The big sex work news of the day was, of course, anti-vice New York Governor Elliot Spitzer being caught with his hand in the very same honey-pot he crusaded so publicly to keep a lid on. Of course, Bound, Not Gagged is all over it, and providing some excellent coverage and commentary. Also with spot-on commentary is this post from our own founding henchwoman Renegade Evolution, and this from Susie Bright.
Since this scandal hit the news, the media has been all over contacting high-profile sex workers for their perspective on the sex industry, especially the high-end call-girl/powerful client end of it. There was a very good interview with Audacia Ray on the New York City public radio Brian Lehrer Show. (I also have quite a bit to say in the commentary thread following the audio of the post – shameless self-plug.) However, much of the desired level of conversation by members of the mainstream media hasn't exactly been so high-minded, and in at least a few cases, the interviewers have essentially played the role of cheap johns, wanting simply some salacious statements to sell copy, and barring in advance any discussion of the bigger issues. (Readers of this and other porn and sex work blogs may recognize a pattern at work here when it comes to the relationship between sex workers and the larger media and entertainment industry.) In a rather exemplary display of principle over publicity, Audacia Ray writes that she turned down an interview with MSNBC for this very reason. Audacia, you rock!
On another topic, "Thomas", a guest blogger on Feministe has just posted on the death of Shannon Wilsey, aka Savannah. (No, its not an anniversary of any kind, just a subject he felt like talking about.) On one hand, he's pretty right on the money with his pointing out that a lot of the male celebs who she played around with couldn't be bothered with her when she was in need during her life, nor even bother to show up for her funeral after her death. (Exception: Pauly Shore, of all people – otherwise, a variation on the same pattern of behavior toward sex workers as I was talking about earlier.) The flip side of the piece is a certain moralistic tone the piece takes "These were young women with few prospects. The patriarchy dangled a wad of bills in front of them if they would put on sexual performances for men. Then it treated them like shit when they took it. Sex objects, objects of curiosity, objects of scorn. To which I would add, "objects of pity and condescension for feminists".
First, she was not completely alone toward the end of her life – she was actually pretty close to a number of other porn performers and people in the industry. (Albeit, quite a few others despised her as a prima donna.) The Feministe piece ignores this in favor of the "exploited by the porn industry she hated" angle. Second, for all of the very real demons Shannon Wilsey clearly had, the whole passive victim of The Patriarchy script we see at work here really doesn't do her story any justice. For better or worse, Shannon Wilsey played a very active role in remaking herself into Savannah, first as a celebrity groupie, then as a top porn star. Shannon/Savannah was someone with great sexual charisma, an exceptional "hottie", and like anybody with an exceptional ability or gift, had a lot of her self-image wrapped up in that. In the end, probably too much, but nonetheless, she was who she was, and those who dismiss her as a mere victim of male objectification or empty hedonism and little more do nothing to honor her memory.