Apr 082014
 

melissa__bk_3664_v2-web Playing_the_Whore

This Friday, April 11th at 8 pm ET / 5 pm, Sex Out Loud features Melissa Gira Grant, writer and freelance journalist whose latest book is Playing The Whore: The Work of Sex Work. Based on ten years of writing and reporting on the sex trade, and grounded in her experience as an organizer, advocate, and former sex worker, Grant dismantles pervasive myths about sex work, criticizes both conditions within the sex industry and its
criminalization, and argues that separating sex work from the “legitimate” economy only harms those who perform sexual labor. The interview was recorded live at CatalystCon East 2014.

Melissa Gira Grant is a writer and freelance journalist, covering sexuality, politics, and technology. She lives in New York. Her book, Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Verso, 2014) challenges the myths about selling sex and those who make them. Her reporting and commentary appears in The Nation, Wired, The Atlantic, Glamour, The Guardian, In These Times, The Washington Post, Dissent, Slate, Salon, The American Prospect, Reason, Jezebel, and Valleywag, among other publications, and she’s a contributing editor at Jacobin. Her other books include Take This Book: A History of the People’s Library at Occupy WallStreet, in 2011 through my own media label Glass Houses, and Coming & Crying (Glass Houses, 2010), an anthology of true stories about sex (co-edited with Meaghan O’Connell). She speaks regularly to audiences worldwide at institutions such as Duke University, the New School, Third Wave Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, and the UC Berkeley Labor Center, and at events including South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW), re:publica (Berlin), NEXT (Copenhagen), and the International AIDS Conference. She co-organizes the podcast series Nostalgia for the Net. Her story “Before Departure,” a collaboration with photographer Fette Sans and published by Abe’s Penny, was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art Library in 2013. She’s also been a member of the Exotic Dancers’ Union (SEIU Local 790), and a staff member at St. James Infirmary (the only occupational health and safety clinic in the United States run for and by sex workers).

Sex Out Loud airs every Friday at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET on the VoiceAmerica Variety channel. You can listen on your computer, phone, or tablet, find all the ways here!

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Jan 182013
 

Ask Tristan logo450

[Ed. note: This question is a legal one, so I asked my awesome expert, Davis from Sexquire to answer it.]

So, I was just reading a Coyote L.A. article that talks about what Prostitution is defined as, and I noticed that one can
define Prostitution as masturbation for pay. Would that mean that webcam modeling could be included in that definition? Is there an exception for cam, because I am using my camera?

To be sure I was answering the right question, I did some research to find the Coyote LA article you mentioned. After reviewing it, I can see how the issue might still be a bit confusing. The answer to your question is most likely no, but let me add a few caveats before getting in to too much detail.

Caveat 1 –The article you cited discussed California laws regarding prostitution, and each state (and often city or town) has its own specific rules that govern what is/is not illegal there. I’m going to answer your question under California law, but if you’re wondering about another state, or even an area in California other than LA, you’ll need to do some additional research.

Caveat 2 – Some places don’t have very specific laws, and often whoever is in power (mayors, council persons, sheriffs) dictate what types of things are more vigorously pursued at any particular time. If you’re new to an area, be sure you learn about the prostitution and sex work laws that govern, but also find out a bit about the area’s political climate and whether local governmental authorities are particularly active in this area.

Caveat 3 – Your question was about prostitution laws, but obscenity laws may also govern cam or fetish video work. Just because a local government agent can’t fit what you’re doing into the definition of prostitution doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the clear, as obscenity and “lewdness” laws vary quite a bit from state to state.

Okay, with all that being said, let’s dive into your question. The article you mentioned discussed how dancing nude and masturbating oneself might meet the definition of prostitution under California Penal Code Sec. 647 (which defines prostitution). The actual language of the law is long and confusing, but the article is correct that the law includes in its definition of prostitution “a lewd act for money or other consideration” which is “the touching of breast, buttocks or genitals for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal.” The article goes on to say that since the law does not define WHO is doing the touching, that one who dances nude or masturbates oneself as part of their act could, if their customer achieves sexual gratification, be found to have committed an act of prostitution. However, your question was not about someone dancing nude or masturbating themselves in front of someone IN PERSON, it was about cam work, where you are far removed from, and indeed may not even have any information at all about, your client. And this is what, at least for now, removes cam work from the definition of prostitution. It does not take place between two persons in public or private, as the California statute states for every definition of prostitution. It may seem a bit fuzzy, but because you have the barrier of the computer, the internet and space/time between you and the person purchasing your services, it simply doesn’t fit the current definition of illegal sex work. Of course it may fit under a pornography or obscenity definition, and with the recent laws and referendums in California one never knows how laws may change, but for now, at least in California, cam work does not likely fit the definition of prostitution and to my knowledge, no cases have been pursued.

One final caveat though – despite not technically fitting the definition, nothing prevents local law enforcement from claiming that a particular act is illegal, so know that although a case would likely not prevail, an overzealous officer and prosecutor could certainly charge someone with prostitution simply for cam or other work. So be careful out there regardless of what your local law currently says.

~~~~~~

Davis is the founder of Sexquire, a complete sex-positive business services company. Davis is the legal arm of Sexquire, having advised brick and mortar sex toy stores, sex educators, sex workers and other sex positive business folk on all manner of legal issues for over 7 years.   In addition to legal matters, Sexquire also provides bookkeeping, accounting, personal assistance and other business services all with a sex-positive spin.  You can find them online at their website, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

Jul 302012
 

This Friday on Sex Out Loud, I talk to writer, media maker, and crusader for people in the sex industry Audacia Ray about her role in the sex workers’ rights movement. We’ll discuss the work she does with the Red Umbrella Project, an organization she founded and directs as well as her thoughts on strategies for increasing awareness of the myriad issues facing sex workers. Plus, she’ll address her controversial remarks at this year’s Momentum Conference, and tell is why she no longer identifies as a sex-positive feminist. This will be a live show, so be ready to join in the conversation online and call in with questions!

Audacia Ray is the founder and director of the Red Umbrella Project, where she works to amplify the voices of people involved in the sex industry. At the Red Umbrella Project, Audacia hosts monthly live storytelling events and a weekly podcast, leads media and storytelling workshops, and provides communications support and leadership for individuals and communities who wish to tell their stories and reframe public debate. In 2010, the Village Voice named the Red Umbrella Diaries series and Audacia’s blog Waking Vixen to their Best of NYC list. As the Program Officer for Online Communications and Campaigns at the International Women’s Health Coalition and a communications consultant for the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, Audacia has worked with activists all over the world to build communications strategies around challenging topics like youth sexual health, sexual rights, HIV, and sex work.

Her skills are rooted in years of experience as an activist, writer, and media maker. Audacia is a former sex worker who was an executive editor at the Utne Reader award-winning $pread magazine for three years and is the author of Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing In on Internet Sexploration. She has been blogging about sexuality and culture since 2004, and has shot and edited a variety of videos and video podcasts, including Naked City TV, a twenty-two episode documentary video show that she produced for the Village Voice in 2008. Audacia also developed a syllabus and taught as an adjunct professor of Human Sexuality at Rutgers University for three semesters. She has a BA from Eugene Lang College at the New School and a MA from Columbia University.