“I think that sums it up,” she said. “Precisely.”
Stryker was speaking to a room full of University of New Hampshire students participating in a mini-conference on sex workers sponsored through the school's Women's Studies program on Tuesday.
She, along with two advocates for sex workers' rights from New York City participated in a discussion, “No bad women: Just bad laws,” after students watched the movie Scarlet Road. The film is a documentary on an Australian sex worker who works with people with disabilities.
People in this business are looking for rights, whether that means their work is legalized, decriminalized or just to be shed in a better light.
Stryker is a sex worker living in San Francisco. She has also worked with clients in Boston and London, England. After becoming somewhat of an expert at social media when having to market herself, she became a lover of the Internet and now does community management for two television stations as a day job — and pornography on the side.
When she was providing sex to clients, which she still does, but not full-time, she said she would always make sure to receive two references before seeing the client.
She is not worried about getting arrested through advertisements she posts online, but is nervous that undercover police will try to book a session with her.
“They definitely can do that. They don't have to tell you they are a cop,” she said.
She said it is just a “matter of time” until she could possibly be taken to jail.
“I waive my privilege every day with every speaking engagement and activism that I do,” she said. “How much can I push my privilege and get away with things?”
Although prostitution laws differ from state to state, she said that generally states will arrest people who are willing to do certain acts for money and have that money exchanged.
In New Hampshire, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if they solicit or agree to perform a sex act according to RSA 632-A: 1.
Stryker said she enjoys watching her clients grow and become people who have the confidence to stop paying for sex and start engaging with women and eventually have girlfriends. She said this work has taught her to love her body, how to set boundaries and gain a closer relationship with her family.
“Having my parents accept my sex work was really valuable,” she said during a panel discussion Tuesday night.
Jordan Rondinone, a UNH student who also dances at TENS in Salisbury, Mass., said her family knows about her work in the sex industry, as well.
She said the “umbrella term” of sex work encompasses anyone working within the sex industry and that because she dances sexually she is categorized under it.
Rondinone has also danced in Massachusetts at the Gold Club, Golden Banana and Centerfold.
“I have also done prostitution,” she said.
While she, too, has seen positives in her work. She included the feeling of empowerment, the compliments, the control of those watching and the ability to make fast cash. But she said she also feels vulnerable, is at a higher risk for sexual harassment and is in an industry that does live “a very different lifestyle.”
She said forming friendships has been difficult and she has not been in an intimate relationship since she started dancing.
“I don't think people completely understand,” she said of her work. “Maybe it is almost a jealousy thing?”
Because it has been hard finding a social group, she found another outlet.
“I was in rehab, I'm a lot better now,” she said. “But this industry gets you so open to that and for a long time, I didn't have anyone close and that was what was close to me and still can be,” she said.
Isabella Beaulieu, who also sat on the panel at UNH as a former student who dropped out and moved to Seattle, said she too had a hard time making friends in the sex industry.
When she got to the west coast, she had difficulty finding a job. She decided to start dancing and really enjoyed the profession.
“There are so many stereotypes of sex workers being victims of being forced, but everyone's experience is so unique and so amazing,” she said.
Stryker said most of the time her job is “nice” and that she enjoys it.
“But sometimes it's crappy and I don't want to get up and I don't want to get dressed in some fancy femme drag. I don't want to deal with it,” she said. “Sometimes I have clients who are really annoying or they are really boring, like, that happens.”
She said because she is a sex worker advocate, though, and because she is vocal, she is not allowed to say she had a bad day.
“Ever,” she said. “Because if I have a bad day, then I'm proof that sex work is evil.”
Stryker said there is a war on the sex worker community, but that it is not just on them.
“It starts with us, it starts with me, but it is going to come to you,” she said to the crowd at UNH. “This is a war on all of us.”
She said the United States is too big, with too many different state laws, to try to think of a solution that would work to give rights to sex workers across the board. But, she said, certain laws, such as No Condoms As Evidence, need to be passed to protect everyone, not just people in her field of work.
Emma Caterine, the program coordinator for the Red Umbrella Project in New York City, said No Condoms As Evidence, a New York state bill, will stop police and prosecutors from being able to use the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution. Right now, they are able to use that as a fact that a person is involved in sex work, which can lead them to being arrested.
“It's not illegal to carry condoms anywhere in the United States,” she said. “When you bring these sort of cases forward ... They'll be found not guilty. It's going to happen.”
Caterine said that laws like this are preventing some people to even carry condoms, which means they are not using them.
“I hope this is passed soon,” Jared Ringer, coordinator for the Hate Violence and Sexual Violence Programs at the New York City Anti-Violence Project said. “I wish it was passed years ago.”
Maureen Bradley, a University of New Hampshire student in the Women's Studies program, helped bring the panel to the school on Tuesday. She said the reason for the mini-conference was to bring awareness to the issues the sex workers face and give them attention while teaching students about the lack of rights the workers have worldwide.