You know how eight months ago people started posting “Best Books of 2013” round ups? Well, that’s how long I’ve been meaning to tell y’all about these books.
Sub Rosa, by Amber Dawn
This is the true story of the authors trip through a magical underground world of Glories. Sub Rosa, she writes, “wants you. It wants anyone, no matter how back-broken and bitter you are when you arrive. It’s turned me into a true beauty, the kind that’s crafted, laboured over, a beauty that city folk endlessly fantasize about.”
When we first meet Little, the protagonist, she’s counting time until the latest man she’s been staying with kicks her out and trying to incite a bar brawl to secure her next place to stay. When she arrives in Neverland, all that is erased: “The past is a burden Sub Rosa won’t bear. It’s energy is spent on being Neverland. A fairytale place with a steady rotation of happy endings.”
Amber Dawn describes the emotional manipulation, awe, and comfort that keep Little underground deftly and magically. She also describes the magic of clients: “a Glory can turn these devils good again. We get right inside them and pull out their deepest wants. We become more than sex, we nurse their deepest insides, the parts that aren’t covered in city filth.”
To become a Glory and stay in Sub Rosa, Little must battle The Dark. Throughout the story, The Dark becomes more and more prominent, until Little returns to it for one final battle.
You want to read this book if: you love good writing and/or you’re interested in the realities of underage prostitution and pimping.
How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir by Amber Dawn
How can you read one without the other? This mix of poetry and prose is Amber Dawn’s real life memoir. Some parts are descriptive, other parts introspective, and some parts read like a whore’s manual for navigating the world. Just read it.
Lunatic Fringe and Hungry Ghost by Allison Moon
Lesbian werewolves! Feminist theory! Adventure! All those weird or funny moments you’ve lived as a lesbian and never seen reflected in a werewolf adventure story before. It all starts as Lexie, an innocent young lady, goes away to college and falls in with a pack of lesbians.
Lexie falls in love with a mysterious older woman who lives deep in the forest and works with her hands. Meanwhile, the good wolves must fight the bad wolves to save the people: but are all male wolves bad? The good wolves don’t fight for people, they fight with them!
You want to read these books. Unless you don’t, in which case, you’re never going to love them like I do, so just leave them alone, okay?
Readers, lovely human’s who’ve been making it possible for me to make a living by writing,
I’ve released a new book! It’s all about retiring from escorting, school, angst, and niche fetishes. Like rubber gloves and mind control. Just for you, it’s 99 cents today and tomorrow. Get it here.
People like it! Here’s what they’re saying so far:
“This is a book you’ll remember for years. That’s not a stretch or exaggeration.
Tara takes the serious, the complex, and, sometimes, the unimaginable and writes about it in the most approachable of ways. You’ll cry and laugh throughout.
Most importantly, your brain will keep firing right till the end, because Tara packs a lot of punch in a short amount of time.” – Miranda Writes
“This is Tara’s best book yet. The sexy stories are there, the hilarious moments, the johns in all their human reality… but so is the system, and so is the past. This book is a celebration of freedom from the many forces in our society that create specific roles for women and then try to break the girls who don’t fit in. I loved it. Really powerful.” – KJ
If you read it, I hope you’ll leave a review too. Amazon reviews these days are like slam book entries that I cherish forever and that other Amazon customers use to decide whether to buy a book.
Wanna preview one of the stories? It’s over on VICE:
Whore to Culture
“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” – Dorothy Parker
The first thing I realize about grad school is that it’s not like a strip club: There is no saying “fuck you” to a patronizing middle aged man who tries to tell me what to do and still waltzing across town and clearing a grand at another club by the end of the night. I have personally fuck-you-peace-out-ed from dozens of strip clubs, waitressing jobs, relationships… well, you get the idea. For the record, I think it’s our culture, not me, that has issues with authority.
I’ve been meaning to write this ever since The Onion published a sarcastic piece on men and the move to have more representative body types in fashion and the media. “It’s very discouraging,” the article said. “Instead of seeing only rail-thin models, they’re now exposed to accurate representations of women whose proportions mimic those of actual human females.” The piece was posted all over social media with notes about how men really had come to think that all women should look like airbrushed skinnyfat fashion models – huh? I’ve danced with women with stretch marks, c-section scars, flat asses, big asses, and breast implants literally falling out, and they all got paid, because men thought they were sexy. I used to dance with a woman who had a face like Marilyn Monroe and a body like Gabourey Sidibe and she banked. I danced with a woman whose stage name was Hamhock who had an ass the size of, well, two of my asses, and men valued her body and sensuality. I’ve danced as a two hundred pound stripper, and men paid me.
Today I read this article, in which a beautiful, blond, average sized woman says that when she wraps herself in her husband’s arms at night she thinks he’s imagining a thinner, more perfect woman there instead of the “mess” of her body. The takeaway? Her husband doesn’t need to see our boobs.
I promise you, lady, men like the way you look. If you took your clothes off in a strip club they’d throw money at you. The problem is what the media tells you (and men) that men want, not what men actually want.
These pictures are my attempt to insert a little reality into the ongoing internet dialogue about men, the media, and women’s bodies:
Obviously this isn’t the way I pose on stage, but this is how I really look. It’s a lot like how a lot of women really look when we aren’t posing in outfits that complement our shapes.
Men like how women really look. They even pay us to look that way. Chill out with the shame thing.
* Does it seem like I wrote this before? I did, way back in 2007 with more words and less pictures.
(A very belated post.)
In 2013 I sold 8,941 books.
How the fuck did that happen? There are similar, much better, and much longer books that are doing much worse on Amazon, so it’s a little confusing. I’m pretty sure the answer is you. See, inside Amazon there is a computer that decides how popular books are, and if it decides they are popular it puts them in front of people more often. You know, that whole, “people who bought this also bought” thing?
This is what I think happened: when I released my books and told you about them you went and bought them. You posted reviews, you shared on facebook, and you told your friends. Amazon’s computer was like, “holy shit people like these books!!!” Then for about eight months after the release of each book Amazon put it in front of everyone who bought any kind of related book. Because of you.
You can’t imagine how grateful I am. I lived and played in the woods. I took care of an elder in the wilderness. I travelled. I wrote. I did activism. Through all of that, I hardly ever had to stop what I was doing and go make money. Because of you.
I wanted to do something to express my gratitude. I was going to make you some special porn, or bake you some cookies, or maybe you wanted some plant medicine? You’re all so different, but then I realized you all like my writing. So I deduced that probably what you would like is for there to be more writing from people like me. I started to write a guide to self publishing, but then literally the next day Lis published a free one that said everything I was going to say. Now it looks like she’s integrated them into her site instead – scroll down and look to the right for all the articles about self publishing. I totally recommend Lis for book formatting too.
So, here it is: if you’re “like me” (whatever that means – you decide) or a long term follower, and you decide to self publish, first go read the articles I linked and all the articles she links to. Then email me. hobostripper at gmail. I’ll do whatever I can to help you.
Also, if you’re on my email list I won’t spam you, but I will express my appreciation by offering you a chance to get new books for free or super cheap when I release them. Sometimes I’ll tell you about other new books you’ll probably love. Maybe 2-6 emails a year. Sign up here:
Oh, and if you like my writing you should probably read Sub Rosa.
Earlier this year, my financial coercion quiz, which was originally published on Tits and Sass was reincarnated in The New Inquiry.
A few weeks later Katha Pollitt wrote an article in which she said you shouldn’t listen to privileged whores like me, because you should listen to sex trafficking victims. I wrote a rebuttal saying I had been a sex trafficking victim and talking about how real victims are silenced. In a perfect example, a commenter said that since I was a real victim, I was probably suffering from Stockholm syndrome and too fucked up to know what I was talking about.
Then I wrote this thing about my experience of sex trafficking and rescue on Vice.
Just in case you were wondering what I’ve been up to.
The new Prose and Lore is out and I’m in it! Let me tell you about how rare and important this literary journal is.
In the introduction Dacia says, “When we are denied our human rights, telling stories for each other becomes even more important, because in the act of doing so, we say to each other: I hear you, your concerns are real, your stories ring true.”
That pretty much summarizes my experience of reading the book, which is made up of 26 stories from escorts, dommes, phone sex workers, strippers, and probably more. In every story I had moments of me too, or me too but I never thought of it that way, or me too but I didn’t know anyone else ever thought of it that way. It is probably the way you feel when you’re scrolling through Facebook and see memes about your job – except that for sex workers stigma means never seeing things like that about ourselves.
Most sex workers are relatively isolated from the realities of other sex workers. Even when we work together, if it is in an isolated area we develop a culture and shared identity that is different, sometimes very different, from other small groups of isolated sex workers. This means that many of us have a narrow understanding of who we can be. That’s dangerous.
It’s dangerous because it leads us to discredit each other and for many of us solidarity not just an ideological goal but something that we need for physical safety. It’s dangerous because it keeps us in boxes that are really hard to get out of, and some of those boxes are dangerous places to be. It’s dangerous because it makes us so vulnerable to other people’s definitions of us.
Seeing what other “people like us” experience, how they think about those experiences, and how they navigate the world makes us stronger, gives us infinitely more options, and ultimately makes us safer.
When you get your subscription to Prose and Lore, that’s what you’re supporting.
Since I imagine I’ll never get to write this for school…
Once upon a time, I was just a baby stripper with a weak hustle. Actually I’d been dancing off and on and in all kinds of incredibly varied places for 5 years or so, but I’d spent a lot of time at a stage and reputation oriented club. I’d figured out archetypes and invented my own system oddly similar to LaVay’s (which, last time I read it, seemed as ridiculous as my old system), and I basically thought I was The Hottest and The Smartest. Also I was in college, so not only was I hot and smart, I thought I was better than everyone cause I was going to school! Looking back, I’m really grateful for the people who were nice to me in this really annoying phase.
Anyways, one day I was sitting in the hallway reading my book about Social Institutions before class, and the professor wandered by. He made some kind of joke I don’t remember and I made some kind of joke back and then I was like, “but not really, I mean, actually I think people just kind of invent reality cause they all agree on it.”
He sent me right over to the library to start reading Mind, Self, and Society, by George Herbert Mead, which changed my life and saved my hustle.
Somewhere towards the beginning of the book, Mead explained that people are like dogs. This is the example he gave: you know when you see two dogs approach each other, and the first dog sniffs the other dog in that certain way and then his hackles bristle and he muzzle punches the other dog in the shoulder and there’s that moment of stillness that you know will be followed by a fight? They are just following the “rules.” The second dog has not sat down and analyzed this situation and decided to fight, she is just following the script that socialization has embedded in her brain.
People are the same. If you introduce yourself with a smile and a handshake, the other person will smile and shake your hand back. There are rules and scripts in our culture about how men will respond to a damsel in distress, a winking seductress, or a professional woman asking them if that’ll be cash or credit. People don’t know that there are rules or that they’re following the rules – what’s actually happening, according to Mead, is more like you are invoking a little part of the person that functions in situations like this. Invoking, like magic!
Mead says we learn all these things through early socialization, and he says we’re made up of two kinds of self: there’s the I, which is what you’re experiencing, and there’s the me, which is how you imagine other people perceive you. Both of these selves are not fixed, they change with each situation we’re in and who the other people are. Your identity is an intersection of all of the things and people around and behind you, and your client’s identity is an intersection of their history, the strip club, and you. The technical term for other people is The Generalized Other – but there are many of these Others. When a child grows up going to church, they construct a “me” that is based on how they are perceived in that world. They probably also have a “me” related to teenage friends, professional life, their motorcycle club, etc. In our culture, a lot of men also have rape culture virgin/whore little mini mes.
In sales books when they tell you to assume the sale or tell a certain kind of story or develop rapport, they are getting at invoking a different “me” in the client. If The Generalized Other that you are being is pushy sales person, the “me” you will invoke in the client will probably reject you. If The Generalized Other that you are being is a friend, a helper, a teacher, a helpless girl, a mature seductress, a certain kind of muse, a nurturing sexy type, or an authority, you will invoke a different “me” and a different reaction.
The more you understand about the subcultures and institutions a person has been involved in, the more you can behave in ways that invoke different identity states and behaviors in them. As a female sex worker with male clients you can learn these things by watching movies from your target client’s teen years – which is what the house mom was trying to teach me all those years ago when she made me watch all those Marilyn Monroe movies and learn the big word of the week.
There, doesn’t everything make more sense now?
Here’s some other, non-hustle, things I learned from Mead.
At the same time I was reading this book and going to college and dancing and running another business and having a job, I was volunteering for a crisis line. I was also working at the sort of strip club where dressing room drama and personal crisis was sort of facilitated, which is all to say that I was around a lot of freak outs and women in crisis. So, I started noticing that many of these women suffered with deep, shameful secrets they had never told anyone, and they were mostly the same secrets! Because no one talks about them, we develop a construct of The Generalized Other that says no one else is like us and if anyone knew they would hate us, and then that becomes part of our “me.” But it’s just an unconscious conspiracy – if everyone was honest there would be a huge reduction in shame.
You know how Carl Rogers says that it is so useful for people to be witnessed and then have what they say reflected back to them? Essentially, this is the process of the therapist/other aligning with and reflecting the “I,” or the person’s experience. When The Other aligns with the “I,” the “me” is then also allowed to align with the “I,” and presto! Self actualization is achieved!
Basically what I’m getting at is that George Herbert Mead can help you figure out reality and explain everything. It’s long and dry, but if you’re interested it’s so worth it to read Mind, Self, and Society.
Okay, I’m gonna go write a boring paper about how people are supposed to learn now. My professor told me that my application of critical theory is maybe a little too critical, so I’m gonna go for boring sheeple this time. I miss you all, people of the Internet. Also, I might be in Vegas in February and I would love to meet people for fun, networking, and/or profit. Or I might like to try out these legal brothels, but I have heard they are awful and the money is no longer good, but I’m kind of retired now and I never crossed legal brothels off my bucket list and it might be now or never. Have you been to any of these places lately? Do you want to see me in Vegas? Email me.
Remember that little club I used to go to in the winter? The one with baby goats and shy lesbians who couldn’t go buck tucking without company? Where I once spent a short night with an oil executive who’d done so much coke his dick might never work again and then had him pay me in $1k worth of WalMart gift cards because it was the only sort of commerce available?
Susan’s written an article about it. It’s all exactly right. Except for the part where I always thought it was a sweet homey town and apparently she experienced it more like a torturous departure from civilization, but I guess you’ll have that.
Wildcatting: A Stripper’s Guide To The Modern American Boomtown
The ivy league hooker, the smart dominatrix, the unlikely stripper… I’m so fucking tired of all these bitches who claim they aren’t like the rest of us. Sex work has always been used by women to get from bad situations (economic or otherwise) into better situations. Sex workers are people who are willing to risk something (a bad reputation, a misdemeanor, a bad client, police harassment) to get something else – survival, security, freedom, or adventure. I think that should be the dominant narrative of sex work. (Of course I’m writing a book about that, but it won’t be ready for ages).
I was trying to explain this to someone the other day and they were like, “but people who work at McDonalds have bad things happen too! Sex work is just about money!”
“But people who work at McDonalds aren’t jumping up the class ladder or making enough money to change their circumstances,” I said.
I hope y’all understand what I mean: not that sex work is bad, but that sex work is especially awesome if you are wanting to change something bad in your life, whether that’s your socioeconomic status or a living situation you need money to get out of.
Now there’s finally a documentary that showcases women telling their real stories of sex work.
I remember when it was being made – Kristin DiAngelo had just been in Alaska, and I’d called her for some reason or another. Then a few weeks later we were both in Texas and she posted on a message board about this documentary she was making. American Courtesans. One of my clients emailed me that I should be in it, but if I’ve learned anything about business from sex work it’s to never let anyone else control your image. It sounded well intentioned, but you know how these things turn out.
It turned out great! I wish I had been in it and I’ll definitely be in the next one if they’ll have me. There is a good diversity of experience. It doesn’t shy away from the bad parts or polish up the good parts – it’s just reality. What IS emphasized is that we need sex work to be decriminalized and destigmatized for our safety.
Get it here:
Or search it out on iTunes. AND LEAVE A REVIEW, Y’ALL. REVIEWS MATTER SOOOO MUCH ON AMAZON AND ITUNES.
For the last few days I’ve been in Vegas at the Desiree Alliance conference, and it was amazing. I feel like it will definitely change my activism and maybe my life.
The best part of Desiree, for me, was being surrounded by so many other sex workers. I know that I’m isolated in Alaska and that I pretty much lie about my life 99% of the time to avoid stigma and violence, but I never think about what that really means. No matter how proud I am of who I am and what I’ve done, acting like I’m ashamed all the time takes a toll after a few years.
The whores at Desiree were strong, courageous, compassionate, super smart, down to earth amazing real human beings. Yes, all of them. At first, I was proud to be one of them and grateful to share space with them. Then I listened and heard so much of my life and my self repeated over and over and over. I realized that I’m not just part of this amazing group, but the things that I’m always hiding about myself are things that I admire greatly in others and that have made them (and me) the awesome people we are.
Then I met about a million super grown up activists who’ve already done so much of what I want to do! They gave me advice!
There were workshops and classes about activism, academics, staying safe, marketing, business, and harm reduction. There was yoga every morning and the conference was totally on stripper time. Then it all ended up with a great pool party.
(I have to go get on an airplane right now, but there will be more posts about awesome Desiree-related things that deserve their own posts.)