This post is not really directed at the public, even though I’m doing it in a “quasi-public” space. Think of this more as a dashboard confessional of sorts. If I didn’t want or expect input, I wouldn’t put it here. I’ll be most curious to see the reactions I receive from these semi-random thoughts once this goes live.
#SexTalkTuesday, which is a discussion on Twitter every Tuesday at 3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific, is a thing I’ve been following diligently for about the last month now. After actively participating in several of the conversations, I’ve gone so far as to put a weekly reminder on my House Unicron calendar so I’d be sure not to miss if I can possibly avoid it. It’s always entertaining, often surprising, and the topics of late have struck hard at matters of interest to me.
Today, though, I realized something so bald-faced and obvious I feel like I should have noticed it months or even years ago.
I AM A SEX WORKER.
Seeing that in print feels very odd to me.
A big part of this stems from my admitted cisgender hetero male place of privilege. It comes from forty years of society saying “boys will be boys” while at the same time both portraying women and sex as something men “get” or “win” and demonizing those women who allow themselves to be “gotten” or “won.” It comes from an extremely biased and myopic portrayal of what a sex worker is and is not, primarily in mainstream media.
When I think of “sex workers,” I think of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Vanessa in Deadpool. I think of girls “on the stroll” in Rio de Janeiro, Atlanta and Las Vegas. I think of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, or the legal brothels in parts of Australia and outside Clark and Washoe Counties in Nevada.
What I DON’T typically think of, and I’m not saying this is right or accurate by any means, are:
- Porn actors
- Camgirls or their male counterparts
- Financial Dominants/Dommes (findoms)
- People who write erotic or pornographic material for pay
- People who educate others about sex, sexuality or kink
- Sex toy reviewers
- or, to sum this up more generally, people who derive some or all their income from discussing or portraying sex in a positive, open and nonjudgmental manner.
The trouble with these definitions is twofold.
- They’re too fluid and at the same time too restrictive. If you do one or two but not the others, are you not a sex worker? If you ONLY do one of these things, are you a sex worker? If you’re not actively manipulating someone else’s bits and pieces to get them, yourself or both off, are you not a sex worker? As you can see, this rabbit hole can get very deep and confusing in a big goddamn hurry!
- It approaches metaphysical certitude that at least someone who does one, some or all these things will want to mount my head over their door as an old-school Viking warning to others who would DARE impugn their lofty [whatthefuckever] by placing it on the same level as a “common” hooker.
This is because we don’t have a clearly set, bright-line definition of what sex work is and isn’t. It’s so vaguely defined, in fact, that SESTA and FOSTA, bills which claim to protect sex trafficking victims, actually wind up harming both them and a number of consenting and otherwise law-abiding adults by criminalizing both online and IRL activities which, in fact or appearance, support or give the appearance of supporting prostitution, regardless of whether a given participant is actually a victim of human trafficking or a consenting adult acting from their own agency. It also implies every sex worker is a trafficking victim when this is clearly not the case and in fact are two VERY different issues. Finally, it denies sex workers who have been abused or mistreated by clients the ability to report bad actors for fear of losing access to other clients who do not engage in such behaviors because their most common means of reporting, including bad date lists and even social media like Facebook and Twitter, could be shut down.
This isn’t a rant about FOSTA/SESTA. My point in bringing this up is only to highlight a very commonplace misunderstanding of what sex work, and sex trafficking, are and are not. Hell, I LIVE in the sex work space and didn’t even realize it until about two hours ago! How can we possibly expect people who are as out of touch with what’s going on at street level as Congress to have a chance in hell of getting it right?
What this did was highlight another apparent logic gap in my thinking, or maybe it was more a case of “can’t see the forest for the trees-itis.”I don’t think it’s a bad, shameful or dirty thing to be a sex worker. I don’t think it’s bad, shameful, dirty or wrong to speak openly and honestly about sex and sexuality, even the parts which some people find unnerving, nasty or downright disgusting. It simply had never occurred to me that my own activities and proclivities met the basic criteria to say, “Huh…that sounds like me!”
As such revelations often are, this one made me a bit uncomfortable.
But not for the reasons you might expect.
Another question this immediately raised is, “Yeah, okay…so you’re a sex worker. But how would REAL sex workers take this little lightbulb moment?”
This one made me step back and think.
Are the money I make and the results I get from being a sex worker somehow less immediate or honest because they don’t involve someone acting out or actually participating in a sexual act at a given moment? Is my status as a sex worker less valid because it doesn’t embrace the traditional stereotypes of what sex workers are and aren’t and what they do and don’t do?
Nope. That’s sexist, misogynistic bullshit and I refuse to allow that kind of thinking space in my head for any longer than it takes for me to notice it’s there. Yeah, I said misogynistic, as in the hatred, fear or disdain of anything to do with womanhood or any expressions of same. Want to make something of it?
See, it’s misogynistic to assume all sex workers are women. It’s misogynistic to make any blanket assumption about what sex workers are and aren’t, what they do and don’t do or what they can and cannot be.
And yes, that includes what genitalia a sex worker has or how they employ or don’t employ same.
In addition to doing and talking about sexual acts, sex workers are ALSO:
- Entrepreneurs who stimulate the economy (among other things)
- Activists for the normalization of sexual practices between consenting adults
- Ambassadors who show the world being a sex worker doesn’t make a person instantly bad (nor does it automatically confer sainthood; let’s not take this further than I meant for it to go)
- Sex-positive and generally broad-minded about the things consenting adults choose to get up to with one another
- NORMAL, as in we don’t change into incubi and succubi at midnight under the light of a full moon, attend Black Masses which include virgin sacrifices or whatever other stupidity can be used to demonize the idea that tangling tingly bits is somehow wrong or unholy
- PEOPLE with real, everyday thoughts, worries and concerns about how they’re going to keep the lights on, feed their families and themselves, attract eyeballs to their offerings and enjoy a standard of living which allows them to keep up with the Joneses.
Being a sex worker isn’t a bad thing, at all.
And, as with so many other aspects of my life which may not necessarily be “socially acceptable,” I’m going to embrace it. Have fun with it.
And maybe even scare the hell out of a few vanilla types along the way.
Sounds like fun.
Screw it…let’s do it!
New York Times article by Stoya A good read and well worth considering for how Stoya evaluates her role as both sex worker, porn star and accidental sex educator
Sex Talk Tuesday Lots of great comments from sex workers as of the date of this post; well worth checking out for other perspectives on this topic and their experiences being sex workers in the “normal” world
SESTA/FOSTA A link to a VERY broad-stroke evaluation of these bills and what they claim to do, as well as the actual outcomes; a good starting point for further consideration, but by no means the end-all, be-all.
Followers, if you know any other resources, links or suggestions for further reading, please leave a comment so I can update this post!