History’s Badass Bitches, part 3

So I’ve done one of these on the Amazons, and one on a Spartan queen named Arachidamia, but they were some of the posts that were lost, so I’ll have to rewrite them. Which I’ll do at some point, when I’m feeling productive.

Today, though, since it’s the 4th of July, I figured I’d be all patriotic and shit, and talk about a woman who helped build Nevada.

I was born and raised in Nevada, and I can rattle off all kinds of names and years and useless statistics, because dear god do we love Nevada history here in Vegas schools.

And don’t get me wrong, I love it, too. This is my home. And it happens to have a really fascinating history. We’re the Silver State. The Battle Born state.

We helped the North win the Civil War. We helped build California (San Francisco is a nice place, right? You’re welcome). We carved a life out of an extreme and inhospitable climate.

And by the way, when I say “we,” I’m talking primarily about women.

Prostitutes, specifically.

Because pretty much everything you’ve been taught about the Old West is dead wrong.

We were taught that gunslingers and cowboys and shady saloon owners were the backbone of society. That shootouts happened every day, and the streets ran red.

It was a bloody and lawless place, where only the strongest, toughest men survive.

And it’s all 100% romanticized bullshit. The West was built on whores and immigrants. End of list.

But it’s important to remember that in the Old West, sex work wasn’t seen the way we see it now. Whores were respected members of the community. Even in places where women couldn’t vote (many parts of the Old West allowed women voting long before it became a law, specifically because women were usually among the wealthiest and most influential members of any given community), they were still given seats on councils, they were listened to, their words and opinions given weight.

Which is why all that bullshit about women becoming cattle if society implodes drives me nuts. Because we had that here. Utter lawlessness.

And women excelled in ways that few men did.

Turns out, even in violent, lawless, harsh environments with no established society, humans are humans. The streets never ran red, shootouts weren’t a thing (the OK Corral is one of the bloodiest battles in the Old West, and a whopping three dudes died).

No. Nothing you think you know about how this country came to be is real. You owe your existence to Mexicans, Chinese, Indians, and whores.

Cowboys were nothing. Myth has turned them into these glamorous, romanticized “Man’s Man” types, but in reality, they were almost exclusively poor immigrants. Mexicans mostly, with a few Chinese thrown in.

It’d be like if, in 200 years, we decided to romanticize undocumented field laborers. Yeah they’re around, and our economy would be fucked without them, but they’re not exactly a focal point of the culture as a whole.

No, cowboys didn’t build the West. Whores did.

Because, particularly in mining towns (for which Nevada is famous), the men would get there and build a few shacks and a post office.

Then the women would show up, looking for work. Because of the nature of prostitution, they would quickly become the wealthiest members of the community.

And they would look across these sad little tent cities and say, “yeah, you know, fuck everything about that.”

They’re the ones who built things like hospitals. When they started having kids, they built schools and permanent family homes. They built the towns and cities we’re still living in today.

Go thank a hooker.

But when speaking about Nevada, everyone knows about Las Vegas. Today, that’s Nevada’s biggest draw, the thing that puts it on the map.

But before Vegas was a thing, there was Virginia City, up north, near Reno.

And the history of Virginia City is really, really interesting, but for today, I want to talk about one specific resident.

I want to talk about Julia Bulette.

Julia Bulette was a prostitute born in England, who came to America and moved to Virginia City. She was the first woman there, so she immediately set up a brothel and became the wealthiest person in the town.

Today, there are a lot of myths about her, and many historians have romanticized her, which makes it harder to sort through fact and fiction.

Some will mention her beauty. But in all honesty, nothing written about her at the time labels her as exceptionally beautiful.

They say she was tall. Thin. She had kind eyes and a warm smile. She was charming and funny, with a quick wit and an easy, infectious laugh.

She was average-looking, but she knew how to command attention and respect.

And she was pretty much immediately universally loved.

She had a soft spot for miners, and fell in love with the gritty, rough culture of the infant mining town. She involved herself in every aspect of that culture, and quickly became the unofficial leader of the town.

When an epidemic swept through, she threw open the doors of her brothel and personally nursed ill miners back to health.

When a fire ravaged the town, she worked tirelessly, right alongside the town’s fire brigade, for hours. Even when the men around her were exhausted, she kept going.

They later held a parade in her honor, presented her with a fireman’s hat, and made her an honorary member of the fire brigade.

And today, one of the only surviving portraits of her shows her with the fireman’s hat they gave her.

But she took the wealth and influence she earned, and put it right back into the town. She funded and helped write new training guidelines and procedures to keep firefighters safe. She wrote to and recruited knowledgeable experts to make sure the town would be safer for the residents (and as it happens, Virginia City developed some significant technological advances in mining).

As wealthy as she was, she spent herself practically into debt, funneling her money and power right back into the townspeople who followed her.

She loved the town, and the town loved her.

Others took notice, too.

You may have heard of Samuel Clemens. You may know him better as Mark Twain.

We don’t know how he came up with his pen name, but a popular theory is that he came up with it while in Nevada. Virginia City, specifically.

I came across one theory that Julia Bulette is the one who gave him the idea for the name. Now, I think that’s kind of a stretch, probably one of the romanticized myths that have sprung up about her, but Clemens and Bulette were close.

She had a purity in her that everyone could see. When she walked into a room, people noticed.

In January of 1867, she was found dead, strangled and beaten, in her home. A drifter named John Millain was quickly convicted and hung for her death (though he insisted, til his dying breath, that he didn’t kill her), and literally the entire town came to see him hang.

Mark Twain, who was too far away and couldn’t make it back in time for her funeral, made sure to be there for Millain’s execution, and was seen paying his respects at Julia’s grave.

Her funeral procession was thousands strong. Her body was transported in a glass-walled hearse (similar to the glass coffins in fairy tales such as Snow White). The firemen were next, followed by the Nevada militias, and then the miners, and then all the citizens whose lives she touched. The town closed down, to allow its citizens to attend her funeral (it closed down again when Millain was executed).

And her legacy lived on. A railroad honored her memory by naming one of its nicest coaches after her. Her portrait hung in every saloon and casino, and patrons routinely toasted her.

She was immortalized as Cherry Malotte in the novel, The Spoilers. She was the subject of countless articles, stories, and tall tales. One author claimed she was written about more than any other woman of the Comstock Lode (the silver rush upon which Nevada was founded, and helped fund the North in the American Civil War).

The Virginia City chapter of E Clampus Vitus, a historical men’s society, is named after her.

There aren’t many people who did more for the Old West than she did. She built Virginia City, which went on to revitalize the dying town of San Francisco. It became the richest city in the West, and one of the most populous.

Even though politically, Nevada has historically been split pretty evenly down the middle, and Virginia City had its share of Southern sympathizers, Nevada’s Comstock Lode was the greatest ore find since the California Gold Rush, which gave the North a decided advantage in the war.

It was Virginia City that gave Nevada the population it needed to qualify for statehood. Nevada, Battle Born, burst on to the scene in the middle of the war, a new powerhouse of political clout and funding (silver was just as valuable as gold back then) that helped the North win.

Julia Bulette, an immigrant, a woman, a whore, did more for Nevada history than almost any other single person.

But we don’t learn about her because she was a whore.

She, who exuded radiance and purity so blinding, the tall tales sprang up before her body was even cold, fueled by those who loved her.

She, who cared for everyone, from the wealthiest saloon owner to the poorest miner. Who accepted everyone, regardless of origin or background or the color of their skin.

She, who built schools, who reformed firefighting training, who gave miners a place where they could feel welcome, who carried a city of thousands on her back.

She, who was the heart and soul of that city. The foundation upon which it, and later Nevada, was built.

She was a whore.

And that’s a sin that will never be forgiven. She’ll always exist in the shadows of obscurity, despite the efforts of Virginia City residents to immortalize her and pay respect to her memory.

She wasn’t just a whore to them. She wasn’t just a woman. And the effort they went through to preserve her legacy is extraordinary.

And ultimately, they succeeded.

History tried its damndest to wipe her out. The antiquated, provincial notions about women and sex that were so prevalent in the east swept westward, erasing countless women like Julia.

But Virginia City fought back. They kept her memory alive. When the American political machine came through, trying to devalue every woman who helped build their communities, Virginia City stood firm. The richest and largest city in the West, built on the back of a prostitute, would not bow to what the other side of the country said it should be.

Though to be fair, I think part of why they fought so hard was guilt.

Y’all don’t understand. The town ground to a halt when she died. Stores and saloons closed. Flags flew at half mast. Bells rang in the fire station, a mournful wail that rang out across the town.

They were devastated. Crushed. Angry. They wanted someone to pay for the death of their matriarch. They found a French drifter named John Millain, and he likely became a scapegoat.

But I don’t think Julia would have approved of that. She knew how life was in the gritty Old West, but even so, she spent her life as a voice of compassion and reason.

I think she would have been disappointed in the town’s knee-jerk emotional reaction.

And I think, once it was all said and done, and emotions subsided, the people knew that. I think that’s part of why they fought so hard for her legacy. I think they all wanted to make sure they never let her down again.

And in the end, I think they did right by her. They kept her name and her story alive, even if it’s impossible now to tell fact from fiction. I think she would be proud of what they did, and the way Virginia City, her city, changed the course of American history.

She is truly one of history’s badass bitches, and because of those people, her memory survives today.

International Sex Workers’ Rights Day

workers-rights-are-human-rights

So March 3rd is International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

I am not currently a sex worker, but I have been in the past, and there’s always the possibility I could be again.  I rather enjoyed my work.

Of course, there was the occasional client I had no interest in or the occasional fetish I had to pretend I liked, but I’d say I thoroughly enjoyed myself 75% of the time.

And think of your day job.  How many people can say they legitimately enjoy their jobs 75% of the time?

It’s fewer people than you think.

Sex work is work.

It’s a legitimate form of income for those who choose it.

But today, the biggest enemies of sex workers are not the old, rich, white men running our government.

They’re the “feminists” who claim that it’s demeaning.  The sex-worker exclusionary radical feminists, or SWERFs.

These angry, bitter women criminalize all human sexuality, but particularly male sexuality.  And they belittle and objectify the women who choose to embrace their own sexuality and celebrate male sexuality.

Just today, actually, SWERFs called me, and the other sex workers participating in the discussion, rented wet spots, disposable merchandise, and objects to be bought and sold.

But men are the ones who demean us.  Gotcha.

The fact that this archaic view of sexuality still exists in 2018 is disturbing.  It makes a habit of removing women’s agency and ability to decide for themselves.

If a woman doesn’t want to be a sex worker, she shouldn’t have to be.  If she’s forced into it against her will, it’s trafficking and rape, and every woman needs to be protected from that.

But this line of logic that equates good, decent, law-abiding citizens engaging in a mutually beneficial and consensual arrangement with rapists and criminals always confuses me.

I’m not a damsel in distress.

I don’t need saving.  There does not exist a man alive that intimidates or scares me.  I’ve had a knife pulled on me, I’ve had a gun pointed at me (turns out it wasn’t loaded, but I didn’t know that at the time), I’ve spent time with a convicted rapist (who insists he didn’t do it, but I sorta think he did) and a convicted murder (who insists he didn’t do it, and I sorta think he didn’t).  I’ve been raped, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been stalked, I’ve been harassed, I’ve been sexually assaulted, I’ve been mugged, I’ve been beaten.

I’ve been at the mercy of men who wanted to break me.  And every single one of them failed.

I don’t need your help.  I don’t need you to protect me from something you’ve decided I need protecting from.  There was a while where I had an issue with mentally freezing when I was out alone with my daughter, but even that wasn’t so much fear as, “What’s going to happen to her if something happens to me?”

That was an unacceptable reaction for me, and not doing anything about it wasn’t an option, so I fixed it.  I didn’t need a knight in shining armor or a misandrist SWERF to come in a rescue me.  I just needed the tools to figure out how to do it myself.

Bitch, I don’t need your help.  I will never need your help.

Not Your Rescue Project.jpeg

Sex work is not sex slavery.

Sex trafficking is deplorable, and heinous, and tragic, and disgusting.  The women and children who are forced or coerced into these situations desperately need help.

And we need to help them.  Sex workers hate trafficking just as much as anyone else.  We want to stop trafficking just as much as anyone else.  The idea of a woman or child being forced into it turns my stomach.  These are human beings, but they have been dehumanized and turned into commodities.

Those who insist on putting me in the same category as the women who have been kidnapped, sold, tortured, raped, and murdered is offensive, not just to me and the men I’ve consensually provided a service for, but for those victims.

Equating sex work with sex trafficking trivializes and demeans what those women go through.  The absolute, utter hell that those women endure.  I’ve been raped, I know what that feels like, and nothing infuriates me more than people who trivialize and disrespect the people who have to live that, day in and day out, until they are killed (sex trafficking victims don’t die of old age, y’all).

And anyone who equates consensual sex work with something as heinous as trafficking immediately loses all respect from me.  It’s a repugnant and disgusting mindset, and I pray to God that those people never reproduce.

Because you just can’t help someone who is that shitty of a human being.

Prostitution has a noble and rich history.

It is literally the oldest human profession.  And while I know that prostitutes in different cultures have been widely respected, the culture I know the most about is the American West, where I live.

The American West very literally owes its fucking existence to prostitutes.

I’m serious, you guys.  That’s not an exaggeration.  It’s literally the truth.

What happened is that men came out here to be miners, ranchers, etc.  They set up their little tents and lived off the land.  And in places like Nevada and much of California, the land wasn’t easy to live off of.

The prostitutes followed, looking for work.  They saw these little shanty towns and said, “Fuck everything about that.”

In many towns, the absolute richest residents were prostitutes.  And brothels were not run by men, but by women.

Prostitutes were the ones who paid to have schools and hospitals built.  They supported and backed the politicians who did their bidding.  They influenced western American culture more than any single group since the dawn of the nation.

And they were widely respected.

A well-known Nevada prostitute was Julia Bulette, who was the first white woman to live in Virginia City, NV.  She was easily the most respected and widely-loved person in the town.  She was educated, intelligent, witty, and charming, a tall and slender brunette with expressive dark eyes.

She had a soft spot for miners, and for firefighters in particular.  When miners became ill after drinking contaminated water, she opened her home to them and worked tirelessly to nurse them back to health.  They called her an angel of mercy, and one miner described her as “having caressed Sun Mountain with a gentle touch of splendor.”

Indescribably wealthy, she donated vast sums to the firefighters for new equipment and training to keep them safe (in fact, she donated so much of her wealth to the town, she drove herself to debt).  She also personally worked the water pump when it was needed.

She became an honorary firefighter, and on July 4, 1861, she was named Queen of the Independence Day parade.

She was murdered inside her home, and the entire city shut down to mourn her, and her funeral was attended by thousands.

A year later, a drifter was charged and convicted of her murder, and hanged.  His execution was witnessed by the entire town, including the notable Mark Twain.

She was a feminist icon and she remains so, 150 years after her death.  She is a beautiful example of what a woman can do, even in a society specifically designed to oppress women.

When women were granted the right to vote, 13 western states simply laughed.  Women had been voting there for decades.  Wyoming in particular refused to join the Union unless Wyoming women could retain their right to vote.  They also boast the first female governor.

Montana appointed the first female to the US House of Representatives before the 19th Amendment was passed.  Kansas boasts the first woman mayor of an American town.

And why do you think women in these western states were treated so much better than their eastern and southern countrywomen?

Because of prostitutes, y’all.

Because tiny little shanty mining towns were fine for the men who lived there, but the women wanted more.  They made the little desert towns habitable.  They created a society that would not have existed without them.

If you live in the west of the Mississippi River, chances are, you owe your very existence to prostitutes.  They were powerful, they were rich, they were influential, they were respected.

It wasn’t until the criminalization of prostitution that it began being seen as something oppressive.

Of course, prostitution was dangerous, as evidenced by Julia Bulette (although it’s unclear whether her profession had a direct influence on her death.  Although her profession was why she become such a prominent figure, and her prominence definitely made her a target).

Prostitutes died in childbirth, they died of disease, and not all of them were rich.  It was a dangerous job, not for the faint of heart.  It could paint huge targets on the backs of women.  It wasn’t an easy life.

But it’s a life that western pioneers chose.

The criminalization of prostitution saw the rise of pimps and people who coerced women into the profession.  Because illegal, unsanctioned, unsupervised, unprotected acts drew a large number of undesirables, and women found themselves needing large male protectors to keep them safe.  Those large male protectors then began taking advantage of women, and gave rise to the modern pimp.

We see the difference in the practice of illegal prostitution vs legal prostitution even now.  In places where it is legal, like parts of Nevada, brothels are managed, supervised, and regulated.  While in places where it is illegal, you see private gangsters as pimps, who will beat and rape their girls if they don’t make enough money.

Of course, there are problems in brothels, too.  You hear stories of women being coerced into having sex with friends of the brothel owner, or being coerced into doing things they don’t want to do.

Because where can they go for help?

What can be done if they report it?  Who would support them?

The criminalization of prostitution has harmed the women who choose it as their profession, and it has harmed countless women who have been forced into it against their will.

And all because sexuality has become something dark and shameful in the eyes of so many people.

Men who choose to pay women are seen as misogynists, and women who choose to provide a service for a fee are seen as brainwashed victims.  The agency and ability of these women to consent to what they want, to do what they wish with their bodies, has been removed.

Sex is the only thing that can be given away for free, but not sold.  How dumb is that?

Sex work isn’t for everyone.  And no one who doesn’t want it should ever be coerced or forced into it.  But for those who want it, for those who choose it, they should have the right to do what they want with their bodies.

Sexuality is a beautiful thing.  Even sex that we see as “dark” or “depraved” is beautiful.  It can bring people closer together.  It has legitimate, measurable health benefits.  And for those of us who choose it, it’s really a hell of a lot of fun.

But Jen, sex work doesn’t empower women.

First of all, find me a sex worker who feels that way.

Secondly, why does it have to be empowering?

Does being a mailman empower you, as a woman?  Does being a hairstylist or cashier or waitress or babysitter empower you, as a woman?

Chances are, no.  And no one fucking cares.  When I drove truck, no one ever asked me if I felt empowered by my career.

But sex workers get asked that all. the. fucking. time.

I personally found it empowering, because I was working full time and still couldn’t pay my bills.

I could make my own hours, set my own rules, choose who I decided to have sessions with, and designate the boundaries and rules that my clients were expected to follow.

Not a single client ever disrespected me or tried to cross a boundary.  And I could pay my bills, and I had some financial breathing room that my day job didn’t provide.  In a town with a 10% unemployment rate, I was highly sought after and had clients who would drive two hours or more, just to spend $200 for two hours of my time.

But Jen, the legalization of sex work has increased sex trafficking.

No, it really hasn’t.

You’re thinking of a 2012 “study” that defines trafficking as anyone who crosses a national boundary and then engages in sex work.

To use US states, if prostitution is criminalized in Utah and legalized in Nevada, is it really that much of a stretch to think that the women who engage in illegal sex work in Utah will relocate to Nevada, where they can do it legally?

What a shock that “sex trafficking” increases.

When you use a realistic definition, like “women and children being forced or coerced into sex work,” you find that the legalization of sex work greatly diminishes sex trafficking in that area.

See New Zealand and New South Wales.

But Jen, so many misogynists demean women through sex work.

Yeah, and how many of those are women?

There will always be assholes.  Some of those assholes will be men, and some of them will refuse to respect a woman who engages in sex work.  I’m not even a sex worker now, and my Facebook inbox is full of men who are insulted that their wishes to engage in a paid cam session with me went ignored.

They feel that because I’m a Dominant, and because I’m on Facebook, I must be a professional, and if I’m a professional, I must drop everything when they snap their fingers, to go and worship their penises.

This is not new, you guys.  There will always be assholes.  Decriminalizing prostitution will not solve the asshole-human problem.

No sane or reasonable person is looking at the decriminalization of sex work as a solution to that problem.

The bottom line?

The only experts on sex work are sex workers.

The only people whose opinions about sex work matter are sex workers.  The only people who have the power to decide what to do with their bodies are the owners of those bodies.

The only people who have the right to dictate what sex work should be are the people who do it.

Are you a sex worker?  No?

Then shut the hell up.