Persecution of Kink

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I have been to several sex clubs and sex-related parties around the world. My favorites include Club Desire in Seoul, and The Velvet Rope in Portland. I have a lot of good memories there, and I hope to get to go back some day.

Most cities don’t grant zoning for a sex club. Portland happens to be one of the few places that does, and so The Velvet Rope is “legal.” Meanwhile Seoul does not grant zoning for a sex club, so Club Desire is “illegal.”

I don’t know why anyone thinks they should have a right to tell grown-ass consenting adults what to do in private clubs. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s anyone’s fucking business.

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Yet, there is a worldwide crackdown going on, and it’s targeting open-minded people who like to have fun.

Recent reports came out about a club in Thailand where consenting adults (mostly married couples) attended an orgy were treated as though they were criminals. First off, if a hotel of all places can’t host an orgy then who the hell can?!? But more than that, how dare the news outlets write it up like the attendees were criminals? They broke no laws, and were released without charges. But of course they were, because having consensual sex is not illegal yet.

Just the next day reports came in about Fetlife parties being hosted at a private home in Colorado. All the windows were shut and shuttered and no one broke a single law, but the news still wrote it up as though people having consensual sex was a crime! The residents admit that no noise ordinances were being violated and there was literally no law at all being broken, but said they still planned to stop it.

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All this comes in the wake of the US law FOSTA-SESTA being passed. This law claims to “stop sex trafficking.” However, what it really does is give the government a license to shut down any website where a person could meet a sex worker. Oh sure, it started with Backpage and the Craigslist Personals, but do you think they are going to stop there?

After all, I have had prostitutes solicit me on Tinder and OkCupid. I have my gender set to “male” on Facebook and I get sex workers trying to add me all the time on there. They claim to be “models” but then offer to meet up for money.

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Basically; our freedom to be kinky and have fun sex is being attacked from every angle. After all, you may be able to get a prostitute on OkCupid, but we don’t use it for that. We use it to meet other kinky people because they have questions that allow you to imply that you are into kink and get matches of other people who are as well.

Of course, I am saying that kink is in danger from all of this -and it is- but that’s not the only issue. I may selfishly be more worried about kink than other aspects of this law because it has a direct effect on me. However, this also really puts sex workers in danger, and I think that is something that everyone should be upset about.

There will always be people who sell their bodies. Coal miners, for example. They are going to die of black lung, but they choose money over their health and do a job that makes them sick. Workers in oil fields are the same, as are fire-fighters. If you put your life and health in danger for money, then you are selling your body.

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Yet sex work is treated differently from these other types of selling your body. Why? It’s the same thing, except the health risks are not as bad. And like all other ways that you can sell your body, these people should be allowed to have unions, healthcare, and everything else any other job has. Instead, we are going the other way and taking away their rights and their safety.

Critics will say “This is about victims of sex trafficking” and then they will lie to you and quote over-inflates statistics for how many people are the victims of trafficking. Don’t get me wrong; sex trafficking does sometimes happen. It is a big deal and we should absolutely stop it. However, it’s far less common that conservatives would have you believe, and the only way to fight it is by legalizing sex work.

I am from Arizona. In Arizona you have to get a license to be an exotic dancer. This licensing requirement helps make sure that all the girls are of legal age, consenting to what they are doing, and not trafficking victims. It is a way to make sure that those girls are doing what they want to be doing. I think it costs $15, so it’s not hard to get. You fill out a couple forms and *BOOM* you’re legal.

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If we did this same thing for prostitution, we could easily catch all trafficking victims and rescue them immediately.

Keeping things in the shadows makes it easy for abuse to happen. Bringing things into the light, on the other hand, helps protect people and stop abuse. There is no way around it; because this is backed up by data from the US and from many other countries. Legal and regulated sex work saves lives, and it stops human trafficking.

Meanwhile, “busting” sex clubs, orgies, and sexy parties just makes you a fascist dickbag. And taking down websites just because someone might meet a sex worker on one of them is insane. You could meet a sex worker on nearly any website on the internet. If you want to shut down all websites where someone can meet someone, all that will be left is places to buy things. It’ll be a digital storefront and nothing else. That is not the internet that anyone should want.

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Slut-Shaming is Still Wrong

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I have said before that slut-shaming is wrong. I will continue to say this because so many men refuse to understand this point, and it gets tiresome.

First, I was recently called a “disgusting sex-worker” and I want to deconstruct all the things wrong with that.

Let’s start with sex workers. This would be someone who sleeps with people for money. A sex worker can be male or female. It is obviously safer to be a sex worker in a place where it is legal, because then regulations can be placed on the industry and STD tests conducted frequently.

I recently had a wonderful sex worker named Nell Gwyn do a guest post on this blog, and it was a brilliant explanation of why someone would choose to work in the sex industry, and how much fun it can be.

Nell acknowledges that some sex workers are coerced. However, legalizing this industry would allow us to shed light on who is doing the work, and make sure that all the people doing it are like Nell (willing and happy with their job.)

These people are doing a job they like, and I think most of the male spite for them comes from the fact that men can not easily get paid to have sex, and so they are very jealous.

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But there is certainly another point to make here: It is not disgusting to have sex!

Why do some men hold on to this antiquated notion that sex is disgusting? And if a woman become “dirty” when she has sex with a man, then isn’t it obvious that we should be looking at HIM for making her “dirty” by touching her? Does this not imply that all men are foul creatures who put dirt on a woman by touching her?

That is ridiculous. Seriously, it’s nuts!

Sex is fun. People should have it because it is enjoyable and also good for your health. Many scientific studies have proven that people who have more sex live longer. I guess we already knew that before science studied it, because of Hugh Hefner. But seriously; it’s fun and it’s good for you. Why would anyone be against people having sex? What horrible prudes feel this way?

As I tried to explain to this person who was slut-shaming, he is only hurting himself. Men want to have sex with women. And yet, some men choose to call women awful names and treat them badly for having sex. This is obviously a case of them acting directly against their own interests. If you shame women for having sex and think they shouldn’t have it, then what will you and your fellow men have sex with, I wonder? Does this mean men should stop sleeping with women (since it makes them dirty and disgusting) and fuck goats instead? Is that somehow cleaner and better?

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But if you are a man, and you do want to have sex with a women, then you are nothing short of stupid and wrong to shame women for having sex. It hurts your cause more than anything else you could do, and never have I seen a more clear example of someone acting against their own interests.

Then there’s the fact that this vanilla person does not even know what a sex worker actually is. It is someone who performs sex acts for money, as per the definition.

To explain all the ways a Dominatrix is not a sex worker, I have to start by telling you that a dungeon is a safe place for a BDSM couple to go learn more about the kink scene, and to play. Because a dungeon is a space that vanilla people do not understand, let me explain what happens in a dungeon.

A person who works there (which has been me at two different dungeons over 10 years) will show you around. We will explain the rules. In most dungeons it is fine to have sex, and it is fine to be nude. But you may not take out your phone or any device with a camera, touch anyone without permission, or interrupt anyone else’s “scene.”

When we say “safe, sane, and consensual” we really mean it.

After a couple is given the tour, they will be allowed to explore the various things the dungeon has to offer. These will be things like cages, sex swings, and BDSM furniture. It is typical for people to bring their own toys, because the sharing of bodily fluids is never encouraged. You also typically find wet wipes with alcohol around, so you can disinfect any furniture you use, just like wiping down a machine at the gym.






But a Dominatrix does more than just give tours. We also teach workshops on scene negotiation, BDSM for new folks, how to use toys like a violet wand or a flogger, and how to conduct an open relationship. I have done workshops on these and many other topics. During the workshops where I am teaching the use of a toy, I will generally have a submissive who acts as my demo bunny so people can actually see the toy in action. However if no one is available, I can of course demonstrate certain things on myself, like the girl above showing how a violet wand works.

A sex worker is different because they are not teaching someone how to act in a dungeon or how to use a flogger. They are actually engaging in sex acts for money. I do not think this is wrong, and I admire all the sex workers I know and have known (I met my first when I was 16. Her name was Julia and she was amazing!).

However, I do not personally participate in sex acts for money, because it is simply not something that falls within my personal comfort level. And that does not mean it is wrong! It simple means it’s not MY thing, much like blood play or a few other hard limits of mine.

So the person who claimed a Dominatrix is a sex worker and that sex workers are disgusting did so for several reasons. The main reason is, of course, ignorance of BDSM and what happens at a dungeon. But also there is an inherit bias in this thinking, involving the religious idea that sex is somehow wrong or dirty (which of course it is not) and that women are somehow made less by having sex (which of course they are not.) It is actually hard to be more wrong than he was, and I hope someday he realizes his vast mistakes in logic and in character.

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Disclaimer: If you are religious, good for you. But in my experience that comes with a lot of baggage about sex. I have had to counsel a lot of people about their feelings of shame when it comes to sex, and personally I think it is horrible that people are taught to be ashamed of natural biological functions. So if you are religious, fine. But for the love of all that is logical and rational, don’t teach your kids to be ashamed of sex! Teach them how to be safe, and how to know when they are ready. But do not instill the same and disgust that these slut-shaming folks have had instilled in them. There is nothing more unnatural and wrong. 

Guest Post by Nell Gwyn

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(Note: This post is written by a sex worker whom I admire. Obviously it is not representative of all people in the industry. But it is a beautiful insight into a world often kept in the shadows. I hope you enjoy it. Without further ado, here is Nell.)

Nell Gwyn here, legendary whore and magical unicorn. My friend Violet asked me to write a post for her blog, and I thought it might be good to go over some of the basic questions people ask me when they find out how I earn a living. I see one of my primary roles as a sex worker rights’ activist as an educator and demystifier. The stigma surrounding sex work is a huge problem both in the US, where I operate, and worldwide. It promotes violence against us, contributes to the criminalization of our work, and causes very really repercussions in our families and communities. I figure that if I can help just a few more people understand what it really means to do consensual sex work, perhaps I can help to break down some of these walls between we sex workers and you muggles.

Before I begin with the FAQ, it is important to note that I am just one sex worker out there in a vast sea of many. I can only tell you about my own experience. I have known many other sex workers with life experiences similar to mine, but I would never assume I speak for them. This is also not an exhaustive list of every question I end up getting asked; it’s more a list of basics and then some of the more annoying questions and explanations as to why they’re bad.

 It is important to remember as you read this that someone you know has probably done a form of sex work at one time or another in their life, or may even be a current sex worker. We often don’t disclose that information to everyone we know. If a person is female and/ or (gender) queer, the chances that they have done sex work begin to go up. Sex workers are probably literally your friends and family, and you may not even know it.

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Q: Wait, what’s a sex worker?

A: The term “sex work” was coined in the late 70’s by self-described prostitute and activist Carol Leigh. It is actually an umbrella term used to refer to all forms of sexual labor, including but not limited to full service (actual sex, usually penetrative), stripping/ exotic dancing, erotic/ sensual massage, pro domination/ submission/ switching, sugar babying (with sex), adult film performers, adult photography modeling, web camming, phone sex, and hands-on education or therapy, sometimes called surrogacy or sexual surrogacy.

If you are curious what type of sex work I do, I have done many of these, both in the past and currently. I make the bulk of my income as a full service provider and sugar baby. I also do adult film performance, live performance, modeling, pro switching, and, arguably, sex therapy and surrogacy.

Q: Why do y’all use an umbrella term to describe yourselves? Why not just say you’re a prostitute?

A: Many of us often do identify with other terms for sex work amongst our friends and in safe spaces. However, there are a couple of problems with many of the terms used to described sex work.

The first is that the more illegal and/ or stigmatized the work you do is, the more unsafe it is to use the individual terms in unfamiliar situations or spaces. This is especially true for full service sex workers, but can also be true no matter what sort of sex work you do. Anything that can be construed to be similar to prostitution is a seedy and scary place to find oneself amongst the wrong company. And using the P word in reference to yourself can, in theory, get you arrested. Or bring trouble your way at the very least.

 The second reason is because many of the only words used to describe our work have also been used to stigmatize our work in modern history. Words like whore, prostitute, stripper, dominatrix, gold-digger, etc. are hardly ever used kindly or with nearly the reverence we feel they deserve. Calling all of them sex work draws attention the fact that it is work. It is, in fact, difficult yet often rewarding emotional labor. It also calls to attention the fact that many of us do many different sorts of sex work, and can’t always identify as just one.

 And on that note, how a whore like me self-identifies does not give you permission to call me anything other than a sex worker or, under the right circumstances, a full service provider. I am the lenient sort who let my friends and those I trust use those words to describe me, but for the love of God please at least check in with a sex worker before your start using pejorative terms to describe them or their work.

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Q: How do you advertise? How do full service sex workers find clients?

A: There are as many different hustles for clients out there as there are full service providers; each one of us usually has our own unique approach that works for us. In some ways it is not safe to talk about the ways in which this all goes down; teaching others how to practice full service or teaching clients how to hire us is also criminalized, and can be conflated with pimping and pandering, both felony charges in the US.

 But, to give you a basic overview, most indoor full service sex work gets negotiated over the Internet these days. There are sites where you can advertise and you can handle potential clients through email. You can build your own website and optimize it for google searches. You can have a social media presence. You can do background checks on your clients and check national blacklists for their names. Those who work on their own are called independent providers, and some independent providers who are doing well hire assistants to do this administrative work for them. Others work for agencies who do their advertising and security for them in exchange for a cut. There are some brothels, and some independent sex workers who work together and share space cooperatively.

 Outdoor sex work is still also done, but from what I can tell is much more rare since the advent of the Internet. Since I do not do this sort of work, I cannot speak to how it goes down. But I will say that the sensationalized trope of a scantily clad woman approaching a man in a car and asking him if he’s looking for a good time is not always accurate. Outdoor and street workers deserve just as much respect and societal protections as indoor workers- or workers in legal areas of sex work- do.

 Q: Isn’t it dangerous? What about STDs, rape, abuse, murder, drugs, fear, fear and more fear?

A: Yes, it can be risky. So is driving your car to work every day. So are jobs in healthcare, construction, logging, mining, professional driving, warehouse labor, home maintenance, you name it. Being a person of color, LGBTQ, disabled or even just being a woman is dangerous no matter what sort of work you do. You could argue that choosing to be a sex worker on top of being born into less privilege is adding insult to injury, but that argument starts to fall apart when you consider how much those groups of people tend to be discriminated against when searching for “real” work. It is a risk that many choose to take when faced with other options such as poverty or inability to obtain upward mobility.

 Many sex workers do take measures to insure their safety, to the best of their ability. We screen clients, we give references to each other, we maintain a national blacklist here in the US. We use condoms and other barriers and get tested frequently. We do have strategies. Not included in our strategies is reporting to the police when we are attacked, because the police either don’t take us seriously or arrest us. This, right here, is the crux of what makes sex work dangerous. And it doesn’t have to be. If stigma and criminalization could be eliminated, we could take further measures to insure our safety.

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Q: Aren’t you afraid no one will ever love you again? – Or- Isn’t your partner jealous?

A: Ha! I’m really glad you asked this, as I’m the perfect person to bust that myth all to shit.

 Many sex workers do have problems finding love, and it’s all your fault. If this sort of question even occurs to you at all, consider what it might be like to love a sex worker for just one second. We tend to be extremely compassionate, loving and giving individuals. We also know a few things about sex, though some of us may be sexually exhausted from using those skills in our work. I’m not always one of those people; for me it usually depends on the day and the amount of effort I have expended at work.

 I was very lucky to enter into the industry as a non-monogamous individual with numerous romantic partners and a very supportive community. For the most part I tend to fraternize with people who understand that their jealousy is their problem, and not mine. This doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to discuss problems when they come up, or adjust my behavior in order to help a partner feel more comfortable with our relationship. It just means I have a low tolerance for possessiveness or ownership, or other forms of relational entitlement.

 For me personally, non-monogamy has worked very well for my career and personal relationship choices. Many sex workers are non-monogamous like me, and others are monogamous with one partner outside of their work. Others are waiting to leave the industry to find a partner(s). I do think it’s important to point out, though, that we are definitely capable of feeling love without financial incentive. Assuming we are not is another layer of damaging rhetoric that is used against us.

 

Q: If there was one thing you wish you could tell the rest of the world about sex work, what would it be?

A: In case you haven’t gathered this from the way I answered these other questions, I think the most important thing to remember about sex workers is that we’re just normal, average people. Yes, there may be ways in which we conduct our lives that make us seem extraordinary to an outsider. But we’re not an alien super-breed of sexed up babes out to steal your husbands. Nor are we your worst nightmare of a life gone terribly wrong. We’re not victims for your tragedy porn and we’re not evil succubi set on eroding your morality.

 We’re just people and we deserve a little respect.