Why is Pimp not an appropriate synonym for Promote?

The official dictionary definition of the word pimp is: (noun) 1. A man who controls prostitutes and arranges clients for them , taking part of their earnings in return. synonyms procurer, procuress, madam verb informal – make something more showy or impressive, ex Pimp my ride. Urban dictionary, my preferred dictionary source for comedic non censored relief, always more accurate, says that pimp stands for:  P-erson I-nto M-arketing P-rostitutes

Lets talk about this definition for a second. First of all, I think it’s interesting that a pimp is identified as only a male dealing with female sex workers (the female pimp is called a madam, and generally keeps her girls in a house or brothel and not out on the streets), the stereotypical shady guy in a purple velvet suit with a leopard hat, full length fur coat, diamond crusted cane, bling galore, gold teeth, and flashy gold car with hydraulics.

By definition a pimp is a horrible person, using another person’s body as a commodity. Prostitution is the oldest profession, I have no problem with a man or woman selling their body, as long as they receive all of the profit. If they feel the need to pay a security guard or driver, that’s their business. Pimping is different.

Pimps are abusive and aggressive, an integral part to illegal sex trafficking and human bondage, often preying on people with addictions or other hardships. Media glamorizes the archetype of a pimp.

MTV’s show Pimp My Ride has brought the word into mainstream as meaning custom or flashy, an attractive man might also be called a pimp as a compliment, Jay Z’s song Big Pimpin or 50 Cent/Snoop Dogg P.I.M.P. (among many other rap songs featuring the word) are about living large and having lots of cash money.

I go both ways with this word. YES, it does represent something sexist and demeaning. Many mainstream writers use the word casually, referring to the positive slang term over the literal meaning.

I have definitely used the word pimp to describe a situation where I am promoting something. “I am going to pimp out these posters.” Going from shop to shop, talking to people, trying to sell my art. I am using them to promote my show, not sell another human’s body. Yes, similar tactics are used, but pimping is specific to sex trafficking. It is used as a slang term to tout or persuade others to use your goods.

It is an insult to call someone a pimp by my standards as per the dictionary definition of the word. Others may think differently, using the word only to describe how much money or flashy goods a person has.

Pimp is a slang term used to describe someone who is slick, smooth talking, fashionable, and stylish. It can also mean to excessively customize a thing such as a car. So again, it depends who is saying it and what their intention is.

To promote is to raise someone or something up to a more important job. It is positive. To pimp is to degrade sex workers, who are human beings and not property. So therefore they are not the same thing.

It is offensive to pimp out a human, but not a thing. Freedom of speech says that you can say whatever you want and whatever I say will not change that.

The Montreal Grand Prix is always noisy. First, there are the rather loud Formula 1 engines revving on Ile Notre-Dame at the event itself on Sunday. Then there are the street parties all weekend on a blocked off Crescent and more recently lower Saint-Laurent as well. And, of course, there are the protests.

As in previous years, people will be out in force against the hyper-capitalism intrinsic to the event. One of the things many protesters argue the F1 promotes, including those who put together this Critical Mass event, is sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Montreal-based sex workers’ rights organization Stella is, of course, also against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, but feels that during the Grand Prix, sex work is unfortunately conflated with trafficking in quite a bit of the protest messaging. They have launched a social media poster campaign to counter this perception.

In a press release, they argue that:

“(The Grand Prix) brings with it exaggerated and unfounded claims of an increase in human trafficking, and youth and sexual exploitation. In more recent years it has also resulted in increased police repression and surveillance of people working in the sex industry and our clients. Amidst this flurry of attention, sex workers in Montreal are placed at greater risk of violence as they undertake working practices to avoid police detection, that put our security at risk.”

– Stella press release

This evokes a similar style to that used by Femen’s Grand Prix protests: topless women with messages written on their bodies. What’s different with Stella’s campaign is that the women’s faces and nipples are covered and the messages are against the criminalization of sex work, a.k.a. prohibition.

(* Ed’s note: We mentioned Femen just so it was clear that this campaign wasn’t at all the same as that group’s stunt at last year’s Grand Prix, but Stella made quite a good and correct point: “Is it our campaign that is reminiscent of Femen’s or is it Femen who appropriates our culture and fails to recognize the work of all the sex workers who have been pioneers of toplessness and of using breasts to subvert patriarchy?”)

Will this campaign help change the messaging of anti-Grand Prix protests? Given some of the comments already on event pages that argue against lumping sex work in with exploitation and trafficking, it’s possible that it could tip the balance by giving those comments a unified voice.

Will this campaign get lost in the shuffle? Given the huge amount of attention paid to the Grand Prix as well as the multitude of divergent protests, that is possible as well.

One thing is for sure: the Grand Prix will be at least a little louder this year.

You can read more about the Stella campaign on their site and Facebook page

Jacq the Stripper, aka Jacqueline Frances, is an insatiable female force of nature. She is a true “Jacq” of all trades: writer, stripper, illustrator, comedian, and inspiration to us all.

In her highly anticipated new show and book The Beaver Show she reveals a more intimate side of being a stripper. In the book she lets us in, deep, and tells us about her tour from Australia to New York. Now with the help from her friends, fans, and former lovers’ Kickstarter support, she is coming back on tour to her favorite place in the world, Montreal!

I was lucky enough to ask her a few questions. As a burlesque dancer myself it was interesting to hear her perspectives and comments about girl power and body positivity. She does what she wants and takes inspiration from some of my favorites.

Go see her show and support beauty and bawdy artistic freedom, you will regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t. I’ll be the guy sitting in the corner jacking off. See you there! Splash zone in the corner. 😉

photo by Cat McCarthy
photo by Cat McCarthy

Here are a few excerpts from her incredible book The Beaver Show that you just have to buy and have her sign for you:

“I dance. Naked. For large (and occasionally insultingly modest) sums of money.”

It all started five years ago in Sydney, Australia when she was just 23: “I still wanted to be a traveler, just not a poor one anymore. So I shaved my legs and bush, showed up to the first Google search result that came up for ‘gentlemen’s club Sydney,’ got naked for this old fat guy named Jim and, to my surprise, I liked it. A lot.”

Stripping is about feeling powerful, sexy, and endlessly curious about how far a dude’s kinks will go (‘show me your armpits’) and how much he is willing to pay for them ($1200).

And the money’s sexy.

The Beaver Show Tour is coming to the area (Did you just cum in your pants when you read that? Are you even wearing any pants?)

  • January 20 2016 8pm An Evening with Jacq the Stripper @ Chez Serge, Montreal $20 for the book (incl. free cover) or $5 cover
  • January 22 2016 The Riff @ Le Nouveau Theatre Ste. Catherine, Montreal $7
  • January 24 2016 9:30pm Crimson Wave Comedy @ The Comedy Bar, Toronto $5
  • January 26 2016 7pm An Evening with Jacq the Stripper @ The Side Door Barrie, ON $10 advance / $15 door
  • January 27 2016 @ The Beaver Toronto ON


1) So you are just a writer that strips right (sarcasm all day there)? When did you decide to write a book? How long did the process take?

I’ve always been a writer, and when I started stripping I couldn’t NOT write about it. My first day ever was over five years ago, so I guess you could say that’s when I started writing it. After a torturous year or so of trying to nab an agent, I published it in October 2015.

2) What was your initial response to David Bowie’s passing? How has he influenced your art?

It was a very sad morning when I found out. In my first year at McGill, one of my teachers told us to choose an ‘artifact that symbolizes modernity.’ Most people chose things like ticketing machines or nylon stockings… I chose the persona of Ziggy Stardust and went on to write a 25-page paper on him. I got the paper back and my professor was like, “This is a stretch for what I assigned… but clearly you are very passionate about David Bowie. B+”

He did whatever the fuck he wanted and man did he ever commit to it. I knew he got dressed every single day not giving a fuck about what other people thought of him. His talent and his image were inseparable and it was clear that he enjoyed that. He’s a legend in my heart and in all the manifestations of my creativity.

3) Congrats on meeting your Kickstarter goal! Have you ever seen the Amanda Palmer “Art of Asking” TED Talk? Have you ever thought of doing your own TED Talk? What would you title it? I’d so watch it! You are an inspiring lady.

Thank you! I guess my stand-up is a little preachy and story-telling-y, so maybe I’m already a TED talk in the making… albeit a raunchy one. I haven’t seen Amanda Palmer’s but I’ll be checking that out very soon! What’s their policy on profanity? I have yet to eradicate swearing from my set. It’s just too important.

photo by Ryan Kobane
photo by Ryan Kobane

4) I respect that you are a touring artist and strive to do that more with my own burlesque show. Do you have any advice? How did you get your tour off the ground? Is it hard to be married and touring? Do you have any pets at home? I often think I need a tour bus that is cat friendly because I couldn’t leave my lil fur babies.

No pets no babies low rent and the most encouraging, grounded wife in the world is how I can even fathom going on this tour. Kickstarter certainly helped make it all happen, which really just means I have a community of people who believe in me. I would not be able to do it without the support of my friends, family, and randoms on the internet who are stoked about my mission to humanize sex work and spread the gospel of happy sluts. The tour is only just beginning so I can’t speak to its challenges yet. BUT THERE WILL BE PLENTY, I ASSURE YOU.

5) You are performing in Montreal this week. Tell me about your show? Does it vary based on the night?

The Beaver Show book tour is a different show every night. I like to invite local brains and talent to collaborate, as I don’t think I’m at the one-woman-show point in my life yet. I have my stand-up act, but that’s only part of it. In Toronto, for example, we’re having Victoria Lean, a brilliant filmmaker, host while I tell jokes and riff from the book (I hate reading aloud – I think it’s boring) followed by a Q&A with musician Leah Fay from July Talk.

6) Montreal is my favorite city in the world! What is your favorite Montreal adventure story?

It is my favourite city in the world, too! I spent five incredibly formative years there and I don’t even know where to begin because my whole life there was an adventure. I mean let’s just talk for a minute about how cheap the rent was: I had a two bedroom apartment all to my damn self for $600 a month. It was above GoGo lounge, so it was loud as fuck but I didn’t care because I never slept. I painted on my walls and ate $2 chow mein with peanut butter sauce on it when I was hungry… Oprah should have really interviewed me about living my Best Life.

7) Do you have any comments about censorship? Male nipples vs female nipples on social media? Have you experienced censorship firsthand?

BOOBS FEED BABIES. Start censoring male nipples, please. They’re not as pretty AND they are LITERALLY useless as fuck.

8) Do you consider yourself a feminist? What would you like a young girl to take from your show?

I AM A RAGING FEMINIST. I will shout it from the rooftops.

My show is 18+ because I talk about very adult issues. But I know that young girls are going to see it anyway, and to them I will tell them “It’s your body and don’t let anyone shame you for it. Do what feels right and always take a minute to make sure you’re doing what you want and not what you think you should be doing.”

9)Who is your biggest artistic influence? I also see that you just performed in Baltimore and your book is sold at Atomic Books. How has John Waters affected you and your work?

Oh my god John Waters is one of my heroes. I’d like to make movies as delightfully crass as his one day. He revels in bad taste and doesn’t have a pretentious bone in his body. He is so curious and has lived a life where he’s done whatever he wants, whether it’s film, books, stand-up comedy or hitchhiking across America. Whenever I get discouraged about pursuing my dreams, I remember that he made Pink Flamingos with $10 000. He inspires me so say whatever the fuck I want without worrying about the approval of elitist tastemakers. The more people won’t let you in to their club, the harder you’ll try to build your own.

10) I’m a big fan of your illustrations! Did you go to art school? If so how do you think it prepared you for your current path?

I was in an art program in grade 9, but that was eons ago… I just started doodling to illustrate what was being said to me at work. Now I treat my art like a new platform for my storytelling, plus it’s so goddamn therapeutic. Seriously if you can’t afford therapy, buy a sketchbook. And if the thought of drawing stresses you out, buy a colouring book. You will feel better.

11) Any other tid bits you would like people to know about you? Where are you from? Like long walks on the beach? What’s your sign? Ect….

I’m Canadian, from Ontario although I claimed Montreal for a while. Now I’m just an expat. I only say I’m from New York when I’m trying to book venues (it works).

I’m an Aquarius, I love blue cheese, swimming and giving close friends shitty makeovers.

Buy my book! It’s called The Beaver Show, and you can get it on Amazon. Or go to your local independent bookstores and beg them to stock my book. If you have time to do that I would be eternally grateful.

* Featured image by Andy Boyle

* An Evening with Jacq the Stripper @ Chez Serge, 5301 Boul St-Laurent, Wednesday January 20th, 8pm, $20 for the book (incl. free cover) or $5 cover

* The Riff @ Le Nouveau Theatre Ste. Catherine, 264 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Friday, January 22nd, $7

* For more: jacqthestripper.com

Toronto-based filmmakers Kathryn Palmateer and Shawn Whitney just wrapped up production on their second indie movie Fucking My Way Back Home. As with their debut feature A Brand New You, the writer/director/producer duo and married couple are turning to Indiegogo to help offset the costs of post-production.

As the title suggests, the film, which stars Freya Ravensbergen, Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz and Julio Benitez Guardiola deals with sex work. It does so, though, in a way not common with most Hollywood productions. I had a chance to ask Whitney about the project:

FTB: Briefly, tell me what Fucking My Way Back Home is in your own words.

Shawn Whitney: We’re calling it a “sex worker dystopia” to highlight the fact that the Tory model of criminalization is creating dangerous situations for sex workers and this story is meant to reflect that reality. But it’s also – more conventionally – an erotic thriller and road movie that takes place over the course of one night.

What made you want to make a film with sex work as a main theme?

This story was one that I had worked on with another writer a number of years ago, named Reece Crothers. We didn’t end up doing anything with it and it just sort of sat around in a drawer, unwritten. We were looking for something that we could produce and direct that was do-able for a minimal budget and it seemed to be that but also all the debate that arose around sex work in recent years also made it seem like a good story to tell right now.

Did you contact any sex worker support or advocacy groups and/or do you plan to?

The thing is that it’s quite difficult. Sex worker organizations, like Maggie’s in Toronto, are busy, under-funded and tired of dealing with filmmakers who misrepresent sex workers and the sex industry for their own gain.

Maggie’s won’t even talk to filmmakers unless they are or were sex workers. I can’t say that I blame them but, on the other hand, we were going to make this movie and we wanted to talk to some sex workers to make sure that we weren’t misrepresenting their experience in important ways.

fucking my way back home 2

This was also a challenge – again, I think the “underground” nature of the industry contributes to that. We did meet with the owner of an escort agency. She gave us some really good notes and then sort of disappeared. Freya, our lead actress, also met with a couple of former escorts and got really good notes that affected the final shape of the script.

We would have loved to hire someone as a consultant but literally no one got paid on this film shoot so we weren’t in a position to do more than feed people and buy them drinks after the shoot was over.

With Hollywood a-listers like Anne Hathaway and Lena Dunham coming out against Amnesty International’s proposal to decriminalize sex work, do you think the abolitionist and victim who needs to be rescued (a la Pretty Woman) models permeate mainstream cinema? If so, do you think this will change anytime soon, or are indie films the only recourse?

A few years ago I wouldn’t have believed how quickly representations of gay men and transgender people would move forward. There are still major problems, of course, but I’m old enough to remember the Al Pacino film Cruising and how gay men were represented as homicidal or sick in some way.

The key was not that Hollywood got more progressive it was that LGBT people fought for their civil rights over years and years and years. And in the process of winning some important gains – like same sex marriage – they also transformed out culture in important ways.

The hope, I think, for cultural representations of sex workers ultimately lies in a movement for sex worker rights that is led by sex workers themselves. This exists, for instance, in parts of the developing world – large, militant sex worker unions, etc. So, it could happen here and that would shatter the kinds of paternalistic attitudes that certain feminists have towards sex workers.

It’s worth saying also that the flip side of this is the perspective peddled by the porn industry, which tries to portray sex worker as simply a matter of personal choice. It’s not that simple either. We have to take into account poverty, lack of options, gender oppression. But instead of fighting to ban the sex industry – whether porn or escort services, whatever – we should fight for better conditions, fight to unionize workers in the industry.

Where did you get the idea to crowdfund this film? Do you think this is the future of indie cinema?

We crowdfunded after our first film, which helped to offset some of the costs of post-production. So, we wanted to do it again and we’ve done a slightly better job this time, even though we’ve been a bit more neglectful of the campaign, strangely.

The idea of crowdfunding is everywhere in the indie film world and people see campaigns like the one by Zach Braf that raised a million dollars or whatever or the campaigns for various reboots of the Star Trek franchise and think that could be them. Sorry, not gonna happen. You’re not going to raise a million dollars with your first, second or third film. Ingrid Veninger – a very well known DIY filmmaker in Toronto just raised $36 000 for her fifth film He Hates Pigeons.

fucking my way back home 3

Break it down – where is that $50 000 going to come from in real terms? Do you have 1000 friends who will each give $50? I wish I did!

So it’s not going to allow most filmmakers to make even “microbudget” films in the $150K range. But it does provide another tool to help build a following and can offset, for instance, some of your post-production costs.

Indie filmmaking, it seems to me, is more and more like building a band – you start with a following of immediate friends and family. If you make something good and find creative ways to get the word out, you can expand your audience and then mobilize them to help you make your next movie.

You can go from raising $5000 to $6000-$7000. That’s nothing to sneeze at. For a long time in the conventional industry “pre-sales” have been a key element of financing films. Crowdfunding at its best is like that – I like to call it: “pre-sales from below,” rather than pre-sales through corporate broadcasters and national or international distributors.

* You can help Fucking My Way Back Home’s pre-sales by donating to their Indiegogo Campaign (less than two days left)

* Photos by Douglas Hunter, courtesy of Dangerous Dust Productions

Last winter, history was made in Canada when, after years of lobbying, the Supreme Court struck down three major aspects of sex work laws in Canada, making them void. This was a unique occurrence, where the Supreme Court gave legislators one year to come up with new legislation. This opportunity for change meant that Canada could lead the way with sex work reform, crafting a new model that could make the lives of sex workers less marginalized and overall safer.

While some applauded the strike down, groups like STELLA based in Montreal, and Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, acted as an intervener on the case. Others like the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), took a firm stance against the ruling, stating that such a ruling failed to protect Indigenous women who are already marginalized by society.

Now, the Conservative government has tabled a bill that would target – in Minister Peter MacKay’s words – “pimps and johns” in an effort to criminalize the purchasing of sex work. However this has received criticism from groups that say this will actually make it harder for sex work to be practiced safely.

The name itself is unsavoury – “The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act”– a bill that itself seems concentrated on taking the agency away from sex workers, by deeming them “exploited persons.” Even after tabling the bill, MacKay referred to sex work as a “degrading activity,” that will “always have inherent danger.”

Under the proposed bill, the buying of sexual services, as well as the profiting from others, will be deemed illegal. Additionally, it will also be illegal for services to be advertised in areas where children could be present, something that those who oppose the bill say would force those involved with sex work into less populated and more dangerous areas.

Another part of the act makes it illegal for print or online advertising of services, something that Christine Wilson points out in a Globe and Mail editorial, makes it so sex workers cannot work from home or bawdy houses, areas that can be made secure and vetted beforehand and thus making it more unsafe for sex workers.

Across the board the feedback from the proposed bill appears to be negative. Sex workers and organizations that work to fight for their rights have come out against the bill. The consensus is the bill, while not totally criminalizing sex work, would make it hard for sex workers to work in a safe, secure environment.

By pushing Bill C-36 forward, the Conservative government is ignoring the chance to actually positively reform the laws regarding sex work in Canada, and instead pushes forward a bill that actually endangers the lives of sex workers. MacKay, and other members of the government, should actually take the advice of the workers they are supposedly seeking to protect, and formulate laws in consultation with groups like STELLA, or Maggie’s in Toronto, to form new legislation that would actually be beneficial for sex workers across Canada.