Jul 192014
 
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After Pornified – How Women Are Transforming Pornography and Why It Really Matters

A Book Review, by Lady Cheeky: Originally published on EvolvedWorld.com

What do you think about when you hear the word “pornography”?  In the United States at least, that word usually conjures up images of brightly tanned, women on their knees and overly built men with perma-erections in various states of orgasmic euphoria.  Pornography has classically been made by and for a male consumer base summarily ignoring the female audience that was always assumed to not be interested in sexually based entertainment. It’s interesting to note though, that 40 million Americans visit porn sites regularly and 1 in 3 of those viewers are women, (probably more if you figure that a lot of women would be too shy to admit to it).  However, with the ever-increasing demographic of women who enjoy porn on a regular basis this old-fashioned image may need to make way for a new paradigm of pornography, Feminist or “Re-visioned” Porn.

In the new book AfterPornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters (from Zer0 Books) by Anne G. Sabo, Ph.D., Ms. Sabo catalogs  and explains the history and the need for Feminist Porn.

the great thing about porn affecting us is that it can actually have a good effect on us.  Re-visioned and transformed feminist porn proves my point.  Re-visioned porn can change the way we think about and practice sex in positive ways, just as mainstream porn has affected the way we picture and practice sex in negative ways”.

By highlighting and examining revolutionary feminist porn filmmakers and their work, Ms. Sabo delineates how each artist brings their unique vision and aesthetic to their films and how that impacts the world of erotic filmmaking geared toward women.  She also speaks with these illustrious filmmakers, Candida Royalle, Erika Lust and Lisbeth Lyngoft to name a few and interviews them about their vision and their process. Ms. Royalle, for example, outlines (with great sub-categories) two essential elements one must incorporate in a good feminist sex flick:

1. High cinematic production value and

2. Progressive sexual-political commitment.

Ms. Lyngoft also throws her hat in the ring with her must have list, one of which is “To create a powerful female character who is determined and who goes with her desires”. This seems to be the main current that runs through the feminist porn genre; giving the female lead agency over her own body and desires.

Breaking down scenes from classic feminist porn films and then dissecting why they change the landscape of the pornographic film business is a unique and fascinating aspect of Ms. Sabo’s book. It’s almost as if the reader is being schooled in sexuality & feminist theory and practice by an intelligent and noted scholar. In fact, Ms. Sabo is an academic-cum-public educator who has researched feminist pornography for over a decade and is a noted expert in her field. The reader benefits from her expertise by covering topics that range from pushing the limits with progressive porn to  music video porn all written with intelligence and aplomb. As a fantastic plus, Ms. Sabo finishes off her book with a healthy appendix of filmmakers, websites, women-oriented sex shops, and progressive sex film awards and festivals to further quell your new lust for more feminist porn.

 

Ms. Sabo has done her research and it shows in this illuminating and detailed treatise on the re-visioned/feminist porn movement. This book is a goldmine for all sex-positive women and men who at least believe that there is nothing wrong with porn that a little balance can’t fix or even the steadfast feminist who wants to broaden his/her knowledge base on the issues of sexual agency of women in adult film. The casual reader will also find something to take away from this book, a new respect for the women of porn and a newly minted image when they next hear the word “pornography” brought up in conversation.

After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography and Why It Really Matters (from Zer0 Books): is available on AMAZON and AMAZON UK

 

 

Jun 142014
 
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Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously!
Hanne Blank Believes That Your Body is Already Your Best Body Ever

BY ELLE CHASE – I don’t personally know Hanne Blank, but yet this scholar and author happens to be my body image guru/super-hero. Hanne, a doyenne of the Body Acceptance Movement, and has written two books on the subjectBig, Big, Love: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them), The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise, And Other Incendiary Acts, as well as many books of erotica.

“A survey of college students found that they would prefer
to MARRY 
an EMBEZZELER, DRUG USER, SHOPLIFTER,
or a BLIND person than someone who is FAT”¹

I have done a lot of research for my workshops, lectures, panels and talks on body acceptance, and the dearth of material that supports a positive, loving, non-shaming and totally realistic philosophy dealing with one’s body image is surprising and Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously!disappointing. Hanne Blank is the only writer on body image whose book I was not only easily able to find online, but I also found almost always in stock in brick and mortar chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble. What does this mean? This means that her books are popular enough to stock and re-order.

I think her next book,  52 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever will be as popular as her other two, if not more. As a woman of size, having read her previous books on body image, I believe it’s essential to proliferate Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously!more respectful, intelligent, useful and supportive literature on body-image out there in the world.

In one woman’s informal experiment, it was estimated she was exposed to; 386, 170 negative messages about her body each year (and that’s without watching commercial TV). In fact, one study reports that women alone see 400-600 advertising images about physical appearance a day and, as stated by ‘Body Image and Advertising’ ³

“… by the time she is 17 years old, she has received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media. Only 9% of commercials have a direct statement about beauty, but many more implicitly emphasize the importance of beauty–particularly those that target women and girls. One study of Saturday morning toy commercials found that 50% of commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness, while none of the commercials aimed at boys referred to appearance. Other studies found 50% of advertisements in teen girl magazines and 56% of television commercials aimed at female viewers used beauty as a product appeal. This constant exposure to female-oriented advertisements may influence girls to become self-conscious about their bodies and to obsess over their physical appearance as a measure of their worth.

The diet industry earns an estimated $40 billion dollars a year on our collective backs, hammering home that if we don’t look a certain way we are less desirable. For those of us affected by self-loathing, the negative messages we receive daily about our bodies every day from advertising alone feels like a losing battle to fight. In fact, it’s been reported, that;

“In America, overweight women suffer the preponderance of weight-based discrimination. They are not viewed as “normal human being[s] with normal needs, desires, virtues and vices” ² 

That’s not to say that men escape the mission creep self-hatred. In 2006, researchers for the University of San Francisco found that when college age men watched more than the average amount of TV and played more than the average amount of video games, they found those particular men were uncomfortable with at least one aspect of their body, which they directly correlated with having a less satisfactory sex life.

As I mentioned earlier, Hanne Blank is working on her latest book:  52 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever! This is NOT a diet book. This is a book about accepting your body where it is at the moment and loving yourself NOW. Hanne Blank is raising money to fund this book project and there are only 4 DAYS LEFT with a little less than $400 to go to meet her goal. Donating to help get this book finished and in the marketplace is one of the most generous and life affirming, sex-positive, self loving acts you can perform, to encourage not just people of size, but ANYONE with a perceived body image issue they want to conquer.For me, Big, Big, Love serves as a virtual splash-of -cold-water on my face when I notice the negative self-talk nudge it’s way between the neutral and the positive, and I start to feel less worthy. NO ONE should ever feel that their worth is diminished, especially for their outward appearance. Hanne’s new book would make a huge difference to any person who is overwhelmed with self-hate, desperately looking for a book to help assuage his/her loathing. Imagine the feeling of relief someone might have (like I did) when they find this book online or on the bookshelves.

If I were fortunate enough to have the income to get Hanne Blank to her goal, I would do it without a second thought. However, because I’m not able to give financially (yet), I am asking the long-time or casual readers of this blog to donate  (if they have the capacity) whatever their budgets will allow, to help bring a book to marketplace. In a sea of “Bikini Body Workout Plan” (Seventeen) magazines and “The (insert trendy word here) Diet” books, don’t you think everyone could benefit from something to read that actually shows us that we are valuable human beings?

I’ve posted the video explanation for the IndieGoGo campaign below, but I really hope you click on the IndieGoGo site to read the full description and see how awesome this book will be. I hope you feel as grateful as I do, to have the opportunity to have a hand in bringing this book to those who need it.

To donate to the IndieGoGo campaign for

Hanne Blank’s 52 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever!

Click below:

Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously!

 You can learn more about Hanne Blank and buy her books at: www.HanneBlank.com

Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously! Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously! Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously! Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously! Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously! Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously! Hanne Blank says, You have a fantastic body. Seriously!

 

 

 

Glossary:

 ¹ Maine, M. (2000) Body Wars: Making Peace With Women’s Bodies, Carlsbad: Gurze Books.

² Goodman, W. (1995) The Invisible Woman: Confronting Weight Prejudice in America, Carlsbad: Gurze Books.

³ Source: Body Image and Advertising . 2000. Issue Briefs. Studio City, Calif.: Mediascope Press. Last revision was April 25, 2000.

Jan 172014
 
blue

Maggie Mayhem

This list and it’s original title “50 Things I’ve Been Meaning To Say About Sex” originally appeared on www.MissMaggieMayhem.com on November 8, 2013.  If you don’t know who Maggie Mayhem is, you should – in my opinion she is one of the great minds of the sex-positive movement. I loved this list so much I wanted to share it with you. Read them.  Print them. Memorize them. Share them with everyone you know and visit her site and her Tumblr often.  So, with permission from Miss Mayhem here is a re-print of “50 Things I’ve been Meaning to Say About Sex. by Maggie Mayhem”   xo LC

 

 

 

  1. There is no easy set of steps for giving or receiving pleasure.
  2. There is no finish line.
  3. Your triumphs and your traumas will impact your sexuality.
  4. Sex itself can be a source of triumph and trauma.
  5. Hydration really does make a difference.
  6. There will be plot twists.
  7. Your sexual preferences may not match your needs or opportunities for pleasure.
  8. Sometimes the most skillful application of touch won’t do what a single caress or glance from someone you are centered upon can do.
  9. It’s more than active or passive. You can be actively-passive and passively-active in sex.
  10. You may summon something you weren’t prepared to receive.
  11. You will experience cognitive dissonance.
  12. You are more beautiful than you know.
  13. You are not entitled to your partner’s sexual backstory. It’s their choice to share.
  14. It’s fucked up to make someone feel bad about their body and how it works.
  15. Take time to breathe.
  16. Sometimes you will be terrified.
  17. Humans have sex for reasons that include but are not limited to pleasure or procreation.
  18. Be prepared for fluids.
  19. You will shed many sexual skins over your lifetime.
  20. Blood sugar really makes a difference.
  21. Using sex as a weapon is when you unilaterally commandeer someone’s body for your use, not when you are soliciting sexual attraction.
  22. Feeling fascinated or attracted to someone does not entitle you to their time and attention.
  23. Things may not meet expectations.
  24. Orgasms are just one piece.
  25. No one else is an authority on your sexuality.
  26. Sometimes you will be confused.
  27. Sometimes you will find ecstasy in the orgiastic, sometimes in the ascetic.
  28. The power of sex to hurt and to heal demands our respect.
  29. Sex is more than what we will ever say about it.
  30. There is no default state of sexual consciousness.
  31. You will find times when words will utterly fail you.
  32. What your body does may not be congruous with your desire.
  33. Context is key.
  34. Sex can be both a source of empowerment and dis-empowerment.
  35. The experience of another may offer wisdom or perspective but it might not be applicable to your life.
  36. An orgasm does not always mean pleasure.
  37. You may run into people who treat you as an inferior version of their projection of you.
  38. There are many different motivations to have sex.
  39. Implemental sex is neither greater nor lesser than non-implemental sex.
  40. The hottest thing in the world might not turn you on anymore.
  41. The value placed upon any given sex act or object is relational rather than intrinsic.
  42. Random causes should not be confused with essential facts.
  43. Your props of sexual summoning will change over time.
  44. Sexual union on non-physical planes exists.
  45. No element of sex is compulsory.
  46. Consciously changing your breathing patterns will change your experience of sex.
  47. Sex can be an instrument of knowing.
  48. Sexual definitions will fail to contain their referents.
  49. There’s really no such thing as an expert on sex.
  50. I don’t endorse everything I’ve said or thought about sex, not even this list.

 

MagicWand-728x90

Dec 112013
 
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Originally published on 12/4/13  sabrinamorgan.tumblr.com

We have a real problem with our sex educators and writers getting booted off of sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and having their funds frozen by processors like PayPal, because of these companies’ refusal to touch the erotic. Specifically, perceived status as a (current or former, as PayPal clarified to me in a phone call) sex worker or association with erotic materials (such as an erotica Tumblr; let’s not even start on porn) is license to shut down our educators.

This is being unevenly applied. If you’re a male sex educator, or are commonly read as masculine, you are less likely to have this issue because of the false assumption that men aren’t sex workers. (Male sex educators and sex workers still have this issue, to be clear.) If you’re a female sex educator, or are perceived as one, you are more likely to be assumed to be a sex worker.

If you’ve thought that working strictly as a sex educator meant that sex worker stigma wasn’t your issue, let this be a wake-up call. Unless we take pleasure out of sex education – which is a losing game – we will keep having our platforms knocked out from under us due not only to discomfort with sex, but discomfort with the erotic pleasure principle, and with the possibility of sex work.

Educators such as Nina Hartley, Buck Angel, and Jessica Drake use porn as a platform to reach many who might not otherwise seek out sex and pleasure education. Lots of sex educators have backgrounds in the erotic professions that inform their work as sex educators. When we’re too scared to defend sex work, because it’s not our battle, because there’s a legal gray area we’re scared to touch, we’re saying it’s okay to let the sex workers – our front-line sex educators – take the bullets as long as we get to play the game. And we get to play the game only as long as we play it safe.

Playing it safe means being afraid to show what it is that we’re teaching. Playing it safe means we can’t make our material too erotic or explicit or we’ll lose our billing. Playing it safe means knowing our client needs to see a sex worker but being afraid to make the referral because of what it might mean for us professionally.

We all do it. And we can all be braver. Because it is our fight. Sex work is under assault because it’s both sex and work. When we work in sex, however we work in sex, we brush up against that stigma. If we want sex to be taken seriously on our watch, we have to commit to standing up for access to sex education and health, for pleasure, and for treating all of the sexual professions with respect.

images-2Sabrina Morgan is a sex worker’s rights advocate as well as a sex educator and relationship coach. Fascinated with the places where society and sexuality intersect, she began practicing kink-focused work in 2005 and has been speaking and presenting workshops on dating, sexuality, and the intersection of sex, gender, and human rights issues since 2009.

Her work as a professional switch allowed her to work with others’ sexuality in a very personal way, giving her a deft sensitivity to the needs of those exploring new facets of their sexual selves and an understanding of the importance of sex and relationship education for adults.

A firm believer in continuing education for all adults exploring sex and relationships, she has presented at SXSW, the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit 2013, Toronto’s Playground Conference 2012 & 2013, CatalystCon East and West 2012 & 2013, Momentum 2011 & 2012, BIL 2012, the San Francisco Sex Worker Fest, and Sex 2.0 2009 & 2010. She offers group workshops, distance classes, and has shot educational videos for both Kink Academy and Passionate U.

Individual and couples’ coaching is available through her site.

Nov 192013
 
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This made me cheer a little in my mouth.

Burlesque Dancer, Amanda Trusty, depicts her body image journey through her art and makes us all a little bit

better for it.

On November 22, 2013, Amanda will be interviewed on The Today Show in New York City at 8am EST. Her

viral burlesque video to Katy Perry’s Roar has been featured on Huffington Post and Jezebel. Watch the powerful statement she makes (in the above YouTube video)

photo

Continue to follow Amanda’s popular blog on eating, performing, and what it’s like to live in a body controlled by the entertainment biz here: Trust Me, I’ve Been There

Nov 122013
 
Rachel Kramer Bussel shows of her latest anthology, The Big Book of Orgasms.

What do cupcakes, Hello Kitty and sex have in common? The answer is best- selling erotica writer, editor and anthologist Rachel Kramer Bussel. Aside from being a talented and accomplished erotica writer in her own right, one is immediately attracted to her girly sense of whimsy, fawning over cupcakes and Hello Kitty anything, to her keen sense of the carnal and concupiscent. It’s this sexy and charming juxtaposition that makes Rachel  and her work so alluring.

17465824

WIN a copy of The Big Book of Orgasms from Cleis press!
CLICK THE BOOK ABOVE!

Her latest (and some say greatest) anthology The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories (available in paperback and Kindle from Cleis Press) was just released this month. Not even half way through November and The Big Book of Orgasms has already  been able to glean enthusiastic reviews from readers and reviewers alike. This accomplishment has made me extra enthusiastic because I am lucky enough to have written one of those 69 Sexy Stories. You can read an excerpt from my true tale HERE. Perhaps the best part of this new anthology is it’s bite size portions of scream worthy stories (no more than 1200 words each) that make your entire body pulsate and sing.

There are some super-stars of erotica between those covers including: Emerald, Tess Danesi, Stella Harris and Rachel Kramer Bussel herself as well as some newbies (like myself). The Big Book of Orgasms is 351 pages tightly packed into a snug 7″ x 5″ paperback package you can carry in your pocketbook, perhaps fodder for 69 of your own sexy orgasms.

I asked Rachel to give me a list of her five favorite sex toys and a lube. Since one of her favorite sex toys IS lube, I decided to leave it at that. It’s an eclectic and sexy mix. Would you expect anything else from the Empress of Erotica?

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL’S FIVE FAVORITE SEX TOYS:

Hitachi Magic Wand – my favorite, must have, go to vibrator. I use it to get off and to relax and also sometimes for back pain.

Tantus Pelt Paddle – though really all their silicon paddles pack a wonderful punch. I can’t take them all the time but when I get spanked with them it’s a special treat.

Crave Droplet Necklace – I love anything that I can multitask with, and this necklace is beautiful, makes me feel a little naughty when I wear it since I know I’m wearing something that can vibrate, and makes me feel like I can whip it off at any time and put it to good use. I also like that it’s small but strong.

Juliette Cuffs de Luxe – I’m a sucker for silk, and these feel and look amazing.

BabeLube by Babeland Lube! Last but not least, lube is the sex toy I use the most often and for the most variety of sexual activities. Main one I use is BabeLube, I’m not tied to it but like the pump bottle.

 WIN A COPY OF THE BIG BOOK OF ORGASM FROM

SMUT FOR SMARTIES AND CLEIS PRESS!

ENTER HERE!!!!

 

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Hitachi Magic Wand

PELT-PADDLE

Tantus Pelt Paddle

Droplet_necklace

CRAVE Droplet Necklace

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Juliette Cuffs De Luxe

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BabeLube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel Kramer Bussel:

Rachel Kramer Bussel is a New York-based author, editor, blogger and event organizer. She has written for numerous publications, including Alternative Press, CNN.com, The Daily Beast, The Frisky, Gothamist, The Hairpin, Huffington Post, Inked, Jezebel, Lemondrop, Mediabistro, The Nervous Breakdown, New York Post, New York Observer, New York Press, Playgirl, The Root, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, xoJane and Zink. She has edited 40+ anthologies for Alyson Books, Avon Red, Cleis Press, Pretty Things Press, Ravenous Romance and Seal Press, including Anything for You: Erotica for Kinky Couples, Suite Encounters: Hotel Sex Stories, Going Down, Irresistible, Women in Lust, Orgasmic, Fast Girls, Passion, Obsessed, Bottoms Up, Spanked, Tasting Him, Tasting Her, Gotta Have It, The Mile High Club, Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories, Best Bondage Erotica 2011 and 2012, Best Sex Writing 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, and 6 of her anthologies have won Gold IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards for Erotica and Sexuality/Relationships. She has contributed to over 100 anthologies, including Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica 2004 and 2006 and X: The Erotic Treasury, as well as The Sexual State of the Union and Yes Means Yes.

Rachel conducts reading and erotic writing workshops worldwide, and including Chicago, Las Vegas, London, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Toronto. She has presented, spoken and taught at conferences including Dark Odyssey, Erotic Authors Association, Sex 2.0, and SXSW. For five years, she hosted In The Flesh Erotic Reading Series in New York City, which featured 300 readers, including Kevin Allison, Jonathan Ames, Laura Antoniou, Mo Beasley, Susie Bright, Lily Burana, Kerry Cohen, Jessica Cutler, Mike Daisey, Mike Edison, Stephen Elliott, Polly Frost, Gael Greene, HoneyB (Mary Morrison), Debra Hyde, Maxim Jakubowski, Diana Joseph, Jillian Lauren, Neal Medlyn, Scott Poulson-Bryant, Julie Powell, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, M.J. Rose, Susan Shapiro, Danyel Smith, Grant Stoddard, Cecilia Tan, Carol Taylor, Jo Weldon, Susan Wright, and Zane, among others. Rachel holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

 

Sep 092013
 

By Andrea Cornwall - Originally published at the Guardian, PovertyMattersBlog Jul 26, 2012

If I'd been married, I would have been HIV positive by now,' says Shabana, one of Vamp's members. Photograph: Stephanie Hardt

If I’d been married, I would have been HIV positive by now,’ says Shabana, one of Vamp’s members. Photograph: Stephanie Hardt

As the alternative Aids summit in Kolkata has shown, society should start treating women who work in the industry with respect instead of disgust.

When the multi-country research programme that I direct, Pathways of Women’s Empowerment, began its search for inspiring examples of empowerment, in 2006, few might have imagined it would take us to a collective of sex workers in a town in the heart of Maharashtra in India.

But the stories of empowerment I heard when I visited the Sangli headquarters of the Vamp collective not only summed up some of the most important lessons we were learning in the programme about what works to support women’s empowerment, they were also among the most impressive.

“If I’d been married, I would have been HIV positive by now,” says one of Vamp’s stalwarts, Shabana, reflecting that married women are far more vulnerable than she is as a sex worker, unable to insist on condoms with their husbands as she does with her clients. And her face breaks into a smile as she describes the life she leads: the freedoms she enjoys, her choice of clients, and the autonomy and empowerment she has. “I’m as free as a bird,” she says.

It is all too often assumed that disempowerment leads women to sell sexual services – as a last resort, as the ultimate step before destitution, and out of coercion rather than choice. The sex workers I met in Sangli, however, made it quite clear that being in business – they refer to their work as dhanda, meaning business – was not something they did out of desperation.

Some had been married and returned to sex work full of pity for those women who had to put up with the privations and lack of freedom marriage brings. Some had tried other jobs, and found them tiring, exploitative and badly paid, echoing the findings of the first pan-India survey of sex workers. Sex work was, for them, an occupation they spoke of with pride, despite the stigma. And, they say, this is where the problem lies: with the societal attitudes towards them, and the violence, stigma and abuse of human rights they experience as a result.

Vamp’s mission is to change society. Rather than treating sex workers as victims to be rescued or rehabilitated, it demonstrates the power of collective action as a force for women’s empowerment, mobilising sex workers to improve their working conditions, and claim rights and recognition. And they’re yielding results.

Founded in 1997, Vamp now has more than 5,000 members. Weekly meetings bring the collective together to tackle a wide range of issues faced by members. Health work and advocacy for sex workers’ human rights are interwoven with Vamp’s everyday work in the densely populated alleyways in the red-light districts of Sangli and other towns in the region.

The collective’s work includes HIV prevention with those who sell and buy sex – not only sex workers but housewives who engage in clandestine sex work, men who have sex with men, sex workers’ clients and lovers, and truck drivers whose routes crisscross the state. Vamp works with doctors, the police and the local authorities to combat stigma and violence, offering support and care to people with HIV and orphaned children, and fighting for workers and their families to be treated with dignity.

Recognised locally for its members’ feisty response to the violence and abuse meted out to sex workers on a daily basis, and internationally for the model that its approach to HIV prevention and trafficking has become, Vamp has become a shining example of the power of organisation. Vamp members don’t want to be “saved” by foreign organisations; they want to be respected as human beings. To see them as “prostituted women” is to treat them as not fully human, incapable of determining their own destinies or, indeed, of working together to claim justice. It’s precisely that kind of attitude that perpetuates the abuse sex workers experience.

It’s time that the toxic mist of pity, disgust and moral opprobrium that swirls around the figure of the sex worker was replaced by a willingness to put prejudice aside and listen to and learn from women like Shabana and her colleagues. There are some surprises in store for those who do.

Andrea CornwallAndrea Cornwall:  is a professor of anthropology and development in the school of global studies at the University of Sussex and director of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment programme

For more on this subject, watch: ‘Save us from Saviours’, a short film by award-winning director Kat Mansoor, gives more of a glimpse into the lives and work of three members of the Vamp collective. The Power of the Collective from Katrina Mansoor on Vimeo.Watch it here

Sep 092013
 

By Andrea Cornwall - Originally published at the Guardian, PovertyMattersBlog Jul 26, 2012

If I'd been married, I would have been HIV positive by now,' says Shabana, one of Vamp's members. Photograph: Stephanie Hardt

If I’d been married, I would have been HIV positive by now,’ says Shabana, one of Vamp’s members. Photograph: Stephanie Hardt

As the alternative Aids summit in Kolkata has shown, society should start treating women who work in the industry with respect instead of disgust.

When the multi-country research programme that I direct, Pathways of Women’s Empowerment, began its search for inspiring examples of empowerment, in 2006, few might have imagined it would take us to a collective of sex workers in a town in the heart of Maharashtra in India.

But the stories of empowerment I heard when I visited the Sangli headquarters of the Vamp collective not only summed up some of the most important lessons we were learning in the programme about what works to support women’s empowerment, they were also among the most impressive.

“If I’d been married, I would have been HIV positive by now,” says one of Vamp’s stalwarts, Shabana, reflecting that married women are far more vulnerable than she is as a sex worker, unable to insist on condoms with their husbands as she does with her clients. And her face breaks into a smile as she describes the life she leads: the freedoms she enjoys, her choice of clients, and the autonomy and empowerment she has. “I’m as free as a bird,” she says.

It is all too often assumed that disempowerment leads women to sell sexual services – as a last resort, as the ultimate step before destitution, and out of coercion rather than choice. The sex workers I met in Sangli, however, made it quite clear that being in business – they refer to their work as dhanda, meaning business – was not something they did out of desperation.

Some had been married and returned to sex work full of pity for those women who had to put up with the privations and lack of freedom marriage brings. Some had tried other jobs, and found them tiring, exploitative and badly paid, echoing the findings of the first pan-India survey of sex workers. Sex work was, for them, an occupation they spoke of with pride, despite the stigma. And, they say, this is where the problem lies: with the societal attitudes towards them, and the violence, stigma and abuse of human rights they experience as a result.

Vamp’s mission is to change society. Rather than treating sex workers as victims to be rescued or rehabilitated, it demonstrates the power of collective action as a force for women’s empowerment, mobilising sex workers to improve their working conditions, and claim rights and recognition. And they’re yielding results.

Founded in 1997, Vamp now has more than 5,000 members. Weekly meetings bring the collective together to tackle a wide range of issues faced by members. Health work and advocacy for sex workers’ human rights are interwoven with Vamp’s everyday work in the densely populated alleyways in the red-light districts of Sangli and other towns in the region.

The collective’s work includes HIV prevention with those who sell and buy sex – not only sex workers but housewives who engage in clandestine sex work, men who have sex with men, sex workers’ clients and lovers, and truck drivers whose routes crisscross the state. Vamp works with doctors, the police and the local authorities to combat stigma and violence, offering support and care to people with HIV and orphaned children, and fighting for workers and their families to be treated with dignity.

Recognised locally for its members’ feisty response to the violence and abuse meted out to sex workers on a daily basis, and internationally for the model that its approach to HIV prevention and trafficking has become, Vamp has become a shining example of the power of organisation. Vamp members don’t want to be “saved” by foreign organisations; they want to be respected as human beings. To see them as “prostituted women” is to treat them as not fully human, incapable of determining their own destinies or, indeed, of working together to claim justice. It’s precisely that kind of attitude that perpetuates the abuse sex workers experience.

It’s time that the toxic mist of pity, disgust and moral opprobrium that swirls around the figure of the sex worker was replaced by a willingness to put prejudice aside and listen to and learn from women like Shabana and her colleagues. There are some surprises in store for those who do.

Andrea CornwallAndrea Cornwall:  is a professor of anthropology and development in the school of global studies at the University of Sussex and director of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment programme

For more on this subject, watch: ‘Save us from Saviours’, a short film by award-winning director Kat Mansoor, gives more of a glimpse into the lives and work of three members of the Vamp collective. The Power of the Collective from Katrina Mansoor on Vimeo.Watch it here

Jul 272013
 

By Cristy Lytal      For the LA Times -July 27, 2013, 8:00 a.m. – calendar@latimes.com

Working Hollywood

Antonia Crane’s 20 years of experience as an exotic dancer and sex worker helped her become the expert consultant for the film “Afternoon Delight,” about a sex worker. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / July 28, 2013) – Shot at Sheila Kelly’s “S” Factor Studios in Hollywood, CA

 

Not only does Antonia Crane know her way around a movie set, she also knows her way around a stripper pole. As someone with experience as an exotic dancer, Crane served as an expert consultant for Film Arcade’s “Afternoon Delight,” which stars Kathryn Hahn as a bored housewife who befriends a young sex worker played by Juno Temple.

Crane, 41, started dancing at age 3. The daughter of a lawyer and a paralegal, she grew up in Humboldt County, playing in the redwood forest, skiing, camping, horseback riding and cheerleading. She earned a spot in an honors program at College of the Redwoods before transferring to Mills College, where she began reading postmodern feminist theory. The sex-positive feminism of Kathy Acker, Judith Butler and others — combined with a need for cash — inspired her to launch her unconventional career as an exotic dancer, which she saw as a form of performance art.

“It’s empowering to women in a lot of ways,” she said. “I mean, it’s the best blue-collar gig out there in terms of the money that you get and the hours spent. And so you can really have a life for yourself outside the strip club.”

Since then, she’s shimmied and strutted at more than a dozen strip clubs over the last 20 years, on and off. She’s taken detours as a counselor for homeless youth, receptionist at an entertainment law firm, personal assistant to a fashion designer and waitress.

Crane earned her MFA in creative writing from Antioch University, and she teaches young wordsmiths at UC San Diego and at Woodcraft Rangers, which offers after-school programs for inner-city teens. She also contributes a sex column to the Rumpus, an alternative pop culture website, and has penned a forthcoming memoir titled “Spent.”

“There’s a lot of judgment from the world about someone who has clocked many years as an exotic dancer or whatever,” she said. “What would be empowering is if that changed.”

Solo way, duo way: Crane met Jill Soloway, writer-director of “Afternoon Delight,” at a literary reading in San Francisco a few years ago, and they started going on walks. “She drew on my experience to help her figure out the criteria to create authenticity of how sex workers are portrayed in her screenplay,” said Crane. They often returned to the question: Does a sex worker have a responsibility to a client’s wife or girlfriend? “I don’t really have a clear-cut answer,” said Crane. “But the great thing about ‘Afternoon Delight’ is that it’s the woman that goes into the secret world and has a connection with a dancer that is not within the acceptable parameters of her marriage.”

PLEASE READ THE REST AT: LA TIMES – ENTERTAINMENT

Jul 272013
 

By Cristy Lytal      For the LA Times -July 27, 2013, 8:00 a.m. – calendar@latimes.com

Working Hollywood

Antonia Crane’s 20 years of experience as an exotic dancer and sex worker helped her become the expert consultant for the film “Afternoon Delight,” about a sex worker. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / July 28, 2013) – Shot at Sheila Kelly’s “S” Factor Studios in Hollywood, CA

 

Not only does Antonia Crane know her way around a movie set, she also knows her way around a stripper pole. As someone with experience as an exotic dancer, Crane served as an expert consultant for Film Arcade’s “Afternoon Delight,” which stars Kathryn Hahn as a bored housewife who befriends a young sex worker played by Juno Temple.

Crane, 41, started dancing at age 3. The daughter of a lawyer and a paralegal, she grew up in Humboldt County, playing in the redwood forest, skiing, camping, horseback riding and cheerleading. She earned a spot in an honors program at College of the Redwoods before transferring to Mills College, where she began reading postmodern feminist theory. The sex-positive feminism of Kathy Acker, Judith Butler and others — combined with a need for cash — inspired her to launch her unconventional career as an exotic dancer, which she saw as a form of performance art.

“It’s empowering to women in a lot of ways,” she said. “I mean, it’s the best blue-collar gig out there in terms of the money that you get and the hours spent. And so you can really have a life for yourself outside the strip club.”

Since then, she’s shimmied and strutted at more than a dozen strip clubs over the last 20 years, on and off. She’s taken detours as a counselor for homeless youth, receptionist at an entertainment law firm, personal assistant to a fashion designer and waitress.

Crane earned her MFA in creative writing from Antioch University, and she teaches young wordsmiths at UC San Diego and at Woodcraft Rangers, which offers after-school programs for inner-city teens. She also contributes a sex column to the Rumpus, an alternative pop culture website, and has penned a forthcoming memoir titled “Spent.”

“There’s a lot of judgment from the world about someone who has clocked many years as an exotic dancer or whatever,” she said. “What would be empowering is if that changed.”

Solo way, duo way: Crane met Jill Soloway, writer-director of “Afternoon Delight,” at a literary reading in San Francisco a few years ago, and they started going on walks. “She drew on my experience to help her figure out the criteria to create authenticity of how sex workers are portrayed in her screenplay,” said Crane. They often returned to the question: Does a sex worker have a responsibility to a client’s wife or girlfriend? “I don’t really have a clear-cut answer,” said Crane. “But the great thing about ‘Afternoon Delight’ is that it’s the woman that goes into the secret world and has a connection with a dancer that is not within the acceptable parameters of her marriage.”

PLEASE READ THE REST AT: LA TIMES – ENTERTAINMENT

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