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Note from Trina: This chapter is likely very outdated.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.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Strip Club Etiquette for Boyfriends of Strippers

By Annie Temple

Your girlfriend has no problem getting naked in front of any man when she’s on her pedestal in the strip club.

Any man, that is, except you. 

There is only one man in the world (other than family members, of course) that she gets insecure dancing in front of – and that’s you.

The reason is because you are not just one of "the men." You're her number one and what you think matters.

For this reason, it is often best for boyfriends and husbands to stay away from the clubs where your woman is working.

If you cannot stay away, then follow these strip club etiquette tips to be worthy of your sexy, stripper girlfriend. 


Strip Club Etiquette for Boyfriends


  1. Don’t sit in front row except for her show and only if she tells you it’s okay.
  2. Buy tickets for private shows from other dancers but don’t take the dance if you win. If she has to do a dance by club rules, give it to someone else and remind that person to tip her.
  3. Don’t tell other dancers that your girlfriend is a dancer to look cool or get her to talk to you. She’ll think you’re hitting on her and it will make your girlfriend look like an idiot for dating you. The exception to this rule is if you’ve met the dancer through your girlfriend and you’re saying hi but have to remind her how you know her.
  4. Don’t sit in front row. Yes, I already said this one, but it’s worth emphasizing.
  5. Don’t instigate arguments with your girlfriend when she’s at work. It makes you look like a chump and her like an idiot for dating you. Not to mention it’s hard to do this job with negative energy thrown at you like that.
  6. Don’t mouth words at your girlfriend when she’s on stage – especially angry words. Let her do her job in peace. Enjoy the show secure in the knowledge that she’s coming home with you. If you can’t handle it, then you should set her free.
  7. Don’t hoot and holler for posters. Clap and whistle for sure. But don’t act like a drunk orangutan. Leave that to the single guys. If you go with friends, tell them to give $5 to the dancers if they want a poster.
  8. Do not drink excessive amounts till you a) fall asleep at your table, b) start talking in drunkanese, c) get in a fight or get beat up, or d) make a drunken pass at a waitress or dancer.
  9. Don’t stare at dancers and waitresses asses or tits when they’re walking through the clubs. It’s disrespectful to your girlfriend. Even though she may not be there with you, the other dancers will feel sorry for her. Watch shows, clap, be respectful – but have some dignity and control.
  10. If you invite a dancer who is your girlfriend’s friend to your table, buy the woman a drink. Don’t hit on her or talk about sex or generally behave like a cheating loser.


Dancers are turned OFF by guys who can’t control their alcohol and/or their hormones. It is very embarrassing for a dancer when her boyfriend has no strip club class. Guys who are in control and behave with respect and dignity will always be respected and appreciated by dancers.

It doesn’t mean we don’t like the guys who are hollering like crazy for our posters, or admiring our booty as we walk through the audience, or the ones who sit in front row. We love all those guys. We just wouldn’t want them to behave that way when they’re dating us. 

We want our guys to stand out from the rest. We want them to have eyes only for us.

It doesn’t change when the dancer has hung up her stilettos either. I performed my last show many years ago and I still expect a man I am with to have strip club etiquette.

When I see a stag at one of the clubs and the groom has some class, I admire him for his control and commitment to his wife-to-be. The grooms who are trying to grab the dancers or hook-up with them – those are the guys who scare me off marriage. They make all men look bad.

So, have some strip club class. Don’t be an ass. Your hard-working stripper girlfriend deserves it.




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.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Digital Shorthand for Strippers

By Annie Temple

If Strippers used Digital Shorthand, one of their Facebook posts might look like this...

Work last night was a total GS. First I CFG. So, I had no matching UPs. Then I CFS. I was LFS and GAFF. It was just like a TSD, but it happened for real...

Before every show, I had to do a thorough CC because I can't use BWs anymore. The DC with the recent BA said they make her LPs itch too. BTW: Her DDs look quite authentic! I wonder who her surgeon was.

(I'm thinking about getting a BA but I love my IBBs. HQ insists it would increase my SP but I would have to get all new PR and take time off to recover. Plus it takes forever before you can do PW again after a BA.)

While I rushed around getting ready for a HS, the other DC in the LU told me my TSS. I almost forgot to cut it before my show! She told me HAGS but it wasn't meant to be.

During my first show, a DOD pulled a DFF. When I tried to get him tossed, the DJFT was nowhere to be found. Luckily, there was a BTIG. I focused on him and ignored the FRW.

When my show ended, I turned to find my XITH. He's a BAHG I met when I first started dancing. It was a RM. Anyhow, I told him to FO because there was that RGS and I wanted to EMC. Then my ex told me my AZC was glowing in the black lights. I was mortified! I almost went home but stayed for the RGS and to flirt with some MM BAHGs sitting in GR.

During my second show, I almost FOS during my FS because some DOD pulled my blanket when I was standing on it. There was a FRHC who were all over each other through the whole show. Combine that with the FRW and the DGU – I decided not to do VIPs afterall.

On top of everything, because of all the craziness, I FFT! When I looked back, they were gone. Only one REG came to the DJ booth to give me his.

But that didn't stop me from drinking. I almost had to dine on BARF to sober up before my next show. SMH. Thankfully, a REG offered to run out and grab me some takeout.


When I went upstairs, a DC was crying because her BF wants her to quit dancing. I wondered how that FLPP thinks he's going to keep himself in games and clothes but didn't say anything because I didn't want to hurt her feelings. Plus, he's a LGD and I don't want trouble when I work there.

The other DC with the DDs was stressing out because she had a SITH. He was a BAHG who seemed harmless when she first met him. He's done some scary shit. I handled it so she wouldn't have to go into the SC by talking to the DDJ (who was working the night shift). Buddy was tossed and the bouncers were on guard for the rest of the night.

During happy hour this club has a MOO which is a HH IMO on that tiny stage. It was right after a WP, so the stage was really slippery. HH X2! I told my DC, “Good luck doing a FP later!” I think she backed out. Safety is number one (especially in these old hotels).

My last show was no better. A DOD pointed out my 2GD and I had a CM when my zipper wouldn't budge. The MG had to reach up and help me get my pants off. BTW, I can vouch for her. Her hands almost put me to sleep.

I left as soon as my last show was over because I had a BC with BBD. He's a PP from way back. NBD. 


I didn't EMC but I made enough to buy a BNC. Well NTMC, anyway. And I was off before the DUO avoiding the DODs and DFFs who come out of the woodwork after those shows. I swear, men are so predictable.

I'm leaving for work now. I hope tonight is better than last night. Come down for a VIP and get a massage! TTYL XXX


KEY:

AZC – Ass Zit Cream
BA – Breast Augmentation
BAHG – Broke Ass Hot Guy
BARF – Bar Food
BC – Booty call
BBD – Big Buff Dude
BNC – Brand New Costume
BSD – Before Show Doobie
BTIG – Big tipper in Gyno (row)
BWs – Baby wipes
CC – Cookie Check
CFB – Can't/Couldn't Find Bra
CFG – Can't/Couldn't Find G-String
CFM – Can't/Couldn't Find Music
CFS – Can't/Couldn't Find Shoes
CM – Costume Malfunction
DC – Dancer colleague
DDJ – Dear DJ (a good one)
DDs – Double “D”'s
DFF – Dick Flash Fucker
DGU – Drunk girl undressing
DJFT – DJ is a Fucktard
DOD – Drunk Old Dude
DUO – Erotic show performed by two dancers together
EMC – Earn Mad Cash
FFT – Forgot my fucking tips
FLPP – Free-loading peeler pounder
FOS – Fell off stage
FP – Fire performance
FRHC – Front Row Horny Couple
FRW – Front Row Wanker
FS – Floor show
FO – Fuck off
GAFF – Got A Fuckin Fine (As in...a sum of money exacted as a penalty for LFS, dishes left in the change room, and other infractions depending on the club.)
GR – Gyno Row
GS – Gong show
HAGS – Have a good show!
HH – Health hazard
HS – Half show
HQ – Agency you're working for
IBB – Itty bitty boobies
LFS – Late for Show
LGD – Little Gangster Dude
LPs – Lady parts
LU - Line-up
MG – Massage girl
MOO - “Cattle call” (When all the dancers are called onto the stage at the same time.)
MM – Masturbation Material (Referring to hot guys you're not interested in picking up.)
NTMC – New-to-me Costume
PP – Peeler pounder
PR – Promo (posters, keychains, etc)
PW – Pole work
REG – Regular customer
RGS – Rich Guy Spending
RM – Rookie mistake
SC – Strip Club
SITH – Stalker in the house
SP – Show price
TSD – Typical Stripper Dream
TSS – Tampon String Showing! (a.k.a. Total Shock Syndrome!)
UPs – Underpieces
VIP – Private show
WP – Wax Performance
XITH – Ex is “in the house.”
XXX – X-rated kisses

2GD – 2 days (growth) stubble

Other acronyms used in the above post, which are widely used by all:

BF - Boyfriend
BTW - By the way
IMO - In my opinion
NBD - No big deal
SMH - Shake my head
TTYL - Talk to ya later
X2 - Times two (multiplied by two)

Can you think of anymore? Please post in the comments below!


Annie Temple
"Support Your Local Stripper"
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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What's the Deal With the Rentboy Raid?

Guest Post by Kerry Porth

The internet has proven to be an incredible business tool for independent sex workers wishing to advertise their services and screen clients without having to fork over some of their hard-earned cash to third parties. 

On August 25th, the New York office of Rentboy (an internet advertising site for male and trans sex workers) was raided and CEO Jeffery Hurant and 6 other employees were placed under arrest. 

The raid was conducted by agents of Homeland Security and Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security in New York, had this to say: 

"The facilitation and promotion of prostitution offenses across state lines and international borders is a federal crime made even more egregious when it's blatantly advertised by a global criminal enterprise."

While calling an escort advertising site a “global criminal enterprise” is a bit over the top, there is a curious difference in how this site is characterized by law enforcement compared to other escort advertising sites such as myRedBook.com, Backpage.com and even the erotic services section of Craigslist that have also been targeted by law enforcement.

In 2010, bowing to pressure from a group of state attorneys general, Craigslist permanently shuttered its adult services section. The ads were alleged to be facilitating human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and the sexual exploitation of children – issues that have exploded into the public consciousness in recent years, due in large part to the efforts of individuals and groups campaigning to abolish prostitution altogether.

Last June, myRedBook was seized by the FBI and other federal agents for money-laundering and promotion of illegal prostitution as part of a larger investigation into sex trafficking and “child prostitution”. And Backpage has been the subject of ongoing attempts by anti-prostitution groups and celebrities to shut it down due to fears that traffickers are exploiting women and children on its pages. 

More recently, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart convinced Visa and Mastercard to stop processing payment for ads on Backpage in his one-man campaign to shut it down. This continues to cause disruptions in sex workers’ ability to advertise.

Until now, efforts to shut down escort advertising sites have all focused on the issue of human trafficking and child exploitation and yet this concern is curiously missing from the Rentboy raid. One can only presume that this is due to the highly gendered narrative about women and girls falling victim to evil male traffickers and being forced into prostitution.

Losing Craigslist, myRedBook and interruptions in service on Backpage have all had an impact on sex workers’ ability to earn an income as they have had to find new ways to advertise their services. 

These sites also provided safe online spaces for sex workers to share information about bad dates, refer safe clients to one another, discuss safety practices, and find community.

It is a myth that male and trans sex workers do not also need these same services in order to keep themselves safe and thousands of them are now facing a potential drop in their income and may find themselves working in ways that are less safe. 

For example, some may turn to the street to hustle for clients where they will be frequent targets for police harassment and violence. That risk is heightened for male and trans sex workers of colour.

Without the gendered concern about women and girls being exploited by online traffickers, the Rentboy raid shows that these ongoing attempts to shut down sex work ad sites are purely based on outdated morals around sexuality. 

There is growing international recognition – from the UN, Amnesty International, World Health Organization – that the full decriminalization of all aspects of adult sex work is the best way forward. 

Many LGBT people have participated in sex work as a means of survival and yet, have been fairly quiet about the decriminalization of sex work, including here in Canada. But who knows? Sometimes, a raid can outrage a community into action – remember Stonewall?


About the Author

Kerry Porth was born in Vancouver and completed an undergraduate degree at SFU in 1986. After years working in university administration, Kerry worked in the sex trade for four years leaving her with a lasting passion for improving the human rights of sex workers. After exiting the sex trade in 2004 and embarking on recovery from substance dependence, Kerry was the Executive Director for PACE (Providing Alternatives, Counselling & Education) Society in Vancouver's down town east side from 2006 to 2012. A passionate human rights activist, Kerry is a well-respected educator who regularly lectures at colleges and universities about the sex trade. Currently, Kerry currently works as a community developer with Living in Community, a project that addresses issues related to sex work in Vancouver and is lead researcher on an SFU project on sex work governance. She is also the chair of the board for Pivot Legal Society.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Ashley Madison Hack - A Sex Worker's Perspective

Guest Post by Carmen Shakti

The recent Ashley Madison hack that resulted in users of the website’s private data being made public has had broad repercussions.

There have been at least two reported suicides in the aftermath. 

Conversations are happening about monogamy, cheating, and the complex realities of long-term relationships. 

Of course, the anti-sex moralizers are painting people who use the infidelity website with the same demonizing, one-dimensional brush that they use to paint the clients of sex-workers: Dirtbags! Cheating scum!

When I started working as an escort five years ago, I learned intimately how complex the realities of monogamy, infidelity and sexual and emotional expression can be. 

Many of the men who hired me were indeed married, family men. They were kind and treated me with decency and respect. Some of them shared some of the inner workings of their marriages with me. 

The stories were many and varied. Some had active, healthy sex lives with their life partners, but the partner was not interested in indulging a particular kink or fetish and gave them the green light to look elsewhere, discreetly, for fulfillment of that wish. 

Others had relationships with their wives that had become more akin to roommates and co-parents; they stayed for the sake of the children and the friendship with their wives, but still desired sexual expression with another person.

Last week, I had a session with a new client. After the sex was over, during pillow talk, he told me that he was married with children. He said that his wife had lost interest in sex, and he was still very sexual. He told me that he lives by a code: as long as it doesn’t interfere with his family life or hurt anyone, he gives himself permission to pursue discreet sexual experiences. 

I told him that I respected that, and I meant it.

In our culture, the idea of "happily ever after" is so deeply ingrained that we have trouble reconciling it with the realities of relationships and human nature. Not everyone can lead a completely authentic life, and for many, the brief interludes they arrange with sex workers or other discontented married folks via sites like Ashley Madison are an important release valve for pent up frustration and tension. 

These connections can be loving, intimate, and nourishing to the spirit. We could gain so much by accepting these relationships and acknowledging their value. Of course, honesty is preferable to sneaking around, but not everyone is in a situation where they can be completely honest.

When I began my career as a sex worker, I was not out to my family. Now I am out to most of the people in my life. In short, I live as openly as I can safely. 

My landlord does not know, and I write about sex work under my stage name, but I am up-front with most of the people in my life about my work. 

This has largely made my life easier, although I have also suffered for it. I have lost friends that were dear to me because they could not accept my profession, and I had a long-term lover leave me in part because he could not handle my profession. That was devastating, but I preferred it over lying to the people I love.

I acknowledge that my ability to be out is a position of privilege in many ways. I do not have children to think about, so I can speak a bit more openly about my experiences. I have a partner who accepts me completely and respects the work I do. 

I am, by choice, free of the shackles of respectability, inhabiting a place in the counter-culture where I can be my authentic self. Not everyone has that luxury. 

The touch and affection-starved wife and mother working in a conservative profession wanting to get her needs met without tearing her family apart. The husband caring for his chronically ill wife who is unable to have sex with him due to her illness. He still loves her, but craves sexual intimacy. Are these people wrong for taking care of themselves as well as taking care of everyone else?

Humans have never been a monogamous species. We as individuals are capable of monogamy, but it is not always easy, and it is not serving us to place monogamy on a pedestal. 

After becoming a sex worker, I changed my approach to relationships. Now, my requirements of my significant other are: be honest with me, play safe and take care of your sexual health, and make me your first priority over other potential sexual playmates. 

We would be healthier as a culture if we accepted sexual diversity and the different connections we can make in our lifetimes, but we will have to overcome many generations of self-hate and sexual shame to get there.


About the Author

Carmen Shakti is a Vancouver sex worker. She combines escorting with massage, Tantra and Taoist sexual yoga. She is also an artist and activist. She is currently collaborating on The Hooker Monologues, a theatre project that addresses stories and issues within the sex industry.