They don’t really like you, you know…

Okay then.  Last eve, well, technically early morning, the Renegade happened upon a post which asserted that all “sex workers” who claim to love their jobs must be in denial.  You know, sex workers (no quotes please) who do anything but claim to hate and despise their jobs hear that a whole lot.  This, true believers, pisses me off something fierce.  And, as usual, this statement was framed with the assertion that we poor deluded sex workers have no idea how men- namely those who deal with sex workers in a business sense- feel/think/speak about us when we are not in their presence.  We’ll assume, for the sake of this post, that only men hire sex workers (which hey, totally makes sense seeing as 90% of the people who hire me for pro-domme stuff are women, but lets not fuck with the majority and overriding theme here…)

So yes.  Denial and we have no idea what those men think/feel/say about us…

Uh huh.  Wanna bet?  You see, as a sex worker, and well gee, an actual living, breathing, thinking human being capable of listening, reading, comprehension and all those other things I would have to disagree a great deal with both of those assertions.  I figure I, as a sex worker, know my own mind, thoughts and feelings about what goes on in my life- both on and off the job- better than some observer from the peanut gallery and thus, know better than they do if I am or if I am not in denial, and secondly, I am well aware of what not only many of the men who deal with women in the sex industry in a business sense- but gee- a whole lot of people- think of sex workers.  Hell, I do get “fan mail” occasionally, dudes are not always real shy about just saying what they think of you, and why yes, since I can read I have subjected myself to the comments made in posts about people like Jenna Jameson, so on, so forth…it’s pretty evident what people think, and no, gee, a lot of it is not flattering in the least.  Shoot, you can even be murdered and people will still talk a whole lot of ugly smack about you.  But as for the what do they think, and the denial us silly whores are in…

Hell yeah, let me break it all down, just so you know.

When one is a sex worker, they will often be thought of in the following ways:

-A poor idiot dupe who is deluded or in denial.
-A poor idiot with no other possible options.
-A poor idiot who is in the business because they lack education, common sense, self esteem and desperately desire attention, validation, and love.
-A greedy, gold-digging home-wrecking whore.
-An amoral hedonist.  (Okay, I am possibly guilty of those leanings; you may stone me at dawn).
-A fake, inhuman creature deserving of the worst possible kinds of pain and death.
-A skank, slut, dirty whore, blah blah blah.

Often, men who deal with sex workers (any type, across the huge not-monolith of the business) may think of sex workers as any/all of the above, and:

They may not “think” of us at all, any more so than they would think of a plumber they had paid for a service.  And believe it or not, why yes, some of those people might even oh, like us as people, enjoy our company, so on, so forth.  Are they the minority?  Why yep, I actually happen to think so, but do they exist?  Why yes, they do. 

But, little secret here, and sure enough, I am just speaking for me, one sex worker, of course others are free to chime in as they like…

Personally, between you and me, dear Internet…I do not care what they think of me.  Simply put, I fail to care if they think of me as witty and charming or a worthless dirty slut.  I am not paid to care what they think.  These people are not within the circle of people in my life whose opinions of me matter at all.  I do not think sex workers are any more subject to caring about what their customers think of them as people than anyone in any other business is.  If one were a help desk operator and someone called them a moron, or a bitch, or whatever else do you think the average help desk operator would be crushed by this and have their self esteem reduced to rubble, or do you think they would hang up the phone, say “what an asshole” to the coworker next to them, who would probably nod, then they would go about their day and life and whatnot?  Why would sex workers be any different, really?  Sure, we deal with assholes.  Like everyone else in the world.  We also deal with people who are not assholes.  Like everyone else in the world. 

 But wait, I know, it will be coming!  With all I’ve said here- about the horrible way we can be and are treated- by everyone from asshole customers to “concerned citizens”, how is it possible to say a sex worker can like their job?

Watch this!

Well, personally, I am fond of the money and the way it allows me to set my own hours.  I generally like most of my coworkers.  I do dig my work attire way more than business casual (except the spiky heels, I do not like spiky heels, more of a platform gal myself). I absolutely admit without fear or guilt that I love making my own porn, you know, stuff that is depictions of what I like sexually and is a creative process for me and all.  I like not having to deal with the whole corporate world thing.  I love not being at a desk, in a cubicle, in a building with no windows.  In fact, the whole idea of that sort of a working life is enough to make me want to put a gun to my head.  I would have to be in serious denial to say I liked or wanted that in my life.  Some people do love it, I am sure, but I am not those people.  Likewise, I know there are people who would hate or would have to be in denial to like what I do for a living…but see, there’s that catch again, that peeve I was talking about before.  We’re all different, so why would we ever be expected to like the same things?  I happen to like my job, and of the jobs available to me, I prefer it to all others.  Hell, I have a friend who absolutely loves his job.  Quit a good position at an accounting firm to start up his own company and everything.  What does he do now?  Professional crime scene clean up.  Would everyone want to do that job?  I seriously doubt it.  Is he in denial that he likes it?  I sure do not think so.  When I quit the sex biz, maybe I will go work for him!

 That’s not smoke and mirrors, humans, that’s just the way it is.  No denying it.


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59 comments for “They don’t really like you, you know…

  1. August 6, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    It’s interesting the standards that sex workers’ jobs have to meet, in some people’s view. Sex workers have to love their jobs and have clients whose opinions they care about who adore and respect them. WTF? I’ve never had a job like that. Maybe 5%, and that may be a high estimate, of workers love their jobs. The rest of us are in it for the paycheck. That was true of me when I was a stripper and in the 9-10 other jobs I’ve had.

    There are negatives and positives to sex work like everything else. It’s hard (although possible) to form long-term relationships with co-workers and clients, but it’s easy to get rid of the ones you don’t like quickly and not be tied to them. To me, the biggest negative is the lack of career lifespan — after the performance stage, which for most is brief, only the business-savvy are able to transition easily. Most are left vulnerable, haven’t saved enough to retire on, and are without a marketable resume. I am not sure why the anti-sex-work feminists don’t focus more on that issue, and less on the attempt to judge other women.

  2. bellareve
    August 6, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Oh, here’s some more sex worker stereotypes I’ve encountered that I’m not fond of:

    – ridden with STDs, because we’re too stupid to know about safe sex and too lacking in personal respect to want to protect ourselves

    – hopelessly drug-addicted, which is why we need quick cash

    – lazy, unwilling to get a “real job like everyone else,” and looking for “easy money”

    – manipulative to men

  3. Kristen J.
    August 6, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Maybe 5%, and that may be a high estimate, of workers love their jobs. The rest of us are in it for the paycheck.

    Yes, this.

    Plus, does she actually live in a universe where her clients and supervisors have a loving and respectful relationship? Because as an attorney I didn’t get that shit. As a secretary I didn’t get that shit. As a cleaning lady I didn’t get that shit. In fact, as a general rule, I think the only difference between my treatment as a cleaning lady and my treatment as an attorney was what society demanded, rather than what my bosses/clients felt

    Also, if you’re so worried about what men think of sex workers, maybe you should take a brief look in the mirror, because your perspective isn’t much different from theirs.

  4. August 6, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Great post as usual Ren.
    The only other thing I’d have to add is some snarky snark about my own job but since I’m there right now, I’ll pass this time.

  5. Tia
    August 6, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I think sex workers can like their just like everyone else can (or love it, or think it’s sucky, or be fine with it for a while until they get something they like more). I can see the appeal of doing things like porn, pro-domme, or even escorting, although I personally don’t find it appealing. (It’s important to me to like the people I am working for/with and I HATE dressing up, wearing makeup or buying attractive clothing. Oh, and I’m at home a lot now and I hate making my own hours,: I find the freedom stultifying.)

    But for certain things (i.e. street prostitution), where the homicide rate is 60-100 times higher than it is for non-sex worker women, you’d have to have a whole lot of love for your job to make it worth it, IMO. And while I don’t know a ton, I feel like this type of sex work is also the least paid, the most likely to involve unpleasant pimps, harassment by cops, and no clear route to more freedome or autonomy. So I admit I do have a hard time understanding how anything other than desperation, ignorance, or a yang for self-destruction could lead someone to long-term street work.

  6. Manju
    August 6, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I haven’t the slightest idea whether “all “sex workers” who claim to love their jobs must be in denial” but I do know what the answer would be for Investment Banking associates.

  7. kb
    August 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    yeah, Tia you may be pointing out legit problems, but they aren’t helped by calling women working the street dumb. and I second Kristen’s this. why exactly do sex workers have extra standards of liking and non desperiation(where else do people complain that women are just doing it because they need the money?) that other jobs don’t.

  8. Ren
    August 6, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    kb; because apparently, if SEX is involved, extra standards must be applied (rolls eyes)

  9. Aislingtheach
    August 6, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Ren,

    There’s something I don’t understand and maybe you could enlighten me on the topic.

    You say you don’t care about the opinion your clients have of you. Why is it, then, that you care about all the prejudices that exist regarding sex workers? Is it that you only care about what non-clients think of you?

  10. kvs
    August 6, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Why all the feministe posts on sex workers’ rights? It’s an awesome job, freely chosen. Any negative stereotypes (trafficked women, average age of prostitution being well below the legal age of consent, higher rates of substance abuse, higher likelihood of a history of childhood sexual abuse) are all totally blown out of proportion by ignorant, agency-stealing old feminists and anti-sex fundies. Sex work is just like any other job.

    So, I’m convinced – why give a fuck about sex workers’ rights? Why not more attention about waitresses’ rights, or accountants’ rights? Why aren’t there more posts here about raising the minimum wage, or the soul-sucking tedium of retail work? Because, obviously, prostitutes are doing just fine. If it was really a job that needed decriminalization or legalization to make it safer or better for the workers, then all sex workers would obviously do something different for a living. Most women do, indeed, somehow manage to survive on jobs that don’t have the financial advantages of sex work, so there’s certainly no financial necessity or coercion involved.

    What’s the point of this post? You love your job? Awesome. I like mine most of the time to. So what? Prostitution is an awesome career choice, and why try to fix something that obviously isn’t broken?

  11. Tia
    August 7, 2009 at 12:11 am

    kb, in my mind it’s because because it has much higher risk of death than other jobs involving desperation. Sex-for money without substantial additional risk of death, dismemberment, or violence shouldn’t have a higher bar it can be “just a job.” In my mind, being a lumberjack or a forest fire fighter isn’t just “a job”–and for the same reasons.

    To be honest, I don’t know anyone who works the streets on a regular basis, so it’s not fair for me to make judgments about a whole class of people. Point taken. Most of my experiences have been from overhearing sex workers talk about their experiences on the bus (there is a certain bus that for some reason has many street workers around 11 pm). And I guess listening to their experiences just traumatized me. And listening to them not be bothered by them was even scarier. When I hear people describing obvious, commonplace, horrific violations of their rights, and not seem to think that’s abnormal….I just can’t understand why they would keep doing it unless they had to.

  12. Tia
    August 7, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Also, when I said ignorant, in my mind, I was not saying ‘dumb’. A person may be ignorant of their legal rights, or other options available, for instance, but still be a genius at solving math problems or be able to think perceptively about their situation(Given the information available to them.)

  13. August 7, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Prostitution, right now, contributes to patriarchal power structures. How anyone feels about it doesn’t change the reality.

    You could think of it a lot like eating meat- it is arguable that animals being killed by itself is not an act that is atrocious (if they live happy lives beforehand maybe), but the way that animals live in the world as a result of the meat industry is. Perhaps prostitution is not inherently dehumanizing or bad for women, but within a patriarchal society it certainly is. I mean, look at sex tourism. That whole industry of slaves exists because of the demand that exists from dudes who inherently must ignore the humanity of the product in order to use it. To use the same comparison… having a happy chicken farm where the chickens live long good lives before being used for meat isn’t going to put a dent in the machinery of factory farming, and when you put a sign up that says ‘chicken for sale’ the average consumer of the product isn’t going to care that there was a difference at all, all they see is reassurance that their meat consumption was ok to begin with. Dudes see a sex worker and they find reassurance in their misogyny even if she has the least oppressive of business practices. It isn’t helping anything.

    Its not nice to talk down to sex workers either, but I really have not seen much of that attitude in the anti porn/anti prostitution feminist discussions I have seen. The objection usually comes from the larger social context that the business exists in, and how it supports patriarchal power.

    There is a good series from ‘rubble of empires’ on youtube about prostitution and feminism, a quick search for ‘feminism prostitution’ should bring it up. He does a good job of dismantling the arguments for sex work being woman positive. Like the idea that its like any other job- uh yeah, if someone steals from subway its way not on the same level of raping someone.

  14. August 7, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Ren,

    I love your style and I would only add something if you had bothered to omit anything. You are one of my consistently favorite bloggers to read.

    -arvan

  15. Kristen J.
    August 7, 2009 at 4:54 am

    Tia,

    kb, in my mind it’s because because it has much higher risk of death than other jobs involving desperation.

    So the solution should not be raising the standards of “respect” for sex work (oy) or eliminating sex work, but rather removing the risk. And there are a lot of sex worker activists out there trying to do that very thing. I just wish that feminists, instead of being so goddamn judgmental, would listen to those at risk and help them in the way they wish to be helped. You know…without all the tisk, tisking and related bullshit.

  16. August 7, 2009 at 6:02 am

    But, Kristen, that would normalise it and make it seem okay and then there would be moar whoars and men would hate on them moar and they would hate on women moar and and and it would just be baaaaaaad for Class Wommon.

    Or something.

    Alternatively, maybe men could just learn to respect women whatever job they’re doing and whatever they’re wearing etc, and maybe (just maybe) that would be easier to teach them if the law itself also respected women instead of treating them like babies.

  17. sonia
    August 7, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Alternatively, maybe men could just learn to respect women whatever job they’re doing and whatever they’re wearing etc, and maybe (just maybe) that would be easier to teach them if the law itself also respected women instead of treating them like babies.

    In my experience, women have seemed far more bothered and judgemental about sex workers than men.

  18. Frowner
    August 7, 2009 at 8:27 am

    You know, it just occurred to me that I’m kind of in my perfectly respectable job because of pathology; and I was in another perfectly respectable (and horrible and painful) job out of the need for quick cash. I was just talking to someone the other day who pointed out that I’m paid way less than other people who do the same work, let myself get walked all over by some of the people I work for, etc etc and in general tend to think that I’m a terrible employee no matter how many glowing reviews and how much praise I get. And of course, trying to find a job that matches my skills and interests is out of the question–because who would hire someone like me for something awesome? If we’re really, really concerned about women who are in jobs because they have low self esteem, few options, etc, then the constituency is very broad and certainly isn’t limited to whichever sex workers meet that description.

    On another note–this could just be me and it’s certainly a screwed up feeling to have, but my emotional response to sex work is “oh, that’s something that pretty women can do to earn money, and sex workers are prettier than me, hence they’re more valuable because everyone always has said that I’m useless because I’m plain”. My discomfort with sex work (which I am certainly working on through reading and thinking and which I do not approve of) has always been rooted in the feeling that women who can do sex work are already better than me, so part of me wants to keep them not-respectable because I feel like they already have a substantial advantage. (Even though this is dumb! And not true!)

    (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to people I actually know and I do have a friend I really value who has done sex work for the decade I’ve known her; it’s one of those stupid feelings you have about other people out there somewhere) This is really about competition and patriarchy and valuing women only for their looks, not about actual sex workers. More, it’s really about me and my feelings, not about them.

    I think that at least some of the time when privileged women cling to their privilege it’s about denying the pain of life under patriarchy–of course this is an awesome system that I’m totally invested in, it’s not that I mind women being valued for their looks and “good” women always being in competition with “bad” women; it’s just that I don’t approve of those poor sex worker dupes out their messing everything up.”

  19. Ren
    August 7, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Aisling:

    I care about sex workers having the same legal rights and basic human respect (as in, oh, hey, you know, it is WRONG to murder sex workers) as everyone else. I am big on those basic little things for a variety of people- sex workers, transgender people, gay people, kinky people, people of color, disabled people, women people- you know, a whole load of people who often do not get that consideration. AND I DESTEST stereotypes and universal assumptions.

    Thing is, right now, a lot of folk do think it is a-ok to kill sex workers, because they aren’t people and aren’t worthy of basic human respect- so yeah, that bothers me. Having people assume all sex workers are the same, all sex workers are this, hey, yeah, that bothers me. I wonder why you think it wouldn’t? I mean, hey, I’m a Jew too. Now, if I had written about how it is one thing when someone in some context thinks of me as a kike, it doesn’t crush my self esteem, but you know, people thinking Jews are inferior or treating them all like (insert whatever here) or assuming they are all like (insert Jew-phobic statement here) would you be asking this? Or would you just know that hey, guess what, Jews are people too?

  20. Ren
    August 7, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Nails:

    You’ve never seen people from the anti side talk down to the women involved in the sex industry? I have. So has just about every other sex worker here. First hand.

    And yes, there is an argument to be made about how the sex industry affects all women globally. It is an argument that has been had many times and I do not discount it is a valid one. However, right now, in this very really real world, there is no end to the sex industry in sight. So, right now, I am very concerned with seeing that sex workers have the same rights and basic human consideration a whole lot of other people take for granted.

    We all pick our battles, right?

  21. RenegadeEvolution
    August 7, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Also AIsling & Nails:

    I find it amazingly condescending when women who wear the feminist label proudly claim to know the minds of/what is going on in the lives of other women better than those women themselves do. It sounds a lot like the whole “listen, woman, I know what is best for you, I know you better than you do” crap that men have been saying to women for a loooong time. If I don’t like it out of men, why the hell would I like it out of feminists?

    AND BY ALL MEANS- there are people in the sex industry who do need help. Help them, absolutely. Take on traffickers? Absolutely! Assist in freeing children from forced sexual labor? Absolutely! Assume that every woman in an aspect of the sex industry is in denial and doesn’t know what is going on in her own life? Absolutely not. Or, is that kind of thing okay with you, under feminist analysis and all?

  22. RenegadeEvolution
    August 7, 2009 at 10:02 am

    KVS:

    Question, are you always such an asshole, because that is usually my job. When, cupcake, crimes against sex workers are given the same attention by law enforcement that crimes against, oh, lawyers (assuming that highly paid people in both fields make about the same an hour) are, you can consider pulling that crap.

    Now, sex with children in any context is a crime, and should be punished. No one is saying otherwise. As for your other alligations, such as drug abuse and sexual abuse histories….go do a study for me. Interview a wide range of sex workers in all fields of the industry- make sure to include the full range of ages, genders, and fields, asking about drug use. Then, do similar study on college students, people in the food service industry, and oh, brokers. Compare and contrast, then lets see your findings. Then, wrt to histories of sexual abuse, do one on women, in and out of the sex industry (1 in 4 women is what is generally assumed to be the accurate percentile), then, once again, compare and contrast. Are their women in the sex industry who have suffered sexual abuse? Yes. But 1 in 4 is 25% of the population of women on the planet…I bet there are plenty in other fields too.

    AND NEED I REMIND ANYONE- This post was not about TRAFFICKING, it is ABOUT stereotypes and assumptions put on sex workers that leads to OTHERING them, which why yes, even happens amid feminists!

  23. kb
    August 7, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Tia-Kirsten already said it, but NOTHING you said will be helped by calling women on the street ignorant. NOTHING will be helped by saying that street workers should just go away. really. I am not denying the danger, and I don’t think Ren is either. In fact, we’re with you that nobody should have to face a daily risk of death for their job(at least, I am, and I’m making assumptions here about Ren). But the solution to that is not more stigma. The solution to that is not more laws and more jail time for the women who work the street.

  24. RenegadeEvolution
    August 7, 2009 at 10:17 am

    KB: You assume correctly. We’re I a lumberjack, there are risks, yes, but if a someone who was buying wood from me murdered me, they would do time and why yes, it would be condiered a horrible act. If I fell out of a tree and broke my neck, that would be a job rleated accident and a risk of the job. Now, as I sex worker, if I am murdered, well gee, I should get the same reaction the lumberjack does. If I, well, hell, fall off a pole and break my neck…job related accident and risk of the job. (and an interesting visual image, actually- then again, I have an odd sense of humor).

  25. Tia
    August 7, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Kristen J.,
    I agree that in the long-term the solution should be to remove the stigma and increase the protections available (and potentially increase remuneration) for risky jobs, including street sex work.

    Personally, I think sex work should be legal and that abusing sex workers should be especially extra illegal. I think crimes against sex workers should should involve women having a way to alert police to dangerous johns without having to expose themselves to arrest. But right now none of that is the case, Sure, as a group you can work towards that ending. But as an individual, I just perceive it as such a risky and dangerous job, with the added perk of being not approved of in our society, that I just have a hard time getting into the mindset of someone who would be willing to take those risks for so little payoff. Do I generalize about what types of people might be willing to do that job? Yes. But I also have certain stereotypes of what types of people are willing to be investment bankers or marines, or be video game programmers or work, in any way, for the insurance companies.

  26. kvs
    August 7, 2009 at 10:23 am

    But, hey, I’m on your side. I just don’t understand why all the posts on sex work, that’s all. It’s just another job.

    By mentioning trafficking and the young entry age of most prostitutes and the alleged higher substance abuse and sexual abuse history among sex workers, I was supporting feministe’s decision to put the emphasis where it belongs when it comes to sex work: The most important thing in any conversation about sex work is to 1) try to change the minds of non-sex worker women about prejudices against sex workers. Because other women, especially feminists and progressives, present the biggest danger to women and girls in the sex trade, 2) Reframe the argument so that mostly young, white educated call girls have a voice, as they comprise the majority of sex workers. 3) Don’t poison the well with any discussion of coercion – it makes prostitution look bad. Even if there is an element of coercion and desperation involved for some sex workers, can’t that be true for most waitresses too? And really, why does sex make a job different? That’s like saying that being raped is different than getting punched in the face – there’s only a difference if one has puritanical attitudes about sex.

  27. Ren
    August 7, 2009 at 10:35 am

    KVS: No, you are being an ass and attempting a thread jack. And for the record, this is my first actual post on sex work and nothing but- I wrote on gaming and comics earlier. Why the interest in Sex Work, well, consult the Oracle or gee, ask the Feministe staff- I’m just a contractor on a two week gig.

    Now, if you actually want to educate yourself, you can read ALL those posts EVER here about sex work and what has been said in them, many focus on harm reduction and are not OMG all about the white girls! In gact, wow, a few of the people who have written them are not even college educated white girls! HOLY SHIT. Imagine that?

    And guess what, all workers are coerced and often desperate, we all need money to live, right?

    Now, let’s start again and try to stick on topic. Is it fine and dandy for some women, in the interests of whatever (insert prefered theory here) to assume they know the thoughts and motivations of ALL sex workers and that those sex workers do not know such things for themselves? If you can stick to the topic, hey, discussion can happen. If not, I can consult the Oracle and predict myself doing something I do not do..well…pretty much ever…and that would be deleting your comments. After all, once in a while, WE need some safe spaces too.

  28. Ren
    August 7, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Ah, I should amend, my first actual post on sex worker and nothing but durring THIS tour here at Feministe.

  29. 43t9fisldjfdsfqo9rg3
    August 7, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Me doth think the whore protest too much.

    Your business involves creating manipulative, exploitative relationships with emotionally vulnerable people to turn one of the filthiest dollars imaginable, in terms of human suffering generated. You are a horrendous cancer, and I wish you’d identify yourself as such instead of posting confusing and defensive diatribes pointing to the opposite. You’re a whore. Accept it. It’s not defensible. Done.

  30. AMM
    August 7, 2009 at 11:53 am

    A few thoughts:

    1. The claim that being is a sex worker is supporting Teh Patriarchy and thus Evil, or inevitably a consequence of Patriarchal brainwashing, is a lot like the claim that being a stay-at-home mother is supporting Teh Patriarchy, etc. And the same objection applies: if you say you want to give women more choices so they can do what they want to do, but then dump on them for making a different choice from the one you approve of, how is that different from what Teh Patriarchy does?

    2. I keep feeling, we must supply sex workers with options so that they don’t go into this business unless they really want to. But then I ask: we don’t think this way about being, say, a cleaning lady or a waitress. (Or, for that matter, being a day laborer on a possibly unsafe construction site.) There are lots of unpleasant, dangerous jobs that people take because they can’t get any other job or because they can’t get another job that pays enough for their family to live on. Why is sex work different?

    I think I would still feel that way even if the worst of the abuses and dangers were eliminated. But I can’t really justify my feeling.

  31. SunlessNick
    August 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I love my job… sometimes. Sometimes it shits me up the wall. Sometimes I feel like I’d rather scream than go in and put on my game face. Sometimes I turn down jobs I could use and would probably enjoy because I’m just sick of it.

    You mean you actually have moods and stuff, where you think differently about your job at different times? But… that’s how I am in my job (clutches fob watch*).

    * Because I’m a man and can’t possibly have pearls.

    ND NEED I REMIND ANYONE- This post was not about TRAFFICKING, it is ABOUT stereotypes and assumptions put on sex workers that leads to OTHERING them, which why yes, even happens amid feminists! – Ren

    And which are the used to excuse the very crimes you’re implied to be forgetting about.

  32. Jannet
    August 7, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    But as an individual, I just perceive it as such a risky and dangerous job, with the added perk of being not approved of in our society, that I just have a hard time getting into the mindset of someone who would be willing to take those risks for so little payoff. – Tia, comment 26

    Generally, if I have a hard time understanding someone, I listen and assume that they know how they feel better than I can guess how they feel. This seems to be Ren’s point : generally, if the average person has a hard time understanding sex workers’ [collective?] motivations they assume that they can fairly well guess at them. And that if the sex workers themselves have a different p.o.v., it’s considered significantly less valid (read ignorant, desperate, etc.) Whereas, if you have an assumption about investment bankers or marines, etc, and they explain themselves differently than you envisioned, you would be less quick to call them ignorant — in fact, maybe you would consider yourself a little ignorant for not understanding their p.o.v. to begin with.

    But, usually, the sex workers aren’t even consulted because the stigma is so strong. I mean this in no snarky way, but did you ever think to ask one of these women you overhear if you could buy them a cup of coffee and learn more about how they feel about their situation? If I hear someone talking on the bus about the dangers of being a lumber jack, and I’m interested, I might say, “Oh, that’s so interesting. Can you tell me more?” But there’s so much stigma attached to even ACKNOWLEDGING the sex work that’s happening, and there’s such a danger to these women to be exposed in this way that I can hardly see this conversation happening. And then, it’s much easier to just guess that they must be really desperate and ignorant and not really able to make good decisions for themselves.

  33. prairielily
    August 7, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    If I, well, hell, fall off a pole and break my neck…job related accident and risk of the job. (and an interesting visual image, actually- then again, I have an odd sense of humor).

    What if the pole wasn’t attached to the floor and ceiling properly, and the whole contraption just fell over, dancer attached? Someone irritating would have to cushion her fall, of course… Actually, has that ever happened? I feel like a story like that would be stripper folklore.

    Ok, serious questions now… If they’re not really appropriate, I apologize. I’m not trying to troll and I definitely need that disclaimer after reading some of the other comments in this thread.

    Ren, you mentioned that 90% of your pro-domme clients are women. Do you feel that that’s an avenue open to anyone with a talent for the work, or is there a class-based or race-based component to it? Do you have to be perceived a certain way to build that type of clientele?

  34. RenegadeEvolution
    August 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Parie: I think actually pro domme offers a lot more leeway in the looks/race department than many other forms of sex work; but I have noted people who tend to hire professional dommes also tend to have money. Mostly, I think you have to be a good actor-be as commanding/controlling/intimidating as the person hiring you expects.

    Jannnet: amazing what just good old listening will do!

  35. Tia
    August 7, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Jannet, I never ask those women about how they felt, because that seemed intrusive to me, and there were always like, 5-10 of them. I don’t like it when people break into my conversations and say they find it interesting or want to know more about me; I feel threatened by that, so I wouldn’t do it to someone else.

    I also just feel like I keep to myself more. I don’t know many sex workers (and they are all off-the-street doing stuff like stripping/fetish stuff), but even with them I wouldn’t bring their work up unless they seemed to want to talk about it.

    As for investment bankers, I think I would consider them, on average, much more ignorant/screwed up in their motivations than the average sex worker. I feel like sex workers are normal people doing the best they can in a fucked up system, but i-bankers are busy keeping the system in place and profiting handsomely from it.

  36. Georgia
    August 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    re: lifespan of sex work

    I once read an article about a GRANNY though, in Netherlands(?) who is still doing sex work, because *grasp*, there are lonely older men who are interested in sex with women who are their age.

    Personally I don’t do it because I’m have germphobia, I don’t even like being tapped on the shoulder, but the way I see it is, prostitution is a human rights issue, a safety issue, an employee rights issue, a health issue, but from the prostitute’s side, it’s never a moral issue.

  37. Kristen J.
    August 7, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I feel like sex workers are normal people doing the best they can in a fucked up system, but i-bankers are busy keeping the system in place and profiting handsomely from it.

    Alas, some i-bankers are also just normal people doing the best they can in a fucked up world. I know, I know…shocking, but I went to grad school with a number of them and some of them are just regular ol’ women trying to pay off their student loans and support their families…

  38. Tia
    August 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Kristen J., I know a lot of i-bankers (also went to school with them and dated one long term–although all of them were men), but unfortunately all the ones i know are amoral pricks who think they’re so much more intelligent than everyone else, and that entitles them to earn like 900% of what the average minimum wage worker earns. I know some decent folk who were trying to pay off student loans and considered i-banking, but they never could actually make themselves do it. The ones who got into it are all greedy grabby monkeys. Or retired professional poker players. Or misanthropes who gave up on happiness at age 9.

    I guess I just believe that, yes, everyone’s different and your profession doesn’t say everything about you. Still, certain types of people do flock to certain types of professions. and i-banking attracts sexist douchebags.

  39. kate s.
    August 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    im sorry, but you are writing from SUCH a privileged view with almost no actual analysis that i can’t decide if im more angered or annoyed by this post.

    of course the assumptions that people make about sex workers are bad because they place the blame on the individual sex worker for some weakness in character or morals and not the patriarchal/capitalist superstructure that approves of the commodification of women and their bodies, BUT it is totally irresponsible to downplay the serious risks involved in sex work.

    but of course, when you write about sex workers, you are talking about yourself and not the women who ARE raped, beaten, robbed, or even killed by their clients/pimps because those women are women from economically underprivileged backgrounds who are more likely to engage in street prostitution than the kind of sex work that allows them to set their own hours and engage in “creative” work.

    at the end of my block is an apartment building with the street address scribbled on the door in sharpie. it a known “house of ill-repute” and i have witnessed both verbal and physical violence against the women working there, both by their clients and their pimps. i can sit on my front porch and identify the nice foreign cars with license plates from maryland and northern virginia who come into my neighborhood because they would never treat a woman from their own community the way they would women from these “inner-city ghettos” (i put it in quotes because i think my neighborhood is great and for the most part very safe, but i have heard the way it is talked about by others from more affluent parts of dc). a block in the other direction is a non-profit dedicated to helping women and youth break the cycle of poverty that leads to prostitution in this neighborhood. a lot of their clients are homeless, youth, or BOTH.

    im not saying that there is no way that a sex-worker can enjoy their job, but i would like to point out that not all sex work is the same and it is equally ignorant to imply that all sex workers do it because they love it/find it liberating. there are very real racial and class elements to sex work that you have completely glossed over in your attempt to claim yourself liberated. perhaps it is because you have the privilege to engage in liberating sex work, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE remember that you are not the only sex worker in the world or your experience does not exemplify the reality of the sitution in many other communities.

  40. August 7, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    there are very real racial and class elements to sex work that you have completely glossed over in your attempt to claim yourself liberated.

    Did we read the same post? Or is this a copypasta?

  41. RenegadeEvolution
    August 7, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Kate:

    Okay. As I myself sit here at my desk in, wow, the same sorta DC weather you know we have at the moment, trying decide if I should work at 2 am this morning because my AC is busted yet having the stomach flu, but also knowing that I just wrote two checks because the dudes showed up to cut of my power and water yesterday and damn, well, I really do need those, typing away on a computer that I got when Clinton was president, I’ll remember just how awesome I have it compared to people who want to tell me how privileged *I* am here on Feministe. Yeah, I like my job. Haven’t been rolling in the cash here lately due to burn surgeries, which you know, but a damper on ones working ability…but yes, what about the people involved in street level work, in DC and elsewhere…

    Like, oh, this woman standing next to me here?
    http://renegadeevolution.blogspot.com/2008/07/once-again-whats-plan-im-not-only-one.html

    Or maybe, these people? http://www.hips.org/

    Folk I have, oh, listened to and worked with? Hummm….nah I never talk about them or write about them….ever.

    ((Rolls eyes))

  42. kate s.
    August 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Nothing in either of those links disproves or even contradicts anything I said and I do not think that we disagree about the types of services that sex workers need and should have access too. I’m in full support of the decriminalization of sex-work and think the way in which sex workers are stigmatized as immoral is illogical, reactionary and hurtful. But, this post, that this thread is on, is the post I was responding to. I’m sorry that I didn’t back-read your blog to find out that you once made a post about a street-level worker you met before i commented on this entry.

    I would still argue, with the utmost respect of course, that the post above doesn’t do anything to forward the conversation regarding sex-worker rights. You defend your choice to be a sex worker by claiming you like the autonomy it gives you, when many women world-wide who are involved in sex-work have absolutely no autonomy, an issue you don’t address. To compare the amount of physical/psychological danger that sex-workers often find themselves in to that of a help desk operator is absolutely bogus. There is no comparison. And I think that that is one of the things that makes having productive conversations about the status of sex-workers so difficult, there really is no comparison.

    And there are so many different types of women and men who engage in sex work, from different backgrounds and communities providing different services that it is almost impossible to make a generalized statement that could be applied across the board. and THAT is what I was critiquing in your post: you lumped all sex-workers together as though they shared a common experience: yours.

    I have had similar conversations with sex-workers-by-choice in the past. Hell, my ex-girlfriend was one. But one individuals empowering experience trading sex-services for money does not negate the very real dangers and very problematic nature of sex-work. And any conversation about sex-work that does not explicitly address those issues is lacking.

    I’m sorry that you are having financial problems at the moment, and I can very well relate since I had to drop out of college a few years back because of money and have been bouncing around the country from waitress job to waitress job (although I am very happy here in dc) since then, but your original post, which was what i was responding to, implied that the money was good and that was another reason you enjoyed your job as a sex-worker. From your post, based on your defense of “the money,” I got the impression that you were able to make a fair living off of your chosen profession. There is a huge economic curve when it comes to sex work, some women and men selling their services below market value, some able to pull in enough to put them in the highest tax brackets.

  43. Kristen J.
    August 7, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Natalia,

    I vote, copypasta.

    I have no idea what Kate is referring. Ren is pointing out that the assumption that all sex workers are insane or deluded about their jobs is (1) incorrect and (2) dehumanizing. Kate seems to be responding by saying that (1) a subset of sex workers are in danger, (2) Ren has privilege, (3) ?? therefore (4) sex workers are insane or deluded? I don’t get it.

  44. kate s.
    August 7, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Kristen J:

    I never said sex workers are insane or deluded or even implied anything close to that. I did, say, however, that not all sex workers are sex-workers by choice (even here in the first-world!) and any conversation about sex work should include a multitude of perspectives. i dont see how asking for a larger perspective equals implying that sex workers are deluded. i didnt even imply that sex-workers by choice were deluded!
    And are you denying that there are dangers involved in sex work and that sex workers are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime than any other profession? It’s not a value judgment to point that out and ask that intelligent feminist conversations about sex work include these realities in an attempt to create a well-rounded discussion that examines sex-work from more than one angle.

  45. Ren
    August 7, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Kate:

    Where the fuck at all did I use the goddamn word “empowering” in that post? WHERE? AND what…street level workers or workers who don’t have it as good as me, what, DON’T want to be able to speak FOR themselves about THEIR OWN experiences without being told they are in denial? HUH? Where did I say I was speaking for anyone other than myself wrt to reasons I like my job?

    …that’s right! No Where.

    So, what Kate, is your point? That not every sex worker likes their job as much as I do or has my experiences? No shit. I never said other wise. THIS POST was about stereotyping sex workers, othering them, and assuming that someone who is not them knows their minds and souls better than they do. Which does not help sex workers for the most part in the least.

    That is what this post is about.

    And for the record, last summer I wrote extensively about sex workers rights here. Feel free to look it up.

    Wrt to your response to Kristen- you know, I linked right there in this very post to another post written by a different sex worker which discusses the violence and disrespect given to sex workers. Its not like I ignore that issue either. In the comments I thought I made it pretty clear that woo, basic legal and human consideration is something all sex workers- in all brackets- need. I never denied it was dangerous. So, what exactly is your beef? Do tell. I mean, I do not pick who blogs here….You in essence, ignored the majority of my post and focused on the “why I like my job” part. Why? To jump on the privileged whore? Okay. Done. Now, do you care to discuss anything else I actually, oh, wrote in this post or just continue on with that theme?

    And yes, admittedly, I do make more money that other various other sex workers- hence, my mention of the money- but I have to be working to do that, and due to medical shit, I have not been working all that much. Clarified I hope.

    If I seem pissy or hostile it is because, well, generally I am pissy and hostile, especially when someone comes into a thread which is in GENERAL about Other People deciding they know sex workers lives, hearts, conditions, feelings, so on better than the sex workers themselves and having some person scream WOOO, Privilege! At me. One does not have to be privileged to dislike being called in denial or insane so on so forth.

  46. Ren
    August 7, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Oh yes, I approved comment 30 for a reason.

    Time to get my claws wet.

    Ahem, exhibit A of just how much we do not know, how deluded we are about what people think of us. In this case, what our brave troll here thinks of moi.

    And obviously, a troll who does not know me at all, ahem, I do not do the GFE, so there is no “relationship” or “manipulation” involved. I’m all business.

    And cupcake, hell, I admitted I was a whore a long time ago…wear the word proudly, thanks!

    Though I am a Scorpio, not Cancer.

    Kisses!

  47. Kristen J.
    August 8, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Kate,

    See here for why that particular idea is a complete derail.

    Ren wasn’t talking about sex workers generally, she was talking about a harmful stereotype about sex workers. Your call for a more well rounded discussion has nothing to do with her post.

  48. Ren
    August 8, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Kristen: Thank you for the Epic win and perfect illustration.

  49. August 8, 2009 at 1:37 am

    This reminds me of nothing so much as the ‘baby killer’ shit I get from some people. One of those people was notorious troll David Byron, who is some kind of radical leftist unless it’s women. Then there’s the hero shit, as well. Well, if you don’t share their God-country-apple-pie values then you’re not a hero real fast, but a traitor.

  50. August 8, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Kate:
    This is an attempt at derailing and if you read the post you know it. The writter made it clear this was there experiance and the post was about fighting generaliations and stereotypes. Allso, for you to tell the writter what all posts on sex work MUST contain is garbage. The writter can write and discuss whatever they damn well please. They DID NOT try to generalize their experiance as that of all. You are nothing more than a liar. You are not even pulling from the article. You are just lying,lying,lying. That ticks me off.
    Reread and check your sense of entitlement. You are in no place to demand that someone discuss particular subjects in their post. Not to mention it is near impossible for all posts on sex work to include every aspect without turning into a book. The writter wrote about one aspect:generalizations. They did not say there experiance ws universal nor did they say any of the assumptions were NEVER true (though a number of the ones listed are moral character attacks). When you suggest they universalised theis experiance you are lying, plain and simple. And your demands that all posts on sex work include every single aspect are ludicrous.

  51. shah8
    August 8, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I have spent much of the evening worrying about my predisposition to nuke commenters that I don’t think are listening or care to listen.

    Then I read a thread like this, you know, where Ren sez that we’re a diverse group of people and not a social problem. Tho’ it would be nice if people *did* listen to our voices, detailing what we cared about. It did sorta start off rationally.

    And then comment after comment after comment filled with people exploring (and imposing!!) their own ideas (and resentments!!) about sex work with little regard to what Ren said or even the point of what she said…

    It just makes me feel that I just don’t understand people, and I don’t want to understand people because it seems like being genuine is pathological to certain people. That this must be punished, because otherwise the world is too confusing and people can’t be manipulated easily if they are multidimensional beings worthy of interacting with and changing mutual goals.

  52. Jannet
    August 8, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Jannet, I never ask those women about how they felt, because that seemed intrusive to me, and there were always like, 5-10 of them. I don’t like it when people break into my conversations and say they find it interesting or want to know more about me; I feel threatened by that, so I wouldn’t do it to someone else.

    I also just feel like I keep to myself more. I don’t know many sex workers (and they are all off-the-street doing stuff like stripping/fetish stuff), but even with them I wouldn’t bring their work up unless they seemed to want to talk about it.

    But don’t you think that asking would be less intrusive than assuming? Of course, the people you’re making assumptions about may never know it, so you don’t have to face the discomfort. But, I personally feel much more threatened by the idea of someone hearing part of my conversation, then going on to reference it in a conversation with OTHER people about what kind of person *I* am. This is indeed dehumanizing, though I’m not trying to say that is your intention.

    By forming an opinion about issues that affect real women’s lives, particularly forming opinions ABOUT THOSE WOMEN, without ever having one conversation with a member of that group, you aren’t helping anyone. My general rule is that if I don’t have any real experience with something, I don’t form an opinion about it. And on those occasions where I catch myself breaking this rule, I question my own motives.

    To stay on the i-banker analogy, you pointed out that you know a lot of i-bankers personally and have dated one. I’m still not sure that we can categorize a whole group of people based on this; however, that sounds like a lot more first hand experience than overhearing a few conversations on the bus. Do you know any lumber jacks? Do you have a strong opinion about what kind of people are lumber jacks [or, insert group of people here … I’m sure you get what I’m saying?] The point isn’t that all sex workers have it great. Or that ALL sex workers are like ANYTHING. The point is that by sticking your own description on THEIR experiences, you are treating them as LESS THAN HUMAN, and THAT is what perpetuates violence and hatred.

  53. August 8, 2009 at 4:45 am

    And I think that that is one of the things that makes having productive conversations about the status of sex-workers so difficult, there really is no comparison.

    There are miners who get up every day and go risk their lives in some of the worst conditions that are possible. There are astronauts and cosmonauts and taikonauts and etc. who blast off into space and spend months in environments that, with a single equipment malfunction, can turn 100% hostile to human life, while the world below discusses the state of their bathrooms, and no one pretends it’s a walk in the park either. There are people who are paid to dive to recover bodies from shipwrecks and plane crashes, and the kind of things they see would make someone else in their position have a complete breakdown. There are migrants who’ll work for 12 hours straight in scorching weather. All of these people have one thing in common – their jobs are difficult. Some are valued more than others, some, like migrants, are barely valued at all (even though various corporations depend on their cheap labour to survive), but the bottom line is, no one quite assumes that we can’t have “productive conversations” about their status.

    If you trust any of these people’s individual experiences, why not trust the individual experiences of sex workers? Why are sex workers always the pariahs, always relegated to the status of “not-quite-normal” and “not-like-those-other-folks,” always pigeonholed, and apparently “for their own good” too?

    I know a miner who is very proud of what he does. Does he represent all miners everywhere? Well, no, he’s an individual. Yet I somehow don’t think that you’d jump all over him like you did all over Ren here.

    The dignity we allow a man like him is curiously denied to people like Ren. And that sucks.

    And sorry for engaging the de-rail.

  54. August 8, 2009 at 10:27 am

    “The claim that being is a sex worker is supporting Teh Patriarchy and thus Evil, or inevitably a consequence of Patriarchal brainwashing, is a lot like the claim that being a stay-at-home mother is supporting Teh Patriarchy, etc. And the same objection applies: if you say you want to give women more choices so they can do what they want to do, but then dump on them for making a different choice from the one you approve of, how is that different from what Teh Patriarchy does?”

    uhh I don’t have institutional/social power to really do anything to anyone outside of voicing my opinion? What I advocate actually opposes the people in power who can legislate and economically/socially dominate women are for. Is that enough difference for you? This is like when white people think they are pointing out the hypocrisy of a racial situation by reversing the race roles (if a white dude said what sotomayor did blah blah blah). Who has the power in society is a huge consideration when discussing these things.

    I never ‘dumped’ on anyone and I don’t intend to. I don’t blame women for shitty unequal situations that they were born into and cannot reasonably escape, that would be awful. I voice my opinion of the shitty situation and how participation helps things continue on at the same pace, but of course people can choose to do whatever they want. The argument that prescribing behavior is wrong because the patriarchy does it would need a damn lot of explanation behind it, mainly showing how prescribing behavior is always wrong or some other way to demonstrate that the actual context and content of the advice is irrelevant.

    as far as choices go- the choice between housewife and working mom or sex worker or not isn’t something that happens in a vaccuum, and there isn’t any choice she can make that gives her the degree of freedom that men enjoy by default. Choices are not automatically profeminism just because women make them, it smacks of when dudes dismiss my feminist wrath by saying ‘well so and so is a woman, and they don’t mind it, so its not sexism” so often. It is either oppressive/patriarchy assisting or it isn’t.
    There were women WHO PROTESTED WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE for fucks sake.

  55. August 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

    “Reframe the argument so that mostly young, white educated call girls have a voice, as they comprise the majority of sex workers.”

    are you…..freaking serious? The majority of sex workers are SLAVES.

  56. Ren
    August 8, 2009 at 11:31 am

    nails- I believe Kate was saying that is what I was doing…which personally I do not see, but….

  57. August 13, 2009 at 4:29 am

    “Nails:

    You’ve never seen people from the anti side talk down to the women involved in the sex industry? I have. So has just about every other sex worker here. First hand.

    And yes, there is an argument to be made about how the sex industry affects all women globally. It is an argument that has been had many times and I do not discount it is a valid one. However, right now, in this very really real world, there is no end to the sex industry in sight. So, right now, I am very concerned with seeing that sex workers have the same rights and basic human consideration a whole lot of other people take for granted.

    We all pick our battles, right?”

    It is not an either/or situation at all. This is the definition of a false dichotomy.

  58. Ren
    August 13, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Nails: No, that is your view, not an absolute truth.

  59. Kristen J.
    August 13, 2009 at 9:53 am

    It is not an either/or situation at all. This is the definition of a false dichotomy.

    Two alternatives:

    1) Respect sex workers as valued members of the human species and treat their perceptions and beliefs about their own lives as valid.

    2) Blame sex workers for the horrors perpetrated by kyriarchal systems, deny their autonomy and beliefs about their own lives and reinforce the stigma created by the same kyriarchal system.

    I’m afraid that is an either/or situation.

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