Radfems, Harassment, Survival Sex

Links to share this week; most are pretty long, but totally worth it:

What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.

Response: Op-ed: An Open Letter to The New Yorker

Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This.

You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?

On Surviving Sex Work

Infidelity and The Powerful Juxtaposition

What is Empowerment?

One of my biggest life lessons from the past year or two has been learning how to hold multiple, coexisting truths that seem to contradict one another.

Recently, I was listening to and reading conversations by other dancers about empowerment in the strip industry. A few argued that the industry itself is disempowering and controlling, and so how could strippers themselves feel empowered by their work?

I would agree that the industry and system itself does not provide strippers a foundation from which to feel empowered. It’s set up to benefit employees, most of whom are male. It does cater, largely, to male eyes. It was created within patriarchal and sexist cultures, times, and places.

AND. I personally have felt empowered as an individual working within that oppressive system. I have felt in control over my body and actions, been able to feel a true ownership over my body and time, and for the first time, felt like I could truly support myself financially. My brief stint working at a gym two years ago gave me none of that. That job was disempowering.

That being said, I know that not every sex worker or stripper feels empowered by their job, and I know that I haven’t felt “empowered” by stripping every time I go dance. If customers aren’t there or aren’t tipping, when I have to tip staff out, when customers are rude or disrespectful- that chips away at my feeling of agency and personal power. And yet: I, personally, have a choice as to whether or not I engage in this oppressive system. And, I know that not every worker has this same choice. My education, other employment, whiteness, and class make my choice a true choice.

Excellent points were also made regarding the fact that sex workers have an incredible amount of pressure from media, friends, and family to say that they feel empowered by their work, in order to justify their participation in such a taboo job and industry, even if it’s not true that they feel that way. Workers of other jobs are rarely forced to justify their work as empowering.

I have also been mulling over the issue of race in sex work conversations that I read and am part of. I am disconcerted by the fact that so far in my support group (which doubled its attendance this month! wahoo!) we are all white, activist-y types, engaging in sex work that has quite a bit of autonomy attached to it. I am disconcerted by the fact that there are very few women of color voices in the stripper forum I am part of. I am aware I am missing a perspective that has been historically much more marginalized, oppressed, and disempowered than where I have come from. I am a stripper, but I am white. This piece is worth reading.

Workers’ Rights & Evangelism

Portland hosts an extension of the Las Vegas Cupcake Girls, and The Oregonian published an article this past week on their outreach and service efforts. In response, a dancer from the area created a petition online to show the Cupcake Girls that they don’t speak for Portland sex workers. Sign it, if you are so inclined. I did.

A woman at my meeting for the sex worker outreach coalition this past week made an excellent point: if they want to offer services, great. That’s awesome, and I’m sure they’re helping someone. But if you and your organization cannot take a stand supporting the rights of the people you purport to be serving, than you are not helping the movement.

The organization seems to take a stance similar to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” simply by not supporting workers’ rights. And that’s troubling. The organization’s funding is from evangelical, anti-trafficking organizations that don’t recognize that many workers have chosen their work and find it empowering and don’t need spiritual guidance or help leaving the industry.

This article was published in the Willamette Week in response to the article in the Oregonian, and I think it is an articulate response.

And, unrelated to the Cupcake Girls and local worker response, this article written by a john is very interesting. I am more for decriminalization than legalization, but it’s a great piece nonetheless.

Stripping is Way Better than Walmart

This is another great recapitulation from another sex worker about why sex work was preferable to her than working at Walmart.

Which reminds me: I am participating in a local dancer’s photography and interviewing project. She is interviewing dancers about their experiences with stripping and then having her friend take photos of each person in the many spaces of their lives (home, play, work, etc). We met up this past week and she asked me all about it: where have I worked, how long, my stage name, my pre-work routine, how the work as impacted me, the best and worst things that have happened to me while dancing, if I have experienced discrimination as a result of stripping, if I think of stripping as anti-feminist or uber-feminist, and more. It was fun and refreshing to talk with another Portland dancer, and great to hear about her experiences as well. I’m not yet exactly sure what kind of photos I will be comfortable taking, but excited to be a part of the project.

Other Portland-y things in the stripper scene going on: there are folks interested (again) in making a documentary on Portland strippers. It’d be cool if it happens! Also, an acquaintance of mine is suing her club for back wages. I am so excited for her, although she is going to need so much support through this.

And: Today is the one year anniversary of the Sex Worker Film Series in Portland! If you have time and interest, the event and film starts at 7pm at the Clinton Street Theater!

And… tonight is my first Saturday night at my new club! Wish me luck- I plan on having lots and lots of fun 😉

Nonmonogamy research, gender, self care, and HIV

Links to share:

This is a pretty fascinating summary of research done on the perception of different types of nonmonogamy; spoiler alert, poly folks were perceived to be more moral while swingers were perceived to be more adventurous.

A pretty awesome piece written on the lessons to be gained from dating someone in an open relationship

A fun compilation of vagina facts

Ginny on using language to be more gender-inclusive

The Gottman blog on self care, autonomy, closeness, and relationship interdependence

Interesting ideas on why childfree couples seem to cheat less than their counterparts with children

I love this infographic from The Lancet on HIV and sex workers:

Lancet-sex-work-infographic_930px (1)


The new club I am working at is proving to be well worth my time. While the shifts are an hour longer, my ability to work nights has been lucrative. There are a lot of bar regulars, but there have also been many customers willing to dole out the money. For some reason, it’s like I realize again and again once I get to the club that it’s work, and being able to take advantage of that flow of cash has been extremely helpful the past six months.

My focus on stripping as labor also has become clear when I am talking to customers who want to date outside of the club- which I have had happen much more often at this new place. Trying to gently decline while still maintaining their interest in spending money is really tricky. Customers who come in and try to pick up strippers is not unusual- strip clubs are places of fantasy and hope. But I’m still dumbfounded when it happens. Why do you think I’m here? So I can meet dates? Ha, no. The unwillingness of customers, or maybe just the naivete (although I doubt it), to see strippers as workers just boggles my mind. But again, that is part of building and maintaining fantasy: customers know that they must pay money in order to enjoy strippers’ performances, company, and more intimate/private interactions, but many also seem in denial that there is a flow of money and exchange facilitated by money and want to believe that if the money exchange stops the sexual exchange would continue.

In other sex work-y news, my first support group went well! We had a nice mix of workers (three people, who have danced, escorted, and done web-based and phone-based work) and our brainstorming for topics was fun. Safety planning, financial planning, legal rights, self care, activism, and networking/building community all came up. I’m excited to see how this group forms up.

Recent news that I wanted to share, too:

Nicolas Kristof’s Sweatshop Boner

I love love love Tits and Sass. Their Week in Links post are great and totally packed with other sex worker related news. Check it out!

Femme, Breakups, and Trans* Prisoners

Some media for you, that particularly intrigued me this past week:

Photo Series Explores The Sad Beauty Of Breakups

What Does “Femme” Look Like?

If “Real Men” Posed in Underwear Ads

Penned In: Letters Reveal the Lives of Transgender Women in Prison

Dan Savage on gender politics: ‘We all get to stand up and scream and yell’