Tag Archives: sex work

Frankie Mullin on sex work and gentrification – 30th January

Frankie Mullin is one of the most informed and prolific journalists writing about sexuality in the UK today. In her work for Vice, the Independent, and the Guardian, she has challenged media myths around porn addiction and casual sex, and given a voice to sex workers and victims of sexual violence. She has defended the right to family life of asylum seekers and dicussed the lack of qualified psychological support for LGBT people. She was instrumental in raising awareness of the recently defunct ATVOD’s damaging crusade against independent porn producers.

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On 30th January 4pm, Mullin will speak at a panel discussion hosted by the Camden People’s Theatre on gentrification and the crowding out of safe working spaces for sex workers for which she has written a number of cutting-edge reports. The event is highly recommended for those who are in or able to reach London that afternoon.

Cross-posted from Backlash

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Taxing Sex Workers

Here’s a slightly strange announcement from HMRC: they’ve formed an ‘adult entertainment taskforce’ to clamp down on evasion by people in the adult industries. On the surface, this is reasonable. One can assume that some sex workers, especially those part-time/lifestyle ones, may not be declaring their full incomes, and this could provide valuable extra tax revenue. People should pay their taxes, regardless of how they earn their money, simple.

But there’s something just a little odd about this, especially in light of the moralistic climate that reigns right now. For example, the article estimates the size of the industry at a whopping £5 billion, which should yield BIG returns, but says HMRC have set an initial target to collect a miniscule £2.5m.

I’m somewhat cynical. Is this a new excuse to carry out raids on legal businesses that upset prudes? The Soho brothel raids of two years ago were done under the banner of ‘rescuing trafficked women’, but were in fact a cover to find (and deport) illegal immigrants, look for drugs, and clear prime property for redevelopment.

I’ll be on BBC Radio 5 Live this afternoon around 17:45 to discuss.

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Source: HMRC adult entertainment taskforce to get to the bottom of tax fraud

‘Brothel Chic’ Is Turning Soho into a Twee, Sex Work Theme Park | VICE | United Kingdom

A wonderful article in Vice from Frankie Mullin: As sex workers are pushed out by gentrification, London is selling people a twee, sanitised facsimile of sleaze.

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Source: ‘Brothel Chic’ Is Turning Soho into a Twee, Sex Work Theme Park | VICE | United Kingdom

Anti-Sex Worker Bullying: a Sex Worker Replies

Many sex workers, especially those who dare to be open and proud of what they do, receive hateful messages. Here, sex worker Lila Rose replies to a person who has sent her a series of messages. This was originally posted on Facebook, and is copied here with the author’s permission.

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Ok so some of you may know that this person has been sending me horrible and offensive messages to me because they do not agree with me being a sex worker and believe that i’m in a bad situation, even though they just assume so. Here is my response…

Dear Francesca Lilla/Maria Rosa…whatever your name is.

I have yet remained silent throughout your offensive and ignorant messages on Facebook that you have sent me regarding your opinions of my persons and of my sex work. I have remained silent up until this point because it’s not really worth my time to worry with such ignorance and criticism that is thrown my way every time it presents itself. But, seeing as you so kindly feel the need to reduce me to a victim and use your hetero-white privileged god saving complex to try to “save me” from myself as well as messaging my friends and hurling racist/xenophobic and down right disgusting comments to them, I feel the need to now educate you on my life and why I don’t give a shit about YOUR own insecurities.

So here is my response to every single message you have sent me so far:

Message ONE

Do I remember you? I vaguely remember someone by the name of Maria Rosa on my BA course at Wimbledon College of Art, if I’m not mistaken she was Italian. What happened to her? Who was she? I haven’t a clue and it’s none of my concern. Frankly, I don’t care to know either.

You discovered I’m a Sex Worker, good for you. Yes I REALLY AM A SEX WORKER and I have worked in the sex industry since I was 20/21 years old. I started escorting around a year ago now but have worked with various aspects of the industry: porn, stripping, escorting, web cam, domination, etc.

What happened to me? Lots of things have happened to me. And once again, YES I REALLY AM A SEX WORKER. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. What bastard told me to do sex work? This bastard right here – ME-MYSELF-AND-I. If by asking whether I am paid by someone who convinces me to do this, you actually mean that I have a pimp who “coerces” me into “prostitution” then my answer is NO. I WORK FOR MYSELF AND CHOSE TO WORK WITH ANY AGENCY THAT I’M CONNECTED WITH.

You say that there is nothing “feminist” about being a sex worker, I think you are wrong and here’s why…

For me FEMINISM is a way of life that allows me to freely act as my own agent: making the life choices that I want and dealing with them on my own terms. It’s a movement that represents all people from all walks of life, regardless of: gender, race, sexuality, class, profession, etc. And that for me includes SEX WORK. As you can see, I’m an INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST. You can read more about it here.

By stating that being a sex worker is “non –feminist” what you are really stating is that SOME women have more validity than others, that somewhat you are superior because you believe that your way of thinking and way of life is the “right way” and any choices they have made are wrong. This to me is what I like to call: THE ANTI-WOMAN FEMINIST.

WHO MADE YOU SPOKES PERSON FOR FEMINISM WORLD-WIDE?

Here’s a nice little extract with a website you may be familiar with (Wikipedia) and their information about Sex-positive feminism (which is what I am part of):

“Pro-sex work and pro-sex worker’s rights feminists[edit]
Unlike those feminists critical of prostitution, pro-sex work perspectives do not concede that prostitution sexual acts have an inherent element of coercion, exploitation, and domination. As such, pro-sex feminists instead assert that sex-work can be a positive experience for women who have employed their autonomy to make an informed decision to engage in prostitution.

Many feminists, particularly those associated with the sex workers’ rights movement or sex-positive feminism, argue that the act of selling sex need not inherently be exploitative; but that attempts to abolish prostitution, and the attitudes that lead to such attempts, lead to an abusive climate for sex workers that must be changed. In this view, prostitution, along with other forms of sex work, can be valid choices for the women and men who engage in it. This perspective has led to the rise since the 1970s of an international sex workers’ rights movement, comprising organizations such as COYOTE, the International Prostitutes Collective, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, and other sex worker rights groups.

An important argument advanced by pro-sex work feminists such as Carol Queen highlights that all too often feminists who are critical of prostitution have failed to adequately consider the viewpoints of women who are themselves engaged in sex work, choosing instead to base their arguments in theory and outdated experiences.[39] Feminists who do not support the radical anti-prostitution view, argue that there are serious problems with the anti-prostitution position, one of which is that, according to Sarah Bromberg, “it evolves from a political theory that is over-verbalized, generalized, and too often uses stereotypical notions of what a prostitute is. The radical [anti-prostitution] feminist views are … not always delineated sufficiently to support a credible theory that prostitution degrades all women”.

Pro-sex work feminists say that the sex industry is not a “monolith”, that it is large and varied, that people are sex workers for many different reasons, and that it is unproductive to target prostitution as an institution. Instead, they believe things should be done to improve the lives of the people within the industry.”

Who told me I could be a fantastic artist? I DID. AND I AM FUCKING AWESOME.

“what the thing about being a slut?” – Honey, a slut is nothing more than a word used to reduce (predominantly) women to mere objects void of any form of agency and free will. If you allow this word to be used against you in a negative way, then you allow yourself to be reduced as such. For me, I proudly use the word SLUT. Why? BECAUSE HAVING SEX WITH LOTS OF PEOPLE IS FUN AND I ENJOY IT. AND FRANKLY, IT’S NO ONE’S BUISINESS IF I DO. IF PEOPLE ARE SCARED OF A WOMAN’S SEXUALITY THEN THAT IS THEIR PROBLEM, I AM MY OWN SEXUAL BEING AND NO ONE WILL TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, IT IS MY PEROGATIVE TO ENJOY SEX, TO USE IT AS I WISH AND WITH WHOM I WISH.

“I remember you were talented…” – I STILL AM TALENTED. Talent is relative and it isn’t something you can strip away because of life choices and/or other people’s opinions. I’m still doing really well in terms of art. I still make art, I exhibit a lot, I usually have around 7-8 shows a year since graduating from my art degree – and unlike you, I ACTUALLY graduated. See, I can still do both: be a sex worker and have an education…who’d have thought?!

“There is a lot of people who want to ruin feminism and make feminists sluts” – I totally agree with you: “feminists” such as yourself for example, who use their white-hetero-cis gendered privilege against those who do not fit into their system, “feminists” such as yourself who feel the need to dictate to other feminists what the “right way” is purely because they have some sort of white status. Honey, it’s “feminists” such as yourself who reduce sexually free acting women such as myself to “sluts” because you feel the need to shame them for their own agency, something you clearly don’t seem to understand. I have fought long and hard to be the free agent that I am, I have undergone extensive battles within myself, I have been shunned by my own family numerous times in order to be the free agent that I am, in order to be true to who I am. And NO ONE, NOT EVEN YOU WILL TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. PERIOD.

The key word here is AGENCY and I understand that you may not know what it means…here you go, educate yourself: http://www.britannica.com/…/284…/Feminist-theories-of-agency

Regarding Richard Layzell – he was my performance art tutor at art school and whilst he was influential in my way of working and communicating performance, he in no way has had any involvement in my personal life and/or life post-graduation. It is none of my concern whether or not you got on well with him at uni and maybe you should care less about rumours that other people spread and make up your own judgements of people based on your interaction with them. Richard was and is a great artist and I have the upmost respect for him, artist to artist, human to human. I don’t understand why you are even bringing him up in your already flawed arguments.

You feel bad to see me like this? DON’T. Feel bad that you are unable to mind your own business and feel the need to indulge your own narcissistic flaws by acquiring a god-complex. I pity you.

Message TWO

You say you understand that I might not want to listen to you – clearly YOU DON’T. You go on to say that I “should” listen to you and even though I had never responded you still continue to message me to make me change my mind. Once again: look at me I’m a white-hetero-cis gendered privileged feminist and you must listen to me for my way is the right way BLAH BLAH BLAH. Here’s the thing, you state that there are people who are trying to persuade me to make certain life choices and yet you are doing the EXACT thing that you claim these so called “pimps” are supposedly trying to do. It’s vile that you think you have some sort of superiority over me and therefore I must listen to your saviour complex. Well here’s some words of advice: check your privilege before you feel the need to impose your views on others and mind your own business if you are not prepared to be open minded about other people’s lives.

“if you like to fuck from different men doesn’t mean be a sex worker you can have a normal job and normal relation with men or a lot of men, or the person you like” – why, thank you for pointing out the obvious. It doesn’t mean I HAVE to be a sex worker, you are right there, but it sure does make my job a hell of a lot easier! I still have normal relations with people outside of my sex work, I can still have lots of sex with people who are not clients and guess what: I STILL ENJOY IT. I don’t want a “normal” job that doesn’t fit to my personality, this job however, does.

I find it very condescending of you to proceed to send me job applications and links, as if to assume that I am incapable of job hunting if I wish to change my job. And then, to make matters worse, you feel the need to “educate” me on how to conduct myself in interviews and in job applications. Because I have never done such things? I have worked in so many areas, in various jobs and have attended numerous interviews: I know exactly how to conduct myself in such situations and don’t need you to tell me how to do so. You seem to miss the point. I am a sex worker AND also highly educated, the two are more than capable of going hand-in-hand. And for one to assume that sex workers are an uneducated bunch emphasizes your lack of understanding on the subject matter.

Collaborating with other artists is still something I do and I create my art alongside my sex work, for me the two work alongside each other perfectly well.

“I’m really busy I cannot come to rescue you I’m so sad for that I do my best so please listen to me” – clearly you are not that busy if you have time to pester me with your anti-sex work crap. I have been busy due to being awesome, hence why I have not responded until now.

Message THREE

“I don’t know what they did to you some people they told me you are abused and you don’t remember” – First of all who are “they” and what exactly did they say to you? Whether or not I have or haven’t been abused is none of your concern nor is it any one else’s. It is up to me whether or not I reveal such information and to whom. Even if it were true, in no way is that relevant to the sex work debate, NOT EVERY SEX WORKER HAS COME FROM A LIFE OF ABUSE AND BY PROFILING THEM AS SUCH IS ANOTHER WAY OF VICTIMISING THEM WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT AS WELL AS TAKING THEIR AGENCY FROM WHAT THEY DO.

“I will save you” – Save yourself first. You clearly need it more than I do.

“I want to fucking destroy that fucking city of English bastards” – clearly your racism has gotten the best of you and you need to “check yourself, before you wreck yourself girlfriend”. Seriously, sort yourself out.

“You can have an amazing normal work having a normal life full of normal people that likes and love you as you have when I meet you” – I have an AMAZING life already, it may not be perfect but it sure has been a great learning curve and in no way would I change it. Life can always be better, but it’s what you make with it that makes it beautiful. As for the people in my life, I have plenty of amazing people who love me and who support me when I need them, and if they don’t: well, they soon loose any relevance in the story of my life. Simple.

“I can’t believe you prefer being a slut rather than have a normal job” – seriously, my job is just as normal as someone who works a 9-5 in an office, we both sell our bodies for money. I just so happen to have sex and enjoy it. And being a slut? Well: FEMINIST SLUT POWER ALL THE WAY <3

“I told you to try” – I’m telling you to mind your own business.

“I’m a feminist I risk my life for what I believe for that I’m so successful and thousands of people love me” – this is not a “who’s popular” contest. I’m glad you are successful, but guess what, so am I. You are loved by thousands of people? So am I. Who even cares?

“people don’t like slut people never like slut slut are slut these are not feminist” – well clearly you are not part of my feminism, which is fine, but keep your white collar feminism out of my grill. “sluts” as you call them, are people, they’re women, if you as a feminist can’t even see them as human beings just like every body else then for what does your feminism serve? And for whom? Get your head out of your arse.

“YOU ARE NOT A SLUT YOU ARE IN A SHIT SITUATION YOU ARE ABUSED OH GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GONNA SMASH EVERTHING IN THIS WORLD UNTIL YOU ARE SAFE WITH A NORMAL LIFE FUKIN ENGLISH MAN FUKIN EACH BASTARD OF ENGLAND THAT BRING YOU IN THAT SHIT” – Make up your damn mind. One minute I’m a slut and I shouldn’t put myself in this position the next I’m a victim and abused, blah blah blah. Do you even know what you are talking about or did you just Google up “anti-sex work feminism arguments”? Smash whatever you like, I’ll still be here: having sex, loving my life and getting paid for it. Enjoy your chaos on your own.

Message FOUR

You say you won’t calm down until I am safe in another place. I have a normal life, well as normal as one can be when you’re me ha ha. I won’t listen to you because I am acting out of my own choice and I am safe within my world. Of course one should always be cautious, whether or not you are a sex worker or a man or woman or other. I don’t need you to whisk me away to another country to stay with your family. And don’t worry, I’m constantly reflecting on my future, I don’t need you to tell me so. Yes I can go to Brazil, to Rio. I was born there and my family have a house there, I don’t need you to take me there to live with your family member. I have my own family there.

No I don’t want to meet you. You are not worthy of my time.

Message FIVE

In your opinion, sex work is the “problem for women” and that it’s “against feminism” but then you state that you are a feminist and that you “scream that women have to have their rights”, yet you fail to understand that women should have that right to choose who they and how many people they sleep with and whether or not they get paid for it. Women should have the right to be “sluts” if they choose then, surely?

Your comments about the CIA running programs to ruin feminism and that they are behind sex work is just ludicrous and I have no words to give you apart from: are you even for real?

Referring to sex workers as “prostitutes” is not only demeaning of their autonomy, it is also an out-dated term that is heavily embedded within a historical and socio-political context. Whilst it is important to understand the term “prostitute” and it’s cultural implications, one must also understand that prostitution has come a long way and we now use the term sex worker as a broader term that is more inclusive.

You say that “the system” for centuries has enslaved women and makes them passive, that “prostitutes” are never part of society, that they “never take the decisions that men in industries/politics take”, that they are “behind men”. You see, YOU ARE SO WRONG. Prostitution is the oldest profession in the books, if you really think about it, “prostitutes” were the first entrepreneurs and still are. You say they are passive, but really most are not, and I know many! You seem to assume that all working girls are in fact victims and can’t take care of themselves. And I assure you I am the LEAST passive person you will ever find, yet I still am a working girl. Do you even know any sex workers personally? Have you even engaged with any? Have you taken the time to find out about their lives, about how they operate, how they feel before casting judgements?

And yes I am behind men quite a lot, usually with my dick in their arse. It’s so much fun, you should try it some time.

“oh god the other day I thought that if you know what I am doing with feminism how you would look at me” – So what, you want a fucking medal?! I do as much within feminism myself and I am a proactive speaker through my art work as well as social media, I go to protests, to marches, to rallies.

“Oh I thought also what you might didn’t listen to me that you mike think I’m lesbian, I’m straight I have a boyfriend” – well first of all, your sexuality and sexual preferences aren’t of any interest to me and even if you were a lesbian, it would have nothing to do with me listening to you or not. I myself am pansexual, I am attracted to various people of various genders and sexualities. I’m LGBTQ friendly.

“if I am a feminist, if I know a person is in a bad situation if I don’t help what kind of feminism I speak for?” – But you don’t know whether I am in a bad situation or not…you just ASSUMED so purely based on the fact that I am a sex worker. That is all. You haven’t even asked if I’m ok, if I’m enjoying myself, if I like my work.

“I’m an activist, I have passed a lot of bad things for what I’m doing and I continue for make real the dream that women have decades ago even if it is difficult” – well I’m glad that you are passionate about your activism but ask yourself this: for whom am I doing it for? I’m also an activist, I can be a sex worker AND an activist: SHOCK HORROR! And may I add that what feminists fought for decades ago isn’t necessarily viable in this day and age. Society has moved on and we have other worries and other fights to fight. It’s not just about women any more, I can’t stress this enough. Yes women still feel the brunt of things, yes women still suffer inequalities, but so do other people and in order to achieve any sort of equality then surely everyone must fight along side each other?

Message SIX

You want me to explain to you why I continue being a sex worker: because I enjoy having sex and getting paid for it, whether that be through escorting, through my porn work or web cam. I get paid a better wage than most people dream of and it allows me time and flexibility with art making. By being paid well, it means that I am able to fund my main career as an artist. Because I meet so many different people from all walks of live, not all men, some times women. I have met so many wonderful people who respect me and treat me well.

Don’t get me wrong, there are bad days and there are times when you feel like you don’t like it, but then isn’t that the same with most jobs? Don’t most people feel that way about their jobs? It’s been a learning curve more importantly, and I relish in the fact that I’m a very strong person and that my feminism has informed my sex work. I have opened up strong communications with my clients, who know that I’m an artist and an activist, who support what I stand for, and for that it makes me more determined in my role as a service provider.

No, I haven’t listened to you because I do not share your opinions, your values and I most certainly do not appreciate your accusatory tone with which you have approached me. It is one thing to express your opinion on the subject matter, another to demand that I change my life for you simply because you fail to understand my life and feminism. I think it’s time to end this tiresome port of communication, don’t you? I will not respond to anything else you have to say for I have said all that I needed to say.

<3 FEMINIST SLUT POWER <3

From your dearest slut…

Oi Russell! If I Can’t Strip, It’s Not My Revolution!

Dear Russell,

Forgive the blatant sexual objectification of my own body to get your attention. Given your past reputation and my occupation, it seems fitting.

I’ve got a bone to pick with you… not wishing to sound like another critic in the army of naysayers lining up to knock lumps out of you (it beggars belief to observe the emotional violence levelled at you sometimes) as I think of you as someone who has done remarkably well, who has struggled against and overcome uncommon adversity, worked hard and transformed unimaginable pain into joyous medicine for the soul: laughter. You are a public figure of whom the Buddha himself would be proud.

I want to talk to you about feminism; specifically, how women are represented on the Trews. I’m not talking about the Feminism of yester-year, the bra-burning, militant Greenham Commoners, or the suffragettes who fought to the death for a right that became obsolete anyway. I’m not referring to any of these tired old tropes, which, thanks to decades of media conditioning and unhelpful narratives, continue to diminish the movement.

I’m talking about the value of women in society. How women are valued and treated in our culture, the rights, freedoms and options that they are afforded, or not afforded, by the rest of society i.e. men, and how these freedoms are enshrined in our culture, law and heritage. Simple.

I’ve heard you mention Guy Debord before – his book “Society of the Spectacle” explains how modern culture places a higher value on how things look above their reality, to all our detriment. Our present society likes nothing better than to endlessly pore over images of women, scrutinising every inch. We know that appraising women primarily for their attractiveness and the way they look is harmful to us all, yet it persists.

Media representations of gender are essential to public perceptions and beliefs, therefore the ways in which women are represented in popular mainstream media say a lot about cultural attitudes towards them. The legendary academic Jean Kilbourne nails this in her work ‘Killing Us Softly’, identifying attitudes alongside representations of women in advertising. Admirably, you have also pinpointed the problem of objectification, idolatry, and deification of women, turning them into 2d objects and projecting narratives onto them. You seem to have an impressive grasp of feminist ideology, revealed in episode 12 ‘Is Renee Zellweger getting older’ when you explain the “Madonna/Whore” delineation of female de-sexualised archetypes.

But it begs the question, what are you doing to create alternatives to the usual media mechanisms that silence womens’ voices and deny their personalities? How has the Trews facilitated a discussion about the value of women in society and the media? As a feminist myself, and a big fan of your work, I’m sorely disappointed.

I’ve been watching the Trews for about a year now; the part of me that bloody loves you, and always has, is thoroughly excited and inspired to witness you, with your knowledge, illustriousness, and sheer audacity, having a square go at tackling corruption, greed and ignorance head-on. But, sadly, the feminist part of me that is awake to female representation and subjugation is horrified by the lack of women on the Trews.

With the exception of the Focus E15 mums and Lindsay from the New Era Estate, who are magnificent exemplars of utter mightiness in the struggle for social justice in the UK, there has been a dearth of other women like them. So far I have been dismayed by the lack of outspoken, assertive, intelligent, empowered women in comparison to the number of men who fit that description. There is a growing alumni of impressive and influential male guests, including Scroobius Pip, Brenden Ogle, George Monbiot, Jolyon Rubinstein and Heydon Prowse, B Dolan, Dan Pinchbeck, Dave DeGraw, Mo Ansar, Rufus Hound, David Baddiel, and Alain De Botton. Conversely, is it fair to say that Chloe and Alesha the Cambridge drop-outs, your PA Nicola, and the little girl on the tube represent the full opinion, intellect and creative spirit of half the population?

You invited Helena Norberg-Hodge to share her expertise on trade agreements and food justice, but your habit of continually interrupting her to translate what she was saying into your “layman’s terms” was undermining. Ok, it’s part of your adorable shtick, and she’s not the only guest who is put through your jovial “everyday folk” filter, you do this with male guests too. But there is something disconcerting about her interview. You are more deferential with men, you hang off their every word – not so with Helena.

In episode 164, ‘Is David Cameron The Terrorist?’ you appear with Alec Baldwin, Max Keiser and Stacey Herbert. Worryingly, you introduced both male guests using their full names – but Stacey is just Stacey. She barely gets a word in throughout the discussion, and she is the last person to be addressed on each question. When she does offer a weird analogy about the banking system being like Ebola she doesn’t get to qualify it; instead Max Keiser interjects with “Ah, haha, well I think what Stacey is alluding to there…” Talk about patronising!

Even more worryingly, this has already been brought to your attention! In episode 106, ‘Is The Trews Sexist?’ a fan suggests that you redress the balance of male/female guests, in order to avoid the classic narrative of male-dominated politics. As a life-long fan of your humour I appreciated the delicious irony of your response, ordering your female butler upstairs to boss her about like a patriarchal overlord. Truly hilarious, but you didn’t actually take the hint.

Your most noteworthy female guest so far is undoubtedly Naomi Klein. Does that mean you’ll only take a woman seriously if she triggers anti-globalisation movements with her best selling books? Not a bad criterion to have for your guests, in which case what the bloody hell is Alistair Campbell (spin doctor to Blair’s Evil Empire) doing there? I understand the point – Campbell is human underneath etc. But what is the wider message being sent out to female fans?

I could go on but you’ve probably got the message. I don’t believe for a second I’m the first person to point this out to you – in fact you revealed an awareness of your sexist tendencies by apologising to that politician on Question Time for calling her “love”. Maybe your eyes are opening to the myriad ways that women are still stifled, undermined and disregarded.

What, then, qualifies me to aim this diatribe at you? Obviously, I’m a woman and a feminist. I’m also a “stripper activist”. I co-founded a group called East London Strippers Collective, a group of strippers who have gathered out of shared grievances about our industry, and a desire to improve it. We are committed to self-organisation, self-empowerment and ethical business practises. We seek to challenge stereotypes and widely held erroneous beliefs about our work, provoking better-informed dialogue about strippers and sex-workers in general.

How can a feminist be a stripper, I hear you think? Easily. For us pro-choice, sex-positive feminists our work is built on the principle that women have the right to be sexual beings, the right to choose what they do with their own bodies – the same principle that made abortion and homosexuality a legal right.

ELSC believe that women (and men) have the right to strip and not be stigmatised for it. We imagine that if clubs were run as egalitarian businesses, owned and managed by workers we might create a more respectful and sympathetic environment within the industry, changing the wider social impact. Our manifesto challenges the patriarchal conventions on which the industry is built, and ensures that no individual can profit from the work of another.

Unsavoury workplace controls, exploitative business practises and unhealthy manipulations of male and female sexuality are as much a consequence of capitalist greed than anything else. The more we strive to take back autonomy in our workplaces, the more useful and effective we can be in society, which makes us no different from any other exploited work force seeking an end to greed and exploitation. In many ways, the sex industry is the definitive capitalist business model, entirely profit driven. But I can imagine it being different.

Russell, your call for Revolution is a symphony of inspiration to me. I’m a politicised radical who believes in change. I went to anti-war demos and climate riots, some of my best mates fought high profile climate-justice court trials. What I learned during my informative years as an anti-capitalist rebel I am now applying to my choice of work. As an activist, visual artist and a practising Buddhist I’ve had ample opportunity to re-imagine the world. The task of our generation is re-imagining a system that serves people over profit; gender equality must be part of that system.

My vision for Revolution includes strippers. It includes all sex-workers. Because what they offer society is untold insight into gender biases and power relationships. I refer to this New Statesman article by Alison Phipps ’Why Feminism Needs Trans People and Sex Workers’;

“Sex workers are part of an industry which, although diverse, is profoundly gendered and based on the commodification of sex and desire. From this position they have unique insights into how gendered power relations and sexual scripts work… the gendered structures that radical feminism identified in the 1970s may have already become more complex and slippery in our postmodern world. Surely, those most likely to understand these present-day structures are those oppressed by them the most.”

As we strive ahead together calling out greed and corruption, I want the freedom to strip! I want to provide sexual entertainment to those who would otherwise be devoid of it, for the landscape of our art and culture to include tits and willies, and celebrations of nudity and sexuality. I believe there is value in sex work, and that those who choose to do it deserve recognition. I want my positive experiences as a stripper to be acknowledged and my negative experiences to serve as caution. I want to use my knowledge and understanding of my choice of work to be a source of transformation and inspiration to others.

I’d like to know what you think about this potential sticking point; because in the words of the glorious, articulate and mercifully female political agitator Emma Goldman… if I can’t strip, it’s not my Revolution.

The Sex Workers’ Opera

One of things that took me by surprise when I launched my porn website a decade ago was the amount of hatred thrown at pornstars. As I got to know the sex industries better, I discovered that strippers and prostitutes are the targets of similar abuse – or worse. But the biggest surprise was the source of much of the hatred: not from a religious-minded “patriarchy”, as I’d expected, but in large part from other women, and especially from feminists.

This was bizarre, given that feminist morality campaigners were claiming they were out to rescue these women. When “rescuing” entails spitting on strippers as they go to work, supporting immigration and drug squad raids on brothels, and calling for well-paid women to be made unemployed, one has to suspect the true motivations of the rescuer.

Pornstars are public performers, and tend not to be particularly shy or retiring. But most prostitutes, out of necessity (partly thanks to the bigotry of the rescue industry), seek privacy. In my campaigning work, I’ve often encountered women who have had their livelihoods attacked, but have chosen to stay silent because of the fear of stigma, should they choose to defend themselves. The video-on-demand regulator ATVOD, for example, chooses to publish the real names and addresses of sex workers who run video websites. It is, of course, purely coincidental that a number of such women have chosen to close down their sites rather than be forced to publicly defend their right to run them.

Anti-sex campaigners rely on sex workers’ fear of publicity, knowing that few will openly challenge their campaigns of misinformation. So when I watched the excellent Sex Workers’ Opera at a packed theatre in East London last night, I was deeply impressed by (among other things) the bravery of the performers, many of whom were sex workers.

The performance opened with a rant from a “member of the audience”, who jumped on stage and began shouting about “objectification” and “trafficking”, while screaming SHUT UP! at anybody who dared look in her direction. This rapidly set the scene: in this war of morality-dressed-as-concern, even those sex workers who dare to speak for themselves must be denied a voice. They must be saved, and if they don’t want to be saved, it just shows how badly sex work has fucked them up psychologically, thus reinforcing the need to save them.

The performances were based on sex workers’ own stories, and so were poignant as well as frequently funny; they often struck a chord with sex workers who were present in the audience. The police raid in which women were taken from their workplaces and locked in cells “for their protection”; the women forced to work alone, and made more vulnerable to attack, by laws against brothels; the prostitute who found herself giving marriage guidance counselling to her client; the dominatrix; the submissive. A section of the performance was by webcam workers, and was projected onto a screen rather than performed live on stage. There was an excellent performance by a pole dancer.

Having expected a fairly amateur affair (after all, none of these were professional singers or actors), I was surprised by the quality of the writing, production and performances. For sure, there were some rough edges – but for a two-day play staged by non-professionals, the quality was easily good enough for me to enjoy the entire show.

The overall message was a simple one, which was laid bare in the finale: Listen To Me. How dare outsiders deign to speak on behalf of those whose voices they refuse to hear? How dare moralists insist to know more about sex work than the sex workers themselves?

Want to see it? Sadly, you’ve probably missed it. Tonight’s is the final performance, and it’s almost certainly sold out, as yesterday’s was. But the show was strong enough that, with professional production, it could be revived as something bigger and better in future. Let’s hope this happens, and that these voices reach an ever wider audience. You can join their Facebook page or follow on Twitter to keep in touch.

Sex work, job creation and the latest moral panic

The headline from the International Business Times was a moral panic classic: “UK Government Pays Sex Clubs To Employ Teenage Girls.” But it is a headline that is misleading and it misses the point. It conjures up sordid images of underage girls being plucked from schoolyards by evil government sex traffickers to work as prostitutes.

What has actually happened is that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has paid cash incentives to a range of employers in the adult entertainment industry to hire unemployed people aged 18-24. Yes, if you are 18 you are a teenager – but you are also an adult in the eyes of the law and when you are an adult, you can work in for any legal employer in the adult entertainment industry. You may disapprove of the adult entertainment industry but if that’s the case, you can go and do something else for a living.

The DWP distributed a list of the employers that can benefit from at least £2,000 in incentives funded by UK taxpayers. Here is the list:

1. Those involved in the sale, manufacture, distribution and display of sex related products;
2. Auxiliary workers in lap/pole dancing clubs – e.g. bar staff, door staff, receptionists or cleaners;
3. Auxiliary workers in strip clubs – e.g. bar staff, door staff, receptionists or cleaners;
4. Auxiliary workers in saunas/massage parlours e.g. bar staff, door staff, receptionists or clearers;
5. Glamour model photographers;
6. Web-cam operators;
7. TV camera operators, sound technicians, producers/directors for adult channels on digital TV;
8. TV camera operators, sound technicians, producers/directors for pornographic films.

Like it or not, these are all perfectly legal ways to earn a living.

DWP rules stipulate that such employers can offer young jobseekers full-time work for up to 26 weeks as long as the jobseeker is not a performer nor performing sexual acts. Given the laws surrounding the legality of prostitution in the UK are rather muddy (and frankly ridiculous), this rule seems fair enough.

But it’s not the morality of working in the adult entertainment industry that is the real problem here. The problem is that the UK government is turning the employers into welfare recipients in a scheme that doesn’t do a damn thing to create long-term jobs. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sainsburys or Spearmint Rhino – this policy is stupid.

There is nothing to stop any employer from simply hiring someone for 26 weeks, getting rid of them and then hiring someone else for another 26 weeks to do the same job. This is not real, long-term job creation. This is simply a way for employers to hire staff at the expense of the taxpayer. Sure, the experience might lead to another job, or it might lead to another 26 weeks of temporary work elsewhere or it might lead to nowhere but long-term uncertainty. If any employer has work that needs to be done, they should hire staff and pay a living wage. This way, people have some financial security, they are less likely to be dependent on benefits, they pay tax and they are economically active consumers.

Similarly, if people are forced to do any job under the threat of losing unemployment benefits, whether it’s in the adult entertainment industry or not, that is problematic. This harks back to the case last year of Cait Reilly, the graduate who had to forego work experience in a museum to work in Poundland or face losing fairly meagre unemployment payments. The museum experience would have helped her get a better-paid job relevant to her degree. Instead, she has ended up working in a Morrisons supermarket.

There is nothing wrong with working in a supermarket but there is plenty wrong with a system that is focused on number-crunching. This is all about forcing people in any job at taxpayer expense to make the unemployment figures look more attractive in time for the 2015 election. There is nothing in this policy that focuses on creating real jobs across a range of industries, looking at the individual situations of unemployed people on a case-by-case basis, or regional development so that jobs are not just created in expensive, crowded London. But none of that makes for a good headline.

In short, the pearl-clutching article from the International Business Times is simply another excuse to slag off the adult entertainment industry.

[Article originally published on Georgia’s blog, The Rant Mistress]