The Sex Workers Art Show, founded by Annie Oakley, which is consistently creative, thought-provoking, and powerful, has been in the news a lot this year. Oakley went on The O’Reilly Factor to talk about the show:
Oakley is also the editor of the recent Seal Press book Working Sex: Sex Workers Write About a Changing Industry, which I blurbed:
Working Sex is a radical, powerful, vitally important book. Presenting takes on various kinds of sex work from men and women, it will open your eyes and dispel the umpteen stereotypes about whores that, sadly, still seem to flourish. The best part? It’s also an entertaining read that’ll have you tearing through its pages not just for the politics, but for the extremely well-written, soul-baring prose.
From The Weekly Dig
Some of the show is more demonstrative. In New York, pro-domme Keva Lee dominated a female volunteer, someone who would not be considered a sex object according to conventional beauty standards. The piece left audience members a bit awed, not by the demonstration, but by a woman who manifested such believable desire for a stranger and by the way that desire transformed someone she didn’t know.
Sex workers are repositories for our most secret, most frustrated or even most mundane desires. We put so much of ourselves onto sex workers that we often forget to ask who they are. Or rather, who else they are.
Maybe we just expect them to be complicit in our own shame. The penitent whore is a better-known character than the escort who is not a drug addict and can criticize her job without condemning her peers and her work. Chris Kraus’ reading is a good example of this—acknowledging that strip clubs are, behind the scenes, often dystopian and unhealthy … just like so many other American workplaces.
Maybe we are just afraid of what sex workers would say if they started talking. “They line up for me like children lining up for Santa Claus at the mall. They want to tell me what they want,” recounts Lorelei Lee of her experiences with fans at sex industry trade shows. A pretty blonde porn star, Lee reads anecdotes about her sex work as well as those on more commonplace aspects of her life, like watching television with a sick roommate or picking out frozen food. These pedestrian vignettes serve as healthy inoculations—for her and the audience—against pure fantasy.
“People think you’re supposed to be continuously sexually available and excited and really enraptured with whomever you’re having sex or giving a lap dance to, and therefore that you’re this constant nymphomaniac,” says Oakley—who is also selling on tour her anthology of writings by sex workers—the first ever to be edited by a fellow sex worker. “People don’t grasp that it’s a job.”