Category Archives: activism

Women By The Wayside

I just read a fantastic essay called ” Green Screen: The Lack Of Female Road Narratives And Why It Matters” by Vanessa Veselka. One one hand, I had to smile and nod at the writer who questioned the lack of female road narratives because in so many ways she’s also describing the invisibility of whores with agency. What else is the street based sex worker but the quintessential “woman by the wayside?” Veselka introduces her piece with the shockingly large number of “Jane Does” recovered at truck rest stops and questions why the women who work at the businesses with the dumpsters where they are found never seem to recall any of these incidendents. I read between those lines with the solemn knowledge that sex commerce, either as a profession or an immediate survival tactic, is probably in the background of these stories.

Covering a fourteen-county area, I asked every senior truck-stop employee I could find about a hitchhiker found in a dumpster, but no one had ever heard of her. I broadened the scope of my questions: Had they heard of any homicides in any area truck stops over the past thirty years? They didn’t remember a thing. But what I was learning from the FBI painted a landscape of extreme violence, one that matched the world of my memory. By 2004, so many women had been found dead along the interstates that the FBI started the Highway Serial Killers Initiative to keep track of them. There were girls found in dumpsters, behind truck stop diners, off the side of the road on truck turnarounds—the national database listed over five-hundred Jane Does in or near rest areas and truck stops alone. Some of these were the very truck stops I was now passing through, and yet I couldn’t uncover even rumors of past murders. The strangeness of this crystallized when I visited a Pennsylvania truck stop where I knew for a fact that two women had been killed, one found only yards from where the woman I was speaking to worked. Still, she “had never heard of anything like that.”

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Pride and Shame

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

I don’t get out to the BIG San Francisco events these days. Where once my eyes looked up and watered over from hope and stray glitter, now they tend to look elsewhere for SF Pride and Folsom Street. There’s all the waste, the trash, the dominating force of Big Booze ™ shilling Absolut Vodka and Budweiser, and the huge crushing crowds, terrible food, and the heart palpitations all of this gives me. No, I don’t care to see a parade of massive corporations demonstrating how tolerant they are despite whatever implications their brand and profits might mean for people, animals, water, and the globe at large. No, I don’t care for the tons of plastic crap manufactured with pride.

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg

Pride and Folsom have had brave sexual components because of the illegality of what they were displaying in public. It was a protest. I’m all for Bacchanalia, believe me. It’s also important to remember that it was about taking something that people were being arrested and brutalized over and putting out in public view. It was about challenging how and why people were being marginalized for what they were already doing in private. Blowing someone in public was the reminder that the sun didn’t turn to blood, the streets weren’t suddenly cracking open, and there was no legitimate reason why people were being pulled from their bars and bedrooms and subject to a criminal record and all the damages therein.

I heard about “Gay Shame” when I was in college and I didn’t disagree with them totally but I wanted to have my day in the sun, a party celebrating something that had isolated me as a kid and a teenager, and most of all a good goddamn time. I wanted to put down my politics, pick up a beer, and just let it all go. Those Gay Shamers seemed a little uptight and political to me. Sure, corporations had some pretty bad policies but having Bank of America come out to the parade meant that others would to, right? Mainstream acceptance meant safety. If those stodgy old banker dudes could see why an event like pride where they knew there’d be drag queens and naked guys in cock rings and little baby dykes stomping around in their first pair of big black boots and a miniskirt trying on subversive in public for the first time ever then surely “we” were winning, right? Right? There were too many politicians in convertible cars waving to the masses for us to be losers.

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Of Sex And Drugs

Despite the porn, I’m terribly naive about why our society has conniption fits when it comes to talking about sex and drugs. Both are very taboo and subject to numerous pieces of legislation and come with deep currents of conscious and unconscious stigma.

Trying to develop a career as a “professional” in either field is a tenuous path. Semantics mark the difference between the suit and coat crowd and the plebeians or worse yet the crackpots. Those who aspire to join the suit and coat crowd can be spotted at their industry’s events with marked civility to the crackpots by their subtle but very nearly ritualistic social performances best described by Roland Barthes and an avian behavior graduate student sharing drinks at happy hour.

In the drug world, the people talking about sex are regarded as the way to ruin the legitimacy of things. The ones who don’t get “the bigger picture.” In the sex world, those who talk about drugs can also ruin the legitimacy of things. Legality is a major issue. Drugs could blow the whole house down.

When you already have to speak in sotte voce about a very fundamental reality, the introduction of another pretty much leaves you to the fragments and the faintest lines of symbols creating galaxies of the inferred. This is the blend of religion, and of disease. The orbit is farther out with a much more tenuous grasp on gravity. The stakes are closer to death and not because of something inherent to them so much as their relationship to codified law that has a very class distinct application on the masses. Having “made it” is so often defined by the cocaine of an appealing ass. It’s not the Benz, it’s the room for a buzz that never ends and never has consequences.

Class is marked by the consequences you face for your own humanity.

Sexuality has been my trade but I keep my personal cards kept more keenly to myself. I do think ones pleasure practices are as sacred (for whatever that word means) as ones spiritual practices. I don’t think I really get a say over how any given individual choose to guide their perception of the world by chemical, religious, technological, biological, material, or what-have-you-tools so long as there aren’t material world consequences on other non-consenting people. You can’t just steal some shit. You can’t just instantly use someone as a tool of your experience. The fact that we imprison people for getting high is, in effect, a thought crime.

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Harm Reduction For Hippies

Daisies in coffee bottles

Daisies in coffee bottles

Plastic has been a complex innovation that we’ve overused. It’s kind of a bad habit of opulence to burn through a supply of something without thinking. This is the story of industry. Plastics are handy because they’re lightweight, have the ability to be really resilient, and they have made a lot of things in computing, technology, and medicine possible because of their existence.

However, plastics can be super toxic and fail to break down. We put them into mass production and introduced a lot of reasons one might think they need something but only serve to become landfill fodder. Plastics are hard to recycle and most of the process winds up being just as bad, if not worse, than landfills. We didn’t ever really need plastic bags but we have them. We never really needed plastic bottles but we have them. We also send them around the globe because they lower shipping costs despite the fact that not every country has “waste management infrastructure” like we do. The landfill, wretched as it is, is the best case scenario for a lot of our plastic demand. It’s sure as hell better than in the bellies or around the necks of wildlife with its poison permanence pockmarking our natural landscapes.

I think it’s cool that the notions of reusing things is starting to catch on and as much of a pain in the ass as some might think it is, I do like bans on plastic bags in cities. (Pro Tip: If you constantly leave your grocery bags in the car of your city with a plastic bag ban remember that you can RELOAD your grocery cart and rebag at the car. Remember also that Costco Warehouses never issued plastic bags for their shopping and instead encouraged shoppers to reuse the leftover boxes from shipping to organize their goods.)

I don’t know if we’ll make change in behavior fast enough to reverse the damages to the planet but I do know that thinking about ways I can reduce my own waste output does help my overall awareness of what I consume. I do get hopeful as more places encourage reduction, reuse, and recycling. I hope that health codes continue to recognize the damages they’ve created by legally mandating use of disposable plastics despite their cost to personal and environmental health. I think it’s cool when coffee places drop the cost of their morning brew for people bringing in their own mugs. I think that’s awesome! I hope more places follow suit.

HOWEVER, all behavior change comes in waves and it isn’t always easy. I too feel frustrated and even shamed by clerks when I forget to bring a bag or I’ve already overstuffed my backpack. It feels like losing. It’s key to remember that, A) store clerks are trapped behind a register for 8 hours day after day and that makes them cranky , B) no one wants you to self-flagellate when you forget, and C) clerks are often in a bind when they have to remind people about anti-plastic bag legislation because people take their anger out on them and every time you have to ask is a chance for someone to flip out.

Once you DO start to get the hang of bringing your reusable hippie shit there are still more chores to remember. The biggest one of them all: clean your hippie shit.

Reuse those bags!

Reuse those bags!

  • Throw your canvas grocery bags in the wash or clean the vinyl/heavy plastic ones with a sponge and some soap and water. Yes, it’s true, you DO have an increased risk of foodborne illness if you keep reusing and reusing those grocery bags. How to solve this problem? Clean them. The elevated risk of foodborne illness as a reason NOT to institute bans is as ridiculous as suggesting that cutting boards , sponges, pyrex, or tupperware should be banned because reusing them without washing elevates risk of illness. Make it a point to throw basking soda in the washing machine water every now and again and clean out the things you use in your life that repeatedly come into contact with food. Also take care of your sponges, cutting boards, AND your reusable grocery bags. No one wins if you lug a gross bag with old food bits to the farmer’s market or the corner store. While some advocate bleach, I think baking soda and vinegar are two of the best cleaning agents around for routine cleaning. It will do wonders to brighten a fabric without causing any fading and it’s non-toxic even though it can kill bad stuff.

    I love my Kanteen.

    I love my Kanteen.

  • Cleaning your water bottle means more than a quick wash because it’s “only” water. Remember that your water bottle is coming in contact with your filthy, filthy mouth and that water incubates a lot of germs. A quick rinse isn’t going to cut it. Make sure to wash the CAP of the bottle and the THREADS where it screws shut. Lots of stuff likes to hide here. As a note, this was something that got drilled into me while doing disaster recovery. We all had our water bottles and those who didn’t make it a practice to seriously clean their bottles on a regular basis often came down with Giardia. This included my husband who can attest to the unpleasantness of water borne parasites.ALSO: you can help get rid of the metallic taste in your bottle if you take it home and let it soak in water and vinegar overnight. If you’re noticing some stains in your bottle from a smoothie or coffee, try throwing in some rice and vinegar to help shake it clean if you don’t have a bottle brush handy.

It’s so much easier to help those good habits stick if they aren’t making you sick. Make sure clean up to prevent yourself from getting sick when you’re checking out more sustainable ways to go about your business.

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Musings On Mold

I can’t remember the PIN number to my handy-dandy, hippie-dippie credit union bank card. I’ve had it for sometime and I’ve never experienced a problem like this before in my life. All of the other uncharacteristic “brain farts” or missing pieces I could vaguely explain away to myself as cannabis or the one-size-fits all favorite, “getting older.”

There are things you know you forget. There are things you know are the most vulnerable to being forgotten during stressful times. Then there are things you just don’t forget.

My PIN number is one of things I just don’t forget and when I stood at the register of the grocery store trying to pick up just a few items for my anti-mold diet staring at my dumb fingers at the keypad with neither the muscle memory to type it out nor the ability to recall the sequence I knew that it was going to be a long recovery process.

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Tales Of Kink.Com

So I rage tweet, sometimes. I’ve been doing a lot of that over the recent scandal of Peter Acworth being arrested for drug possession charges.

But what’s interesting to me is how quickly people will act as though my tweets all pose a mortal threat to Cybernet Entertainment, also known as Kink.Com which is located at the San Francisco Armory. What a long strange relationship it’s been.

A long time ago before Mayhem was even thought of and I was a college freshmen chomping at the bit to indulge my long internet researched proclivities for getting creative with the integrated imagination of the sexual landscape, I went to a party at Kink.Com and didn’t even know it. I had purple hair and I was modeling someone’s leather creations with fairy wings, purple hair, and my trademark thick rimmed glasses. I was a teenager, I wasn’t yet 21. I was wide eyed and bushy tailed and as I wandered through the space I realized that it was…familiar. And my, there were drains everywhere…I realized in a flash that left me flushed that I was at The Porn Palace of Kink.Com. It wasn’t the armory then and although it was a profitable company is wasn’t the pledging to join a more mainstream entertainment sorority.

I never thought I could be a model, then. I had whiplash from the world I emerged from and the number one thought that ran through my head at all times “remain cool, calm, and collected.” I didn’t want to appear as anything but a natural addition to “Love’s Elysium.” I’m glad I welcomed the latex zebras who would kick and nip, the zipped up gimps, the strange men who crawled out from the shadows begging me to fuck their ass, the strange devices and contraptions like Fuck Saws, the grand theater of courtship rituals, the sense that I had crossed over to some other realm and I sat back with quiet humility that I didn’t know the rules of the sexual underworld and that I should watch often and I did for years.

Most people don’t walk into porn in their mid twenties and there’s a story I’ve been meaning to tell you all, one that I’ve been uncovering for myself as my relationship to porn evolves, about why I did. I look back now and say that I committed social suicide at age 24 when I walked into the Armory to exchange a short nude, bondage, orgasm, and masturbation video for a few hundred bucks and a lifetime of stigma. About a year ago, this author and co-writer&director of “About Cherry” (a film loosely based on and filmed at Kink.Com) emailed me to ask about the first time I did porn. I never answered him. It was more complicated and personal that he asked me.

Let me paint my mindset. Adventures in Africa6560_maggiemayhem002

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This American Life v. This American Whore

whorecast whorecast2

There’s a flashy literate opening to this story. It’s a tale of some sex workers out in San Francisco where the rent is so high, the top of overt prostitution is possible in even the most high end coffee shops favored by the wealthy white victors of the tech revolution. It has to do with a brilliant man with a great idea of sharing stories openly who came up with This American Life and its perfectly elegant title and its willingness to let a story happen as it does on National Public Radio. Ira Glass likes to put the spotlight on real people leading real lives.

Well, as long as those stories are neat and clean and don’t violate FCC standards.

Our stories aren’t often told because they’re illegal to talk about and that creates the isolation that can drive you crazy over time. What does it mean to be “NOT SAFE FOR WORK.” If you ask me, that’s the capitalist beast barking at people not to be distracted by their human drives for pleasure and spare time above directing their hearts, bodies, and souls for the profit of a hungry machine. Not safe for work…or not safe for “The American Way.” What we do for a living is in direct violation of actual FCC standards. We literally could not access the venue of “This American Life” because it is on NPR and yet what are we but whores trying to make it in a very hostile America?

We cannot access the resources that Ira Glass has to tell our banned, censored, taboo, NSFW stories but we live and experience every moment. To hear that NPR would threaten a lawsuit to a podcast being run out of an apartment that is telling a story that is just as real and American as all the others but is literally ILLEGAL to share in the format of its namesake is disgusting. No love of stories could be complicit in that bind. There is no profit being made. There are no grants for whores, there are no advertisers in the wings, and we only face criminal risk for speaking up the way we have about out lives on this podcast.

It’s obvious to me that they never even listened to the podcast. They just wrote the letter. Why bother to listen to what the whores have to say any way? We’re only murdered and thrown into jail for paying our rent. Not like we have stories to share, right? Right, NPR? The narratives of the anti-sex worker feminists who want to end sex trafficking without research or even the dignity of listening to the people they claim to want to rescue and insistent that incarceration is good for sex workers and the laws that imprison us are in our best interests.

This American Whore Flag

PRI has nothing to fear from underdog whores. It is gratuitous to make these threats.

Send your love to The Whorecast and your criticisms to This American Life. Check me out in Episode 4 and download them all!

EDITS:

The lawsuit is not from NPR. I wrote this after seeing the tweets to share my thoughts and opinions. HOWEVER, I do think that those who syndicate and carry “This American Life” need to hear from their listeners the same way that advertisers are held accountable for the content of shows that they support. If your local radio station carries “This American Life” then please tell them that you support “This American Whore.”

Also, here are more links and stories from:

Melissa Gira Grant
SF Weekly

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