Student sex workers ride the tech wave

As dating apps like Tinder and OKCupid and gadgets such as virtual reality headsets and Wi-Fi-connected sex toys change the way college students meet, date and have sex, the gray area between human interaction and technology becomes wider by the minute.

“The internet obviously opened most doors for me financially, and at least presented the opportunity to make money this way,” said Andrea Zamora, a transfer student at SF State who describes herself as an escort. “Without technology, there wouldn’t be a way that I could even get a hold of the opportunity.”

Despite the newfound potential to make money as an escort, the communication major still has her doubts about the positive impact technology has on her line of work.

“It also hindered me a lot,” Zamora added. “On the internet, any old person can create an ad or a post and claim whatever it is they want. I can’t confirm or identify people. It’s those doubts, those fears … it’s a risky game.”

Zamora said she most often meets clients on Craigslist, who offer her a stipend to go on private dates, pose as a long-term girlfriend at family or work events or even be introduced as a friend or coworker.

Outside of an occasional kiss, Zamora does not offer sexual physical contact for pay.

Escorting is not the only aspect of the business that has been irrevocably changed by technological advancements.

“Typically, in the beginning it was a person behind the camera, doing things for the person on the other side,” said Jordan Emery, BeACamStar.com owner and contributor. “But at this point, the possibilities are endless.”

His blog offers guides, tips and tricks for people making money as webcam models.

Emery, a search engine optimization specialist who has never worked as a webcam model, requested to be identified only by his pen name, to protect his day job at a marketing firm in Wisconsin.

BeACamStar.com offers a myriad of information about some of the newest technology available to the pornography industry. The site’s most popular piece is “How Teledildonics Evolved, Making Camming More Fun Today,” which explains “teledildonics” as an umbrella term for the use of “interactive” sex toys controlled remotely via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

The gadgets were intentionally explored with long-distance couples in mind, but have been widely adopted for pornography actors that perform live via webcam and allow viewers to control their devices.

“It’s evolved in such a way that you’re really able to garner more regulars if you use this technology, and there aren’t really a lot of people doing it yet, so there are plenty of viewers who are willing to pay more so they can, you know, fullfill their fantasies,” Emery said, who hopes that the site will empower readers to make money in nontraditional ways.

The website generates revenue through native advertising and commission when a user signs up for a camming service via BeACamStar.com’s recommendation.

The sex industry has once again proved its profitability through online marketplaces, some more creative than others. PantyDeal, an online “haven” for self-proclaimed pantysniffers, offers women — specifically “amateur,” college-age women, a place to make “extra cash with your unique intimate fragrance,” according to the site’s home page. Information on the site touts an impressive 25,000 registered buyers.

“Our students are using technology in a lot of different ways, but I think they especially are using tech to find community,” said Reyna Aguilar, director of SF State’s Educational and Referral Organization for Sexuality (EROS). “For example, let’s say a student wants to explore a very specific fetish or a kink and they can’t find anyone that they share that with. They can go to different sites, join different groups, find different people in the Bay Area, which is great.”

EROS hosted a public forum on campus about sex work last year and is currently planning to host informational events about sexting, webcam modeling and making money as a sugar baby.

Aguilar said SF State students have shown interest in new sex technology to an extent, but many remain cautious because of a desire to maintain privacy in their online communities and a concern about losing the intimacy and “naturalness” of sexual interaction.

Aguilar stressed the importance of consent and sex worker rights, and mentioned that EROS offers “tons” of resources for SF State students involved in the industry, including a library of books and a wide network of mentors, professionals and confidantes.

When asked to conceive of an online tool that she would benefit from while working as an escort, Zamora said, “I would want an inconceivably detailed client background check device. I want to know criminal background, family life, credit reports … I would love something that could get more clarification and solidification as to who a client really is before I subject myself to their company.”

As far as hardware goes, Zamora added, “I would also like some sort of tool that could make me feel a lot safer when I’m alone with a person, so I don’t have to inconvenience or pay off my friends to come with me and make sure I don’t die. I know that’s kind of a messed up joke but I’m also kind of serious. Sometimes you can’t avoid seclusion.”

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Hayes Valley: The Urban Getaway

Hayes Valley is a dynamic, diverse, and beautiful neighborhood with a rich history and distinct culture, located in the heart of San Francisco just north of Market Street, and west of City Hall.

Hayes Valley has always been considered an “urban getaway” from the bustling and chaotic lifestyle that comes with living or working in San Francisco, and the locals take this reputation very seriously. Hayes Street and others surrounding Patricia’s Green, at the center of the neighborhood, feature an abundance of trees, large colorful murals, and wide sidewalks designed with pedestrians in mind, in an attempt to offer a release from the steady flow of traffic that plagues the downtown area.

The myriad modern specialty shops, boutiques, and eateries stand in contrast to the iconic victorian homes filling the side streets, which creates a charming atmosphere that attracts many visitors from throughout the city. Many of the shops in Hayes Valley are as unique as the community they serve, such as Dark Gardens Corsetry, Isotope Comic Book Lounge, and the KitTea Cat Cafe.

Locals and visitors also gravitate toward Hayes Valley to experience the sense of community created by many local organizations, such as the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. This group, among others, focuses on providing many venues of creative expression, community engagement, and educational advocacy. These venues include family-friendly events like the weekly Hayes Valley Art Works and the public movie screenings in the Proxy outdoor theater, as well as public informational meetings and other outreach programs.

After spending only a few hours in Hayes Valley, it becomes apparent that visual and performing arts are a vital part of the culture that exists there. Works of art can be found around every corner in the neighborhood, including Patricia’s Green, where a massive sculpture by David Best, titled “The Temple,” currently sits. And in addition to the many famous murals and community-centered art projects, Hayes Valley also features some of the most popular theaters, galleries and music venues in the city, such as the San Francisco Ballet, the Conservatory of Music, and the SFJazz Center.

However, the neighborhood’s true claim to fame is in its history of social activism. The story begins with the “freeway revolts,” led by Hayes Valley residents after the earthquake of 1989 damaged a section of the freeway that once stood on what is now Octavia Boulevard. Many residents use the metaphor of the Berlin Wall to describe the old freeway’s effects on the neighborhood, because the freeway physically divided the East side’s upscale music and art scene from the West side’s seedy public housing and heavy concentrations of crime. The fate of the damaged freeway was hotly debated for years, until the progressive Hayes Valley voters were able to convince the city through protests and public elections, that the freeway had to come down.

And since the demolition of the infamous freeway, and the opening of Patricia’s Green—named after Patricia Walkup, a very influential protester and neighbor—Hayes Valley has become a thriving epicenter for local businesses, local art, and community involvement.

The Fake News Watch: Hyper-Partisanship (Ep.5)

With alternative facts and fake news on the rise, The Fake News Watch is where we check the facts, call out the bullshit, and learn to identify the difference. In a deeply divided political world, we all have a responsibility to seek the truth and share it.

References and Additional Reading

Pew Research Center, “Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016”
http://www.people-press.org/2016/06/2…

Axios, “The recent explosion of right-wing news sites”
https://www.axios.com/the-partisan-ex…

Jonathan Albright, The #Election2016 Micro-Propaganda Machine
https://medium.com/@d1gi/the-election…

Watch the full series here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/XpressNewsVideo

 

State Senate Candidates Face Off in Debate

Kaylee Fagan

May 2, 2016

Word Count: 1,278

 

City supervisors and state Senate candidates Scott Wiener and Jane Kim found little common ground in Monday night’s debate, where the two tackled complex issues such as homelessness and San Francisco’s housing crisis, and fought to be the most progressive politician in the room.

Accusations flew, tension rose, and audience members didn’t hold back as each candidate questioned the other’s qualifications, policy implications, and even campaign funding.

Kim, a member of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority that oversees the controversial new Transbay Terminal, is considered to be the more liberal of the two Democrats by voters, yet has been criticized for her lack of policy proposals.

Kim debated aggressively during the second of six debates for the state Senate seat, being vacated by termed-out Senator Mark Leno. In her opening statement, Jane accused Wiener of protecting landlords and fighting against rent control, as well as proposing a “mansion tax” and a motion to make community college free statewide.

Supervisor and Bay Area Toll Authority Commissioner Scott Wiener fired back by saying he had written “multiple” pieces of legislation in favor of affordable housing, including student housing, and reminded the audience that he is “incredibly proud” to be endorsed by current State Senator Mark Leno and California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Wiener was heavily criticized by supporters from Kim’s camp, protesting outside before the debate. Spokeswoman Wendy Aragon described Wiener as  “anti-homeless, anti-low-income, anti-tenant…” while Nora Harrington said “I feel that Wiener represents the Republicans of San Francisco.”

“Scott was previously the chair of the San Francisco Democratic party. So that doesn’t make any sense,” countered Todd David, the political director for Wiener’s campaign. In response to Aragon’s comment, David added, “Scott believes that allowing people to live in tents is inhumane. People deteriorate faster when left on the streets, we need stronger forces addressing the problem.”

Housing and homelessness were the most heated discussion topics of the night, and the candidates used nearly every question to touch on their dedication to these issues.

The housing crisis is a “regional problem” that extends far beyond the gentrified neighborhoods of San Francisco, said Wiener. “The entire Bay Area needs to participate.” Wiener also mentioned that building housing for low-income residents is not the only answer to this problem: “Subsidized low-market housing is important, but we need to expand middle class housing as well.”

“The fastest growing demographic of our homeless population is single, working mothers,” Kim insisted, and was met by applause from the audience. “It sounds simple, but housing is the solution to homelessness,” she asserted, and later pointed out she has “built more affordable housing in my district than anyone on this Board.”

A question about the legalization of sleeping and camping in public places brought out the biggest differences in the candidates, and in their supporters in the audience.

Kim stated her opinion plainly, “I don’t support legislation to criminalize actions that are not criminal…The answer is not to sweep the homeless, it is about investing in housing, and in mental health.” She was again received with enthusiastic cheers, despite her group of identifiable supporters being significantly smaller than Wiener’s.

She also made reference to the controversial sweeps of homeless encampments that took place before the Super Bowl City attraction back in February, calling the practice “inhumane.”

Wiener, who has consistently been accused of criminalizing homelessness, gave some background and attempted to approached the topic with a defensive strategy, appealing to logic.

“We are talking about the Right to Rest Law, sounds great, but it wipes away all our laws based in the use of public spaces,” he began. “Allowing people to live, and ultimately deteriorate and die on the street is not progressive, it is irresponsible–”

Before Wiener could finish his thought, an outcry from the back of the room interrupted him.

“Stop fucking demonizing homeless people!” shouted a young woman who ran out of the room before she could be identified. “Stop demonizing us…” she repeated as she fled.

Wiener didn’t seem shaken by the outburst, after which he continued, “I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to protecting the homeless, but I also value public space.”

The discussion shifted toward public safety, another area in which Wiener has been criticized by Kim supporters for being too far right, ever since he proposed to expand the number of San Francisco police officers in an effort to prevent property crimes, especially car break-ins.

Wiener stood by this decision, calling himself one of the “leading advocates to restaff the police department, and tying the number of police officers to the population growth.” He also accused Kim of saying “police do not prevent crime.”

Kim responded by rolling her eyes. “We can’t arrest our way out of crime,” she said. “I’m not opposed to increasing the number of cops on our streets…but it starts with making sure our cops are actually trained properly and held accountable.”

“California has pursued mass incarceration,” Kim continued. “And we’ve seen time and time again, it doesn’t work…We do know that school prevents crime, that housing prevents crime, and that we should be putting our focus on other issues.”

The candidates mostly agreed when asked about the state’s need to protect the environment and expand public transportation, which Kim described as the “twin issues in this region of the Bay Area.”

The tone remained calm until a question from the audience transitioned into a tangent about campaign funds, where both candidates had more than a few criticisms for their opponent.

Kim accused Wiener of taking contributions of more than $1 million from individuals and companies that “support the landlords of San Francisco,” to which he responded he has received donations from more than 1,800 contributors, saying that it’s unfair to “cherry pick” which donations should be considered problematic.

He then asserted that 75 percent of his funding has come from within his own district, while “the majority” of hers has come from outside of the city. A claim which he summarized with “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Kim said 60 percent of her contributions have come from within the city, and the rest come from supporters “all over the country that want to support women in politics and a Korean-American in politics.”

She took this time to say she is the first Korean-American to be elected to the Board of Supervisors, and will be the first in the state Senate once elected.

“The real difference here is, I actually deliver results,” said Wiener, when asked what he thinks is the most defining difference between himself and Supervisor Kim after the debate. “I don’t want to talk negatively about Kim, or say anything bad about her. But you can be the most tried and true progressive, and still get nothing done,” he added.

“I think we have quite a few differences,” Kim laughed in response to the same question. She said she believes their biggest disagreement is how to deal with the housing crisis, and explained, “He just wants to build, and let the market take its course. But every time, the market is going to build luxury. We need to start building for middle and low income.”

Wiener’s political director, Todd David, said he was “completely perplexed by this statement because it is factually incorrect.” He explained, “The way the planning commision and law of San Francisco works is that a certain percentage of all housing built must be affordable housing… It’s the law. So this is false.”

“Jane has a majority of donations from outside of San Francisco who have no idea about the rent issues here,” said David.

BATA Votes to Loan $100 Million to City of San Francisco to Finish the Controversial Transbay Terminal

Kaylee Fagan

April 18, 2016

Word count: 670

The San Francisco city government received a loan of $100 million from the public agency controlling tolls at most of the Bay Area’s major bridges Wednesday, in hopes the city will finally be able to complete the replacement Transbay Terminal, which is more than 40% over budget and beset with controversy.

Bay Area Toll Authority commissioners, joined by Metropolitan Transportation Commission officers and representatives from City Hall argued for nearly an hour regarding the project’s lack of oversight, the terminal’s potential significance within the Bay Area, and the terms of the loan, which will be paid back at an “attractive” interest rate within ten years.

“This program is quite a while in coming,” said MTC Chief Financial Officer Brian Mayhew, who gave a presentation in favor of the deal, adding, “After many long hours, we’ve come to an arrangement that, I feel, will make everyone happy.”

Every year since breaking ground, The Transbay Project has suffered repeated cost increases and construction delays that have caused the project to exceed its original budget 4 times since 2010, bringing the current estimated cost to $2.4 billion, according to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger. And that will only cover the first phase of the project.

The total project cost is currently estimated at $4.5 billion, according the project’s oversight committee, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, made up of representatives from SF City Hall, Caltrans, and others.

Several BATA commissioners expressed concern that this loan will not be the last, given the project’s unpredictable expenses in the past.

“Where does it stop?” asked Commissioner Scott Haggerty of Alameda County, who described the decision as “not a very good deal at all” for the BATA. “Let me put it this way,”  Haggerty challenged the loan by making this comparison: “We are currently a couple hundred million short in a new Raider’s Stadium, do you want to pay for that?”

“We are obviously here reluctantly,” responded San Francisco City Controller Ben Rosenfield, who attended the meeting on behalf of City Hall and the TJPA. Rosenfield reminded the committee, “Staff from our governments have been working on this for over a year…The city and county [of San Francisco] have never defaulted on this kind of deal, and we never will.”

To date, the MTC, which manages funding for transit and transportation all throughout the 9-county Bay Area, including BATA, the subgroup designated to distribute funds from the region’s state-owned toll bridges, has already invested more than $350 million to the project, and have been paying $3.6 million annually to maintain the temporary terminal, located on Main and Beale streets.

This is a regional project,” pointed out Commissioner Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who said the Transbay Center will serve not only San Franciscans, but the entire Bay Area and West Coast.

Wiener expressed optimistic support for the loan, calling it a “bitter but necessary medicine” that the BATA must take in order to complete the “very influential” project. He then praised the City and County of San Francisco for “stepping up” and “risking their credit” to see this program through to the end.

In response to skepticism about the city’s ability to finish construction and pay back the loan on-time, Wiener added, “Looking forward, we have to look for ways to empower the TJPA…and learn any lessons that need to be learned.”

“This project makes our new building on Beale Street more valuable,” joked Commissioner Adrienne J. Tissier, as an awkward chuckle erupted throughout the room. She was referring to the MTC’s controversial decision to move its main office from 8th Street in Oakland to San Francisco’s SOMA district, a decision which has cost more than $150 million to date, and caused an uproar of media and public attention, according to MTC spokesman John Goodwin.

“That may be controversial for some, but I had to weigh in,” she remarked. The MTC is scheduled to begin holding meetings in the new Beale Street office by the end of May, and has chosen to sublease office space with several contractors, in order to offset the overwhelming cost.