APRIL 9, 2018


How old are you?


Where are you from originally?

San Francisco.

What brought you here?


Here or there?

There. It’s the most expensive city in the world to live in at this point and I don’t have a credit score of 800 or work a shitty job in the tech industry so here I am.

When did you come here?

Last summer.

Why New Orleans?

Because I felt as if I had exhausted all of my options and this was the last spot for me to go to. I was living in downtown L.A. before this and prior to leaving everything behind, just straight up abandoning ship, the Ghost Ship Fire happened in East Oakland killing 36 people. Since then the city took it upon themselves to crack down on other DIY and venue spaces, trying to erase us freaks and weirdos off the map including where I lived. The city of L.A. evicted my warehouse and I had nowhere to live. A friend of mine had a place to sublet and I didn’t have the energy to couch surf or fight to stay in Los Angeles so here I am.

Do you like it here?

Yeah, most days.

How do you refer to your work?

It’s real work. It’s real labor. It’s real. It’s a real job. That’s what I do for work. What I do for work is real fucking work. Most folks at this point either want to glamorize what I do thinking it’s an escape from poverty and pulling themselves out of shitty situations—which is true for some people—or have a bullshit moral agenda that want people like me to die.

Do you want to talk about your experience with the raids?

{The raids] put me out of work. I was a dancer at a club in the French Quarter. I was visiting my brother in San Francisco when the raids happened and I watched the news unfold on Facebook. Instantaneously I was like, what the fuck? Good-intentioned folks were jumping on board and seeing what they could do to be involved with the struggle against the raids. A lot of organizing has come out of this and granted there is still room for growth and room for opportunity but one thing I’ve noticed that has come out of the unemployment march is whorephobia. I remember seeing a signed that said “Open The Doors, We’re Not Whores”. To me, that was shocking. Bitch, there are sex workers of all trades and all aspects out here with you. There are years that I’ve put into sex work. I have diversified my work. I’m a dancer, I’ve worked as a dom, I’ve worked in porn. It’s all sex work. Some folks could just move mountains with the power of their denial.

Do you feel like the community reaction is too little too late?

Oh my god, it’s most definitely too little too late. I’ve been using my platforms on social media for fucking years now just screaming at the top of my lungs that sex work is real fucking work and suddenly our struggles became in vogue for civilians to jump onto. Where were you folks before? The same folks who were calling me names behind my fucking back are suddenly out here for our struggle. 

How long have you been a sex worker?

Off and on since I was under aged because of poverty. Simple as that.

Do you like it?

Right now, I am terrified of what’s going to happen next with FOSTA and SESTA. If I knew where Ann Wagner, this piece of shit Republican out of Missouri who filed this bill a year and a half ago, was located I would challenge her to a fight, my goodness. This steamrolled the livelihood of damn nearly everyone I fucking know because I know so many sex workers of all trades and backgrounds and all shapes and all sizes and all gender representations. A sex worker isn’t a blatant archetype. Sex workers can come from privileged backgrounds and some sex workers absolutely come from poverty and come from the streets. That’s my background, that’s how I got into sex work. I had to pull myself out of that. I don’t come from a rich family. My parents are first generation. All of these congressmen who voted this in I am willing to bet have accounts on Ashley Madison, accounts on Seeking Arrangements, accounts on Grindr. They are the biggest fucking hypocrites of them all and it’s only a matter of time until somebody comes forward and exposes them and I am praying for that day to come soon. I am praying for FOSTA and SESTA to repeal. Consenting sex workers are being exploited but only under the thumb of capitalism. Some of them are pulling themselves out of poverty, some of them just want to put money away to go on that vacation. Everybody is so different. There isn’t this one tragic story that mainstream media wants to grab onto and fabricate this bullshit narrative of human trafficking. You know what their definition of human trafficking is?

I don’t.

If you’re working within a group like BDSM scenes, that’s their definition of trafficking. If a colleague was taking an Uber from their location to an outcall, that’s considered trafficking. If they’re doing it on their own volition, they consider that human trafficking. They’re using this fabricated narrative of exploited under-aged people to come down upon consenting adults. You’re working in a strip club where management is holding onto your money? That is also the definition of fucking trafficking. Simply put, Congress wants sex workers to die. Congress wants us to die and it’s incredible because they use our services be it cuddling, watching porn or webcam shows, conducting a fantasy, getting a lap dance. That is their self-care and they need folks like us to fulfill their needs and to escape their bullshit 9-5 jobs. I have had people from Nickelodeon TV stars to folks working in City Council in San Francisco to policemen. People who are these figureheads in communities come to me, they come to people like us and who the fuck are they to completely knock down our foundation? The rug has been pulled out from underneath us. I tried to get a job at a club the other day and they told me I had too many tattoos. I don’t know if that’s coded racism or not but what happens next? All our platforms are disappearing. It’s not just Backpage.com, these are so many things that were under the radar that are just fucking gone. There is a person I was talking to who had a man show up at their house demanding a session at seven in the morning. Not only are we getting desperate, the tricks are getting desperate to the point that they aren’t contacting us through the proper avenues. You have people that have no other options than to go outside at this point. You are forcing people out into the fucking street by driving us underground where we have to do more to survive. People say things like Another website will pop up or Why don’t you just get a real job? Well some folks can’t. Some folks are not documented, some folks have huge gaps on their resume. You can’t put dom and stripper on your resume. What is the federal minimum wage in Louisiana right now? It is $7.25 an hour at this time. We are doing real work but it’s criminalized. People are running around like chickens with their heads cut off not knowing what to fucking do next. Some of us don’t have anything to fall back upon. This is real work and they’re taking this from us. It’s horrifying. Our house of cards is crumbling and people in power aren’t listening to sex workers. They know better. They know how to differentiate between consenting sex workers and exploited people. People in power are not listening. They are conflating the exploited with the consenting. But we are under the thumb of capitalism and we are doing what we have to do in order to survive.

What’s the worst part of sex work?

Say you’re raped on an outcall. Say you have a john who beats you up. Many survivors of sexual assault who do choose the avenue of going to police, they are interrogated and if you mention that there was any type of transaction going on, you could go to jail. In some states like California, you could face up to 25 years. And in some states, like Hawaii and Alaska, if the police want to set up a sting, they can have sex with you and then arrest you after and take all of your money and you could spend some serious fucking time locked up and held in regard as a trafficker. This is probably get their “trafficking” statistics come from. They will convince you that you are the victim, that you are being trafficked and if you are institutionalized enough eventually you will absorb that. And they will use that to further push their agenda and that’s what’s going on right now. The worst part about being a sex worker is the violence, the dead hooker jokes, the questions. That’s none of your fucking business. If I could go after a john who hurt me with a gun, I would but I would also go to fucking prison.

It’s also this question. I have been interviewed about sex work before and folks just ask How much money do you make? Do you have STDs? Do you have AIDS? Do you have crabs? Do you have relationships? How do you pay taxes? How do you prove your source of income? Can’t you do anything better? Can’t you get a real job? What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you doing something better and fulfilling? What does your family think? I do have some privilege in that I am out to my family. I went a very long time without speaking to my mother about it. I remember driving around with my mom and she was telling me a story about how her and my stepdad got in a fight and she went for a walk and some guy started yelling at her asking if she wanted to party. She was like, “Isn’t that funny that he thought I was a prostitute?” And I said, “Mom, I think they prefer to be called sex workers and I’m telling you this because I am one.” She had her hands on the wheel and was looking straight forward with a dagger-like stare and she said this: “You’re telling me you’re a sex worker?” “Yes.” “Well, Vanessa...” I know she was serious because called me Vanessa. “Vanessa, I think you should get a gun.” (Laughing)

When you were growing up, do you remember being told or taught anything regarding the societal expectations that come with being a girl?

Yeah. My stepdad wouldn’t allow me to do outdoor chores. [He] wouldn’t allow me to cut my hair. We were Pentecostal and I had to do all of the indoor chores and the dishes and I would complain and ask why my brother couldn’t do it. He would say it was girl’s work and that my brother could do the outside work.

In being Pentecostal, what do they say about women and the roles of women?

Women can’t cut their hair, women can’t wear makeup, women are meant to be this vessel and be docile and to be groomed and conditioned and to obey your husband. My family left that church and became full-blown speed addicts and then got Prop. 36-ed which is a “nudge from the judge” where they force you to go to 12-step meetings. My parents came back into the world again and then I found punk rock and I left home immediately. That’s where I met sex workers. I met sex workers at the drop-in clinic. I met sex workers hanging out in the street. I met sex workers going to shows. I met sex workers out and about and I saw what they were doing and I thought I can do that

How do you define sexism?

Some folks have accused me of being a misandrist and I’m like Hell fucking yeah I am! Misandry isn’t enough. I don’t use the word sexism. I use misogyny, I use trans-misogyny, I use homophobic, I use whorephobic. There is a ton of misogyny going on in the world and a lot of racism going on in the world and a great deal of fucking double standards that are held to women of color and trans women compared to white women and it’s unfortunate. We have such a far way to go. If you are a bus driver, if you are an elevator electrician, if you bind books, it doesn’t matter; when it comes down to it, women make less than men and that’s sexism. Our labor isn’t held in the same regard and is not as valued. Women aren’t taken seriously. Femmes aren’t taking seriously. People who appear to be feminine aren’t taken seriously. One solution is this idea of equality in all aspects but I don’t know if I as a brown person will ever fucking be equal to a white man. There is no fucking way. There is a thing engrained in all of us and that’s fucking patriarchy. If we want equality, we need to abolish patriarchy. But some people may see that as sexism because I’m hating on men. There is this whole new wave of “men’s right activists” and that makes no fucking sense to me. If we’re going to have full equality, first things first, we need to annihilate patriarchy. But how do we do that? I don’t know. Easier said than done.

I wish I had the answer.

Me too. But here we are.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

Angry. Just angry. I wish I could say that having acceptance around others’ ignorance might alleviate my anger but there is so much going on in the world. We have Trump in power, we have police killing people indiscriminately and those are tools that are exercised by patriarchy. We should do away with colonialism. We should acknowledge the fact that this is native land. We should acknowledge the fact that women make less than men. What would the world look like if we did away with all of this oppressive ass bullshit? I don’t know. But anything has got to be better than this. In a post FOSTA and SESTA world, what does my life look like? 

What’s the best part about being a sex worker?

The freedom. I’ve always been an unruly little shit as long as I can recall. Back when we were Pentecostal, I turned 18 and cut off all my hair and died it purple. The best part about being a sex worker? I would like to say it’s the fabulous cash, gifts, and prizes but nah. It’s a real job. It’s real labor. I wouldn’t say it’s my entire identity, I am a bunch of other things: I am a person of color, I am a femme, I am non-binary, I am multi-ethnic over here. I am able to move to New Orleans. I have had a pretty beautiful life. 

You mentioned that you specifically wanted to speak about FOSTA and SESTA…

I thought they were going to come into effect at the beginning of the year but regardless they have been leveling forces against every sex worker I know. It’s coming after the bourgeois New York strippers who can charge $1000 an hour. It’s coming after people who work on Backpage.com. It’s coming after everybody. The community outcry is universal. What do we do next? Ann Wagner filed this measure more than a year ago. SESTA stands for Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act and it amends the Communications Decency Act. When that went into effect that’s when you saw a lot of print ads disappearing and going on the internet and now with SESTA you see the internet disappearing as a platform as well. They are going after all sex workers. They’re coming after everyone and it’s a pretty terrifying place to be right now. I don’t know where I’m getting my next source of money. I am a writer but that only pays so much.

What are the biggest misconceptions of working as a sex worker?

I can only speak for myself and my experience with this off and on for the past decade but based upon that and my observations, there are folks who have an idea and an image in their mind of what a sex worker fucking looks like. There was this whole expose in the New York Times of faces of sex workers and you saw a variety of people from all walks of life. Lindsay Lohan is a fucking escort! Lindsay fucking Lohan, the star of Mean Girls, escorts. For a lot of fucking money. Sex workers exist in all backgrounds and experiences. There are sex workers in India, there are sex workers in London, there are sex workers in Australia. This is the world’s oldest profession and I think it’s about time that we get dignity and respect. Civilians are coming around to this and I cannot wait for the people in power to be exposed. Look at Trump right now. He has Stormy Daniels ready to take him out. Sex workers are powerful. Sex workers are cunning. Sex workers are meticulous. Sex workers make the best organizers. Sex workers are parents. Sex workers are writers. Sex workers are comedians. Sex workers are illustrators. Sex workers could be fucking cobblers. Sex workers come from all walks of life, I want to place emphasis on that. My story is that yeah, I do come from poverty, I do come from a broken home but that is just my story. I know plenty of privileged sex workers that were able to get into this work through feminist studies. There are some folks that were groomed into this for their entire lives and now FOSTA and SESTA come into full effect and what are they going to do next?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We need to decriminalize all forms of sex work. This is real fucking work. By doing away with our means of advertising it won’t put a stop to intimacy, it won’t put a stop to desire, it won’t a stop to need. The world’s oldest profession isn’t going anyway except you’re driving consenting workers into the ground. Day by day our autonomy is disappearing and that’s fucking sexism.