SESTA. What now?

SESTA, an evil, horrible, no good bill that aims to curtail human trafficking but will, in practice, make current SWs far less safe by limiting our online platforms (impeding free speech in the process), as well as further invisibilizing trafficked individuals by removing online ads through which they have previously been tracked and located, has passed 97-2, pending the president's signature, which he has indicated he will.

We are FURIOUS.

But because we are who we are--brilliant, fabulous, resourceful, clever, and--above all--adaptable--the SW's rights movement is about to get a whole lot louder. Allies who have been looking for a reason to collaborate with our movement for years have come out of the woodwork in droves, and we are forming a formal, diverse, and broad coalition. In particular, the ACLU, trans rights groups, and AIDS prevention organizations are wholeheartedly on our side. The ACLU believes that there are multiple openings in the bill for a legal challenge, so PLEASE donate to them if you're not already a supporter.

We have already seen some of our platforms modified or disappeared--months before the bill can legally take effect. This, to me, is an utter and blatant act of cowardice. TER, in particular, has removed its ad boards. TER is how I found my first client, and many, many thereafter. Far too predictably, the first platforms to crumble under the mere idea of legal scrutiny are the ones that serve those not able to pay for expensive ads. TER was free for us; Craigslist has closed down its personals section. And we all know that Massachusetts BP is dead and gone. So we are left with fewer options already. Our strategy now is to diversify our advertising in order to survive, should further shoes drop. 

The question for us now is how to harness this momentum and all the people Congress has pissed off. SurvivorsAgainstSESTA is the best way to track the movement, but, for my part, I am extremely excited about the ideas and plans being discussed. 

Our main goal at the moment is to educate representatives, senators, and their staffers about the evils of this bill and a better way to proceed--help not harm. Many of us who called our representatives and senators to discuss this bill were met with complete ignorance--either that the bill existed at all, what it contained, or how it could be extremely harmful to the SW community. Many staffers have already expressed interest in becoming educated about how the vague language of such laws affects us on the ground. There was already a phone call with many staffers who have indicated early curiosity about the reality of our lives. But we plan to broadly expand our educational efforts. Many of the votes cast for this bill were cast in ignorance. Under the circumstances--the life-and-death nature of this bill--this is intolerable, and our elected leaders will be held to account. They committed to this legislation; our mission is to obtain commitments to mitigate the harm it will cause and to be more informed and less appallingly lemming-like in future.

To that end, we are planning a public day of action in DC in June in a loud and proud manner. It will involve meetings on the hill in addition to occupying public space in the most colorful, creative, and riveting way that only we can.

But friends: All of these projects will require funding, especially to get as diverse as possible a crowd of SWs to DC in June. Please consider a donation to MASWAN as part of your support of me and my ability to continue to be simultaneously fabulous and safe, along with my tens of thousands of comrades and our allies and friends.

Many thanks for your support. I cannot adequately convey how moved we as a community and I personally have been by the outpouring of compassion and action that we have seen over the past several weeks. We very much see this as having lost a battle that heralds the beginning of the war. We are the oldest profession, and we are not going anywhere. The only question is how much of our safety net will our law makers destroy. 

What does H.3499--An Act to Decriminalize Prostitution (but not really)--mean?

The Nordic Model has come to Massachusetts. 

The proposed bill, H.3499, would remove some penalties for prostitution while focusing the attention on our clients. It means that things might get slightly better for one party in the transaction, but either way, whether it passes or not, it means that decriminalization—or partial decriminalization, as in this bill—is on the radar screen and on the wish lists of at least a couple of people in the statehouse. We are going to lobby our best to get them to consider the factors that make the Nordic Model bad for sex workers (harder to obtain information about the safety of a potential client, clients are more reluctant to report coerced SWs, including possible trafficking).

Although many activists want to flat out quash this bill because it doesn't create the most good for the most people, in my opinion, that's making the perfect the enemy of the good, and that rather than a reactionary unilateral "NO," we should try to engage them and educate them on the preponderance of evidence on this issue. (Evidence-based legislation is, like, not a thing in MA. It is about as fantasy as porn, as far as SW-related bills are concerned. Amazing how some people are contented to remain ignorant and stupid when so many lives are at stake. Just goes to show that this shit isn’t really real to them, which is where we activists come in.) 

What I can’t tell you yet is whether the penalties for “johns” set forth in this bill are worse than before. I haven't read the text of current law on that subject. Either way, barring unforeseen calamity, all of us should continue to operate under current known best practices with an ear cocked to potential developments. 

It may be naive, but I’m excited to see ANY movement on the subject. The scary part is who is influencing/funding the legislation. If these senators are in the pocket of the Hunt Foundation, they’ll never listen to us.

But we’ll give it a good shot!

Don’t let it keep you up at night. However, if you are worried, this is an excellent time to give to MASWAN/SWOP: https://www.massachusettsswan.org/support-us/. We're going to need serious pizza to fuel the long hours of work ahead.

Xo,

E

Thanksgiving grace for 2017

As the house fills with delicious smells from our kitchen, I am struck by how very, very fortunate I feel this year. There are so many things to be grateful for. 

It is as a lot of us predicted. After the hopelessness caused by events almost exactly a year ago and the chaos that has ensued since—after the bloodshed and tragedy, travesty, and eminent strengthening of resolve, with so many people banding together to fight the injustice that is ever starker than it was just a short time ago, we have survived an entire year. And life as we know it has not been destroyed—rather, we have focused on each other, our immediate community, and on claiming victory in even the smallest acts of kindness in the glaring face of despotism. In the presence of a national hurricane of indigestible things, we stand with those we love in the center and are grateful for the births, mourn the tragedies, and find strength in each other, because we are, by necessity, closer to one another than ever before. 

Living with a Marxist, talk of the revolution is an almost daily subject, which, to me, is taken with a grain of salt. I am not the idealist I used to be. We were recently in the company of several like-minded folk of varying generations, and I found an interesting moment of communion with a complete stranger. I wondered aloud if the “revolution” would really ever come—if people could really be convinced to rise up and risk life and limb for a better society—when we are so attached to the creature comforts and our middle class quality of life. And old-timer began to speak of life during the Depression, which made of everyone who endured those privations, he said, a progressive. “Just look at Houston,” said someone else, listing the other disasters that have happened this year and one of their greatest outcomes: the outpouring of generosity of neighbors, friends, strangers across the country. In my mind, I flashed back to the 4-year-old me who received almost daily trash bags full of clothing and toys and stuffed animals after we lost our house in a terrible fire—of the people who came out of nowhere to lift us up out of confusion and loss. And, I thought, maybe revolution is one stuffed animal, one casserole--one act of grace--at a time. 

May you be safe; may you be well; may you be at peace.

Xo,

Ernestine

Scott Church: A gift to womankind

I just returned from another shoot with Scott--this time, since I'm back in ballet class, I brought my pointe shoes and we had an amazing afternoon of art and collaboration. The result? Lucky you!

Check out Scott's blog, currently featuring yours truly!

xo,

E

Spectacular musings: The French, on women, once again

This time, it's Emile Zola and his fabulous novel Nana, which takes place in 1880s Paris and follows an opera singer in an era in which the main perk of such a career was to see how many wealthy men one could wrap around one's little finger...

"She was turning into a force of nature and, without any intention on her part, a ferment of destruction; between her plump white thighs, Paris was being corrupted and thrown into chaos."

"She'd made her final move into the messy world of amorous intrigue; her insolent house-warming party was everything she desired: the grand residence was bursting at the seams with men and furniture."

xo, Ernestine

Dan Savage makes more sense than the rest of America combined.

Do y'all know about the Savage Lovecast? Download an episode for your next drive to meet with me! He is amazing. I think his work is particularly useful to the generation before mine in which all of the many nuances and permutations of human sexuality aren't given as much daylight. This episode in particular covers some territory that particularly resonated with me in light of certain conversations I've had with many, many, many clients (keyword "monogamy" hashtag "guilt"). From Ernestine with love. Enjoy.

 

Update: Hey! Dan played my response to one of his previous callers at the very end of this episode. Fame! 

A doxy from a French classic

I love Victor Hugo. He tends to be remarkably quotable (no doubt by design), and I had to share this nugget with you:

"The smell of money attracts women like the scent of lilac; they're like all the other cats, they don't care whether they're killing mice or birds. Two months ago that wench was living virtuously in an attic, sewing metal eye-holes into corsets, sleeping on a truckle-bed and living happily with a flower-pot for company. Now she's a banker's doxy. It seems it happened last night, and when I met her this morning she was jubilant. And what's so disgusting is that she's just as pretty as ever. Not a sign of high finance on her face."

--Les Misérables

I can't say that I necessarily identify with the first part; but it's just so delectable and hit home, rather. Which is to say, I'm rather pleased to no longer be living in that attic (metaphorically speaking)...

...nor a paragon of virtue.

A previous life: Art modeling

Nude modeling is perhaps a gateway drug to escorting. I modeled for a wide variety of artists in different settings for about 10 years before recently "retiring" in lieu of greener (or shall I say fleshier) pastures. As a going-away gift, someone I worked for for many years sent me these:

Aren't they marvelous? In fact, I'm writing another story about a post-modeling fantasy. Stay tuned.

xo,

Ernestine