by Furry Girl
Much has been made over the years of feminist academics' use of images of sex workers without their permission for the purposes of belittling the featured sex worker and campaigning for their criminalization and public shaming. I found out that a photo of me has made it into an academic's lecture slides, but not in a class on navel-gazing feelingsy bullshit.
A friend of mine recently sent me a slide from a class on genetics he's taking, but asked me to not post the details about his school. (I told him that rather than seeking anonymity, he should have hollered out, "I banged that chick!" during the lecture.) Maybe I should be offended that I'm not credited, but I find it amusing that I am being used as an example when discussing human body hair growth patterns. (If I'm going to make it into the halls of academia, better a scientific example than a target of feminist hatred.) I'm pretty sure that's not my bush, I'm just the armpit example.
by Furry Girl
One of the things I've stridently maintained when it comes to sex work activism and debate is that the voices of current and long-term sex workers should always be privileged over those of former sex workers and occasional dabblers. It's in that vein that I feel obligated to disclose changes in my own status: after 10 years as a full time sex worker, I'm transitioning out of sex work. Well, half way, for now. It's not the sort of rapid exit process I've seen others undergo, such as getting a new boyfriend/husband and suddenly deleting their web presence. Since I have dealt with stalker problems throughout my career, I'm not going to disclose the details of what I'm doing in the new "straight" part of my life, but I'm not going to leave you totally hanging, either. I'm still one foot in, one foot out, as I work on creating a second career for myself - it's the hokey-pokey method of leaving the industry. (I've wondered if this is more normal, or the sudden exit method? Do most sex workers start a second career secretly towards the end of their stint as sex workers, and just never mention it?) The only thing I feel like saying about Career B is that it involves using science to make the world a better place. Since this has been a big decision that I didn't make lightly, I thought I'd share my reasons and some things I've been discovering.
The big question: why are you leaving sex work?
First, porn simply doesn't pay very well any more. Even though I am a sexually open person and a natural exhibitionist, I got into sex work for the money. (I can be a pervert for free any time, though.) The money's just not there any more, at least in my part of the industry. It's been a struggle to come to admitting this to myself, but the golden days of internet porn are long over, and I'm not willing to continue with the stress and responsibility of running my own business - and one that could land me in prison! - for so little pay. Though I've given it a lot of thought, I'm simply too much a scaredy-cat to be an escort or dominatrix. I've dabbled in offline pro-domming, and had totally safe experiences, but I just worry too much about drawing the short straw and going into a hotel room with a dangerous person. No amount of screening makes you invincible, and while I have friends who've never had a violent client, I have also met people who have been raped, robbed, assaulted, or otherwise harmed on the job (sometimes by police officers). It shouldn't be that way, of course. We should have decriminalization, sex workers shouldn't have to fear reporting crimes against them, and sex workers shouldn't have to fear being robbed and raped by cops, but we're not in that world yet.
The second reason I'm starting to retire is that I feel like I have done everything I could ever possibly want to do as a sex worker. There's no room for growth, other than in quantity. I've done a fucking awesome job of going from being a high school dropout to having a successful small business that allowed me to make a middle class income so that I have free time for travel, adventure, learning, and taking on all sorts of hobbies. I don't exaggerate when I say that porn has been my dream job. I wouldn't do it differently other than make some smarter business decisions when I was younger, but on the whole, I am incredibly proud of my work. I feel like I have taken off every possible color of clothing in just about every way I could, and now I'm just repeating myself.
I came, I saw, I kicked ass, and now I'm ready for something new. I don't feel challenged by my work any more, and fully realizing that helped me make my decision to find a second career.
I have no intention of deleting any of my web sites.
I've spent 10 years building a number of awesome porn sites, this blog, and SWAAY, and I'm proud of them. Further, lots of other people have also put plenty of blood, sweat, jizz, research, and time into my web sites, and I'd hate to erase their efforts, too. And even if I did want to erase my past (which I do not), deleting my work only means that I am ensuring that I will never profit from my labor, even though images and videos of me will still be floating around the internet until civilization collapses. Unlike strippers or escorts who would never do porn because it exists forever, I enjoy that the products of my labor will exist forever and continue earning me residuals, even if it's not a lot of money. Residual income is rare in the sex industry, so I'm glad that 18-year-old Furry Girl picked a career path that came with a little retirement income. (On the official social security and payroll taxes front, as a self-employed person, it's damned near impossible to claim unemployment benefits, so while I've paid significantly more in federal taxes than your average worker, I am unable to access those funds to which I should be entitled. It's one of the many insults upon injury sex workers deal with when it comes to the US government.)
Moving on from sex work: the good
For the first time in a decade, most of the compliments directed at me have nothing to do with my appearance. This isn't to say that I think I've been "coasting on my looks" for a decade, especially since I know I'm not a major head-turner. People ignore all the invisible labor that goes into being a successful sex worker. If I shoot a particularly awesome set of photos, the praise I receive is invariably along the lines of, "You're so hot," not, "You're a hard-working photographer!" "Being sexy" is the smallest part of what goes into running your own porn site, but it's the only part that people acknowledge. (The same extends to other forms of sex work: the visible part of your work is always dwarfed by all the preparation.) As much as I stand by the fact that "being sexy" is a hard-earned job skill and that it takes smarts and ambition to be a successful sex worker, I have to admit that it's awesome to be praised regularly for my intellect or work ethic. (This isn't to say that there's something wrong with being a professional piece of ass: that's exactly the job we sign up for upon entering sex work. All humans are all "reduced" to one-dimensional beings by those with whom who we have only fleeting contact, but that fact has no moral component.)
I feel challenged. Sometimes too much! Ha. Seriously, it's awesome to have new things to do, even though some of them are tedious and annoying. While I've always had an array of interests, sex work and sexuality issues have been the focus of the last ten years of my life, and it's refreshing to give some of my other interests free reign and really see what I can do with them.
Just like my first career in porn, I've found a second career where I can make an interest into a paying job. I'm glad that both of my careers are the sort of things I could have written down on a typical high school "how to decide your career" quiz that asks, "If you had millions of dollars and didn't need to work, what would you do with your time?" That's not to say either porn or the new career is easy and always enjoyable, but both tap into my passions.
Moving on from sex work: the bad
Starting all over in building your resume, especially when you're almost 30. Ugh. While being smart, motivated, good with computers, and possessing an ability to learn new things are traits I bring to any job, the rest of my skill set doesn't transfer over. This also means I will not be making much money for a while, hence, staying a part-time sex worker as a financial bridge.
Waking up at a certain time of day. As someone who has been mostly waking up whenever I feel like it since I was 16, it's jarring to need to be somewhere precisely at a certain time. One of the biggest reasons many people choose sex work is the flexibility and ability to set your own schedule.
Working with other people who are not of my own choosing. I'm not the most enthusiastic team player. I can do it, but I am regularly examining my behavior to make sure I am doing it right. Running my own business from home for so many years has made me forget all the required social niceties we are supposed to engage in, like asking everyone how they're doing all the time, and them being required to say, "I'm good, and you?" no matter how they are actually feeling. It's so artificial, but it's apparently the lubricant that keeps society functioning. I've wondered, "Do I have a touch of Asperger's, or am I just kind of an antisocial weirdo?"
Not being out as a sex worker in all parts of my life any more. This one bothers me a lot. I'm used to being out out to just about everyone I interacted with, but I'm keeping that under wraps for now with Career B. It's not at all that I'm developed a sense of shame, but because I am the lowest-ranking member of a group, and because life is a competition, I don't want to do things right now that would prevent me from being given a shot at opportunities. (I'm also not out as poly, kinky, or pro-guns, so it's really about not courting controversy in any form.) I made the decision that I need to build up new "credit," and once people see that I am not a cliche sex worker stereotype of an untrustworthy drug addict who can't handle hard work or intellectual challenges, I can be open again. I'd rather demonstrate my competence and then surprise people later than start off by "making myself look bad" and then trying to fight an uphill battle of convincing people I'm capable, or not having a chance to try and convince them at all. It's not ideal, but it's not how I am going to live forever. For now, new folks know me as someone who ran a small web design company and has decided to switch careers.
Moving on from sex work: the random
I am not transitioning out of sex work for a man. Without trying to sound too judgmental, I have to say that it always bums me out when women leave sex work because they got some controlling, jealous boyfriend. I always swore that I would never do that (although that didn't spare me from dating some assholes who had problems with my job), and I'm glad I stayed true to that goal. (As a bisexual/pansexual woman, I will add that I would not have switched careers for a lady, either.) I do have an awesome dude in my life, but he's secure enough that he isn't reduced to fits of terrified panic at the idea that other men have seen me naked.
I am not transitioning out of sex work because I think I'm "too old." Without sounding vain, I think I'm aging just fine, and would have no problem continuing to work in the sex industry for years to come. Sure, I'm about 15 pounds heavier than I was 10 years ago, and I get occasional grey hairs, but I'm so far happy that I'm not one of those people who "hits the ugly wall" and suddenly ages 15 years in 6 months. (It pleases me that this category includes some of the "pretty girls" who bullied me when I was a youngster in school.) Also, unlike some cranky feminist sex workers, I haven't been exercising and eating healthy only because I am trying to cater to mainstream beauty standards to extract money from men, excitedly squealing upon quitting the industry about how I can't wait to get fat. I think people can be sexy at any size, but purposefully gaining weight (and increasing your risks of all sorts of health problems) just to say "fuck you, male gaze!" is as stupid as starving yourself to attract the male gaze. I'm hardly as athletic as I wish I were, but there are reasons to stay fit other than sex work. (Click see to two NSFW photos, one from the most recent photo update on my site, one from the very first.)
I'm not sure about my plans for SWAAY, but I'm not interested in trying to turn it into my career. The debate over whether to be agitators or paid mainstream NGO employees has long been going on in grassroots activist circles, and every scene has watched people lured away with the promise of a steady paycheck if they'll only tone down their rhetoric and get in line with the "proper" nonprofit establishment (ie, become less effective and more palatable to big donors). I know that a number of sex workers' rights activists are trying to turn (or have turned) their passion into careers as professional social workers with official tax-exempt charity statuses, but I don't want that.
I'm not quitting sex work so I can try to have a "real" writing career where I write puff pieces for HuffPo and ladyblogs about how I used to be a sex worker. Doesn't interest me.
I'm still maintaining my web sites, and will undoubtably still shoot new content sporadically, as well as continuing doing cam shows around my new schedule. I don't know when I'm going to stop doing anything new entirely, but I'm guessing in a couple of years. No sense in abandoning ship before the next ship is fully launched, and I'm giving myself a long timeline.
So what am I, a half-retired sex worker? And does this mean all sex workers are considered half-retired if they're starting a different career or going to school? (Because that's a sizable chunk of people in the industry.) I still think of myself as a current sex worker, but I feel like it's dishonest to say I'm a full-timer. I'm going to keep on being a supporter of sex workers' rights, and blogging/tweeting about these issues as Furry Girl, but the sexual politics world is definitely not my top priority any longer. It's a bit sad to think of that, but I am also excited about what's still to come. I have one final big project I want to do as "Furry Girl the sex work blogger chick," while I plan to announce soon.
by Furry Girl
It's been a while since I've done a public shout-out to people who have sent me gifts. I'm sorry for the delay! I do love that people I've never met send me presents, so I'm sorry if anyone felt neglected. A special thanks to the awesome people who sent me gifts from my Amazon wishlist: AM, AP, DR, DS, EM, EW, JD, JM, KS, MF, and T! (Please make sure include your email address in the "gift comments" field on Amazon so I can send you a thank you. Some books came without such a note, so I have no idea who to thank.)
My new books:
* Women's Inhumanity to Women by Phyllis Chesler
* Society of the Spectacle by Guy DeBord
* The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
* Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business by Ronald Weitzer
* The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
* The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer
* Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth about Women and Rivalry by Susan Shapiro Barash
* The Science on Women and Science by Christina Hoff Sommers
* Is There Anything Good About Men? by Roy F Baumeister
* Vegan a la Mode by Hannah Kaminsky
* Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
* Camp Concentration by Thomas Disch
* Gender Myths and Feminist Fables: The Struggle for Interpretive Power in Gender and Development (anthology)
* Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstitions, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer
* Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Closterman
* Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
* The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild
If you buy any of these above-mentioned books through their Amazon affiliate links, a portion of the price goes to SWAAY.
by Furry Girl
After spending part of May looking exactly like the Forever Alone Guy and trying to diagnose a mystery ailment, it turns out that I had the mumps. (No, I didn't take a photo of my weird face while I was sick, I felt too gross and ugly to immortalize it.) After all the hours spent researching every country I've visited in the last few years in search of a tropical disease that might match my symptoms, I got the most pedestrian of diagnoses. (It should be noted that Brooke Magnanti made the correct guess before anyone at my local clinic.) It wasn't fun at all: the swollen lumpy face, the weird looks from strangers, all the of blood draws to test me for rare diseases, and about $1100 in medical bills. I did receive the MMR vaccine as a child in 1985, but it did not take hold, as was also the case for Brooke, who contracted the mumps three years ago herself.
I consider my personal experience with the mumps as a success story for vaccination.
As my regular readers/Twitter followers know, I am a supporter of vaccination programs, and it's one of the few areas where I advocate heavy-handed state intervention into people's lives to force them to do something against their will. I oppose any "religious" and "personal belief" exemptions to mandatory vaccination programs, and I consider it child abuse to deny your offspring medical care just because you don't believe in science. While I'll laugh and smirk at adults going to naturopaths and chiropractors, I don't really care if adults want to throw away their money on that crap when it doesn't affect anyone else. However, vaccination is a totally different story, because it doesn't just affect your family, it puts everyone at risk.
The anti-vaccination movement is not, as some might think, a product of the lunatic fringe of Christianity. The people who oppose vaccination and profit from spreading lies and hysteria about the supposed "dangers" aren't just religious conservatives like Michele Bachmann trying to keep the HPV vaccine from saving lives, but often liberal/left wingers who champion a bunch of nonsense about the supposed evils of "Western medicine," aka, medicine that is actually proven to be effective at treating illness. In the United States, especially in "progressive" areas like Seattle, we are experiencing increasing outbreaks of preventable illnesses because of anti-science dumbasses who are so selfish that they are willing to risk killing their own and other people's children on their vague unsupported guess that maybe everything humans know about biology, chemistry, physiology, epidemiology, and medicine might be wrong. It's a very risky gamble with astronomical odds of being correct, and these people are playing this game at the expense of vulnerable members of society: babies and children who cannot or have not been vaccinated, and adults with compromised immune systems.
Why does vaccination go beyond a simple personal choice to do something potentially dangerous, like not wearing a bike helmet, or drinking alcohol, or visiting countries experiencing political unrest? I strongly support people doing whatever risky things they like with their own bodies, but the personal liberty argument does not hold up when it comes to vaccination. Successful vaccination programs require what's called "herd immunity," whereby diseases are controlled and essentially wiped out because most people in a society have protection. Even if one kid in a school of 500 gets measles, it's not going to become a major outbreak if the other 499 children have had their vaccinations and the illness can't spread like wildfire through the community. Some anti-vaccination people try to twist the issue of herd immunity, claiming that since most kids are vaccinated, then it doesn't matter if their kids are potential vectors of disease. (That's like making an argument that it's perfectly okay to drive drunk just because most the majority of people drive sober, and so those other people will hopefully be alert enough to get out of the way as your car careens into oncoming traffic.) The "free spaces" in herd immunity must be reserved not for anti-science conspiracy theorists, but for children and adults who truly cannot be vaccinated, such as young babies and people with immune system disorders whose bodies couldn't handle vaccinations. Herd immunity is a biological/social safety net that is easily broken when too many people think they're entitled to use it.
Anti-vaccination crazies cling to all sorts of arguments to support their beliefs. Some claim that vaccines cause autism (they don't). Some claim that their God doesn't believe in medical intervention. Some claim that all of "Western medicine" is some kind of patriarchal oppression, and that we must go back to the glorious old days of having sacred medicine women. A recent anti-vaccination nut I met was opposed to it on the grounds that suffering - including getting polio or AIDS - is all a part of our magical life journey, and that it's wrong to deny humans those character-building opportunities. Whatever banner they are waving, these people are not only fucking crazy, but also dangerous. I don't want to see already-disadvantaged and vulnerable kids like an infant born with HIV have to suffer the added complications of measles or polio because some stupid hippie who thinks we shouldn't interfere with Mother Nature.
Back to me and my mumps. I was vaccinated, but I still got the disease. This is the sort of extremely rare case that anti-vaccination crazies would hold up as anecdotal proof that vaccines are evil and don't even work anyway. On the contrary: getting the mumps has made me even more pro-vaccination. That I was unknowingly susceptible to the mumps and did not get the illness until the age of 28 is a success, not a failure, of vaccination programs. I owe a debt of thanks to the parents of the kids in my elementary school who got their children vaccinated. I owe thanks also to middle schools and colleges for requiring MMR vaccinations as a condition of entry (even though some people still manipulate their way out with "philosophical" exemptions). I am thankful that the "herd" I grew up in did vaccinate, which is why, unlike my parents and grandparents, I never knew a single kid with polio when I was growing up.
Because of the spectacular success of vaccination programs in the developed world, my generation is quick to forget how terrible the diseases are that we now vaccinate against, but they should try talking to some older people in their community. They should ask their grandparents how scary it was to wonder if their children might be crippled by polio or die from diphtheria. A couple of generations ago, you didn't have loony parents like Jenny McCarthy marching in protest of the government and science for trying to eradicate diseases, nor will you find an anti-vaccination movement in developing countries where these illness still claim countless innocent lives. In short: you don't see opposition from people who know, on either an emotional or scientific level, what these diseases actually mean.
In closing, I always liked this nice visual demonstration from Penn & Teller's Bullshit, which shows that, even if everything the anti-vaccination crazies believe were true, they'd still lose the argument. Read more in-depth information about vaccination and "alt med" nonsense over on Science-Based Medicine. If you're more into books than blogs, check out Rose Shapiro's Suckers or Simon Singh's Trick or Treatment.
by Furry Girl
I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles
by Lily Burana
A few weeks ago, I was doing a purge of my Amazon wishlist. When I came to Lily's Burana's I Love a Man in Uniform, I thought to myself, "Yeah, I liked her book about stripping and her legal fight against stage fees, but I only have so many hours in my week, and it's not like being married to someone in the military is something I'll ever need to know about." I almost deleted it, but figured I'd go ahead and read the book if someone else bought it for me.
Days later, I ran into a guy who I hadn't seem since we had a one-weekend stand in San Diego the spring of 2003. (We hooked up a few days after the US invaded Iraq for Gulf War 2.) As it turns out, he'd recently moved to Seattle, and had even gotten cuter in the last 9 years. We went out to dinner, where he revealed that one of the things he'd been up to since our tryst was that he'd been in the military. I laughed, and I assumed he was joking. What kind of sassy punk street artist willingly signs up for the US military? (I'd seen An Officer and a Gentleman - since when did the military even allow you to join if you have tattoos?) The guy's reasons and experiences are his story to tell, but overall, his intentions were good. I've seen a couple of photos of him from his enlisted days, and it's still hard to believe it's him in the fatigues, sporting a Forrest Gump haircut.
After our date, which lasted until 7 or 8 in the morning when we finally fell asleep, I ordered I Love a Man in Uniform, laughing at myself about how I'd assumed its contents would never even remotely apply to any situation I would find myself in. (This is not to say that I've found love at second sight, and am now plan on marrying my retired military fuck buddy. Don't worry, dude, I haven't gone all bunny-boiler on you! I do, however, like to put effort into learning about the people who share my bed.)
Lily Burana (@lilyburana) is perhaps best known as the author of Strip City, a memoir of her experiences as a stripper and peep show performer, including a legal battle in San Francisco against stage fees. At the end of the book, she has retired from sex work and fallen in love with a cowboy in Wyoming whom she plans to marry. I have always appreciated her fairly contented parting with sex work and activism, and ability to go forward knowing that she'd made a small dent, even if she didn't change the whole industry.
In this second memoir, I think Burana was able to make her specific scenario as "punk stripper turned military wife" universal, and I'd argue it speaks to plenty of aging sex workers like myself and those who are in some way moving from or between a "weird" life and a "normal" one. Here's a passage about Burana's failed relationship with her Wyoming fiance which deserves highlighting:
He wasn't a bad person by any means. He just wasn't in love with who I am; he was in love with who I used to be. I couldn't forget the time he referred to me as his "sexy Playboy model." It was 2001. I had modeled for Playboy in 1996. I was in Playboy in the previous century. If he'd built his esteem for me on something I couldn't possibly sustain, then where could we go from there? There's no such thing as an eternal vixen, even the dorky, alterna-girl variety. You get bored. You burn out. You turn thirty. The job description includes built-in obsolescence. I didn't want to be some post-stripper ghost-bride -- forever toting the shadow of my old self with me through my married life, stunted and soured by my own over-reliance on my past. It would mean living as a twisted Dickens heroine, wedded but locked into the persona I had already outgrown, becoming more snarled and diminished by the day. Miss Havisham of the pole.
There's a lot to like about Burana's writing and her life story, but my big gripe with this book is that "I Love a Man in Uniform" isn't just a title. Her uniform fetishist-level attention to detail for her husband's war paraphernalia takes up a sizable chunk of the book. Many pages are spent gushing about how sexy her man is in his uniform, how sexy his patches and rank insignia are, and how sexy sexy sexy it all is - and with the assumption that of course, readers share this enthusiasm. Burana spends a good bit of time cooing about how military men are so strong and chivalrous and know how to fix things and open jars for women, as though such a list of cliche masculine traits are possessed only by male members of the armed forces, and the rest of us are stuck dating a bunch of sissy boys who burst into tears at the thought of manual labor or dealing with a spider. (In contrast, my own physically strongest and most stereotypically manly-man friend spent his younger days as a member of Queer Nation and participating in anti-nuke civil disobedience.) Burana's occasional reminders to readers that she doesn't support the war or abuses like those at Abu Ghraib are diffused by being intermingled with long passages about how everything to do with the military is just so sexy and so impressive and so manly. (She notes later in the book that she's had a lifelong issue with compartmentalization.) It also annoys me that much is written that suggests that only those serving in the military know the meanings of sacrifice or loyalty, like the rest of the world is filled with useless flakes who have never made any hard decisions or endured difficulties in the name of their ideals. For Burana, the US military embodies all that is sexy and noble in the world.
But here's the thing: if you're decidedly anti-war, and don't get whipped into a heightened state of arousal at the mere sight of camo, you're not going to be buying a book called I Love a Man in Uniform in the first place. A good writer knows their audience. With cover praise from a military publication, and Amazon reviews from people who found the book at their base's commissary, it's clear that this book wasn't written for someone like me.
It's not as though I believe everyone connected to one of the tentacles of the military is an evil person. My father and both of my grandfathers are veterans. A number of people in my social circles work for defense contractors. One of my most silly and joyous friends does nerdy stuff for a company that also makes cluster bombs. And then there's my new ex-military fuck buddy. The thing is, I care for and appreciate these people in spite of their work for the military, not because of it. I'd never say, "Hey man, can I lick the corporate logo on your paycheck from Raytheon? I'm going to picture that when I'm masturbating tonight."
But, even with all the book's girlish squealing about how sexy and manly military men are, Burana does have a solid and serious journey underneath that I enjoyed reading, including her time in therapy to deal with PTSD from childhood abuse. My favorite chapter, of course, is the one where Burana explores her prior life as a sex worker now that she's had years of distance.
When pondering the complexity of how who I was squares with who I am now, men tend to laugh, but women tend to get agitated. It taps directly into a basic female social anxiety: that a woman's past will cost her a future. Indeed, in some cases, that does happen. (Hi there, Miss Lewinsky!) I did worry that someone might snub me when they found out, and though he assured me that it wouldn't, I worried that it would reflect poorly on Mike. In the face of those fears, I tried to be Teflon Annie. Sometimes it worked.
Still, I didn't fret too terribly much, because I was learning that military people are sophisticated-- more so than civilians assume. They understand what it's like to be judged unfairly. Sex work and soldiering are both flash-point vocations-- rife with public misconceptions and stereotypes.
Then, Burana reminds me of some things I've been thinking about a lot lately:
I don't miss the hustle. When I danced, I thought of the dough in aggregate terms-- two hundred, three hundred, five hundred, a thousand dollars a shift. Only after I quit did I ever break it down: On a two-hundred-dollar night, ten guys paid me twenty dollars each to sit in their lap. Yet if a man at a bus stop had offered me twenty dollars to do the same thing, I would have spat in his face. Context becomes another form of compartmentalization.
Over the weekend, one cam client was particularly annoying, and I only netted $8 from our five minutes of paid time together. It's one of those moments when you step back and go, "What the hell just happened? Why did I put up with someone so rude - who got to see me naked - for less than the cost of a plate of pad Thai? Why should I feel this intruded upon for eight fucking dollars?" Making a couple hundred bucks from the comfort of home is greatly tempered by the realization that it was earned in such a piecemeal fashion. I wonder for how many sex workers that sort of realization is one of the things that inspires them to leave.
And Burana's big question, explored in much of the book,
The stripper life is far behind me and recedes more and more in the rearview mirror day by day. It is, literally, not my business anymore. But the threat of sex-specific scorn wakes me up, reminds me of where I've been. When I hear or read attacks full of fuming generalizations and analyses that are basically little more than finely honed hate, I feel moved to defend my fallen-angel comrades. These are people I know. These are people I love. On their uniform sleeve, combat veterans wear the patch of the unit with which they fought, even decades later. In a less visible way, I do the same: Hey, haters, I served in the porno trenches with these people. Deal. But if I didn't belong there, and I didn't belong at West Point, then where, exactly, did I belong?
Lily Burana ultimately found her sense of belonging in the West Point world with her husband. I'm genuinely glad when anyone from Team Ho finds their true place in the world, whether it's inside or outside of the sex industry. A married life in the military is certainly not the sort of happy ending that I want for myself, but despite that, I think we can all see Burana's tale as a success story.
Buy the book through this Amazon link and a portion of the sales price will go to SWAAY.
by Furry Girl
I just got back from two weeks in Australia, which is extra special because it was my final continent. One of my goals before turning 30 was to visit all seven, and I've done that with almost two years to spare. If you're interested in seeing photos from my Australian trip, or any of my other adventures, they're all on Flickr. I leave you with a photo of me photographing a turtle, taken by one of the dive staff on my trip to the Great Barrier Reef.
by Furry Girl
Thank you very much to the awesome people who sent me gifts from my Amazon wishlist: Raikin, Stella Maris, AP, BO, and CL! (Please make sure include your email address in the "gift comments" field on Amazon so I can send you a thank you.)
My new books:
* The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
* Not Bad For A Human an autobiography by Lance Henriksen, with Joseph Maddrey
* The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by Julie Des Jardins
* Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles J. Wheelan
* Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature by Marcus Du Sautoy
* Whores and Other Feminists by Jill Nagle
* Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos
* The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: The Care of the Self by Michel Foucault
* Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman
* Taste the Flavors (The Erotic Web) by Stella Maris (sent to me by the author, a fan of my sites.)
And who could resist the Breaking Bad chucks? MF sent them as a birthday present a while ago.
If you buy any of these above-mentioned books through their Amazon affiliate links, a portion of the price goes to SWAAY.
by Furry Girl
[Updated after NPR responded by snidely mocking me on their web site and refusing to so much as apologize. If they would prefer to handle this as an internet flame war, I'll give them one Google will remember until the end of time.]
This week, I got a surprising email from a friend. He'd heard an NPR program, On the Media, re-hash what was obviously one of my blog posts, but without attribution to either my pseudonym or my blog URL. It was about my FOIA story from a couple of months ago. I knew exactly what my friend was referring to, because I had declined an interview request from On the Media's pushy and annoying Sarah Abdurrahman last week. They'd gone ahead and done a story on me anyway, borrowing from my blog post, and I would have never known of NPR's theft if I didn't know someone who listened to the show.
The punchline is that On the Media portrays itself as a bastion of media ethics, bravely "[tackling] sticky issues with a frankness and transparency that has built trust with listeners." This wasn't just some Tumblr account with a dozen followers pilfering my work, but a nationally-broadcast radio program on NPR, which proudly cites that it "has won Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature reporting and investigative reporting, the National Press Club's Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism and a Peabody Award for its body of work."
My FOIA story is definitely one of the most "journalistic" pieces I've ever had on my blog. Yes, it has snark, but it's also real original reporting. I filed Freedom of Information Act requests with over a dozen government agencies, waited for about 7 months, and then combed through over 400 pages of disclosure to find the pieces of the story I most wanted to tell. I wasn't just posting my opinions on a popular news item of the week that someone else broke, I was writing based on original source materials, for which I was the only civilian who has access. I was posting things that had never been online previously, but would be of interest to the public. If that's not "real journalism," I don't know what is.
Not only was my FOIA piece a genuinely journalistic effort on my part, it's also a very personal topic. I am especially protective of my work being stolen by NPR because it's about me and my experiences as an activist. I wasn't writing about FBI surveillance of the Black Panthers from 40 years ago, I was writing about the FBI surveillance detail that followed me for a few days. This is my story in every sense of the word.
I am referred to only as "a woman" in Sarah Abdurrahman's broadcast of minute and a half which carefully avoids using a name for me, and although the show's summary on the web does link to my blog (though still doesn't mention my name or my blog's name), I doubt many NPR listeners actually check every show's web summary after a story to see if any extra references have been added. I certainly have never sought out a radio show's web site to read a show's summary and make sure it reflected what I heard on the air. Radio is a broadcast media that provides audio news and commentary, the audience are listeners, not readers. An online summary is merely filler and search engine optimizing for their web site, another way to get listeners and money. NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman stole my work, and I didn't even get the benefit of some national exposure.
I publish my blog under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. For those unfamiliar with Creative Commons, it's a way for "content creators" like me to protect their work while also allowing for sharing of ideas. It's a more personalized form of copyright protection that lets a creator specify what people can and can't do with their work. Creative Commons has held up in multiple courts around the world as a real copyright policy, including federal court in the US, so it's not a "made-up goofball license" as someone obnoxiously said to me on Twitter.
My specific Creative Commons stipulations mean that you can share, quote, and repost my writing, but you can't use it for commercial purposes, you are required to attribute it to my pseudonym and blog with a link, and that you can't make derivative works, defined as "You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work." The derivative works portion is a grey area, and whether or not the taxpayer-subsidized NPR counts as "commercial" is also up for debate, but NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman unquestionably violated the attribution requirements of my Creative Commons licensing. Even the one link they provided to my blog on their show summary page on the web (which probably has .0001% of the audience of their radio broadcast) didn't follow the attribution requirements. To quote my Creative Commons license conditions, "Attribution — You must attribute Feminisnt to Furry Girl (with link)."
As far as I can tell, the attribution portion of Creative Commons license has not yet been tested in court in the United States. It has been tested in Belgium and Israel, and in both cases, the content creator won the case. I would love to the the American test case for attribution.
NPR and Sarah Abdurrahman violated both the letter and spirit of my Creative Commons licensing, and in doing so, they have opened themselves up to legal action. [See my third update at the end of this post.]
Here's more of the backstory, which you can skip if you're short on time, and go directly to the final paragraphs of this post.
On February 28, after sending emails asking for an interview about my FOIA story at 8:55am, 10:58am, and 11:00am, NPR's Sarah Abdurrahman moved to Twitter and yet again contacted me at 12:55pm. (News flash: if I don't reply to your annoying messages within the hour, don't assume you need to keep contacting me over and over and over. This is considered bad internet behavior.) I normally delete and ignore messages from people who exhibit spammer-level cluelessness, but I was feeling generous, and replied to the first of Sarah Abdurrahman's emails, shown below.
From: "Sarah Abdurrahman" <SAbdurrahman@wnyc.org>
Date: February 28, 2012 8:55:59 AM PST
Subject: from NPR
I am a producer with the National Public Radio program On the Media, a media analysis show that covers topics from First Amendment issues, to new media, and everything in between. You can find out more about us at onthemedia.org. One of the topics we like to discuss is transparency and Freedom of Information…which is why I was so interested to come across your story about FOIA-ing yourself! If you are available, we would love to have you on our program to talk about your experience with FOIA. We are not a live show, so we can be fairly flexible with scheduling an interview. Are you available to join us? Thanks in advance,
Sarah Abdurrahman|On the Media
160 Varick Street, New York NY 10013
T: 646.829.4567|E: firstname.lastname@example.org
WNYC: WNYC.ORG|93.9 FM|AM 820
I do not feel like I'm the best person to speak on the issue of Freedom of Information Act Requests, or on the domestic surveillance of American activists. I really believe that "we" should only put forward the formal or informal spokespersons who are the best at a topic. It always annoys me when I see people who don't know an issue well trying to explain it to the media, especially media like a radio or television broadcasts. For those reasons, I declined the interview and referred Abdurrahman to someone whose work centers on that topic in which she was interested. (I'm omitting his name and credentials from these emails just to avoid dragging him into the mess.) I was already being too nice, in retrospect. I tend to err on the side of politeness when dealing with the media, even if they're annoying pests, because you never know when you might need them in the future.
From: Feminisnt <>
Date: February 28, 2012 3:06:34 PM PST
To: Sarah Abdurrahman <SAbdurrahman@wnyc.org>
Subject: Re: from NPR
Thanks for contacting me. I'm flattered by the offer, but I really don't think my case is particularly interesting or special. There are much more interesting topics when it comes to FBI surveillance of American activists, and I'd rather see a more meaningful case get air time. I agree that it's a great topic, but my situation isn't special, and I'm not an expert on FOIA issues in general. My particular incident of being followed went nowhere and resulted in no arrests, whereas some cases result in major prosecutions, illegal wiretaps, and far more amusing anecdotes.
If you're looking for someone to discuss government surveillance of activists, [redacted] would be a much better choice than me, and he's written a lot about surveillance and prosecution of [activists]. His email address is [redacted].
Sarah Abdurrahman refused to take "no" for an answer, and sent me two more emails, on February 28 and 29. Maybe it's a sex worker thing, but anytime someone openly disrespects my politely telling them "no," and continues to insist that I should acquiesce to their demands, I immediately close off and decide I will never have anything to do with them. Sex work teaches you nothing if not boundaries and how to assert your limits in the face of pushy people who feel entitled to your time and energy. If I say "no" to you the first time, I will never, ever change my mind if you keep bothering me.
The meta issue of NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman's theft and disrespect is this: the "legitimate" media - meaning anyone who can afford broadcast licenses or physical paper distribution, even if it's a "small" news organization like NPR - shits on bloggers and independent writers all the time. We're just a bunch of silly kids making lolcats and scribbling nonsense, except when we're not, and then the media will shamelessly steal our work. How often do you see CNN or a major news network not bother to send reporters to cover stories, but just read off the tweets from bloggers and others in an area? That's but one example of how the mainstream media loves to use bloggers and independent writers while stopping short of truly respecting their legitimacy as reporters. Bloggers are not only sometimes the best sources of news, but sometimes the only sources. We break new ground, we do original research, we look at source material the mainstream usually doesn't even bother with, and best case scenario, a "real" media agency might read a few sentences from us on the air amid their fluff. Add to the mix that I write mostly about sexual politics and sex work, and I'm beyond invisible, I'm the lowest scum on the "respectable writers" totem pole. It feels like a double dose of the disregarding sneer the mainstream press shows to both bloggers and sex workers. (Sex workers constantly cope with outsiders re-telling, re-purposing, and twisting our stories for their benefit, not ours.)
I've emailed a number of lawyers, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation about my issue, and I'd love to take this to federal court as a test case for the attribution requirements of Creative Commons. I haven't fired off my own DMCA takedown requests, because I'm generally loath to use the over-reaching DMCA laws, even when I'm in the right. I believe it's important to keep pushing the message that bloggers can be journalists, that Creative Commons is a real copyright that should be respected, and that the media can't just steal from small unpaid writers like myself. (See the EFF's guide to blogger's rights issues here.)
Aside from the occasional presents from my wishlist, I am not compensated for the countless hours I've poured into writing. I write about things I'm passionate about, and I do so without expectation of riches, fame, or ever "crossing over" into the world of "real" writing. I simply don't want news organizations and journalists blithely stealing my work without so much as attribution or a thank you, just so they can earn their salaries, ad/sponsorship revenue, or viewer donations at my expense. I don't think that's too much to ask. I put a lot of my time and pieces of my life out there to write my FOIA story. It's not fair that NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman get to illegitimately and illegally benefit from my efforts.
Update one, March 8th: On the Media's Katya Rogers posted a response on their web site. Rather than apologizing, they distort the situation and mock me. They've just thrown a bucket of gasoline on this fire, and made it clear they have no intention of apologizing for either their ethical violations or their legal violations. They even blame me for the situation because I didn't want to be interviewed for their story. Since when does a refusal to be interviewed translate as, "Instead, just steal my work without attribution"? As is often done by people who dislike me, I am dismissively referred to as "someone calling herself 'Furry Girl'," to draw attention to my pseudonym as a means to discredit me or make me seem unreliable. (Wait, but if I'm such a fake person who can't be trusted, why did they so desperately want me to be on their radio show, and why did they do a story on me?) NPR is particularly incensed and calls it "seriously beyond the pale" that I would dare to call out by name the journalist who stole my work. Oh, so that's the game? You don't want it showing up in Google that NPR, On the Media, and Sarah Abdurrahman engage in content theft from a blogger? Thanks for telling me how to proceed!
Update two, March 8th: This is something of a sidenote, but I feel it's worth sharing. A friend of mine posted a comment on On the Media's web site, which they manually edited. They didn't just delete a comment they didn't like in its entirely, they de-clawed his argument to make themselves look better. His comment linked to my blog as a reference for what I've actually said, which is in contrast to their twisting of what transpired. On the Media's comment policy does not bar commenters from posting links. This was a manual, selective edit of one person's comment to make NPR look better.
Update three, March 11th: After talking to some lawyers and people who follow copyright enforcement issues, on a financial level, it's sadly just not worth it to sue NPR. The problem is that it would cost me a huge amount of money in legal fees to get what would surely be only a small monetary settlement. For me, it's not about money, it's about the point that I require attribution, but no attorney wants to launch a federal copyright case on the hopes of getting a portion of what... $50? $500? It drives me up the wall that NPR can do whatever the hell it wants, violate any sense of journalistic ethics, no doubt knowing that any court settlement they'd have to pay out wouldn't be worth it to me to fight for. The professional media wins, the small blogger they're stealing from loses, simply because I don't their kind of audience and money. (And it stings extra that we, as American taxpayers, subsidize NPR. They're using my money to screw me over, and I don't have enough money to fight back.)
I will not be publishing comments from the NPR apologists (or employees?) who are starting to find their way to my blog. You can go fawn over NPR on their own web site, you don't get to take up space on my server to defend their shitty behavior.
by Furry Girl
I like this meme, so I made one about my work. Obviously, doesn't apply to all sex workers or all pornographers, so get out there and make your own! If you make a sex work related one, you can email it to me or send me a link and I'll post it here if you like.
UPDATE! After searching around, I found three other sex industry contributions. I love that I'm not the only person who immediately thought "sexual predator" for the "what society thinks I do" box:
by Furry Girl
Here's my seasonal public shout-out to the awesome people who bought me awesome gifts from my Amazon wishlist, including books written by two of my favorite Twitterfolk: @pennjillette and @evgenymorozov. Thanks to JV, HD, MM, SB, and BJ! (Please include your email in the "gift comments" field so I can send you a thank you email.)
My cool new books:
* The Art of War by Sun Tzu
* The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays by EP Thompson
* The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov
* God, No!: Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette
* Working Sex: Sex Workers Write About a Changing Industry edited by Annie Oakley
* The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller
I turn 28 this month, so as always, I shamelessly encourage birthday/Festivus gifts from my wishlist on Amazon. Click on the menu to sort by priority, as some items are higher on my list than others. I'm currently salivating pretty heavily over the $85 Breaking Bad shoes, hint hint.
(PS: If you buy any of these books through my links, a portion of the price goes to SWAAY.)
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
More of me online
Enjoy my writing? I enjoy presents!
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Kat's Stories
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sex Worker Pie Charts
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Whore Madonna