anti-sex trafficking organizations and the sex worker rights organizations have such a hard time working together, but after this event I have a clearer understanding of why. I do wish that we could all agree that we want workers to be safe, and that some workers need resources and support leaving the industry while other need resources and support staying in the industry. Trafficking is different from working, and I wish that everyone agreed on that 😉 I think it comes down to ideological differences within the feminist and anti-violence movements. Some people see participation in sex work at all as perpetuating gender-based violence, while others (like myself) see participation in sex work as more complicated than that- trafficking violates human rights in a major way, but choosing to participate in sex work is something different. That, too, can be flavored by unfortunate circumstances: “choosing” between prostitution and McDonald’s is not an ideal choice, and it’s not like my choice between stripping and child care at a gym. To “choose” prostitution to care for a partner or family isn’t like my choice to strip to support myself. But I still think that kind of work is different than being forced into sex work (ie, being trafficked). It’s a contentious issue, but I wish we could still all work together more effectively.

It’s also timely that this piece at Tits and Sass was published yesterday by a local dancer. I really appreciate the complexity and nuance Red discusses, and she does it well: Love and Frosting: A Conversation with Portland’s Cupcake Girls

DV, Sex Addiction, & Sexy Sex

I was listening to a survivor yesterday talk about her experiences, and near the end of our conversation she mentioned that something that was not covered by the survey I had her fill out was the fact that she felt abused by her ex-husband’s sex addiction. She mentioned that she never spent money on herself because so much of their money was spent on lingerie models and 1-900 numbers and possibly “illegal things” (aka prostitutes?). She said it was one of their long-standing battles, and that it was abusive not just because of the financial impact but because it also made her feel “not good enough.”

This was a complex issue for me to listen to and digest.

1. You always believe a survivor. That’s trauma-informed and survivor-informed. If she felt abused by her ex’s sexual proclivities, then I believe her.

2. I don’t believe “sex addiction” is a thing. However, if someone told me they felt “addicted” to sex, then I would believe them. I do think people are the experts on their own lives. Again, though, I don’t think it’s quite the right word to describe a behavior pattern related to seeking out sex/sexual experiences.

3. I wonder about many of the men I have met and danced for at my club. How many of them have wives at home who hate the fact that they patronize strip clubs and spend money on strippers? How many of them have a different persona at the club versus when they are home with their families? How many abusers have I danced for?

4. She asked me how and why I got into domestic violence work, and I answered the best I could. I mentioned that the spectrum of sexuality was my passion, from education to intervention. Listening to her, though, I was reminded of how bummed out I can feel when I realize so many people see sexuality as something to be tightly controlled, and how constricted people can get from being inundated with messages related to monogamy and purity. I would love to do more prevention work.

5. This woman was a Christian and made several comments that led me to believe that even though she knew her ex was “bad news” from the beginning, it took her 25 years to divorce him because she didn’t think divorce was okay. She also talked with me a bunch about how her goal was to break the cycle of poverty with her kids, and that it didn’t look like it was going to happen. I was reminded of my mom and how my mom did manage to break that cycle for herself and her kids- and it made me think of research on why certain people are able to do certain things that others from their peer group struggle to do (Malcom-Gladwell-like research).

I have been processing that 2 1/2 hour long meeting since yesterday, and I’m still chewing on it. I’m still a little hung up on the sex addiction/sex worker piece of it. It also reminded of this piece (“Sex Criminals 2013“) on “Tits and Sass” from the other day, and this particular passage:

“And you put her with a guy like Jon, who spent his adolescence taking in all the free porn he could get, and of course you have this near-couple who wind up using porn as a way to segue into sex. These are the exact couples I see every Saturday at my club—where the woman looks uncomfortable and the guy doesn’t want to seem too interested in any of the dancers because he doesn’t want to make her jealous, so they hang back, refusing to engage with you, and refusing to pay. Because to them, sex workers aren’t real people. If they admitted we were real people working to give them  a fantasy, then they would have to admit they are using other people to spice up their sex lives without, you know, paying us or acknowledging the fact that we are working, as opposed to acting sexual purely for the fun of it. It’s a selfish thing that’s incredibly easy to do, especially to porn actors, who are extra removed from reality by way of always interacting with the viewer through a screen or a photo. And that is exactly why Suzi can’t listen to Jazmine defend herself. Because, in a way, Suzi needs Jazmine to be sexualized just as much as Jon does. If the sex worker becomes real, then you’re going to have to admit that there’s a person that you’re harming with your negative opinions of them, and why would you want to do that?”

Thanks for reading my convoluted post 🙂

To wrap it up, I just need to celebrate the fact that I got laid last night!!!! (This whole job/home buying/moving process has really taken the wind out of our sails the past two weeks) So- I slept really well last night and feel really good this morning. Let’s hear it for SEX!! 😀