Review: $pread

Okay. So for those of you who aren’t familiar with $pread, it was a sex worker targeted and run magazine that had a pretty good following and presence a decade ago. It’s still quite sad that it stopped being produced, although other sex workers have definitely stepped up to provide other outlets to make SW voices heard, through Zines like Working It (Full disclosure- I’ve submitted some writing to Working It.), sites like Tits and Sass, and through blogs and platforms like Tumblr.

Basically, there’s a lot more ways to speak out, but back in the day, $pread was really daring for collecting sex workers’ voices. Pretty cool stuff.

This is a REALLY great book if you have even a passing interest in the sex industry. Contributors’ pedigrees vary widely, from porn performers, to strippers, and everything in between. And the discussions are often scathing. From the double standard in payment processors’ treatment of “red porn”, to intersections of racist and colonialist narratives in discussions on foreign sex work and trafficking, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into.

The format hasn’t really been changed from their original publication; these essays are short, grouped together loosely by theme,  and quick to get through.  It’s not my preferred way of getting information, but it’s great for when you just have a few minutes, or if you’re just trying to get an informative overview, rather than reading an academic paper on that subject.

The written voice varies widely by contributor, but on the whole it’s a bit drier, more informative. It’s not a personality-laden confessional like a lot of the memoirs you see on the market, that live and die on how distinctive the writer’s voice is.

There were a few segments that didn’t appeal to me as much; I found myself flipping past the illustrations, and skimming the debates. The debates just didn’t get as deep as I’d have liked; each participant wrote one letter on the issue, and they didn’t actually continue to debate and address each other’s points. It could have been really interesting had they actually been playing off each other’s ideas. But, limited space in a magazine and all.

To be honest, reading it makes me really sad it went under. You CAN get a similar discussion and knowledge base if you know where to look, and if you pay close attention, but having it aggregated so prettily is something that would still be a boon for newer sex work issues, such as the plethora of lawsuits alleging that strippers were miscategorized as independent contractors, the conflation of consensual sex work with human trafficking, Canada’s ongoing debate over the  End-Demand model, the targeting of sites like MyRedBook, Backpage, and more. Since $pread stopped publishing, a lot’s changed. A lot’s the same, but a lot’s changed. And the information on all of it can be very spread out, and not greatly covered on a national or international level.

It would be great having an up-to-date version of this to point to when I encounter people who’re less familiar with the industry, but who still want to learn more about it. It’s still gonna be near the top of my recommended reading list, supplemented by other sites and other activists’ work to follow.


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