Finding Sex Work in LCSH

I read Beacher Wiggins’ response to Sanford Berman, [courtesy of Tina Gross, and I suggest you give it a read too!]. Now obviously the first thing I note is that he checks this very blog [thought not by name], but AFTER that fannish-squeeing, I absorb the rest.

There’s a tremendous in there to unpack, and I can’t do it all right now. One pull-out that I do want to highlight is the term ‘Sex workers’.


Sex workers. This phrase was added as a “see” reference to the heading Prostitutes in 2008.


I’m well aware that SEX WORKERS is presently a see-reference to PROSTITUTES. The trouble with that is that “sex workers” is a much broader term, encompassing not only prostitutes, but also exotic or pole dancers, stripteasers, phone sex operators, and erotic film actors, among others.

Side note: that this isn’t the first time criticism has been made of this entry, Hope Olson, the latest and MUCH DESERVED! recipient of the Margaret Mann Citation, notes in her work: “Confirming this perspective, the general heading ‘Prostitutes is a narrower term under the heading ‘Women'” [The Power to Name: Representation in Library Catalogs. Hope A. Olson. Signs, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Spring, 2001), pp 639-668. The University of Chicago Press]

I don’t know when this was changed — as it stands, Prostitutes is not an NT of Women but despite searching the PCC site, I couldn’t turn up the editorial meeting when this was changed. As I’ve lamented before, LCSH is frustratingly bad at version history.

But back to the business at hand.

First, terminology: let’s go to the sources — this is to indicate the scope of the term ‘Sex worker’ covers a variety of services and to also demonstrate its preferred usage.

What is Sex Work?

Sex work is any type of labor where the explicit goal is to produce a sexual or erotic response in the client. Sex work includes prostitution, but it also includes a bunch of other things like erotic dancing, pro-dom/pro-sub work, webcam work, sensual massage, adult film, phone sex, being a sugar baby, etc.

International Union of Sex Workers

We’re a group of people who work in the sex industry and adult entertainment, together with allies who support our aims.

We believe that everyone in the industry, whether they are there through choice, circumstance or coercion, deserves the same human, civil and labour rights as other citizens.

We’re a grassroots organisation, founded by a migrant who worked in a range of jobs in the sex industry. The organisation brings together people from all sectors – people who sell sexual contact or BDSM services, people who work for or run agencies, websites or brothels, strippers, erotic dancers and glamour models, porn actors and film makers, phone sex workers and web cam models; men, women and transgender people; straight, gay and bisexual.

Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights

Sex workers were the first to use the terms sex work and sex worker. The terms have been adopted by numerous international health, labor and human rights organizations, including the United Nations and its affiliated agencies.

The term sex worker is neutral, descriptive and informative without being judgmental. It recognizes sex work as a reality, whatever the speaker’s opinion about the work itself. It does not distinguish by gender, race, ethnicity or creed. It allows the possibility of the worker’s dignity and ability to make decisions. Most of all, it affirms the humanity of the person.

When discussing sex work using existing LCSH, there are a substantial number of terms collocated on the business side of things:

Sex-oriented businesses which has NTs of Adult movie theatersBrothelsGay BathhousesMassage parlorsPornographyProstitution, and Sex tourism.

Following the chain of NTs, we pick up additionally: All-male adult movie theaters, Internet pornography, Male prostitution, Pornographic films, and Telephone sex. [I’m picking only the ones that I think fall into the ‘business-ey’ side of things]

I pause to note that Escort services is an NT of Service industries and has no connection this hierarchy, despite being a pretty well-known euphemism for same.

But there is no overarching BT term for the providers of sexual services. I have identified the following terms which could be usefully placed as NTs.

Lap dancers, Prostitutes, Sex surrogatesStripteasers

Some terms that we don’t have in LCSH but probably should, there’s plenty of literary warrant:


Interestingly, all the memoirs I found written by dominatrices [I have not determined if the plural ‘dominatrices’ is actually a better choice for the preferred term] used Sexual dominance and submission in some capacity rather than following the standard practice for biographies of:

600 [Person’s name]

650 [Class of person] — Biography

which I suppose would’ve necessitated proposing the term. Here’s some good literary warrant:
‘Webcam models’
[note that many of these works are assigned the heading Computer sex which is also not in the hierarchy of Sex-oriented businesses perhaps because it is intended to cover freely exchanged cybersex?]
‘Telephone sex operators’
[As above, Telephone sex  is not in the hierarchy of Sex-oriented businesses]
This is not an exhaustive list, and many other terms as seen enumerated by the organizations are possible — but I think it’s very unlikely LCSH would ever authorize “Pornographic film actor” or anything like that because they don’t have any terms for other genres of actor.

A note: there is a problem in creating an LCSH BT of ‘Sex worker’. And that’s what to do with the term Prostitute itself. In reading for this blog post, it seems that many sex workers would prefer that were the term to be used. But how then to differentiate the category from the specific?
Berman is correct in that we need a BT term ‘Sex workers’. Perhaps I’ll put together a proposal.

Anti-Semitism Actually

I make no secret of being Jewish. I mean, I really don’t. I’ve been disturbed at the increase of anti-Semitism, but also surprised at how many people seem to be flabbergasted that these ideas are “still around” or that this hatred “still lingers”. Much more knowledgable people than I have written about the history and the present of anti-Semitism, and I’ll leave it that to them. I only know from what I’ve experienced first hand, so that’s what I’ll share.

I grew up in Sharon, MA a town known for its high Jewish population. I attended private Jewish day school for K-12 and for three years attended Kingswood, a Jewish sleep-away camp in the summers. My point being that I had a fairly culturally insular life. This story takes places the year before I started going to Kingswood.

At [redacted summer camp] I enjoyed a fairly standard first week. I found the ropes course to be challenging and fun, I’d made a few friends, and I was looking forward to being in a play that summer. Like many groups of young boys, there was one, whom I’ll call ‘Joe’, who was the defacto leader of our little group. He was a taller, more confidant, and had that all-around cool-guy vibe that we all responded to.

Then we had the first barbecue. There was a barbecue every week on Fridays. The food was of course provided, and you could have a hamburger or a hotdog. Because I knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t be able to eat either [coming from a kosher-keeping household] my parents had cleared it ahead of time that it’d be okay if I brought my own meat wrapped in tinfoil [so as not to share the grill with the other non-kosher meat].

So that first Friday I brought a hamburger and a hotdog, wrapped in tinfoil in a cooler. When my new found friends saw that I was having both, they asked why — and I explained that I’d brought them from home, that they were kosher. This is the part that I don’t understand, even today. They latched onto that word. Kosher. I didn’t know them well, and I certainly don’t know them now, I find it hard to believe I was the first Jew they’d ever met, but it’s possible I was the first they’d met who kept strict kashrut. Either way.

Joe did that asshole-kid thing. He refused to ‘hear’ the word or understand it. He kept calling it ‘koshen’ with an ‘n’.

“So you’re koshen? You’re a koshen boy?”

That’s what he called me for the rest of the summer. Koshen boy. Of course, because he did it, so did some of the others. I was out. I finished out the summer, participating in my activities that I’d signed up for, but I didn’t have friends anymore. Sure I knew the people in the activity groups, but it wasn’t camp-friends. The worst part was every Friday. They’d find me wherever I’d gone to eat my single hotdog or single hamburger [somehow thinking if I didn’t bring both it’d be okay] and taunt me.

The next summer I went to an all Jewish summer camp.


This is a relatively small blip in my life, but it was important too. I was pretty sheltered growing up and while I certainly heard of anti-Semitism happening in the US and elsewhere, our community was so insular, it didn’t often happen to people I knew.

Anti-Semitism didn’t start with the Holocaust and it didn’t end there. It knows no national boundary. It may be a rising tide, but if all you see is the tide — you’re missing the ocean.



As always — check out the full approved list



picture of aesthete

Oh this hat is so edifying!

Children’s literature on postage stamps

set of 4 forever stamps of Ezra Keats Snow Day

Forever until the USPS is dismantled and replaced with something horrible

Crab cakes

a birthday cake in the shape of a crab

Happy birthday Megan! I hope you weren’t wanting the other kind of crab cake…

Equality in mass media

scene from The Incredibles "when everyone's super, no one will be"

not too many children’s movies espouse such a Randian “some people are just better than others” message, so that’s fun


sheet music from Erotamania, by Dream Theater

all my Dream Theater friends will get it

Free rider problem (Economics)

still from The Simpsons, Mr. Burns riding on the back of Smither's bike and not pedaling

The rich are the problem


still from "Whiplash'

Sure he’s good, but AT WHAT COST

Las Vegas Strip (Nev.)

still from "Honey I Blew Up the Kids"

I went to Vegas this summer, very disappointed at the lack of Giant Toddler

Metal sculpture, Canadian

Sculpture of star-man, the Rush mascot

I can’t confirm this is actually metal…

Mills and mill-work [edit 2017-02-09, this is not a NEW LCSH, rather, it’s an updated LCSH, thanks to sanspach for bringing to my attention]

Still from Arkham City

Remember that batarang challenge in the steel mill? Ughhhhhhh

Politics on television

Still from Supergirl

I’m pretty sure President Lynda Carter is an alien on Supergirl. But they really haven’t followed up on that.


Surprise parties

still from "District 9"

The real surprise comes when you turn into an alien prawn

Tall buildings–Shading

tweet decrying a new building "Morphosis"

wow people hate the Morphosis

Vampires in popular culture

Collage of pop culture vampires

I will not be wading into the “I Am Legend: vampires or zombies” debate

Women bass guitarists

still of lead singer/bassist of Triosphere

*head bangs*

Women guitarists

still of The Great Kat

*continues headbanging*


Previous iteration of this post

CN for police, self-harm,  and involuntary commitment


It was recently my birthday (January 26) and it was a mixed day. I say that because while things are going fairly well in my personal life, the last vestiges of our democracy is crumbling — that tends to color every day a certain hue of resistant beige. It was not however, my worst birthday. That title belongs to January 26th, 2003, my 19th birthday. I want to acknowledge that it was the worst for reasons entirely personal and not at all to do with the state of the world in 2002 [which were certainly awful, but not on my mind at that time]

At that time, I was living at the Austen Riggs Center in western Mass on an indefinite absence from Wesleyan University. Austen Riggs is a voluntary-only open-door-kinda-treatment facility. That means that you are not allowed to be there if you need a locked-unit or are judged a risk to harm yourself or others. I’d been there since Oct. 31 of 2002.

You need to understand that although I was in a serious treatment program, my mind was always on getting back to school, back to my friends. I’d had to leave Wesleyan in September of my sophomore year and didn’t know when [if ever, and spoiler: never] I’d get to go back. In my mind, my friends were moving on, having new experiences, and forging on without me. I felt left-behind, forgotten, and losing touch with what I was working towards.

Let me pause to be perfectly clear that it was not healthy to hold “return to Wesleyan and be with all my friends and everything will be as though I’d never left” as my goal. It wasn’t realistic because it wasn’t possible. Not that I couldn’t have returned, but that anything would be the same even if I did go back. Time had passed and would continue to pass and rekindling that magical first year of college can’t be done.

January 25, 2003 — it was about to be my birthday and I was feeling particularly lonesome. I wanted to see my friends so I drove down to Wesleyan. It wasn’t enough, and it didn’t help. If anything it made my feelings worse. Seeing them in person was just further evidence to me that I’d missed some important window on those relationships — and that that window was ever widening.

I panicked. I broke down. I was hopeless.  I drove.

I drove all night. I stopped for gas and ate and I drove. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, I just knew that when I was driving with my music playing, I felt like I was in charge of my life, I was in control of my destination and my story and my future. I’d gotten on I-90 West and eventually saw a sign for Niagara Falls in the early hours of the morning. I’d never been there, and so I stopped. It was early and cold on January 26th and it was my birthday. I saw the Falls and sat for a while alone. Listening to the empty silence and smelling the cold.

I kept driving. Seeing signs for Ohio I thought maybe I’d see my friend at Oberlin whom I’d never visited. I called my parents first to explain what I’d been doing, they were worried. I was also worried. I called my friend and we got together at Oberlin. I spent the night there and had promised my parents I’d come back the next day. It was snowing harder by that point and I was not a good driver. I’m still not a good driver.

I spun off the road a little ways and my car got stuck. I couldn’t get it back onto the road. I started walking, hoping somebody would come along who could get me to a tow truck. A semi picked me up and offered to drive me to a gas station at the next off-ramp, he called a dispatch, got my car towed and had the tow guy meet me at the gas station. The tow guy drove me to an ATM so I could get cash to buy back my car. I got to a motel and slept, charging my phone and calling my parents again.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I went home to Sharon and told my parents that I didn’t want to be at Austen Riggs anymore, they had me call the Centre to tell them that I was home safe. Then the police arrived, the Centre had called them to bring to a psych unit at a hospital.

I was scared. I was angry, and I was scared. But here I pause this mostly-flat telling to editorialize again. I survived this encounter in no small part due to being white and affluent. When I wouldn’t get on a gurney, when I resisted and struggled — no excessive force was used against me. No weapons were brought out to escalate the situation. This is not the the treatment people who don’t look like me, who don’t live in ‘good’ neighborhoods get. I was handcuffed to the gurney and restrained but I survived and wasn’t harmed.

If there’s any point or message to this besides “I’m sharing this story so that others in LIS will know that they are not alone with having scary or ‘dangerous’ histories and presents” — it is this: responding to the acutely symptomatic with law enforcement is a terrible societal idea. They are not equipped for those situations and the usual gamut of implicit and explicit biases has far too many times lead to their murdering those they are sent to help.

This did not happen to me, I was protected by my place in the social structure. It shouldn’t happen to anyone.

Post Midwinter Post

I’m back from ALA Midwinter — it was a good conference, I got to meet several twitter people IRL, and see those I already had met before! I got to perform my first professional duties as an intern of a committee and take copious notes. I also have to type those notes into official Minutes…but that can wait.

If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that I do a lot of live twitting of sessions that I’m in. That means that I don’t always get to share my thoughts/feelings on what I’m hearing beyond the occasionally editorial snark. This is probably for the best as I do not do my best reacting when off the cuff. I like to have time to reflect and percolate before giving a response.

Here now are two of those thoughts:

I heard a lot from people at the Library of Congress about the LCSH process. Not surprisingly, considering the ‘illegal aliens’ change/not-change of last year — LCSH has been thrust into a larger spotlight beyond catalogers and the people that love them.

One thing that was conspicuously absent amidst the protestations and defenses of the difficulty and care that goes into LCSH: acknowledgment that they might ever get it wrong

I hear them, and appreciate that it’s hard. Some 90 million+ headings are overseen and run by essentially 3 people. That’s ludicrous, they are underfunded, under-supported, and overwhelmed.

But even still — I heard a lot of dismissiveness that the criticisms of librarians are just grouchy griping and LC is “damned if they do and damned if they don’t” [in regards to ever changing a heading or heading pattern structure]. Critical catalogers are passionate about what we fight for not because we want be pains in LC’s side or tetchy technical services librarians — but because we’re advocating for our patrons, and often, for ourselves. I wish that our interactions with LC weren’t brushed aside as casually as I heard them being.


ALA is a giant organization with 10s of thousands of members. I know that on some level. Yet my involvement is so limited that is always feels smaller than that to me. I’m so focused on ALCTS [and let’s be honest, not just ‘on ALCTS’ but on the cataloging piece of ALCTS] that I miss a lot of Big ALA. These past few months though, even I’ve noticed. I watched along with my peers (see #NotMyALA for more) while statements were issued ostensibly on behalf of librarians offering capitulation and words of encouragement. Eagerness to work alongside this political regime made me question ALA and what they stand for.

I kept this in mind at Midwinter determined to figure out what this organization is and how to find my place within it. Attending the ALCTS Symposium, hearing Courtney Young, Hannah Buckland, Charlotte Roh, Harrison Inefuku, Paolo P. Gujilde, Emily Drabinski, Anna Marie Willer, Miriam Centeno, and Mark Puente speak — I was struck by the fact that they’re ALA too. Grappling over dinner with friends about issues we care deeply about in our profession,attending the Women’s March arm in arm with hundreds of librarians (or more? I have not seen numbers), that too is ALA. I watched live tweets from April Hathcock, Tyler Dzuba, Erin Leach, and Anastasia Chiu [among others] speak passionately and directly to ALA council. This to me, is ALA.

People who believe that libraries should and can be more and are willing to work for it — they make ALA stronger just by being members. But these people aren’t content to be members passively. They engage, they run for office, they hold positions, they agitate. To this end I’m trying to be more involved. I don’t want to be a member who flashes a card [I don’t even have an ALA card, are there cards?] and says he pays his dues. I want to be a part of the change that others are already fighting for and requires a more full vestment in the organization.  I’m ready for more responsibility.




As always — check out the full approved list

A couple notes before we begin:

Male privilege was rejected by the editorial meeting [notes of the editorial meeting] with the following summary:

A proposal for White privilege appeared on Tentative List 10 (2016) and was not approved because LCSH does not include specific headings for groups discriminated for or against, and because other headings have been assigned to works on the concept. The proposal for Male privilege is analogous. Numerous other headings cover the concept of male privilege, including Sexism, Androcentrism, and Male domination (Social structure). The proposal for Male privilege was not approved.

So as the person who proposed Male privilege, I feel responsible for it — here’s my problem with their response.

LCSH absolutely does include “specific headings for groups discriminated for or against”

Some examples:

Discrimination against caregivers.
Discrimination against intersex people
Discrimination against overweight persons
Discrimination against the homeless
Discrimination against the mentally ill
Discrimination against people with disabilities

this is just a small set, there are lots. 

So that reason doesn’t hold water for me.


The other half, that there are already sufficient headings to cover the subject doesn’t wash either.

I don’t want to analyze each term they offer, but none quite capture the concept of male privilege. Some may be decent RTs, but not the same concept. At the very least LCSH needs to acknowledge that it’s an increasingly used term, and consider adding it as a UF. We do not serve our users by denying them an entrance into the catalog.


Birds of Prey (Fictitious characters)

picture from DC Comics' Birds of Prey

Note: Your alias doesn’t have to be a bird

Child ninja

I'd say that's worthy of FULL bars

I’d say that’s worthy of FULL bars

Closet drama, French

R. Kelly's Trapped in the closet

Oui, I am a sexual predator.


I came here to catalog and chew bubblegum

I came here to catalog and chew bubblegum

Database management in libraries



Diamond marimba

diamond jewelry in shape of a xylophone

I know it’s a xylophone, but STILL

Introduced corals

Hi coral!

Hi coral!


I've never played Yu-Gi-Oh!, I have no idea what's going on here

I’ve never played Yu-Gi-Oh!, I have no idea what’s going on here


And people say *Library Science* isn't a real degree!

And people say *Library Science* isn’t a real degree!

Second-born children in literature

Why it's Jaehaerys II of course! Don't tell me you don't know your Targaryen line?

Why it’s Jaehaerys II of course! Don’t tell me you don’t know your Targaryen line?

Ships in motion pictures

Sure it's a lesser Hemsworth, but i'm a sucker for time travel movies

Sure it’s a lesser Hemsworth, but i’m a sucker for time travel movies

Women ski jumpers

wow! jump skis are super long...or maybe that's regular? I've never skied

wow! jump skis are super long…or maybe that’s regular? I’ve never skied



As always — check out the full approved list

Arabian oryx in literature

Fun fact: an anagram for Arabian Oryx is ROAR, ya ax nib!

Fun fact: an anagram for Arabian Oryx 
ROAR, ya ax nib!

Commerce in motion pictures


get it?

Culture jamming

Now what, corporations?

Now what, corporations?

Evil, Non-resistance to, in literature

This is a bad plan, resist evil. Resist.

This is a bad plan, resist evil. Resist.

Flowers–Molecular genetics

I just assume that that's Poison Ivy is workin' on here.

I just assume that that’s Poison Ivy is workin’ on here.

Hypnotism in art

She-Creature isn't even the only episode where an evil hypnotist uses regression to create a monster.

She-Creature isn’t even the only episode where an evil hypnotist uses regression to create a monster.

Mermaids in music

Haken! Check this album out. It'll change yer metal-loving life.

Haken! Check this album out. It’ll change yer metal-loving life.

Obedience in art

Yeah but in like two seconds you're going to get beaten, Zod.

Yeah but in like two seconds you’re going to get beaten, Zod.

Outcasts in literature

Sissy Spacek reads the audiobook, highly recommend!

Sissy Spacek reads the audiobook, highly recommend!

Pokémon Go (Game)

Sure are a lotta fake news stories about Pokemon Go.

Sure are a lotta fake news stories about Pokemon Go.






Chemical is not a dirty word, don’t contribute to fearmongering

Space and time on radio

If you’ve listened to this on the radio, it counts

United States. Constitution–Emoluments clause


I bet it’s not always in the news

Universities and colleges in motion pictures


Wesleyan was a lot like this: Earnest students and insufferable d-bags in the same place



Dance dramas


These aren’t the leads, but they have the best hair

Hanukkah plays


Batman, a traditional part of the Hanukkah story

Library catalogs


ah, the well known “other criteria”