While I was in the process of leaving my abusive ex-partner, I confided in my social worker (after asking at length about her confidentiality policy, which she assured me was full proof) that I had previously worked as a sex worker in a parlor. She agreed to leave this off my notes but informed that had I still been working at that time, she would have informed child protective services. When I asked why, since I was based away from my house and my children were looked after by family while I was at work, she said that “prostitution is usually indicative of other issues.” Later, speaking to a friend of mine at the brothel about this, she told me that her child had been removed from her care because her ex partner told child protective services about her job during a custody dispute. There did not need to be “other issues”; the assumption of other dysfunction and ignorance of the realities of sex work was enough that she lost her child to the state. Another friend of mine from the same parlor was threatened by her soon to be ex-husband with being outed if she obtained legal council during their separation. Rather than take the risk of losing her children and her family, she lost her house, financial stability, all her savings and everything she had worked for up to that point. Her ex-husband took everything.
— The Legends are True: I’m A Whore (and why I will never tell my family) | The Life and Works of Olive Seraphim (via redupnyc)
Next Wednesday 3.27, I’ll be doing a talk as part of Duke University’s Feminist Week, on The War on Sex Workers. Free & open to the public.
I feel like our culture, as a movement, has come to revolve around either the memoir or the closet, after work in the sex trades. You can make a career transition without hiding your past or living in it, and that might be the best legacy of all: to show that one can treat work in the sexual spheres just like any other job, and do what’s right for you and your path while honoring the one you once walked.
I would love it if we stopped looking at leaving sex work as an eventuality, the beginnings of a ‘real career,’ a victory for someone else, or an admission of defeat and simply saw it as switching jobs. There’s a lot of unneeded pressure on our colleagues to remain in the profession as a fighter or to leave it as a victim. It’s work, and when it no longer fits and our larger work takes us elsewhere we should listen.
— Sabrina Morgan (via narratrix, but curious about the original source!)
…The shocking thing about any stripper gathering, I discovered, was that you have never heard women talk so fast and so explicitly about money in all your life. They make the guys on the trading floor on Wall Street look like a bunch of pansies.
— Susie Bright’s memoir, _Big Sex Little Death_ (via marginalutilite)
Why aren’t we also saying that criminalization makes it harder to keep your job private? Let’s say you’re on the street, you pick up a celebrity and you both get busted. Your face is all over the media, as we saw with the lady who picked up Hugh Grant in the 90s. If you got busted for running an escort agency in the 80s, your face was on the cover of the New York Post. Now that the internet splashes these things around more widely, and we get spam offering to tell us which of our friends or neighbors has broken the law, with considerable emphasis on sex laws, I think the argument that we hide our work because it’s against the law is beginning to sound like a 20th century trope.
This idea – that our need for privacy is a symptom of illegality – sprang up before the internet was part of our lives. Facebook didn’t exist when 20th century prostitutes were developing their political rhetoric. So now I think it’s more likely that legal reforms could be seen as a way to take back some privacy, because people everywhere – including sex workers and their customers – are feeling freaked out about their privacy.
I know we say that sex work is work, but sex work is also SEX. I don’t know everything about my parents’ sexuality—and they’re open, liberal people. A sex worker might not want her kids to know all her business because parents need to retain some mystery in order to be respected. A sex worker might not want the local dry cleaner or the man who repairs her air conditioner to know she has sex for money—but that might have more to do with erotic boundaries than the law.
These creepy web pages created by police departments. The rise of the commenter which has its most problematic manifestation on escort review sites. The 24-hour news cycle. These things didn’t exist in 1975, when our big sisters occupied the churches in France and put us on the map. But some of our rhetoric, even coming from newer voices, has a 1975 quality. When I hear activists ranting about how we should come out of the closet, I feel like I’m in the presence of the thought police. In 2013, people are more interested in reinventing privacy than they are in some fanatical version of liberation.
— Tracy Quan, as interviewed by Caty Simon for Tits and Sass
February 22, 2013 at 2:48pm
Compare the response to September 11th with excuses for doing nothing about violence against women. As the roots of September 11th are uncovered deep in social and economic life around the world, in belief and identity, its acts as expressive as they are masculine, will the war on terror grind to a halt? Will it be said that some individuals are just violent, so nothing can be done? Will terrorism be seen as cultural, hence protected? Will the United States throw up its hands when it learns that Al Qaeda, like some pornographers and other sex-traffickers (sex their religion as well as their business) is organized in (what for men are) unconventional ways?
Catharine MacKinnon, “Women’s September 11th: Rethinking the International Law of Conflict” (2006)
Would love to see CMac’s follow-up kill memo.
Fantine cuts off her hair for money and we cry. Hathaway cuts off her hair (also for money) and we nod admiringly. What a brave performance, what a dedicated actor, what a good feminist.
— Johanna, at Tits and Sass