Friday, November 17, 2006

Shopping for kinky holiday gifts by local businesses? I gotcha covered in this week's column. Also in The Stranger, an interesting piece by a swinger. Wonder if it's anyone I know?

One more thing: according to blogger Joe. My. God., Mike Jones, the male escort who outed Reverend Ted Haggard, is catching some heat about that. I think that's a shame. Now, don't get me wrong - I think a client's privacy is a extremely important thing, and I would never, ever violate that.


Unless you're the politically active fundamentalist minster of a large church with the stated goal of repressing my sexuality and driving me back in the closet and just generally messing with my life. That's the one exception to the "my lips are sealed" rule. Do not stand in a pulpit on Sunday preaching against me and then show up in my dungeon on Monday and expect me to protect you while you attack me.

So if you're the kinky counterpart to the (former) Reverend Ted Haggard, you best not come see me. Everyone else, your secrets are quite safe. And I'm going to go give Mike Jones some money, because I agree that the Haggard scandal played a part in the Blue Wave on Nov 7th.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm in the mood to rant.

So there was a whole thread about strippers and the Seattle 4-foot law over on The Stranger Slog earlier this week. Actually it began over on Seattlest, bounced over a blog called “I Blame The Patriarchy”, (I’m not linking to that one, click through The Slog if you want to read it) and then wound up on The Slog.

You can go read all the various opinions if you want to, but I can sum up a big chunk of it for you right here: Strippers – and sex workers in general – are helpless victims who need to be saved from themselves, because they are too damaged by society to make the right choices. Sex work is, forever and always, a form of socially-tolerated rape and no woman really consents to doing it, she just thinks she does. Or she’s lying. Because all clients treat sex workers like shit and they really just want to degrade and humiliate them, since that’s just how men are.

You can just imagine what I think about this kind of attitude. I mean, hey, I didn’t much like being a stripper here in Seattle, either. So I quit. That's how that works, in my mind. But some of those people have got a major victim-glorification thing going on. Sex workers apparently bear no personal responsibility for what we do, we’re just slaves, and men are filthy ravenous beasts who assault us.

What a flock of crap. But okay, fine - let’s put aside my very lengthy sex work experience and the experience of lots of other women I have known personally that says the direct opposite of all that, because while I like my job and have fabulous clients, I have indeed known women who disliked being sex workers. Most women, in fact, are not cut out for it, and they should not be doing it. I have a lot of sympathy for sex workers who decided, say, four months ago, that they hated the job. I’d like to help women like that quit and get other jobs.

But if you decided, like, five years ago that you hated the sex industry, and that it was fucking with your head, and ruining your relationships, and making you frigid, and just generally chewing your soul into tiny little pieces on a nightly basis, and you’re still here, then my sympathy for you is pretty limited.

Let’s get real: the sex industry is not going to change. It is what it is, and you can moan and bitch about how the world should be, and you can get all Marxist and talk about the oppression of the working class, and yeah, that’s terribly high-minded, but it doesn’t pay your rent, okay? So the day you decide that you hate the sex industry, that's the day you need to start making a plan to get out.

I hear that you can’t quit today because of your financial obligations. Golden handcuffs are a thing, it’s true. But a vast number of women in the world seem to be making a living without working in the sex industry, so we know this is do-able. It’s probably going to take a little time, but you have the luxury of keeping your highly-paid, flexible-hours job while you ramp up to whatever is next. Most people don’t get that. And I find that tough situations often get more tolerable if you’re actually taking steps to remedy the problem.

If you have a degree and a career in mind, then okay, what the hell are you waiting for? You have no college degree, you say you’re not qualified for anything that pays a living wage? That’s not uncommon. Get your ass over to the community college and get registered for a two-year technical degree in something. Oh, you don’t want to be a dental hygienist? Well, you don’t want to be a sex worker, either, and dental hygienists keep their clothes on and get healthcare benefits. You don’t have to stay in this career for the rest of your life, you’re just picking a job that you’ll like better than the one you’ve got now. Or save up and buy a carpet-cleaning franchise, or study to become a real estate broker, or whatever. But pick something and move towards it.

(There’s a gray area here, and that is women who are artists/musicians/actresses/writers. Sex work can be a great way to support a low-paying but highly fulfilling career in the arts. But at a certain point, one has to be brutally honest with oneself and decide, “What evidence do I have that I will ever be able to totally support myself doing this?” And “Well, other people do!” is not evidence. Look at it this way: you need your soul to be an artist of any kind. If sex work destroys your soul, then your art will suck ass. You may have to back-burner the muse until you get a day job you can live with.)

Next, start downsizing. Whatever you’re spending your money on – big apartment, fancy car, designer clothes, whatever – stop that. Move to a smaller apartment, get a roommate, live with your family, move further out from the city, whatever you have to do. Get a cheaper car. Stick your credit cards in the freezer. Start living like you make much less money than you do and save as much as you can.

None of this is rocket science, but oddly, most of the women I have known who said they hated the sex industry weren’t doing these things. But just hanging around in the dressing room, smoking and endlessly whining about much you hate this job, is stupid. It’s like standing on the deck of the sinking Titantic, talking about how much you hate the ocean. The water is only going to get higher, baby, so get into a lifeboat already! Yeah, it might be a rough ride for a while, but a careful examination of the alternative should indicate that it’s the best option.

I have lately had the pleasure of seeing a good exit plan put into action. My dear friend Miss K, after eight years as an escort, decided she was done with it. Like the smart girl that she is, she’d cleared all her student loans and credit card debt and had saved up a large sum of money in that eight years. Now she’s going to graduate school and living, quite frugally, on her savings and some money she inherited from a relative. She plans on getting a part-time job in her field of interest while she's in school. She wishes her old clients well, but it was time for her to go do something else.

So go is the operative word here. Hate the job? Go. Go towards something that makes you happier. I’ll give you a boost, if I can. I’ll at least cheer for you. You will not change the nature of the sex industry. But you can change whether you’re in it or not.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pop Culture

What have I been taking in lately? Well, Roman and I went to see “The Prestige” last week. (My choice. Anything with gaslights and British accents is a yes! my movie-going book) And we also watched “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” on DVD the other night.

“The Prestige” was interesting, although I think it helped a lot that I’d read the book. Not that I was really wowed by the book, you understand. I did finish it, which is saying something, because it’s thick enough to club seals with. But I thought it was way too long – a properly ruthless editor could have improved it a lot. I found it rather self-consciously literary, too.

Still, having read it meant that I could follow the movie pretty well. Poor Roman is a total film geek and even so, he was still a little cross-eyed trying to keep up with three different timelines, all of them fraught with not-well-explained plot complications.

But I’m interested in anything that has to do with the history of stage magic, and David Bowie was good, and Micheal Caine was good, and Scarlett Johanson’s breasts were very nice. So, overall, worth seeing.

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith"... Well, in the scene where Brad and Angelina transition from trying to kill each other to fucking, Roman and I looked at each other and said “That looks just like us having sex.” (Without the guns, though.) It was mildly amusing, and yes, Ms Jolie is a babe. But it seems like the essential message of the movie would be that even vanilla people should have violent sex because, hey, it’ll save their marriage. And I’m okay with that - I just wonder if that’s really what the filmmakers meant to say.

Books… I need some new books. Here’s what I’m browsing…

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. I liked The Devil In White City, and this looks great to me, in spite of mixed reviews. I’ve read a bit about the race to perfect the telegraph, and historical crime stuff is always cool, so this sounds fascinating. I’ll be ordering it soon.

The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability by Laura Kipnis. Ms Kipnis has a delightfully vicious wit, and I’ve enjoyed her writing in the past.

The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life by Tom Reiss. From the publisher: “Part history, part cultural biography, and part literary mystery, The Orientalist traces the life of Lev Nussimbaum, a Jew who transformed himself into a Muslim prince and became a best-selling author in Nazi Germany.”

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I just stumbled across this book, and I don’t know anything about it other than what this page says. But something about it looks promising.

The Mad Cook of Pymatuning: A Novel by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt. I don't usually read horror novels, but this looks much more layered and complex than the usual blood-and-guts fare. I'm intrigued.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Random Sunday Post

No kink, just fashion, just because I’m wasting time window-shopping online instead of working on a column…

On eBay: pretty silver bracelet… This one's nice too.
And while I’ve never been a big one for designer bags, I’m kinda digging this Prada briefcase. I hear all the Prada bags on eBay are fake, though.

I’ve been looking for a new black leather coat – a hip-length one – because the one I have is beat. But this red jacket is awfully cute.

The week or so around Thanksgiving is traditionally a slow time of year in my business – people are traveling, busy with family. And December is kinda up and down, too. (Although the single, married-to-their-job guys do often come calling around holidays. It's their gift to themselves.) But we’ll see how I do in the next few weeks, maybe I can indulge myself in some pretty things.

(Okay, Matisse, stop procrastinating and go write.)