Journalism

Melissa’s reporting and commentary has appeared in The New York Times, the GuardianThe NationWiredThe Washington Post, and Salon, among other publications.

Essentials

The Price of a Sex-Slave Rescue Fantasy (The New York Times)
Ms. Mam’s stories were told in interviews with journalists including Nicholas Kristof, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. She attracted high-profile supporters: There were benefits thrown by Susan Sarandon; Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer, is on the advisory board of her foundation. Ms. Mam’s target audience of well-off Westerners, eager to do good, often knows little about the sex trade. It doesn’t require much for them to imagine all women who sell sex as victims in need of rescue.

Girl Geeks and Boy Kings (Dissent)
Though they pretend not to see difference, Losse, through her co-workers’ eyes, is meant to function as a kind of domestic worker, a nanny, housemaid, and hostess, performing emotional labor that is at once essential and invisible. At Facebook parties, women in Losse’s position at the company didn’t have to serve drinks, but they were expected to serve as ornaments. They posed for candid-seeming shots taken by a professional photographer hired by Facebook, shots that would then be posted on Facebook the next day for other employees and the public at large to enjoy. All employees were expected to keep active profiles on the site, to represent life at Facebook and, by extension, Facebook itself, as friendly and inviting, to perform at all times as the kinds of people users might expect to find on the website.

Happy Hookers (Jacobin)
When it reached their top five, the New York Times described the book as “liberally dosed with sex fantasies for the retarded.” The woman who wrote them and lived them, Xaviera Hollander, became a folk hero. She remains the accidental figurehead of a class of women who may or may not have existed before she lived and wrote. Of course, they must have existed, but if they hadn’t, say the critics of hooker happiness, we would have had to invent them.

For the Love of Kink (Dissent)
In the years since, while Twitter was launching a short bike or BART ride away, while Facebook was opening up to the world outside the brick confines of the Ivies, Kink transformed the armory into its own platform, a fantasy-stocked retreat furnished by and for the pleasure and reward of CEO Peter Acworth. It’s a rare accomplishment: a porn production studio that aims to favorably represent a sexual subculture, that holds free sex parties and (paid) public tours, that positions itself as a San Francisco institution with unironic civic pride.

The Red Light and the Cloud (Medium)
Maybe the brothel is something a woman who sells sex carries with her. (Do men who sell sex do it in brothels? Somehow the word doesn’t stick to men the same way, even though it’s true that they do sell sex, in lots of places.) Maybe the brothel is in the cloud, like a burst of aerosol spray. She floats in on it.

How Sex Work Became Invisible in America (The Atlantic/CityLab)
There is no sex work without the city, though you aren’t likely to see much overt evidence of that today. Unless you’re a potential customer or a member of law enforcement – men whose business it is to look – people who sell sex might be invisible to you. But even in a state of crackdown, sex workers have always been able to find one another.

The War on Sex Workers (Reason)
On August 30, a 19-year-old woman in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was arrested after a prospective client called 911 on her. He claimed she raised her fee for services after their initial online contact. The cops took her away in handcuffs. There’s nothing particularly unusual about this story, which initially appeared on AnnArbor.com. It’s one of dozens you can find every day in police blotters and local newspapers around the country, often accompanied by mug shots. No women’s rights organization compiles comprehensive data on how many people are arrested, tried, convicted, and incarcerated for prostitution-related charges. But their names and photos are lodged in search engines in perpetuity, no matter the outcome of their cases.

News

How D.C. Finally Stopped Punishing Sex Workers For Carrying Condoms (The Atlantic/CityLab)

Spying, sex and finance: What banks and payment processors are secretly watching — to avoid “risk” (Salon)

Better Treatment of Trans Women by Philly Police Could Have Averted Brutal Murder, Says Activist (In These Times)

Sex Workers Rise Up After Fatal Stabbings (In These Times)

Supreme Court Strikes Down Anti-Prostitution Pledge for US Groups (The Nation)

How the Anti-Prostitution Pledge Hinders AIDS Prevention (The Nation)

Ending Prostitution ‘Central’ to Ending AIDS, US Tells Supreme Court (The Nation)

Anti-Prostitution Pledge Heads to Supreme Court (The Nation)

Organized Labor’s Newest Heroes: Strippers (The Atlantic)

California’s Prop 35:  Targeting the Wrong People for the Wrong Reasons (RH Reality Check)

Anarchopanda Hugs the Front Lines of Montreal Student Protests (Wired)

AIDS Isn’t Just a Public Health Issue, It’s an Injustice (The Nation)

Protest Greets the International AIDS Conference in DC (The Nation)

Having AIDS Is Not a Crime: A DC March Demands an End to Discriminatory Police Tactics (The Nation)

Hey Ho! Backpage Protesters Hit Village Voice on the Hottest Day of the Year (The New York Observer/Betabeat)

Why is Facebook Protecting Pro Rape Language and Abuse of Women? (AlterNet)

Making Safer Spaces: Occupy Wall Street Addresses Questions of Security at Zuccotti Park (AlterNet)

Occupy Wall Street’s Web Team Finds Anarchy Ain’t Easy (The New York Observer/Betabeat)

Commentary

Fighting sex trafficking with Jesus: How the religious right’s healing hurts (Salon)

The right’s bogus sex work stance: Taking power away from women (Salon)

What the New York Times (and France) Got Wrong About Prostitution (Slate)

Sex workers vs. Spitzer (The American Prospect)

Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” campaign holds little for most women (Washington Post)

The truth about trafficking: it’s not just about sexual exploitation (The Guardian)

Socialize Backpage (Jacobin)

Who speaks for women who work in the adult industry? (The Guardian)

‘Men buy girls, not sex’ and other myths of anti-prostitution moralists (The Guardian)

The Long Island Women’s Real Killer (The Guardian)

Rape Charges, Libel Suits, Hooker Headlines: The Trial By Media of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Accusers (AlterNet)

Whores and Other Hackers ($pread)

The Craigslist Sex Panic: How shutting down its’ erotic services section hurts prostitutes and cops (Slate)

How everyone ruined the internet (Valleywag)

Zivity Sparks Girl Geek Porn Panic(Valleywag)

Five reasons women really do need to get off the internet (Valleywag)

Culture

She Was A Camera (Rhizome)

Betty Dodson’s Feminist Sex Wars (Truthout)

When Prostitution Wasn’t a Crime: The Fascinating History of Sex Work in America (AlterNet)

Demanding Sasha Grey’s “Girlfriend Experience” (BlackBook)

The Boy Next Door (San Francisco Bay Guardian)