There are things, personal things, many sex workers don’t want to talk about; including me. And that’s a pity. Because it holds the sex worker movement back.
Most cultural shifts regarding unequal persons, such as the civil rights movement and the current positive momentum changing attitudes regarding LGBTQ issues, are arrived by showing the oppressed for what they are: human beings. The sex worker movement has been trying to make a push sex worker rights in terms of human rights and labor rights, by showing the personal plights of sex workers as it pertains to the criminal status of sex work, i.e. the legal system. But there are other issues. Issues which prove the humanity of sex workers by aligning them with “regular folk”, especially women.
Fundamentally, there are two primary reasons why sex workers cannot expose the other human indignities of the people involved: One, sex workers are primarily women and women are not yet equal (which also impacts why sexual commerce is the domain of men); two, sex work involves sex, something our culture is really screwed up about. When you combine them, you get one thing that’s definitely not allowed: the sexual autonomy of women.
This is why it is so disappointing to see so many feminists abandoning sex work as a legitimate feminist issue. The very issues sex workers have in common with women everywhere, such as rape, abortion and even parenting, are such hot buttons that they are difficult enough to discuss by themselves. When you add sex work realities and sex work myths to the mix it becomes even more difficult. Multiply that times 10 when you have to fight your feminist sisters. And it grows even more exponentially when you aren’t a white, privileged, cis female sex worker.
I’ve avoided confessing the following truths for many reasons… Primarily, it’s the difficulty of discussing things which are at once so mythological and so personal. It’s difficult enough to discuss personal, and sometimes painful, things ~ but when you have to defend yourself against being a false data set, an untrue statistic, it becomes such a circular conversation that, well, it’s infuriating. And it’s not only a matter of having had the experiences, but the matter of “when” you had them which carries unfair, unfounded, judgements of its own ~ so much so, that you find yourself defending things and situations which are not even your own.
But since I’ve decided to out myself on the subject of being a rape survivor who has rape fantasies, I’ve decided to break my own silence regarding rape and violence, as well as abortion and parenting, by showing how the myths surrounding these topics are so difficult for many sex workers to discuss.
Rape & Abuse:
If my rape, assault, or other abuse happened prior to my sex work career, then that’s just proof of “damages” that let me to such work. There’s no evidence that sex workers suffer from poor self-esteem or are otherwise “damaged”. That said, if you can find any reputable statistics involving sex work and abuse, and the percentage seems high, just remember that one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in her lifetime. So, ask the same question in any other predominantly female job, and you’ll likely see percentages that shock and appall there too. It’s just math, really.
If my rape, assault, or other abuse happened during the period of time during which I was actively an escort, the assumption is that I have asked for it simply by being a sex worker. First of all, that’s victim blaming; second, that’s bunk simply because rape is about power, not sex. In fact, that same study mentioned earlier also pointed out that such violence was most likely at the hand of the victim’s partner or other person they know well; i.e., it’s not the strangers, it’s the people we know who are the largest threat. And if it’s not someone in the sex worker’s personal, the violence was most likely at the hands of police or others in positions of power surrounding illegal sex work.
If my rape, assault, or other abuse happened after my escorting career, it was the result of my “damaged” self ~ my poor self-esteem from my previous work had me not properly caring for myself. Again with the victim blaming; again with the inaccurate determination that a sex worker, past or present, is damaged at all.
I’m a survivor of rape, a victim of violence; as a sex worker, was there a “right time” or circumstance?
If I had my abortion before becoming a sex worker, it again leads to the “damaged” theory or otherwise is a sign of my “whorish” moral decay and low self-esteem. For those of you who have had an abortion but are not sex workers, you can multiply the slander you received by 10.
If I had any abortions while on the job as an escort, then “obviously” it was the result of my work ~ and I likely didn’t know who fathered the child. Another sign of victim blaming, in whorephobic style. And one that often lumps unwanted pregnancies in with STDs. Sex workers do use condoms, even if they are used against you by the police; and there other birth control options. No, abortion is not birth control.
If I had any abortions since my escorting days, it’s rather like the “before” option. So see above.
In all cases, like the rape & abuse issue, the percentage of sex workers having an unintended pregnancy and/or abortion are likely more reflective of their gender than anything else. (Interestingly enough, there’s also a 1 in 3 stat about abortion.)
I’ve made the choice to have abortions, as a sex worker, was there a “right time” or circumstance?
Children & Parenting:
If I had any children prior to being a sex worker, that might be an excuse for being a sex worker. You know, I was desperate to take care of my kid/kids. As nice as the “honorable mom hooker” title may seem to those who bestow it, such ideas shutout the idea of choice involved in becoming a sex worker. While better pay & other job issues for women need to be addressed, “desperation” need not be any more a part of becoming a sex worker than it is to become any other kind of worker.
If I had any children while being a sex worker, that is often viewed like the subject of abortion; shades of STDs, victim blaming, and general whorephobia. Having any children while involved in sex work ~ including blogging about sex ~ always inspires controversy. Somehow, it’s a matter that involves child protective services. As if every day is Take Your Kids To Work Day for sex workers. As if other careers not-suitable-for-kids (or even adults), like a bartender or police officer, involve such scrutiny. As if clients want kids around ~ they don’t. Fact: “Studies who virtually no difference between the children of homosexual parents or legal sex worker parents compared to normative heterosexual parents, so the arguments used to limit parental involvement in custody cases often lack merit. The current legislation and custody process does not solely focus on the best interests of the children involved, but instead impose moral biases and stereotypes on parents’ lifestyles.”
Whenever I had my children, the questions are always the same.
First it’s, “Will you tell your children you were a sex worker?” Personally, yes. (If you want more help with that, see Thoughts on deciding whether or not to tell your kids you’re a sex worker.) That answer quickly brings up the second question of, “Would you want your daughter or son involved in sex work?” The truth is, I have no career goals for my children. Like everything else, their lives and choices are their own; I simply want them happy and healthy. But that does bring me to the slow head-shaking “Not really” answer; for until sex workers and sex work itself is respected, those who engage in sex work are not only less safe but live double lives of secrecy that makes life complicated if not isolating. Frankly, this is why I work for sex workers’ rights. Sometimes there is a third question, “Would I be disappointed or angry if they opted, as adults, to enter sex work?” The answer there is, “No; I’m no hypocrite.”
I have wonderful children; as a sex worker, am I allowed?