SWOP-Chicago meeting: April 15, 2009

The next SWOP-Chicago meeting will be Wednesday, April 15, 7-9PM. We will be discussing and accepting input on creating quick-access literature for sex workers in various aspects of the industry, namely information on their legal rights. This is part of our outreach efforts. We will also be announcing upcoming events in the Chicagoland area related to SWOP, the sex industry and other social action events as well as our next meeting date. As always, we want to discuss the best ways we can reach out to other sex workers and communities not involved in SWOP, or those who are in need of support. We hope you can come out and join our growing community. Your help and support is appreciated, even if you just want to attend a single meeting.

ABOUT US: SWOP-Chicago is a human rights organization with the specific aim of outreach and social action efforts on behalf of sex worker rights. The organization is consists of and is led by current and former sex workers, sex worker allies, social rights activists, and sex worker positive feminists, academics and students. Our meetings are open to all sex workers current or former and our allies; however, you do not have to identify as such if you are not comfortable in doing so. We strive to create as safe a space for our open meetings and respect anonymity.

Meeting details:


360 N. Michigan Ave., 8th Floor

Chicago, IL

Wednesday April 15, 2009: 7-9 pm

Sex Positive Film Fest


pro-SEX, pro-QUEER, pro-KINK

a free documentary film series for people who like sex
curated by Clarisse Thorn

Come out and join us for our third sex-positive documentary and discussion!  “When Two Won’t Do” will be screening for free at Hull-House Museum on Tuesday, February 24th, 7PM.  We’ll serve delicious snacks and brilliant conversation!  All are welcome — whether you’re a free speech advocate, an AIDS worker, a progressive pastor, a sexuality activist, a radical feminist, a sex worker, a pornographer, skeptical about our politics and aims, or just someone who likes talking about sex!  Sexy prizes awarded at every screening.  RSVP by calling 312.413.5353.

Please note that cameras are not allowed at these screenings — in particular, pictures of the audience are not allowed.


Maureen Marovitch believes in polyamory, the philosophy of simultaneously loving more than one person. David Finch, her live-in boyfriend, does not — and he is far from silent about his wish that Maureen break up with her two other lovers and settle down with him.  Rather than break up, the two filmmakers pack their camera gear and crisscross North America on a quest: to discover how other people deal with open relationships.

Their journey takes them to a swingers’ convention in Las Vegas, to a polyamory conference in New York, to group families in California, and into the lives of friends in Wisconsin and Ontario.  Meanwhile, the filmmakers’ own relationship detours through rocky territory.  “When Two Won’t Do” takes everyone on an emotionally breathtaking trip, questioning society’s norms about love, fidelity and the ideal relationship.

This screening is courtesy of Picture This Productions [ http://www.picturethis.ca/ ].

+ Early to Bed Feminist Sex Toys
+ Women and Children First Feminist Bookstore
+ Galleria Domain Two NFP, Inc.

+ The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health
+ We’re seeking more Chicago sponsors — please get in touch if you’re interested!

+ Center on Halsted: LGBT Community Center

+ Picture This Productions
+ Erin Palmquist, filmmaker
+ Seventh Art Releasing
+ Sensory Image Pty, Ltd.
+ Cinema Libre Studio
+ Women Make Movies
+ Sam Feder, filmmaker
+ Beyondmedia Education
+ Regent Releasing
+ Indie Pictures

+ Marianna Beck, filmmaker
+ Comstock Films
+ Becky Goldberg, filmmaker
2nd & 4th Tuesdays at 7PM

[ http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/hull/Events/sexPositive/sexPositive.html ]

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 South Halsted
All are welcome!

Hull-House Museum is wheelchair accessible.  Unfortunately, the “When Two Won’t Do” DVD is not programmed with closed caption, so we will be unable to show this documentary with subtitles.

Sex-Positive Event in Chicago

Via Sex+++ mailing list and from speaking with Hazel/Cedar Troost:
Yes Means Yes!:  Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape

Thursday, February 19

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Residents’ Dining Hall
800 S. Halsted

FREE!  RSVP to events@prairie.org or 312.422.5580.

Yes Means Yes! Visions of Sexual Power & a World Without Rape is a groundbreaking new look at rape, edited by writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman and Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti.  The anthology tries to move beyond “no means no” to connect the dots between the shaming and co-option of female sexuality in our culture(s) and some of the ways rape is allowed and encouraged to function.

At this program you’ll hear from and get to talk with Jaclyn Friedman and one of the book’s fantastic contributors, Hazel/Cedar Troost.

More about Jaclyn Friedman

Jaclyn Friedman is a writer, performer and activist, and the editor of the brand-new book, Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape.  Her poems and nonfiction can be found in numerous publications including PW.org, PoetsAgainstTheWar.org (where her poem “State of the Union” was selected as a Poem of the Day), in the Underwood Review, and in the Lambda Award- nominated anthologyPinned Down by Pronouns.  Her opinion column, “Where Your Mouth Is,” was a popular monthly feature inSojourner:  The Women’s Forum until the magazine’s untimely demise in October 2002, and she produced a biweekly podcast by the same name, which can be heard on alternet.org.  Friedman holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has received a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award, a 2004 Sommerville Arts Council Grant, and a recent fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center.  She has been a contributing writer for PopPolitics.com.  Visit her website: http://www.jaclynfriedman.com/

This event is co-sponsored by The Public Square, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and Gender and Women’s Studies at UIC.

Yes Means Yes!:  Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape

Thursday, February 19

Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark


See above for a description of the book.  The fabulous bookstore Women & Children First hosts a discussion with Jaclyn Friedman and Hazel/Cedar Troost, as well as Lee Jacob Riggs.

Sex-Positive Film Fest Continues

The first film was screened on January 27th. The second film is screening tonight.

The second film in the Sex+++ film fest is “Sex Positive”:

Starting in the 1970s, unflinchingly tracks the progress of gay activist Richard Berkowitz as he went from cocky S&M hustler, to angry AIDS activist, to broken but proud harbinger of a message too volatile, scary and true to be heard.

Curated by Clarisse Thorn, who is TOTALLY awesome, the film will be screened at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on the UIC campus, 800 S. Halsted. Festivities start at 7pm, snacks are provided. Call 312.413.5353 for more information. There is also a Google Group for the documentary series: http://groups.google.com/group/sexplusplusplus . So come out, bring a friend and try to stay for the post-film discussion. The first one was excellent, so I’m very excited about this one. Films are shown every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, at 7pm.

SEX+++ is pro-SEX, pro-QUEER, and pro-KINK.

(Cross-posted at La Libertine’s Salon)

CLEARLY They’re Unhappy

Thanks to Amber L. Rhea for the CNN article link. Crossposted at La Libertine’s Salon.

Wow. I just read this amazing statistic that said nearly half of all respondents in a survey would leave their industry in the next three years if they had an alternative. IF THEY HAD AN ALTERNATIVE!

What horrible industry do these poor dears want to leave? Should we assemble an extraction team? Maybe criminalize the industry so that they can leave via a jail sentence? What does this say about others who DO NOT want to leave this craphole of a job? They must be brainwashed, early childhood trauma surrounding the workings of the industry. Maybe it’s even worse: they’re propping up the status quo of the exploitation of this industry. I mean, how could they think differently if nearly HALF of their colleagues want out? Surely, they must be crazy. SURELY they must be out of their minds to want to continue work that others find less than satisfying, frustrating and dehumanizing. Their clients must be horrendous and demanding, imagine it!

Must be prostitution, right? I mean, that’s what Farley (who would convert 49% to 90% using some sort of unholy radical magic), Dines, Jensen, et. al. have people thinking.

No. It’s the medical industry:

(CNN) — Nearly half the respondents in a survey of U.S. primary care physicians said that they would seriously consider getting out of the medical business within the next three years if they had an alternative.

If you read Farley’s site and the opinions spewed by her other colleagues and by the ignorant public, you’d swear prostitutes were the only ones who ever want to leave their industry and who may, yes, be desperate to. There are a whole bunch of people who feel trapped by their legal professions. They have family or themselves to support and especially for doctors who make a helluva lot more money than most, a lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to. But unlike many, especially, street prostitutes, doctors have:

1. A college education*
2. Investments, if they were smart
3. A clean arrest record (most likely)

Doctors don’t have to worry about, “what do I put on my resume to explain what I’ve been doing for the past x years” the way sex workers do. Their profession isn’t criminalized and despite the criticism of doctors, it is NOT stigmatized. And yet, half but NOT ALL doctors want out.

And the doctors who stay in, who would call them “delusional” or “brainwashed” because they find satisfaction in their jobs? Who may, yes, encourage others who have the talents to be a doctor to become one!

But it’s only those poor, poor sex workers who hate their jobs, want out or are crazy if they don’t.

*EDIT: Yes, many people, including prostitutes have college educations but most people stop at a baccalaureate. And it’s getting more expensive. Docs, on the other hand, have advanced, professional degrees. BIG difference!

Morality and Prop K

From LaLibertine’s Salon. While this concerns the proposition to decriminalize sex work in San Francisco, this possibly historical vote affects sex workers all over the country. That’s why I posted this here as well:

Whenever morals are trotted out within the public sphere, especially within politics, it is inevitably about controlling sexual behavior of adults. The very people who wring their hands in fear over the sexual expression of consenting adults for “morality’s sake” rarely seem to be the same people worrying over the prevalence of lying, cheating and hatred in our society. They’ll scream that gays are corrupting their children and encouraging them to adopt the “homosexual lifestyle” but they remain conspicuously silent about the examples of public figures caught lying about the causes of war or where all the funding for public schools went.

Isn’t lying, cheating and bald-faced hatred much more corrupting of morals than two adults consenting to sex, paid or not, straight or not? Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m much more impacted by a public official lying with regard to the spending of my hard-earned tax money than what is going on in the private bedrooms of consenting adults. I am much more concerned with how a public official views people based on their race or gender, than if Sally makes Steve pay $50 for a blow job.

The anti-Prop K argument that the ordinance will ignore abusive pimps and allow organized crime to gain a stronger hold on prostitution is absolutely ridiculous. The latter was used to try and keep the prohibition of alcohol going as well and similarly, this argument can be easily stripped. Legalizing the sale, production and consumption of alcohol didn’t put breweries, bars and saloons into the hands of the Mob; but the criminalization of alcohol most certainly did. Exactly where in the proposition does it say that offenses such as rape, kidnapping, slavery, coercion, theft, blackmail, murder or assault will be legal? Nowhere it does. In fact, because of the criminalization of prostitution, the law has implicitly made such actions legal by the simple fact that when a prostitute suffers violence the police and the courts look the other way. They do not investigate or prosecute violent offenders against prostitutes, therefore they essentially say to said offenders (and anyone thinking about it), “Oh, that’s okay. Carry on.”

This is where true morality comes in. Not the false morality that I described earlier. No, it is the morality that says, “It is WRONG to violate another person’s being simply because of their job or perceived sexuality”. The morality that says murder, rape, kidnapping, slavery, coercion, theft, assault and blackmail are simply wrong. The morality that says when violent offenses are reported (when possible) by the survivor, the offenders are tracked down and brought to justice. The morality that truly does worry about what examples we are setting for children: that some people can be mistreated by society and at best we all ignore it. The morality that is concerned with human rights.

The voter pamphlet Peridot Ash posted breaks down the ‘yes’ ‘no’ vote as such:

A “YES” VOTE MEANS: If you vote “yes,” you want the City to:

stop enforcing laws against prostitution,

stop funding or supporting the First Offender Prostitution Program or any similar anti-prostitution program,

enforce existing criminal laws that prohibit crimes such as battery, extortion and rape, regardless of the victim’s status as a sex worker, and

• fully disclose the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against sex workers.

A “NO” VOTE MEANS: If you vote “no,” you do not want to make these changes. [emphasis mine]

Oh yeah, the pimps and traffickers and violent johns are gonna LOVE that! Who can honestly vote “NO”, if they’re truly concerned about the health and safety of prostitutes?

The Price of Pleasure: Alrighty, then…

(I originally posted this on my blog but since I attended the screenings officially as a member of SWOP-Chicago, I am putting it here as well.)

To use Serpent’s phrase, the “SWOP posse” (hey, we can put that on a t-shirt, Serpent!) viewed “The Price of Pleasure” this weekend at two separate venues in Chicago: DePaul University and Columbia College. My review is obviously biased but it is not going to concentrate solely on criticizing the technical aspects of the documentary. I have comments about the audience as well.

The Audience:

The audience last night at DePaul seemed a lot more diverse and a little more genuinely intelligent. Perhaps I am being prejudice since I am a student there and since I have an enormous capacity for vanity since I know I am very intelligent then all other Demons (school mascot), by virtue of being fellow classmates are at least as equally intelligent. And I am definitely not saying this to hint that DPU students who screened the film had the same reaction I did. However, the comments from all sides of the aisle sounded well-thought out and mature.

At Columbia there were far too many pompous asses that were attempting to sound more learned than they were. No offense to other CC students (me mum went there!) but there was this one guy I could have gladly slapped the smirk off his little pinchy face.** Maybe it was the timbre of the voices of most of those students but it was so “Yes, I have almost completed my second quarter in college and I KNOW SO MUCH!!!” But…I could be projecting.

The Film:

Content aside, my personal pornified views aside, the film was not objective. Especially considering the fact that the two credited Senior Consultants were Gail Dines and Robert Jensen. I don’t have a problem with them voicing their views that they think are based on incontrovertible fact. But there needed to be a balance. Personally, the most obnoxious non-objective element was the music. Bethdeath and I were ragging on it during the DPU screening. Mainly it is the music at the end of the film that was so melodramatic. I felt like I was watching a war film and the scene being shown is when the hero(es) fell in battle. Anyone who pays attention to music in fictional or nonfictional film knows there are cues. Music is specifically chosen to underscore a point being made. Even in a fictional film, music being casually listened to by the characters is rarely, rarely accidental. I’m no film student but I love watching movies, especially scifi/fantasy movies, and I know that much.

There were many slow-motion or zoom in shots that were obviously chosen for pure shock value. The movie showed a testimony given by a woman in silhouette about her husband’s stash of porn pictures hidden in a dictionary. The dramatic re-enactment, which I felt was unnecessary, showed the pictures tumbling out of the book in slow-motion and this extremely dramatic music being played in the background. Honestly. I don’t have a problem with her testimony being included in the film; it would be necessary in a truly (attempted) objective film. But the presentation of her testimony was manipulative. It could have just been her describing her husband’s actions, her reaction to his actions and that’s it. It would have made the necessary impact. But the slow-motion and melodramatic music? No. Not needed.

There were several other shots, especially showing SM porn and the more aggressive porn, where the music served to underscore the opinion of the filmmakers that YOU SHOULD NOT LIKE THIS! PORN=BAD! Of course both Robert Wosnitzer (co-producer) and filmmaker Chyng Sun fervently declared their objective status but with evidence like this, I cannot believe it. At all.

In my opinion, most of the statements made by the anti-pornography side and the narrator, which predominated, should have been phrased differently for an “objective” look. For example, at the beginning the narrator asks, “How do these pornographic images shape our perceptions of sex and relationships?”, instead of “Can they…?” or “Should they…?” To me, this is a huge and importance difference. Pornographic images certainly can shape perceptions and for some people they do. This also begs the question of whether or not this is a negative thing. It is negative, definitely, if you take the default view that pornography is bad. The way the question is phrase does not consider the possibility that the consumption of pornography will not shape the viewers perception of sex. Should porn shape perceptions? Yes and no. I think it can be a good outlet to watch depictions of a sexual act the viewer may already have a burgeoning interest in or for people already participating in such acts, suggestions for variety but it the average porn is still not for educational purposes. But this doesn’t make it bad. For the no part to that answer, it shouldn’t be used as force to shape the perception of a person who is uninterested.

This lack of consideration is underscored by Gail Dines declaring later on that “Pornography leaks into the everyday world of your life,” and that one can’t just “zip up [their] pants then zip up [their] brains”. Why not? David Law made the comment at the DPU screening last night that the movie was a bit misanthropic at times and I think he was pretty much referring to this. The idea that people, specifically men, are just mindless automatons. You see it, you do it is Dines’ view when it comes to pornography. That statement and opinion should be insulting to every conscious human being. We’d all be suffering from multiple personality disorders if we adopted the behavior and persona of everyone we see in a film!

Continuing on this point of view, Pamela Paul stated later that some men she interviewed for her book told her that “porn images” come “unbidden” during sex. Okay. And I’m sure those aren’t the only images that come “unbidden” during sex but it is curious that there is an acknowledgment of consciousness during sex when the prevailing view of that side is that people are mindless when it comes to sex. As I was saying, I wonder if Ms. Paul asked what other images come unbidden during sex for these men? I doubt it is just those nasty porn images.

Other comments made could have been rephrased to still criticize pornographic depictions without condemning the entire genre were two others posed by, again, Gail Dines: 1) That porn is a way to understand relationships for people who watch porn. Not that it is a way some people who watch porn try to understand relationships, which would be accurate. But all porn users, period. (2.) That African-American women are depicted as animalistic whores that can’t get enough sex. First, her use of the word whore as an insult. Thanks a lot, Gail. Next, if she were really concerned with specific issues instead of an all-encompassing, naked hatred of porn what she or any other researcher would ask is, “Why does it seem as though sexually voracious (or adventurous or open, etc.) black women are depicted in a light that would shame them for being very sexual in porn?” And actually, this is a subject I will be tackling in a post within the next week. Probably by tomorrow night. She also made a statement about the depiction of black men in porn that, I have to agree, is very racist in content, but I really did not want to dissect that one. Mainly because I kinda agree on that count. The myth of the black man with the huge cock is just that, a myth, very racist in origin and that simply doesn’t exist in large numbers in real life. I say this as a woman who has banged many black men including the one I am with now. Their sizes are as average as any other Tom, Harry or hehe Dick. But I will say that I appreciate the porn films that do make a more obvious attempt to mock and subvert and satirize the myth.

I know.

Shortly before displaying statistics that are highly questionable, they explained that the movies were chosen from Adult Video News’ best sellers list. The titles highlighted by way of sending them via cgi sailing toward the audience on the screen, were those with the titles that would shock and titillate those who don’t watch porn (or wouldn’t admit to it in public). I will not say that those movies should not have been considered or highlighted (because I love porn titles, they’re hilarious and kitsch if nothing else) but honestly, why not give the same treatment to titles like Pirates, Briana Loves Jenna, or Teradise among others? But they wanted to make sure to shock the audience into moral indigation with titles like Meat My Ass, which, speaking of, would serve the double purpose to disgust any PETAesque vegetarians or vegans viewing this (of course, ignoring that Jenna Jameson is vegetarian and a publicized PETA supporter).

These are the statistics given in the film upon serious analysis of its contents by people who know better than any of the consumers and definitely any of the performers or producers:

89.8% verbal or physical aggression
48% verbal aggression
82.2% physical aggression
94.4% directed at women

Now, all of this seems to obfuscate for the viewer of the documentary the fact that this is still scripted, often overdramatized fiction. Personally, I have a problem with people voicing misogynistic comments in public and having violent actions that reinforce said words. But that is referring solely to comments and actions IN REAL LIFE, not any sort of scripted fiction no matter how real it looks on film.

This flows into the later concern voiced by one of the academic researchers whose name I can’t recall. She complained about what she implicitly thought was a false enjoyment by a female performer during a gagging scene and the apparent callousness of the male performer not stopping as she gagged but continuing with the scene. Never mind, the gagging scene was the point (fetish, perhaps?) of the movie, it was a staged scene agreed to by both actor and actress in negotiations. I would venture a guess that some sort of safeword was established just in case it went too far for the actress at that time. Of course, she isn’t taking into account that like every other film, mainstream and popular porn alike, EDITING! A good editor can make a single scene shot twenty different times look seamless.

All of the academics were anti-pornography and not one of them was pro. I asked Chyng Sun about this lack of balance from the academic standpoint at the screening at Columbia College today. She and Wosnitzer danced around the question and never actually answered it. I asked if she tried to get in contact with Professor Nadine Strossen, Dr. Marty Klein or Dr. Annie Sprinkle among others. The response was everything except an answer to my question, though later Sun said that she talked to Prof. Strossen but most of her statements were about free speech and that wasn’t what the film was about. I would like to know what questions Chyng Sun asked Prof. Strossen because I cannot believe that the latter would have only talked about free speech if the questions had reflected those posed in the film.

The Price of Pleasure also made a casual but undeniable link between the United Nations definition of torture and the depiction of torture in SM porn. No, I misspoke. The link was not casual, it was obnoxious now that I think more on it. A drawing of a torture victim from the UN handbook on torture (I’m guessing from the way it looked) was shown immediately followed by a similar pose held by an actress in an SM porn film. To me, it said, THIS=THAT. That there is no difference between, oh, say, the torture in Abu Ghraib upon men who ARE NOT actors who did NOT sign a contract consenting to those actions and certainly DID NOT benefit from said actions…to an actress who DID sign a contract and DID benefit from said actions financially or sexually but hopefully and probably BOTH.

At this point another subjective question in an “objective” documentary was posed, “What makes torture/pain sexually arousing?” I feel a more objective question, while still critiquing, would have been, “Can these images be sexually arousing?” or “Are these images of abnormal behavior and what is considered abnormal in sexual activities?” But to ask questions like that one has to assume that they do not already have the answers. Again, this is where the melodramatic music makes its final and most wretching appearance.

The movie ends with a possibly traumatized but certainly morally indignant college student interviewed earlier who declared, “This is not sex. This is not how I wanted to experience sex.” Well, no, it is sex. It shouldn’t been considered sex ed and even some porn performers would agree on that. I think it is perfectly fine that pornography, especially the more “exotic” sex, is not how this young man wanted to experience sex. But that is how some people want to experience sex some of the time. The way he made the statement sounded as though he did not explore sex outside of pornography or that he was incapable of doing so. I wonder if he may consider himself a sex addict or something if that’s the case. I’ve noticed a link there.

I could say more, but honestly, I’m tired of typing. SerpentLibertine will have her own post up at some point and I’m sure she’ll talk about things that I did not. Naturally I’ll post a specific link when she does that. And that’s it folks. My opinion on watching The Price of Pleasure twice within twenty-four hours. I think I need a straitjacket.

**A Star Wars reference was made in relation to people not separating fantasy from reality (dude asked if I knew any SW nerds and I was like, I am one) and I really didn’t get a chance to really shut him down the way I would have if I didn’t think the moderators, if you will, would have used that as an excuse to cut me off. They were already looking for one. I am a huge Star Wars geek. So much so that upon viewing Viva Zapata! for a history class, I noticed that the villanious General Huerta (true historical figure and bad guy in La Revolution) said the line, “Wipe them out. All of them.” In The Phantom Menace, the future Emperor Palpatine, in his “true face” (according to him in Revenge of the Sith) as Darth Sidious gave the EXACT SAME command to his Separatist cronies to wipe out the joined Naboo and Gungan forces. I told the girl sitting next to me, “ZOMG! GL totally used that in TPM when Sidious wanted to wipe out the Naboo!!!!111!eleven!” (she gave me a blank look in response). I just geeked all over her that day. I know George Lucas MUST HAVE seen this movie and borrowed that line because I know The Flanneled One is a Mexican Revolution aficionado, used that as an inspiration for the Rebel Alliance as well as for Princess Leia’s cinnamon bun hairstyle, which was a real hairstyle popular among women in certain socio-economic classes at that time in Mexico. THAT is how much of a Star Wars geek I am.**