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Adult Film Industry Speaks Up for Sex Workers Rights in the #MeToo Movement

Joining NPR’s 1A host Joshua Johnson this morning for the program topic “Missing From #MeToo — Sex Workers” were adult film industry professionals filmmaker Shine Louise Houston of Pink and White Productions, adult filmmaker Jacky St. James, performer Siouxsie Q (who is also the secretary of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee as well as host of The Whorecast podcast), and from the Desiree Alliance, coordinator Cris Sardina, whose notable speech on sex workers rights in the MeToo movement was at long last given a stage at the Las Vegas Women’s March.

1A’s segment is described as follows: “The MeToo movement has upended a status quo that tolerated sexual harassment at work. Well, at some workplaces. Exotic dancers, adult film actors and escorts still fear retribution and ridicule for speaking out. This month, two porn actors [Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon] spoke up with allegations of “misleading booking practices, excessive face-slapping and choking, and boundary violations.” In an interview with Cosmopolitan, rapper and former stripper Cardi B cast doubt on whether MeToo would be relevant for all women.” The show, which also included thoughts on Stormy Daniels’ 60 Minute interview, the recent passing in Congress of FOSTA-SESTA, and the NYC Stripper Strike, bears the question: “Are women in work that relies on sexuality on the margins of MeToo?”

Covering a wide array of topics, the 47-minute segment drew comments from listeners and presented guests the opportunity to sound off about recent events, expose stigma, and dispel misconceptions related to sex work.

“Nobody should be shamed for their career choices, and making the assumption that people working in the sex industry are somehow ill-equipped at deciding their career path is lunacy,” shared Jacky St. James. “We should be protecting the rights of women everywhere.”

When asked what actions the adult industry has taken against sexual allegations, Shine Louise Houston said, “Performer advocacy has been going on for a while, just like the #MeToo movement has been here but has only recently exploded into the mainstream. Inside the sex work industry, there have been efforts; Red Light Legal and other organizations have been around for a while. This isn’t something new, but we’re going to keep persisting.” Implying that the larger visibility of #MeToo will have a positive impact on sex workers ability to be heard, she added, “Our own strives towards worker safety and consent on set will continue, and I see this movement getting stronger and stronger.”

The broadcast was met with enthusiasm from listeners and the panelists saw it as an encouraging evolution towards the adult industry taking control over the narrative about what it means to engage in sex work.

“Getting the opportunity to speak on the National Public Radio platform about such important issues felt like a huge step for the movement, said Siouxsie Q. “I’m so grateful for how respectful and welcoming the producers of 1A were with us. I hope we see more people from our community being given a seat at the table during these kinds of conversations.”

Cris Sardina agreed and on behalf of her organization stated: “Desiree Alliance thanks NPR 1A for an unbiased interview. Sex workers presenting ourselves with our views about the discussions presented today, gives the autonomy and voice back to us. We know what’s best for our communities and I couldn’t be more proud to be with a panel of intelligent, strong, and vital women that represent our industries.”

“In order to protect our performers and the rights of everyone working in the sex industry, speaking openly about assault and harassment in the workplaces critical,” said Jacky St. James. “Today’s NPR broadcast was the start of a very important conversation. And just as #TimesUp in the mainstream world, so too is it for the adult one.”

As the #MeToo movement grows, conversations like these will continue to educate the public and bring sex worker experiences into the mainstream.

1A is produced by WAMU 88.5, and distributed by NPR. Listen to NPR’s 1A recorded program here: https://the1a.org/shows/2018-03-26/missing-from-metoo-sex-workers

Resources note: Some of the organizations referenced in the show include…

Show transcription: 

Missing From #MeToo – Sex Workers
Podcast / Panel Discussion : www.the1A.org
Transcription by: Katina Douveas

[ABSTRACT]

The #MeToo has upended a status quo that tolerated sexual assault and harassment at work. So how is #MeToo changing the Sex Worker industry? Sexual harassment is hard to fight in many workplaces – especially where sex is part of the business. | Want to support 1A? Give to your local public radio station at donate.npr.org/1A@wamu.org

Duration: 00:36:02

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[UPBEAT AMBIENT MUSIC PLAYS]

[PANELIST DISCUSSION BEGINS]

[Joshua Johnson] [JJ]: This is 1A. I’m Joshua Johnson, in Washington. The #MeToo movement has upended a status quo that tolerated sexual harassment at work. Well.. in some workplaces. Exotic dancers, adult film actors, Escorts and other Sex Workers say they still fear retribution and ridicule for speaking out. This month two Porn Actresses spoke up with allegations of various abuses including excessively physical treatment on set, violation of boundaries, and being mislead about what their scenes would involve. We might be talking about a business which is seen as working in the margins, but porn and sex work are far from marginal. By some estimates pornography makes more money than major league baseball, the NFL and the NBA combined. And America may have well over a million people who describe themselves (in one way or another) as Sex Workers. And right now we know that an adult performer named Stormy Daniels is making big political headlines by coming forward about her affair with president Trump, pushing her line of work further into the mainstream. Fair warning, this conversation (not surprisingly) could get fairly graphic, with detailed (but not obscene) discussions of sex and sexual acts. Bear that in mind, and we’ll get started in just a moment. Stay close.

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[PANELIST DISCUSSION CONTINUES]

[JJ]: Joining us from Los Angeles is Siouxsie Q, the host of a podcast called the Whorecast. And she is the Secretary of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. Siouxsie, welcome to 1A.

[Siouxsie Q] [SQ]: Thank you so much for having me, it’s such an honor.

[JJ]: Joining us from Fort Smith, Arkansas is Chris Sardina, the coordinator for the Desiree Alliance, a coalition that fights for Sex Worker’s rights. Chris welcome.

[Chris Sardina] [CS]: Thank you.. for having us.

[JJ]: Also joining us from Los Angeles is Jacky St. James, an adult film director. Jacky, glad to have you with us.

[Jacky St. James] [JSJ]: Thank you so much.

[JJ]: And joining us from San Francisco is Shine Louise Houston, the founder of Pink and White Productions. Shine, welcome to the program.

[Shine Louise Houston] [SLH]: Hi, how you doing? Thanks.

[JJ]: I think we should just get right to the elephant in the room, which is Stormy Daniels. She’s been making a lot of headlines lately.. here is a brief clip of her interview with Anderson Cooper that aired last night on 60 Minutes:

[CLIP]

[Anderson Cooper]: Jenna Jamison, another well-known adult film actress, said recently about you: “The left looks at her as a whore and just uses her to try to discredit the president. The right looks at her like a treacherous rat. It’s a Lose-Lose.. should’ve kept her trap shut..”

[Stormy Daniels]: I think that she has a lot of wisdom in those words.

[PANELIST DISCUSSION CONTINUES]

[JJ]: That was Stormy Daniels as part of her interview last night on 60 Minutes in conversation with Anderson Cooper. I wonder, uh.. Shine Louise Houston if I could just start with you.. what do you make of her stepping forward? I’d like to hear from all four.. all four of you briefly, but Shine.. what do you think of Stormy Daniels stepping forward especially in light of what she said about being demagogued and denigrated by all sides?

[SLH]: Um.. I mean, she’s very brave.. uh.. I want a portrait of her as a saint, um.. because she’s doing..

[JJ]: Hmm.

[SLH]: ..everyone within, uh, sex work a.. uh.. a huge service. Um.. by coming forward, uh.. and saying her piece, and being unapologetic about it. Um, I think it’s huge strides for breaking stigmas about like.. what a porn star is and how they’re supposed to be.. how they’re supposed to act.. um.. she’s very well spoken, um.. I think she’s handling a lot of the internet trolls.. uh, really well, and I’m.. I feel very indebted to her.

[JJ]: Jacky St. James I wonder what your thoughts are on Stormy Daniels coming forward, especially in light of some of the comments that we’ve been getting on our side about Sex Workers (CLEARS THROAT) in general. One of our listeners wrote on our website, the1A.org.: “A Sex Worker complaining about harassment, slapping and other kinds of unwanted attention? Well gee, the yardstick would be not to be in an industry where violence, taunting and leering is encouraged. Wouldn’t the solution be for individuals to refuse going into this trashy industry in the first place? I’ve cleaned toilets and done many things except the sex trade to earn a living, and all individuals should do the same. When you sell your body, you are perceived as not respecting yourself, and can therefore be treated any which way.” Jacky St. James, what about that?

[JSJ]: Well, I mean, honestly, somebody can a.. uh.. a.. Stormy and.. and.. and any person working in the sex industry – it’s their decision what they wanna with their body, it’s their decision how they want to pursue a career and.. Stormy is, like Shine Louise said, I mean she is.. ah.. she is an inspiration. She is a good representation of our industry. We have.. quite a few women in this industry – women and men that are.. um.. confident in their choices, and by somebody choosing to work in sex work does not necessarily.. or does not at all imply that there is consent all the time whenever there’s sex – it’s a job, and their choice to do their job is.. it involves consent.. um.. when they’re on set. That does not mean they’re consenting wherever else they are.

[JJ]: Chris Sardina I welcome your thoughts on Stormy Daniels and particularly I’d.. I’d love a clearer definition of what exactly we mean when we say “sex work”. When we talk about Sex Workers, who exactly are we talking about here?

[CS]: Well this could be anyone in the industry, from those who work as street economies to the adult film industry, um.. so whether there’s survival work, there’s.. there’s.. um, paid work.. um.. Stormy Daniels has given me life, in light of the two pieces of horrific legislation that just passed against sex trafficking which, you know, includes sex work in there.. um.. She.. I thought she was well spoken.. um.. I have a whole new respect for her.. and it is, um.. I just thought she was.. she handled herself well (considering Anderson Cooper kept putting her in the position to look like.. um.. to.. to look not well.. and.. and try to depict her as someone that.. that didn’t have a brain in her head. So I was really proud of the way she handled the interview, and.. um.. she just gave me life. I’m really.. I’m really happy for her right now.

[JJ]: Before I come to you Siousie Q, I should note that a number of our listeners are agreeing with what Jacky St. James had to say – Amanda responded on our Facebook page when we put out the prompt: “Are Sex Workers allowed to say #MeToo?” Amanda wrote on our Facebook page: “Omg, of course, yes. Especially them. For far too long they’ve been treated as disposable members of society”. And Dia wrote on our Facebook page: “Sex Work is not synonymous with blanket consent. No matter the choice of profession, it is still MY body, and you still need MY permission to touch it.” Siousie Q, what about that? The.. applicability of #MeToo to sex work?

[SQ]: Ooh.. I’m so glad you asked. And big shout outs to your listeners who are giving supportive comments, that’s.. not all the time that we see that, and that just warms my heart. So, in regards to #MeToo.. I think this really goes back to.. you know, why I chose the sex industry in the first place. I’m a third generation feminist, and the feminism I was raised with is centered around the idea that no one, least of all a man and least of all the state, is allowed to tell me as a woman what I can do with my body. Or as a person, really – any.. this is.. feminism is for everyone – No one can tell me what I can do with my body except me. And so, with that social algebra, if you will, I ended up choosing the sex industry with that same social algebra – by.. no matter what you think of the sex industry, or what you would choose (or not choose) to do with your body – if you hold that truth to be self evident, that no one’s allowed to be in charge of it except you. Of COURSE Sex Workers are included in the #MeToo movement, NO ONE has the right to tell you what to do with your body, whether you do sex for a living, or weather you clean toilets – I wouldn’t have you come over to my house and say: “Oh goodness! So glad you’re here. I’ve got a blockage that you wouldn’t believe in the guest bathroom.. get in there, girl”.. No one would do that (LAUGHS)

[JJ]: (LAUGHS)

[SQ]: So.. why are we expected to.. because the job is different.. because the job is stigmatized.. why do people believe that, you know, we’re not allowed the same sort of respect and rights?

[JJ]: Megan wrote on our website, the1A.org “I know a Sex Worker, and she completely feels that #MeToo applies to her as well. Anti sex work laws are just another way of the government policing women’s bodies.” Siousie Q we have to pause in just a moment, but I think that might be a good place to come back to you with regard to the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. Are there certain things that the committee focuses on.. in terms of advocacy that might further #MeToo? For Sex Workers?

[SQ]: Absolutely. So we were of course deeply entrenched in the #LetUsSurvive campaign as of recently, which was the sex trafficking survivors and Sex Workers alike (as well as other allies) came together to speak out against SESTA, FOSTA – a bill that recently passed in the Senate that will take away resources that Sex Workers and victims currently use to survive.. So the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee is intent on ensuring that resources that are Sex Work inclusive / sex work friendly, whether they be mental health resources, addiction services.. home.. homelessness services.. that we have those at the ready for our community because it is so hard to navigate those systems as a Sex Worker. Another thing we’re incredibly concerned with in regards to #MeToo and the two women who came forward recently is, you know, establishing a set of protocol that will ensure that Sex Workers, when they go to work, can feel safe.. that there is.. something that we all kind of adhere to in regards to consent, sexual harassment.. We want to establish something.. You know, I’ve worked on several different sets where we use a checklist so before you go in there’s a long list of what you do and don’t want done to your body. So I think a lot of people when they watch adult films don’t realize that we are making movies for the most part.. and there’s a lot that you don’t see – behind the scenes.. including tools such as a performer checklist. So often, depending on the company I’m shooting for, when I go into work I’ll be.. the first thing I do is fill out paperwork, show my I.D. and I’m often presented with a checklist, um, in regards to what activities I am open to (or not open to that day), what words and language I am open to or not open to that day, and what parts of my body I’m.. like.. are available that day. And it’s.. it can be pretty exhaustive. So as the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee Secretary, I’m working with the board to draft something Open Source – an Open Source document that’s another resource that, especially in a time when so many performers are creating their own content (which is an amazing way to take the power back, ah, from folks who are bad players in this industry).. And, you know, be in charge of your own content, make your own money, in a time when we’re all starting to do that, having these resources so that we can do better so that the future of adult film and sex work is one that is.. you know, post #MeToo, post #TimesUp

[JJ]: Right

[SQ]: ..cuz time IS up, in our industry, in ALL our industries

[JJ]: And Siousie I wanna make sure I’m.. I’m clear: when you say certain kinds of language you’re comfortable with I assume this..

[SQ]: Mm..

[JJ]: ..goes beyond profanity – you mean things like using racial slurs in a sexual context? Or.. or.. or..

[SQ]: Absolutely.

[JJ]: ..demeaning language? That kind of thing?

[SQ]: Absolutely, as well as, you know, what you would like your body called – right?

[JJ]: Right.

[SQ]: Like we have a lot of different words for this especially in a.. in a sexualized setting

[JJ]: We do. Many of which we can’t say on NPR, and we know that, but we do have a lot of words for that! (LAUGHS).

[SQ]: (LAUGHS) Yes, exactly..

[JJ]: Right?

[SQ]: There’s a lot of words.. and some of them are triggering, and some of them are totally fine to.. completely depending on the day, the chemistry, the person.. you know, we’re.. we’re not dealing with, uh, things that.. that aren’t.. that are.. moveable. Right? You know, you can walk on the set, and have one thing be totally fine one day, and the next day, with the same person even, you know?

[JJ]: Right.

[SQ]: If you had a rough night the night before, or you’re feeling a little under the weather – the same activities can not be ok – which is why checking in, consent, um.. communication, empowering performers to really take charge, speak up for themselves and creating a culture where that’s okay

[JJ]: Right.

[SQ]: ..so many people are afraid to come forward. And that’s why it’s so amazing to see Stormy Daniels going up against.. you know, the number one abuser in the nation.

[JJ]: Jacky St. James, part of the reason why we’re having this conversation is because there was a somewhat high profile case of some accused boundary violations on an adult film set. Two performers named Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon made a youtube video that was about an hour long in which they allege that they were mislead during the booking process. This is Leigh Raven speaking about her experience. Again.. this is fairly graphic.. the clip you’re about to hear is about 45 seconds long, so if you need to turn away and turn back for whatever reason, it’s four.. it’s about 45 seconds long. Here’s Leigh describing her experience:

[CLIP]

[Leigh Raven]: “The PA asks a question to Rico.. I don’t really remember what it was. Rico’s response was, um.. “black payback”.. and he comes in, to the scene, and hits me very very hard across the face. Um.. it wasn’t a fake slap, it wasn’t a slap that we typically use in porn to, um.. make things look a little bit more intense than they actually are.. It was VERY painful, and it definitely stunned me. And this was a very, very, very rough [BEEP] to where if I pulled back, I got punished, so to speak. I would get hit, I would get called names..”

[PANELIST DISCUSSION CONTINUES]

[JJ]: That was Leigh Raven describing some of her experience during what she says was a misleading booking process. Jacky, your reaction to that?

[JSJ]: Ugh.. it’s, it’s.. it’s a very hard thing to listen to, and it seems what’s shocking to me is that it seems like.. the onus of responsibility lies on every single person except for the.. the talent there – that the PA didn’t speak up, that the director didn’t speak up, that the male talent behaved as he did, that the agent didn’t.. say anything.. I don’t know if Raven.. uh, Leigh was booked through an agent or not but, you know there’s so many people culpable here.. um, for allowing this to.. to have gone down. And, and.. I.. I’m shocked that nobody spoke out.. um.. and.. and.. you know.. on our set, on my set, there’s full disclosure before somebody even arrives as to what they’re doing, who they’re working with, what the content is because.. um.. just as Siouxsie was saying.. a lot of.. there are a lot of trigger points for people and things that make people uncomfortable but this isn’t even about that.. I mean, this is about full on assault happening on a set.

[JJ]: Well actually.. I’m sorry, Siouxsie, if you would sit tight for just one second I just wanna keep making my way around the panel, and I did want to come to.. back to Shine Louise Houston for a second and ask about.. that I mean, I.. I think the idea.. that, that.. MOST performers could go into a set.. I mean, leaving #MeToo aside, but, that a performer could say: “I don’t feel comfortable taking off my clothing today..”

[SLH]: Yeah.

[JJ]: ..on a set where you might have someone who is.. more.. predatory.. who is more threatening.. who is more pushy..

[SLH]: Mmm hmm

[JJ]: I imagine that could not only cost you work that day, but it could get you

[SLH]: Mmm hmm

[JJ]: ..blacklisted.. like, you could.. you could.. a repu.. you could develop a reputation that could cost you work.

[SLH]: Yeah, I.. I think there.. there’s.. I think there’s definitely for performers a fear of retaliation.. as far as, like, if you speak up about something, if you say no, you don’t wanna do this.. I feel like there’d be tools within the industry, like APAC, that gives talent agency.. or like they have some support in saying no.. they’re not gonna be completely.. you know, shunned by the entire industry if like, you know, they just say: “I’m not gonna do this today”. But.. what I think is interesting about #MeToo is like now you have support outside of the industry. And like, I’m.. I’m glad that #MeToo is happening because I feel like that gets the larger.. society.. large communities involved.. um.. in supporting Sex Workers and changing the attitudes about just [unintelligible] ..you know.. it’s worker’s rights

[JJ]: Right.. right.

[SLH]: It’s basic worker’s rights

[JJ]: And I do wanna.. I do wanna get more into the way that that moves forward in just one second – I do need to get to a few listener comments, though, first. Kelly e-mailed: “I’m a licensed massage therapist. It’s easy to believe that once you lie down on my table, you have handed your body over to me, and I get to do whatever I feel appropriate. Not true. I tell every client you never cede control of your body to me, you always get to say what can and can’t happen. Why? Because we all own our bodies. We can say yes in some cases and no in others, even when they look like they’re the same.” Chris Sardina, I wonder how much of that is part of this larger debate.. I mean, #MeToo is a reflection of us as a society – it’s a societal problem. I wonder how much of this you think is unique to various forms of sex work? And how much of of these issues are just part of the way that we talk about sex and sexuality and our bodies, in general.

[CS]: Um.. thank you, I’m.. I’m gonna piggyback off the other panelists, here.. um.. Desiree Alliance is a National Sex Worker Rights Organization, so we.. we speak for all the voices in.. in sex industries. And, so.. um.. I think the #MeToo movement is getting separated by who gets to wear the halo and who gets taken out with the trash.. You know, I think it’s.. it’s becoming separated because we’ve lived with toxic masculinity for so long.. and women.. you know, we have been.. trained to.. to think of the Madonna / Whore complex.. and so I really think instead of, you know, of dividing this platform, that we should be, um.. we should be, uh.. combining our movements and our strengths as women.. because I don’t know any woman alive in ANY industry that has not..

[AMBIENT MUSIC PLAYS]

[CS]: ..had some type of toxic masculinity.. um.. formed against her.. I don’t know ANY..

[JJ]: We’ll pick up our conversation in just a moment – stay close.

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[JJ]: Before we get back to our conversation, we wanted to let you know about something exciting that we’re doing this weekend. Exciting.. and (LAUGHING) a little bit scary.. Normally I’m the one who’s asking the questions, right? But this Sunday morning, I’ll be on the other side of the table as a panelist on Meet The Press, on NBC. We will be recapping the week’s headlines, and now I’m REALLY gonna understand what our panelists deal with every day. I’ve been on NTP Daily on MSNBC a few times but this.. is the big show.. So please come support me.. (pray for me).. (it is easter sunday, after all).. as I join the panel on Meet the Press this sunday morning on your local NBC station – check your local listings and please.. set your DVR.

[PANELIST DISCUSSION CONTINUES]

[JJ]: Back now to our conversation with Chris Sardina, Siousxie Q, Jacky St. James and Shine Louise Houston. Valerie e-mailed: “There are two sex trafficking bills pending in Congress now: FOSTA in the House (F-O-S-T-A) and SESTA in the Senate (S-E-S-T-A). They would criminalize online platforms for Sex Workers to find clients. These bills might be well-intentioned (obviously, no one supports sex trafficking because of violence and coercion) but the unintended consequence would push us onto the street and unregulated areas.” Siousxie Q, what about FOSTA and SESTA? What’s the reaction to that from.. Sex Workers?

[SQ]: So it’s been devastating to the Sex Worker and the survivor community.. um.. sex trafficking victims and Sex Workers alike, as well as our allies, really came together to speak out in the hashtag #LetUsSurvive / #SurvivorsAgainstSESTA / #SurvivorsAgainstFOSTA campaign. And it was very disheartening to see our representatives and our senators essentially not listen to survivors. Um.. you know, I wanna clue you in to what the reality of this really looks like. So when I started the industry, uh, there was a platform called RedBook that I used to screen clients, to make sure that they, you know, didn’t murder me.. um.. (LAUGHS)

[JJ]: (LAUGHS)

[SQ]: ..and, you know, using that tool to, um, check references, to stay online (as opposed to having to rely on a pimp or a trafficker or the street..) um.. you know, that was something that I personally utilized. And post the FBI seizing RedBook, and shutting it down.. actually, uh.. Kristen D’Angelo of SWOP Sacramento did a needs assessment and a survey of workers in that area, and they saw that over a third of people that they surveyed in Sacramento (who had been affected by the RedBook shutdown) were now working on the street. And all of them.. all of them.. ALL OF THEM.. had experienced sexual violence – all of them had been raped since then. It’s NOT hypothetical. It’s very real. And s.. and Sex Workers are not gonna have the same access to the potential that #MeToo and #TimesUp really offers until we see a change in the criminalization which will lead to a change in the stigma – I’ve taken Sex Workers who were coerced via fraud for commercial sex. Now, that’s the human tra.. that’s the.. um.. UN’s definition of human trafficking (LAUGHS). I’ve taken trafficking victims – I’ve facilitated them going to the police, right here in Orange, California – that person was denied a rape kit. That person was denied a police report unless they could take a look at her phone and see what else she might be up to (LAUGHS) ..and, um.. you know? They.. they didn’t see it. They didn’t see it as an issue of.. of trafficking.. they saw it as a.. a biproduct of the industry, I think.. uh.. I saw.. a sexworker speak out earlier today.. or, yesterday, on social media, saying, you know, se.. sexual assault shouldn’t be.. an occupational hazard.

[JJ]: I.. I hear you on that, I mean.. sexual assault shouldn’t be an occupational hazard no matter what occupation you are in. No one deserves that. I do wonder though.. uh.. Jacky St. James if I can come back to you.. about some of the.. the social stigma that maybe prevents the #MeToo Movement from permeating sex work. Jenny e-mailed “Of course Sex Workers deserve protection from harassment at work – they’re humans, aren’t they? The reason this is even a conversation is because of the stigma associated with sex work. Stigmatization is the problem, not sex work.” However, we have a number of listeners who left comments like this one, which was left on our website, the1A.org: “The whole thing is seedy. Why does anyone care? This woman exploits her orifices in the most vulgar of ways, up close, with strangers. There are better folks to celebrate.” Jacky St. James, I wonder what you would say to people who say, listen, this clearly is an industry that is rife with problems – maybe you should go do something else. Even.. just because it’s something that you enjoy doesn’t mean that society should wrap it’s rules around you so you can safely do something that a lot of people consider vulgar.

[JSJ]: Well the fact that a lot of people consider it vulgar is their own problem.. um.. Like I said, women, men, if they’re legal, uh, consenting adult can choose whatever profession they want and why should they be, uh.. like somehow punished, or, or not receive the same rights simply because they’re choosing a profession that this person doesn’t agree with. You know there’s a lot of things I don’t agree with, there’s a lot of corporations I don’t agree with.. um, but I still think people should be protected and should feel safe in their work environment.. um.. but I think the biggest problem is the stigmatization because we don’t have the same access to, um.. things that somebody in the, the mainstream or civilian world would have, and that is where the root of all of our problems are kind of.. lying. I mean yes, there are bad people, there’s bad people in every industry, though. There’s really awful people in corporate america as well, doing really awful things. There are women that are getting assaulted at their corporate jobs. So you can’t say that it’s just limited to us, but because, a.. you know, sex is on the table in our industry, somehow it means that we’re consenting to every vile, horrible thing that happens, and that’s NOT true.

[JJ]: I wonder also, Shine..

[JSJ]: And..

[JJ]: I wonder also Shine if maybe part of the.. the urgency for this, as much as people might consider it vulgar for someone to be working in an industry that deals with sex is.. we buy a lot of porn in this country.. a lot of young men learn about sex from what they see in pornography.. and, the sexuality that’s in our culture informs the sexuality that ends up in our homes and our families and.. and our lives, so.. to me at least it seems, Shine, and, correct me if I’m wrong – there’s a direct connection between the views we have of sex and sexuality, and the content we buy, and the people who produce it, and the values we espouse – it feels like it’s all locked together.

[SLH]: It definitely is, all locked together, and I think, um, you know we have very.. you know.. I would say.. schizophrenic ideas about sexuality. You know, we have.. we think it’s wonderful and it’s great but if you do it at the wrong time with the wrong person, then it’s horrible.. like, somebody mentioned before, like the virgin / whore complex, you know? I find it very bizarre that there’s still, um.. an attitude out there.. um.. like if a woman had sex, then obviously she’s stupid or dumb, because she let you have sex with her. Um.. you know, which.. uh.. you know there’s a.. there’s a fear around, like, female sexuality. It’s like why do we need to police it so much? Why do we have to control it so much? Um.. I definitely think, you know, there needs to be a lot of work on masculinity.. like detaching masculine identity from controlling, uh, (LAUGHS) female sexuality. I feel like there’s no if you are adhering to masculinity, the, like, idea of toxic masculinity, like misogyny is inherent in that, and that’s a problem and that needs to change.. um.. I also think, you know, in my experience of like getting into porn, um.. I wanted to make porn that, um.. I felt was more honest to my experiences.. um.. I was looking for different types of performances of sexuality to kind of throw that into the loop, do you know what I mean? If I can make images like this or.. oh – do you like this as a possibility for your sexuality? Um.. maybe it changes your attitudes about your own sexuality, about femininity, about masculinity, about queerness.. um.. but, you know, it is all wrapped together. Like, my attitudes about sex and sexuality inform what I make, and what is gonna change, you know, possibly change somebody who views it, and, hopefully that snowballs.. because I really think, you know.. there needs to be a.. a shift in thinking about sexuality and.. and.. what I means to be sexual and how you value that. It seems like, you know, we devalue anybody who is outspoken about their sexuality, or is really.. um, uh.. really LIKES (LAUGHS) their sexuality..

[JJ]: Mmm hmm

[SLH]: ..I like to share that. Do you know what I mean?

[JJ]: Right. Right.

[SLH]: I don’t know if that answers your question

[JJ]: That.. no, I, I.. I see what you’re getting at, and I, I.. I appreciate.. not only you talking about how you got into it, because we’re hearing from a number of other people who also have shared their experiences as Sex Workers. Sarah e-mailed: “I am a former Sex Worker, and I STRONGLY identified with Stormy Daniels when she talked about reluctantly having sex with president trump. Even with trying to set limits (referring to the interview on 60 Minutes) even when trying to set limits, I always felt a certain pressure in the sex industry to ‘go the extra mile’ or suffer the consequences of losing work. I wonder if any of your guests can speak to this pressure and how it effects workers in the industry.” Chris Sardina why don’t you respond to Sarah – what about that pressure and that.. the fear about setting limits, setting boundaries and.. and knowing when to say no.

[CS]: Well I’ve been in non paying situations that I have.. um.. I have reluctantly.. given it up, so to speak, so.. you know, the difference between consensual sex work versus um.. n.. um.. versus non-paying sex work.. I’ve been in a hell of a lot more situations that have been more dangerous in.. in non-paying sex work than.. than my ability to be able to negotiate what’s going to happen during this time period, and what’s going to happen for the, uh, monetary value and such, so, you know, to put it that way, I, I mean, I’ve been in more danger with.. with men, and.. and, uh.. than I have ever been in when I have negotiated my body on my ground.

[JJ]: And can we.. can we just make this clear since we’re talking about consent. I.. I wanna make sure we’re all on the same page.. if one is in a sexual situation, and one’s partner says “no”.. that’s NO. Right?

[CS]: Then it should be honored. No matter what.

[JJ]: Ok. I just want.. I wanna make that clear – this has come up in past conversations about sexuality and masculinity and wha.. wh.. when one says “no”, Siousxie, even if it’s a Sex Worker, or even someone’s who’s paid, “no” is still something that should be honored. Right?

[SQ]: Absolutely, and.. and it’s more than no.. right? I.. It.. It’s are the.. is the.. the power dynamic such like.. one thing that Leigh and Riley brought up in their video is that they were alone with four.. you know, four men in.. you know, a warehouse somewhere in southern California, um, the way your options.. and knowing that you don’t have the same access to justice as someone who doesn’t do sex work.. knowing who are you gonna call? The police in Orange, California? They’re certainly not gonna help you. What’s the plan? What’s the actual plan? So until we can access justice in the same way another worker can access justice.. at the.. you know.. at the basic level of a citizen. That’s not gonna change. No matter what protocols we set up at the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee.

[JJ]: Right.

[SQ]: Like, we can only do so much if we can’t go to the cops.

[JJ]: We should probably talk about advocacy for the remainder of our time here. There is currently a strike happening in New York City involving Exotic Dancers – a “stripper strike” with women protesting against colorism, and what they say are other unfair labor practices. One of our producers sat down with some of the dancers. Here is a dancer named Vanity Reds describing her experience: “I was choked. This man.. came behind me and choked me. Yes. And so me.. (this is where it gets good..) (till the security guard walks past.. cuz he’s doing.. like this in a headlock).. and so me.. I don’t wanna, you know, like, do anything – cuz he could.. he could.. he’s stronger than me and could end up, like, doing something way worse. So, the security guy walks past and I’m like.. like.. trying to like.. make a.. like, trying to say, like, “help me”, (but not like actually saying: “help me” so the guy, like, hears me). And so he just looks and he’s like.. And then he walks past. And so I go up to him afterwards, he was like.. “oh, um.. you should’ve just kind of moved out of his way” or something like that. Basically victim blaming. And I’m like.. but you’re the security guard. So you’re supposed to grab him, and tell him to get out of the club”..   That was Vanity Reds, an exotic dancer speaking to one of our producers. Siousxie Q, I know our time is short, but what are the resources for someone who is in sex work who finds themselves in kind of a #MeToo moment? What would you say are the first steps that they should take when they feel like a line has been crossed?

[SQ]: So, I encourage folks to reach out to the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. I encourage people to use the justice system as it stands and seek out advocates (LAUGHS) such as myself, such as, uh.. you know, SWOP USA, Desiree Alliance, there are.. Red Light Legal is another great one, um.. you CAN have legal representation that is not going to shame you, and tell you to quit your job, and tell you that this is your fault.. Those resources are sparse, but they DO exist. And we encourage people to speak up. We encourage people to take action. And we support survivors and victims and workers 100 percent.

[JJ]: Jacky St. James before we’re out of time I imagine that every industry has it’s Harvey Weinsteins.. has the people that are just known to be trouble. Without naming any names, since these people are not here to defend themselves, what do you think they should know about the state of this movement? Has.. has time.. is time up? Fo.. among Sex Workers?

[JSJ]: Yes. I mean.. yes. And I think that there is a growing movement right now to hold people accountable for that behavior, especially an adult.

[JJ]: That’s Jacky St. James, adult film director. Jacky, thanks very much for spending the hour with us.

[JSJ]: Thank you.

[AMBIENT MUSIC PLAYS]

[JJ]: Chris Sardina, coordinator for the Desiree Alliance, a coalition fighting for Sex Worker’s rights – Chris, thank you.

[CS]: You’re very welcome.

[JJ]: Siouxsie Q, host of the Whorecast, and the Secretary of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee – Siouxsie, thanks very much.

[SQ]: Thank you so much and don’t forget June 2nd is International Whores’ Day and National Day of Action – we’ll see you there.

[JJ]: And Shine Louise Houston, the founder of Pink and White Productions – Shine, thank you.

[SLH]: Okay, thank you.

[JJ]: This program comes to you from WAMU, part of American University in Washington, distributed by NPR. Until we meet again, I’m Joshua Johnson, thank you so much for listening, and thanks for sharing your stories, with us. This is 1A.

[PANELIST DISCUSSION CONCLUDES]

[AMBIENT MUSIC GROWS LOUDER, CONTINUES THROUGH END OF RECORDING]

[END OF TRANSCRIPTION]

 

Featured image based off photograph of Siouxsie Q by Isabel Dresler. 

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