As a proud partner for the inaugural Sugar & Spice Festival that’s happening this 1-15 August 2020, we are bringing you this series of interviews with presenters so that you get to know them better and their workshops.
Today, we have Steph Sia, an exotic dancer based in Vancouver, who is moderating “The Token Asian – Talking Race in Sex Work” panel on the 9th August. We ask her some questions about the panel and her background. Please enjoy and sign up for her session!
Q: You are a panelist for “The Token Asian – Talking Race in Sex Work”. What kind of sex work experiences in relation to race will you be bringing into the conversation?
Our panel will be discussing stripping, content creation (i.e. OnlyFans, ManyVids, etc.), escorting and sugaring. We will be a quartet featuring myself as the moderator, together with panelists Naomi Vice, Jolene Salonga and Salome Salvi. We are all of Filipino descent and will be diving deep into the topic of sex work as Filipinas specifically. The talk will compare and contrast sex work in North America versus Asia and how our race has played a role in how we view, consume, and work in the sex industry.
Q: You run an edgy podcast “Stripped by SIA.” What inspired you to start this podcast and how has the journey been?
I started stripping professionally almost two years ago in Vancouver, Canada. During one of my shifts, one of my clients commented on how “cool” the “stripper scene” was in Vancouver. Curious about this statement, I asked him to elaborate and he shared with me that many strippers have influential status and symbols in the city. That statement intrigued me and led me to want to showcase the many stories and lived experiences of sex workers and inspired me to start my podcast, Stripped by SIA.
What started off mainly for strippers in my local community has grown to include all kinds of sex work, gender identities, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour), and more. It has truly been an enlightening journey and I feel honoured to help educate and inform civilians (non-sex workers) and even those who work in tandem in our community.
Q: As you are based in Vancouver, Canada, tell us – for those who don’t live there – how Canadians perceive sex workers and the industry.
Sex work is very broad. It covers much more than the strippers and escorts that are portrayed in the media or what society has previously taught us. We are generally open-minded in Vancouver. The west coast is typically left-wing and not perceived as conservative, so it is a really interesting contrast with other parts of the world where sex work is not accepted and still seen as taboo. However, there are still major loopholes and flaws within Canadian jurisdictions and laws surrounding sex work. Canada’s Bill-36 functions similar to what rules are in place in Singapore as well as the USA (FESTA-SOSTA) in failing to protect sex workers where advertising and negotiating and living off the means of sex work are outlawed.
Q: What key misconceptions do people have about the sex industry which needs to be addressed regardless of race and culture?
Common misconceptions include:
- Sex workers are forced into this line of work. I won’t discount that there are many cases where this rings true; however, a lot of us choose to do this work and are fully consenting.
- All sex workers are addicted to drugs or tangled up in substance abuse. Again, there are individuals who are suffering from substance abuse but we treat this as a job/career and take it seriously. In stripping in Vancouver, many of the dancers I know, interviewed and have worked with are actually sober, including myself. You wouldn’t go to your day job drunk or high or on drugs, would you?
- Sex work is easy. Since COVID-19 has hit, there has been an influx of “civilian” ciswomen becoming content creators to sell their nudes with the assumption that “it makes a quick buck”. Many outsiders and civilians think that this job is easy but it takes a lot of time to create rich content, consistently marketing and reinventing yourself to gain a following.
Q: From your social media, you showcase your various interests such as cooking, travelling and pole dancing. What other ventures would you like to embark on in the future if you had the time and space?
Yes! I have many interests – sex work is just one of them! I used to work in luxury travel and loved working in that industry, being given the privilege to travel the world. I’m looking forward to being able to travel once again! I also share a love of cooking and would like to write and publish a Filipino cookbook from the perspective of a North American-born Filipina. COVID-19 has given me the time to get in touch with my heritage and I would love to share my recipes and version of dishes I grew up with as a kid. If I had the time and space (and money!) I’d cook and document my experiences learning about new cuisines around the world in video.
If you’re interested to attend Steph’s or other presenters’ workshops, please go to www.sugarandspice.asia to get your festival pass!
Images: Steph Sia