Welcome to Louisiana, where women who are old enough to vote and join the military have just been declared children under the state law, at least when it comes to sex and certain forms of employment.
Why? Ostensibly, it has to do with sex trafficking. Under the new law, "sex trafficking victims" ages 18-20 cannot be convicted of prostitution. Sounds reasonable, right? But Louisiana law already declares that sex-trafficking victims—of any age—are to be excluded from prostitution charges ("No victim of trafficking ... shall be prosecuted for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked"). What the new law actually does is declare all 18- to 20-year-old sex workers as de facto trafficking victims, even if they're workin 100 percent willingly and independenty. No matter if there's no "trafficker" exerting force or coercion, Louisiana law considers them victims, rather than perpetrators, of a crime.
So Louisiana just effectively decriminalized prostitution for 18-to-20 year olds? That's the positive spin we can put on it.
Conversely, however, the state has made anyone who works with or helps young-adult sex workers—a friend who gives them a ride, escort agency owners, other sex workers, and their clients—into folks guilty of the crime of human trafficking. And not knowing the age of the "victim" is no defense.
Those convicted must register as sex offenders and spend a minimum of 15 years in prison. The law, which takes effect August 1, allows for a maximum sentence of up to 50 years. So a 20-year-old woman working in the sex trade independently—posting her own ads online, running her own website, arranging appointments with clients, keeping any money she makes—cannot be charged with prostitution, but anyone who books an appointment with her could face a lifetime on the sex-offender registery and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of over a decade.
The age of consent in Louisiana, by the way, is 17-years-old. Fourteen, 15, and 16-year-olds can legally consent to sex with someone up to age 17. But if a 17-year-old attempts to pay an 19-year-old for sex, they could spend 50 years behind bars. ...
It was rounding 1 a.m. as I teetered my way across a tiny stage, covered in damp dollar bills.
Daisy Ducati was tugging at the leash attached to the leather collar around my neck, pulling me down to my hands and knees. A small but lively audience had gathered around the private stage in the back of Little Darlings, the North Beach strip club known for its nude dances and explicit VIP shows. The handful of testosterone-fueled young men, full of bashful bravado, egged Daisy on. They got noticeably nervous, however, when she ordered them to spank me and clothespin money to my breasts.
"Yes, Ma'am," they would say, almost hypnotized, and open up their wallets a little wider. The dollar bills they threw into the air fluttered down and stuck to my skin, melting into my sweat-soaked body like snowflakes.
There's nothing quite like being on a stage naked and having people throw money at you. Of course, not every night at the strip club is full of make-it-rain magic, but a good night can feel like you're channeling supernatural powers of femininity, using mind-control and body glitter to dismantle the patriarchy.
This was one of those nights. Daisy and I were feature dancing, so we got to live it up as the stars of the show. We were making excellent money and having a blast. Near the end of the night, Daisy caught my eye as we played in front of the crowd. The spark of electricity that passed between us communicated a mutual understanding that the pole, the high heels, and especially the money may as well have been sex toys. Our girl-on-girl tease show had transformed into an edgy, erotic scene that had both of us genuinely aroused.
Hours later, when the club had finally closed, we poured our tired bodies into a taxi, trying in vain to conceal the giant trash bags filled with cash. We held hands and looked out the window at the moonlight shining over the bay, and I let out a dreamy sigh, happy I had accepted her invitation to sleep over. Later, as we counted our money in bed, she teased me with a violet wand.
I do many types of sex work, but porn and escorting are my bread-and-butter. As with any kind of high-end sales, I do my best to make people think about the money as little as possible. All finances are negotiated prior to bookings, and once I'm with a client, I focus as much as possible on staying present to ensure we have the best time we possibly can together.
Talking about money is awkward for most people, never mind perfect strangers from different backgrounds trying to negotiate an erotic, semi-illegal transaction. It can be a hot mess if not handled with care.
I grew up working class. I was raised on federally distributed commodity foods, and I am deep in student-loan debt. Sometimes I feel as though my clients, who usually make upwards of six figures, can somehow smell the generations of poverty on me — in the way I hold my fork or how I pronounce certain words.
Sex work has been my life-hack for hauling myself, rung by rung, up the class ladder. But social climbing is a game rigged by the patriarchy. Once I realized that most women are destined to deal with different forms of objectification while living in a man's world, regardless of what career they choose, I made the choice to capitalize on its spoils.
For the last six years, I've thrown myself into the hustle of the adult industry — the one industry where women are the top earners — marketing myself as "The Whore Next Door," an approachable, all-American girl with a nerdy heart and a pervy mind. I do my best to deflate the power of the money my clients give me — to make it seem like an afterthought — when in fact, it's the main event. Rarely, if ever, do I discuss money with my clients. Thus far, this approach has served me well.
But in the past year, something began to shift. I came to realize that as a sex-positive person who is also an adult industry professional, my sex drive is not a constant. Rather, it's an ever-evolving tidal wave of weird. And the more knowledge I amass, the more curious I become.
I do occasionally explore power exchange and kink with my clients, but it is always on their terms, as I am providing a service to them. If they desire a BDSM fantasy with me in the role of mistress, it's their fantasy. I have simply been cast as the leading lady. Though I may enjoy my time with clients, and even play director now and then, I am temporarily under their employ, not their mistress.
However, six years of holding sex and money so close together in my mind has changed my relationship to both. Now, there is no more denying it: Money turns me on.
It turns all of us on — that's capitalism. But more specifically, during the exchange of power that happens when men, who wield the bulk of the power and privilege in our society, relinquish their money to women who hold substantially less power and earning potential, I feel something stir and flutter inside me.
A constant power exchange exists in a strip club between dancer and client, as the former encourages the latter to spend increasing amounts of money as the night presses on. Grinding my hips on his thighs, whispering, "Do you wanna get another dance?" breathily into his ear even though I already know the answer, and feeling him willingly place a little slice of his power into my underwear in the form of crisp, green paper — it feels edgy, brave, and sometimes intensely erotic.
"Financial domination is very intimate, and personal," says Penny Barber, a San Francisco dominatrix, porn star, and author, in her talk on the subject for Kink University. "It's almost more intimate than having sex with someone. It's the ultimate way to control someone's time on this planet." ...
The board and judges of the Sex-Positive Journalism Awards are proud to announce the winners of the 2009 Sexies. Selected from about 100 entries (not counting multiple nominations of the same piece!) submitted by both writers and readers, the winning entries cover subjects from teen pregnancy to conjugal visits, vaginal plastic surgery to prudish responses to public art. The winning articles come from all across the United States and Canada, and represent a range of genres, from news to advice columns.
What they all have in common, however, is that they succeed in embodying the Sexies criteria for sex-positive journalism far better than the vast majority of their counterparts, helping to improve the quality of dialogue around sex and create a more well-informed reading public. "Without clear-eyed, informed journalism about sexuality, the public runs the risk of seeing sex-related issues through a murky scrim of ignorance and biased attitudes. The Sexies help show the media-and the citizenry-how it can and should be done," says Carol Queen of the Center for Sex and Culture.
Here's the list of all the winners, with links to online versions of their stories where available, and comments from the judges. All entries were read by at least two members of the Sexies judges panel, including at least one with a journalism background.
The judges were: writer, speaker, educator and activist Carol Queen, PhD; journalist Kai Wright; journalist and 2008 Sexies winner Debbie Nathan; journalist Liza Featherstone; journalist and radio host Doug Henwood; journalist and 2008 Sexies winner Amanda Robb; sex educator and columnist for The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH; and writer, editor, and blogger Rachel Kramer Bussel. (Full bios.)
A note about the sex-themed publications category: After careful consideration by our judges, we have decided not to give awards in this category this year. The judges felt the quality of the submissions did not measure up to the work submitted last year. We started the Sexies primarily to give mainstream journalists encouragement and support for covering sexual topics in unsensationalistic honest fashion. We added this category to give some recognition to folks in the trenches who are writing for publications that devote themselves to this topic. We are immensely grateful to those writers and those publications, and yet we feel that when writing about sex is expected and not an achievement in itself, to be award-winning, a story must really push our boundaries and be risky and challenge even the assumptions of the sex-positive community. We look forward to receiving more pieces in that vein in the future. We know they're out there!
Thanks all the writers and readers who sent in entries (and apologies for the various delays). We encourage all of the writers who entered or were nominated to keep up their crucial work. Submissions for the 2010 Sexies (for articles published in 2009) are open and they will be accepted through June 2010 at www.sexies.org/submit.php
The Sexies would also like to thank our corporate sponsors, Babeland (founding sponsor), UltraVirgo Creative, and all of our individual donors. It's not too late to become part of that sex-positive number: www.sexies.org/support.html
For immediate release: March 6, 2009
For more details: www.sexies.org.
Read anything in your local (or national) paper that reported on sex in a surprisingly informed, non-hysterical way? The Sex-Positive Journalism Awards want to know about it. Last's year's winners were selected from over 100 entries submitted by both writers and readers, and they covered subjects from sex in nursing homes, prostitution, and sex in Iran to Kink.com and panics over Internet sex. The winning articles were published in a dozen states in all corners of the United States (and one Canadian province), and represent a range of genres, from news to advice columns.
What they all have in common, however, is that they succeed in embodying the Sex-Positive Journalism Award's criteria (www.sexies.org/criteria.html) for responsible sex journalism far better than the vast majority of their counterparts, helping to improve the quality of dialogue around sex and create a more well-informed reading public.
But there's a long way to go. "Mainstream journalists are generally hopeless at covering sexuality. It's not entirely their fault, but it would be great if this award managed to offer both support to journalists who'd like to do a better job, as well as some needed legitimacy for the subject matter," wrote About.com's Sexuality Guide Cory Silverberg when the awards were first announced. "The media's frequent failure to apply balanced journalistic standards to sex-related topics affects real people's lives," adds Carol Queen, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Sex and Culture.
The winners of the 2009 Sexies will be chosen by an outstanding panel of judges, who have expertise in both journalism and sex-positive advocacy: Dan Savage, author of the popular sex-advice column "Savage Love"; Carol Queen, PhD, writer, speaker, educator, and activist with a doctorate in sexology; Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH a research scientist and associate director for the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and sex columnist; and award-winning journalists Doug Henwood, Liza Featherstone, Amanda Robb, and Kai Wright. (See full bios at www.sexies.org/judges.html).
The Sexies will be given for articles in four categories: news, feature, opinion, and regular column, plus "unsexy" (the most egregious violation of the Sexies' criteria). Articles must have been published in 2008 (2009 articles can be submitted now for next year though) in an edited print or online publication in the U.S or Canada (personal blogs do not quality). Submissions are due by March 31, 2009. Both writers and readers can submit articles for consideration. For full guidelines see www.sexies.org/criteria.html. To make entries please use our entry form at www.sexies.org/submit.php
The Sexies' board is composed of journalists Miriam Axel-Lute and Doug Henwood, The National Coalition
for Sexual Freedom, The Center for Sex and Culture, and the Coalition for Positive Sexuality. We are sponsored by Babeland, UltraVirgo Creative and the David Weinbaum Memorial Foundation. We are seeking additional corporate sponsors and individual donations to support our mission. Donations can be made at www.sexies.org/support.html
The Sex-Positive Journalism Awards Criteria
We are seeking pieces of journalism that:
* touch on sexbsexual practice, health, or behavior--in some manner (stories just about sexual orientation do not qualify)
* are intended for a general audience
* meet high overall standards of reporting, fact-checking, and writing
and do at least one of the following:
* show evidence of fairness in seeking sex-positive sources to respond to sex-negative ones
* ask hard questions about the motivation and background of sources who rely on sex-negative soundbites
* avoid biased or sensationalistic language
* cover newsworthy topics, events, or issues that might tend to be swept under the rug because of controversial sexual content
* report accurately, respectfully and with nuance on sex research results
* contain fair, accurate, and non-sensational portrayals of sexual subcultures
* keep a clear separation between sex crimes, such as sexual assault or pedophilia, and things that merely make people uncomfortable, such as consensual kink, teen sexuality or gay priests; and help readers who may not be familiar with the issues make the distinction
* specifically challenge sex-negative assumptions or practices in society at large or in a specific community
* educate the public as to the diversity of sexual behavior without sensationalizing
* celebrate sexuality as a positive force in human lives
We are not looking for racy or sensationalistic stories. The awards will be something any traditional journalist should be proud to hang on his or her wallba testament to journalistic standards of fairness and accuracy about a charged and controversial subject.