AMBER LOVE 02-JUNE-2014 Some links are NSFW! It wasn’t until the sad passing of Maya Angelou a few days ago that I ever saw the general public discuss International Whores’ Day, an annual observance on June 2. Some people are saying that Angelou’s history as a sex worker has been all but removed from her legacy which is disheartening since she never hid that fact. No matter how short of a time it was, she was a resource in the sex industry.
The International Whores’ Day is a holiday that began in France in 1976. The origin dates back to 1975 when over a hundred prostitutes protested their conditions. The Honest Courtesan has a good look at International Whores’ Day and explains the two other sex worker observances: Sex Worker Rights Day (March 3) and The Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17).
In Amsterdam, there is a statue of a woman titled “BELLE” and the inscription says, “Respect sex workers all over the world.”
I’m in the camp of people who want prostitution and porn fully validated and legal. People do it. You can’t stop it. The law is not on the side of those claiming to be from a moral higher ground. It takes up resources of police and attorneys who don’t really care about what consenting adults do. It’s a business. There are risks. Things can’t be denied in regards to diseases/infections or any possibility of violence and drug abuse. However, I personally believe that if the sex industry was legalized and women were encouraged to be business owners of their bodies, that the game would change.
There are health risks in science industries too. I don’t agree with the government wanting to require condom use in pornography because I don’t think it’s the government’s issue. I DO think it’s a corporate or individual issue. If you work in a lab for a major chemical producer or pharmaceutical corporation, your lab will have SOPs dictating safety practices and corrective actions should they fail. You’ve seen that in every sort of “outbreak” or “contagion” movie, and minus the special effects, it’s true. If workshops, garages, labs and any other hazard zone with employees have protocols for safety, I do believe a business owner has the right to enact that for the sex industry. You choose to work for that company or you don’t. If it were a freelance situation, for example, a producer is making the next naughty school teacher porn and that production company says condoms are required, that’s something that would be in a contract. It gives performers the options of going to condom-free or condom-by-choice companies. They already have strict STI testing, some monthly and some every two weeks. The AIDS crisis killed any momentum in obtaining sex workers’ rights.
I’ll also state that I haven’t read through the California ballot measure that implements mandatory condom usage. I know of it from panels at Exxxotica and from the industry professionals I follow on Twitter. It would seem odd that a law would only address condoms and not other barriers.
I also don’t understand social media terms of service (TOS) agreements that allow hate speech but ban nipples, side boobs, or any form of bare breast, not even for artistic photography (ie, the intention is not meant for sexual arousal) or breastfeeding. Instagram doesn’t let you show anything. Facebook has blocked some body paint photos but allows others to get Likes; it also blocks topless but covered breast shots (as in covered by hands but topless). Twitter doesn’t allow any nudity using their Twitpic service and in fact, by using Twitpic you give over the rights so they can sell your images. Flickr is fairly reasonable by allowing nudity and having the ability to mark content as mature-rated. Moby does allow it and doesn’t take copyright away from users; and according to this article yfrog doesn’t take your content either but doesn’t allow nudity.
So, you can show a dog having it’s skin ripped off or suffering from burns by an asshole that abused it, but you can’t show boobs, vulvas, or a bare naked ass. You can even show a human being decapitated on Facebook but not a topless woman reading a book in the park (to see that follow @toplesspulp).
Naturally, it’s okay by Facebook standards to have a hate group dedicated to publicly shaming women in general that the admins/users feel are dirty, slutty whores. Just try to get it reported. I dare you. You’ll fail unless Facebook sees that a specific person – with a name – is being harassed directly. They allow users to blanketly hate as long as it’s not specific. These pages below even have posts about beating women and that’s okay on Facebook.
Like the words “geek,” “nerd,” and “porn,” the word “whore” has been lightened from its traditional meaning about sexual promiscuity and sex industry to mean someone who is a dedicated fan of something, but it typically connotes that the person is willing to degrade themselves by begging for the Macguffin in question. Band whores. Wheel whores. Book whores. Gear whores. Media whores, my favorite because I come across them all the time.
Our American standards are so hypocritical. People clearly want to see porn but a) they want it for free, b) they don’t want to admit they want it or have a trail of evidence, and c) they cling to legislation that outlaws it because it makes them look saintly.
Anyone who has ever texted a naughty photo of themselves should not be denying sex workers who want to do this publicly for a price or for free.
I’m currently reading Josh Stallings’ first Moses Maguire book, BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD, where the sex workers are strippers and brothel whores. It’s not the best example of positive sex worker portrayals. There’s a big arc of Moses being the knight in shining armor there to protect the women since it’s his job as a bouncer but also because he truly cares for a few of them as friends and friends with benefits. Moses quests for a prostitute named Cass who is the sister of his greatest platonic love, Kelly, a stripper where he works. Two sisters, several states apart, and both are different types of sex workers. The way that Stallings succeeds in making them more than trope is that a reader can get a sense of full human being and not a blow up doll that breathes. The strippers have different motivations and personalities too. The whores at the brothel have more a vapid unexplored presentation but I got the sense that was done intentionally to see them from Moses’ point of view since he was quite focused on finding Cass, not just any hooker. He had a mission and when a room full of girls is clearly not the answer, he keeps searching.
I asked the folks on Twitter and Facebook for recommendations on fiction where sex workers have been good quality characters: any gender where the character, even if a victim at some point, has strength, determination and agency. People recommended characters, titles and authors; I pasted what they had to say below:
The Dark Knight
Parker adaptations by Darwyn Cooke
Stacy X was a mutant prostitute who joined the X-Men in Joe Casey’s run.
Katchoo in “Strangers in Paradise” had a past as a sex worker.
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis features a huge diversity in sex workers…in the future!
Mia “Speedy” Dearden in Green Arrow
Sex Criminals if you are widening the definition of “sex work” enough to include sex shop employees and why not?
Spider Robinson’s “Callahans Lady,” or any books dealing with Lady Sally’s
Chester Himes’ Harlem Cycle of novels featuring Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed
Charles Willeford’s Shark Infested Custard and also his Hoke Moseley series
Andrew Vachss’ Burke novels with Michelle, a transgender prostitute
Lawrence Block’s original Parker books
Lawrence Block’s The Scudder novels
James M Cain
‘Rebecca’, by Daphne du Maurier (non-fiction I think) but Ken Follet based ‘Key to Rebecca’ (fiction) off of it
Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
Game of Thrones
The Consummata by Spillane/Collins (Hard Case Crime)
Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet
Mike Resnick’s Tales of the Velvet Comet, a series across a couple decades set at space brothel.
John Irving’s Until I Find You
Game of Thrones – in the TV series, they actually hire real sex workers and porn stars for the cast (and I know one, the lovely Aeryn @naughtynerdy in Australia).
Cleopatra 2525 starred a stripper who woke up from a breast enlargement operation in the future and joined resistance fighters Gina Torres and someone else
Sherlock Holmes (all media) with Irene Adler who has various interpretations; in the BBC show she was a dominatrix
Blue starring Julia Stiles
Masters of Sex based on true story of Dr. Masters, features scientists studying sex and the only subjects they can get are prostitutes.
The Sessions starring Helen Hunt as a sex surrogate
Non-Fiction tales and history of Mata Hari and Marthe Richard.