Whore's Eye View

Whore’s Eye View is a mad dash through 10,000 years of history from a sex worker’s perspective. Weaving history, comedic storytelling, and the wisdom of lived experience, Kaytlin Bailey artfully unpacks the complex, age-old stigma of the oldest profession, underpinning a status quo designed to keep women in their place. Whore’s Eye View is a very personal story. It’s also a call to action that in order to achieve the decriminalization of sex work, we must change the stories we are telling about the oldest profession.

Adults Only
60 minutes
Solo Performance, Storytelling, Comedy, Theatre
RISE Comedy
1260 22nd St, Denver, CO 80205

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Kaytlin Bailey, writer & performer: Kaytlin Bailey is a globally recognized leader in the sex worker rights movement, quoted in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The Nation, NBC, and ABC. She has written op-eds for Huffington Post, Reason, The Daily Beast, and Vice, and has spoken at Fox Business, Yale Law School, Penn University, and UCLA. Kaytlin Bailey hosts The Oldest Profession Podcast, where each episode focuses on an “old pro” from history, contextualizing that figure in their own time and connecting their story to the ongoing struggle for sex worker rights. She founded Old Pros, a non profit media organization creating conditions to change the status of sex workers in society.

A history that’s not in the textbooks
Whore’s Eye View also incorporated personal experience into its examination of sex work, though it took a different path to another destination. Bailey, a former escort, lent her degree in history, background in standup comedy, and appealing stage presence to an entertaining lecture recounting human history through the lens of sex work. Relating historical events to her own life illuminated the origins and true purposes of laws and beliefs that supposedly protect women but more often shame and limit them. For instance, police could detain women suspected of promiscuity (whatever that means) into the 1970s, while marital rape wasn’t a crime until 1993, and mothers continue warning daughters against being too loud, too fat, or too slutty.

I enjoyed Bailey’s version of the history that usually doesn’t get into textbooks or classrooms, from the powerful goddesses of the pre-Christian era to Hammurabi’s Code to witchcraft to bicycles. Much of it was review, though, since I came to Whore’s Eye View with a graduate degree in feminist theory. Yet Bailey’s terrific writing and comic delivery made this review engaging, and her reflections upon connections between history and her own identity—including awareness of her privileges—elevate Whore’s Eye View. The show connected history to personal experience in relevant and meaningful ways, including Bailey’s relationship with her late father, a Vietnam veteran and career military officer. Exploring the stories of her first sexual experiences clarifies persistent sexual double standards. At 14, her father had sex for the first time with a woman more than a decade older who went on to model for Playboy. He thought it was the best thing that ever happened to him. In contrast, Bailey regards her own experience at 15 as a letdown. She suggests that we care too much about the innocence of girls and not enough about the innocence of boys.
10/10, no notes. ….

That’s not really enough for a review I guess but Whore’s Eye View, by Kaytlin Bailey, doesn’t really need much more. Still, here you go.

For her last night performing in Aotearoa, Kaytlin welcomes her sell-out audience to the … umm … deconstructed(?) basement which is the Knockabout Studio. She starts us off with a rehearsal of our possible emotional responses to her narrative – I don’t think we collectively pass with flying colours exactly, but that’s often the way with audiences who book tickets for interactive performances. She explains that she’ll be talking about sex workers throughout history – and because we bought tickets, we’ve given implied consent. She goes on to say it’s going to be an aggressive lecture and now we have informed consent. No one leaves, so she begins.

Salted with humour and expressive pauses, Kaytlin takes us on a journey from the beginning of humankind to the present day, describing the normality of sex work, from prehistoric women who, like those of us with uteruses today, were probably always a little bit iron-deficient, and traded sex for meat, to the movements advocating both for and against sex work, during a backdrop of 20th and 21st century Christian morality and patriarchy. There are juicy facts sprinkled throughout (the Catholic church was the biggest owner of brothels for 400 years – do not as I do, but as I say, anyone…?), provocative summaries – the Malleus Maleficarum is just 276 pages saying bitches be witches – and observations that gently twist needles under our fingernails – if you hate people doing gross stuff for money, you hate poverty, not prostitution.

Kaytlin has a beautiful way with words – she talks about the slipperiness between ‘whore’ and ‘woman’ and our transition from deity to demon, from vermin to victim. She weaves threads of comparison between the glorification and sanctification of the extreme violence of the military and the demonisation of sex work. There are implicit gender roles at play here, borne out through her historical references and the evolution of the patriarchy framed in the arms of the courtesan.

There’s a lot to make any objective, open-minded or compassionate human angry, but Kaytlin describes so many incredibly powerful women that no one knows much about that there’s somehow a sense of hope that we might get back one day to a society that treasures women as their own beings, and also values equitable access to pleasure and bodily autonomy.

She mentions a few times that as an audience we seem to be unresponsive or not getting what she’s giving us, but I think we’re all just mesmerised.

June 2 is International Whore’s Day – put it in your diary now.

Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Kaitlin Bailey emerges from the audience in BATS Theatre’s Stage space and begins her show by taking the audience through a deep breath. She then makes it clear that most of the stories she will tell are similar to her own experience and, being a western woman from the USA, they are mostly about people who come from similar backgrounds.

Bailey explains the word whore originally described a ‘woman who desires’, and spends the next 75 minutes explaining how whores went from being praised and worshipped in the form of goddesses to being vilified as witches. She also raises our awareness of the current movement to reclaim the dignity of the word and the women who are, and have been, labelled as whores.

As someone who holds a history degree, I can confidently say Whore’s Eye View is one of the best history lectures I have ever received. Bailey takes the audience through 10,000 years of sexual history. Making use of her own history degree, she intertwines the lesson with hilarious comedy, saying the things that most of us think but are too scared to say aloud.

The show is filled with details that everyone should know but the majority of the audience was not aware of. Bailey also uses her own experience as a sex worker to inform the discussion. The combination of the historical, comedic and personal elements creates an engaging and informative experience.

Bailey is charismatic and confident while also exuding a comforting vibe that puts the audience at ease. Her straightforwardness is refreshing and breaks down any tension the audience feels about discussing sex. The show includes references to Aotearoa which help the audience feel closer to the topic and relate what we are hearing to our own surroundings. Bailey is also notably inclusive of transgender and non-binary identities.

Bailey shows that at the forefront of every major development in history there have been sex workers, and provides the proof to back these claims up. She also shines a light on the hypocrisy of the world by pointing out that the same society that cares about exploitation and individuals being sold for their bodies when it comes to sex work, has had no qualms about sending young men to war to fight in battles that leave them traumatised. She illustrates this hypocrisy by once again using personal examples.

Kaytlin Bailey is a storyteller and a comedian, but as I leave the theatre my lasting impression is that she is a fantastic advocate. She has brought Whore’s Eye View from New York on the show’s world tour, offering a show that everyone, regardless of their personal views on sex work, simply has to experience.

Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Last night, I left the theater wondering what I had just seen. I had so many thoughts and questions running through my head. There had been a Q&A at the end of the performance, but these weren't questions for the artist, Kaytlin Bailey. They were questions for the world. They were questions for various generations of women – women who remember life before they could own a credit card, never mind the on-going attacks on our reproductive rights that we face today. Why does the world feel so threatened by women with bodily autonomy?

Was this show “infotaiment”? Infotaiment seems to be the catchall for anything from The Oprah Winfrey Show to Rachel Maddow Show to Alex Jones’ InfoWars, but TED Talks for some reason seems to be insulted by the connotation. Or perhaps the show was more reminiscent of the later satirical monologues of the late, great George Carlin. But this wasn’t satire.

This was a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Among her talents, Kaytlin Bailey is a fine comedian. She has structured this piece to start with recorded time – or perhaps slightly before, and weaves its way through her own experiences. The audience could have relaxed a bit. If people didn’t laugh, it wasn’t because a joke wasn’t funny. It was because they were still trying to figure out if it was okay to laugh at the trials women have faced because no one ever bothered to study our anatomy or because 591 years after the birth of Christ a pope confused two women with the same name. And by trials, take three hundred years of witch trials for example.

Could this show be a TED Talk? Yes, 100%

Could this show be slotted into Netflix Stand-up Line-up? Sure. (If the audience chills out a bit - were we all raised by Puritans?)

Has there been anything like it? John Leguizamo’s Broadway hit Latin History for Morons is as close as I can get.

Personally, I don’t think Infotaiment should be relegated to “soft journalism”. I can honestly not think of anything else as informative or entertaining as Whore’s Eye View, so why should it be barred from the category? Enjoy the show, take notes if you must – perhaps we should – but above all else allow yourself to laugh.
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RISE Comedy

1260 22nd Street, Denver, CO 80205

Entrance: The entrance is on 22nd Street between Larimer & Lawrence.

Parking: Street parking and nearby lots (https://www.bestparking.com/denver-co-parking/)

Accessibility: RISE is wheelchair accessible

Admission: You must show your ticket confirmation or purchase a ticket at the venue; all seating is general admission, audiences will wait in a queue before entry to the show