I had asked Lady Monster, over a pair of red wine glasses and the pleasant buzz of nearby patrons at Revolution Cafe, to tell me what story she'd read at the Halloween installation of her Naked Girls Reading literary series. We were chatting in anticipation of her International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers edition of NGR (Fri/17) which will take place at the Center for Sex and Culture after the day's City Hall vigil and march.
The curvaceous redhead is quite the story teller, even clothed. “I did the elevator scene from The Shining,” she told me, launching into a brief summary of the Torrance family's elevator travails. By the end of it I had the crap scared out of me – and she was fully clothed! Imagine what this lady can get done in the buff – surely, a live literary luminary not to be trifled with.
Lady Monster first heard of the Naked Girls Reading series circa its Chicago inception by burlesque showgirl Michelle L'Amour in 2009. The series sits down sex-positive female role models (SF's chapter features sexologist Carol Queen, sex activists, and burlesque beauty Dottie Lux among others) for a theme night of literary lustiness. The event struck a chord (books and boobies yay!), and not just among Chicago pervs – the series has been featured on the Carson Daly show and has spread to nine other cities. “Like wild blazes,” says Monster.
“Almost immediately Michelle had people wanting to franchise the series,” she continues. Naked girls getting brainy? Lady Monster had an inkling that her own San Francisco community would gag for a NGR chapter of their own. She scheduled NGR's SF breakout in May of this year and the show's played to packed houses every two months since – and will score a regular monthly gig at Viracocha come the new year. “It's so much fun, so silly. It's all about being comfortable in your own skin,” Monster asserts.
That's something that she's had little trouble with – even growing up on an Ohio farm, Monster started hosting her (initially PG-13 rated) play parties in fifth grade. “I'd have all my friends over and make sure everyone was coupled off. Then we'd go into my room and close the door. At first we'd all just make out, but as we got older it got more serious. I was my own sexually liberated role model!” With a little help from some open-minded parents, of course. “They didn't bother us, they let us have our time together.”
From grade school groping, Monster graduated to more advanced expressions of sexuality. She worked the graveyard shift at a phone sex line and loved the intimacy and honesty she could find in horny men just getting home from last call. “I wanted to hear their secrets all the time,” she confesses. But she wanted it to happen face to face, so she tripped her way into a job doing “legal escort work.” Private peep show stuff, for which Monster would strip or faux-masturbate for a paying customer.
Only it wasn't legal, a fact that her employer neglected to tell her. And even though she was getting face to face time, the sexual intimacy she'd felt with men on the other end of the phone line was gone. “There was no talking! Yeah, the money was a lot better but I had to get out of there.” All the way to San Francisco, in fact – where Monster has put her open sexuality to work in service to SF Sex Information and pens sex stories and erotic poetry. She's also a long time performer in the burlesque scene – she's been known to create her own astronomically-inspired LED-lit costumes and accesorize with glitter-dipped viking axes. Oh, and she toured with Ministry.
Like NGR, The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was created by an empowered sexual superstar and has grown into a far-reaching event, marked by vigils in cities around the globe and marches of men and women carrying red umbrellas (the adopted symbol of the movement). It was started by the Bay's own feminist porn star Annie Sprinkle, an ex-sex worker who Monster counts amongst her role models: “she's not really a mother figure, more like a respected aunt,” Monster says.
“Sex workers need protection,” she continues, noting that Sprinkle started the annual day of memorial after reading a serial killer's confession that he killed over 40 prostitutes because he knew they were less likely to be reported missing or inspire dedicated police investigations.
Lady Monster's convinced that sex worker safety is an issue that carries particular import this year for a variety of reasons. First: shitty profits. “Business is definitely being affected by the economy,” she says. “And on top of that the market's flooded,” with all the men and women out of work in other industries. Lack of work can make it harder to avoid risky working situations that put sex workers at risk of withheld wages, assault, or rape. The shut-down of Craigslist's casual encounters listings has made it more difficult to find clients in the first place, and in the midst of all of this, SFPD has adopted an evidenciary policy that discourages condom usage: if cops find a rubber on a suspected prostitute, they'll use it as evidence of intent to have sex for money.
That's why Monster's event Friday (which follows a vigil and march from City Hall that starts at 4 p.m.) will give voice to those that often go unheard in our society. Monster, her regular NGR cast, and Sprinkle will all read from literature penned by sex workers, including Jillian Lauren's memoir of her time in the prince of Brunei's harem and Scarlet Harlot's account of becoming a radical prostitute, Unrepentant Whore.
“This is such a great opportunity for feminism and art,” Monster says. Undeniably, giving naked women a stage on which to talk about reclamation of body and sex issues is a unique approach. NGR, sex worker edition: sure to be a hot night, but also a reflection of the power of corpus woman when framing its own literary discourse.
Naked Girls Reading: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
Fri/17 9 p.m., $15-20
Center for Sex and Culture
1519 Mission, SF