“You don’t have to agree with what I do with my body, but it’s my body.”- Betty Devoe
“The play has so many elements to it that when you try to explain it, you just can’t”. That’s the way panel host Isaac Gomez put it and the audience couldn’t agree more. Oppression, identity, victimization, ownership, freedom. These are the words audiences used to describe what ‘The House That Will Not Stand’ was about.
On July 1, Victory Gardens was joined by Betty Devoe, the co-founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago, a Chicago based Dominatrix, independent feminist porn producer, sex worker, and owner of Devoe Productions, and Cruel Valentine, an award-winning, international burlesque entertainer and adult model in a special panel, an under explored post-show conversation demystifying myths and shedding light to sex work and sex trafficking in our world today, and so the Body Politic panel began.
“I imagine it can be very empowering and very disempowering at the same time” Devoe said when asked about the plasage system she then brings the idea to today’s situation with sex work. She talks about how both relate to this idea of survival for the person “what other choices do you have?”. “It was kind of the first example of woman being able to use sex work to raise status.” Relating it to empowerment of today while at the same time Cruel Valentine compares it to how sex work at times is seen as an act of survival. Seeing this as the evolution of sex work going for survival to choice
“Sex work is emotional labour” Valentine replies when asked about how sex work has translated and evolved from the time of ‘The House That Will Not Stand’ to today. Our panelist then begin to point out the interesting point that everything in this world is transactional, bringing up the idea that even in a monogamous relationship sex is transactional, even if neither partner identifies as a sex worker.
Where are we now, in terms of sex work?
Devoe talks about how the nation is very divided on sex work. Devoe compares it to another hot button issue in the nation, but one we talk about; abortion: “It’s your body, your choice”, Devoe talks about how sex worker activist are changing attitudes of many people they have encountered while working with SWOP. “You don’t have to agree with what I do with my body, but it’s my body. I have a Right to do with it what I want”.
Afterwards the floor was open to audience questions where we debunked myths about pimps, family of sex workers, and independent workers.
As we wrapped up the night, Host Isaac Gomez asked what the audience would walk away with. One Patron said he would be leaving with the question. “What if we had more open talks about Sex Work? Where could we go with that?”, leaving the theatre and this powerful conversation with the simple question of; what if.