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Today Is International Sex Workers Day-- Marco Rubio, Dee Dee Ramone... And Me

I'm a romantic kind of guy. I've never cheated on a partner in my whole life-- never even wanted to. In the late '70s I returned to the U.S. after galavanting around the world in a VW van for almost 7 years. I had no money and luckily an old friend let me stay at his place in NYC. But even back then you needed some money to exist in New York. Eventually I found a job at an art school that shared a building with the prestigious New School, teaching dark room technique.

But before that I got that occupational lifeline, I discovered a song on the first Ramones album, "53rd and 3rd," a song Dee Dee wrote about his time as a male hustler (prostitute). I quickly realized I could use it as a road map and was soon doing the same thing that Marco Rubio did when he was also desperate for money a few years later down in Coconut Grove's Alice C Wainwright Park. I bought a tight-fitting white suit... and I was in business. I didn't especially like it and luckily found that dark room job pretty fast.

Anyway, guys do it; most just never talk about it. As big a fan of John Rechy (City of Night) and Jean Genet that I was-- especially The Thief's Journal-- I didn't feel any shame or anguish about my weeks as a sex worker. This morning, inspired by this being International Sex Workers Day, I decided to cop to it. No doubt it's something I'll explore more thoroughly in the autobiography... if I ever get around to it.

I will say, though, that I never enjoyed a second of it. Having some old guy-- most patrons who approached me on the Loop were old guys-- slobber all over you could never be pleasurable, at least not for me. Sex work is work.

Today is a commemoration of 100 French sex workers who occupied the Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon for 10 days in 1975 to protest the police pushing them to work in secret, exposing them to violence and abuse. France was sympathetic towards the women and backed their demands about police harassment and fine. They were supported by political organizations of the left as well as by unions and feminist groups. The conservative national government of Giscard d'Estaing, however, was not sympathetic and had the women dragged out of the church against the will of the parish priest.

Now there's an International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) that campaigns for the human, civil and labor rights of people who work in the sex industry. Their campaign is focused around all workers, obviously including sex workers, having the right to:

  • full protection of all existing laws, regardless of the context and without discrimination. These include all laws relating to harassment, violence, threats, intimidation, health and safety and theft.

  • access the full range of employment, contract and property laws.

  • participate in and leave the sex industry without stigma

  • full and voluntary access to non-discriminatory health checks and medical advice

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