"You seem so relaxed talking about what you do," says a new acquaintance. "Has there ever been an occasion when you were uncomfortable?"
Oh, hell, yes. I did get something from it, though. The year, I believe, was 1997, and I was working with a now-defunct sex workers activist group called Blackstockings. "Sex worker activists" sounds sexier than it really was—Blackstockings at its peak had maybe seven dedicated members, so mainly we just published a zine and ran some discussion groups.
One other thing we did was speak at various local political rallies and conferences. We'd do a little basic consciousness raising, talk about women's ownership of their bodies, and discuss how patriarchal anti-sex-work laws were. It was all very civilized, with everyone conforming to standard Seattle politeness levels.
But there was one occasion where I feared things might get... unruly. Blackstockings had been invited to say a few words at a Take Back the Night rally in Occidental Square, and I got tapped to do it.
"I've never been to a Take Back the Night rally," I said. "What is it, exactly?"
"Oh, it's sort of an antirape thing," someone replied.
The date arrived and I went downtown, alone, to Occidental Square. It was nighttime—not an accident, I brilliantly surmised—and the square was full of people, mainly women, there for the rally. Lurking around the edges of the square were its usual evening denizens, many of whom looked like exactly the kind of people these women wanted to take back the night from. And there was a sprinkling of cops, to prevent any clashes between the two groups.
On display was an art project/protest called the Clothesline Project, where women affected by domestic violence and rape expressed their emotions—pain, fear, grief, anger—by decorating shirts, which were then strung up on clotheslines. It's a great idea, but the psychological effect it was clearly having on the crowd made me uneasy. The rally hadn't even started yet, and the air was already heavy with intense emotion. I have a bad feeling about this, I thought.
I checked in with our contact person, who gave me the lineup.
"We'll have some open-mic time," she said, "where women can get up and tell their stories, and then we'll have people from the different community groups."
So women from the crowd got up onstage and talked about how they were raped or abused, and the stories were heartbreaking. But disturbingly for me, some of the women spoke of how their abusers forced them into prostitution. And after this, I'm going to get up there and tell them I'm a sex worker who likes to slap people around? Christ, they'll probably throw tomatoes at me. I felt the underarms of my shirt get damp. I had never in my life been so tempted to just run away from something. I desperately wanted to bolt.
But I didn't. My turn came and I got up onstage. The MC had introduced me as a sex-worker activist, so I was already getting scowls from some of the women as soon as I walked up to the microphone. Tomatoes, hell, some of them look like they want to throw rocks at me.
The homeless guys, though, had perked right up and were moving closer, and I saw a few of the cops turn and look at me. Great. Disapproving feminists, dangerous-looking street people, and cops. If you had set out to create a collection of people I really wouldn't want to talk to about being a kinky sex worker, this would be perfect.
I don't remember exactly what I said. I think it was something about how while I had freely chosen to be a sex worker, that Blackstockings believed that no one should ever be forced into sex work. Free choice was the crucial issue, etc.
I do remember a few friendly seeming faces in the crowd, some nodding heads. But it was still pretty bad, and I was very happy to be finished—even though it meant walking out through that same crowd of people so I could leave. And as I walked, I thought, Damn, if I can't run away from this, I can't run from anything.
So far, I've been right.
FRIDAY 11/11ECSTATIC TECHNIQUES TO ACCESS THE DIVINE
Teri Ciacchi teaches you to create emotional harmony with your lover and increase your capacity for orgasm and pleasure. Register at www.schoolofone.com, 7–9 pm, $20.
SATURDAY 11/12POLY POTLUCK
Open to people of all genders and orientations who are involved in or interested in polyamorous relationships. Wet Spot, www.scn.org/~spg, or 728-4533, 5–8 pm, $3–$5 donation, membership not required.VETERANS DAY BOOTS 'N' BUZZCUTS PARTY
Seattle Men in Leather will buzz off your hair and spit-shine your boots. Military uniforms welcomed. The Cuff, 1533 13th Ave, 323-1525, 9 pm–midnight, $10 donation.BOUNDARY SKILLS: PLAYING AT THE EDGE
Learn about communicating desires, boundaries, and limits, and sexy ways to invite, offer, and negotiate. 920-8478 for reservations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 7–10 pm, $20–$40.HENRY ROLLINS: SPOKEN WORD
Submit yourself to the ultimate in aesthetic masochism with this spoken-word concert by Henry Rollins, who once led an important band, then his neck thickened. Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave, 467-5510, 8 pm, $22.50.
SUNDAY 11/13EROTIC MASSAGE NIGHT
An evening of sensual touch for couples and singles, facilitated by David Longmire. No experience required. Wet Spot, 270-9746 or email@example.com, 5–9 pm (doors close at 6 pm), $10, members only.
MONDAY 11/14MOONDAY AT THE FENIX
Monthly fetish-fashion photography event. Wanna shoot? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Wanna model? Dress up. Fenix Underground, 109 S Washington St, 405-4314, 9 pm, $5 in fetishwear/$15 in civvies.