Elevate Difference

Modern Day Asian Sex Slavery: The Musical (2/18/11)

Long Beach, California

Each year CSULB has Sex Positive Week, presented by various feminist and queer student groups. Mariko Passion, activist, artist, and out and proud sex worker, kicked off the week of festivities with her one-woman show, Modern Day Asian Sex Slavery: The Musical.

Passion is a champion of what she refers to as the Whore Revolution, a phrase coined by fellow activist Emi Koyama. According to Koyama, the Whore Revolution begins with the acknowledgment that not all sex work is voluntary or safe and it aspires to create a world in which they are. After getting to know Passion a bit and attending an event thrown by the Sex Workers Outreach Program in Los Angeles (SWOP-LA), it has been brought to my attention that there is an entire generation of young women who do not feel victimized by their work. There are literally thousands of women who are not ashamed of how they make their money. These are women who are passionate, empowered, intelligent, and fighting for the most basic of human rights. As Jessie Nicole, director or SWOP-LA told me at an event earlier this month, sex workers see their work as just that—work. The average person doesn’t have to worry about being beaten, raped, or robbed while at the office and sex workers don’t want to have to worry about these things either.

Passion began her one woman show explaining to the audience that she starts each session with a massage. Straddling a pink Hello Kitty body pillow, Passion described how she uses her small hands to rub and coax her client into a safe, submissive state. This quiet before the storm also assists her in preparing to be intimate. According to Passion, eighty-five percent of the time she is not sexually attracted to the men she services and her sensual, slow massage enables her to “establish a genuine connection” while getting in the mood.

Her show was off to a strong start but was interrupted by various technical glitches and a few awkward on-stage costume changes that resulted in the audience getting a glimpse of Passion’s goods. It was obvious that Passion, who is Chinese and Japanese, hoped to tell the story of the plight of the Asian sex worker and the many ridiculous sound bits and pop culture tidbits she’s been reduced to. As a matter of fact, one of the most compelling moments of Passion’s show was when it appeared as if she broke away from the script, cursing, saying how much the infamous scene from Full Metal Jacket fucked with her childhood, how often she heard, “Me so horny, me love you long time.” As a virginal child completely unaware of sex work, it proved a rude introduction to the stereotypes Asian women must deal with.

Using old news clips and radio broadcasts, music, slides, and songs, it was an admiral attempt to cover decade’s worth of racism and sexual politics stemming from the Vietnam War, but it simply seemed like Passion didn’t have enough time to tell the story that was in her heart. Though entertaining and containing flashes of genius (traipsing around stage using a pink dildo as a mic and singing a dirty version of “I Enjoy Being a Girl"), we’ll have to call this a precocious work in progress with a lot of potential.

Photo courtesy of Stefan Agregado, photographer and photo editor at The Daily 49er.

Written by: Tina Vasquez, February 28th 2011