VICE: This Tech Startup Is Helping the Cops Track Sex Workers Online

…there’s a good chance that if you’ve placed an ad online in the last two years for escorting, massage, BDSM, stripping, private modeling, nude housekeeping, selling your underwear, or any other permutation of the various sexual services people can put on offer, Rescue Forensics has a copy. And because Rescue Forensics has a copy, so do their users in law enforcement.

This Tech Startup Is Helping the Cops Track Sex Workers Online,” by Melissa Gira Grant for VICE

VICE: Why There’s No Uber for Sex Work

Prostitution 3.0 is just another male fantasy. It hardly engages with current global debates around prostitution policy, or the realities of criminalization, or the notion that sex workers may also have demands. But that’s not why it’s a hot topic: That’s because someone at Forbes tacked the word “Uber” onto the story.

Why There’s No Uber for Sex Work,” by Melissa Gira Grant for VICE

VICE: The All-American Fantasy of Saving Sex Workers from Themselves

Maybe there’s no longer stocks set up for sex workers in the town square—if there even is such a thing as a modern town square—but there are hundreds of channels and clips through which the public can skip the shaming in the town square bit entirely. At night, or on demand, we can peer at bodies in bedrooms and pass our own judgments.

The All-American Fantasy of Saving Sex Workers from Themselves,” by Melissa Gira Grant for VICE


My book was published.

Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work

And was translated in German (and forthcoming in Japanese, Dutch, Spanish, and Korean).

And a chapbook (with Sarah Jaffe) was published.

For Love or Money

And I wrote.

My <3’s: 

on the kink factory that tech built (Dissent)
interviewing Evangelical anti-abortion activists now targeting sex workers (Salon)
profiling the fight of trans activist Monica Jones (RH Reality Check)
on what the “sex work debate” isn’t (
about spying, sex, and online finance (Salon)
on American cities and invisible vice (The Atlantic’s CityLab)
demolishing sex slave fantasies (The New York Times)
how sex workers are winning (The Atlantic’s CityLab)
on sluts and value (Al Jazeera America)
breaking down the cost of my book (Scratch)
tl;dr feminism (
no justice in “trafficking court” (New York Daily News)
on how every camera can be a police camera (VICE)

I spoke to (many) other journalists.

A notable assortment of interviews:

Tits and Sass (part one, part two)
Citizen Radio
Radio Dispatch
Melissa Harris-Perry
The Awl
The Billfold
The Toast

A few notable for their trouble:

The Observer (who never fact-checked my sex work history before printing it anyway)
Channel 4 (this presenter seemed to forget there was another guest there for me to debate, so consumed with debating me herself)
The Telegraph (who also concocted a sex work history for me & called me “scary” in a first version, now scrubbed from their website)

Playing the Whore got reviews.

“Underneath Grant’s strategically inclusive argument lurks a harder political critique of the transformation of politics and economics since the 1970s.” London Review of Books

“Grant is one of the most interesting policy thinkers in the country when it comes to sex work.” Washington Post’s Wonkblog

“…Grant, I think rightly so, is less interested in eliciting from her reader a position on sex work than a position on police violence against sex workers.” The Rumpus

“sharp, persuasive and comes at a time when it is sorely needed” Rabble

and one of Autostraddle’s Top Ten Queer and Feminist books of 2014

and one of Baltimore City Paper’s top ten non-fiction books of 2014: “Think of this tightly written and impressively argued treatise as both a state of the sex work activism now and a complete redefining of the discussion. An absolutely vital read.”

and was named one the Village Voice’s favorite books of 2014: “Keeping the focus on ideas instead of autobiography has an impressively unsettling effect, as we’re forced to acknowledge the writer’s boundaries, and our own voyeurism.”

I talked 

imagining the end of the American red light district (Berkman Center, Harvard University)
about online abuser dynamics (Eyebeam)
on digital labor and sex work (twice: The New School; Theorizing the Web)
and about Playing the Whore, in book shops, bars, theatres, and festivals

I traveled

Washington. San Francisco. Los Angeles.
London. Brighton. Bristol. Edinburgh. Glasgow.
Zurich. Berlin. Hamburg. Cologne. Bonn.

I wanted

For myself – not very much at all, aside from a few days on a beach warmer than Coney Island is right now, health insurance, more time for more celebration on more friend’s floors, and some deep quiet for the sake of the next thing.

Speaking at Eyebeam on New Topics in Social Computing: “Online Abuser Dynamics”

On Thursday, November 20, I’ll be speaking at Eyebeam in Brooklyn as part of Joanne McNeil’s series, “New Topics in Social Computing.” Our topic is Online Abuser Dynamics.

In this discussion we will review the dynamics and patterns of online abuse on social networks. How does a minor scuffle so quickly become an avalanche of online harassment? Why are women, people of color, and the queer and trans community disproportionately targeted? What are steps we can take to build safe spaces on the internet? A killfile or block button is no longer a sufficient tool to prevent abuse and the common advice “don’t feed the troll” ignores the contemporary climate of online abuse. We will discuss tactics to minimize online abuse and the potential for structural change.

Space is limited so please RSVP here.

Doors: 7:00PM
Panel begins: 7:30PM

34 35th St., Brooklyn, NY 11232

Playing the Whore, in German (and Touring in Germany)


In October, I’ll be speaking about Playing the Whore and the politics of sex work at a series of events in Germany and Switzerland, on the occasion of the book’s translation into German as Hure spielen: Die Arbeit der Sexarbeit. There will be strong talk, most likely strong drink, and it’ll be my first time back in Berlin since I was grounded there by a volcano in 2010.

Come out.

The World’s Oldest Procession: #Sexarbeit

Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 8:00PM

Book presentation and discussion with Melissa Gira Grant
Facilitation and Translation: Mithu M. Sanyal

Les Complices
Anwandstraße 9

Friday, October 17, 2014, 7:00PM

Book presentation and discussion with Melissa Gira Grant
Presenter: PG Macioti

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Salon
Franz-Mehring-Platz 1
10243 Berlin

Saturday, October 18, 2014, 7:30PM

Book presentation and discussion with Melissa Gira Grant
Facilitation and Translation: Mithu M. Sanyal

Große Elbstraße 14
22767 Hamburg

Monday, October 20, 2014, 7:00PM

Book presentation and discussion with Melissa Gira Grant
Chair: Susanne Kleinfeld

50823 Köln

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:00 PM

Book presentation and discussion with Melissa Gira Grant
Chair: Susanne Kleinfeld

Bookshop Le Sabot, Bonn
Breite Str. 76
53111 Bonn

More information can be found via my publisher Edition Nautilus and my host Rosa Luxemberg Stiftung.

tl;dr feminism

(adapted from something that started like this)

Finally, I’m reading books again by other people that have nothing to do with my book, my work, or anything else but what I want to give five minutes on a bench, and that’s where and how I found myself with enough space to rattle out the following after reading exactly one and one-half pages of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, which by my recollection could be the first New York Times bestselling feminist book of the Internet feminist age. And if that’s true, then one of the bestselling books right now opens with an acknowledgment that feminism is painfully dominated by those with the biggest platforms. Of all the things about books that have thrilled (and pissed me off) this year, that this is the book on feminism dominating now is amazing.

I got online in 1994. Made a website in 1996. Added a diary in 1998. Feminism, trust, was alive on that Internet. Blogging – let’s see, I remember installing MovableType in 2003. “Real blogging.” We were getting the sense that what all we were getting up to on LiveJournal was girly, unserious. Probably we were getting that sense from elevated profiles of the handful of men who were getting known from blogging c. early 2000’s.

By the time “feminist blogging” happened, I had been online ten years. New gloss on an old convo. More people raised their profiles.

Some of us oldsters started getting jobs. I mean, my first writing job was online, in 1999, reviewing goth clubs for a porn site. (A porn site. With a hyphen in the URL. In 1999. I know.)

I got a steady writing job from Valleywag in 2008. Blogging was so grown up it was something we argued about being over. (Twitter, at that time, was two.)

What was then crystallizing as “feminist blogging” was just the tippest top of the iceberg. Very white, fresh out of college. The issues that rapidly-crystallized slice of feminist blogging drove soon became mainstream lingo: rape culture, slut shaming, “the war on women.” Not so much sex or reproductive justice. A bit of branding was going on. Rough edges were hewn off, if ever posted in the first place.

(Quick pause to remember the Xeroxed underground paper and zines where I published my first feminist writing in 1993…)

I was a feminist writing for a living on the internet, mostly for men, about technology and sex. (Not gender. Fucking.) As I found my place, I saw mainstream media found places for more of us outside weirdo bloggers. And predictably, shit got less weird.

That white, recently-graduated slice of Internet writing about rape culture & slut shaming? Soon became synonymous with “feminism” in media.

I miss the bigger, broader, messier online feminism I owe my analysis and desire to write from. Even as media has shrunk it down. (Ok, not just “media” shrunk it down. Patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism shrunk it down.)

So now we have outlets who never would hire bloggers let alone feminists five-or-even-seven years ago scrambling to get a feminist blogger on staff. Yet the thing they are hiring when they are hiring a “feminist blogger” is that white, millenialish grad. Who can hot take with blogger speed.

I don’t think I’m an old lady when I crave the days when even the Internet moved slower. Email lists. Usenet. LJ threads over months. Losing the slow, incremental crawl of ideas over weeks and months online is structural. Tweets decay too fast.

Meanwhile, “feminism” is enjoying a brand revival, just as the web content maw cannot be satisfied by any number of tragic sexist tales.

I was having a drink w a fab radical lawyer this week. Talking about journalism. The “abortion law shit show of the day” beat. I was saying, as someone who covers a similar shit show on sex work, as depressing as it is on abortion, it’s almost worse. If you cover abortion law, you have the Guttmacher Institute. Planned Parenthood and NARAL. Communicationss staff at their desks and phones. Press releases. Quick quotes. If you cover sex work law, chances are there is no one seeking you out, let alone returning your call on deadline. There’s simply no comparative infrastructure. You have to build it.

So part of what defines a “feminist writer” or beat is shaped by those resources: this is how some issues are mainstream or are considered whole beats.

You do work with a gender lens outside the “feminist issue” mainstream? You have to compensate for all those deficits, these systemic disinvestments in our culture, politics, and media. You cover women & labor, the drug war, women’s prisons, queer women’s issues, transmisogyny in law? You are doing triple work. You are building sources outside the usual feminist suspects you see quoted again and again, outside and in absence of organizations. You are convincing editors it is a story. You are educating a newly cohering audience.

(And you know, being posi. Supporting ladies.) (Only slight sarcasm.)

None of us does this alone. So who made my job with me? Audacia Ray, a deeply principled sex worker rights’ advocate and media maker, over a long time and with many hats. Sarah Jaffe, a hardworking labor journalist and old friend, who made space for me in her networks. Joanne McNeil, the most human of tech and culture minds, always for the longview.

I wouldn’t be here without their late nights, networks, messy convos, shit-stirring. I’m hyperaware how hard it is to get anywhere right now. And hyperaware how limited this space is, how easy it is to fall off, fall out, claw in only to be pushed out.

It’s why I always look back.

tl;dr I’m a feminist writer, who feels desperately constrained by what’s regarded right now as feminist writing, and so all hail Roxane’s book kicking ass, and wish me luck finding a few minutes to get more than a dozen pages in some time soon.