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Archive for the ‘Guest Columns’ Category

Regular readers know that I feel strongly about promoting online resources for sex workers, especially if those resources are owned and operated by sex workers!  I recently met Val on Twitter and asked her if she’d like to introduce my readers to her sex-work-friendly social media site, Lips.  So without further ado:

Hello lovely readers of The Honest Courtesan!  My name is Val, and I am a tech researcher, erotic filmmaker, sex worker activist, and the community manager of Lips, a community-designed social media platform for women, non-binary folks, & the LGBTQIA+ community to express themselves openly & honestly without fear of censorship or harassment.  I am beyond honored that Maggie has entrusted me with this opportunity to introduce myself and Lips to you all today.

Lips began as a print zine on a college campus in 2008, and was founded directly in response to the mainstream media’s representations of female & queer sexuality – often through the paternalistic, patriarchal lens also known as the “male gaze.”  Lips invited folks to mail in (or anonymously drop into a P.O. box) stories, poetry, and artwork for the publication, and over time it grew into a much-needed community-led space for self-expression – including sexuality – that was safe, open and honest.  As the community grew and the zine moved online, it became increasingly apparent just how radical this project was.  The community faced tons of obstacles: internally, it was difficult to combat the shame that society projected and foster self-esteem and self-love, and externally, stigma, whorephobia, digital censorship, and harassment all posed threats to Lips’ existence.  This was when the team came together and decided to build our very own social media platform called Lips.social.  We hosted co-design sessions with groups of artists, sex workers, sexual health and wellness educators, and LGBTQIA+ young people to bring the community’s ideas together for what this app should do and be.  We co-wrote our own Community Guidelines that reflected our community’s values – not the values of the mainstream society we aimed to resist.  And finally, thanks to the generosity of a grant from the Headstream Youth Mental Health Accelerator, we were able to build and launch the first version of the Lips app.  On December 31, 2020, all of the hard work paid off and we welcomed a vibrant community of over 14,000 members into our new little digital paradise.

Of course, we continue to face obstacles like whorephobia, but will always respond with the care and best interests of our community at the forefront.  With Lips, our main mission is to design and build technologies that make the internet a healthier and safer place for marginalized communities – including sex workers.  We do this through:

  • A more nuanced, community-led approach to sexuality moderation
  • UX/UI that protects against harassment and trolls
  • A business model that is directly linked with the economic success of marginalized creators
  • And finally, most excitedly, the co-ownership of our company with the community members!


That’s right!  We are very excited to announce that we are now selling equity in the company to the community, so if you are interested in joining our team and becoming an investor, visit wefunder.com/lips to learn more, and reach out to us at team@lips.social if you have any questions. (Anyone can invest, minimum is $100).  Join us in building a better (digital) world for marginalized communities.

My parting words – Personally, I need Lips to exist because women, non-binary & LGBTQIA+ artists, activists, educators, sex workers, healers, and more have created the kind of body and sex-positive art and experiences that have saved my life and the lives of so many people around me.  So, if you’re still here, thank you for reading this far – you’ve already supported our work – and please become as involved with Lips as you’d like.  Every investment, every share, every new community member counts. Thanks y’all.

XX, Val

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I recently saw this young woman’s story on Twitter, and immediately asked if she would be willing to retell it in a guest column; even most people who support sex worker rights don’t really understand the extent of the ugliness and depravity of what cops and their prohibitionists co-conspirators call “rescue”.  I’m also very concerned to see that these FBI stings violate a lot of our safety indicators; they’ve clearly figured out how to subvert our procedures, clearly demonstrating that, as I’ve said many times, these pogroms are specifically intended to harm us no matter what their copaganda claims

I was arrested 2 years ago in one of the FBI’s “Operation Cross Country” stings.  I was really inexperienced and working for an agency at the time, and there probably wasn’t much screening done (if any).  The appointment was booked a week in advance, unlike local cop stings where the appointments are often rushed and same day; it was for a couple, which is also unusual for a sting, and they made adjustments to the appointment date.  When I arrived, I parked on the street and was alarmed to see 4 cop cars drive past me, stop about a block behind me, and then pull into the parking garage.  I called the agency and told them about it, but they told me to go in anyway; this is not to put all of the blame on them, because I really should have just listened to my gut and left (as I would if something similar happened today).  But I had only $25 in my bank account and a $600 bill the next day, so I felt I had no choice but to go against my better judgement.

I met the couple outside of the apartment complex; there was almost nobody else around, and I later learned that this was a newer complex that the owners were allowing them to run stings out of before any actual tenants moved in.  The woman hugged me and we went upstairs; she was an excellent actress, which helped to mislead me even though the guy was acting a bit weird, such as hesitating when I asked them what they did for work.  There were boxes everywhere in the apartment, and they claimed they had just moved in.  We sat down, and they handed me the money and started asking questions like “What is included with the rate?”, “Will you eat me out while he is fucking you?”, and “How much of a cut does your agency take?”  I now know better than to answer such questions, but as I said I was inexprienced at the time.  After the questions the woman excused herself, and the guy asked if I wanted water; suddenly the door opened and 5 or 6 cops came in, and before I knew it my hands were in handcuffs.  They started aggressively interrogating me, asking me where I had put the money and how I got there, asking for the passcode to my phone, and threatening that they were going to impound my car.  Meanwhile the woman was patting me down, supposedly checking for a weapon.  I was in a state of shock, but I remember wondering why the fuck there were so many cops there when I was just a single woman that had no chance of taking them down; months later, after watching Maggie’s The War on Whores (which I recommend you check out), I realized that they are just there for the show.  And what a show:  I was having a full on panic attack, crying, and although I was luckily not naked yet, it was completely humiliating.  I distinctly remember some of them lounging on the couch while I was panicking.

They hustled me out, and two of them took me to a car in the parking garage while I remained handcuffed.  I was then driven to the police station, where there were snacks laid out and clothes to change into; I think this is rare and solely due to the FBI being involved.  There was also a “human trafficking advocate” there for me to speak to; she was of no help whatsoever, but at least she was nice.  The cops tried talking to me, saying they wanted to catch me specifically because I looked so young; I don’t show my face in ads, so this didn’t make any sense.  But I wasn’t giving them the information they wanted, so the FBI agents tried to interview me and the woman asked what would ever compel me to “sell my body” and put myself in a dangerous position.  Then the county cops came back in, told me they wouldn’t be recording (I realized this was a red flag), and asked me why I didn’t just get a job as a substitute teacher to make money (???) and if I do this for the “sexual thrill”.  Later, they asked me about my relationship with my dad and told me they were keeping my (really expensive) iPhone as “evidence”.  The whole time the kept referring to my escorting as “pimping myself out” and “self-pimping”.  It made no sense.

I was really lucky in that I had a friend to lend me cash for bail and a lawyer.  Since I was a first time “offender” I got a “human trafficking” pretrial diversion; I had to take a class and promise I would never do sex work again, and if I had been arrested again for anything while out on bail the diversion would have been out the window.  The cops later asked a few questions through my lawyer; they were really, really interested in whether or not I had a P411 or Eccie account, or if any of my clients did; they flat-out told me they wanted to take over client accounts so as to book providers with them.   Because of this, I will NOT see anyone with only P411 and no further info; I know for a fact these accounts get compromised, because cops will offer a plea deal to clients or providers that hand them over.  I also won’t go to personal residences anymore unless they’re an established client, and I have learned to trust my gut; I saw the cop cars that day, yet ignored my instincts and paid for it.  Thousands in bail, lawyer fees, and pretrial diversion fees, and at the end of the day I still couldn’t pay my bills and couldn’t work either.  But it could’ve been much worse:  one other woman I knew had a driver and a child waiting in the car for her, and the cops charged her driver with “sex trafficking” and gave her child to CPS.

I hope nobody reading this ever has to endure what I did, but if you do please don’t talk to police except to ask to speak to a lawyer, and to make it clear you’re invoking your right to remain silent.  I know it seems like common sense, but when you’re having a panic attack or sitting in an interrogation room, they will try anything to get you to talk. They will lie, ask stupid or silly questions, and do anything to use your words against you.  Cops are not your friends; no matter how many snacks and “victim advocates” they put in front of you, at the end of the day they are just trying to lock up as many people as possible.

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This is the first of a new irregular feature in which I’ll post job opportunities which might interest people in my readership.  Many of you may know that I’m on the board of Prostasia, the first child protection organization which does not pretend that attacking the civil rights and free speech of adults will somehow support that stated mission.  A few weeks ago we received a major grant, and the board allocated part of the funds to hiring three part-time employees; I therefore asked our director Jeremy Malcolm to write up a description of what he’s looking for:

Prostasia Foundation, the only child protection organization that supports sex workers and includes them in leadership, recently received a major donor grant and is now hiring for its first three paid positions.  Prostasia’s Development Officer will be responsible for leading Prostasia’s fundraising efforts, including memberships, donations, sponsorships, and grants from charitable foundations.  Its Social Media Manager will have the primary responsibility to manage Prostasia’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram social media accounts.  The Video Editor will put their own stamp on Prostasia Foundation’s video communications, and grow its brand within video-sharing communities.  These roles may be filled at any level from intern through to part-time, with advancement to a full-time position, depending on the applicant’s qualifications and experience.  Further details and an application link are available on our website.

I probabably don’t need to add that since we’re judging applicants on their qualifications, sex workers are just as eligible for these positions as anyone else.  But since that’s so rarely true these days, I’m adding it!

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My friend Brooke Magnanti has a new project named Body of Work on the new platform Substack, and to call attention to it I’d like to share my favorite of the posts she’s published there so far. It’s both a moving memoir and a powerful rebuke to the sheltered puritans who pretend sex work is “The Worst Thing a Woman Can Do“, which is incidentally the title of this piece.

My dad was mowing strangers’ lawns on the day that he died.

He woke before sunrise – the habit of a blue collar lifetime – with his schedule for the day written out on a piece of college-ruled paper, copied from the app where homeowners booked him for reasonably priced lawn services. He had the rest of the week drawn up as a grid too, with blank spaces for last-minute jobs that might pop up on his newly purchased smartphone.

He loaded the truck with the tools of his trade: edgers and whips, a spade and a rake, a refurbished secondhand push mower, and drove the ride-on mower (also a refurb) onto the small trailer behind his 15-year-old F150. He put a lunchbox with two turkey sandwiches and four bottles of frozen water into the cab. They would melt during the hot Florida spring day, keeping his food cold and providing hydration as he worked in the full sun.

Sometime after 8am, he started having abdominal pains. The worst of his life. My father – no hypochondriac, also the habit of a lifetime – called 911. The hospital did some tests and discharged him by 10am, diagnosis mild constipation, prescription two kinds of laxatives. He didn’t feel better. His last few outgoing texts were to friends letting them know he couldn’t meet up later, he was sick. He went on to complete 3 of the 5 jobs on his schedule.

He died that night. 70 years old, retired not even one day of his life. When we found his phone, most of the missed texts and calls were from the app, set to automatically ping when he didn’t check in online for his agreed jobs.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“What, are you too proud to scrub a toilet?”

That was a question I have heard a lot. After coming out as a former sex worker in 2009, I could count on at least one know-it-all standing up to pronounce more or less this exact accusation at every book signing, public speaking event, or festival I appeared at.

The question askers never stuck around to hear, really hear the answer: it’s hard to get a job in the UK as an American student, I couldn’t work more than 15 hours a week, no one was allowed to hire me if any qualified EU applicant was available, and that wouldn’t have made a dent in my bills anyway. ‘Too proud to scrub a toilet’ also seemed to be the takeaway most columnists went with when discussing my writing. According to everyone with a public opinion my problem was not lack of cash but that I was too proud, or precious, or whatever to do real work. I was spoiled.

Thing is, I wasn’t just spitballing about whether or not scrubbing toilets pays the bills. I knew already, from experience, that it would not – because cleaning was the very last job I held before moving to London. I worked for months at a hostel in Aviemore while writing up my PhD thesis. In between changing beds and mopping bathrooms, I collated data on forensic pathology cases and assembled chapters on the processes of human decomposition. Because I also was the hostel’s cook and lived on site, I was able to save almost everything I earned. I thought this would put me in good stead for the autumn, when I planned to submit my PhD back in Sheffield, then move to London to look for work.

Long story short: my calculations of expenses for life in the capital city were way, way off. By the time I paid the extortionate deposit and rent on a sad little room in Kilburn, I was already out of cash. But with my PhD not yet approved I couldn’t apply for science jobs. So I became a call girl. A choice that I thought (also mistakenly as it turned out) would be lucrative, not require a particular visa, and that I could leave behind as soon as I started my “real” career.

That was then.

This is now: I’m scrubbing a toilet in a million dollar house in one of my county’s fanciest neighborhoods. American Standard. The water in the American Southwest is mineral-heavy and leaves rings on everything; I’m not so much scrubbing as chipping away at stalagmites of built up lime.

It’s the first toilet I’ll clean today, the first of four bathrooms in this house, but it’s not the last time I’ll think about those people who imagined I was too proud to scrub a toilet. I’ve been scrub-a-toilet poor before; it’s not that big a deal. No, instead they were telling me the thing they considered to be the last-resort job of choice before “selling your body.” Their deepest fear, the most undignified thing short of being a whore (which as we all know is the worst thing a woman can do).

That’s the calculation according to society. Whore is worst, cleaner is second worst, and no one in their right minds would do either. Let alone both. Yet the jobs persist. Even in a recession. Even in a pandemic. Key workers both. Not the front lines, accumulating accolades and sometimes hazard pay, but the back lines, doing jobs few want to admit always need done.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic it seems cleaning after oneself is still a job for someone else. Lifestyle columnists Sarah Ditum and Janice Turner raised a few eyebrows when they staunchly declared the unavailability of house cleaners in the first wave of covid to be beyond bearable. Not for them picking up the mop, or worse yet, asking one’s husband and children to chip in. No, went the logic, cleaners wanted the work. They loved their clients.

I’ve heard people say things like that before almost word for word. People who are the customers of sex workers. Do I have to tell you women like those are just the sort of people whose husbands I once would have fucked for money? I know it, and I guess they know it too.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you too are in possession of a house and neither the time nor the inclination to clean it, you could book me or someone like me through any number of websites and apps. They all have slick, modern sites, enormous market capitalisations, and most importantly in this buoyant gig economy: they employ none of the people who show up at your door to do the work.

The landing pages show clean, modern homes resplendent in bare wood, white tile and brushed metal fixtures. Homes with six-burner gas ranges and fresh cut peonies in fishbowl vases. The kind of homes that few of the cleaners could ever dream of calling their own. The vibe is upscale, quiet suburb or cool high-rise urban.

And if you don’t mind what happens to your body, to your health, then there are always jobs like this, just not careers. With ubiquitous smartphones and widespread internet services that previously were available mainly to the well-heeled can be booked at the touch of a finger. In many ways the rise of sex workers on the internet when I was an anonymous blogger presaged the way many would soon be working in the 21st century.

My entry into cleaning for apps is straightforward. Sign up, submit a photo of my driver’s license, wait for a background check. Answer a few (very few) questions on my experience as a cleaner. I have a bit, from the aforementioned pre-London days turning over an 80-bed hostel in the Scottish Highlands for a summer, to helping out friends with holiday cottages.

I’m accepted on the platform and my rate is set at $15 per hour. That’s 4 dollars an hour above the nearest city’s minimum wage, more than twice the Federal minimum of $7.25, but well below anything that could result in the “thousands” the app’s ads on Craigslist promised. Up to thousands, I remind myself. Technically that means anything above zero. I’m assured through a short series of videos that work is straightforward and easy to come by, and that any problems I might experience with the app itself are quick to figure out. I’m told if I book 10 jobs this week my rate goes up, maybe as high as $22. I complete the series of Youtube videos that constitute training and log on.

There are no jobs. At all. Not today, and not tomorrow.

There’s one in three days! I click, eager to “claim” before anyone else does (because that must be what’s happening, right? There are no jobs because they’re already taken?) But when I google the location I find it’s in central Colorado – a 330-mile round trip from where I am now. Sure, there’s a $20 “bounty” for picking this one up, should I choose. But I decide to forego it. There is zero chance at this rate I will ever earn more than $15 an hour through the app.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We live in the age of the side hustle. Everyone I’ve met since moving back to the US has one. The fine artists with an Air B&B, the candle maker who cleans for them, the solar installer who is also a part-time fire captain, the fire captains who sell third party phone cases on Amazon. The jiu-jitsu instructor with a window washing business. The college professor who works as a part-time paramedic on ski patrol. The ski patroller who proctors exams at the college.

There is no mystery as to why. None of these people are rich or have any illusions of becoming so. Side hustle as a phrase sounds cool, as if a few hours of your week here and there will make it rain and make the Moet pour. The reality is more prosaic. Life in the land of opportunity is expensive. With a stunted public transport infrastructure, cars are a necessity if you want to get by in most of America. The college degree has more or less taken the place of a high school diploma, sought out even for entry-level customer service, and the expansion of the student loan industry leaves many in debt long beyond their 40’s. Credit rating determines everything from your ability to rent accommodation to even whether or not you get a job, obliging people to spend and keep spending in the name of being a trustworthy consumer. Being a consumer obliges you to work. Once entered, the cycle has no end. Not even retirement, for those (unlike my father) lucky enough to contemplate it: in 1985, 10.8% of people over 65 in America were still working. The number in 2017 was double that, and expected to become still higher when the twilight years of Baby Boomers give way to geriatric Generation X.

It gets worse. A shocking number of America’s personal bankruptcies are due to inability to pay medical bills. From a high of 1.5 million in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act came into law, it declined to 770 thousand in 2016. And yet the problem is not solved: the requirement to buy insurance even on price-capped markets still leaves a lot of room for expenses in the form of deductibles that can be thousands of dollars or more. People still avoid accessing preventive care and instead end up in the emergency room, sometimes not until they are on death’s door. We may be in post-Obamacare America, with many on the left making noises about some form of universal, free-at-the-point-of-delivery healthcare, but the wolf of sudden medical emergency could turn up and destroy your life anytime. Even in the coronavirus pandemic America did not manage to elect a candidate who promises universal healthcare.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Four-Toilets is not a bad job as these things go. I know that immediately. It isn’t a 330 mile round trip to get there, for starters; only an hour from my house. The place is owned by a couple of about my age, pet- and child-free. They are not hoarders, and while some of it requires elbow grease (the aforementioned hard water in toilets situation) they’ve not left cleaning so long that any of it is out of hand, save a giant walk-in shower I spend about a third of the allotted five hours scrubbing.

The man goes out, and when he comes back, has brought me a sandwich. I don’t have time to eat on the clock of course. The app’s clients feed in the size of the job and the app gives them an estimated finishing time (no breaks). I do the last toilet, vacuum and mop, and am done bang on the hour the app predicted. I can’t help but wonder if there was a box they ticked that said “our house is already pretty clean” (it was) or if, in the future, similarly-sized jobs with less scrupulously tidy clients will be assigned the same five-hour time slot.

I don’t think about that, just sign on to the app to confirm completion of the job, load up my car (you are required to bring all supplies, including mop and vacuum, and more recently, PPE), and accept a shyly-offered $30 tip from the man. They want to book me again, once every fortnight. I say I’ll have a look on the app but I’d like that.

I have no illusions: few jobs will be as straightforward as this. On the drive home, I start making a list of what I need to replenish. Paper towels, microfibre rags, oven cleaner, furniture polish. Pick up some limescale remover! And some drain unclogging liquid. The tip covers my time driving to and from the house, and the gas, just about. It reminds me of being an escort when the client’s tips usually covered my transport.

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This was written at the request of a sex worker who wanted to explain the business to someone close to her who objected to sex work and believed most sex workers were trafficked.  The writer is a well-known person who wishes to remain anonymous.

As part of my job, I have interacted with bankers, lawyers, doctors, government officials and diplomats of the highest professionalism.  So it is no exaggeration when I say that sex workers are among the hardest-working professionals I have ever met.  It takes great skill to be a successful sex worker; the physical act of sex is only a small part of the job.  You have to be a therapist and a mind-reader, anticipating your clients’ moods and needs.  You need to be an entrepreneur and a time-management specialist.  You need to always be on your game, because word of a bad experience quickly gets around; unlike most other jobs, you can’t keep screwing up or your clients will ultimately stop seeing you.  You also need to keep yourself in shape and pace yourself so you don’t burn out.  You’re often working by yourself, so you have to ensure you don’t get too isolated.  Most women get into sex work for the money, but who doesn’t seek the most money for any job?  This is one job where success leads to more success and even higher rates.  You don’t wait for a promotion; you promote yourself.

Despite lurid headlines about sex trafficking, there are relatively few examples of that in the United States.  Statistics show that virtually all sex workers in the United States are in the business because they want to be sex workers; even Asian massage parlors are filled with workers who want to be there.  (Occasionally you may read about a bust, but then the charges are quietly dropped later because prosecutors can’t prove the women were coerced.)

Here are examples of some of the sex workers I have been privileged to know:

  • A gifted PhD from an Ivy league University, with well-respected published papers under her name, who decided she could make far more money with her beauty and charm than working in a think tank after getting her doctorate.
  • A zoologist who supplements her income with sex work so she can afford a nice apartment.
  • A single mother who found that sex work allowed her to finish her college degree and provide a better life for her son.
  • A high-profile business executive who does sex work when she’s traveling on business in other cities because she gets a kick out of it.
  • A life coach in her late 40s who turned to sex work because a bad investment left her short of the money she needed to build her core business.

Each of these women had their own reason for deciding to engage in sex work, but they all loved doing it.  They got to meet many kinds of men, from different walks of life, some of whom become close friends.  They are empowered and set their own schedules to fit their lifestyles.  And yet this is what some want to call “exploitation”.

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I think it’s extremely important that sex workers have resources inside our own community, because far too many companies are happy to use the demimonde to boost their growth, then suddenly become all pious and kick us out when they decide they don’t need us any more.  Regular readers know that I’ve featured sex worker-owned web businesses before, so when I saw Estelle talking about her company online, I invited her to introduce her service to y’all.

Before I tell you about Red Cloud Hosting, let me tell you about me.  I’m a Muslim who’s been a sex worker for 11 years; I predominantly work as a private escort in Melbourne, Australia, but I’ve toured many countries and worked in an agency in Europe.  From the beginning of my career, technology captured my interest and my curiosity led me to investigate its influences and how it can enhance our work.  Sex workers have the right to practical, reliable, dependable and simple technology to build, organise, advertise and work safely online, so four years ago I created Red Files Inc, a digital space that allows sex workers to share resources and information safely and securely.  I created this project as part of my wider sex work activism, and it’s a registered non-profit charity.

Now that you understand my background, it’s obvious why I created Red Cloud Hosting in May 2018, a digital solutions company with a strong focus on sex workers which started as a safe web hosting platform.  As my activism primarily focused on local or national laws in Australia, I didn’t notice the sinister nature of FOSTA/SESTA until it was too late; I also could not have anticipated how pervasive these laws were, and how they threatened sex work advocacy efforts globally.  While any laws or regulations that punish sex workers are horrible in of themselves, this law seemed particularly far-reaching and conniving.  For example, I operate my business in the legalised state of Victoria in Australia, yet American laws continually curtail and hinder my ability to work safely.  So I put my utilitarian mind to work and concocted a solution.  One year after launch, Red Cloud evolved to provide further reliable digital and web solutions for sex workers.  Through the course of my work I found too often workers kicked off web creation platforms, or swindled by self-proclaimed webmasters that overpromise, overcharge, and under-deliver; others are completely boggled by the complicated process of setting up a website for themselves. Red Cloud now offers simple, affordable web and technology solutions for sex workers wanting more personalised, secure and friendly services.

As I believe in self-determination, Red Cloud Hosting focuses on empowering workers to learn how to manage their websites in a clean, simple and supported manner.  If I’m the brains of Red Cloud, then my work colleague and Webmistress Kim Cums is the brawn.  There’s not much you can’t do with a website when you have Kim on your team; she’s a jill of all trades who learned how to set up shop online from the ground up.  Her personal sex working website offer a variety of engagements from videos, images, member signup sections, a forum, mailing lists, sex worker friendly payment processes and more; she launched the sex worker focused Bumbershoot Creative and now offers her technological expertise to others.  While Kim’s skills lay in website creation, I specialise in copywriting and editing.  In my muggle life I’m a writer, and with my experience, I know exactly what content attracts clients.  Much of my work with Red Cloud is writing up new, fresh copy for sex workers, because we all know how cumbersome it can be to write about yourself in a sexy light.  I’m also socially aware of the sex work laws in different countries and can use language to circumvent legal issues.  I have another sex worker colleague, Chelsea who is in charge of SEO Audits.  In her other life she’s an SEO whiz and that’s all I’ll say about the mysterious woman to protect her identity.  She goes over your website with a fine comb and teaches you on how to improve your SEO traffic.  I haven’t been able to showcase much of our work in the area of image editing just yet but my little worker bee Finnley is well-versed in the area and I will be sharing some photos soon.  While the rest of our services don’t have much to do with FOSTA/SESTA, I have found in my two years of running Red Cloud, that most people want everything setup in one spot.  That’s why I added additional services such as Kim’s photography and videography for those in Sydney. When she resumes travelling interstate, I’m sure this will be applicable for the rest of Australia, although I’m sad to say you Americans might miss out until the pandemic fades out.

Our websites come in the form of Packages that are customised for the level of investment a sex worker is wanting to put into their business. They start from $490AUD setup fee, with an ongoing $30 monthly fee for maintenance, security plugins, updates and so on.  All websites are FOSTA/SESTA consequence free. For every Package purchased with Red Cloud, a donation is made to Red Files Inc or to a sex worker organisation of your choice. Red Cloud can now offer sex workers in Australia and internationally:

  • Dedicated and trusted servers for website hosting based in Australia.
  • Hundreds of website templates specifically tailored and curated to appeal to the sex industry.
  • Personalised domain (for example www.myescortwebsite.com).
  • Domain email setup (for example professionalescort@me.com).
  • Complete and customisable website creation and build-up on WordPress.
  • Migration or replication of past website onto Red Cloud.
  • A variety of website packages aimed at sex workers at any stage of their business.
  • Add-ons to provide your website a personal touch such as mailing lists, blog, screening forms or tours page.
  • Content creation, copywriting and editing that suit the legality of your country.
  • General website tweaks and must-have plugin, security and SSL updates.
  • Professional videography for escorts, porn performers and webcam models.
  • Professional photography geared for content creation, escort portfolios, brand building.
  • Professional editing of images including colour correction, blemishes, body modification, lighting, facial blurring, tattoo removal and airbrushing.
  • Dedicated sex working support team to help and guide you with quick responses.
  • Individual, one-on-one website creation coaching and training.
  • SEO audits and analytics setup.

Red Cloud is entirely sex worker-led and I aim to educate sex workers on technological literacy while I build their websites. If you want to transfer the hosting for your website to a sex worker owned company that’s FOSTA/SESTA proof, then I’m your girl.  There are a few limitations:  if you’re transferring from Wix or Squarespace their technology locks you into their services, and if you host pornographic material, Australian federal laws prevents me from hosting it.  However, I have other solutions if you need.  Red Cloud is also a great company to engage with if you want to rejig or refresh your brand with a new name or if you’ve just entered the industry.  Our Add-Ons means that anything you want can be added on top of your Package so it suits your needs.  I am not here to make big bucks off sex workers; I want to contribute to the growth and profit of sex worker businesses.  I understand not everyone has a casual $500 to invest and that is why I often create flexible financial arrangements; monthly payments instead of once-offs. I would much rather see you maximising your earnings when you are ready and not have to wait for that initial investment to come in.

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I’ve been following Maya Morena, an undocumented migrant sex worker and tireless activist, since she became more prominent a year or so ago; I’ve wanted to publish a guest column from her for a while now, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to offer her this space to describe yet another effort by prohibitionists to silence us.

On March 10, 2020 I had the pleasure of attending the Sex Workers’ Pop-Up with some friends.  Sex workers and undocumented immigrants are subject to constant epistemic injustice, so something so simple as basic human respect from outsiders is rare.  We were trusted to represent ourselves and not be symbols for someone else’s white savior project.  I was excited by how many people showed up to support, knowing I would be looking at my friends’ faces on the gallery walls, and their artwork and stories would be showcased. The event itself mostly consisted of a panel of sex workers and people who identify as sex trafficking victims (or both). Personally, I didn’t think the event was radical enough and I’m hopeful that new platforms will spring up in the future.  But the hatred and exclusion that we were met with by a highly organized network of organizations was unbelievable, and considering that the exhibit was closed ahead of schedule due to COVID-19, the SWERFs who fought so hard for weeks to get it shut down have gotten their wish in the end.

On March 2, 2020 “New Yorkers for the Equality Model”, a coalition of organizations fighting for Swedish-style criminalization, created a letter with their partners.  I had protested the very formation of that group a few months earlier, and started http://www.equalitymodel.com to educate the public on what they were doing; in response, they filed a bogus DMCA takedown against it (as they have done many times against female content creators) and had a whole section of the site taken down.  I ended up paying $550 trying to file a counterclaim to protect my information from them, but didn’t have funds to keep fighting.  Various SWERFs such as Rachel Moran, and Julie Bindel (who don’t even live in New York) have been demanding that the MTA and Outfront Media take down our (paid-for) posters for the events we were hosting.  This is very on-brand for Bindel, who has argued that giving sex workers hand sanitizers and medical advice on how to reduce potential disease is a “waste of time” since it would “encourage” sex workers to stay working longer (as though people were doing sex work for the sole reason that someone gave them hand sanitizer).  The letter itself – hosted on their website and promoted through mainstream media – claims that there’s an evil conspiracy by George Soros to target children through the ads and get them to become sex slaves.  The letter makes the claim that “The term ‘sex work’ is a euphemism for prostitution, coined in the 1980s by people with financial interests in the sex trade, whose goal was to mainstream and normalize the systems of prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation.”  The “people with financial interests” referred to are sex workers, because “sex work” encompasses everything from stripping, to webcamming, to dominatrix work – not only prostitution, and not all illegal; the term was actually coined by Carol Leigh, a sex worker and activist.  The letter goes on to dehumanize sex workers by comparing us to drugs, cigarettes, guns, and organs harvesting, then makes veiled threats against sex workers by stating that we are still criminalized in New York in an attempt to get the ads censored by New York state.  Many of the organizations who penned the letter worked hard to create the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts which still incarcerate and deport sex workers, despite their repeated claims that they wouldn’t.

The organizations who make up “New Yorkers for the Equality Model” are deeply racist, but try to obscure this is by exploiting a few migrants as tokens via the “Trafficking Visa“, which has only been given to 6780 people over the past 11 years despite having an annual cap of 5,000 (it is one of the only visas that never meets its cap).  And even it is very weak help; it only gives an immigrant the right to work in the US for 4 years.  This is best the  US and “anti-trafficking” groups have to give to people they label victims.  The US spends millions every year on “human trafficking”, most of which goes toward police and border control efforts; the prohibitionist organizations are “law and order” types, and only “help” migrants – exploited or otherwise – who are willing to help them put others behind bars.  These tokens are therefore not good representatives of sex workers or marginalized groups.  They represent oppressive institutions that exclude and criminalize undocumented immigrants from services; they are an exceedingly small minority which promotes criminalization of other minorities; and when they work for the state or “anti-trafficking” organizations, they often consider themselves “legal immigrants” and thus superior to sex workers and “illegal” immigrants.  Even the kids who have been separated from their parents, molested by guards at the border, and sold through adoption are not considered worthy of assistance; they are “criminals” just like me, who was a child migrant and a DACA kid.  It does hurt that the people who work hard to erase marginalized people get to claim they’re “saving” us to a gullible public.

But despite the Sex Worker Pop-Up’s short duration, it did give me a glimpse of how many sex workers allies there are, and how much they desire to listen to and support us.  I met more sex workers in that one place then I have anywhere else except for the internet, and was able to connect with radical activists, content creators, professionals, and even male sex workers that our sciety prefers to pretend don’t exist.  We even spoke about creating other, future events to educate the public, even though we know we’ll have to fight those who want to silence and harm us to do so.

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On Monday, I gave clients some ideas about how to help sex workers during this time when everyone is doing “social distancing”.  I was considering doing one about shifting to working online (camming, phone sex, selling porn, etc), but there was only one problem with that idea:  I have never done any of that kind of work before, and therefore don’t know much about it.  However, my dear friend Matisse started this thread that same day, and it’s getting plenty of contributions from people who DO know; Melanie Moore’s subthread is especially thorough.  So if you’re a sex worker considering this option, please read this thread.  And if you’re a sex worker who has experience with this, please contribute to help your sisters.  Sex workers are flexible and resilient, and one of our greatest strengths as a community is the way we stick together and help each other against a world which has been hostile to us for over two millennia.

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While in Florida a couple of weeks ago, I got to meet Christine Phytoleen, inventor of the CroBonez orgasm tool for women.  She impressed me as an amazing woman, and when she told me about her invention naturally I invited her to describe it here for my readers who, like Christine and myself, find it difficult to achieve orgasm by conventional masturbation techniques.

Growing up, I was always curious as to what this mysterious, evil thing was that I wasn’t supposed to do with my body parts.  At the age of 13, I made my 13-year-old boyfriend fuck me when we were out in the woods just to see if I could figure out what all the mystery and nervousness around this activity called sex was.  My boyfriend radiated happiness after a few strokes, and I got nothing out of the event except for a goopy mess of cum, blood, sticks and leaves in my cracks, along with some mosquito bites on other parts of my naked body.  This first experience with sex and the beaming happiness of my boyfriend made me feel powerful for the first time in my life, and my curiosity with this thing I was told by my parents and religion never to do kept me excited for many years as I pursued my career in sex work—that and the fact that I received money instead of sticks, leaves and mosquito bites for my efforts.

I’m a 60-year-old career sex worker with 43 years of hands-on experience in almost all modalities of sex work, including stripper, body rubber, full-service provider, porn performer, dominatrix, wife, owner of massage parlors, brothels, a dungeon, and a clip store.  I have helped facilitate life-giving, healthy orgasms in men for most of my life, yet had no idea what an orgasm felt like myself!  I felt for many years that I was on the outside looking in on all the people having a good time, and I had no idea why I couldn’t enjoy the party.  What was it about orgasm that made people, mostly men, do outrageous things to have one?  Orgasms seemed to be very important and worth a lot of money.  I learned to fake it very well by watching porn and lots of practice moaning, wiggling, and breathing.  The better I faked an orgasm, the more money I made, yet I always had the nagging feeling in my gut of being an imposter, and lying never set well with me.  At the age of 32, I committed to playing with myself for 90 minutes and had my first orgasm, which wore out my shoulder, elbow, and wrist because I needed so much pressure for such a long period of time.  After that, I very rarely took the time out to have an orgasm even after the knowledge of what an orgasm felt like because it took such physical effort and too much time.  And I’m not alone; anorgasmia is prevalent in approximately 33% of women, and contributing factors might include age, medical conditions, hysterectomy, certain medications, cultural or religious beliefs, mental health issues, stress and even poor self-esteem.

At the age of 52, since I had just about everything you could imagine inside of me trying to orgasm, I made the decision and commitment to create an orgasm product for women that can either be used by herself or with a partner.  With a massive investment of time, energy, learning, money, and testing, I created my 2-piece orgasm tool.  The 100% pure pink silicone base is attached to a repositionable, removable white polyurethane handle.  The pink base has a head that goes inside, providing stimulation and pressure, combining the lever action of the handle for complete stimulation needed on the total clitoral system inside and out, and I now have powerful orgasms whenever I decide, for as long as I want, and with high efficiency.  I call it CroBonez after I discovered that over 28,000 years ago, cavewomen were carving dildos out of bone for their pleasure, probably to finish themselves off after caveman was done.

CroBonez looks different than anything else out on the market, and it works differently than anything else out there. It has no vibrating parts, is not a dildo and does not look or work like a dick; there is no thrusting in and out.  I could never just set it on a shelf in a store and expect it to sell, because there is an education and a new thought process about orgasms that go along with acquiring this very new product.  When a woman is committed to learning how to have her orgasms any time she wants, for as long as she wants, I have voice recordings that, when listened to consistently, help to form a new neural pathway from the brain to the clitoris through the vagus nerve.  Like exercise, the more a woman practices with CroBonez and learns how to turn off all the distractions and focus on her pleasure with the help of the voice recordings, the sooner she can master her orgasms and enjoy how life changes for the better.

Whether you have a sexual desire or not, whether you’re in love or not, if you have a clitoris, you can have an orgasm for your health.  I’ve never had to remind men of the benefits of orgasm because they’ve been enjoying them and the benefits throughout their life, but I often have to remind the women what they are.  I look at orgasm like going to the gym, flossing my teeth, eating healthy, or other self-care regimen.  Orgasms keep your hormone levels in balance, counteract stress and depression, helps with sleep, provides natural pain relief, increases focus, energy, and drive, strengthens the immune system, and even improves self-image and self-esteem.  These benefits are due in large part to the chemical cocktail the brain releases, including dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenalin, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and others.  In July 2016 I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer, and I believe my inability to orgasm for most of my life played a part in the growth of the cancer.  But I have refused the medical establishment’s traditional cancer treatments, and I believe my orgasm “treatments” with CroBonez have helped to keep me healthy and active, and my soul is much more satisfied and content.

I still hold the same excitement around the idea of sex as when I was 13 years old, and still enjoy the happiness that I helped to create in my clients and the women I’ve helped learn to orgasm with my invention.  It has been a long journey for me to get a complete picture of the mental and physical aspects of orgasms for health and wellbeing for men, women, and myself.  There is no one right way to achieve this bodily function that is so much more than what society wants us to believe, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help people learn to incorporate orgasms for their health and happiness.

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A while back my friend Allena Gabosch asked me to write an essay for a new collection called Sex Positive Now, and a few days ago I received a press release for the book with the request that I share it.  So without further ado:

Allena Gabosch and Jeremy Shub have written Sex Positive Now , a book about sex-positivity.  The book contains essays and interviews by and with sex positive celebrities, activists and educators along with additional content written by Allena and Jeremy.  The book covers topics including the History of Sex-Positive Culture , Sex Negativity, Cultural Taboos about Porn and Sex Work, Health and Emotions, Intimacy, Relationships, Polyamory, Kink, Tantra/Sacred/Taoism, Consent, and Community.  Our goal is to support the change of cultural norms around sexuality and relationships so people have the freedom and permission to be the sexual beings they already are.  Pleasure and joy are vital to our wellbeing and sexual shame is a thing of the past.  People are celebrated for their sexuality, gender, who or how they love.  Consensual sexuality in all of its forms is healthy and life affirming.  People can make conscious choices about their sexuality and relationships.  A few of our 55 contributors include Annie Sprinkle, Janet Hardy, Race Bannon, Susie Bright, Buck Angel and Cunning Minx.  If you want to review and promote the book, free ebooks will be available for review.  You can purchase the book at sexpositivenow.com and the book launch will be in Melbourne and Seattle on 28th Oct.

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