For a few years now, I've been thinking about hiring a sex worker. I've been inspired by the wonderful women and queer folx who have booked me for sessions: our culture makes it a lot easier for men to honour their sexual needs and seek out ways of getting them met than people of other genders, particularly people who have experienced misogyny and slut-shaming. I really admire it when a woman or non-binary person comes to me, knowing what they want, and with enough self-esteem to think they deserve to get it. It made me wonder if this would be something I might do for myself one day.
The problem, as I saw it, was that as a sex worker myself, all of the suitable candidates I could think of - who I knew I could trust with my body and my fantasies - were friends and colleagues. Some of them friends I hadn't dated, some of them friends I had. Part of the professionalism of sex work, for me, is to maintain distinct boundaries between my clients and my social life, in order to manage everyone's expectations and make sure I'm not giving too much. So it seemed the idea was a non-starter - even though I felt like it might be a really cool experience to be on the other side for once.
For me, International Women's Day is grounded in its labour rights roots. In 1857, garment factory workers in New York City went on strike to protest appalling working conditions, long hours and low pay. The protest led to the formation of the first women's labour unions, and labour organisers in Copenhagan created International Women's Day in 1910.
In 2019, women still do the majority of childcare work and housework. Jobs disproportionately done by women continue to be exploitative, with zero hour contracts, long shifts and low pay. Discrimination and harassment are rife, and women are not believed when they report sexual abuse. Abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland, and austerity policies hit women the hardest.
I'm participating in a regional meeting for the Bristol University research on sex work in the UK tomorrow. I responded to this consultation in July last year; I haven’t shared my response here because it goes into detail about the way I work as a sex worker, which is too private to share in this forum, but I did send a response talking not only about the work I do, but about the ways that criminalising sex work harms more marginalised workers. Backlash also sent a response, advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work as a harm reduction measure.
The researchers are holding a number of regional consultation meetings across England on Thursday, and I’m attending the London regional meeting as a representative of Backlash. It will involve a presentation by the research team on their draft findings, followed by a group discussion on the findings, then an opportunity for presentations and a plenary discussion. My colleague Rosie Hodsdon will be attending the Leeds meeting; she is an academic at the University of Northumbria who has been very active and vocal on issues around porn and sex work law, and is also a volunteer for Backlash.
Now I'm pregnant, I wanted to talk about the complexities of being trans, non-binary, and having a big bump - not to mention a bigger chest... As if that wasn't complicated enough, I'm also a sex worker. I couldn't find many resources about being non-binary and pregnant, never mind a non-binary pregnant sex worker, so I thought I'd put something out there. Well, I don't know if I can call this a "resource", it's mostly me talking about why things are VERY CONFUSING in my head right now, but if you're in the same situation hopefully it'll show you're not alone (hiiii) and if you're not trans or not pregnant, maybe it will give you a bit of an insight into what it's like.
I've got some big news to share... I'm pregnant, and I couldn't be happier about it!
I'm 16 weeks pregnant with a small but already visible bump; the above photo was taken a few days ago. My baby is due in July and I'm ridiculously excited! It's the biggest adventure I've ever been on, and my partner and I are thrilled as we get ready for this next phase of our lives.
I'm honoured to have been asked to chair a panel after Queenie Bon Bon's next London performance, Welcome to the Mystic Hole.
Part comedy, part lecture, part consciousness-raising story-telling, 'Welcome to the Mystic Hole' is an exploration of one sex worker’s lived experience with the world of the body. How do we navigate the world when we feel our body is failing us? What do we store in the body and what do we release? How do we clean it off the rug? What shame do we hold when trying to give a nice rim job while one’s sweet hound watches? And why can’t we all be adult about adult industries? Inspiring, intriguing, tender and true, Queenie Bon Bon is your curious guide on an exploration of embodiment, and will take you deep within the wondrous wonders of the unique vessels we travel in.
Queenie is a dear friend, and her work is amazing - so fresh, real and fierce. I've seen her perform twice before and each time she makes me laugh, cry and rage against whorephobia. Her last performance in London introduced me to the English Collective of Prostitutes - one of their members stood up to speak about the need for decriminalisation, and distribute #pledgedecrim flyers.
I had a great start to 2017 when I became a member of Backlash's management team in the role of co-spokesperson alongside Itziar Bilbao Urrutia.Backlash is the UK organisation that defends freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults in UK by providing legal, academic and campaigning advice, and they are keen to publically lend their support to the campaign for sex worker's rights and the full decriminalisation of sex work. Fittingly my first act as co-spokesperson was to release astatement about the Women's March in response to some see-sawing on theWomen's March Washington policy statement last week around sex worker solidarity.
Our laws around porn, obscenity, BDSM and sexual expression massively affect sex workers. Obscenity law is a sex worker's rights issue, and a labour rights issue, as well as affecting all our sexual liberties. I'm glad that Backlash are willing to stand up in solidarity with all sex workers, and I'm proud to be organising with them to defend our rights and freedoms.
Last night I attended the second Naked Truth Film Club screening, a new adult industry event organised by Terry Stephens, chair of UKAP, the UK porn producer trade association. Like most of us who organise within the adult industry, he's interested in destigmatising porn and raising public awareness about the realities of porn, combating the myths and misconceptions that percieve erotic labour as exploitative. The film club screens relevant documentaries in Central London, with a panel of sex workers hosting a Q&A after the screening.
The first event was a few weeks ago, and showed UnSlut: A Documentary Film, an American documentary about slut-shaming and teenage sexual bullying. It doesn't mention the adult industry but examines slut-shaming more broadly, looking particularly at the way that it affects young people. The documentary was born out of The UnSlut Project, an internet initiative that invited people to submit their own stories of being bullied or shamed because they were perceived as being slutty or sexual. The project brought people together to share experiences - some who had never told anyone before - and offer support, solidarity and healing.
The documentary follows a number of women telling stories of sexual assault, slut-shaming and bullying. It's a serious subject, and the film is powerful; definitely not light viewing. One girl, Allyson Pereira, was asked to send a nude photo to her ex-boyfriend, who then shared it with the rest of her school without her consent. She was bullied and ostracised by her town as a result of this violation. The most harrowing story was that of Rehtaeh Parsons, who was drugged and gang-raped at a party. Her assailants took photos, shared them, and she was labelled as a "slut" as a result. The subsequent slut-shaming and bullying followed her despite changing schools several times, compounding the trauma of her assault. Eventually, at the age of seventeen, she took her own life.
I'm back in the UK for three short weeks before I go travelling again, and I can't believe how quickly the time is passing. There's an awful lot going on at the moment - almost all of it good! Here's a brief snapshot of my autumn:
Sexual Freedom Awards
I've been nominated for a Sexual Freedom Award! I'm a finalist in the Publicist of the Year category for my work promoting ethical porn and campaigning against censorship and for sex work law reform. It's an incredible honour to be named - in fact I've been aware of the awards for ten years, and it's a bit of a dream come true. Thank you so much to those who nominated me - you know who you are. ♥