What an amazing experience this has been so far. It has been really really interesting to be involved with this proposition with all the sex worker activists that I came into this work with during the MEASURE Q initiative in the City of Berkeley that Robyn Few spearheaded in 2004. So much has changed in 4 years with me, my work, my other work, and where I stand in the work.
REgistered to vote in SF, for the first time in 8 years, I initially got excited about this election because I wanted a person of color to be president. But I think I’ve stepped back from the media machines that both of the two sides are pumping out from the ears at full speed ahead that I’m not listening anymore. I’m all about PROP K, all the way.
The first time I did this in Berkeley with them, I was pretty negative about sex work, just quitting stripclub stripping and facing that transition which would lead to some difficult times, but then just meeting Carol Leigh and Robyn Few as they started SWOP with Measure Q. I couldn’t really talk about issues or argue points like I can now. I was completely inexperienced and not nearly as passionate about things as I am now.
When I am tabling or talking to the people about sex worker rights or SWOP it seems easier in some ways than talking about PROP K because guys will ask,”Are you a prostitute?” and I say,”Yes.” then they say,”No way. Get out of here.” and I say yeah, and PROP K is about decriminalizing sex work simply by voting yes. Then as if following a predictable script comes them hitting on me for sex!
I hate it.
It is far less powerful than sex work itself.
Why? Because on the street, in most normal interactions, I realize that men and patriarchy in general have more power, when talking about sex or sex work because for some reason, they seem to be better at offending women not the other way around. However, most of the volunteers have reported being criticized to their face about the issue, their perceived gender or sexual orientation I’m sure and it hasn’t really phased them.
Every article I’m reading about Carol Leigh quotes that she’s been raped when she was a sex worker in SF. What a horrible line to have to read and have googled about you over and over over. This campaign makes all of the sex workers involved feel especially vulnerable! More vulnerable than if we were campaigning in lingerie like [I] usually do. In fact,perhaps sometimes the shock value of porn and prostitution and post porn modernism are what make them powerful.
We are deliberately de-sexualizing the issue to appeal to the masses! (And i just called Obama a sell out, but in similar ways, we are doing the same thing). Politics is like that,isn’t it. It’s an interesting thing for me, because most of my activism is in your face, raw stripper aggression removed from the darkened club for post modern effect, but most days I am in jeans, a t-shirt and “pretty” face (make up/contact lenses) awaiting potential client calls for work so I can afford to stay on in SF working on this issue. But, if there is anything that has been driven home with me getting *detained* for passing out flyers on a college campus about PROP K, and about getting arrested by undercover cops who were milling around the BDSM convention that we were doing outreach at, is that LE and their henchmen are everywhere, and therefore, even if prostitution is decriminalized, it will still be for the most part, done discreetly because sex for most people is a private issue (which is our qualm with the laws in the first place).
Remember that scene in Pretty Woman where she walks through the hotel lobby in her thigh high boots and her buddy the concierge gives her some pointers about how to fit into the straight world? Well, the reason why dressing like a streetwalker makes good art is because in the real lives of sex workers, you CAN’T and DON’T dress like that in the places that you most often do your work..Keeping it ambiguous is the name of the game, and the reason why you can’t tell how many sex workers there are or how much is actually going down (although I can spot the hos in the hotel lobby right away). This incognito is not only because of the laws against us. There are times when you want attention around your sex and times when you do not.
I think the magic of being a sex worker is that it is a form of drag that I can put on and off by choice, and although when I perform I dress in sexy clothing, I am removed from people in that they understand that it is a performance, so most of them keep their distance. In talking to people face to face, they don’t. You seem to have to find a way to fend off people seemingly sexually harassing you. The stigma of prostitution is far from removed, and that is what you are dealing with when you are doing these talks. When I was talking about my fundraiser and telling everyone I got arrested, boy that was wayyy vulnerable times. (Some people felt sorry for me!) I hated that too. If I was in victim mode, I wouldn’t be going around town hustling donations for my legal fund.
I used to reflect on this when I worked as a stripper at a stripclub (and at Burningman). I missed the freedom and power of dressing sexy like that so I kept performing sex work through my art and music so I could keep shopping at stripper stores and wear 6 inch heels!
And even though, I am seemingly telling the world through this blog and my music and art that I am a whore, I’m really NOT even telling my neighbors, or the person driving in the car next to me..They might know, or maybe they’ve seen an ad of mine on the internet, but don’t want to say. (because then the vulnerability is on them!) I don’t always look like a stereotypical whore and when I do, most people wouldn’t even assume that I am sex worker for real because they just don’t go there, especially with people who seem to have self esteem, confidence and ownership of their sexuality..
Tomorrow we are going to talk to people visiting and coming out of jail. If more people of color were mobilized around this issue..Obama’s not outreaching to the pocs but I am going to!
Dialogue about PROP K is all over the radio and TV. Having to hear the ignorance that they are spewing is very difficult. I don’t know where we stand on our fight but we are doing as much as we can. We could stand to have more people working on this issue and we are definitely hurting for funding, but considering that we are a small, self funded team, I think that we are winning!