Hi, I’m Tara…



I'm a whore revolutionary and a wilderbabe. I'm pretty much in love with this little river I live on and myself and if you stick around you'll read (and see) all about it.

Prose & Lore 3

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.

How Symbolic Interactionism Saved My Hustle

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.

A Stripper’s Guide To The Modern American Boomtown

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

American Courtesans and Sex Worker Narratives

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:

http://www.amazon.com/American-Courtesans-Kristen-DiAngelo/dp/B00DVMT53M

Or search it out on iTunes. AND LEAVE A REVIEW, Y’ALL. REVIEWS MATTER SOOOO MUCH ON AMAZON AND ITUNES.

Desiree Alliance Awesomeness

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.)

there’s gaping holes in outer space

beaver trail

someone beautiful sent me this moment that lives forever on paper

someday

Oh hi, blog

I made a resolution, about a month ago, that I would blog here at least once a week. You can see how well that’s worked out so far. What I’m going to do here is set the bar really low and just post something in the next fifteen minutes before they close this place and kick me out of their electricity, and then in the morning I’m going to go home where the internet and electricity are more cumbersome and limited.

Why did I decide to blog again? I discovered Ruth Fowler’s new blog, which I’m sure everyone else with regular Internet access found ages ago, but if you haven’t you should definitely go check it out. I read a bunch of Ruth’s beautiful true smart words and thought – fuck, why aren’t I doing this? I should try to do this.

Maybe you remember that I wrote a review of Ruth Fowler’s book, No Man’s Land, years ago and I was a critical asshole about it. Whoops. Sorry I was an asshole, Ruth.

Anyways, having been inspired by Ruth’s artful writing, I’m going to write… nothing like that. Sorry, blog. Maybe next time.

What’ve I been up to? I’m going to grad school! Like a grown up! Like a distance educated hermit grown up who lives out in the woods. It sounds great, right? Live in the woods and have an excuse to sit around reading, writing, and thinking all day plus guidance in my reading, writing, and thinking!

First I had to go to an orientation hundreds of miles away. They had the orientation right during that time where I can neither walk on water nor boat on water. It happens every year that I have to choose a side of the river to be stuck on while the ice softens and becomes rushing ice, then flowing water. Home, or the road system? It’s the most beautiful time to be at home.

029

This year the ice softened up early when there were two sixty above days in a row. I pulled my boat across the river, sinking deep into the soft ice with every step, and I moved into my town home. Then it got cold again and the ice didn’t go out for ages. Meanwhile, I lived in the back of my truck, visited friends, worked, and finally went to school for a month. I’m so ready to go home now!

You know how everyone always says that you have to read sooo much in grad school and you won’t get to read for fun at all? And, if you’re like me, you think to yourself that they probably don’t really read that much anyways, because you really actually enjoy spending hours a day reading? Well, they’re right. I’m reading four 3-500 page books in the next 5 weeks. Holy crap.

I wrote another book and it’s free today.

About a year ago, or maybe it was two years ago, a new book came out that I was so excited about. I thought it was going to be a manual for navigating healthy loving relationships in a totally fucked up culture where we’re mostly all a little fucked up ourselves. Navigating such relationships is really difficult for me and also one of my passions, so I was incredibly eager to read the book.

Unfortunately, the book only seemed to describe the problem(s), not the solution. Other people loved the book and it’s doing pretty well, so I’m sure it’s a great book. It just isn’t what I thought it would be, and you know what they say: expectations lead to disappointment.

I started thinking what a book like that would look like. If no one else would write it, I would. Not that I’m an expert, but I seem to have learned about as much as anyone else. Then I realized I had already written the book in my work  journals, which model for the reader exactly how to navigate short yet loving relationships by the hour with very civilized wealthy men. Yes! I would publish all my journals in a book and call it Selling Love To The Patriarchy!

It took a long time. I took a writing class from a famous author. I workshopped my stories. I decided I hated them all and would never let anyone read them. Then I loved them. I figured there weren’t many people who would buy a book called Selling Love to The Patriarchy, so I went with Whore Diaries, which seems much more marketable.

That’s the story of how this book came to be.

My last book was about becoming an escort and working with a busy agency. This one is about being an independent escort seeing clients that I’ve chosen and screened myself.

It’s FREE today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday), and my goal is to give away at least three thousand books! I would be ever so grateful if you downloaded, read, and reviewed it. Tell all your friends!

 

Here it is.

The Next Big Thing

Have you ever stayed up all night reading all of the stories a person has ever written on the Internet, simultaneously thinking how amazing they are and how creepy it would be if you emailed them? That was me a few years ago with Jodi Sh Doff’s Dirty Girl Diaries. Then she wrote more things. She was in all the anthologies I loved AND on the Red Umbrella Diaries Podcast.

Then! She read my book! She even said something nice about it on Facebook! I was so excited.

Then she tagged me in this thing. It’s called The Next Big Thing! One of my writing heroes thinks I’m the next big thing! Or there just aren’t that many people she knows releasing books this month. Anyways, this is the way it works:

Each person tagged answers a series of interview questions and posts them on his/her blog or website while also linking to up to five other writers. Those writers then answer the questions, post and include links to five other writers and so on and so on….

1. What is the working title of your book?

It’s called Whore Diaries II: Adventures in Independent Escorting (and I’m releasing it this Saturday!).

When I first had the idea of putting all my work journals together into a collection, I wanted to call it Selling Love To The Patriarchy, but I realized that would turn a lot of potential readers off. Then I read that for marketing, your title should say exactly what the books is. So I went with that.

2. Where did the idea come from for your book?

I live a double life. I have all these experiences that I think are really beautiful, significant, and invisible in our culture, but in my real life I can’t talk about them at all. Part of stigma and marginalizing is devaluing. Who would want to hear the stories of a fucking whore anyways? Selling my experiences as books is my way of sharing my secret life and in a way that forces the reader to value my experience. Or, to put it in stripper terms, I’ve figured out how to say, “fuck you, pay me,” to society.

That whole thought process took me a few years. Then I found out that I actually make a lot more money if I give away a bunch of books. So you, reader, you can have my book for free on Saturday.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Memoir. In Amazon I put it in the categories Memoir->Criminals and Memoir->Adventurers. I wish there were a category for Memoir-> a string of beautiful intense stories.

4. Which actors would you choose to play yourself in a movie?

Would you hate me if I said movie stars all look the same to me? The only one I can think of is Julia Roberts, and it would be neat to have her play a different kind of hooker, I guess. People used to say I looked like Jennifer Tilly, and I looked her up online the other day and I think we’ve even aged somewhat similarly.

Speaking of movies, readers, I have an urgent question for you: I received a movie theater gift card months and months ago and I would like to use it this weekend to see something not scary that won’t leave me with an emotional hangover for no reason. What’s playing now that’s kind of like that?

Now I get to tell you about the next next big thing!

1. Definitely Carrot Quinn‘s hike from Mexico to Canada! She’s pre-selling discounted books through Kickstarter right now to fund her adventure. Also she has a book about riding freight trains and a bunch of free writing available on her blog. Someday Carrot is going to be a very famous writer.

2. Have you heard what the Red Umbrella Project is doing? They’re having series of memoir writing workshops which each culminate in an issue of a literary journal published twice a year. Here’s a link to the first one. I love everything that Red Umbrella Project puts out because they really focus on including all sorts of sex worker voices and experiences.

Some Book Reviews

Since I published a book I decided to read a bunch of similar books. Probably I was supposed to do that before writing the book, but I also hear it’s dishonest to think too much before you write. So I waited, and these are some of the books I’ve read (I decided to not review awful books, such as the ones written by delusional customers about their love affair with their favorite escort or the ones written by people who seem to have nothing to say or the one by the guy who writes about non consensual sex acts with cheap escorts):

The Price: My Rise and Fall As Natalia, New York’s #1 Escort

Remember that baby stripper you met back in the day who had an unfortunate habit of shoving things up her nose, bad taste in men, and the social skills to pull it all off? This book will remind you of her.

It’s written in the authentic voice of a smart articulate lady who’s not a polished writer. There are some bad reviews on Amazon that are critical of the writing, but it’s really just like sitting down having a conversation with Natalie. I really admire her ability to tell such a long story in so much detail, and it was really great learning how others approach and experience the business.

Indecent: How I Make It and Fake It as a Girl for Hire

This is a book about Sarah Katherine Lewis’ experiences in lingerie shacks, jack shacks, strip clubs, peep booths, and so called Tantric temples. Ms. Lewis is an incredibly good writer. She’s pretty jaded about the industry and her conclusions aren’t mine.

It was so, so good to read someone else describing interactions in the same (but so different) detailed intellectual way I tend to. If you like my writing for the over-analysis of the sex industry, you’ll love this book too. If you’re into me for the woo of the sex work, you’ll wanna skip this one.

Story of an American Escort

I’m totally into all the sex workers telling our diverse stories. Which is one reason I’m loving Amazon’s self publishing for Kindle so much – we can all get our voices out there without submitting to the pimps of the publishing industry. This lady, like Natalie, has a good conversational writing tone although she’s obviously not a practiced writer.

The book reminded me of LA sooo much! I was seriously nostalgic when I read this.

For most of the book I was thinking, “really?? Just stop doing stupid stuff!” Of course, that may be more a reflection of me than the author. Like, probably there are a lot of people who think it makes perfect sense to keep working with someone who drug-rapes them into sleeping with their clients.

Anyways. This is probably representative of a lot of sex workers’ stories and if you’re into real peoples real stories in sex work you’ll enjoy it.

Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money, and Sex

THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!! It’s 348 pages of essays from all kinds of sex workers – from those that charge $10 to those that charge $2k/hour. The editor introduces each essay personally with heart warming, disturbing, sweet, or just interesting context. There are essays in here that are like, “sex work is empowerment! Feminism yay!” There are stories from women who were violently forced into prostitution. There’s an awesome letter from a lady named Mocha Luv (I think) who’s like, “fuck all this feminist bullshit, I’m trying to make a fucking living without losing my mind.”

Read this book. You won’t regret it.

In My Skin

This is probably the best sex worker memoir ever written.

It artfully follows the author from a very normal, privileged, good girl life through heroin addiction, street work, and rising through the ranks of brothels into sobriety. This is a very honest, very well written look at addiction and sex work.

Just read it.