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We’ve got a pretty big crush on Charlotte Shane. This New York IT girl started working as a webcam girl and in 2014 took her experiences as a sex worker and turned it into beautiful confessional letters. Her Tinyletter series kicked off because of its genuine emotions and truths about life, sex, and love, and gained s5,000 subscribers. Those loyal readers turned into major supporters when she took her TinyLetter series and started a Kickstarter campaign to publish the book. She raised $27,842, way more than her goal, to publish her book Prostitute Laundry.
Prostitute Laundry to date is her most loved book. This book is a beautifully written truth about life through Charlotte Shane’s eyes. Rarely do you get to experience such raw truth written in a vivid language. This book follows her heartbreakingly beautiful stories throughout her experience as a sex worker as well as the human experience.
Charlotte Shane is a major IT girl. We love how she took on her entrepreneur spirit through her experiences working for her self and transformed that into a book and then her press. Charlotte Shane is coming to Taboo Tabou August 10th for a free reading and book signing. We spoke with her on her writing method, experiences in sex work, and some of our societal ideas about sex work and women.
You write a lot about your experiences as a sex worker- how did you get a start in that field?
The first type of sex work I tried was webcam, as per the recommendation of the guy I was seeing at the time. Before that, I had a single, disastrous experience with escorting under the guise of “sugar” dating which made me think it really wasn’t right for me. Then I wanted to try stripping, but I was shy and inexperienced and physically insecure so (wisely, I think) the man I was dating suggested webcam. I looked in the help wanted ads in my city’s local paper, found someone who was running a webcam studio out of his home, “auditioned” by showing him my breasts, and a decade-long career took off from there! Magical things can happen with a tit flash.
Why does our society engage in activities with sex workers and adult performers but then turn around and completely shame the field?
It’s convenient to outsource any shame we feel or think we should feel to a separate party, and there’s no extricating our misogyny from the ways we understand and talk about and think about sex work, even though (of course!) men sell sex too, as do non-binary folks. Our classism is also a big factor, for that matter. In this month’s Allure, there’s a profile of Emily Ratajkowski that’s typical fawning-over-a-celebirty fodder, in which the author falls over herself to explain how supernaturally enlightened and confident and perfect this model is—a model who quite famously made a name for herself by appearing topless and having big boobs, and who has continued to do lots of nude work and frame it as empowering and feminist. And that article is literally right before to a piece about women making porn, in which the author (a different woman) talks about how uncomfortable she is with the porn that’s available for free online [side note: PAY FOR YOUR PORN, it’s unethical and unfeminist to steal it] and interviews other women who express similar concerns about the agency of women who make porn, how much they “want” to be there, how “real” their reactions are, etc.
That juxtaposition felt so telling to me, and it’s a common one! I wish I had a picture I took last year, of an NYMag with the cover asking, in huge font, “IS PROSTITUTION JUST ANOTHER JOB?” on a table full of women’s mags with women on the covers showing tons of skin next to headlines talking about sex and bodies. Our culture is a shambles when it comes to thinking about the sex industry because it’s a mess when thinking about sex, period. We’re completely incoherent, and our responses are often predicated on maintaining a sexual underclass (whores) who we can continue to scapegoat as extra-degraded and pitiful and morally bad without meaningfully cutting into our own access and enjoyment as consumers.
On top of writing you also started a press! How do you manage your busy schedule and what is the next steps for you?
I am never as busy (and productive) as I wish I were. But if I make good use of August and all else goes according to plan, TigerBee will release at least three books before the end of the year! And I’m incredibly excited about each of them.
What are some tips you have for aspiring writers?
Think about why you want to write, meaning what makes writing worthwhile for you, and feel free to revise that as your career develops. For a while, I thought I wanted to make a living as a freelancer, but I hated the reality of it: constantly pitching, tailoring my work to the outlet’s sensibilities (which were often more conservative than mine,) having to produce a lot of “content” that I didn’t feel very strongly about, dumbing things down, and so on. I realized it was making me a worse writer, so I stopped. Most writers, in the sort of capital “w” sense of the word, don’t make their living through writing alone. They teach, they copyedit, they regular edit, they write copy, they do sex work, they live off their spouse’s income, they live off inherited wealth. A lot of people don’t talk about it (which I think is a shame, because it sets up unrealistic expectations) but supporting yourself by doing exactly (and exclusively) the type of writing you want to do is a needle in the haystack rarity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do exactly and only the type of writing you want to do — it just means you might need a day job to make it possible.