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March 2nd, 2008

Sex Worker Solidarity: Jesse Cox

Artist Jesse Cox

What kind of sex work are you currently doing?
Currently I am working as an exotic dancer in a club called Centerfold in Springfield, Missouri. It’s a conservative little part of the country, so the club is very strict, ie, pasties and opaque t-back bottoms one inch thick at the back end, no see through costumes, and an 18 inch distance kept between dancers and customers at all times (to the extent that when a customer wants to tip us he has to put his money down in front of us, as we cannot take it out of his hand). This cuts way down on the money we can make– I make maybe $100 a day, whereas in looser clubs on the east coast I made $500 a day, but it also makes for a much more pleasant work environment. I’m not so angry and wary of people touching me when my shift ends at 7 pm. Also, the club itself is nice, with lit candles on the tables and steak and lobster dinners, which attracts a nicer group of customers and dancers. Oh, and it’s a family business, which is nice too. My boss makes me breakfast in the morning, and took my family’s pictures at my college graduation.

Are you active in sex worker activism? If so, what are you doing?
I like to think so. I am constantly talking to the women I work with about what their rights are both as sex workers and as women. I also volunteer for Planned Parenthood, which is of course about women’s rights specifically, but these things are so tied up with each other, the lines sometimes blur for me a little. I just wrote an article about civil rights (or lack thereof) afforded to sex workers that is featured in this month’s $pread Magazine, and I am interested in writing more and for broader audiences on this topic.

What do you think is the best way to promote solidarity with fellow sex workers?
That’s a big question, but off the top of my head, I’d have to say it’s probably not that different than the way you might go about promoting solidarity between any group or groups of people. There is a lot of competition in the field of sex work, as we’re all competing for the same guy’s wallet. There is also a lot of shame put on sex workers from people outside the industry, that I think most of us take on whether we mean to or not, and then project onto our fellow workers in an effort to make ourselves feel better, or more justified in our own work somehow. If you only do modeling and I dance on a stage, then I’m a whore and you’re ok, because I actually interact with men, while you only pose for a camera. If I work in a no touch non-nude club, and you give lap dances or show more skin, or God forbid work in porn, then you’re a whore and I’m ok, because you do more for your money than I do. In a way it’s a reflection of the classism that exists in the mainstream system, where the less actual “putting out” you can get away with for your money (whether the putting out is that of your energy or your body), the higher class and therefore better you are.

So to answer your question, I think the best way to promote unity between sex workers or anyone else, is to truly learn to love ourselves where we are, and to deflect the judgments others would put on us, rather than soaking them up and passing them along. Maybe then we will feel confident enough in ourselves to see our fellow workers as they really are: our partners in struggle, and our greatest potential allies for the procurement of better wages, fair treatment under the law, and sustainable human relationships.

What project(s) are you working on now?
Several, and I’ll list them quickly after that rant! I am a writer and visual artist outside of the world of dancing. I have a solo show at the Good Girl Art Gallery here in Springfield in June, so I am painting frantically to get ready for that. I am writing a book about the Amish based on the period of time I lived with them when I was 21 and the ongoing friendships that grew out of that. I am also in the process of publishing and distributing a series of political coloring books based on Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” which is endorsed by Mr. Zinn. Also, I make most of the costumes for the club I work at to supplement my income (stupid student loans…) so in between projects, I am always making panties. Right now, I’m about to go bathe my cats.

You can see most of my work at, and a few pieces from my next show at my Myspace page.

Jesse’s art is beautiful. I’ve seen her art develop over the years and it is both gorgeous and powerful. Her Howard Zinn coloring book is something I plan to get for my friends’ children.

Jesse was my first sex worker friend. Years ago we hung out as hippie chicks. She taught me to crochet and entertained me with her stripper work stories. She was taking a break from stripping and I hadn’t yet become a PSO.

Later when I was back to normal society and started doing phone sex Jesse was there to listen. While my spouse and friends are supportive no one understands the work quite like a sex worker. Though we do different types of work we’ve found we have so much in common. Long before I became involved with sex worker activism Jesse and I would entertain and support each other.

Like Jesse says so many times sex workers focus on the differences in their work. Walls and boundaries are put between us. A vital part of sex worker activism is reaching across that divide and finding solidarity and common ground between workers. Though our jobs may be different we share much common ground. There is strength in this and we are stronger when we stand together.

Sex Worker Solidarity Series
Sex Worker Solidarity: Introduction
Sex Worker Solidarity: Audacia Ray
Sex Worker Solidarity: Dallas From Babeland
Sex Worker Solidarity: Secondhand Rose
Sex Worker Solidarity: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Sex Worker Solidarity: Libertine

Posted by Vixen in PSO Confessions, Interviews, Sex Workers

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 2nd, 2008 at 11:16 pm and is filed under PSO Confessions, Interviews, Sex Workers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Sex Worker Solidarity: Jesse Cox”

  1. Naia says:

    Centerfold was the first strip club I went to (legally) when I turned 21st. I hadn’t expected strict rules Jesse talks about in her interview and was kind of put off by it. Springfield is an odd city in that it has enough of an underground to hold fetish shows (2-4 times a year), but it’s still in a conservative state where the highways are lined with “got jesus?” and “pornography destroys” billboards.

  2. Serpentlibertine says:

    “In a way it’s a reflection of the classism that exists in the mainstream system, where the less actual “putting out” you can get away with for your money (whether the putting out is that of your energy or your body), the higher class and therefore better you are.”

    This statement is so true and one that I am constantly reiterating all the time about how sex workers try to put each other down. For instance, the dominatrix thinks she’s better than the escort because she doesn’t have sex with her clients. The porn star believes she’s better than prostitute because she doesn’t have to have sex with as many clients or that she’s protected by the law and so on. The reason why we lack solidarity between sex workers is because many workers don’t want to be held in the same regard as those who different (and possibly less glamourous or more sexually involved) types of sex work.

  3. Vixen says:

    Naia-I’ve hung out with Jesse in Springfield and I so know what you mean. There’s also a “pornography destroys” billboard right across the street from an adult book store.

    One of my friends who lives there once described the place well-”Springfield is one of those towns with churches on half the corners and liquor stores on the other half.” Sarcastic yes but it’s fitting.

    SL-Agreed. I see a lot of hope when I see sex workers of different backgrounds and specialities joining together and supporting each other.

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