Jenny DeMilo
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Portrait of Advocate Laura Lasky And Solace SF - Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Jenny DeMilo’s Avatar Article by Blog Slixa Under Cover

The thoughtful advice and opinions of the author of this article are meant to be informative and entertaining and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Slixa.

It started easy enough as it does with so many others. She was in a bind, a messy divorce was sucking up all her money. “Divorces are super expensive,” she said to me. “I don’t recommend them to anyone.” The catering she was doing wasn’t covering her expenses and the stress was showing. When she dropped off a tray of food to a regular client who operated an escort agency, the couple confronted her about what was wrong. She broke down and told them everything. Empathizing, they offered her a job as a phone girl. Though she was reluctant, being a person of faith, she found a way to reconcile her faith with booking calls for escorts. Compartmentalizing is what we call it and that’s what she called it when I spoke with her on the phone last week. “I was able to reconcile my faith and my work because I needed money, and I sort of compartmentalized.” It’s a skill most in the adult industry have. If you can’t put parts of your life in little boxes on shelves, it’s very hard to do any of that kind of work in a society that stigmatizes you for the rest of your lives for the choice to go into the business.

She answered phones at the escort agency and saw her income turn around and even though this was over a decade ago and in a big red state, it was what some of us call the golden era of escorting. Back before the internet took over and the economy tanked. When men called up ads they saw in the backs of newspapers and magazines and a phone girl answered, pretending to be the the girl in the picture to entice the potential client into booking an appointment. Then her work took a left turn. An escort with the agency was short a doubles partner and begged her to come with her to an appointment. She was hesitant but the lure of $350.00 and the fact that the escort only needed a “watcher”, someone to look pretty, watch the action and pretend to be interested was too big of a lure and she took the gig and walked out with a fat stack of cash. It became a regular gig for her, increasing her pocket book and her confidence in her ability to take care of herself with debt, legal bills and without a husband.

The sex business is a slippery slope.  You enter one way and often the more comfortable you get with the people around you and the business in general the more you find opportunities to do more. An escort becomes a dominatrix, a phone sex operator moves on to being a cam girl and, in the case of Laura Lasky, a phone girl who booked escort calls took a gig as a watcher and ended up working herself as an actual escort. It was a natural progression. About 18 months, just about half way though Laura’s tenure in the sex business, it came crashing down and it all seemed to happen at once. People she cared about were in pain. A couple of them came out to family and friends as sex workers and the results were devastating and brutal. The stigma of sex work too much for some people to handle, one was shamed and ended up overdosing and died. The other arrested in the same week. This affected Laura Lasky to the bone. She saw the complete lack of support services available to those in the adult industry  and saw the shame they often had to carry with them in silence and alone. Even though she didn't know it at the time, that recognition and her compassion for these people she had come to know, was the spark that would ignite Solace SF.

After meeting her partner, who would later become her husband, Laura moved from her big red state to San Francisco, which she affectionately calls the “The Mother Ship” when it comes to sex work and sex workers. Still feeling she should do something to support sex workers, she started to key in on what was missing. “It was straight obvious to me that there are amazing placing like St James Infirmary that do great work but their compassionate care aspect is medically based.” She saw the gap and the need for non judgmental, non-agenda driven compassionate care for those in the adult industry and said to herself,  “I think I can do that.” Having retired well, and having a supportive partner, she began forming what would eventually become Solace SF. It started with Laura calling up some friends the day before Halloween and them putting together goodie bags in trick or treat pumpkins. They hit five strip clubs that night and no one really knew what to make of her. Management oddly didn't give her any flack but some of the girls were apprehensive, wondering what her agenda might be. They were off the grid for several years but that didn't detour her as she made it a regular thing. Eventually she came to be known as the cupcake lady, bringing cupcakes and other goodies to the strip clubs and offering an ear to anyone that needed it. Meanwhile, she began putting together resources for sex workers. It took her about 2 years to finally take the plunge and turn what she was personally doing to support sex workers into an actual non profit.

Solace SF’s goal is to help, listen, acknowledge and introduce people working within the adult entertainment industry to the services and resources they need. From escorts, dancers and adult film entertainers to cam girls or guys and phone sex operators,  Laura and her team want to be a resource themselves. When asked what her core goal was Laura responded, “To offer compassionate non judgmental care to everyone we engage with within the industry...thats it.” She then went on to add that, “It’s our job to love people.” And this is the bottom line of Solace SF and Laura Lasky. This is what drives her and it's something she feels to her core, that it’s in her DNA to give and love. This is what Solace SF does and perhaps it's her faith shining though or maybe it’s just Laura, but giving and loving is the bottom line with Solace SF. Not all of those involved with Solace SF are faith based people and those that are won't tell you about their faith unless you ask them a direct question about it. And no, you wont be getting any bibles in that goodie bag at the strip club. Laura’s personal faith is what drives her to continue to do good works and sex workers across the country benefit. Not a day goes by when she doesn't get an email or a message from someone needing assistance or someone who has a friend that needs to be connected to resources, medical or otherwise. Sometimes she's just needed to lend a sympathetic ear. One of the drawbacks of being in the adult industry is the isolation so many feel. They often feel that there’s no one who understands them, no one they can talk to about their work who won't judge them, no one to share the difficulties or the triumphs with. Laura tries to connect with sex workers on that level as well. Having worked in the business gives her perspective. Having faith gives her the drive.

Solace SF is as a person-to-person based system. If you have a legitimate need for help, Laura and her team will do whatever they can to get you what you need. Though based in San Francisco, they can refer people to services and resources nationwide. Knowing that what works for one person may not work for another, they try to be very hands on and very specific. They want to be able to meet an individual's short term and immediate needs but they also want to assist in setting them up for success in the long term. Success, as Laura puts it, “Is whatever that looks like to them.”

It's obvious that the recurring theme around Laura Lasky and Solace SF is love. She feels deeply about helping people who want help. As a former sex worker she offers a unique and valuable perspective. She's relatable and has something to bring to the table that's non-traditional, compassionate and supported by her absolute willingness to go the extra mile. No matter what her driving force, be it divine inspiration, or just possessing the skill of being able to put the right people together for the betterment of her community, it's rare. It’s rare in any community to find someone without an agenda that just wants to help however they can. To give back to people who gave when they were in need. To help people who helped them though a rough go of it. Solace SF and Laura Lasky should be supported in those efforts and maybe, just maybe, a little celebrated as well.

Solace SF is a 5013 (c) Non profit located in San Francisco, CA.

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