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This short excerpt is the second scene in Episode 1 of Blindspotting in which Helen Hunt and her daughter, Jaylen Barron, quibble over the changes in sex work discourse. Barron explains to Hunt that sex work is work and Hunt answers that Hunt was there when the term was invented. As Barron assembles a photo shoot, Hunt shares the story of the first sex workers union at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco. Barrons associates are quite interested.
“Unrepentant Whore” skyrockets you through the life, ruminations, poetry, and activist performance of Scarlot Harlot, a San Francisco treasure. The writing is engrossing, insightful, provocative, and funny–and while you’re busy being entertained, you’re also getting a whirlwind tour of the evolution of sex worker activist movements since 1978. I’ve read a lot of Scarlot Harlot’s writing online, but until she collected decades worth of writing and photographs in this book I didn’t realize on how many fronts she’s been fighting for sex workers rights, or for how long. Anyone interested in women’s movements, or the life of a smart witty prostitute, or creative activism, or SEX should curl up with Scarlot Harlot immediately–and for most of us this book is the closest we can get.
Documentary look at the 1996-97 effort of the dancers and support staff at a San Francisco peep show, The Lusty Lady, to unionize. Angered by arbitrary and race-based wage policies, customers’ surreptitious video cameras, and no paid sick days or holidays, the dancers get help from the Service Employees International local and enter protracted bargaining with the union-busting law firm that management hires. We see the women work, sort out their demands, and go through the difficulties of bargaining. The narrator is Julia Query, a dancer and stand-up comedian who is reluctant to tell her mother, a physician who works with prostitutes, that she strips.
Blindspotting on STARZ- Episode 1
Sex Worker History
In this this episode Helen Hunt and Jaylen Barron invoke sex worker history as they discuss Carol Leigh, coining the term sex work, the meaning of that term, and the unionization of the Lusty Lady.
Sound track “We came to Play.” Helen Hunt comes home from shopping, dancing on her way home. We pass by nice Oakland houses and palm trees on a sunny day. When she arrives home her daughter and 6 or 7 friends in erotic attire are doing a photo shoot. The house is filled with pretty, fairly worn Victorian furniture
Jaylen Barron 0:37
See y’all look so fucking good like real talk beauties like for real all you hear Jackie here mama here poke it out just a little bit more there you understand. Stop. Stop making that face.
Helen Hunt 0:49
You said this would be over by 3:30. This is not even almost over. I thought you couldn’t put nipples on your site.
Jaylen Barron 0:55
They are covered. Nipples are implied.
Helen Hunt 0:58
Implied? This nipple is righ t there.
Jaylen Barron 1:01
Well it won’t be in the pictures, Ma. You don’t take these kind of photos…
Helen Hunt 1:06
You don’t know what kind of photos I’ve taken. I’ve worn very small things. I n fact I have a picture. Would you like to see?
Jaylen Barron 1:12
Helen Hunt 1:13
Are you sure? Because they used to make under things not quite as small back then. So it was a one piece but a whole lot is implied. I mean the Emperor one more fabric than that.
Jaylen Barron 1:22
Mom please just not right now.
Helen Hunt 1:25
Exactly. Not right now. Ashley will be here any minute. You’re in my workspace and you’re over your time. That’s two breaches of an agreement we just made.
Jaylen Barron 1:34
We are working the space Ma, I’m Trappy Leibowitz. They are my rock star muses. Click click click art art art
Helen Hunt 1:41
She went to SF Art Institute.
Jaylen Barron 1:43
Mom, we are working.
Helen Hunt 1:44
It’s not exactly a work attire sort of thing.
Jaylen Barron 1:47
We’re sex workers.
Helen Hunt 1:48
I was in the room with Carol Leigh, whose book you still have not read, when she coined that term. Put some pants on.
Jaylen Barron 1:56
Mom, we are in the business of sex. Okay, the thoughts of sex, the tease of sex. Almost sex. So sex work. It’s the new Gold Rush.
Helen Hunt 2:09
Great. Are you the gold?
Jaylen Barron 2:10
No, we’re the new madams.
Helen Hunt 2:12
That sounds a lot like a brothel and we got to —
Jaylen Barron 2:15
It’s a metaphor. I’m the newly appointed house mom.
Helen Hunt 2:22
It’s not a metaphor.
Jaylen Barron 2:20
Okay, mom, the club system is fucked up. Okay, it’s fucked up. So we post our little pictures get our little clientele loyal to us, create our own cooperative union. Then open our own club, a safe club for girls run by girls. It’s progressive.
Helen Hunt 2:38
Yeah, it sounds a lot like the Lusty Lady. Have you told them about the Lusty Lady?
Jaylen Barron 2:43
Speaker 3 2:43
What’s the Lusty Lady?
Jaylen Barron 2:43
Helen Hunt 2:45
Fantastic! Okay, so the Lusty Lady was a cooperatively run strip club here in the Bay owned by the dancers and the staff. It was the first unionized sex business in the US. It was peep shows and girl on girl stuff mostly, some great film screenings, erotic art, but power and idealism are not great roommates.
Speaker 3 3:04
So what happened
Helen Hunt 3:04
So it closed it didn’t work. The Union stuff got ugly. It was a failed experiment.
Speaker 3 3:09
Jaylen Barron 3:10
Okay but thank you mom. Ours, ladies is definitely going to be different.
Helen Hunt 3:15
I just definitely needed to not be in my workspace.
Jaylen Barron 3:18
Why can’t you just be fucking support supportive?
Helen Hunt 3:20
Oh, I’m so fucking supportive of you!
Jaylen Barron 3:21
Helen Hunt 3:28
Yes I am!