Continuing my 2011 smackdown, please welcome Mistress Matisse and Susie Bright. There is a delicate balance when one achieves mainstream prominence as a sex worker/former sex worker. It’s important to remember you’re assumed to speak for sex workers, and young sex workers look up to you. It helps not to throw sex workers without a column under the bus.

What’s out in 2011? Belittling the concerns of already-marginalized people who were affected by a disturbed con artist. I’m not sure that the whole fauxho scandal was about “winning hearts and minds” so much as sounding a warning. Blogging about it or sharing information wasn’t about trying to make money or impress clients. Nor was it about making nice with the sex blogging community. I think that bridge was burned long before this.

As for seeking bona fide members of the community to represent sex workers to the world, well, chances are really good that if we could elect those representatives they would be someone who wouldn’t make light of a predator in our midst.

The Craigslist debacle of 2010 really separated the in-the-trenches sex workers from those quite obviously above it.

First, Susie Bright’s blog post was infuriating. The wording has been changed since I left my comment. The way it originally read made it sound as though the Craigslist Erotic Services ad were simply there to entertain the terminally hip. Not like there were any people trying to make a living, ads were posted just for the amusement of non-clients. She bemoaned the days when “the cool factor went away went from the sex ads,” when they clearly slipped into the territory of commercial. Damn those sex workers for trying to make a buck off a free-entertainment site!

Of course, what got me the most was her comments on legalization and her dismissal of my call for decrim. Note to Miss Bright: sex workers want decriminalization. They do not wish to be legally regulated into further stigmatization. I don’t know what sex workers you’ve been talking to recently, everyone I know wants decrim. If you’re going to speak for sex workers, get this basic concept right. Decrim does give us all the rights of any other citizen and businessperson. We do not need legalization for that to happen. Please ask SWOP or Desiree Alliance for a briefing on the differences.

Then Matisse weighed in. To her, it wasn’t just about censorship, it was about lazy sex workers who don’t have a clue about online advertising. I half-expected her to suggest everyone get their own column as a venue for advertising.

I’ve used CL in the US and internationally. I know an upper-end escort who initially started out on CL charging nearly the same amount as she does now. I know plenty of mid-range girls who put up an ad on the days they wanted to work and presto! they had their quota. And then there are the agencies and rip-offs and other assorted types whose ads we competed with (and clients tried to avoid). Not to mention that CL reached small towns the large national malls do not. Or how about that CL provided for all sorts of categories (like M4WM or M4MM or the various TV/TS categories) that the large national malls do not? CL was well-known and extremely democratic. It wasn’t about laziness, it was about good and simple business.

I won’t ever defend CL as a bastion of taste, refinement or intellect, though I found some great clients off there. Nor will I ever claim CL advertising was useful for higher-end escorts (because it generally wasn’t). Up until 2009, it was about sex workers doing exactly what they wanted with no one to stand in their way. That’s not laziness, that’s freedom. For many providers, a quick ad on CL introduced them to online escort work (then they found my books and moved forward). CL would have been my choice for dabbling had it been an option when I was in college (back when “investing” in my work meant buying name-brand condoms and scented candles).

Of course, that’s all best understood if you’re one of the hordes working hard to provide entertaining ads to hipsters rather than being those who are glad they aren’t you.

14 thoughts on “aerials

  1. I am very appreciative of you saying the things that need to be said. You are courageous in your pursuit of integrity even if it ruffles feathers. Your character and courage are appreciated.

  2. With the Matisse thing, it was interesting to see that what she sees as “lazy”, most other people would just see as “poor.” It’s like a millionaire Republican looking at people on welfare and telling them to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and try harder. Publicly mocking the (mostly) lower-end sex workers who relied on Craigslist, in between tweeting/blogging about designer clothing and champagne, earns her my Let Them Eat Cake award.

    *Out* in 2011: Using your mainstream weekly newspaper to publicly make fun of sex workers with less money and options than you.

  3. Jill — Thank you. I’m glad you see it that way!

    FG — It IS a class thing, you’re right. CL being free (up until its final year) and bringing results helped out a LOT of people who needed it. Some moved beyond CL, some never could; either way they made money off there. “Free” is certainly cheaper and easier than jumping through the hoops and paying the cost of Eros.

    Your “out in 2011” is better than mine!


  4. Amanda – Very well said about CL, its convenience and its egalitarianism. To me, MM’s article sounded like exactly what Ms. Bright would want – a pithy blurb, useless to actual sex workers, but appealing to hipsters who want to think they’re “in the know”.

  5. Big catch up day!
    I feel strongly about the legalisation/decriminalisation argument. I don’t know what the “official definitions” are but I have a real problem with these things according to my definitions.

    Legalisation (and that’s what we have in Victoria) is just another way of the majority regulating and controlling what sex workers and their clients do. It leads to misery for workers and misery for clients.

    In this state two people cannot mutually touch each other, masturbate or have sex together for money unless one of them is licensed under the legislation.

    I hope that the legislation is very carefully written because that sounds like many marriages I know!

    So you end up with two classes: the people with licenses and the people who whatever reason don’t have a license. There is a very large illegal industry in Victoria. It’s workers are almost exclusively students and other immigrants from mainland China. They all have one thing in common: they are workers by economic necessity. The second very common trait is that they do not wish to apply for a license because they believe that doing so may affect their applications for visas or permanent residency.

    The law in this case leads to a group of people being persecuted for reasons that are unfathomable to me. Their clients suffer the same fate!

    As always the same applies in spades to street workers.

    Decriminalisation on the other hand means “normalisation” to me. It simply means that society agrees that what you do is so normal and non-threatening that we don’t need to know about it.

    That’s the decision that we have very rightly (and much too late) made about homosexuality in this country and the same should apply to sex work.

  6. The other thing I wanted to say and forgot is that I think from a sales pitch perspective, its too bad that the options are currently presented as decriminalization vs. legalization (=regulation) rather than legalization (=decriminalization) vs. regulation. It seems as though the way it is now, making a pitch or advocating has to include alot of explanation of what the two options are (we want it legal, but not legalized kind of thing). Whereas the other way, regulation is an easy thing to speak against, and legal means legal.

  7. First Amanda, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Second, I have a huge amount of respect for people who are willing to say what needs to be said even if it may step on some political toes.

    Character is an imperative to be an activist and you have a great deal of it. I’m a major Amanda believer.

  8. Lee — 🙂

    CA — We have problems with legalization for the exact same reasons: it invites the governement into our bedrooms and bodies — not really where any sane person WANTS the government. It can also turn the government into a pimp or allow for legal pimps (as seen with the Nevada brothel system).

    The decrim model that NZ passed is based on the idea that sex work between consenting adults is basically another form of sex between consenting adults — nothing more and nothing less. Brothels/agencies fall under workplace health/safety laws (as well they should). Individuals are simply acting as adults. That’s the way everyone I know wants it!

    Lee — Ooooh!!! Very good point! Yes! I think I’m going to start using that. You’re right, EVERYONE understands government regulation.

    Though there are a lot of people who think prostitution SHOULD be heavily regulated to guard against all the supposed disease that’s being spread (by the women, of course).

    Jill — 😀 Thank you Jill! You have quite a bit of character yourself!


  9. Re craigslist: definite bummer that it’s gone. I think craigslist erotic ads were great, to an extent, in normalizing sex work and increasing exposure to sex work in general…both for girls who’ve always been interested in doing sex work and for men who were always interested but had hangups…For someone, especially in america, interested but uninformed, the idea of going onto a website like Eros or roomservice and just putting up an advert is sort of intimidating and implies a level of commitment/effort I assume a lot of people interested in exploring sex work just aren’t ready to make.

    Personally, I worked for an agency for a bit while abroad and then started advertising on craigslist. It was great, because CL, yeah, got a bunch of timewasters, but it also self-selected for native or fluent English speakers and business travelers who wanted more personalized services…and I think because of the language thing and the type of clients I got, enjoyed the CL bunch a lot more than the clients who came through the agency.

  10. Meg — “For someone, especially in america, interested but uninformed, the idea of going onto a website like Eros or roomservice and just putting up an advert is sort of intimidating and implies a level of commitment/effort I assume a lot of people interested in exploring sex work just aren’t ready to make.”

    Exactly. CL was perfect for the entry-level crowd. Sadly, due to laws in the US, entry-level education isn’t available, hence a lot of the problems with total newbies using CL w/o mentoring.

    I’m still furious that it has bowed to pressure and removed its Erotic Services section worldwide. Wrong wrong wrong.


  11. I used Backpage – and I’m hoping they don’t bow to the pressure to remove their adult ads as well. It was easy to use, self-selected for those with enough money and education to be able to look up an ad on the Internet, and I made terrific money from it.

    The downside was that LE knew about it too. But from my POV – that was the only downside. Decrim would take care of that.

  12. Lailah — Don’t know if you’ve been on BP since the whole CL thing, but they’ve tightened down advertising. However, the rules are being very arbitrarly enforced. BP is in the cross-hairs of the antis. They’re working on taking it down too. 🙁


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