Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tricky situations...

Tricks happen. Sometimes they happen intentionally (a condom left precariously in the VIP room might be evidence of that) and sometimes they happen accidentally, believe it or not (you'd be surprised how far a little fully clothed friction can go!). I'm not sure what constitutes a trick, exactly... Fondling? Fingering? Handjobs? Handjobs through pants? Customer masturbation during a low-contact lap dance? High contact lap dances? Kissing a customer? The definition in the eye of a dancer, customer, and most importantly, a law enforcement officer, is constructed, shifting, and unclear! That said, there are some things that clearly *are* tricks and not stripping (sex and blow jobs, for instance). And some things that clearly are stripping (no-contact lap dances, for instance -- provided the guy isn't pleasuring himself). I've been really interested in watching dancers negotiate who's turning tricks and who's not.

I've seen fights break out in the dressing room between girls where the lowest insult was "at least I'm not giving $30 blow-jobs in the champagne room, bitch!", or "how many broke as n*'s did you f* today in the back?" Clearly, whether or not one is engaging in sex work is something associated with shame. I often wonder how successful an organizer would be in my club if (s)he were trying to recruit dancers/sex workers who work there for a rally, or a conference, or any type of organizing around sex worker rights. These girls who *are* having sex for $350 in the back hardly identify as sex workers, and in fact use the term as an insult, are highly unlikely to be game for any type of organizing! Yikes, but I don't want to go hollering "false consciousness" either...

As a girl who's not doing the BJ's, HJ's, or home runs, (and apparently, easily pegged as a girl who's not) I hear a lot from my sisters-in-arms. Here are some snippets...

"That guy took me to the champagne room last week and just wanted to suck and kiss my neck the whole time. It left a hickey and my boyfriend was so pissed! He called me a whore, and said I'm probably doing all kinds of stuff at work. And I'm not! I mean, you know, a guy who kisses on your neck is harmless, a dream come true in here. But Sam was so pissed! And I started thinking, god, I'm just like those girls who work here who are whores. I mean, they give away sex, but I'm not different than them. I just give away a different kind of intimacy. I just felt so depressed after that whole thing, I couldn't bring myself into work on Tuesday."

"There whores need to stop doing this stuff here! I found a condom in the VIP yesterday... I mean, if the cops come and raid the place we're *all* going to get arrested, not just these girls. They should just take their customers outside instead of doing it here."

Of course, I believe that women who want to sell sex should be able to, and I cringe at the use of the term whore, ho, and trick. But then, I wonder about the spaces women are putting themselves into and the risks it exposes them to. Shayla, a dancer, said the cops busted a club she was working in once and almost arrested her. She said she explained that she has a kid and has to be home and isn't among the girls who turn tricks, and the cops were "nice enough" to release her.

So, how do I resolve this tension? Women who are fortunate enough or simply not willing to or interested in turning tricks are exposed to punitive action because other girls in their clubs are. Yet, those women who are selling sex shouldn't be criminalized to begin with! What's the solution?

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