Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Looking for Study Participants: Sex Work, Motherhood, and the Family

Letter of Invitation

Title: Sex Work, Motherhood, and the Family

Ethics Clearance for the Collection of Data Expires: May 31st, 2016

Dear TNT subscriber,

My name is Lauren Gravis and I am an Undergraduate student in the Criminology Department at Carleton University. I am working on a research project under the supervision of Prof. Rebecca Bromwich.

I am writing to you today to invite you to participate in a study on Sex Work, Motherhood, and the Family. This study aims to discover how the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act impacts the institution of the family; specifically mother sex workers and their children. This study will also seek to assess the role of the woman as both a mother and/or wife and as a sex worker and the legal and societal impacts on these roles. Benefits to the participant will include that they will be able to have their voice heard, gain a sense of empowerment, and the opportunity to contribute to broader social understandings in the area of motherhood and sex work.

This study involves one 30 minute interview that will take place in a mutually convenient, safe location in person, as a phone call, or on Skype in that same location. With your consent, interviews will be audio-recorded. Once the recording has been transcribed, the audio-recording will be destroyed.

While this project does involve some professional and emotional risks, care will be taken to protect your identity. This will be done by keeping all responses anonymous and allowing you to request that certain responses not be included in the final project. Resources will be given to participants at the beginning of the interview and participants will be able to self-identify their level of emotional distress with the researcher.

You will have the right to end your participation in the study at any time, for any reason, up until February 28th, 2016. If you choose to withdraw, all the information you have provided will be destroyed.

As a token of appreciation for your involvement in this study, you will be provided with an honorarium of $20 for the interview. This honorarium will be given to you after the interview has finished and will be handed to you in cash if you are doing an in person interview. If you are a distance/phone participant the honorarium will be sent to you by e-transfer to your preferred email address, or sent in the mail to your advocacy centre by cheque.

All research data, including audio-recordings and any notes will be encrypted. Any hard copies of data (including any handwritten notes or USB keys) will be kept in a locked cabinet at Carleton University. Research data will only be accessible by the researcher and the research supervisor.

Requirements: 
  • Women or transgender men who have had children
  • Experience working in the sex industry (diverse genres included)
  • Must be over the age of 18 years
  • Must be living and working in Canada (past or present)

If you would like to participate in this research project, or have any questions, please contact me at laurengravis@cmail.carleton.ca or my research supervisor at 613-520-2600 x. 2082.

The ethics protocol for this project was reviewed by the Carleton University Research Ethics Board, which provided clearance to carry out the research. Should you have questions or concerns related to your involvement in this research, please contact:


CUREB contact information:
Professor Louise Heslop, Chair (CUREB-A)
Professor Andy Adler, Vice-Chair
Carleton University Research Ethics Board
Carleton University
511 Tory
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6
Tel: 613-520-2517
ethics@carleton.ca



Sincerely,

Lauren Gravis

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Trade Secrets for Sex Industry Workers - Our Emotional Health

Post reproduced from Trade Secrets: Health and Safety in the Sex Industry which was published in BC, Canada in 2009. All advice given in these posts comes from sex industry workers who shared their experience and knowledge for this guide.

The Naked Truth will occasionally feature one section from the guide. This week's post is from Chapter Five: Us.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post shares and addresses sensitive stories and issues.


Emotional Health of Sex Industry Workers

This chapter focuses on us. It focuses on our emotional health and how our jobs impact our feelings about our lives.

Sometimes we feel compelled to minimize the exploitation that occurs in our industry so that the square world doesn't exclude us as much. We notice that the more we legitimize our work by focusing on the positives, the more respect we are given.

But in reality, service in exchange for money IS work. We should not have to legitimize our work by denying exploitation. Exploitation in this industry is a direct result of others looking down on us and denying our labour. It is because of this exclusion of our work as work that we feel obliged to hide the negative aspects of the industry.

We admit the hardships in this chapter. There are aspects of our work that we do not like. We are entitled to feel both good and bad about sex work. People in square jobs hate their jobs as much as we do sometimes. (If you've ever had a square job, you know it's true.)

This chapter is not a confession of exploitation in the sex industry. It is a realistic summary of the emotional complexities of sex industry work. For those who read our words looking to justify prohibitionist views, please do not use our painful moments against us.


What Stresses Us Out



“On the whole most clients are great and the hour is easy as pie. Sometimes though, I get clients who want to work me to the bone for the entire hour. It is difficult to maintain energy, enthusiasm, and interest when you're trying to suck off a 400 lb asshole who keeps telling you to ‘suck harder.'"
“The most stressful aspect of stripping for me is having to lie to friends and family about what I do for a living.”
“I supported my addiction and the addictions of other guys I hung around with. We kind of took turns with this role depending on who had the dates and how much each of us was pulling in. It was very stressful not knowing how you were going to survive minute to minute, hour to hour.”
“For me, the hardest part of the work was “playing dumb." I’m a well-educated feminist and it was very hard for me to have my clients believe I was a nymphomaniac bimbo.”

Interestingly, most adult entertainers feel that working in other common occupations, such as retail or hospitality, is far more stressful because of the low pay and poor treatment.

However, sex industry workers have unique stresses not experienced by mainstream workers. They worry about people finding out what they do, how their parents feel about their jobs, and what their friends and families back home are saying about them.

More things that stress us out in the words of Trade Secrets contributors:

  • Uncertainty of confirmed work.
  • Lack of professionalism.
  • Not making any money.
  • Standing out there where everyone can see me. (on the street)
  • Fighting with other workers.
  • Fighting with clients.
  • Working outside in the cold.
  • Wondering if I am going to have a safe night.
  • The stress of always keeping thin, looking hot, and having a deep enough tan line.
  • Pressure to perform.
  • Competition.
  • Hate crimes.
  • Internalized homophobia (my own and clients).
  • Health.
  • Emotional and mental health issues.
  • Shame and stigma.
  • Not knowing if I’m going to get busted for solicitation.
  • Gay bashing on the street.
  • Knowing that the residents do not want us working on their streets.
  • Being asked personal questions by clients.
  • Fear of getting caught doing sex work in my own home.
  • Fear of using public transit late at night while coming or going to outcalls.
  • Aging.
  • Language barriers.
  • Not having enough clients.
  • Robbery.
  • Police and building manager.
  • I am afraid of no money at the end of a day.
  • The long hours.
  • Physically and mentally strenuous nature of performing and interacting with customers.
  • The preferential treatment of some dancers, and not getting paid what I know I'm worth.
  • Threat of violence or arrest.
  • Witnessing drug use, violence, and other destructive behaviours.
  • Talking to and sharing emotional experiences with clients.
  • Negotiating rates.
  • You can’t predict whether it's going to be feast or famine.
  • Fear of losing my children.
  • Fear of losing my straight job if found out.
  • Fear of my children finding out and how they might react.
  • Constantly answering the phone.
  • Consumers who just call and waste your time or even book an appointment and no show.
  • Having things thrown at me when I'm working on the street.


Burnout


“I have felt burned out and not wanted to deal with horny men before. I keep other square jobs that I work on-call on the side in order to take a break from time-to-time.” 
“I remember long stretches of time, like years, when I thought the job was easy and safe. But I could go from feeling comfortable to burnout very quickly.”

Burnout is a common health hazard in this profession. If you are working all the time, hustling for a living, or taking on too many clients, you’re sure to experience it. There is only one cure for burnout – taking a break.

Depending on how bad your burnout is, you may need to take an extended vacation from entertaining. Turn to your closest friends and family. Do what you need to do to have a break. To reduce extreme burnout, take breaks often. Whenever you feel yourself beginning to hate life, take a break. Don’t wait until you’ve convinced yourself life isn’t worth living anymore and you’re two months behind on rent.

If it is not financially possible for you to take a break, at the very least, try to cut down on your hours or clients. In between work - eat healthy, sleep, and exercise. Cut down your personal life obligations until they are as minimal as possible. Veg out between work engagements and don’t feel bad about it. Your health is number one.


How We Feel About Our Jobs



“Satisfied. I only take one or two calls a week. This way I can eat well and not worry about money. Student loans don’t give enough to live on.” 
“Overall, I'm very satisfied with my job. I love dancing on stage, doing my makeup and wearing beautiful costumes. The freedom to take time off work whenever I want is another fantastic aspect of the job. Stripping has done wonders for my personal development. It's made me far more assertive, more adept at thinking on my feet, and more efficient at deflecting criticism. Developing the athleticism and strength to dance and do pole work, and seeing my body become more lean and toned as a result, has also done a lot to boost my self-confidence.”
“I love my job. I love the costumes. The high pay. The freedom of time. I do have to worry about my appearance a lot, and keep in great shape. When I feel bloated, or I am having an off day, this affects my self-esteem just like with anyone else.” 
“It wasn’t until after 10 years of working that I became dissatisfied for I then wanted to form a relationship with just one man. So I quit and went back to school.”
"I feel like I am providing a very healthy and helpful service to people. It can be hard when I get the clients who don’t appreciate that, but I try to focus on the ones that do. Usually when the clients are disrespectful, it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves, not me."

Adult entertainers, for the most part, consider their work creative and empowering. Other benefits include freedom of time, increased confidence, and becoming more open-minded sexually.

However, this work is not always beneficial for our souls. It’s easy to become dependent on the praise and love given by our customers. Then when we are away from the work, we feel inadequate and invisible. Then there is the added complexity of having lovers. (Explored more in Chapter 7 – Our Relationships.)

This business enables us to fend for ourselves financially, work flexible hours, and support our families. But, like any job, it can sometimes be bad.


“Sometimes it feels disgusting. I think I’m as lonely as they are.” 
“It depends if I have money or not. It changes from day to day.” 
“Unsatisfied. I got raped and I quit. It was too dangerous. I was really scared. Before that though, I always had good food and nice clothes.” 
“At the time I was doing sex work, I was not sexually functional due to childhood abuse issues. Sex work (having sex when I wasn’t sexually aroused and faking arousal) was no different than sex in an intimate relationship was for me. I had my first orgasm with another human being at the age of 40, nine months after exiting the sex industry.” 
“I feel like because I am a part of the sex worker rights movement that there isn’t a lot of room for me to talk about how shitty it sometimes was. That I have to maintain a strong face, and never appear to be the victim.”
“I know today that I used my body to get what I wanted. I believe that the work contributed to my low self-esteem and sense of worthlessness. I still feel a lot of this now that I am no longer in the trade. I found participating in degrading acts has left me with this sense of emptiness, this disconnect, guilt, shame, and remorse.”


Maintaining Boundaries

It is very important to maintain your boundaries in this work. You may test them once in awhile and find that you do not like the outcome. Go back to the old way until you’re ready to try something new again. If the old ways are tried and true – find ways to be more creative with them, rather than crossing boundaries to turn up the spice.

Forgive yourself and forgive others. Forgive the people who have harmed you. And forgive yourself for any harm you have caused. That is the only way to emotional liberation.


Emotional Clients


“It’s just a part of the job, seeing clients who are paying you to brighten up their lives. So many of our clients carry heavy emotional loads. It can’t help but affect us.” 
“I experienced a lot of internalized homophobia from dates who took out their own anger/frustration/shame on me. This ranged from cold/unfeeling quickies to rough/violent episodes.” 
“There were days when I thought of myself as a counsellor. I felt that clients actually left feeling less guilt and shame than when they came in to see me. Other days I was just numb.”

As sex industry workers, we are on the front lines often dealing with people who are looking for solace, some kind of respite from the pain of their lives. There are many techniques entertainers use in different situations. Here are some suggestions from contributors to this guide:

  • If your client is experiencing extreme emotions, the best thing to do is listen.
  • I have never experienced an angry customer. And if I did, and he was angry towards me, I would probably leave.
  • I leave if it’s too much.
  • Talk to them and help them through it.
  • Distract them with sex.
  • People with disabilities- be compassionate, support them, this is the noble part of our job.
  • I feel bad for them but I have to let it roll off of me.
  • It is better that there is no emotional connection whatsoever.
  • I have done a lot of studying of psychology. I'm not exactly a therapist, but I can relate and understand.
  • This rendezvous is based on fantasy and illusion. If too much reality gets in, I remember it is his life and it doesn’t have to affect me personally.
  • I respect his sensitivity that he felt comfortable enough to talk about it with me.
  • I always have the power to redirect the topic of conversation.
  • With some of my clients, listening was the primary activity during a date.
  • I ignore customers who project their anger or other frustrations onto me and I try not to give them much thought, so as to not take on their negative energy.
  • I massage the customers and then clap my hands three times to dispel negative energy. A plant in the room where you work will dispel negative energy too. Crystals can absorb also.

Confidence and Body Image



“I have never understood what other people see in me or even believed them when they said I was beautiful. And so when complete strangers pay ME for sex, they CHOOSE me. It’s a huge ego boost.”

Being in this work creates an interesting relationship with our bodies. Sometimes we are more confident about our bodies and our sexuality (as well as our ability to seduce our way to financial freedom) once we become adult entertainers.

One sex worker said she felt better about her body when she realized that women with big hips and cellulite were the top bookers. Another woman had been insecure about her small breasts until she started dancing and realized that her body was just as appreciated by customers as her “Double D” co-workers.

It can also work the other way, making you feel less confident. If you get fired for having small breasts or told by an employer to lose weight, this can have disastrous effects on your performance.

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, it impacts our ability to do our jobs well. The spark just isn’t there. We feel it. The customers feel it. It sucks. That’s why with confidence we have to fake it till we make it – at all times.

The pressure to be thin really affects confidence. It can lead to eating disorders and threaten your very life. Develop a thick skin. Try not to take anything that anyone says to you personally. You are not going to be ideal for every client or employer. But there are clients and employers out there that think the world of you. Focus on the people in your life who bring positive feelings into your world and forget about the ones who impact you negatively.

Growing old is particularly difficult for adult entertainers. We rely on our beauty for an income, so when our ass(et)s start to sag, it’s not only depressing, it’s financially hazardous. Plastic surgery is always an option, but exercising, eating right and wearing natural sun block will actually slow aging.

Aging can be slowed, but it cannot be stopped. And so, as the days go by, so does the ability to make it in this industry.

Find things to be good at that don’t involve looking beautiful. Nurture your interests outside of work. This will help the transition from entertainer to retiree when the time inevitably comes.

Take heart. As we age, we also become savvier. With all our years of experience, we can do anything. We can start our own adult entertainment businesses – and run them ethically and responsibly to honour our own histories. We can join the square world and wow them with our entrepreneurial skills and charm. We can do anything because we are strong, resilient, creative, and self-driven - common traits among us.


Our Sexuality


“It has had a mild impact on my sexual relationships. Because I've really found what I enjoy in sex, it has been difficult to go back to traditional vanilla relationships. But not impossible, I just really need to be truly enamoured with the person.” 
“I would use my sexuality to boost my confidence. I would take men home for a few hours, then kick them out when I was done with them. I still have issues with my sexuality, trying to find the balance between housewife and stripper, as well as what I really want from a sexual relationship.” 
"Sexually speaking, performing in an adult film is not satisfying at all and can be quite frustrating as the sexual performances are only for the purpose of other people's enjoyment" 
"Stripping for eleven years was an amazing experience that freed my mind from the constraints most people feel about their sexuality. Being naked in front of hundreds of people was sexually empowering and not a bad way to meet guys. Yet finding a significant other that loves you for who you are instead of what you look like is difficult as a stripper." 
"My job is my personal sexual relationships; when I am horny, I go to work!"

Being sexy is the job, so it goes without saying that the job impacts our sexuality. Inhibitions have a lot less power over us. We become more secure in and comfortable with our sexuality.

We talk quite freely about sex and all things sexual. There is a rare comment that makes us blush.

Sometimes we are sexually drained from work, and so neglect our lovers. Sometimes we respond in the opposite way. Watching other men seek services when their wives are withholding sex inspires us to meet the needs of our partners more consistently.

It is sometimes difficult for us to be sexy for our partners because it feels fake. We do it so often for money, that it can seem insincere doing it for the people we love.

All of these are normal feelings that are felt by many sex workers. Do what feels right for you. When it comes to sex, there are no right or wrong answers. Isn’t that what we’ve really learned in this business anyway?

(See Chapter 7 – Our Relationships, for more information about managing personal relationships in this industry.)

How We Fit Into The World


“For the longest time I felt I did not fit in though now I am out of the trade, it is easier because I can talk about what I do for work.” 
“I feel like a normal person who goes to work and does their job, just like anyone else. At the same time I'm acutely aware of the fact that I lead a double life. I have a 'real' life that revolves around me stripping, and a 'fake' life I create as a front for family, friends, and others who don't know I dance. Maintaining this 'fake' life is highly stressful and causes me to feel extremely detached and alienated from many people.” 
“I don’t like being around people who have it all, like jobs and no violent past.” 
“I pass for normal.” 
“In the beginning it was like I was doing a bad thing but I continued to do it because I enjoyed the attention from men. In the end I felt like a cockroach of society.” 
“Outside. Condemned. Oppressed. Ostracized.”

It’s easy to assume we just don’t fit into the world. We are treated as outcasts and deviants. We are equally pitied, hated, and worshipped. While we are at work, it all seems quite fine and comfortable. But out in the “real” world, people try to shame us and force us to change.

However, the reality is that we are neither worse, nor better than any other person in the world. “I am not better than anyone” is easy to follow. But “no one is better than me” can be difficult for people who’ve consistently been treated as the lowest class of humans.

Yet, we all have inherited the earth. No one person has more right to being here than any other person. We all shape the world we live in by how we outwardly behave and react. If we avoid places where we feel inferior, we are depriving the world of our greatness - a greatness that every single person in the world has.

Read this quote from American author Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles:


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

“Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking, so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
You do not have to believe in God to know these words are true. You just have to believe in yourself.

Some ways to feel more connected to the rest of the world are:

  • Remember that you are equal to every other person in the world.
  • Reject any suggestions – personal or societal – that make you feel of low worth.
  • Join groups you are intimidated by (Parent Advisory Council, board of a charity, etc) – you’ll soon see that everyone else is just as intimidated by you!
  • Don’t identify yourself by what you do for work. We are not our jobs. This is just one of the ways we make a mark in our lifetimes.
  • Volunteer with charities that are meaningful to you to feel like you are contributing to something important.
  • Realize and remember that what you are offering through your work is also an important contribution to the world and nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Spend time with other industry workers where you feel free to be yourself.


Quotes from Sex Workers – How We See Ourselves

“I am a facilitator, artist, healer.” 
“I am a good person, independent, intelligent, doing a good job to support myself.” 
“I am straight-forward and compassionate but I won’t take any crap. I have a big heart but it is sometimes guarded. I am easy-going. I care about people. I don’t like to see people suffer. I don’t believe in religion. I believe in spirituality.” 
“I think of myself as a single individual in my community. I’m just another person on this rock floating around a star in space.” 
“I'm a professional providing a service. I'm no better or worse than anyone else.” 
“I provide a service that is a healthy outlet for people. Healthy, that is, if all of our companion rules are followed.” 
“I am a pioneer. I am an entrepreneur. I am an exciting person who is ever-evolving with the ever-evolving, changing world.”

Substance Use as a Coping Mechanism

"I rarely drink at work, but frequently smoke marijunana before or at work. It makes me more sociable. I consume GHB at work sometimes too. It has the same effect. I usually have an Ativan (lorazepam) in my purse in case I get an anxiety attack, but that has only ever happened at one club, twice."

Many people use substances to cope with the stresses of life. Whether it is a glass of wine in the evening or a doobie in the morning, substance use is a common coping mechanism.

If you find that you are using substances to cope, it is good that you are at least aware of it. Try to monitor your substance use to reduce its harmful effects.

If you notice you are increasing your use or binging, you could be experiencing anxiety, depression, trauma or PTSD. This is when you should be most attentive to yourself, using self-care strategies and/or seeking therapy.

Attempt to find ways other than substance use, or in conjunction with less substance use, to stay sane. (See "Staying Sane" in this chapter.)

One very good coping mechanism is to phone someone you trust and debrief with him or her on a regular basis, especially if you’ve had a disturbing experience. If you can do this in person, that’s even better. Sharing your experiences with another person you trust is very healing.

(See Chapter 6 - Our Bodies – for more information on substance use, their effects, and self-care strategies for substance users.)


Staying Sane
There are many ways to maintain your mental health. Avoiding burnout (by taking breaks) is a big one. Other good ways to feel better mentally are:


  • Have a hobby – painting, scrapbooking, something creative that will allow you to express yourself.
  • Try therapy. Many entertainers, because they are creative, prefer art therapy or other alternative therapies to more traditional ones. There are community-based counselling and therapy options that are low cost or free, although many may have waiting lists. Check with your doctor or a community health clinic for more information on free or inexpensive services.
  • Do things you’re good at that are separate from your work. You may be an incredible pole dancer, but what can you do off the pole? Are you a chef? A mechanic? A website designer? Nurture an identity of yourself that is separate from your role as a sex industry worker. We are not our jobs, after all. (Although it can sometimes seem like it in this field.)
  • Take long walks, get out of your workspace, and get fresh air. Go bike riding or swimming on occasion.
  • Redecorating your play space can be therapeutic.
  • Spend lots of time with your friends.
  • Sing karaoke or go dancing.
  • Take days off to visit family.
  • Write an anonymous blog.
  • Write poetry, paint, or make sculptures.
  • Listen to music.
  • Lift weights.
  • Run.
  • Watch inspiring movies.
  • Beading/ crafts
  • Crocheting / Knitting / Sewing
  • Have a sense of humour.
  • Give yourself time to heal.
  • Structure your life to include a balance of a little bit of everything.
  • Access services.
  • Put yourself next to happy people.
  • LAUGH!
  • Stretch.
  • Keep a journal and write down your thoughts. Get what’s in - out!
  • Yoga.
  • Honey and salt body washes once a week.
  • Take art classes.
  • Read a novel.
  • Entertaining can make us relax. Making friends is another good way to relax. (Some clients can be our friends.)
  • Eat well, exercise, and get lots of sleep every day.
  • Debrief with a friend after particularly stressful situations.


Be Strong

“Stick together, work together, find solutions, create a positive environment, treat others with respect, work as a team, be responsible for your own actions, fight for your rights, earn respect, and always present a positive image to your community and the public. Have confidence and be proud of what you do and who you are.” 
“I no longer use drugs or booze. I keep a journal and attend a 12-step program. I swim and go for long walks. I forgive myself and understand the choices I made in the past were the best I could at the time.”

We are resilient, aren’t we? We are able to withstand almost anything. We are very strong individuals. In fact, sometimes when we leave the industry, we start to become vulnerable. Then we recall how strong we can be, and revert to our tougher selves. This is a power we all have within us. It’s just that adult entertainers use it regularly.

We all have moments of feeling weak, and that's okay. It is part of being a strong individual - to allow ourselves to be vulnerable (when it is safe to do so) - as that allows us to be honest with our processes and our selves.

While retiring or once retired, we sometimes experience feelings of sadness, guilt, grief, shame, fear, or anger about the life we’ve left and the constant survival mode we may have existed in. We may need to separate ourselves from the work and criticize it for the painful experiences that we feel it brought upon us.

This is not only normal; it is extremely healthy to experience these emotions. They are part of the healing process. Just be sure to carry them out to their conclusion – which is the safe, healthy, and well-rounded human being you see in the mirror.

Even in the worst circumstances, we develop skills in this work. We become mentally prepared for anything. We learn to have a backup plan. We learn survival techniques – we practically invented them. We are resourceful, resilient, and revolutionary as a community. And we have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.


About Trade Secrets 

Trade Secrets is a collaborative project that was contributed to by diverse members of the sex industry and their community.

About the Project

Who Contributed?

Some of this information may be outdated. Please feel free to comment below the relevant posts with information you'd like to add or update. Your help is appreciated.

Thank you for your commitment to supporting health and safety in the sex industry.

In Solidarity,

Trina Ricketts (Annie)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Trade Secrets - Our Work

Post reproduced from Trade Secrets: Health and Safety in the Sex Industry which was published in BC, Canada in 2009. All advice given in these posts comes from sex industry workers who shared their experience and knowledge for this guide.

The Naked Truth will occasionally feature one section from the guide. This week's post is from Chapter Four: Our Work.

Note from Trina: This chapter is likely very outdated. If any of the information you see is incorrect, please comment below.


Our Work


This chapter explores getting started in various areas of the sex industry, what you make and what fines or fees you may be subjected to, negotiating pay and contracts, and tips to make more money. (Chapter Nine – Our Businesses – explores increasing your income potential more deeply.)

Adult Film and Modeling

“Workers must be sober when signing contracts and be well enough to perform. If someone is not well, they cannot work with us as it could lead to legal issues.”
"Some of the female models get breast implants but generally it reduces the amount of work that they can get, as natural breasted women are thought of as sexier."

Getting Started

Many models and actors get recruited into adult film and photo work through their friends or by transitioning to it from webcam work. But there are ways to get into it without knowing someone. You can occasionally find listings in newspapers or on adult entertainment websites and classifieds sites like Craigslist.

During an interview, you are sometimes required to sign contracts, have a few naked photo shots taken, and provide ID. Before commencing work in adult film, you are also usually required to produce recent STI test results.

Some modeling gigs have an online form-based application with picture uploads which begins the booking process. That may be followed by a phone interview and hopefully leads to a booking.

Legal Age

To ensure models are legal age, companies usually require two pieces of government issued photo ID. They will file copies of your ID with your photo(s) and the contracts you signed.

Job Requirements

Adult Film companies often require mandatory STI testing. Some adult film companies will pay models extra if they get their test results, but will still work with them at a lesser rate if they don't have their papers. Adult film always requires ID.

What Employers Expect

Employers prefer working with friendly, professional models and actors, who have good attitudes during a shoot.

Rates

Modelling – Usually about $100/hour
Adult Film - Anywhere from $250-$1200 per shoot (1-6 hours). Softer-core film gigs start at $100 an hour.

Negotiating Contracts

Most contracts for adult film and modeling work are pre-written. Most of the negotiation room you have is to agree or disagree to your pay, and list the sexual acts or poses you are not willing to do.

When you sign these contracts, you are waiving all rights to the images. You also waive rights to when, where, and how your images will be promoted, portrayed, or published.

If you are ever unsure of your rights, an entertainment lawyer can advise you.

Actors (and sometimes models) are required to sign production release forms at the close of the shoot day.

Contract work is very tricky. You sometimes find that what you’re expected to do, is different from your interpretation of the contract.


BDSM / Fetish

“We only hire Dommes with prior experience, but can train certain activities when clients are not around.”

Getting Started

Like most other sex industry workers, BDSM and Fetish work can be found on the Internet by placed ads in adult sections of newspapers and magazines, and also through fetish cultural activities.

You may be required to produce ID if you are working for an employer. Part of the interview process may also involve you posing for photos in the positions required for your particular clients. This is done to make sure you are capable of doing the work.

Regardless of how you get into this work, you must remain open-minded, non-judgemental, and expect to see some strange things. And know you’re doing a great and important service for your clients.

Equipment

If you truly have power over your clients, you don't need extensive equipment. However, ambience and equipment make for better and more diverse sessions. BDSM and fetish cover endless varieties of unusual and bizarre activities. Adult toy stores, leather shops, grocery stores, and drug stores all have stuff you can buy to make your dungeon exciting.

The free sections of classifieds websites are also a great place to find stuff to start up a dungeon. The hardware store will become your best friend to buy chains, o-rings, clasps and other stuff. You should buy a power drill. Remember, anything can become bondage or suspension gear in a few easy steps.

Suggested equipment:

Vibrators
Dildos
Rope
Handcuffs
Sexy fetish costumes/shoes
Sissy gear - make-up, girly clothing/shoes and accessories in men’s sizes
Adult baby gear - diapers, crib, bottles etc
St. Andrew's Cross
Medical table
Medical supplies - enema bag, catheter kit, speculum etc
Bondage bed/chair
Plastic wrap for immobilization
Cages
Stocks
Canes
Gags
Hoods
Blindfolds
Whips
Crops
Floggers
Paddles
Straps
Strap-on
Spanking bench...and the list goes on.

At the beginning you may have to get creative if a client asks for something, and you don't have the equipment. For instance, if you don't own a ball gag, stuff the client’s mouth with panties. Wrap pantyhose around his mouth and tie it at the back of his neck. This reduces the initial costs when first starting up.

When purchasing equipment, look for high-quality, well-made items that won't break, stain, or come untied. You can also find supplies at clothing stores that cater to fetish or Goth wear. Or why not have a submissive make your gear for you! Especially great if you need crosses, stocks, tables, and cages.

If you're just starting out, you can easily start a bag of tricks for cheap:


  • Go to your local hardware store and pick up some O-rings and D-rings and clasps, rope, clothespins or clamps, duct tape (and scissors for the removal). Burn or glue the ends of the rope so it won't fray. The D-rings will be used for wearable restraints; the 0-rings can be screwed into furniture or your wall.
  • Go to the pharmacy for some latex gloves, surgical masks, enema bags, etc
  • To make your own wrist and ankle cuffs and collars, you can get leather at a sewing or craft store, or some hardware stores. Line it with fur or silk so it's soft on the inside. Use D-rings to make the connectors. Fasten with snaps or ribbon/ leather laces (which also come in handy for cock and ball torture (CBT). If you're into recycling or on a limited budget, you can also make many types of restraints using old bicycle tubing.
  • Saran wrap or tensor bandages are fun for bondage and fetish play.
  • Pet store leashes are cheaper than sex store leashes. But never use a pet collar on a human.
  • Do not share items made of leather or other porous materials that cannot be completely sanitized as they can transmit bacteria.
  • Get a first aid kit.

Training

You can access workshops for BDSM and seduction through local sex shops. However, much of your learning will be on the job, as well as the much-appreciated advice of more experienced workers and clients. You can also get a lot of information on the Internet.

Rates

Rates vary from worker to worker. But in general, it may work like this:

Domination and/or Submission - $150 - $400 / hour
Cost to rent a dungeon: $50-$100/hour


Exotic Dance

“I expect that they stick to their commitments and that they present themselves as professionals. I prefer they pay back money they borrowed and/or repay any pre-paid ticket money if they cannot finish a contract. This is not enforced, but is well received and well respected if they do. Also, I don’t proceed with legal action against them if they don’t. It’s more of a “moral obligation”, which I hope some will have enough integrity to adhere to. I also expect that they use logic and adhere to the law.”
“Be respectful of the other girls and try not to get in their way or act superior. Dancers see a lot of rookies come and go and are not always accommodating and patient with new girls, especially new girls with attitude. It's best to be respectful, quiet, and take their advice when appropriate.”
“It takes time to get a feel for the club and learn what works for you. Understand that making money takes time and investment. But make sure you're making more money than you're spending. This is a job, not volunteer work.”

Getting Started

Training and getting started depend on where you are and what type of dancing you’re looking at.

You can contact an agency or a club. Clubs that book independently sometimes publish job ads for exotic dancers in newspapers or exotic dancer magazines.

They will ask you to meet them in person, or email a photo of yourself and a copy of your photo identification (ID) to them. They may ask you to fill out a short form regarding your contact information, age, physical attributes, and social insurance number (SIN).

When you go to a club for the first time, bring your photo ID in case they want to see it.

To audition, you may be required to compete in an amateur contest. You should expect to be paid for being in the contest. Winners will often be paid more.

VIP dancing doesn't require any training either; just a good attitude, a hot look, and a hiring club. Take care of auditions or licensing ahead of time. You should be ready to work, have your ID on you, and bring a couple of sexy outfits. Some clubs have VIP girls on shift, most have drop in with house fees. Find out what the protocol is for the club you want to work at. Ask the DJ, other dancers, or manager ahead of time. Make sure you look sexy when you enquire.

Find out about fees, shifts, hours, payouts, tips, and contact rules. Ask about contact expectations, as well as laws (these are not always the same).

Training

Many entertainers learn pole tricks and dance moves working in small towns with hardly any customers. Others prefer to practice walking and dancing in heels in their own homes.

If you're booked at a club for a Sunday, see if you can practice on the stage before the club opens, or if there are no customers in the bar. On Sundays, clubs usually open later. It is also the one day a week that clubs will book dancers just for the day and usually the day off for dancers who’ve worked Monday to Saturday.

Pole dance lessons are becoming more available. Check around to see if lessons are available in your area.

Licensing

In some cities, you are required to get a license. Make sure you arrive with enough time to purchase your license before starting your gig. That means getting to the licensing office, standing in line, paying for your license, and getting back to the club in time for check-in. You will need to be extra early if the club has morning meetings with their dancers at the start of the week.

Licenses usually cost between $100 and $150. In Calgary, your license is good for a year from the date that you bought it. In Edmonton, your license is only valid until the end of December, so your best bet is to purchase early in the year. Licenses are also required in Toronto and Vaughn, Ontario.

Phone the licensing department of the city you’re working in to find out more.

What Agents Are Looking For

Agents and club owners are looking for a healthy, polished appearance, and a smile. They prefer professional, reliable entertainers who have realistic expectations, and get along with others.

What To Look For in an Agent

The best agents are kind, understanding, and supportive when you’re going through a crisis. They acknowledge when your show has improved by offering you a higher show price. They defend you and your show price to club owners. And they tell it to you straight when there’s a problem. The best agents do not lie to you.

Because being an agent can be extremely stressful, they are sometimes quite pushy on the phone. If you find that an agency is not treating you well, or that your bookings keep falling through, find another agency to work through until the storm passes over.

Rates

Approximate pay for female striptease artists in Canada:
Stage shows- $20 - $150 per show
Private shows- $25 - $60 per song
Massage- $5 - $15 per song
Lap dance- $10 - $60 per song
Stags- $200 - $500 for 4 songs or more

The following may be deducted from dancer's pay depending on location:

Agency commission – usually 10 - 15%
GST on agency commission
SOCAN/KPAC – music royalties
Floor fees – fees to the house for doing private shows
Service charges – accommodations, housekeeping, phone/cable, etc.
Fines – Dancers may be fined for missing shows and other infractions

Other Expenses:

“Tip out”- bouncers, bartender, DJ
Driver fee- depends on the distance and usually is around ½ the comparable taxi fare

Stage $ Tips

Stage tips range from zero to $250/day or more across the country. Alberta tips more. Manitoba, not at all. Ontario and Quebec tips involve interaction that includes having customers on stage. In Alberta and some parts of BC, customers participate in the "loonie toss" where a performer offers posters and other incentives for customers to win.

Pay rates for Male Striptease Artists:

Between $150 and $300
Additional tips from audience are common

Your Contract

Most dancers are VIP dancers and don't have a contract at all. They make their money from selling dances. They may have shift pay, hours scheduled, or drop-in.

Stage dancers have a weekly contract.

If you book through an agency, your agent will negotiate the terms of the contract with the club. Mostly, your ability to negotiate is restricted to saying yes or no to the gigs offered, and there may be some room to negotiate your show price. If you say no to a gig, you risk getting blacklisted by that agency (that is: not getting work through them for a while).

Your contract is pre-written. If you want a higher show price, you need to haggle your show price before the contract is developed for a particular club. The more professional clubs will have you sign your contract at the beginning of your week’s work. However, most of the time you will receive your contract at the end of the week when you’re getting paid. Basically, you are signing it in return for your earnings.

The problem with this is that your contract may not show the same show price you originally discussed with your agency. You’ve done all your shows and now you’re short a few hundred dollars.

Occasionally, if you are diligent with the agency, you may get your money back through a higher show price at another gig to compensate for the money you lost. But more often, you won’t receive the amount you had agreed to in the first place.

Before agreeing to a club booking, ask your agent if there are any added costs for working at that club, for example, accommodations. Ask what the rules are around mandatory floor time and private show quotas. Mandatory floor time involves dressing sexy and being in the bar at set day and evening times to do VIPs. A private show quota is the minimum amount of private shows you are expected to perform each week. If you do not perform the minimum of private dances and consequently tip out the amount for each show that you are expected to tip out; the remaining tip out amount will be deducted from your pay. Also, find out about club fines.

Negotiating Your Pay

Exotic dancers use many different strategies when asking for a higher show price. Use these suggestions from other dancers or come up with something creative on your own.

  • Go into the agency office with new promo, a great tan, and a flattering outfit.
  • Start turning down the bookings that are lower than what you want to be paid, unless it’s a booking you really want and you’re willing to take the cut.
  • Remember that the agency works for you, but they also have to fit you into the budget of the club.
  • Radiate confidence. Agents can smell insecurity.
  • Ask the agent to come by the bar and see your show. Phone them mentioning that they haven’t seen you in awhile and that you’d like them to come to the club to see your current skill level. Ask if you can buy THEM a drink. Keep it friendly, light and casual,
  • Make an image for yourself – a brand – and use gimmicks to increase your popularity and make a name for yourself.
  • Have your promo done professionally by talented photographers.
  • Get a website.
  • Buy big theme costumes and put lots of effort into your shows.
  • Take photos of yourself wearing all your costumes, list all the gimmicks you have and any training or certifications (fire, poi, etc), and take photos of some of your more difficult moves (flexibility, pole work, etc). Write a small bio with your stats, titles, and put it all together to give to agencies.
  • If a club owner was happy with your work, ask them to mention your shows to the agencies.
  • Buy club owners a drink and ask if they’d request you back.
  • When working, sit with customers and sell private dances. Emphasize to the agents that you hustle between shows. The money you make for the bar doing VIP’s is a strong justification for a raise.
  • Pale complexions can make you look sick under stage lights. A tan will help you look more healthy (spray-on or booth).
  • Dye your hair blonde.

Sex Work Indoor

Getting Started

To find work through an escort agency or in a massage parlour, you need only look for adult ads in the back of the newspapers or online at one of the popular classifieds sites. The employer may ask you to email photos of yourself.

Your in-person interview will be focused on how the business operates and what services you are willing to provide. You will likely provide your stats and your work name. You may have to identify any physical ‘flaws’ you have.

Employers usually ask you to provide proof of age (sometimes two pieces of ID) and/or proof of legal living/working status in Canada. You will probably find out that day if you’re hired, if you’re not told during the interview. You may even start work that day.

Training

Your employer will usually train you on how to charge for extras and what ever else you need to know for working with the company. Seduction techniques, performance skills, and health and safety education is not normally provided.

You will learn these things from other sex workers. Many things you will learn the hard way from experience.

Licensing
In some cities, individuals must be licensed to work for a massage parlour or an escort service. Be aware that you may be denied a license based on prior criminal convictions. Phone the licensing department of the city you’re working in to find out more.

Working for an Employer or Agency

When you work for an agency, the agency takes a cut of the money you earn. In return, the agency maintains the suite (if applicable), books the jobs, and takes care of the advertising and promotion.

Massage parlour work is run in a number of different ways. You may work for tips. You may get a percentage of the call. Or you may get paid only for extras beyond the cost of the massage.

Rates

Here is an example of a pay scale at an escort agency:
You get $180 for in-house with $65 going to the agency. Your first call of the day includes a book-on fee of $10. Some agencies also charge supply fees such as a $10 per month condom fee.

Agencies usually have a frequently used fining system too. You can be fined for a missed shift ($100), a missed call ($50), or having your phone turned off when you’re on-call ($45).

Workers generally report earning anywhere from $2000 to $4000 per month.

Independent escorts earn between $150 and $500 per hour depending on the services they offer, who their clientele tend to be, and what their expectations are financially. You have the benefit of setting your own rates but it’s wise not to undercut other escorts by charging substantially less than them. Undercutting can lead to a reduction in pay for everyone if clients start expecting lower rates.


Sex Work Street-Based

Getting Started
Street workers can work as independents or under the control of a pimp.

If you work for someone who has control of your earnings, you may or may not like the arrangement. If he or she provides security, protection, and a decent roof over your head, you might feel good about the relationship. If he or she abuses you, keeps most of your earnings, or otherwise exploits you, you probably don’t like it so much. (See Chapter Two - Our Coworkers for information on how to leave an abusive pimp.)

If you decide to start working the street, try to befriend another worker so he or she can share their block with you and introduce you around to others. (See Chapter One – Our Workspaces for safety tactics when working the street)

Rates

Rates vary depending upon service and individual price setting.

High Track: $100 - $600
Mid Track: $60 - $200
Low Track: $3 - $60 ($50 for full service)

Another description of the pay has been: $20 / $40 / $60 / $80 depending on service performed.


Webcam

Getting Started
There are many different ways someone can work on the Internet. You can use an external pay site, where the business takes care of all the advertising, promotion, and bookings. You just book on for certain hours and get a paycheque.

You can work at a video site where you tape the performance then send it to the web company; or shoot the videos with the company and they upload them to the site.

You can get your own webcam and website, and/or set up a chat site (interactive). Or you could set a camera up in your room all day and night (or certain hours) for subscribers to check in anytime while you just do what you normally do (voyeuristic).

Be warned that anything you put out there will potentially be in cyberspace FOREVER. So be careful, decide on your own boundaries, and stick to them. If you don't want to show your face or otherwise disclose your identify, there are tons of creative ways around it.

It takes time to build up a fan base with webcam work, so don't get discouraged if it seems like you're not busy at first. There are a lot of sites out there, so do something to set yourself apart. If you have a certain thing that you like to do or are good at, that will help. The more you tease and draw out the performance aspect of your work, the more worked up your customers get (and the more money you make).

Be aware that because you are on the internet, you may be subject to laws in other countries. For instance, one performer worked with a webcam company that required that there was no self-fisting allowed because the clients were all American and fisting was illegal to do on webcam in that country. "So we could put four fingers in, but couldn’t stick in our thumb too."

Increasing Your Revenue Potential

Do your research. What's hot right now? What are the current trends out there that are getting lots of hits? Bubbles and balloons? Superheroes? MILFS? Take advantage of them, or create your own new ones.

If you're artsy, get creative with lighting and angles. What's your sexiest body part? Play it up! Appeal to that really kinky fetish your viewer didn't even know he had. Deep down, everyone's fantasies are kinky. Personalize your online character, so your fans will keep tuning in to see what you’re up to. Have fun with it.

If you are a live Internet sex worker who engages with your customers in a chat room or cam2cam (the client is also on a web cam so you can see each other); be aware, some of your viewers will try to get freebies from you. You can use this to your advantage, but use it sparingly so you’re not giving it all away for free. You don’t want to lose your audience too soon.

In a chat room, don't spend too much time chatting. Try to get them to buy shows right after they tell you what they want.

If they can see you and chat with you before they pay, focus the camera on your cleavage. They may not get turned on just seeing your face.

Another tip is to cover your feet. There are many foot fetish clients. If they can see your bare feet for free, they have no reason to buy a show.

Rates
Pay rates are usually by the minute, and there are different rates for video feed or live chat. You can also go with a membership, where the customer pays once, or it comes off their credit card monthly.

If you work for an external pay site, you book on for certain hours and get a paycheque.

For many companies, if you are doing a duo, the shows cost the same so you end up sharing the daily wage. Check this out beforehand for sure.

Webcam work usually pays about $60-$100 an hour


About Trade Secrets
Trade Secrets is a collaborative project that was contributed to by diverse members of the sex industry and their community.

About the Project

Who Contributed?

Some of this information may be outdated. Please feel free to comment below the relevant posts with information you'd like to add or update. Your help is appreciated.

Thank you for your commitment to supporting health and safety in the sex industry.

In Solidarity,

Trina Ricketts (Annie)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Strippers Get Naked for Charity and The Byrd Pub Flouts Tradition

By Annie Temple

Few things go together as well as strippers and beer. Add some holiday cheer in the gift-giving spirit of the season and it's guaranteed to be a night to remember. Wouldn't you agree?

That's why I'm attending The Byrd's annual Stripathon Fundraiser for the Surrey Christmas Bureau on Sunday, December 27th from 3 p.m. till midnight. The event will feature 15 striptease artists getting naked galore and a raffle for a trip to Las Vegas.

Last year, over seven thousand dollars was raised. This year staff and entertainers hope to beat that total.

Mia Rosa, Sky, Shea Gunns, Victoria Fox, Harlem, Jayda Rose, Jenny Lee, Kate Hudson, Audrey Lovecraft, and Tiffany Lux are just a few of the sexy performers who will donate live, nude shows this Sunday exposing how generous our lovely local strippers really are.

In addition to enjoying high quality performances, guests can purchase shoulder massages by donation, participate in games, win prizes and swag, and more.

The Byrd Pub has been an historic landmark in Surrey for over forty years. Although he's not sure exactly when the pub started offering exotic entertainment, Byrd Manager Paul Gluska tells me the Flamingo Hotel opened in 1952.

A quick Internet search led me to only one historical reference to the Flamingo Hotel attributed to the 1980's.

“In other cultural news, a dwarf-tossing contest at the Flamingo Hotel in Surrey's Whalley neighborhood made headlines.” (Brief History of Greater Vancouver, Chuck Davis)

Despite, or perhaps because of, sordid events over the years such as the one above, the club has become known affectionately as “The Dirty Byrd.” Rather than deny it, The Byrd has embraced it's reputation for depravity by advising visitors to their Facebook page to “Stay Dirty Surrey.”

Recently, Gluska instituted big changes in how the club operates, as well as introducing theme nights and fun new drinks. “We are trying new things and revisiting some old ones,” he says.

By far, the biggest change is how dancers are now contracted by the club. Traditionally booked through agencies with a rotating line-up of performers each week, The Byrd now features “House Girls” - a consistent set of performers hired on a long term basis.


The House Girls


Victoria Fox

Jayda Rose

Jenny Lee

Mia Rosa

Harlem

Sky


Gluska cited several reasons for his decision to switch to a house girl format in addition to receiving poor service from the agency previously supplying the talent.

“We looked at the amount of money that was being spent on commissions by both the club and the girls, at how many girls said if they only could they would just work for us, and at how if we reinvested the commissions that only the house paid; I could add an extra full time dancer, as well as add about 25 shows a week, and give seven girls full time steady employment. Most of the other clubs have a very high repetition rate as it is. So we decided to cut the middle man, invest the savings into the entertainment, and develop our business on this model.”

Gluska added, “We do not deduct any commission from the girls who work here. They get paid in full each week.”

Despite rumours that the building is slated for demolition, Gluska assured me development at Whalley's most famous corner will not happen for at least another ten years. Although I am happy to hear that the Byrd's demise is not imminent, I am also sad to think of the club closing in ten years. Like all the dancers in the Lower Mainland, I've created many memories in this club. It is like a second home for strippers and regulars alike.

Which is precisely why Sunday's stripathon is destined to be a great time. We are family at the club and we're coming together for a great cause. Join us if you're in the mood to have fun.

In the meantime, I will enjoy “All Request Wednesdays,” and look forward to coming theme nights in January, such as “Naughty Schoolgirls,” “Lingerie Night,” and “Paint Night.” (The January Calendar will be published on the website the last week of December.)

The Byrd will also play host to many events in 2016 including pole dance contests, amateur events, a show and shine, and more.

“If anyone is bored with the chain establishments that all look, smell, and taste the same,” Gluska says, “I encourage them to come out and mingle with real people in a real bar where the music is loud, the drinks are wet, and the girls...well, let's just say they are nothing like the girls in the office.”

(I would add that The Byrd boasts a loyal female clientele. So don't be shy, Ladies.)

To stay in the know about upcoming promotions, keep an eye on The Dirty Byrd's webpage and Facebook page. You never know when you might need a beer and massage while you watch a sexy woman undress before your eyes.

I recommend at minimum a weekly field trip for your mental and social well-being. ;)


About the Author

Annie Temple is the stage and writing name of Trina Ricketts. Trina has 17 years experience as a striptease artist and 15 years as a sex worker rights activist, but she's been a rebel all her life. In 2000, she founded NakedTruth.ca to support other entertainers by reducing isolation, educating about health and safety, sharing information about gigs, challenging stereotypes, teaching etiquette to customers, and organizing in-person events for charity and to promote ethical businesses in the industry. Some of the groups and functions that Trina is associated with are Exotic Dancers for Cancer (now BoobaPalooza), The Naked Truth Adult Entertainment Awards,Trade Secrets Guide, BC Coalition of Experiential Communities, Canadian Union of Naked Trades, as well as several community sex worker supportive organizations. Trina is a mom of three, a lover of writing and dancing. Currently she continues to run NakedTruth.ca and recently she founded Digital Activist Media - a project to investigate digital activism strategies and share them with other change-makers. Trina's activism efforts have expanded to include many issues, but her main activities involve sex worker and health freedom rights.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

In Remembrance of Lives Lost to Stigma and Enforcement

By Annie Temple

I wrote this poem one night after working a drop-in program in Surrey BC Canada for street-based sex workers. One of our regular attendees came in distraught because she'd been raped by someone posing as a client. Processing someone else's pain can be difficult. It's called vicarious traumatization.

A few months later, this same woman entered a recovery house. She avoided the drugs she was addicted to for two months before relapsing. It was her last relapse. She overdosed and died. I loved her. I will never forget her.

Today is December 17th - International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Today, please carry a red umbrella in remembrance of the lives lost and your commitment to ending violence against sex workers. Today, talk to people about what this day means. It means we will not stand idly by while our most marginalized citizens suffer.

The poem below refers to women in the sex industry, but we all know that sex work is not a strictly feminine occupation. The drop-in I worked at when I wrote the poem, however, was for women only as that was the only funding we could access at the time.

That is also something for you to think about. How we, as a society, prioritize women's programs over programs for men and other-gendered people. And how most people don't even consider sex work outside of a violence against women narrative. This is faulty. Take responsibility for your misconception. Learn. Become an ally so that lives may be saved. Sex work is not inherently dangerous and sex workers are not only women.

In loving remembrance of sex workers everywhere who have suffered, been silenced, and perished due to violence, stigma, enforcement, and oppression. xoxo

I Look Like One of Them
In Memory of Katherine (formerly known on the streets of Surrey as KitKat)

I look like one of them
No hard lines that make my age hard to determine
One of them – my people, their people (in denial)
They cast judgment without any trial.

I look like one of them
Those who pass judgment and condemn
Those who’ve never seen what these women have seen
Or heard their voices even though they scream.

Doctors, nurses, cops, and johns
It always depends which side that they’re on
Those who see past the socially-imposed shame
Or those who ridicule, abuse, and lay blame.

I can barely contain this, my anger, my rage
Every war story told, I lock down like a cage
But my outrage keeps building and alas my heart bursts
I don’t know how to carry this burden, this curse.

I don’t walk in their shoes, roof over my head
I don’t have my things stolen when I go to bed
Each night I return to a warm, peaceful home
I can sit at my desk and type up this poem.

I look like one of them
I’m ashamed some are friends
With their “shoulds” and “get off drugs”
With their “pimps” and “hookers” and “thugs”

Talking like they have a clue
When nothing’s farther from the truth
Cause you cannot understand
If you can afford your Dairyland.

The welfare agents, the landlords, and neighbours
The power they wield, with their conditional “favours”
The sweeping statements they make about worth
To women who’ve lived through much more than childbirth.

I bow down to the strength of these women at war
Standing strong, taking on the hard path of the whore
Even during the times when the pain’s just too great
How these women withstand, overcome, and create.

I’m one person who does not know how to go on
Because losing a war like this is so wrong
They’re winning because all our soldiers are wounded
A world that is blind has so woefully doomed it.

There’s no good way to end this ode that I tell
Sometimes as women, we find things to sell
I don’t think that means that we’re not like the rest
Just they haven’t had to put their judgments to test.

And really what matters is only our souls
The parts of ourselves that no one ever stole
They tried but we begged, borrowed, boosted, and lied
And though some sisters were stolen, many still have survived.

Not one passage has passed with no one to mourn
Though we may not know Jane Doe for the day she was born
And we wage this deadly war against unfathomable odds
Offering up our most burdened moments to God.

#decriminalize #sexwork


About the Author

Annie Temple is the stage and writing name of Trina Ricketts. Trina has 17 years experience as a striptease artist and 15 years as a sex worker rights activist, but she's been a rebel all her life. In 2000, she founded NakedTruth.ca to support other entertainers by reducing isolation, educating about health and safety, sharing information about gigs, challenging stereotypes, teaching etiquette to customers, and organizing in-person events for charity and to promote ethical businesses in the industry. Some of the groups and functions that Trina is associated with are Exotic Dancers for Cancer (now BoobaPalooza), The Naked Truth Adult Entertainment Awards,Trade Secrets Guide, BC Coalition of Experiential Communities, Canadian Union of Naked Trades, as well as several community sex worker supportive organizations. Trina is a mom of three, a lover of writing and dancing. Currently she continues to run NakedTruth.ca and recently she founded Digital Activist Media - a project to investigate digital activism strategies and share them with other change-makers. Trina's activism efforts have expanded to include many issues, but her main activities involve sex worker and health freedom rights.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Beauty Myths and Tips from a Stripper

By Annie Temple

Lights, Heels, Illusion!

I don't know how many times I was told I don't look like a stripper. At first I didn't know whether to be flattered or offended. 

But I suppose if you don't spend a lot of time in strip clubs, you may not know that exotic dancers come in all different shapes, sizes, and shades. You may suspect that all exotic dancers look like Barbie.

In which case you are wrong.

While it is true that exotic dancers often have a lot of pressure to dye their hair blonde and straighten it, buy boobs and otherwise maintain difficult proportions, tan religiously and appear as young as possible at all times - the reality is exotic dancers are real women. 

This is not airbrushing and Photoshop. You cannot make cellulite and pimples disappear on a stripper performing live in front of you. You can minimize the noticeability of the above-mentioned, but you cannot completely erase.

Some dancers are tall, and some are short. Some are voluptuous and some are very lean. Some have very small breasts and some have very large breasts - inherited and purchased. We come in blondes, brunettes, redheads, and punks. All the races and ethnicities are represented.

The men love us all.

What's really cool about the exotic dance industry, is that it proves that all women are beautiful. It proves that all women have sexual power, and that confidence is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

You may not believe me. You may say, "I have seen a lot of strippers and they are way hotter than me." And what I would respond with is this: "The only thing those strippers have on you is confidence (and that can be faked) and a few beauty tips you may not know about."

How to Fake Confidence

- Don't act jealous, even when you feel jealous. Insecurity is very unattractive. As an exotic dancer, I may get just as jealous as the next woman, but I will never let anyone see it. That would be humiliating!

-Stand long and tall like your head is reaching for the sky, with your shoulders relaxed. This is how you should sit, walk, and dance. Sometimes just faking it can make you feel more confident. Exotic dancers know that if they appear insecure, their shows will bomb and the energy in the room will be horrible. You never let your audience know you're feeling insecure about your bloated stomach or that ass zit.

-Look people in the eyes when you speak to them. And smile. Exotic dancers use this easy method to let the men in the clubs know that they are not intimidated by them and that they are in control of themselves at all times. It is part safety method - to let the men know not to fuck with you - but also to let them know that you are nice and willing to entertain them as long they don't fuck with you. Appearing strong and confident can help keep you safe by deterring aggressive men.

-Don't take abuse from people and don't feel the need to defend yourself. When you're wrong, say sorry. When "sorry" is not appropriate, walk away. It's not worth fighting over. Showing you don't care about other peoples' petty issues is a sign of confidence. Not everyone must like you or be proved to be assholes. Exotic dancers will always defend themselves when a customer is vulgar or gropy. But when a drunk idiot degenerates into insult-slinging (at what a fucking whore the dancer is for not letting him cop a feel), she walks away. (Secretly, we hope that the other customers will kick his ass in the parking lot.)

-Be nice to other women. When you are nice to other women, it shows that you are not competing with them. It shows that you respect and appreciate other women without feeling threatened by them. Exotic dancers will let each other know if there are assholes in the club or where the tipping customers are sitting. The friendly, supportive relationships between dancers is one of the best perks of the job.

A few other beauty tips:

-High heels force your hips to come forward causing you to appear thinner and taller.
-Bend at the waist when picking something off the ground.
-Tanning reduces the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite.
-Getting tattoos over cellulite reduces the appearance of cellulite.
-Using mineral salts (natural deodorant) on a fresh shave reduces razor burn.
-Putting natural sunscreen on your tattoos helps the colour not to fade.
-Never let your bare ass touch a dirty surface (zits).
-Fake eyelashes rock!
-Lighting does make a difference.
-Toenails painted, eyebrows plucked - for a classy, polished look.

We've covered behaviour and beauty tips designed to enhance the way you appear to others. But we all know that true beauty comes from within. I'm not messing with you. Read on and see if you agree.

This Little Light of Mine

It's true that beauty is not all about appearance. A beautiful personality shines through. Jealousy is not beautiful. Insecurity is not beautiful. You will not shine if you allow yourself to engage in petty comparisons with others.

Who are you? Deep down. Who are you? Are you someone who is more or less because of what others are like around you? No. You are someone who is equal to all others. You have a right to feel valued and cherished. You deserve dignity and respect. At your core, you are love energy. Let it shine through so others feel valued and cherished in your presence.

In order to let your true self shine through, you must love yourself. Easier said than done, sometimes. But very necessary.

If you struggle with loving yourself, certainly you can fake it till you make it. You might be surprised how confidence comes merely from the motions of it. However, you may want to consider doing some self work.

Dump the Dead Weight (I'm not talking pounds.)

The most important step in loving yourself may be a huge challenge depending on your circumstances. Without a doubt, the most important thing you must do is remove people from your life who say or do hurtful things to you. If you do not take this important step, you will find it very difficult to feel beautiful and love yourself.

Alternatively, you can teach others how to treat you by letting them know what you will and won't tolerate. However, if the behaviour doesn't improve (and it often doesn't), your only recourse is to prove you won't tolerate toxic people in your life and remove them from it.

In some cases, depression and insecurity can be completely eradicated simply by taking this step.

Recommended Reading for People Who Want to Feel Beautiful


For a boost in your self-concept and concrete ways to develop positive new habits, I recommend the following books.

There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem – Wayne Dyer
Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
Fascinate: Your Seven Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation – Sally Hogshead

These books help you to reprogram your thinking, learn about yourself, identify your strengths, and follow your passions. These books will help you become happy.

Happiness is the Trump Card

Happy people do not need beauty tips for their appearance. Whether they dress themselves up or not, they shine. Happiness is their trump card. Happiness is always beautiful.

Studies have proven that happy people have magnetic personalities. Others are drawn to them. Their love energy is irresistible. Think about the people you most enjoy being around. I would wager they are happy. Not only because happy people effortlessly draw us in but also because the opposite personality spits us out.

Ever notice that depressed or angry people can leave you feeling drained? Spend an afternoon with a negative, unhappy person, and you might become depressed yourself.

I am not suggesting you dump your depressed friends. Certainly not. But if you love yourself, you also need to set boundaries for your own mental health. You wouldn't want your children or parents spending too much time with people who bring them down. Give yourself the same respect.

Make being happy a priority. Let your choices and activities be driven by what is good for you. Step outside your body and mind, look at yourself compassionately, then make decisions for yourself that you would make for someone else you love.

Peelers and Layers

I began this article talking about confidence and trade secrets. Dancers learn the art of appearing beautiful even on bad days. Never underestimate the power of good posture and impeccably painted toe-nails.

However, letting beauty shine out of you from within makes an even bigger impact. Others will climb willingly into your web of love energy when you are your authentic self; a sparkling person who neither puts herself above or below others.

It may not happen overnight, but the process of peeling back your layers and letting your light shine is simple.

Remove toxic people. Do some self-work. Be happy.

In the meantime, fake confidence like you mean it. Stand tall, attend to the details, and make eye contact. Never apologize for existing. You are enough. In fact, you're fucking awesome.

#shinebabyshine


About the Author

Annie Temple is the stage and writing name of Trina Ricketts. Trina has 17 years experience as a striptease artist and 15 years as a sex worker rights activist, but she's been a rebel all her life. In 2000, she founded NakedTruth.ca to support other entertainers by reducing isolation, educating about health and safety, sharing information about gigs, challenging stereotypes, teaching etiquette to customers, and organizing in-person events for charity and to promote ethical businesses in the industry. Some of the groups and functions that Trina is associated with are Exotic Dancers for Cancer (now BoobaPalooza), The Naked Truth Adult Entertainment Awards,Trade Secrets Guide, BC Coalition of Experiential Communities, Canadian Union of Naked Trades, as well as several community sex worker supportive organizations. Trina is a mom of three, a lover of writing and dancing. Currently she continues to run NakedTruth.ca and recently she founded Digital Activist Media - a project to investigate digital activism strategies and share them with other change-makers. Trina's activism efforts have expanded to include many issues, but her main activities involve sex worker and health freedom rights.