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Desiree Alliance Conference – The Audacity of Health: Sex Work, Health, and Politics

December 13, 2012
Originally published on Bound, Not Gagged

5th Desiree Alliance Conference – The Audacity of Health: Sex Work, Health, & Politics

July 14-19, 2013 Las Vegas, NV

Registration is Now Open for the 5th Desiree Alliance Conference

Early Registration Deadline: January 15, 2013

Please read the registration details below to begin the process.

The Desiree Alliance is a national social justice organization that is led by current and former sex workers in coalition with health professionals, social scientists, educators, and their supporting networks focused on building leadership, capacity-building, organizing and constructive activism for sex worker rights and autonomy.

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Southern Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Conference

August 19, 2012

Don’t miss this fantastic event! I won’t!

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Report: Summit on Sex Work in the South

December 8, 2011

When I think about sex work in the south, two things come to mind immediately, things firmly implanted during my childhood. The first is hearing Dolly Parton on the radio when I was 7 or 8 years old, talking about how she modeled her signature look after a prostitute in her Tennessee hometown: the hair, nails, and flashy dresses. For some reason, a reason I don’t understand even now, I fell in love with her right then and there. The second thought is of Reba McIntyre’s song “Fancy”, which tells the story of a young girl from Louisiana whose “momma turned her out” in hopes that she could make a better life using her God-given assets: “Just be nice to the gentleman, Fancy, and they’ll be nice to you.” The message was clear, and I loved Reba the first time I heard that song, though the reasons for that are a little easier for me to grasp when I look back. (Yes, I just said I love both Dolly and Reba. I’m not ashamed of those facts. Ironically, my mom had cows named Dolly and Reba for a long time. One of the two is dead now, but the other is still living, though I can’t recall which one of the two remains. And, yes, my mom has pet cows. I’m definitely from the South!)

When I first head about the Summit on Sex Work in the South, sponsored by NC Harm Reduction, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mean despite how prevalent the subject is in Southern popular culture, it’s not a topic we talk about much down here. But when I saw the amazing list of people who were scheduled to attend—Asheville Sex Worker Outreach Project, Sex Workers Without Borders, Women with a Vision, North Carolina Sex Workers Alliance, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), Human Rights Watch—I knew I had to go.

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Whiskey Girl

December 5, 2011

Today I spent time setting up my Twitter for the next few days, then was interrupted by dinner, shopping, and drinking. So, I’m a double liar, who will bring you the promised post tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Not Today

December 4, 2011

I promised you a post about the Summit on Sex Work today, but I slept too long, then spent a lot of time updating the blog. (I hope you like the changes!)

So, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that report. I want to make sure it does the Summit justice, and hopefully, you won’t be disappointed.

Edit: Of course, now I’m mulling over what I should do with my Tumblr blog. Thinking of making it about writing, which is what I tried to turn this blog into; not sure that’s the way to go there either.

Construction Zone

December 4, 2011

This blog will be under construction throughout the day. So, things may look a little wonky and incomplete. Bear with me. I will finish before the day is through.

If You’re New Here, This Won’t Make Much Sense

December 4, 2011

There was a time when I wrote this blog as if no one was watching, or rather only a few people were watching—a close-knit group who knew me, even if they didn’t really know me at all, at least not in the flesh. I was so open, so careless, so much like me. It feels like that was ages ago. It was a different place, a different time, nearly a different person who could so easily pour herself onto the wide-open space of the internet. I’d been doing it for years, in smaller spaces, with the same small group I imagined might follow me when I moved into a larger space that I could fully control. It was a matter of necessity that I move here, leave the smaller space behind, as it both hurt and confined me to stay in that tight circle.

One day, I realized other people were watching, and things slowly began to change. I told myself that I was becoming more directed in my actions as an activist, that I was serving a greater purpose when I filled this space. The older version of me remained, but only in pieces. It became more of an aside, though it occasionally took over. When it did, I was still serving a purpose in my mind, adding a human element to my sex workers’ rights mission.

I talk as if it was all planned. Really, it just happened, and I only see it with clarity now. Things often appear planned when we’re looking back. It’s our way of convincing ourselves that we didn’t make a mistake when we changed, though we always make mistakes. We always slip somewhere.

There came yet another day, which still feels distant but was just over a year ago, when I realized He was watching. He: aloof, secretive, too important in my mind. But I knew He was lurking here.

Everything jumbled together then. My purpose and direction faltered. I longed for the openness, the carelessness, that once took over when I approached these pages. At that time, I used this as a space to be open in ways I couldn’t be in the flesh. I guess you could say I got lost in me. The utility of this space was a mirror of my life, as it often is. I can’t say I got lost in He, because so much of He existed within me in the first place. That was always be the problem with He.

Suddenly, just as things got jumbled when He was watching, things crumbled when He stopped. I hid myself away. I ultimately left this space, making only minor appearances, too infrequent, and often too manufactured, to be of any use to anyone, myself included.

Today, as I drove home from the Summit on Sex Work, I made a promise to myself: I would change again. I would reinvest myself here. I say reinvest, and not reinvent, because I don’t want to reinvent. I want to dedicate myself to both the human element and the mission. They coexist. They’re real. They’re not new. I just need to be me, and be consistent about it.

I intended to write about the aforementioned Summit this evening, but these words felt more important tonight. You can expect to hear about the Summit tomorrow. I will also be changing the sidebar tomorrow. Maybe some people who used to watch but no longer visit will find themselves returning. Maybe new people will stop by to enjoy the show. He? Well, who really cares?

Please Read: To My Fellow Sex Workers

September 29, 2011

Beautiful piece by Thierry Schaffauser:  To My Fellow Sex Workers

My Favorite Funny Man

September 12, 2011

My favorite comedian, and former NYU class-mate, Zack Kahn, was just interviewed by Stage Time Magazine, and I think you should read it. So here it is.

VMA Tribute Disappointments

August 29, 2011

Last night, I anxiously tuned into the Video Music Awards to see Britney Spears claim the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard  Award , which recognizes those who “made a profound impact on MTV culture”. Say what you will about Brit, but , if she deserves anything, she deserves that award.

Those who remember an older incarnation of this blog–hosted at blogger and now private due to the mountain of personal info contained therein–likely recall me speaking a great deal about various aspects of pop culture, most notably Britney Spears.  That young woman has fascinated me for years. First, because her overly sexualized image provided rich fodder for a budding academic studying the sex industry, and later because we seemed to face similar demons in the realm of mental health.

Over the past decade, her videos drove the medium, even if she lost that momentum over the last 4 years. What she accomplished before her public decline was enough to make MTV executives millionaires many times over: the inescapable hook, the unforgettable costumes, the choreography imitated world-wide. She may have been nothing more than a puppet, but she played her part perfectly. People ate it up.

At this year’s VMAs, she was to get due praise for those accomplishments, via the same forum that, in 2007, showcased a comeback that was more akin to a death knell for the singer. I’m sure many people expected to see an over-the-top tribute, in true Britney VMA fashion,  in addition to a sincere acceptance speech. (In regards to the VMAs, Britney has made unparalleled history on that stage: the python and the Madonna make-out for starters.) We got neither.

The performance preceding the award presentation was a hyper-fast run-through of hooks from her music video past, performed by young girls dressed in costumes matching those worn by Spears in the videos.  (The age of the performers in the routine is more than I’m going to take on in this post.)

Lady Gaga, in the drag persona she employed throughout the evening, presented the award and, after Britney was called onstage, seemed poised to re-enact the unexpected kiss Britney once shared with Madonna.

I was uncomfortable watching it. Britney looked uncomfortable standing there. She looked like a girl who knew what she was expected to do, and didn’t want to. She didn’t. She simply said, “No, I’ve already done that.” Kudos to her for not giving in.

She took to the mic, and barely said a word, just a brief sentence really, to acknowledge the hefty award she was holding, and said nothing of the performance in her honor. Instead, she segued into introducing the next performer, Beyonce.

This award means so much to me, especially on the night before Michael Jackson’s birthday. He had such a huge influence on me, Gaga, and our next performer, Beyonce. Beyonce and I started out around the same time, and just like all of her fans, I fell in love with her. The first time I saw her from her singing to dancing to acting, she can do it all, she’s a triple threat, and one of the most talented people I have ever seen.

(You can watch the entire Video Vanguard segment here. You can read the Huffington Post’s excellent review of it here. )

I sat on my couch, mouth agape, wondering if that was really it. The big tribute. The great recognition. I couldn’t believe it.

I started to think about comments made by writer, poet, and mental health advocate Bassey Ipki the previous day on her twitter, mostly suggesting that Britney’s recent zombie-like stage presence was a clear signal that she needed her meds adjusted. Normally, I wouldn’t feel it was my place to weigh in on that point–hell, I still feel weird doing it–but after watching her accept the Video Vanguard Award, I have to agree. Her behavior was odd, and I’ve been there.

Well, no, I have not been on stage at the VMAs, in front of the world, but I’ve been a zombie and I’ve had no life in me. It looks exactly like that. It feels like nothing. It isn’t life. Britney’s sorted out so much, and I hope this is yet another moment she will be able to sort out. Her life is too good to miss out on it, again. There is life between zombie and out of control. I hope she finds it.

But that wasn’t the only VMA tribute that let me down last night, although it was the most significant for me, personally. They also did the requisite Amy Winehouse tribute. I was excited about that one too, and after the disappointing Britney moment, I thought maybe there would be some respite in a moving portrayal of a young artist the music industry lost far too soon. In terms of memorial and introduction, I was more pleased. Tony Bennett graced the stage and shared footage from a recording session with Amy from his forthcoming Duets II album. His words were heartfelt and the footage epitomized how I’d like to remember her.

Then there was the performance: Bruno Mars covering “Valerie”. Yes, they  honored Amy by doing a cover of her cover of a song originally sung by The Zutons. Lovely. I kept thinking how amazing it would have been if, maybe, Adele did a cover of “Back to Black”, instead.

You can watch the full Amy Winehouse tribute here.

I hadn’t watched the VMAs in years, probably not since Britney shared the stage with Madonna. I remember loving the show when I was much, much younger, but I suppose the show lost its luster in direct relation to MTV’s loss of interest in playing music videos.


August 13, 2011

I just realized the About page on this blog had somehow reverted to a nearly empty draft. I fixed that. It’s quite troubling that I’m not sure how it happened. I did some content importing from an older blog earlier this week, and maybe that led to the problem.


August 7, 2011

I’ve been spending more time on my Tumblr blog. I haven’t abandoned this place, and I have some ideas about adding regular content in the future. For now, though, I’m mostly on Tumblr, and always on Twitter.

Oh, I also recently participated in the My Name is Me campaign, and you can find my entry here.

Real Men Get Their Facts Straight: Ashton and Demi and Sex Trafficking

June 29, 2011

I have so much to say about this right now, but my left hand is still suffering from some MS symptoms. Suffice to say, everyone who is concerned, enraged, beside themselves, about child sex trafficking should read the linked article.

Please share this with your friends, and help get the word out so that we may move forward with helping survivors of child sex trafficking, instead of obsessing over its existence via invented numbers and Hollywood celebrities.

Real Men Get Their Facts Straight: Ashton and Demi and Sex Trafficking

The Naked Anthropologist

June 20, 2011

Laura Agustin, author of Sex at the Margins and “a lifelong migrant and sometime worker in both nongovernmental and academic projects about sex, travel and work”, discussed a new anti-prostitution video over on her blog, The Naked Anthropologist, yesterday.

In the one-minute video, the man (meant to be a sex worker though he looks anything but) doing the licking acts out feeling sickened by it. He brushes his teeth a lot. In contrast, the women throwing themselves back on his bed look quite pleased. Just how is this meant to discourage men from paying for sex? It seems possible that women seeing the film will think how great it would be if they could hire someone for oral sex, though they are always said to want a lot of cuddling and romancing first (which is a silly essentialising of ‘female’ desire). In any case, the psychology of this campaign certainly shows how anti-sex the campaigners are.

For many of you, the video is not safe for work, but her blog post is; the discussion in said post is priceless.


June 18, 2011

By Ben Sollee, from Inclusions, released 5/10/11.

Yes, I Am An Introvert

June 17, 2011

Top Ten Myths About Introverts, by Jerry Brito

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

Birthday Books

May 26, 2011

I was lucky to get a great number of books given to me for my birthday. Well, I got the huge Amazon gift card, and did all the choosing myself.

The first book, Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates, arrived yesterday, Since I used about ten different sellers via Amazon, this gift-receiving thing will likely stretch on for another week, maybe longer.

Below is the list of books I ordered on Monday, alphabetical by author:

EDIT: A couple of books, now crossed out on the list, couldn’t be shipped.

Belated Birthday Presents

May 23, 2011

Though my birthday was last week, last night a lovely friend sent me notice of a belated gift, including many books from my Amazon Wish List. I’ve been in a state of pure elation ever since.

In the event there are one or two of you who would also like to give me with a belated birthday present, info about my Amazon Wish List is below.

I no longer include a link to the list on the sidebar, and I’ve actually organized it into multiple lists:

Both the Priority and the Entertainment list include entries relevant to Sex Work, but I thought it best to keep each item limited to one list. I also gave priority to the items I want most from each list; marked either “highest” or “high” on the right-hand side of the screen when viewing a specific list. I also believe in getting the cheapest item, so check for third-party sellers with books in good condition–no writing or highlighting, please.

Gifts or not, I still love you. But I do get a special tingle when I receive a package in the mail. 😉

New Addiction

May 20, 2011

I am full-on addicted to my tumblr.

That is where I’ve been the past couple of weeks, and that is likely where I’ll remain for the time being, at least until I get bored.

The Condom with Teeth

May 18, 2011

South African doctor invents female condoms with ‘teeth’ to fight rape

This is the condom with teeth. It is a condom specifically made to protect women from rape. It is inserted like a tampon, and won’t hurt the girl, only her attacker. When the man thrusts into her, the condom clasps down and can only be removed surgically. It was invented by South African doctor Dr. Sonnet Ehlers, and it was inspired when the Dr. treated a rape victim who said sadly, ‘If only i had teeth down there.’ The condom is being given out in South Africa, and to women in the military.

I can’t help but wonder if this won’t lead to greater physical injury to the woman, perhaps death, as a result of retaliation from the attacker.