Hookers have no sense of humor

Gram Ponante
>It is one of life's great ironies that something that should be so much fun - sex for money - is taken so goddamn seriously.

A while ago I interviewed the organizer of San Francisco's Back Alley Cat Bike Ride, an event that in her words will "build connections between communities."

In this case, the communities being linked were Erotic Services Providers and San Francisco's Bike Messengers Union.

You all know me; you know how I earn a living. So you can imagine my excitement to talk further with this person.

The Back Alley Cat Bike Ride is a short fundraising cycle that took place in September. Interested parties met at the feet of Gandhi's statue at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal. The ride was followed by a barbecue and entertainment at The Eagle on 12th Street.

"Gandhi symbolizes community building and spirituality," said Maxine Doogan, aka Mistress Max, organizer of the ride and founder of The Erotic Services Providers Union (ESPU). "Like Cesar Chavez, Gandhi embodies community building."

The ESPU was established to address the safety issues, legal hurdles, and double standards sex workers face. To that end Doogan has created an organization that has raised not only awareness but also the funds to send "two prostitutes, a webcam girl, and a dominatrix" to labor organizing school, which is no mean feat.

Unionization has long been a pipe dream among Porn Valley's performers, but it never catches hold because people stay too short a time in the business to make the idea feasible. The money is too good to offset the occasional (but inevitable) pitfalls, such as non-payment, undesirable conditions, and broken contracts. It seems to me that by the time performers have achieved a certain longevity enough to care about the so-called performer community, it is already too late for them to make the living that characterized their early careers.

But prostitutes have a longer life span, and San Francisco (and Las Vegas) are hotbeds of sex worker union activity. {Many people point out that porn performers, because they trade sex for money, are prostitutes. One key element differentiating the two professions is the presence of a recording device. So next time you're with a hooker, make it legal by bringing a stenographer.)

Anyway, Ms. Doogan devised the Back Alley Cat Bike Ride because, she said, "bike messengers and sex workers are always using the back alleys" for their work.

This sounded like a fabulous idea, so naturally I wanted to know if, based on the success of the ride, bike messengers would turn tricks or provide erotic massage for future fundraising events.

"I don't know what you mean," Doogan said.

"Well, if you've got prostitutes riding bikes this year," I said, "maybe next year bike messengers could, you know, give handjobs."

"We're not having prostitutes become bike messengers, if that's what you mean," she said.

"No, that's not what I mean," I said. "I mean, you've got the prostitutes - sex workers - employing the trappings of the bike messengers for the purpose of this fundraiser. Maybe next time the bike messengers can take on the tools of the sex workers, a quid pro quo role reversal."

"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean."

"Forget it."

Don't get me wrong; I love hookers. But even though an actual streetwalker will be obtained for the occasional Ghetto Booty, and even though porn performers will often escort, their attitudes on the (w)hole are very different. When one is forced to dodge bike messengers all day in a back alley, whimsy is the first casualty.

Previously: Sex workers gather in Poland; It's not sex work when you're just lying there

See also: Erotic Service Providers Union

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