in defense of sex workers

(apologizing in advance for the rambly nature of this post. it’s taken me weeks to finish it.)

i am privileged. i come from a middle class background, both my parents are college educated, i went to prep school, and i attended a liberal arts college. i am privileged. i grew up with access to healthcare, to many resources in my neighborhood and in my city at large, and access to the information that can be used to improve just about any situation i’ve entered. the golden standard of my life has been one influenced by steady employment, education (self or institutional), and class-based values.  i have never taken a pay cut or been in a situation where i had no choice but to claw my way to the top. i’ve always been “employable” in situations that would improve my financial standing.  and, within my privileged status i have had the opportunity to do something that folks a the bottom of the capitalist ladder do not do: i have chosen to reject many facets of (if not all of) this privilege in the name of satisfying myself first.

my privilege, my access, my black bourgeois status means i have not yet in my life faced a situation where i had no choice but to work illegally to take care of myself.  i have never been a dope girl in that conventional sense; my existence has never hinged on the distribution of any package.  i have never robbed folks, participated in identity theft or other fraud, and i have not ever become a sex worker to support myself.  this is because often, choice is directly linked to access. it’s linked to privilege.

within my very strong interest in human sexuality, i have always considered sex workers in my conversations and thoughts.  sex workers are prostitutes, sex workers are porn stars, sex workers are phone sex operators and everyone in between. many (if not most) sex workers live lives devoid of fortune, fame, and glamour. instead, this is about the commodity of their bodies’ abilities to perform — not unlike those of us who work in settings viewed as “legitimate” by the larger society — and the profitability of their skill sets as well as the rate at which they produce.  this is about making money.  do not get it confused.

and though there’s a prevalent notion that anyone who does sex work is contributing to the decline of society as a whole (and that their morals are non-existent or “wrong”), i think it’s safe to say that a lot of folks know sex workers personally.  in my personal experience, stripping was a rite of passage for some friends. it was what you did to hustle up some money when there wasn’t any available.  lots of shake dancers are single moms; lots of women who turn tricks have mouths to feed. it’s a simple fact. and if nobody wants to hire you because you have kids (let’s face it, emergencies at school turn into hours lost at the plantation), or if you’re competing with dozens (even hundreds) of people with identical or better qualifications for the same job, your chances for hire are simply not that good.  everyone’s taking applications & resumes, but ain’t nobody hirin’. we all know that.  the present economic climate is beyond volatile; brown folks and women are feeling the pinch most of all.

i said all that to say that most ppl who know the life do not actually aspire to the life.  it is dangerous.  it is a source of shame. but it’s money. fast, usually, getting paid the same day you work (perfect for those emergencies, like food!), and almost a guarantee that you will spend less money on child care because the hours are shorter than day jobs or retail gigs.  it makes sense if you have an immediate need, it makes sense if you’re trying to stack a lot of money in a short period of time, & it makes sense to be a sex worker (namely a stripper or prostitute) when you cannot find a “legit” job that will pay you what you need. 

i have quite a few girlfriends who’re trade school grads, high school grads with some college under their belts,  and  college grads who’ve been sex workers. we live in a world where money is what you need, almost always, to get what you want/ need.  anyone who says they’d clean toilets for a living before being a sex worker probably doesn’t know that cleaning toilets for a living tends to have a 30 day (or more) turnaround period from inquiry to hire.  again: immediate needs tend to trump the “legitimacy” of a job.  this, to me, means that most of the folks talking shit about what’s wrong about sex work in regard to morality have no idea what it is to be that close to nothing.  this is beyond hand to mouth, beyond two checks away from poverty; this is poverty.  stepping away from privilege creates a whole other consciousness around what poor is, what poverty is, and what might be required of a parent (or of a family) to even begin to make ends meet.  i daresay that when some poor folks indict the character of sex workers it’s the result of internalized classism combined with the comfort of being able to point a disapproving finger at someone.  

the choices we make about the jobs we accept are framed by privilege, including the kind of work we do. my forays into sex work have been limited to working as a pro domme & subject of foot worship. i am not a prostitute.  i am not a shake dancer. i am not an escort. i am a pro domme.  i had the opportunity to research this type of sex work before deciding to participate. i have access to resources that have enabled me to decide the kinds of domme work i’m going to do, to advertise myself in arenas that maintain my anonymity & privacy, to do all of these things that give me a certain level of protection not afforded to women or men who walk the street or dance.  i am able to shut my business down or take it to another level whenever i’d like. i have more control over the whole situation because i’m informed enough and can create safety measures for myself. there’s time and space for me to create the situation i desire. though my privilege does not guarantee my safety i know that i at least have a buffer between myself and danger.  there’s something like a respectability factor that, if i got “busted” by someone’s wife, i could always throw prostitutes and strippers under the bus.  “at least i’m not fucking your husband, lady. i’m a domme, not a whore.” 

if i were selling my ass on the street, it’d likely be a different story. whether i had a pimp or not, i’d be in immediate danger of being subjected to attacks by citizens and police alike.  if i were dancing, i’d be subject to all manner of abuses both inside of the club and out.  as a matter of fact, as i type these last sentences there is very likely someone on the loose in philly poisioning girls who dance, either with drinks or drugs. (more on that later)

i could very easily, with a few changes to my life story, be one of these women.  the women we blame for being sex workers when they are assaulted or killed.  the women  whose lives we assess with two or three words because it’s convenient for us to do so (whore. dirty slut. home wrecker. trash. good-for-nothing).   with a few modifications to my background — or even my present situation — i could be the conspicuously invisible or missing family member who died mysteriously but has nobody to speak up for her.

& maybe that’s my whole point. there’s misrepresentation and misunderstanding around sex work.  regardless of whether you domme, you’re a porn star, you dance, or you escort, there’s an automatic marginalization.  the idea is that you are lesser than, you don’t deserve to walk with dignity or hold your head up high — especially if your station in life is not “honorable.”  but, in this structure, there is not built-in honor for all. there is no common knowledge that reminds folks of the idea that none of us deserves to be degraded or downtrodden by virtue of who we are. we do not earn or deserve suffering or mistreatment because of what we do to make money any more than by simply being who we are.

dear young strappin’:

it’s over. it’s been over. i liked you, a lot, for a long time. you are tall, dark, handsome, you have a strong back & you’re pretty damn smart.  we had some good times, you know?  late night pancakes, the time you lifted me over your head, the time you drove from new england in the rain just to see me for my birthday . . . & the sex was great. it was. i really enjoyed you.  you seemed to really enjoy me.  you were the perfect casual sex partner. conversation was good enough. you weren’t old enough to drink legally when we me but initially, that gap in age really didn’t mean a whole lot to me. because i wanted some no-strings-attached fun.  you provided that.  i was so grateful, especially that night you came out in a snowstorm just to look at me . . .

but then you got comfortable. i’m not saying i didn’t get comfortable as well, but damn.  you knew i had a kind heart & a soft spot for broke college kids & their elderly grannies. so, i let some shit slide that i wouldn’t have. it was the usual: i allowed my understanding of your situation become an excuse for allowing dumb shit. that’s not okay under any circumstances.  it implied that you were not responsible, on some level, for yourself.  you needed gloves and a hat for late season football practice and i broke my neck to get them to you. you still have them 5 years later (presumably a testament to how appreciative you were and most likely still are, no doubt), but the first time sets the precedent.   cuz my dumb ass shoved $50 in one of the gloves as a show of kindness, affection, and “you know this pussy will be waiting for you when you come home” type feelings. oh, how foolish i was! because you were gonna come get it anyway — the culture shock of all those beckies in one place was too much for you that first semester. you had to get used to your surroundings before attempting to fall off in the sorority houses, etc. & you didn’t like me nearly as much as you were fascinated and intrigued by me. the feeling was mutual, as much as we both sought to hide it.

and i carried a torch of sorts. you were that bridge between the rapper and whatever was next. i said good night to him & met you not even 5 minutes later. you served a purpose and represented something. i don’t resent or regret one moment of the time we spent together. i really did enjoy it for what it was. but things started to shift.  there was the time you took a call from another woman in my presence and told her the same shit you always used to tell me: you were hanging w/ your boys.  that didn’t sit well with me. because you were fucking me, but sleeping in her house. you were lying to both of us in some way. & since i’d taken the time to make our interactions about forthrightness (as much as possible), i was insulted. you asked me not to take that shit personally, but it’s kinda hard when you’re fucking someone and they’re complicating a relatively simple situation with half-truths.   but i stuck it out, cuz i figured you were young & didn’t know any better.  i presumed that you really didn’t know how to articulate your needs in a way that was comfortable for you. & though that was probably the case, i had no idea.  i tried to anticipate you. i tried to meet you three-fourths of the way because it made me feel like i was doing the right thing.  oh, young strappin’, what a fool i was.

when i moved to my new apartment in north philly, you had my back! you helped me move some stuff in.  you helped me hang curtains.  you fucked me on my new bed & scared the living shit out of my then-roommate’s piece of trash boyfriend. i appreciated you even more.  we were still functioning in that same fuck buddy space, but there was a new element. you could easily use my space as an overnight crash spot. i was okay with that. you distracted me from my situation with someone whom i’d met in the interim. you were competition for the dope boy over on jefferson street.  you gave me status, so to speak, when i was still learning that another person’s attraction to/ desire for me had nothing to do with the number of admirers i had.  oh, young strappin’, the things i’ve learned!

by the time i was settled into my routine and apartment in west philly, some things had changed. i was studying the yoruba tradition almost exclusively and contemplating taking the steps toward initiation.  i had cut my locks and gotten a tattoo.  i was beginning to explore my craftiness, my activism, and my sexuality in new ways.  i had new friends, i was finding community, and loving myself more.  that evolution marked the beginning of the end of our thing, this long & somewhat drawn out series of encounters that really should have been meeting over coffee or a random phone convo. but, when folks genitals are involved, it’s not always like that.

now, it’s been five years. we’ve both had some major changes in our lives. tats, piercings, haircuts, passing fancies, deaths in the family, graduations, trips abroad, championships . . . if i’d had to guess, i never would have imagined my relationship to you would be impactful.  i never would have thought that you’d be the only person i’d fucked in this bed. in this third, bigger, more expensive apartment.  & i would have never, ever, ever imagined that we wouldn’t be at least friendly any longer. i don’t know how that even happened. our last encounter wasn’t even good. i was in a new headspace then.  it was one of self affirmation, of self love, of making sure i was getting what i needed/ wanted out of every situation i entered.  & you couldn’t give me what i needed. it just wasn’t the right situation for me anymore.  & it still is not.  your stresses about the health & well being of your grandmother and younger siblings had you distracted. you really needed someone who was more open to soothing you. that wasn’t me at that point. & it quite possibly isn’t me now. i’m sorry we couldn’t do more for each other, yet thankful that it was what it was. 

so, i’ll keep your number and you’ll keep mine.  maybe we’ll cross paths somewhere in the city.  maybe i’ll reactivate my facebook account and send you a message one day, and we can do drinks or pancakes. we can catch up. you can show me your girlfriend or wife, your kids, your goddaughter . . . whatever. but, for right now i’m not answering any late night text messages. nobody wants to just say hi to me at 1:34 in the morning.  i’m not wasting my time responding to anything that isn’t an emergency.  so, i pray you’re safe. i hope you’ve found your dream job.  i wish you nothing but the best & brightest.  heaven knows you deserve it. you should be blessed infitely for your hard work. love & happiness are your birthright.

dear potential future boocakes:

listen. i . . . i know i probably talk too fucking much. and i know that you might think i’m weird.  but i know you like me. because i just happen to know these things. so, if you wanna bake me cookies that’s fine. we have to work on some sort of dairy, egg, and soy-free kind (because that’s really the cookie i need in my life) and if you dare make me oatmeal cookies they’d ought to have craisins in them cuz raisins are just wrong. um. yeah. and i’ll make you iced tea, ginger limeade, and whatever else you want (within reason).  because i’m a doting kinda gal. i always felt like the gold star sticker was more important than getting the 100 on the spelling test, ya know?  let me be the good marshmallow in your hot chocolate; the garnish.  i’m that flourish in your signature that makes it slightly illegible but mostly fabulous. 

& also, potential future boocakes, you should really know that i’m not a huge fan of traditionally represented concept of  monogamy right  now. it feels confining, it feels like a social construct more than it does anything natural to me as a human being. i don’t much like the idea of being bound to one person indefinitely (or quote-unquote forever, the way that the marrieds tend to be).  so, if we start kicking it, understand that it’s not about any sort of loose-in-the-booty-ness on my part.  & i’m not out here doing any ho shit, either. i simply desire to deal with folk who understand where i am in this whole growing up thing. i feel very strongly that my consideration of polyamory is both a great thing for me and a potentially disastrous for you and any other potential future boocakes, depending on the kind of relationship you wish to have with me. we’ll take it one day at a time, though.  we’ll figure it out.

potential future boocakes, i know you are capable of being a great lover (or activity partner or cuddlejawn or whatever we make out of this thang).  i’d very much like the chance to explore that with you.  so, please remember that i am open. it would honor me so much for you to remain open, as well, to what’s out there.

(and by that, i mean willing to have rather serious makeout sessions and play scrabble with me while drinking lindeman’s lambic framboise, peche, kriek, cassis, or pomme)

this is so freaking awesome.

aretha’s inauguration hat is gonna be a christmas ornament!

PICS: Aretha’s Hat Makes Ornament Debut

(WXYZ) – The hat that dazzled millions of people during the inauguration of President Barack Obama, is now being offered as a Christmas ornament. Aretha Franklin’s stylish big-bowed hat was the inspiration for the glittery-glass ornament. The ornament’s designer hopes it too will be a big fashion hit.

Curtis Posuniak is the brain-child behind the ornament. He says the minute he saw Aretha’s hat he knew he wanted to make a tiny glass version of it.

They will cost $43 a piece and will be sold at Bronner’s in Frankenmuth, the Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn, some area gift shops and by email at klassicsbykurtis[at]comcas[dot]net

Curtis says his Custom Glass Ornaments are made in Poland by Polish artisans who have a passion for hand-crafting the gems.

 

thanks to april from blog-aroundharlem.com for the original link!
source

full moon gratitude.

family
sunshine
hoodies
limeade
pink nail polish
herstories
old laughs
new jokes
rose soap
good stockings
friends
cat naps
foremothers
cheap buys
babies