Cambodia’s aggressive anti-trafficking campaign is designed to rescue and rehabilitate sex workers. But many women say authorities there are actually forcing them into a trade where conditions and pay are even worse: making clothing for Western brands.
VICE News traveled to Phnom Penh to speak with former and current sex workers, officials, and labor organizers to investigate what is happening to those swept up in the country’s trafficking crackdown.
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.
Editor’s note: Don’t smoke any of this at home, folks—or anywhere else for that matter. Leave this stupidity to the professionals.
Disclaimer: New York’s sexiest drug princess would only let me watch her smoke weird shit if she could approve the final article. Below is the text approved by New York’s sexiest drug princess.
“I have enough paraphernalia to smoke anything in Manhattan.”
I’m sitting on a black couch in a bourgey apartment in Greenwich Village watching CrackDoubt, a cam girl I met at the Outback Steakhouse, smoke weird objects to see if she can get high on life. For the photos, CrackDoubt alternates between a few black couture dresses as Corinthian columns stand firm against the living-room walls and white curtains billow throughout the perimeter of the room. The apartment looks more like the set of a post–Tommy Mottola Mariah Carey music video than the place where a self-proclaimed “drug princess” might smoke objects like powdered caffeine and cash money.
The apartment’s tenant, a net artist from the art collective Art404, sits on the window sill, smoking a cigarette and staring at the Empire State Building. He encourages Amy and me to “never date in 3-D.” CrackDoubt agrees. “If you’re not on a cam site, [it costs] $2.99 a minute, my dude,” she says. “Sex work made me realize how valuable my time is.”
CrackDoubt flaunts her sex work but is touchy about her current and past drug habits. Although she has smoked crack once or twice and a crackhead recently stalked her in Grand Central Station, tweeting at her to ask whether she had any crack, she despises the terms “crackhead” and “drug addict.” Lest she be lumped in with the stigmas that these terms bring to mind, she asks me to call her a “drug princess.” “Drug duchess” and “drug mistress” are also acceptable. “I’m a heroine—with an e,” she says. “I’m a New York City drug fairy tale!”
CrackDoubt tells me that she started using drugs when she was 18. From age 20 to 25, she dealt with a heavy cocaine problem. “Cocaine brings out the ugliest side of people,” she says. She also tells me that she is now sober; however, when I point out that she tweets regularly about substances, she admits she has a unique definition of sobriety: “I’m far from clean, but I don’t wake up with withdrawls.” She worries about being labeled a drug addict because of her “fans” on Twitter who may think she glamorizes drug use. I’m not sure who these fans are (CrackDoubt has 3,324 Twitter followers), but one fan recently told her that she wasn’t really living her life if she didn’t die this year. (CrackDoubt is 27.)
CrackDoubt’s life seems to revolve around the internet, where she met the net artist. “He put me on his ‘artist Twitter list,’ which is a great honor, because what have I created?” she says. She also met her “stylist,” Lil Snow Crash, online. Lil Snow Crash is a homosexual with the voice of a banshee who eats gummy bears throughout the night. He wears LeBron James–branded baggy shorts and an oversize white T-shirt. Before CrackDoubt starts smoking weird objects, she and her friends pour orange juice and champagne into glass flutes and make a toast “to the internet!”
As she puts on her earrings, she says, “I just took my Adderall, so I can focus now.” It’s smoking time.
A sugar baby is a young male or female who is financially pampered and cared for by a sugar daddy or sugar mommy in exchange for companionship. Welcome back to Sugar Babies, a column about sugar babies and the food they eat on dates.
Tammy is 29 and lives in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia. As a day job, she works in the music industry, but she’s been been supplementing her income as a sugar baby for a few years now. We became internet friends about a year ago when she submitted an advice question to my blog, Slutever, asking “When is the appropriate time to tell a guy you’re dating that you moonlight as a sex worker?”
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.
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.