Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On Cats and Femmes

Cinnamon, one of my beautiful furry beasts, was entertaining the household this morning by doing delightful full body roll and slide maneuvers on the lounge room rug. Zoo commented on the similarities between Cinnamon's and my approach to getting attention. It reminded me of how I used to see a client when I was fairly new to sex work, who asked me to act sexy. It's a difficult thing to summon up on command, so I just started moving around the room like a cat, slow and slinky. He was quite happy, and it's worked for me ever since.


I decided at one point that all cats are in fact femmes - including the toms (whereas there is something rather butch about dogs - except maybe poodles). After all, cats all walk around on heels. And female cats are called queens. I know I feel most sexy when in cat drag. My Lawrence has a hesitant pitter patter, rather like Audrey Hepburn in her ingenue roles, and Cinnamon walks like a drunken Elizabeth Taylor, with the shoulder straps of her slip about to fall off.

The Notorious Whore Stigma

I went to see The Notorious Bettie Page on Monday night. I know it has gotten some pretty mixed reviews, but I really liked it (and not just for the shoes – although they were pretty good). A lot of reviews I have read seem to see the film as an amiable bit of fluff – and probably not delving deeply into the motivations of Ms Page….

I felt it was a pretty accurate reflection of everything I had read about Bettie’s life, and she has – since being told by God not to pose anymore – been pretty reclusive and very unwilling, it seems, to give detailed analysis of her motivations or actions. I really liked the fact that the film reflected the fact that she was so body positive and to a remarkable extent, didn’t take on much of the shame and stigma associated with nudity, porn or BDSM. Her sense of ‘lets have fun with this’ that is so present in every image taken of her is very explicit in the film also. So joyful. However, the aspect of the film which spoke to me most profoundly was the way she was perceived by others – the fact that she had done things that put her in the category of sexual/ abandoned/ slut, and the limits that this put on Bettie occupying other territories. While she seemed rather stilted as an actor, there is one scene where she is at an audition – probably wasn’t brilliant, but one of the men involved with casting said to her something like, “such a pleasure to meet the notorious Bettie Page” (obviously, giving the film it’s title), this line gave me a horrible sinking feeling, as I imagine it would for other sex workers and those working in other adult industries, as it was a clear indicator, that with her history of nude/ pin up/ fetish modelling, she would be kept out of ‘respectable’ entertainment due to her notoriety.

I was 19 when I first started working in brothels in Adelaide, and within a few months, I was in court to get a number of charges of ‘being on premises’ dealt with together and avoid a conviction…. Getting up in the Magistrates Court, in front of all those people, being identified as a sex worker in such a public way, against my will – as opposed to all those times I’ve chosen outness as a political tool – that feeling still stays with me. The shaming involved in these practices are designed to make you feel like a bad, bad grrrl. However, the irony is that we live in a society that wants to stop sex work, yet sex work convictions, and the naming and shaming of much of our cultural practices – whether it’s the NSW practice of forcing home based sex workers to post DAs on their front gates alerting the neighbours of the nature of their businesses in order to obtain planning approval, the ACT and NT practice of a registration system for individual sex workers, or the criminalisation of WA and SA sex work, reduces sex workers options outside of sex work. While many sex workers may not wish to leave the sex industry (myself included), liberation is about multiple choices, and in order to eradicate the whore stigma, we need to break down the categories of madonna and whore, and stop making sex workers into a special class of people.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Moving and down time

Well, I've finally moved in to the queer grrrl frat house. The move was making me crazy and I was acting like a total cranky frock with working days at my various jobs, then heading over to the old place to pack more boxes, then on to the frat house to sleep for about 5 hours before starting all over again. There was a couple of weeks when I was trudging about in jeans with my hair scraped into a bun.... I saw a few friends who hadn't seen me in anything but skirts and frocks... after a while of this, I started to feel so disorientated.


One of my favourite books Jitterbug Perfume speaks about a time when Pan has become so weak from the prevailence of Christianity that he has become completely invisible, leaving only his voice and his musky, goaty odour. When two of his companions want to smuggle him to the new world (America) they work at devising a perfume to mask his scent in order to take him on a boat. Half way along the journey, he starts going mad, not knowing who he is anymore without his scent. I was starting to feel similar, wearing jeans day after day, until I decided against practicality and put a skirt and cleavage maximising top on to go and do packing (of clothes), one night. Much better.


Then last weekend, which was to be the last of packing, I had a melt down and instead of going to work at my parlour on Sunday, I ended up going to a photoshoot with Zoo and other lurvely queer grrrls. I had previously pulled out of this, being too busy. With most of my frou frou still in boxes, I made do with what was immediately available, which was the contents of my workbag. Even though all of us there were tired, stressed, floppy, or menstrually affected, we still looked damn cute, and with some forced feminisation and some cock sucking Zoo, I was made quite happy. I did get a mite carried away and stomped on Zoo's poor head with a stiletto. . . It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and a much welcome respite from the move that seemed to never end.



I've been attempting to pull back from activities a bit, to better manage my stress levels. Sydney is such a busy place, and it is so damned easy to get sucked into the void of always going out because there is always something going on. I have been spending down time on You Tube way too much, reigniting my lifelong love of Boy George. I was even considering going to the MG party this year, as he was DJing. I had to remind myself how much I hate big parties, and that it was highly unlikely that he was going to ask me to marry him (one of my childhood dreams). Instead, I get to watch much old videos on You Tube, and even found this gem, of a live performance of Culture Club with Dolly Parton, doing Your Kisses are Charity. Dolly Parton and Boy George - together! Does life get any finer?



The next thing I'm focusing on - having just started to sleep better, is to have some hassle free fun in order to decrease stress. The Easter Show, Gurlesque (attending -not performing) and watching the Bettie Page film over the next week or so.... before things start in earnest with organising International Whores Day, and saving more money and reducing debt - which is a big aim for this year. I have yet to reduce my activist involvement to managable levels. Partly because I don't want to. As much as I need more time to relax and unwind, there is still much to be done, and my community isn't big enough to pull back entirely and leave it to others, yet. Balance always seems to be the biggest challenge of all.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

One Whore

YouTube video posted by the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, is posted here. One Whore looks at the hideous practices of 'rescue organisations', that basically kidnap sex workers from their workplaces in the Asia Pacific regions, and 'retrain' them in basket weaving or sewing (both on a par with sex work, in terms of earning power, not! Way to keep the poor in their poverty), and the funding of those organisations.

Also the truly evil 'Anti-Prostitution Pledge' of the Bush administration, that withholds HIV/AIDS funding unless both U.S.-based and foreign organizations adopt policies that explicitly oppose all forms of sex work - which means no law reform attempts, no acknowledgement of the human and industrial rights of sex workers, and no funding of peer-based sex worker organisations.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Assertiveness

I've been posting a few self care related posts at the moment - I apologise if they seem self indulgent or just dull. I think some of these issues may resonate for some other people, and if they do, I hope it feels helpful. I don't necessarily have all the answers about good mental health - it's something I am always learning about.

When I am exhausted, stressed or unwell, I really struggle with basic assertiveness skills, or being able to articulate what my needs are. I can make broad general statements such as “I’m really stressed out! I need space!” But breaking that down into chunks that make explicitly clear how much space I need, and how that needs to look can be extremely hard. Also, my good Catholic ‘lady’ training can be hardest to resist when I am low on energy. My training tells me to be nice, to be accommodating, to not have needs, to smooth over any tricky social situation – i.e. to not be honest, assertive, empowered or to do self care. I can be feeling like a chaotic zombie on the inside, but on the outside, be putting out heaps of energy, chatting calmly and being charming. I hate that I ‘revert to type’ under stress, but it’s not exactly surprising.

At different times friends, lovers, dates and activist buddies can find it confusing when I am not clear enough or explicit enough. It’s not really anyone’s fault. It’s not really my fault that I go into unthinking people-pleaser mode – that asserting myself feels so overwhelming in the face of tiredness – that getting distant rather than tackling the issue feels more achievable when parts of my life that I’m juggling at the time start spilling over the edges. It’s not the fault of others who want my time and attention – who are better able to articulate what they want at that point in time – that I am feeling drained and don’t have the capacity to be assertive.

At times my people-pleasing has been so over the top; it has been terrifying to the part of me that is a committed feminist. In the past, when my depression has been particularly raging, I have ended up in long, completely incompatible relationships that I did want to be in, or have committed time and energy to activist campaigns when I have needed to be working to take care of the pile of mounting bills.

Tiredness can mean I get frightened of those who have a clearer agenda, or just have quite set ways of being in the world and achieving things. With exhaustion comes a reduction in organisation and daily rituals – things I’ve always been challenged by, anyway – so anyone with a clearer sense of how to do things, how to tackle an issue, or are just used to doing things this way rather than that way – are always going to be able to get their needs met (or go about it in a way that works for them), as I feel unable to articulate opposition. It’s not that these people are anything other than nice, friendly, pleasant individuals, and often they may try hard to be supportive about how I am feeling, however anyone who is very set in their ways just feels too much to cope with when my assertiveness skills have gone on holiday.

I often end up feeling like an arsehole when I have to say to people ‘I can’t organise this community meeting’ or ‘I can’t perform for at least the next month’ or ‘please don’t call me or invite me to go out for the next few weeks’. It can sound like I am uncommitted to causes, friendships (or in the case of dating or relationships – just commitment phobic) and sometimes it just hurts people’s feelings. But the boundary setting has to happen, and if people are hurt by my attempts to protect my mental health, there isn’t much I can do. It not like I can be a successful community activist, friend or human being without taking care of myself and my needs. It’s a lesson I have to learn all over again each time I’m not doing so well. Hopefully each time, I’ll learn self care and boundary setting a little better each time, and unlearn that masochistic Catholic lady bullshit a little more each time.

Media from the SWRAC Marrickville Council protest last Tuesday

Sex workers demand to be heard

13Mar07

A GROUP of local sex workers held a protest at a Marrickville Council meeting last Tuesday.
About 12 people, most from the Sex Workers' Rights Action Coalition, protested in front of the council building and in the chambers against the council's decision to seek a cap on the number of brothels in the municipality.
Coalition spokeswoman Joanne said there were planning guidelines in place to outline how the sex industry, local businesses and residents could co-exist.
``It is just going to make Marrickville Council's life tougher because they are going to have more non-compliant premises,'' she said. ``It is better for sex workers if Marrickville Council has the guts to take some leadership and include us in the community.''
She said discriminatory policies could lead to increased stigmatisation of sex workers.
``It is basically dividing the community as if sex workers weren't part,'' she said. ``We are workers, we are residents and we live in the area.''
The coalition were not permitted to speak in the meeting as there was no relevant item on the agenda. Instead they stood up in the gallery and interrupted proceedings to air their concerns.
They unfurled a banner but it was ripped from their hands by a security guard.
Mayor Morris Hanna, who initiated the request to cap brothel numbers, said the demonstration was not necessary. ``If they come to the office and make an appointment I am more than happy to talk to them.
Premier Morris Iemma announced recently that he would put more resources into identifying illegal premises and empower local courts to cut off their electricity, gas and water.

Sex workers target council
Source:
Inner West Courier
Author:
Rashell Habib
Posted:
Tue 13 Mar, 2007
http://www.villagevoice.com.au/article/20070313/NWS03/703120309/Sex+workers+target+council
Political "scapegoating" and the ineptitude of the Department of Planning are to blame for noncompliant brothels, the Sex Worker Rights Action Coalition has claimed.
The sex workers' lobby group took its message to Marrickville Council last week to protest against the council's move to cap the number of brothels in the area.
The lobby group members had the support of a group of Marrickville residents who joined them outside the council chambers in Petersham to protest against the "anti-sex work policies" of Marrickville Council.
Eurydice Aroney has been a Marrickville resident for 13 years and has never had an issue with the sex industry.
She said the money and time spent on the issue by the council was a waste of ratepayers' money.
"We have a safe sex industry in Australia and I don't want it to go underground," Ms Aroney said.
Joanne, a sex worker and spokeswoman for the Sex Worker Rights Action Coalition said the council was not following the Sex Services Premises Planning Guidelines 2004.
"We want to be able to work without fear of closure or private investigation, we have our rights also," she said.
She said in the lead up to the State election, Marrickville Council was using opposition to brothels as a political stunt.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Awwww.....


"The spring that Trumpet was born, there were so many new foals in the pasture that almost no one notices there was a sassy little colt who didn't belong to any of the mares.... "
Carson Kressley from Queer Eye for the Str8 Guy has written a book. Details here.

I finally got it

It kicked in about a month ago. I had spent the last year and a bit single - except for mostly easy going dating - in order to break out of old yucky patterns. The biggest part of the year was spent examining my own unhealthy, unhelpful relationship beliefs, that kept me in places I didn't want to be. I felt like I had to keep going further and further with this stuff, until I could trust myself to function in a relationship. Then it happened unexpectedly. I was walking down the street, mulling over random relationship issues, when I started thinking, "I am so bored with relationships. Thinking about them, being in them, talking about them. Bored, bored, bored."

It felt like a revelation. I might just be over all of this. Because if I can feel nothing but annoyance and boredom at the thought of significant others, then I might have just overwritten my girlie programming, which is supposed to push relationships and lurve as the answer - when stress, loneliness, dissatisfaction or simply a lack of plans for the immediate or long term future is bothering me. In many ways my female training has been very traditional, with my mother training me in cooking, cleaning and running a household budget (okay, so at least the cooking aspect sunk in), however job skills outside of wife and mothering just wasn't transferred. So no wonder the relationship as saviour was part of my thinking for so long.
Right now, all that relationships mean to me is more pressure from external sources, more expectations on me to focus on anything aside from my own life. Over the last decade, I think that my significant (and significantly awful) relationships have been the biggest threat to mental health, stability, self esteem and pursuing my own goals. I don't want my epitaph to read: She was a great wife. I want it to read: She was good at self care, was self sufficient, and balanced putting out energy into her friendships, community and world with putting it into herself and nurtured a whole life, without draining herself of all her life's juices, just because others asked her to, demanded it of her, or manipulated the situation.


It's not even that most of my ex's have been purposely horrible, just needing more parenting, care and support than is reasonable to expect a partner to provide, or struggling through huge issues of their own, which probably means that they need to be anywhere but in a relationship. And when I have voiced my own needs, they have gone unheard. At that point, in hindsight, I should have walked away, rather than endeavouring not to have needs so I can better support my partner around transition, or get my alcoholic partner out of the bar before she starts a fight, then take her home and put her to bed. Too much hard stuff to deal with, particularly when you are in your twenties. Too much responsibility, too much work on other people's issues.

I might have more room for the whole lurve thing at some point, however, right now, I'm thinking of self-nurturing as feminism 101. Take care of yourself, before you take care of partners, or indeed, the world. My therapist reminds me that some of my self-denial history as it emerges in relationships is also often a huge part of activism. And as my body is telling me in explicit and loud ways right now, I need peace and rest and wellness.

I can't even feel proud to have finally gotten to the end of this long journey of discovery, where I am not just saying this stuff from intellectual knowledge, but actually feeling it deep in my bones. I can't even feel excited about it - it just comes as a huge sense of relief. Like this particular piece of screwed up programming is dealt with. Now to work on all the other bits of screwed up programming.

Friday, March 09, 2007

sex worker rights real time : whore defiant. Sex worker rights film and discussion night

You are invited to an evening of short films about sex worker rights, next Friday 16th March from 6-9pm at Jura Books 440 Parramatta Rd, Petersham, Sydney.

an evening of diverse, dynamic shorts by sex worker film-makers from canada to cambodia, presented by women from the australian sex worker rights movement.
direct cinema
is a non-profit project
suggested donation $5.00
to help cover running costs.
yapping out loud -contagious thoughts from an unrepentant whore bridge-it taylor from the sleazy feminists in the business of getting whores out of business organisation by mirha-soleil ross, montreal, canada.i know, she walks decriminalise debby, debby doesn’t do it for free, australia.sex for sale on wall street with prostitutes of new york for the interstate solicitation tour, carol leigh/scarlot harlot, san francisco.hand relief janelle fawkes, australia.legalisation sucks maxine doogan, usa.sex work in cambodia womens network for unity, cambodia & art resistance tv.the fine line of morality clare mannion, debby doesn’t do it for free, australia.
footage blends cartoon, vj style culture jamming, documentary, mashing up mainstream footage, experimental and fantasy narratives from the deeply underground sex worker rights genre. including: classic carol leigh east coast camp; whore/madonna dilemma in 80s sydney brothel drama; guerrilla style self documentation of new york protests; transsexual whore activism – artistic and political interventions; cambodian sex workers organise against bill gates drug trials; australian experimental media jam and more!

sex worker rights film has a modern history that comes together bi-annually at the carol leigh (scarlot harlot) san francisco international film festival.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Disaster Strikes

I've been pretty stressed since about September last year. Having to do lots of organising work, which is so far from being my forte, it may as well be the work of a diesel mechanic, along with a death, and ongoing financial issues (thanks to the Howard government economic and welfare reforms the sex industry is ridiculously oversupplied and is now a very unpleasant buyers market), my coping mechanisms, such as they are, no longer exist.


I have been experiencing such reduced social skills, that my tiny bit of MG swanning about has meant strange, awkward conversations - which is a bit sad, as those conversations have been with people I like a lot, and would like to know better. Waking up tired, and going to sleep with a list of things I couldn't fit into my day rattling around in my head. Last years plan of socialising madly to counteract isolation as both the symptom and cause of depression - which seemed like such a nice idea to start with - has spiralled out of control. I need to step off the rollercoaster, and I need to do it now.


Over the last week - my body has let me know in the most unpleasant way possible that I need to take action, in terms of self care, and to take ruthless measures around reducing this ongoing stress. For a femme who would rather lose a limb than cut my hair, this is the biggest red flag ever. A circle of hair close to my hair line is missing. I have a bald patch! It's only about a centimetre in diameter, but this has terrified me. If I don't stop being so damned stressed, I may lose the lot! Okay, so it's vain and superficial to be worried about hair, but my hair - big, messy and careening, all uncontrolled, untamed and just-been-fucked has been the ultimate symbol of all the things about my personality that I like and want to preserve. I also have a sneaking suspicion that without big hair, I'd look like a girlier version of Bert Newton. Even if this is unlikely, I have no intention of finding out for sure.



Damn my body for using such drastic persuasion. Couldn't I just start developing migraines, nervous tics and sleep walking? Must pull back, must destress, must eat better, must listen to dolphin CDs, must pay attention to my needs, must get some damn sleep.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Gotham Whores - an invitation from SEX WORKER RIGHTS ACTION COALITION

Marrickville Council are in a fix!! They are in the dark about sex worker rights, are sure that the only way to stop sex workers being a magnet for disease and crime is 'cap' our numbers!!!
Sounds like a job for the ....

Gotham Whores!!!

6.00pm 2-14 Fisher Street, Petersham
Tuesday 6th March
Come along and join the caped crusaders as we save Marrickville Council from itself. Dress Gotham.

Sex workers and supporters most welcome.