Category: sexwork


So, as-you-know-bob, I’ve been working on reconnecting with my sexuality for the better part of the past year.
That work is ongoing, and feels like it’s going well. There’s been a LOT of chakra-related energy work going on, which I continue to find very effective. I’ve recently been (re?-)introduced to the link between my second chakra (desires, boundaries, connections, exchanges, etc) and my fifth chakra (voice, truth, communication… and a lot of other Suit Of Air stuff, as it happens).
I’ve also – very recently – started working on another second chakra Thing, which is money.
 
Seriously, folks, this is even harder to talk about than sex stuff, which I at least have experience talking about after running this blog for approaching a decade.
I’m reading a bunch of “psychology of wealth” books and I’m telling you they are a mixed bag and, to one extent or another, they’ve all pushed my buttons, rubbed me the wrong way, or made my skin crawl.
Which is, tbh, as much a desperate disclaimer and/or a plea to readers not to Get Mad At Me for wanting not to be broke all the time anymore, as it is a statement of fact about how I’m reacting to what I’m reading and/or a telling look at what a lot of my “money mindset blocks” are built around.
 
But something that I’m noticing is that a lot of the stuff – the mental/emotional blocks and tendencies towards self-sabotage – that gets talked about, across this small sample of a board I’ve got going on, when it comes to money stuff are things that also turn up in books and blogs and self-help-videos about sexual empowerment AND about relationship/attachment trauma.
And that is something that I find fascinating, surprising-but-also-not-surprising-at-all, and pretty useful and relevant in terms of how I go about doing this work.
 
These connections – the stuff around shame and worthiness/unworthiness, the stuff around learning unhelpful coping mechanisms in childhood, the stuff around trust and fear – remind me of the various things I’ve heard fellow sexworkers say (and read them write) about the kinds of relationships they have with money. Stuff like this piece by Kitty Stryker or articles in $pread Magazine about calculating your rates, or about how “Everyone asks about my relationship with men, nobody asks about my relationship with money”. My own experiences earning a lot of cash in a short number of hours doing various kinds of fetish work, and the GLEE and freedom I felt doing so.
 
I can’t help seeing the connections between, say the way temp work and retail work consistently involve being undervalued (under-paid, but also treated as disposable and intentionally kept on limited and unpredictable hours) and the low self-worth that comes with it[1] versus the feelings of confidence, joy, self-worth, and personal power that come with making $120 for letting someone lick my shoes or spend half an hour as my footstool, or earning my rent by spending a few hours allowing someone the privilege of filming themselves giving me a make-believe gyno exam.
 
My Notice Pleasure Project, as well as very nearly ALL of the therapy and life-coaching I’ve had, is SO MUCH about learning how to have good boundaries, how to voice my desires, how to allow my Self and my desires to take up space (rather than making myself smaller and smaller, more and more invisible in the hopes that a starvation diet will start to feel like enough), how to say No to what doesn’t feed me, or doesn’t feed me enough, so that I can make room for the great, big, enthusiastic YES that comes for that which DOES feed me, fill me, fulfill me.
 
I felt ashamed of my sexual desires when my partners seemed to be avoiding and rejecting me.
I felt ashamed of my emotional and relational needs when the people I was involved with were emotionally unavailable or unwilling/unable to offer me mutuality in our relationships.
 
I don’t feel shame in sexually desiring my partners when my partners share and reflect that desire.
I don’t feel shame around asking for companionship and emotional intimacy when my partners are emotionally available to, and supportive of, me.
 
So it makes sense that I also feel ashamed of wanting better-than-poverty wages, of wanting my work, my time, and my considerable skills to be valued and well-compensated, when my clients and employers are actively trying to underpay and undervalue me. (See also: this whole cartoon from Eat The Rich Comic).
It makes sense that I wouldn’t feel shame about wanting my time, work, and skills to be valued and well-compensated when they’re already being valued and well-compensated.
 
Two and a half years ago, the Ask a Feelings-Witch column at GUTS Magazine received a letter from someone asking how to heal the mental disconnect they had between “wealth” (actual cash money) and “abundance” (friendship, skill-sets, sharing).
It was me. I wrote that letter.
I wrote that letter dripping with disgust and self-loathing.
When I read the response, back when it was first published, it took me a couple of tries to even be able to read it all the way through.
Fast-forward to now and, while I now have to remind myself that when someone who is (as of about six months after that article went up) a professional therapist – and as such, even with offering sliding scale rates, is still making more money per hour than I’ve personally been paid anywhere outside of sexwork – says “It is okay to want, wish for, hope for, and like money. I’m not sure I feel like there is an ethical justification for holding onto fistfulls of it[…]”, they are speaking from the position of easily making 2-5 times as much as you have ever made in a given year, and so means something different when they say “fist-fulls” than when you say it. They probably DON’T mean “It’s okay to want money, just not as much as I’m making” OR “You, Ms Syren, do not deserve nice things” …even though that’s often how I hear it.
 
Anyway. I’m going to re-read that answer, now that I’m in a headspace that’s more able to even consider this stuff, see if I can get more use of it, and see if there are any points of commonality with it and this second chakra stuff about boundaries and self-worth that I’m chewing on right now.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] When I switched from part-time retail to “full-time” temp work (full-time multi-month minimum-wage contracts, but with weeks of unemployment between contracts), the part of my contract that said “You have to submit your time sheet by X day or you won’t be paid on the next week’s payday”… I literally thought they meant they just wouldn’t pay me – like at all – for that week’s work.
That was how high my expectation of abuse was by that point[2]. And I literally just sighed, thought “Fine, whatever”, and signed the papers.
I’m happy (and relieved) to report that I haven’t felt that worthless in more than a decade. But, ye gods, what a pit that’s been to climb out of. O.O
 
[2] I was, at that point, in an abusive home relationship too, which was part of it, but still.

Hey there.
So I recently snagged two tickets to the 2015 Feminist Porn Awards through a POWER fundraiser. This is going to be grand fun, and I suspect my lovely wife and I will be checking out the Feminist Porn Conference while we’re in town.
I also recently spent some time yacking with a friend about what makes feminist porn “feminist” – what the criteria are – and where to find some. (I gave her a few names and sent her hunting). Anyway, there must be something in the air today because, wouldn’t you know it, around about the same time, I found not one but TWO posts on the same subject while faffing about on twitter.
How to Make Ethical Porn
and
Four Female Adult Film Producers Talk Porn for Women.
 
In the first one, the author talks about how it’s important that the performers aren’t in it just for the money. And, as a model – meaning as someone who damn well expects to get paid for my labour – I have some difficulty with this. To be clear, she’s not suggesting that people perform sex in a TF capacity [EDIT: She pays her employees and cover their expenses during filming, as she mentions in her comment] (so the rest of this post is going to be using her article as a jumping off point more than anything). And I do understand her reasons for wanting her Talent to enjoy having sex on camera – she outlines them quite clearly, and they boil down to “if people are doing this just to get paid, they may do things they don’t want to do in order to get paid” – but…
 
Eugh. Sex is a such a fraught topic. It’s so much more intimate than, say, filing or waitressing or hauling heavy stuff on a job site. So it gets this weird treatment like either you’re saying YES to X, Y, and Z because you’re seriously hot to do X, Y, and Z… or you’re not actually consenting to do those things. As if there aren’t a zillion reasons to say YES to a fuck when you’re not necessarily hot for it right now, regardless of whether the context is pornographic or personal.
I’m not knocking joyful sexuality, spontaneous desire, or enthusiastic consent, and I do think that, as a director, this particular author has found a way to navigate what might have felt like morally ambiguous waters in a way that works for her. These are all good things.
However. I do want to point out that paying the bills is a reason to decide to say yes to sex, and that it’s just as legit a choice as deciding to have sex because your partner is hot for your bod and you love your partner even if you’re not feeling totally horny right this second – basically yes, consent is sexy, but there are lots of reasons to consent.
 
On a related note: The author talks about making sure that the actors get to do stuff that actually gets them off. This right here? This, I think, is a great way to make sure that your talent are in it for pleasure, rather than “just” a pay cheque.
 
Look. Maybe it’s because I come from an industry – independent modeling – where there are a lot of potential “employers” who have no intention of employing anyone at all, who make it a point of pride to refuse to pay us for our labour, who don’t believe our work takes skill, who will drop a grand on a camera lens but don’t think someone’s time, energy, and talent are worth a penny… But I give a lot of side-eye to people who are all “Do it for the art!” Even as someone who, when organizing no-budget shows, basically asks people to Do It For The Art and work for low/no money beyond what they can get from selling chap-books at the merch table, far more often than I’m comfortable with.
I feel like the “I want my talent to be in it for the art” (or the sexual exhibitionism, either way) attitude – whether the Talent in question is doing video or stills – provokes/promotes a situation, not entirely unlike the one faced by GFE escorts, in that up-front discussion of the fact that this is work and we ARE doing it for the money isn’t really something we can do. It means walking a tightrope (or at least it feels this way to me) between being an enthusiastic artistic collaborator – meaning actively performing the image of someone who’s In It For The Art, when we may not give a shit about the art as long as we’re getting our $20/$40/$60/etc per hour – and someone who is engaging in contract terms and salary negotiations with an employer. And that’s kind of stressful, to be perfectly blunt. Because, on one side of that tightrope is “not enthusiastic enough; does not get hired” but on the other side is “enthusiastic enough about this project that I can assume she’ll work for free”.
 
I’m not sure how this works in the porn industry, and I’m aware that it’s WAY easier to fake enthusiasm for some stranger’s art concept than it is to fake enthusiasm for, say, some stranger’s mouth on your body, but, just like you can fake an orgasm, it’s possible to fake Enthusiasm For The Art, and to fake it specifically so that a given producer/director/dude-with-a-camera-and-an-envilope-of-cash will hire us rather than the next professional naked chick with an over-due hydro bill to pay.
 
Anyway. That’s my thoughts on that one.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

To end violence against women, we must end violence against sexworkers.


 
Eleven days ago, I spent the morning tweeting the names of Murdered women. I did this for hours, and was nowhere near close to listing the thousands of women – cis women, trans women, black and indiginous women, women enrolled in a particular class at Polytechnique – who had been killed.
 
Today is International Day to End Violence Agaisnt Sexworkers. Usually, if people think about violence against sexworkers at all, they’re thinking of either (a) women whose bodies were pulled out of dumpsters – so actual people who were murdered, or (b) sensationalistic/titilating (sensationalistitilating?) stories about human trafficking[1].
 
These issues do matter. For sure. But they’re not the only types of violence that sexworkers experience. I appreciate the above infographic because it brings to light some of the other stuff – stuff that doesn’t necessarily result in death, and which typically doesn’t involve a starting point of coersion, but that limits people’s options and makes tenuous situations that much less stable.
Here, have a link to an Open Letter from Brazen Lee (who also provided the handy infographic, below).
 

 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Okay, here’s the thing about Human Trafficking: (1) It totally does actually happen. (2a) It happens far more frequently in the agricultural, construction, and home-labour (think: nannies, house-keepers) industries than it does in the sex industry, but (2b) you never hear about those situations because they don’t involve sex, or the combination of sex and violence, that is so damn titilating in our culture. Likewise, they don’t play into, or uphold, dominant cultural narratives about sex being something that men do to (or commit against?) women – who are typically coded as passive and victimizable. (3) There’s an entire industry – and I’m using that word deliberately – around “rescuing” women from sexwork. “Rescue organizations” tend to rely on inaccurate & inflated (And, sometimes, just plain false) statistics in order to secure their funding, and they tend not to work towards anything that will actually help people in the sex industry transition to different careers. Things that would actually help: Building affordable housing; working to make access to mental health care easier; pressuring businesses to end discriminatory hiring practices around things like race, immigration status, and gender identity; working to promote the decriminalizing sexwork; Pressuring provincial governments to increase the minimum wage to something where a person working *part time* (because most minimum wage jobs are part-time, and because people who – for mental and physical health reasons, or single-parenthood reasons, can’t work full-time sometimes turn to sexwork – where you can make a week’s minimum-wages in an hour – to make sure the bills are paid) could still make rent and afford food & utilities at the same time; Provide reliable, trans-inclusive shelter for both youth and adults fleeing abusive home-situations… The list goes on, but there are some suggestions.

First up:
If you would like to support people arrested in Ferguson, please donate here.
If you would like to support sexworkers’ fight to get Bill C-36 struck from the books as soon as possible on the grounds of its blatant unconstitutionality, please donate here.
If you would like to support Indiginous people fighting legal battles against Kinder Morgan and the proposed pipeline through Burnaby Mountain, please donate here (this one’s not an indiegogo campaign).
 
New Brunswick abortion restriction lifted by Premier Brian Gallant – Hurrah! 😀
 
A Variety of Posts Relating To Sexwork:
Bill C-36’s negative impact on racialized and migrant sex workers.
Remembering Stone Butch Blues‘ Pledge to Sexworkers.
Why Feminism Needs Sex Workers and Trans People.
 
On a completely different note, you can find music by awesome pianist & musicologist Dana Baitz here (music compilation ft all trans performers), here (lgbt spoken word), and here (Dana’s reverbnation page). Enjoy!

If you’re in Canada and would like to do something at least slightly concrete to support trans human rights here (or, heck, even if you’re NOT in Canada but would like to lend your support), particularly given that today is Trans Day of Remembrance, here’s something you can do:
 
Right now, Bill C-279 (read the whole Bill here) is in Committee, and has been since June 2014.
The bill, as drafted, will amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination as well as amending the Criminal Code to include gender identity as a distinguishing characteristic protected under section 318 and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2 at the time of sentencing (both of these sections pertain to hate crimes).
 
This is not the first time a private member has put forth a bill to protect the human rights of trans people in Canada. I would personally appreciate it if the bill actually made it through and became law this time.
 
To that end, I encourage you all to take part in PSAC’s letter-writing campaign and email members of the senate (PSAC offers this list, along with a handy letter-template to help you out) urging them to support C-279 as currently drafted and to pass it with all speed.
PSAC’s list also includes the few senators who have twitter handles and/or facebook pages, so that you can contact them through those channels as well[1].
 
Okay. Some of you are going to be thinking “What the heck good is this going to do?” when being race and sex are already protected under the human rights code and yet the majority of people who are remembered at TDoR are women of colour. And that’s a really valid question.
Trans activist Morgan M. Page points out that:
 

“TDOR is about the combination of three factors: transmisogyny, racism, whorephobia. Across the board, those we remember on TDOR were trans women of colour engaged in sex work. This tells us where our activism needs to be. We need another day to mourn those we lose to suicide, illness, and neglect.”

 
Writing letters in support of Bill C-279 will help put legislation in place that will mitigate microagressions like employers refusing to let someone work front-of-house at their job. It will also mitigate more macro discriminations like doctors refusing to prescribe day-to-day meds due to “discomfort”. Legislation like what’s proposed by C-279 is definitely important. But it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
 
Other things you can do (a list collected from a couple of folks on Facebook):
– Support sex workers rights – Sex workers need to work safely and be protected by legislation instead of being targeted and criminalized.
– Support anti-racism programs & actions – PoC face much higher rates of police & state violence (both in the immediate, physical sense and in the legislative sense).
– Support mental illness and suicide intervention programs – Trans people have much higher risks for mental illness and suicide.
– Support youth homelessness programs – Because breaking the cycle of parental abandonment and youth poverty can completely change people’s lives.
 
 
Thanks,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] EDIT: FYI, and not that this is going to shock anybody[2], but when you write to Don Plett, you’ll probably get a slimy, condescending reply dripping with enough ignorance and transmisogyny to make you want to fucking scream before the end of the third paragraph. So, y’know. Forewarned is forearmed…
 
[2] Except, apparently, me – who figured he’d at least have the sense to keep his bigotry really vague in any reply he chose to make.
 
 
Votive Candles in the Dark

So I wrote a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne with regards to bill #C36 and what she can do to protect her sexworking constituents and make sure these laws, too, gets struck down as soon as humanly possible.
 
A lot of people are doing this – hard copy letters, emails, even tweets – and it’s a bit of an informal campaign at this point.
There’s a templete available here if you’d like to write to your provincial/territorial Premier on the same subject.
You may also find some inspiration in Nikki Thomas’s impassioned open letter to Kathleen Wynne – I know I did. Likewise, POWER’s press release on the subject of C36 may offer further insights.
 
You can probably find a contact form or appropriate email address by googling “Office of the Premier” + your province or territory. That’s how I found Kathleen Wynne’s contact information.
 

Sexworkers are not “disposable people”. They are not “non-people” either. They have agency and they have rights, the same as everyone else in this province and in this country. Their lives matter and that doesn’t stop just because someone with a lot of power finds their work distasteful. (Me)

 

Please refer this bill immediately to the Ontario Court of Appeal for a constitutional reference, and do not pursue prosecutions until they determine its constitutionality. (Nikki Thomas)

 

Red Umbrella Image:
Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

Hi again, folks.
It’s been that kind of a week.
 
My first link isn’t actually about C-36. It’s about street harassment and the policing of women’s bodies, sexuality, and freedom of movement. It Matters. I appreciate the author’s recognition that, when “hooker” is used to police a woman’s… existence outside of a home or outside of the accompaniment of a man… it reinforces the societal position that hookers are shameful and disposable. I also appreciate that the author, who is in the UK (I think), added links to the bottom of her post so that her readers could find out about C-36 and what it means.
 
The next one is from the CBC, discussing the lack of clarity within the proposed bill itself.
 
Third up, we have this article from the Globe and Mail pertaining to the lack of any response from the rest of the Conservative Party when Gauguen asked his appalling question about “freedom of expression”.
 
The last one comes from Impact Ethics, and offers a critical assesment of the proposed bill from the PoV of both former sex worker Kerry Porth and policy expert Genevieve Fuji Johnson.

So Maggie Mayhem has this post about “Women by the Wayside”. It’s a post about the cultural narrative we have about “women on the road”. But it’s also a post about the cultural narrative that we have about women who exercise agency and autonomy when it comes to our own bodies and what we do with them.
She says:

“There’s the rub, right? Whether you’re the woman who dared to stick out a thumb for a ride, tits for the rent, or a tongue for a tab of acid you get that message loud and clear: you’ll get what’s coming to you one way or another.”

 
It’s not an easy read. I’ve had harder, but be aware: The subject that prompted the post is that of Women disappearing on the highway and getting found in dumpsters. The subject of the post itself is sexwork, stigma and in/visibility. Just be aware of what you’re getting into.
 
Maggie also says:

“Engaging in sex work as a method of survival is seen as tragic, not victorious. You’re relegated to life in the objective case, not the subjective. When people are committed to the narrative of your context as defeat they will only see you as defeated.”

nbsp;
This is why I’m linking this post right now. Because I think it’s incredibly relevant to what’s going on with #C36.
It’s a post about how, for women who “presume” that we own our own bodies and can make our own choices even when they go against what Patriarchy would want us to do or believe, the presumed (presumed “deserved”?) outcome for us is rape and death.
Go take a look.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.

And this one. (Hi, Mercedes, I’m a fan…) I find this possibility particularly attention-worthy since, hey, the (struck down as unconstitutional) Bawdy House law was used as an excuse to raid bath houses and kink clubs for ages.

Dented Blue Mercedes

Slightly over a week ago, Canada introduced legislation to replace the anti-prostitution laws that had been struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Conservative government has been trying to race Bill C-36 through both the House and the Senate simultaneously, at breakneck speed.  But the text of the bill has raised questions about its constitutionality.  Sex workers, mainstream media and even many Nordic model proponents and abolitionists agree that it places sex workers in even greater danger than the previous laws did.

But is there also a poison pill within the legislation that could be used to stifle LGBT and sex-positive speech?

Firstly, here is what the dubiously-named “Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act” does:

  • It re-criminalizes communicating for the purpose of commercial sex.  While there is said to be an exemption for the sex worker themselves, that exemption only applies if the communication…

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What the hey. Reblogging this one, too, because it’s relevant. 🙂

Dented Blue Mercedes

(I had to break this one into four parts, although it is essentially one article.  This part is directly preceded by Part One: The Ruling.  Part three will follow tomorrow.)

The Rescue Industry

Entering into this fray is what Laura Agustin aptly names “the Rescue Industry.”  Over the years, a network of NGOs, government agencies, law enforcement, public services, anti-porn crusaders, corporations, churches, journalists and even hospitals has developed in an informal capacity to propagate the rhetoric of the supposed sex work menace, often conflating prostitution, rape, human trafficking and slavery to the point where the terminology is used interchangeably.

Agustin regularly dissects the euphemisms and tactics of the rescue industry in her book, Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry, and her blog, including this observation:

The old-fashioned term still being used around the world is rehabilitation. – surprising, really, since the moralism…

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