Friday, November 21, 2008

Today is my birthday! I'm happy to be me, and happy to be starting another year in my very interesting life...
Now I'm going to be spoiled some more. Bye!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There’s a lot of sex worker stuff in the news lately, isn’t there?

So yes, I’ve been reading about the busts at the tanning salon/brothels on Aurora Ave. I have some sympathy for the female manager who got arrested, seeing as how I once managed a “sensual touch” business myself. And just because you read something in the paper doesn’t make it true. However, if she and the owner really were running women in and out of other states, through three different locations, all I can say is: with an operation that size, you should have seen this coming. I hope you both have a good lawyer.

See, I have this thing about sex work. One woman working for herself? Great. A couple women decide to band together to share a space and perhaps swap clients back and forth? Fine. Anything where it’s a small group of peers working together - okay, I’m all down with that. But this kind of set-up makes me deeply suspicious.

Now, it’s possible those women wanted to be doing what they did, that it was a very safe and egalitarian workplace, no one ever felt pressured to do anything they didn’t want to, and they were paid as well as they should have been.

But… I bet not. I just don’t get a sense of that from places like this. They look like strip-clubs without the pole, if you know what I mean. And strip-club management works like this: use the women to get as much money as you can from the men, and then take as much of that money as you can from the women. In this situation, I’m betting they took a lot.

In the place I managed, the house supported itself by taking a set portion of the basic appointment fee – “the gate fee” we called it. My job was mostly to keep track of that, coordinate everyone’s schedule, and to deal with the new clients and the guys who needed, for whatever reason, a lot of wrangling. Occasionally I would have to pull rank and tell someone that, for example, leaving a large pink vibrator on the coffee table in the public area was really not okay. Showing up an hour late for the shift? Not okay. Coming out of the session room accompanied by a literal cloud of pot smoke? Not okay.

But I was by no means controlling the six women who worked there. (Hah. As if. Most of them were pals of mine.) And once the client and the woman were in the room together, whatever extra services were negotiated, whatever other money was exchanged, that was all strictly between them. We did not ask about it or monitor it in any way, and we did not ever, ever take any of that money. That was her money.

Once in a while the owner would wistfully mention how she wished the house could get a cut of that cash, and I would threaten to instantly quit before I’d participate in any such practice. That always put an end to that conversation, especially since half the staff would have quit with me, and the owner knew it.

But this looks like the kind of place where you’d get pushed to get as much money as you could from the guy, and then you’d have to give it all to the house. You’d think it would be easy to hide your tips and keep them, but it’s harder than you think. The trick of moving women around is that not only do you create variety for the clients, you prevent the women from forming alliances with each other. So you can’t trust the other girls not to rat you out if they find out you’re holding money back. And you don’t stay on one place long enough to get to know and trust the regular clients, so you can’t rely on them to not say anything, even as an innocent mistake. Some places like this are wired for sound – or even cameras, although not always – so management will see or hear if a girl gets more money in the session rooms.

If they were moving the women around, it’s possible that they were housing them, too. That’s not unheard of even in more legitimate sex work jobs – strip clubs in Alaska used to fly girls up there and put them in what we called “the barracks”. I don’t know if they still have those, but I stayed in one once. It wasn’t a bad place – it looked like a low-end college dormitory, or a hostel. But I got out and found my own place to stay after a week, because it was feeling strange to never be someplace really separate from my work. You need that, I think. But if these people were moving the women around and housing them – oh, that would look pretty bad to me. That would look a lot like trafficking.

Of course I don’t know that, it’s all speculation at this point, so I’ll be interested to see how this story develops. But from this perspective, they don’t look much like people I’d have much in common with.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So, I'm busy fine-tuning a column for The Stranger, but here's a local resource question for you Seattle people: Monk is looking for someone who's an expert on fixing/maintaining Maytag washing machines. He uses them in his shop - you know, the place where he makes bondage rope? And he just really doesn't want to deal with unsuspecting repair people walking into his place and getting all flipped out because of what he does there. So he's seeking someone who is, if not kink-friendly, at least kink-neutral.

I understand this completely. The thing I hate the most is when I have to call a service person over to my dungeon space to fix something. Naturally I always hide all the toys and throw sheets over the bondage furniture. But still, it looks a little... odd in there, and people always ask questions, or at least look at me really funny. I loathe dealing with it.

So if you know your way around washing machines, you're cool with an unusual atmosphere, and you'd like some occasional work, email Monk:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am disgusted by the smear job KOMO news tried to do on the Wet Spot (The Sex Positive Community Center) last night. It was a terrible piece - sensationalistic and inflammatory crap. They made both completely false and very misleading statements, and implied that something legally questionable was going on with the Center's tax-exempt status. I wrote them a letter telling them how I felt about it, and so should you!

As Dakwallah pointed out, it's November sweeps time. I suppose they were bored with inventing excuses to get footage inside a strip club - that's the usual way to titillate people while making them feel that as though they're watching "news". Bah.

UPDATE: The link doesn't work because KOMO seems to have pulled the story. No trace of it can be found anywhere on the website. Isn't THAT interesting! Looks like a flood of negative responses cowed the station, as well it should have. Of course they can't un-show it to all the people who watched last night.

Here's the piece on YouTube, though...

Monday, November 17, 2008

What I'm Reading

For an early birthday gift, I just received this: Proust Was A Neuroscientist, by Jonah Lehrer.
From Publishers Weekly: “With impressively clear prose, Lehrer explores the oft-overlooked places in literary history where novelists, poets and the occasional cookbook writer predicted scientific breakthroughs with their artistic insights… how CĂ©zanne anticipated breakthroughs in the understanding of human sight, how Walt Whitman intuited the biological basis of thoughts and, in the title essay, how Proust penetrated the mysteries of memory by immersing himself in childhood recollections…”

I love stuff about how our minds work, so this looks fascinating to me. And I’m charmed that the sweet man who gave it to me knew it’s exactly the sort of thing I like.

In fiction, I just finished this: The Wolfman, by Nicholas Pekearo.

From Publishers Weekly: Marlowe Higgins, who's both a werewolf and a detective, lives in the small town of Evelyn, just outside the Tennessee border, flipping burgers by day and waiting for the full moon that will awaken the blood curse that has afflicted his family for generations. Higgins has hit on a way to alleviate the guilt he feels for having claimed countless innocent lives—he investigates vicious crimes that have gone unsolved by the police and targets the perpetrators in his lupine form. When a sadistic serial killer known as the Rose Killer for the flowers left in the victims' eye sockets appears in Evelyn, Higgins turns his attention to tracking him down.”

I got this book after seeing it reviewed on the Slog. I figured if those hipster book snobs had to grudgingly admit it was good, then I’d definitely like it. (I do not dig highbrow fiction any more than I dig highbrow films, or for that matter, highbrow food. Philistines, unite!)

And I did indeed like it. Pekearo’s prose is spare, and almost too terse for my taste - but not quite. He reminds me of a tightly edited Steven King, and also of the author who King says influenced him, Richard Matheson. It’s got the stark landscape – both inner and outer – of a lot of King’s horror novels, but with a flavor of the hard-boiled-detective genre, too. If I was casting this as a movie, I’d want someone like Nick Nolte or Nicholas Cage as the lead – a guy who’d taken some hard knocks and survived, but who had very little to lose and as a result, feared nothing.

(One quibble – this teensy little town in the middle of nowhere has not one but two flourishing multi-girl brothels, and one of them is very upscale? Oh please. I can believe in a werewolf easier than I can believe in that.)

The story unrolls smoothly for most of the book, wobbling only a trifle towards the end. Still, I liked the characters enough to shrug it off and enjoy it overall. Sadly, the author has died, so we’ll see no sequels to this book.

And now I have another twist-on-the-genre novel loaded on the Kindle and ready to go…

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setter.

From Publishers Weekly: “Former academic Setterfield pays tribute in her debut to BrontĂ« and du Maurier heroines: a plain girl gets wrapped up in a dark, haunted ruin of a house, which guards family secrets that are not hers and that she must discover at her peril. Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter…is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby. Contending with ghosts and with a (mostly) scary bunch of living people, Setterfield's sensible heroine is, like Jane Eyre, full of repressed feeling—and is unprepared for both heartache and romance. And like Jane, she's a real reader and makes a terrific narrator.”

I like classic Gothic novels, and this looks like an entertaining twist on that genre. I’ll let you know what I think after I read it.