by Furry Girl

11.04.10

"Many seem to have problems with me doing this job for money, and seem to think that my only motivation should be personal enjoyment.  Fyi, I do like my job, most of the time.  But my pay should be independent from whether or not I, at the bottom of my heart, like everything I'm doing all the time.  Imagine if you went into work one day and weren't paid because someone thought you weren't enjoying it as fully as you should be!"

-- JJ, in An Open Letter From A Stripper on jezebel.com





by Furry Girl

09.23.10

Oh, violent forced sex trafficking - how you give liberals a raging concern boner!  Since nothing excites a do-gooder quite like the chance to blare their uninformed "down with bad stuff!" opinion on a topic as exciting as forced sex trafficking, the latest Craigslist restrictions have prompted a month-long circle jerk for the self-righteous.

I haven't read all of what's been in the press in the last few weeks, but it's the same script that gets dusted off every few months when there's a "new" sex trafficking panic.  And, because anti-sex worker activists aim to turn all issues into a sex trafficking panic, those types are lined up to regurgitate their morbid sound bites about how all exchanges of sexual energy for cash are basicallythesamething as raping trafficked underage sex slaves.  (And, my side is plenty practiced with our less-heard replies, such as, "Do you have any evidence of any of your claims and statistics?", or "How is it that imprisoning/deporting abused sex workers makes their lives magically all better?", or "Have you ever actually asked these communities of people you claim to be saving what they want?")

Whether it's a conservative news source or a feminist/lefty one, the same cliches and hysteria get repeated without fact-check.  In a year when people on my end of the political spectrum are talking a whole lot about the importance of citing primary source materials in journalism, where's the outcry when the media just completely makes shit up about sex work?

I haven't really written about trafficking and "rescue", and it's not because I'm lazy or trying to avoid unpleasant subjects.  I have the sense to know that if something isn't my area of expertise, I ought to hush and listen to people who are in the know.  I know a bit on the subject, but other people are better teachers.

If you would like to educate yourself about trafficking, I have two homework assignments for you, which can be completed in a weekend.

First, read Laura Agustín's Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets, and the Rescue Industry.  We all have our golden books about a given topic that we recommend on a regular basis, and there's nothing that cuts through the bullshit with a sober, researched, post-colonialist mentality like Sex at the Margins.  I'll let the book's back cover summarize its contents:

This groundbreaking book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims, and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest.

Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' disempowers them.  Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radical analysis.  Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry.  Although they are treated as a marginalised group, they form part of the dynamic of the global economy.

Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire of social justice.

You can read this book over the course of one day - it's weighty subject material, but it's not a huge volume at 194 pages (plus citations/sources/index).  It's worth buying, as you'll probably want to lend it out to your friends.

Secondly, the people impacted by the rescue industry are not lawn chairs - they actually can and do speak out for themselves.  A fair bit of video material has been produced by the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (primarily about sex workers in Cambodia), and is available for free on the Sex Workers Present Blip.tv station.  Spend a day watching those videos.  Most are not specifically about trafficking, but they will give you a dose of reality with the struggles faced by aggrieved sex workers in the developing world, including protesting being "rescued" and sent to what are tacitly prisons where they may face violence and rape at the hands of those who are supposedly rehabilitating them.  Most of these videos are not light watching, but it's material worth seeing.

If anyone has links to independent accounts (not quotes from anti-sex worker/anti-trafficking groups' own donation-soliciting literature) from people "rescued" while working in the United States, please post them.  I'd appreciate hearing their experiences and learning about what happens when migrant sex workers get "saved" in my country.

Agustín's academic work gives you a good foundation of research and informed theory, and the videos in the Sex Workers Present collection give you real first hand accounts directly from sex workers from developing countries who've faced the brutal end of "rescue" and meddling from outside organizations who claim to be "helping" them.  I consider this to be the your homework if you'd like to have a decent grasp of the issue.

One of the gems I've taken from Mistress Matisse's blog over the years has been her repeated admonishment (though not said in the context of politics) to be wary of how often the word help is just a nice way of saying control.  I think there's no more applicable place than in the world of anti-sex worker activists.  Sure, the line is, "We want to help women escape the sex industry", but what's really being said (and done) is, "We want to control other people's choices about their own bodies and dictate politically correct employment options to people whose complex situations we don't care to understand."

We already have too many do-gooders who presume to know what's best for sex workers, especially poor sex workers, migrant sex workers, and those in developing countries. What sex workers need are allies capable of listening.  So, go read up on the research, and then listen to what sex workers are actually agitating for on their own behalf.  I assure you, it's not that they wish more liberals, NGOs, and celebrities would barge into their lives and dictate how they ought to live.





by Furry Girl

10.26.09

Years ago, I was eating with a friend and a few of his enlightened lefty activist buddies.

I was aware that a number of his self-righteous feminist pals had a problem with what I do, so I generally stayed away from them, choosing to socialize with my sane friend one-on-one, when we'd make vegan cookies and watch scifi.  (An associate of his once tried to pick a fight with me inside an upscale restaurant, loudly accusing me in public that I "think it's a good thing to rape children" - her nutjob interpretation of what I must believe if I work in the porn industry.)

On this particular awkward occasion, I don't recall a certain woman at our large table saying anything to me during the meal, nor had she and I ever met before.  I wasn't very hungry, and ordered something small, like an appetizer or a smoothie.  When my check came, I tipped the waitress about 50% of the cost of what I ate.

The previously-quiet woman took it upon herself to inspect my bill, gave me the stink eye and snottily said, "You know, for the kind of money you make, you really should be tipping more.  These woman actually have to work for their money."

Remind me that part again about how the left is sexually liberated and right-wingers are my enemy?  I prefer my old-school Republican/Libertarian father who supports my right to sell sexuality over these "enlightened" feminist asses any day of the week.





by Furry Girl

09.26.09

"Not everyone can tilt at windmills, and most dancers just want to make their money with as little fanfare and frustration as possible. My activist entreaty has gone from 'shake the system' to 'get educated, get solvent, get out.' I applaud any woman who attempts to right the wrongs of the adult entertainment business, but I'm not convinced they can entirely be overcome. If a woman can leave the industry with some money, some insight, and some dignity, that's radical enough for me."

-- Lily Burana, in her book, Strip City





by Furry Girl

09.24.09

I've always worked hard to operate an ethical adult business.  I'm not claiming to be perfect, but I do my best.  Which, of course, is why it's so awesome that countless people yell at me for exploiting women, causing children to be raped, destroying relationships, and generally being responsible for a hateful, sexist world full of misery, degradation, and imperfectly-decorated cupcakes.  Today, I've been thinking a lot about the ethics of how models are be paid and the general lack of openness about how pay rates are determined.

I'm considering starting a fourth porn site.  It could take some time for me to earn back my investment if the economy keeps on tanking, so I need to be a good perverted entrepreneur and nail down a figure for the initial outlay before going any further with the project.

I'm a small business, and I currently pay models $100 each per photo set, regardless of whether they are posing nude or having sex.  I prefer to let models choose the level of overt/graphic sexuality they want to display.  For me, it seems the fairest to pay everyone for their time, rather than for specific acts or penetrated orifices.

I'm curious what other small porn companies are paying these days, so I sent an email out to a lot of industry friends asking about pay rates.  One of the responses was that I should be paying more for well-known performers.  While I appreciate my porno comrade's work and her opinion on the matter, the idea of paying some people more than others really makes me bristle, even though I know it's not uncommon.  I've always aimed to be as egalitarian as possible in both my work and personal life, and I will not start paying models different rates based on how well-known they are within a given niche.

It would be an absolute nightmare to try and guess how famous each model is and pay them based on my perception.  How does one determine fame?  Is a certain performer famous enough that I should pay her $300 for a photo set, or $350?  What about someone who's at the top of the foot fetish scene, but a total unknown in the pissing scene?  Is she $200 worth of famous, or $400?

And, "famous" to whom, exactly?  Syd Blakovich is an amazing queer porn star, but when she was at the AVN awards with Madison Young, pretty much no one at the mainstream event had any idea who she was.  On the flip side, I can't name a single Vivid contract girl, so they're not "famous" in my own bubble.  I can't think of a more confusing and unfair way to determine a worker's pay than "fame".

Apart from what I view as unfairness, it seems like a recipe for disaster and potential hurt feelings if my models found out what each of them were being paid and disagreed with my personal assessment of which of them was worth the most.  Transparency has always been a major value to me, whether as a business owner or navigator of my open relationships.

When surfing the alt/indie/queer/artsy porn I mainly enjoy, I usually click over to model pages to see how other businesses go about their recruiting and what they pay.  When I see a company mention nothing about payment, it makes me think one of two things: they pay based on arbitrary/subjective standards like "fame" or "hotness", or they're trying to discourage interest from models for whom getting paid for their work is a top concern.

I'd like to call out my sister/fellow pornographers and ask why so few small porn companies publish their payment rates on their model recruitment pages.  What's the argument for not making it easy for talent to see how much money they would make if they work with you?  If you choose to pay according to more vague standards like fame or hotness, why not be open about that, too, and note something like "$100-300 an hour, at our discretion"?

Over the years, I've seen some alt/indie/queer/artsy pornographers make statements about how they want their models to be in it for the self-expression more than the money, or even that models need to prove themselves with free/low-paying work before getting more or better-paid work.

While I, too, aim to produce porn with models who love what they're doing, I'm not going to pretend that they are completely indifferent to being compensated for their time and sexual energy.  I've seen this from alt/indie/queer/artsy adult companies - the whole "the models should provide my company with free/cheap labor to show how liberated they are" thing - but I've never seen a Horrible Mainstream Porn Company do this.  Feminists throw around complaints about "the Playboy body ideal", but I bet you Playboy doesn't try to make their models think they should just be in it to empower and express themselves.

I will always take issue with the fact that most criticism of the adult industry is about the supposed evils of sexualizing women's sexual parts, and not about boring labor issues like workers being treated well by management or compensated fairly.

Is it too much to dream of a day where discussion about the politics and ethics around sex work is not confined to moralistic fluff issues juxtaposed with imagery of women undulating in darkened rooms?

And is it too much to hope for that we independent and sex-positive porn companies could be among the most transparent in the adult industry about how much we pay our workers?





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