Prominent Canadian Sex Advice Columnist and Very, Very Good Bad Girl Weighs in on Atlantic Kerfuffle Over Pay the Writer
By Nate Thayer
June 2, 2013
Yesterday I received a very supportive message from an esteemed colleague in the international press corps, which was deeply appreciated.
In addition to being a renowned, nationally syndicated Canadian sex advice columnist, Alex Tigchelaar has been a stripper, sex worker, playwright, performance artist and an all-around very, very good very bad girl.
She made me smile.
Alex Tigchelaar wrote in support of the lingering, only slightly muted, kerfuffle over writers being paid for their work which was sparked by a recent exchange I had with the Atlantic magazine which sought to engage my professional services with the caveat that I agree they did not have to pay me for them.
As a professional colleague, Alex took strong offense to this arrangement and wrote me to say just that.
Thank you for giving me something to reference/talk to people about when they are surprised to see me, a formerly syndicated columnist, standing behind the bar at Sweaty Betty’s or mopping the floor at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
I say, “Read Nate Thayer’s piece on the state of journalism. If he’s being asked to write for free we’re all fucked.”
On the upside it’s been nice talking to people about what a positive impact my work had on them.
As you probably know yourself, you usually only hear from people who want to kill you when you are actively writing.
Thanks Nate, for your dignified outrage.
If you are in Toronto please stop by Sweaty Betty’s. Drinks are on me if I’m behind the bar.
I also bartend at a transsexual strip club.
Not sure if that’s more up your alley but if it is, again, drinks on me.
Your pal and longtime fan,
Buddies in Bad Times is a theatre company dedicated to the promotion of Queer Canadian Culture, voted Toronto’s Best Small Theatre Company in 2012, and “dedicated to the nurturing, protection, and celebration of queer culture.”
Alex is clearly an advocate of the Queer community, but maintains cynical distance of blind support for what appears to be just about anything—an essential trait of good journalism. “Homos and hookers go together like peanut butter and jam—sometimes anyway. I could do without some of this current crop of queer, The Revolution Starts Up My Ass hookers.”
Sweaty Betty’s is a storied Toronto dive bar where “the tortured literati rendezvous nightly”, a “small, bordello-inspired den” located across the street from one of Toronto’s oldest mental institutions.
“In a city of infused vodkas and creative cocktails, Betty’s refuses to mix anything with more than three ingredients, “said a review in Lonely Planet of Sweaty Betty’s. “ This no-nonsense approach pares a night out at the bar to the essentials: having a good time and chatting people up.”
Betty’s sounds like my kind of establishment and Alex my kind of barkeep.
The only negative comment I found on Sweaty Betty’s was an online review from ‘Mellisa’, who objected to “one of the male bartenders stole my friend’s hat from off the bar where she put it down for a moment. She phoned them the next day and asked if they had found it, they said no. Then, the next time she went, she saw the guy WEARING her hat.” But even Mellisa said “I do like the location, décor and ambiance of Sweaty Betty’s — but I can only put up with the people if I’ve already been drinking. And drinking a LOT.”
Alex did not identify the transsexual strip club where she bartends, but I am confident I can get the directions from her next time I am in Toronto where I will be sure to drop by Sweaty Betty’s to quench my considerable thirst for people with minds like Alex Tigchelaar.
Former journalist and Sweaty Betty’s barkeep, Alexandra Tigchelaar, from whom I have a standing invitation for drinks on the house, is indeed a formerly nationally syndicated columnist in Canada–author of the weekly sex advice Montreal Mirror’s column Love Bites from 1999 to 2009. Her work as a journalist has been widely praised as insightful, witty, powerful, and honest.
But, in addition, Alex has an impressive resume which includes neo-Burlesque performer, stripper, artist, playwright, sex worker, actor, author, and journalist who sometimes writes under the pen name Sasha Van Bon Bon.
<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/20803154″ width=”500″ height=”299″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen>
Alex was co-creator of The Scandelles, a Toronto male-female burlesque cabaret troupe, since renamed Operation Snatch. She is also the curator of cabaret Dirty Plotz, which is about the “Politics of Pussy”.
She studied creative writing and English literature at Concordia University but her art is mostly a product of working in Montreal and Toronto’s strip clubs, where she found her talented, unorthodox creative voice.
A nationally syndicated sex columnist since 1994, she has written about sexuality for numerous publications, and is co-author of a short porn film called Give Piece of Ass a Chance (which screened at over 20 international film festivals), has penned an erotic comic for Eros Comics called Beatrix Dominatrix, hosted erotic events, and performed as a go-go dancer on the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s 60th anniversary televised show.
“As a cabaret theatre artist I explore the space of Revered/Reviled. I know this space very well. This is a space of divine creation but it is one that is often foisted upon a person – it’s not entered willingly. Learning to live in it with grace and resourcefulness is difficult. It can make a woman fucking crazy,” Alex said in a 2012 interview.
“In Dirty Plötz, we are, quite literally, examining the Sacred and Profane Hole,” she said in another interview. ‘Plotte’ is French-Canadian slang for pussy. In addition, the title of the piece “Dirty Plotz” is a play on the 1990’s comic Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet.
“Doucet was, in her words, interested in ‘sex, violence, menstruation and male/female issues’, and so am I. Big time,” said Alex in the Canadian interview.
Since not only did I appreciate her thoughtful words of support to me as a colleague, but we shared similar interests, I promptly wrote a thank you note to Alex.
Out of the considerable hundreds, at least, of friendly incoming missives I have received regarding that story, yours is, by far, my favorite to date.
Thanks for the grin inducing, thoughtful, kind words,
If the bastards ever do force me off my perch, I had always thought that my only alternative employment possibilities for which I might be qualified would be working third shift at some urban 7/11.
Now I know there is at least some hope for a better alternative if such an unspeakable scenario materializes.
Good on ya. And thanks again. Keep up the great work.
Your pal and new fan,
“I don’t understand why the job is illegal—there’s just something about that that drives me fucking mental,” said Alex in another 2012 interview on the rights of sex workers. “I cannot, for the purposes of supporting myself, use my own body to do that? Sure, I can go and become a construction worker, or a lawyer and I can use my body and my brain to generate income—often, in those cases, fairly unethically—but I cannot use my body to generate my own income? What the fuck is wrong with that picture?” said the sex worker, activist, journalist and performer.
To me, Alex Tigchelaar seamlessly integrates the essential purpose of free speech among free people in free societies and the role of a free press.
“I mean yes, putting a bunch of woman of different sizes and gender presentation on stage, that’s minimally revolutionary, but let’s get those people telling their stories,” she said. “Seeing a woman of size or a transsexual performing, that’s just one thing, but now that we have the opportunity, let’s go deeper than that. We got on stage taking our clothes off, and then we opened our mouths.”
Alex succinctly summed up her multi-talented body of work. “Underneath all of those personalities and people is the truth, which is: ‘It’s my body, I have agency over it—not you.’”
I would add only that it is Alex’s mind, as well, which she has demanded equal agency over.
“What I’ve realized is that people become quite angry when they’re faced with these stories, they’re much happier listening to the stories of women being victimized,” she said.
Speaking of sex workers, Alex says “our stories are often trivialized through the lens of shame and criminality. When we talk about kept women, we act as though these women were the only ones who were kept when this was and continues to be the reality for so many women—as though a wife, sister, or servant wasn’t or isn’t kept, and often with much more rigid terms. I contest the concept of “kept” when it comes to sex workers anyway. It’s far more complex than that. I’m also tired of people saying, ‘No girl dreams of being a stripper.’ Seriously, speak for yourself.”
After a cursory peak at Alex’s impressive life, I asked her for permission to quote from her private correspondence to me.
I wanted to post your kind note on my blog and FB private page, and wanted to make sure you had no objections to identifying you as the author. If you do, no worries, just give me a shout.
The message remains much appreciated. Is journalism a great fucking job or what? Not the least for putting me in the mix of people like yourself.
My only objection would be to referring to XXXX as XXXXX, for fear of alerting the moral authorities to its true nature and putting my hard working colleagues at risk for arrest. We are still in a fairly grey legal area in Canada. If you could refer to XXXX as XXXX, that would be very appreciated.
That was exactly the reason I wanted to double check. It dawned on me that Canada has been going through some legal acrobats over these laws in the last couple years, right up until recent weeks, if I am not mistaken.
The last thing I want to do is get you or your colleagues locked up. Quite the contrary, I think we would agree our shared mission is to keep people free, despite the quite alarming knucklehead factor which appears to be metastasizing against that trend and these efforts.
I will make the suggested adjustments.
Stay in touch.
Thank you! Yes, that knucklehead factor is more alarming than you can imagine.
If you can believe it, a half dozen organizations with open religious affiliations have been granted intervener status in the Supreme Court hearing on June 13th while 5 supportive, non-abolitionist and sex worker run sex work organizations have been denied intervener status. (And here is the kicker quote of the year) I am thrilled that people who believe that the end of days will be heralded by a whore on a multi-headed beast will be permitted to object to a woman’s right to make money using her body (well, a certain part of it at any rate) over my sensible and experienced colleagues.
With that final message, and that brilliant final sentence, I formally have included Alex to my fictional “12 people in history you would invite to a dinner party” guest list.
I think I will sit Alex on my right, next to Jesus.
With Pol Pot, directly across from her, who will be seated next to the Pope, who will be allowed to be accompanied by one, handsome, young male attendant.
Ronald Reagan would be in the mix. With Beethoven tinkling the ivories in the background and Sid Viscous on vocals.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson would be in attendance along with Sir Winston Churchill and Christopher Hitchens. There are a couple remaining slots still open.
And, Alex, if you choose to attend, the drinks are on me.
Your pal and new fan, Nate