Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Trade Secrets - Our Coworkers

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 feature one section from the guide each week. This week's post is from Chapter Two: Our Coworkers. 

Note from Trina: If any of the information you see is outdated, please comment below or send me an email so that I can correct the information. I will also update each section on the Trade Secrets blog as I go.

Our Coworkers
This chapter focuses on managing relationships with coworkers.  The following are examples of people who work as non-sex industry workers in the sex industry:

  • Agency Owners
  • Agents
  • Bar Managers/Owners
  • Bartenders
  • Booking staff
  • Bouncers
  • Cab Drivers
  • Content Brokers
  • DJ’s
  • Drivers
  • Encoders
  • Film Editors
  • Film Producers
  • Fluffers
  • Hair Stylists
  • Make-up Artists
  • Massage Girls
  • Photographers
  • Porters
  • Production Assistants
  • Security
  • Servers
  • Shooter girls
  • Sound Techs
  • Still Camera staff
  • Video Camera staff
  • Wardrobe specialists
  • Webmasters
  • Website Owners

Note: While there are wonderful examples of co-workers in all of the listed professions, this chapter focuses on managing relationships with difficult co-workers. This is not meant to disparage the incredible co-workers we know and love in the adult entertainment industry.


Booking Staff / Phone Girls

“Sometimes it’s just not busy and there aren’t any calls, calling the office over and over won’t change that and neither will getting mad at me.”
Booking staff takes calls and answers questions from potential customers about rates and services. If a client is interested, they will take down their information – name, location, and desired time for the encounter.

They select and inform the worker of the booked engagement and arrange a driver / security for the worker. There is usually a call-in service where they check in with you to ensure your safety during the engagement.

For some entertainers, phone girls manage more than just the phone. They tell you to do your laundry, delegate chores, and book out-calls.

Make sure booking staff knows how you like to promote yourself (specs, ethnicity, services offered, and special talents). They make commission off the call so they should want repeat customers.

Ask them not to lie about you. Lying to customers makes them disappointed and sets you up for potential violence.


Drivers
Your driver might be your best bet to staying safe in this business. Be sure that you have a driver you can trust. Good drivers will help you carry your bags, walk you out to the car, be sober and polite, and watch out for you.

During outcalls, make sure the driver is alert and waiting outside for you during your whole session in case you want to leave early.

It is best to ask what the prices are for a ride before booking the driver. Many drivers have a price list depending on which area of town you are going to.

Although tipping is nice, it's not mandatory. You should tip if they are providing security though, as being security is a dangerous, high-stress job.

Be aware of people who post ads for driver services online, but just want sexual services rather than a pay out.

If you’re a dancer jamming in Winnipeg and you don’t have a choice of driver, consider renting a vehicle while you’re in town.


Exotic Dancer Agents

"One club made us waive our right to say no to the live broadcast of our shows. Every single minute of our show was taped and put on the internet at no extra cost to the bar. If you agreed to work at the bar, you agreed to give away free porn. The same bar started a lunch hour meet and greet of customers in our underwear. We had to stand around in our underwear and ask for “bikini” dances paid by the customer. This time between shows was previously our own, then they just said 'do it, or be fired'."

Working with agents can be tricky. If you don’t do what they ask, they might stop giving you work. If you do what they ask, you might regret it. If you always do what they ask, they will take advantage of you. If you never do what they ask, you will lose your bookings.

Try to keep a middle ground between doing favours and saying no. For instance, say yes to stripathons and do a show or two for charity, but say no to working at a club that requires mandatory floor time. Or vice-versa. Do what is right for you.

If the agency you’re booking through starts bumping you out of gigs, go to another agency in the meantime, or book in another province. If you can’t travel, switch to private dancing for a month or two. Don’t let them push you around. If you don’t call for a while, they’ll be glad to hear from you when you do.

Don’t assume your agent is telling the truth about a gig. Some agents will leave out details and feign ignorance or say they assumed you knew. They will also tell you one show price, then give you another (smaller) show price when it comes time for the club to pay you. If you can, see your contract early in the week. It’s not always possible in this industry, but it’s good practice.

Let your agents know about new costumes, a great tan, or any new promo. If they only see you on the phone, they may not know how good you’re looking these days. Let them know you are investing in your business.

Be professional and reliable. And don’t be afraid to ask for a raise in show price if you think you deserve it. You can set your own show price by saying no to anything below what you want. However, some of the gigs with lower show prices but higher show counts (more shows) are the best, money making gigs out there. So be a little flexible.

Agents can be used to mediate conflict between dancers and bar management, but there is usually no one that can be engaged to help work through an issue with an agent.


Hair and Make-up Professionals

Hair Stylists

It is uncommon to have hair stylists for adult film and modeling unless you purchase their services before the shoot. If you are having sex, keep your hair simple as it's going to get messy during the workday. Bring your own hairbrush and hair products to the set for fix-ups during breaks. Some places may have a hair stylist provided. It's a tax write-off. So get receipts.

Make-up artists

Look at their portfolios first. If you like their work, ask them to come in for a free or discounted trial to see how you like them. They’re usually fun to chat with before a shoot.

Some make-up takes forever to do. Try to sit still and be patient while they work. If you have your own artist and it's going to be a long day, ask the business owner if you can bring her on set for touch ups.

If the make-up artist does not stick around for the shoot, it is okay to ask her to leave a little make-up behind for touch-ups. Some adult film / modeling companies have their own make-up person they like to use. It is also a tax write-off. So get receipts.


Movie Directors / Producers

Movie Directors / Producers (and photographers) can edit content however they like. You are required to sign your rights over in order to get work and get paid.

They tell you what activities are required during the shoot, but often you won't know what the content will be used for. They can also alter photos of you to make your face look different, and you cannot change them because you signed your rights over.

Remember that you don’t have a say in how you are advertised or promoted either. They can say you are a 'Barely Legal Cum Drinking Whore', when you’re really a 28-year-old, lesbian tennis-player.

Be aware that the directors and producers decide what content they want to shoot. If you don’t want to perform that content for some reason or another, you may lose the chance to work for that movie. Stick to your guns though. If possible, specify your boundaries ahead of time.


Photographers / Cinematographers

Usually you can collaborate a bit. Tell them if you have a bad bruise somewhere. Tell them if you don’t want your face in the shot. Prepare them, for instance, if you’re a squirter. Let them know they are going to get soaked.

Communicate honestly and respectfully. If you have an idea, most camera operators are open to trying something you suggest (themes, angles, etc).

Sometimes photographers are willing to trade the shoot for the photos. They will use the photos in their portfolios online or in print. In return, you get a free photo shoot to update your promo. This is called Time for Prints (TFP).


Security

When hiring security, it is best to use a friend or someone referred to you by people you trust. Tell them what you need and find out their experience levels before hiring them.

Come up with safety plans together. Make sure you know each other’s job descriptions and duties.

On more challenging nights, tip your security. It will keep them motivated in their job.

Strip Club Bouncers

"One evening, after repeatedly asking the bouncer to throw out a rowdy customer without success, the customer finally got up and threw a full pint of beer with glass at my face! I jumped off the stage and beat this asshole with my bull whip! He left the bar and later charged me with assault. MY BAD. The club owner said that I was “on my own” and the negligent bouncer was nowhere to be found. The charge stuck and I had to pay damages."

There are lots of great bouncers out there. They seem to genuinely care about our safety and they take their jobs seriously. Others could use some training (or a good kick in the ass).

Feel free to report bad bouncers to club managers. But be aware that the manager may back him up rather than you. Use your own discretion and trust your gut.

One strategy is to tip your bouncers in advance. It reminds them that they have a job to do. And you’ll likely see a marked improvement in your own security.


Strip Club DJ’s and other staff who manage the dancers

Exotic dancers work in close contact with DJ’s. In clubs where there is no DJ, it may be the bar manager or owner, or even the bartender. But there is usually one or two people depending on the shift who are keeping track of our schedule. Head bartenders, DJ's and management have the authority to mete out fines and take other disciplinary actions (e.g. firing dancers).

A strip club DJ is actually an MC. The only traditional DJ responsibilities he has are programming dancer’s CDs and playing music between sets. Most of his job is dealing with dancers.

The DJ is responsible for announcing the performers, building up the crowd, and being on the microphone all night. It is his or her responsibility to get the dancers on and off stage on time and ensure that everyone in the line-up is doing their shows. The DJ usually deals with show changes, trades, and screw-ups. He issues fines for late shows, and keeps the running of the stage out of the manager’s hands.

If you are lucky, the DJ is fun to hang out with, supportive of having a positive atmosphere, and encourages patrons to tip you. If you are not lucky, well – you’ll have to find another way to stay positive for your shows.

If your closest coworker is on a power trip, you need to tread carefully. He can get you blacklisted by the club or agency. He can cancel shows when the club is slow if you don’t tip to his satisfaction. If you have to rebel, make sure you have a backup plan.

The DJ has the added power of controlling your lighting and music. So try to get along well with him, even if you are putting on an award-winning performance to do it. Less conflict equals better lighting.

Tipping your DJ

In B.C. and Manitoba most girls tip at the end of the week, or if they get tips on stage they'll toss a few dollars to the DJ.

In Alberta, DJs expect to be tipped after every show, and they expect around 10% of your stage tips.

In Ontario and Quebec you generally tip if you get tipped. However, the features should always tip their DJ.


Webmasters

Webmasters design how you are being promoted online. You can have a complete business relationship with a Webmaster without ever meeting him or her in person. Check out their portfolios before hiring them. You can and should Google their names to check out their work.

Webmasters are under your employ, so you must tell them exactly what text/wording you want, and only send them your favourite photos.

You really have to describe the look you’re aiming for. You determine everything from font style (the way the letters look) and colour schemes to choice of wording. You are the creator behind all of it and it all makes a difference in the clientele’s mind.

Don't pay until it is done. It is always a good idea to give gifts (wine, baking, a little money) at the end of every well-done project.

If the webmaster you hired isn’t working on things in a timely manner, find out why. Give a deadline, and if they don't make it, find someone else. Change your passwords first before breaking the deal with them, so they no longer have access to your content, and make sure they know they have no rights to your material upon submission.


Other Entertainers

Sometimes, getting along with other sex industry workers can be hard. If there is a personality conflict or you feel another entertainer is being a princess, it can get pretty tense. Competition adds to the tension.

In adult film and modeling, you often must work with other performers. Even if there is a personality clash, you still have to appear hot for each other and perform sex acts on each other.

If another worker is giving you attitude, ignore her. If she verbally attacks you, try not to return the attack but simply defend yourself. Continue to treat her with civility for the rest of the time you work together, but don’t go out of your way to befriend her.

Don’t try to make it all better or fret about it. Let it go and move on. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. And in the long run, the other workers will respect you for maintaining a professional distance regardless of the melodramatics happening around you.

With more competitive entertainers, distance yourself and refrain from disclosing much, if any, personal information.

Sometimes it is beneficial to talk it out if the other entertainer is open to it.

Quotes from Sex Industry Workers

“Sometimes when it’s a bit desperate we fight- you took my regular-you owe me money. Sometimes people even lie and say you owe them money because they know you can’t remember.” 

“For web cam, I worked at a company where the other industry workers could link onto my work computer while I was trying to lure in customers. This was unfair, as they would pretend to be customers and waste my time with a bunch of free chat that lead nowhere.”

“Sometimes a girl jumps in a car before me. I let her have it [the client]. I figure she needs it more to do that.”

“Sometimes I truly felt it was necessary to fight, both verbally and physically, to demonstrate that I wasn’t going to be bullied. Other times I ignored conflicts, in hopes that they would pass. Most conflicts didn’t last more than a few weeks. Alliances were made and broken and re-made very quickly.”

“I have interacted with other workers I have pulled dates with other workers we took care of one another it was like family. Until the drugs really hit. Then things changed. There was a shift that took place in Boys Town. It became more about drugs.”

Colleagues In Solidarity
If you get along with each other, hanging out with other entertainers can be the best part of the job. No one else understands your motivations so well. No one else is as fun, or funny, or honest as other sex industry workers.

Their jokes are the funniest because we get them all. Their stories are the most fascinating because we live such interesting lives in this industry. Their ideas are the most outrageous. Their comebacks, the most creative. Their personalities, the most charming.

Sex industry workers are pros at drawing people in, seducing clients with our personalities first. Then we are pros at making people comfortable and accepted. Our skills work on each other too. It’s a relief to be around other socially skilled people.

It’s also much easier to talk to other sex industry workers, since we don’t have to worry that something we say will be offensive or inappropriate. It’s difficult to balance such an open, direct lifestyle with the taboos of the straight world we live in. Some of us get tense in regular situations for fear of saying “the wrong thing.”

With other workers, we can talk about our ass zits, our relationships, our customers, our frustrations, whatever. And, we understand each other. Because we all have ass zits, relationships, customers, and frustrations. And we’re all busting our asses in the sex industry.

Keep the Peace

One of the best ways to get along with other sex industry workers is to keep your space small and tidy. Don’t leave your clothes or costumes lying all over the place. Don’t have your makeup spread out across the counter.

Bring your own supplies. Don’t use other people’s belongings without asking first. And don’t be late causing the schedule to get behind.

Here is how some Prince George workers are helping each other:


“We share dates and let each other go first if they need the money more. We also do duos and watch each other’s backs.”

“If one has a problem, others come running. If he’s hurting her, we’ll stop it if we can. If it is drug or pimp related, we’ll have to stand back and help the girl after.”

Advice for supporting other sex industry workers:

  • Share experiences with each other.
  • If a worker is not out of a call on time, check on her.
  • If you have a really bad experience, post a note that nobody should see him.
  • Give advice, safety tips.
  • Show new workers the ropes.
  • Try not to undercut.


Pimps

If you are being pimped in a way that is abusive or controlling or involves trafficking, and want to leave your “man” (pimp family/ trafficker), it can be difficult and dangerous.

You may have to return to work in a place where you will be found, harassed, or recaptured.

Pimps have been known to do all kinds of things to workers when the try to leave, such as:

  • Physical beatings.
  • Cutting or scarring a worker’s face.
  • Cutting a worker’s hair.
  • Holding a worker prisoner and bringing clients in for forced service.
  • Outing a worker to family and friends.
  • Stealing a worker’s clothes and possessions.
  • Waiting until a worker has made money and robbing the worker.
  • “Stripping”- Capturing a worker and removing all his or her clothes and leaving the worker somewhere public to be humiliated.You may be tempted to “choose” another pimp or pimp family when you need to leave an abusive situation. Chances are a new pimp will not help your situation and as a former rival you may be treated even worse as retribution. Also, if you “choose” too many times you will become known as “choosy” or a “Choosy Susie”.

Remember, you are a human being with rights. If you try to leave and your pimp or pimp family/ trafficker will not let you go, call the police. Abuse is illegal no matter who you are and forcible confinement is a very serious crime. The police will be able to file criminal charges, restraining orders, and ensure criminal repercussions for anyone who harms you. You may experience some discrimination from police, especially in more remote areas where police services are unfamiliar with issues affecting sex workers safety. Keep your head up and don’t let them brush you off.

Street Code dictates that any involvement of police or outside authorities by an underground community member is “ratting” or being a “rat”.

Our code of honour is a result of criminalization and is important if we are to protect ourselves from enforcement action. However, in the case of abusive pimps or people who traffic in human beings, we hereby state an exception to the “do not rat” rule.

People who operate unethical sex industry businesses and pimps who make a living abusing and exploiting workers harm our entire industry. Any person who has been exploited or abused in this manner may and should involve law enforcement or outside authorities in order to protect themselves and the public image of our industry. Only when we have successfully removed all people who harm us will we be a truly stable industry.

If you are nervous about accessing police services, contact a sex worker support agency or social services worker and ask them to accompany you to file your report. Or ask a family member or friend you trust. See the “Resources” section of this site for organizations near you.

How to leave a pimp safely

  • Call a local (or closest to your city) sex work organization to get referrals regarding shelter, food, and safe spaces.
  • Do not tell anyone your plan, as they may rat you out.
  • Create a safety plan.
  • Grab only what is essential, such as children, and act as though you are just going shopping or something that is part of your regular routine. Then go to a sex worker (or other) organization that can help you find a safe transition house.
  • From the transition house, you can phone family or friends. If you want to relocate to another city, the support workers at the safety transition house, or a sex worker organization can help you.
  • Try to remove yourself completely from anyone associated with your life during the time you were working for that pimp. If he finds you, there could be danger headed your way.
  • Surround yourself with good people while you transition into a new life; even if it is working for another sex industry business owner, or another industry altogether. Remember that women can be pimps. It’s not just men, as most are stereotyped to be. And indoor sex workers can have abusive pimps too. There are all sorts of awful agencies that are abusive, and having a bad pimp is not limited to the streets.


Drug Dealers

If you use drugs, here are some ways you can protect yourself.

  • Try not to take drugs from clients. It’s easy to become addicted when you’re always getting drugs for free. Plus, you don’t know what those drugs are cut with.
  • Buy all street drugs from drug dealers you trust.
  • You may feel that giving sexual favours in return for drugs is better than looking for a date, which could potentially be dangerous. At least you know the drug dealer and you aren’t afraid of him.
  • Or you might prefer to only use money to pay for drugs, believing that drug dealers give you more respect because you won’t trade sex for drugs.
  • It is very dangerous to accept drinks from clients. Even a bottle of water could be full of GHB. Be sure to watch the drink being poured, then keep an eye on it at all times.
  • Try to keep a distant, non-personal relationship with drug dealers so they cannot impact your life.
  • Try to use the same drug dealer consistently so you are sure of the potency of the dose you are taking.

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 and 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)

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