Here is the presentation I will be giving next week on the history (and importance!) of sex worker made media as a way to provide context for the sex worker zine project, which will be my final project.
The Sex Worker Zine Project seeks to create a zine showcasing the diversity of sex workers’ experiences of all genders, sexualities, ages, abilities, nationalities, immigration statuses, races, and ethnic backgrounds. International submissions encouraged! This yet to be titled zine will be printed in full cover and will be available for sale with profits supporting the work of SWOP-NYC. All accepted contributors will receive a free copy of the completed zine. This zine is intended to be informal, informational, and accessible.
How to Contribute
Are you a current or former sex worker or someone who has experienced trading sex for money, food, housing, drugs, hormones, and/or other survival needs? We want to hear from you! Please submit your work on a sheet of paper 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ (ex. half a sheet of letter size paper) with quarter inch margins, full color (or black and white, high contract) page to our zine project. Please do not fold the paper if possible. Include on a separate page (either attached with a paper clip or leave unattached) your name (does not need to be your legal name), age, email address and/or phone number, and a mailing address should you wish to receive a copy if your page is makes it in the final project. Please state how, if at all, you wish to be credited for your work. (ex. Sparkley Stacey, John Doe, Anonymous in India, etc.) Be creative! Use pens, markers, collage, glitter, what ever way you wish to express yourself! You can use text or images alone or together. You can submit up to five pages but we will probably only be able to print one page per person. Your original materials will not be returned to you.
Your submission must be postmarked by May 1, 2011.
Can allies contribute?
We will consider submissions by allies! If you are an ally, friend, family member, child, parent, or partner of a sex worker, your story and advice is also valuable! Please consider submitting a page to the zine and please note if you are an ally with your submission.
Submissions by E-Mail
You can submit your piece by email if you are able (for example, created in PhotoShop or if it is scanned) at 300dpi resolution. Please email to: sarahjenny(at)gmail(dot)com.
Submissions by Mail
Mail your submission to:
4th Floor, ITP
New York, NY 10003 USA
Contribute In Person!
We will be providing supplies to make your own contribution at the International Day for Sex Workers’ Rights Potluck on Tuesday, March 1st in New York City. More information coming soon!
Prompts & Ideas for Submissions
Your techniques for self-care, ex. bubble bath, cooking a good meal, playing with your dog, etc.
Techniques for harm reduction, ex. getting tested regularly, tips for screening clients, strategies for staying safe, etc.
How To Be An Ally To Sex Workers
Tips for Partners of Sex Workers – how to be supportive, how to decide whether or not to come out to a partner, etc.
Illustrate your favorite work outfit
Illustrate your favorite outfit in general!
What does a bad day at work feel like? How do you cope? What would you like to see change?
Illustrate and write about what sex work is like in your city, region, or country.
Illustrate and write about what you imagine ideal working conditions to be like — ex. decriminalization, health care, etc.
Tell us about your sex worker community!
Parenting and sex work
How to create cross-movement solidarity within social justice movements
A list of your favorite support resources, books, magazines, and organizations
In Jonathan Harris’ collects stories TED talk was interesting in that I liked the many ways he was able to share an immense number of stories in a visually interesting way. The piece about Bhutan struck a chord with me, however I tend to find it tricky when a person with white skin privilege from the global North (“first world”) travels to an “exotic” locale to tell the stories of folks who do not share his privilege. This is obviously something that I think about to some extent frequently, as someone with a certain amount of privilege as well. That said, while it is wonderful to learn about the desires of and dreams of folks around the world, I wonder what the Bhutanese people depicted in his project got out of it. According to some brief research I did following the viewing, the average daily income for a person living in Bhutan is $3.60 US. I don’t know much about the politics of Bhutan but have to question the rhetoric of Gross National Happiness and how that is or is not related to GDP. In a highly capitalist society such as the United States, $3.60 a day would be considered deeply impoverished. (Though keep in mind we pay prison workers far less!) I’d be interested in a less superficial presentation of the Bhutanese. What does this $3.60 afford them? Clearly we saw folks with tenuous or transient housing experiences depicted. Wishes are one thing, but what about needs? Some poignant perspectives came out of the project such as a desire for independent for women and housing security. The bit about documenting hands seemed superficial to me. The hands of laborers around the work are marred by calluses, scars, dirt, and sweat. This is the workers’ universal experience. I wanted more from Harris, but maybe what I was really after was Harris putting the cameras in the hands of the people and giving them space to tell their own stories. Addendum: Someone contacted me today to share her work with a participatory photo project where South African migrant sex workers documented themselves and their lives. You can see the project here.
On a blistery cold winter night, Detective Olivia Benson sat bleary eyed over musty manila folders on her cold desk. Detective Munch sauntered in.
“We just caught another case. Get ready for another long night.” The other detectives all sighed. Another night away from family, from loved ones, from sleep. But the special victims served here in the sixteenth precinct took priority and with good reason.
Detective Stabler took a seat on the edge of his desk, his hands clasped in his lap, asking “So what are we looking at here?” Tutuolla, Stabler, and Benson all looked toward Munch with anticipation.
“A dancer at the Pussycat Lounge downtown was attacked and sexually assault tonight as she was leaving work. Benson, Stabler – head down there and interview the witnesses. Tutuolla, Craigin is sending us to canvas the area. Let’s see if we get lucky with any neighboring security cameras. Big brother is always watching.”
Dark and musty with the scent of beer, the Pussycat Lounge was not the most inviting environment. A woman in an array of mismatched lacy underthings tossed their long flowing hair perfumed with the scent of cherry blossoms intermingled with cigarette smoke on the stage. Benson took a seat at the bar.
“Can I ask you a few questions?” she inquired. The music was loud and the broad backed bartender with salt and pepper hair was fixing a drink. Benson asked louder. The bartender turned around and approached Benson with a slight smile, a smile that Benson returned. Something clicked inside Benson at the sight of the handsome woman. Her dark brown eyes with their liquid centers, her masculine jaw, and well muscled arms as she carefully placed her hands on the bar.
“Can I help you?” the handsome butch asked. Benson pulled herself together and took out her badge, displaying it and answering “Yes, I am here to ask a few questions about the assault on one of your employees earlier tonight. She’s in stable condition at St. Vincent’s. Did you notice anything unusual tonight?”
The butch sighed, “Yeah. Actually, do you mind if we take this outside? I’m due for a smoke break.” Benson nodded and followed her outside.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name in there,” said the butch as she fidgeted in the pocket of her Levi’s for a pack of smokes.
“Olivia, Detected Olivia Benson,” she offered, “and you?”
“My name is Sam Murphy,” she said as she brought the cigarette to her lips. Her hands looked rough, like the hands of the women she knew growing up who worked in the canning factories upstate. Strong women, resistant to conforming to socially accepted women’s work and gender presentation. Olivia drew her eyes up to meet Sam’s gaze, self conscious about observing Sam’s gestures so intently.
“It was mostly the regulars tonight,” said Sam as she inhaled, “but there were a few new faces. But one stuck out.”
Benson’s ears perked and her eyes widened as she waited for Sam to continue.
“Yeah, well, he was real quiet. Sat inside at the bar and watched the dancers for a while. Slowly sipped on a few drinks. He bought one for Stacey. You see, it’s not a lapdance club. If you want a dancer to spend time with you, you gotta buy her a drink. She sits next to you, flirts, but there is no touching and no lapdancing. We don’t have the license. Anyway, just before the end of her shift, he disappears. I think he must of headed out the back. We got a back door out there by the bathrooms. He coulda just slipped outside. I am so angry this happened to one of my girls.”
Olivia felt simultaneously repulsed by Sam’s paternalism and comforted by her concern.
“Can you describe him?” asked Benson as she took out a small lined notepad and pencil.
“Geez, I don’t know. Nothing notable. Average white guy, thirty-something, clean shaved, dark polo shirt maybe and jeans.”
“Anything else?” Olivia asked, as she fingered the pages of her notebook. Her eyes met Sam’s. They were smiling. In this moment, Benson felt a warmth come over her. She found herself immensely drawn to Sam. A breeze passed suddenly down the wind tunnel of the avenue and the scent of cigarettes intermingled with cheap aftershave.
“Yeah, can I give you my number? Maybe we can meet for drinks some time. I mean, not here….” Sam trailed off.
Olivia smiled and bit her lower lip. A rush of courage came over her and she said, “I’ll think about it” as she reached out her notepad and pen for Sam to scrawl her number down.
The piece I read to prepare for this was entitled “Jealousy” and was a suggestive slash piece about Dr. B.D. Wong and Detective Stabler.
While I was less interested in the comic book piece, “A History of Fandom” was actually quite interesting in understanding how fan fiction came to be. I find it so interesting that it began in response to science fiction, homoeroticism, and women carving out a space for their own creativity. I also found it interesting most of the same gendered eroticism that emerges from fan fiction is between men and not between women. I wonder if I just had a lapse in research or if this is actually the case. While I don’t imagine I will write more fan fiction in the future, I have been an avid fan of Law and Order for years. During my recovery from wisdom tooth extraction, I watched marathons with my father. Maybe it was the haze of pain killers and all the delicious chocolate pudding in my system, but I was hooked. Even though the plots are completely predictable and SVU in particular can be really intense and problematic, I can’t seem to pull myself away. I always thought Detective Benson’s character could be queer. Their is something subversive about her and the lack of a storyline around her romantic inclinations leaves room for creative interpretation. As such, I created a love interest for her loosely modeled after Leslie Feinberg’s main character in Stone Butch Blues.It is often the presence of a queer romance that femme identity becomes visible. Bringing the character Sam into play created space for Benson’s queer identity to emerge and begin to be explored.