In a recent article, VICE News speculated that the Department of Justice’s initiative Operation Choke Point may be putting pressure on banks like Chase to terminate the accounts of several high-profile porn performers, including Teagan Presley, Stoya, and Chanel Preston. On Twitter many other porn performers claimed that their accounts were being closed, and that they had been offered little explanation beyond being labeled “high risk.” An insider at Wells Fargo responded, “We encourage these industry workers to come to us,” according to TMZ. By the time Mother Jones was pushing back with a “Chase representative” claiming that Choke Point was notsingling out people in the porn industry, I was exasperated.
By and large, these articles failed to mention the fact that sex workers like myself are shut out of institutions every single day. Whorephobia, the fear and hatred of sex workers, is one of the very first things every single sex worker learns how to navigate.
Whether the work we do is criminalized or legal, all sex workers are subject to judgment. This judgment usually stems from sexist double standards, transmisogyny, and a general moral panic about sexuality. Ironically, we are often punished as we attempt to assimilate into “legitimate” society.
After clients pay us in cash, many of us declare the payment, filing taxes as freelance entertainers. Some strip clubs give us W-9 forms, and some porn companies send us 1099s. If we are shut out of banks, we must go to check cashing middlemen who charge exorbitant fees. We can’t book plane tickets or sign leases, putting that money back into the economy.
Last year the ‘Ndrangheta—a criminal organization from Calabria, a region that forms the toe of Italy’s boot—raked in more than $75.3 billion. That’s equivalent to revenue of McDonald’s and Deutsche Bank combined, or 3.5 per cent of Italy’s GDP in 2013. It did this through, among other things, extortion, usury, gambling, prostitution, and the trafficking of both drugs and humans.
An Expert’s Guide to Brothel Etiquette
Since last September, notices have started to appear in the windows of Amsterdam’s brothels. The flyers are there to advise potential customers of what does and doesn’t constitute appropriate behavior once they’re inside. In practice, this is a well-intentioned piece of bureaucracy. In reality, it’s something nobody is ever going to read. In fact, given the flyers’ size, the effects of a customer’s Dutch courage, and the other distractions in and around the window area, it’s unlikely anyone would even notice them. Which might be an issue for those of you who’ve never paid for sex before but maybe want to do so on your next trip to Amsterdam, or Nevada, or Cologne, without coming across as both an amateur and a dick.
I’ve been having sex with the “window girls” of Amsterdam for a while now, keeping a blogof all my experiences that led to my being interviewed by VICE last month. So instead of making you rely on the small print tacked up around the red-light district, I thought I’d use the knowledge I’ve picked up over the past couple of years to gift you my own informed guide to the etiquette of sleeping with a sex worker.
THE NEW GIRLS ARE AS MUCH IN THE DARK AS YOU ARE
If there’s one major thing I’ve learned from interviewing the girls I’ve met, it’s that they were as clueless at the start of their careers as johns are ahead of their first time. “You don’t know what to do; you don’t know what to charge,” they say. “The guys say it’s OK to do this and to do that, and you believe them.”
That said, the preconceptions of those guys who are new to the window experience can be more damaging, invasive, and just plain rude. “They come in and just grab,” I’ve been told on a number of occasions, usually accompanied by an eye roll.
As far as I can tell, that grabbiness is mostly fueled by the expectations young guys get from internet pornography, like that weird thing male porn stars do where they try to fit their entire hand in a girl’s mouth during anal sex. Unsurprisingly, this kind of behavior isn’t thought of too highly by the window girls. They’re selling their time and, with it, access to specific sexual acts; they’re not saying, “Give me €50 (about $75) and do anything that comes into your stupid fucking head.”
TREAT THE GIRLS AS YOU WOULD YOUR GIRLFRIEND (KIND OF)
Personally, I treat prostitutes as though they’re my girlfriends. But my relationship code is based on respect and concern for a partner’s well-being. I guess this piece of advice is dependent upon how you behave when you have a special person in your life. I’m going to assume that you’re a decent sort, and that your relationships to date haven’t been a shitstorm of domestic abuse, neglect, and psychological cruelty. If you wouldn’t treat a girlfriend that way, don’t treat a prostitute that way. These are basic people skills.
Malerie Marder’s Gorgeous (and NSFW) Photos of Dutch Prostitutes Look Like Classical Paintings
When American photographer Malerie Marder was a student at Yale, Phillip Lorca diCorcia—who was one of her professors—worked with her on her first monograph,Carnal Knowledge. Her projects have dealt with the relationship between voyeurism and intimacy ever since.
For her new series, Anatomy, Marder spent six years working with prostitutes in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, coming up with compositions that bring to mind the works of painters like Magritte, Toulouse-Lautrec, or Courbet. I called her up for a chat.
VICE: Is it true you had to pay the women for their time?
Malerie Marder: Yes, I paid each woman 350 euros [$480]. A friend of mine, who is a collector, helped me financially but also worked as my assistant. He was my angel, my patron saint; without him none of this would have been possible.
Did you face any problems with convincing people to pose for you?
The real problem was not being able to photograph everyone who wanted me to. I’m a small presence in the studio—I shoot with a view camera that is slow and use an HMI light, which is like a warm sun. It’s a very small set up. I incorporated flash at the end but even that was just an additional light. I didn’t overtake the space so I think the women often forgot about me.
Hawaii’s Cops Say They Need to Be Allowed to Sleep with Prostitutes, Just in Case
Cops usually can’t break the law, even when they’re undercover, but police departments in Hawaii recently lobbied state lawmakers to carve out an exception to what is a pretty good rule. Last week, when the state legislature was considering amending an anti-prostitution law to prohibit undercover officers from having penetrative sex with prostitutes, the police were like, “Actually, we need the flexibility to have full-on intercourse or we can’t do our jobs properly. Third base doesn’t cut it.”
Hawaii’s House passed the bill, thereby saying “you can have sex with prostitutes if youreally need to,” but, understandably, a week’s worth of headlines like, “Hawaiian Police Want to Have Sex with Prostitutes Real Bad” and “Haha Dude Wasn’t This Exact Thing inThe Wire?” caused legislators to have second thoughts about the rule now that it’s hit the state Senate.
Can Anyone Fix the German Prostitution Industry?
Trading sex for money has been at least partially legal in Germany since 1927, but in 2002, Parliament passed a set of laws designed to improve the lives of the country’s prostitutes. The idea was to grant sex workers some of the rights and responsibilities other members of the workforce have, like receiving social security and having to pay taxes in return. As a result, the country became a magnet for hookers and johns, and it’s been reported that there are approximately 400,000 prostitutes servicing an estimated 1 million men a day inside its borders.
A lot of people don’t think this is a good thing. A study commissioned by the European Union released this year claimed that, globally, attempts to normalize the world’s oldest profession haven’t reduced human trafficking. Activsits have called for the criminalization of buying (but not selling) sex in an effort to stamp out prostitution, and the government planned to ban “flat-rate” sex, which is when men pay a set amount of cash for a night’s worth of hanky-panky.
I wondered what the sex workers themselves thought of this debate, so I called up Undine de Revière, the spokesperson for the Professional Association of Erotic and Sexual Services, who’s been in the flesh business for 20 years.
VICE: What do you think about the studies that have found many instances of human trafficking in the sex industry? Is that something you worry about?
Undine de Revière: One of the two most commonly cited studies is based on a number of governmental reports that vary significantly in quality. I have witnessed some human-trafficking processes in court for research purposes, and it’s very complex. Most trafficking cases are a mix of voluntary sex work and a third party trying to influence the number of clients, sex acts, or the general workflow.
VICE: What kinds of services did your employer offer on the menu?
Alice Sala: My employer offered both sexual and non-sexual services, with different degrees of pain and fantasy. Clients often desire practices that put them in a passive rather than active role, however both parties had to discuss the nature of the scenario prior to the session. For sessions requiring more elaborate staging or a higher degree of violence, they usually met before hand to define the terms of service in more detail.
People think sex is the only real job as a prostitute, but it can be a small component. What does the “GFE” (girlfriend experience) entail exactly?
Often prostitution is not simply the consumption of sexual services, but also buying the image of a “perfect woman”—thin, beautiful, shaved, made up, sexually available, and completely separate from their real lives. Beyond being a dream mistress, she is also a nurse, a psychologist, a friend, a counselor and a confidant—someone with whom they can talk openly about their problems and get advice.
Ralph Smith, 21 years old, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, $25