Written By Yin Q
Deal Annabel Chong,
I first learned about your work when I was apprenticing as a professional dominatrix in the Bay Area. You were a guest star at a San Francisco strip club and I had asked one of my submissive clients to drive me into the city to see you. The strip club was a familiar kind of space. Like you, I had also entered sex work to pay rent and food during college years, my own path via erotic burlesque.
At the club, I patiently watched (and generously tipped) a line up of tantalizing dancers as they slid the stage and twirled the pole. But when you walked onto the stage, my eyes teared with immense joy. You glowed with inner strength and defiance. With each item of clothing shed, you revealed a power of self-celebration, resilience, and well-crafted labor.
t’s complicated for Asian women to claim their sexuality. We are exoticized by the white, male gaze. We are victimized and vilified by anti-sex worker, second-wave feminism. This is what drives me to organize with Red Canary Song, a grassroots organization of Asian American sex workers and allies. We advocate and provide resources to those in our communities with the least access to privilege and power, specifically the Asian migrant massage parlor workers.
Your courage to claim sex work as your art and activism is a powerful contribution to Asian America. You were a proponent of feminism that embraces bodily autonomy and the right to independent livelihood as intersectional issues.
At the end of your set, I stepped meekly to the stage to hand you flowers and a wad of cash. Your smile lit with warm encouragement. Adoration, respect, and sustenance. Adoration, or the lust for a sex worker, is work that they actively cultivate. They produce and perform erotic desirability, advertising erotic exchange. Whether that exchange happens on a screen, in a massage parlor, or onstage, it is a workspace that should be safe and protected by labor laws. Respect and sustenance are the compensation, and the responsibility of the client. Sex workers need both to survive.
Annabel Chong, you defied the passive Asian woman trope in your video work, taking agency as the champion. Blending performance art and pornography, your work has become an epic legend in sex work and as feminist performance art.
In writing and producing my web show, Mercy Mistress, you inspired me to center my narrative as a first-generation Chinese American sex worker. The story shows kink work as a form of human connection and compassion, along with the complicated issues that arise from exterior stigma and discriminating laws.
I am infuriated to learn that you, like many sex workers, were never justly paid for the work that you created, despite its popular success. This injustice is an abuse of your labor. The labor violations you endured is one of many reasons we are calling for protection and decriminalization. Sex workers should be paid for their labor, have safe and healthy working conditions, and be able to choose to leave the industry without repercussions. In 2015, our organizing efforts were formally recognized by Amnesty International’s policy calling for global decriminalization of sex work.
This year we will gather on June 2, 2020 for an online rally for the 45th International Whores Day in alliance with sex workers to call for decriminalization of our livelihoods.
I respect your bow out of public life and the sex industry in 2003. But I hope that this letter reaches your eyes. I want you to know that you are cared for, you are honored, and your work carries on.
Yin Q is a BDSM educator, writer/director, and sex worker rights activist. They are founder/director of Kink Out; writer/exec producer of Mercy Mistress; and co-director of Red Canary Song, a grassroots organization of APIA sex workers and allies advocating for the rights and protection of Asian migrant massage workers. More at www.YinQ.net