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Fish Girl

Image used with permission courtesy of Brigitte Werner

By Eleanor O’Brien

I am a huge believer that sex work should be decriminalized. I think we really suffer as a society when people can’t get their sexual needs met, and I believe sex work is an important part of the equation.

I didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I bought into our culture’s Victorian horror at the idea of paying someone for use of their body. Prostitution was just wrong. End stop.

Thank goddess I have progressive parents.

One day I found some LSD in the freezer. Just two tiny white squares — I had never seen it before, but wrapped in tin foil and stashed in the back of the freezer, I knew it must be something contraband.

I confronted my mother.

She explained that on very rare occasions, she and my father shared a tab of acid, perhaps on a camping trip, never around us kids. She described how it wasn’t scary or bad (but only for adults).

I wasn’t convinced. I’d been steeped in Just Say No and propaganda from the Reagan drug war. I thought LSD meant you saw bloody skulls and jumped off buildings.

My mother gently tried to explain that none of that was true. I argued fiercely, ending with my ace in the hole “BUT IT’S ILLEGAL!”

My mother, exasperated, said, “Well, so is prostitution.”




That was the first time it occurred to me that there were things that were illegal that shouldn’t be.

A crack in the armor of my absolutist thinking. And that is where the light gets in.

I think as a culture we have a knee-jerk reaction to things like prostitution. We hear prostitution and we think “child sex trafficking.” But that is so not the reality. I feel very lucky to have many sex workers in my life, and many of them are healers. The service they provide is no less important than therapy.

Stories help us understand things in different ways, and see different perspectives.   That’s where theater comes in.

Fish Girl is an opportunity to see sex work from the eyes of a sex worker. To understand how it feels to be thought of as less (or more) than human. Plus, it’s funny and entertaining and full of songs!

Fish Girl is just one of the featured shows I’ve chosen for the Come Inside Festival in October. The show, written by local playwright Sean Andries and podcaster/writer Siousxie Q, intrigues me because one, it won Best of the Fest at the San Francisco Fringe and two, it’s about sex work…

The other shows in the festival are equally edgy, inspiring and entertaining. They are hand selected by ME, and they are all shows I’m excited to share. The festival kicks off on October 1st at The Alberta Rose, where we are celebrating 10 YEARS of making sex-positive theater here in Portland, as well as the start of the festival. The dress code is HIGH SLUT (whatever that means to you — edibles and edible underwear? Yes please!) There will be audience favorites from past shows and snippets from the upcoming festival. There will be singalongs and games and prizes (and possibly the largest Truth or Dare ever played!).

More from the Come Inside Festival

New Zealander Ren Lunicke returns to Portland with “Ze”: Queer as Fuck. A runaway hit at Come Inside 2016, Ze is a one-person, genderqueer, kinky, femmesexual, polyminded, gay-divorcee PRIDE parade through the real life of Michelle/Ryan. Shirley Gnome, whose comedy album just topped the comedy charts on iTunes Canada, is bringing her new show Taking It Up the Notch. Her ability to find humor in the most unlikely of places (with glitter on your clitoris, anyone?) is only part of her charm. Her personal brand of feminism is inspiring, hilarious, and a favorite of none other than Dan Savage.

Seattle celebrity Woody Shticks (one third of The Libertinis and one whole bag of fun) comes down hard with Schlong Song, a scenic route to the bone zone full of too-true tales, hanky-panky hijinks, and pure #propagaynda. Valerie David reveals the secret to getting laid post-cancer as superheroine The Pink Hulk. All-star Tonya Jones scores with sports-themed Tough Brown Leather, which explores healing sexual trauma and finding empowerment through…football? Plus, your sexiest questions get answered by queer sex educator Dirty Lola with a healthy side of burlesque in Sex Ed A Go-Go.

Come Inside 2018 will include plenty of local flavor with a reading of Tip of the Tongue by author (Girl Sex 101) and playwright Allison Moon and a workshop production of Sexology! The Musical by Melanie Moseley.

Oct. 1, 2018 – Opening Gala at the Alberta Rose (3000 NE Alberta Street,
Portland, OR 97211). Tickets $20 at

Oct. 3-14 — all 35 performances at The Coho Theater (2257 NW Raleigh St.,
Portland, OR 97210). Tickets $15 advance/$20 door (festival passes available).

Buy tickets to the festival and see the full schedule at

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