Today I read a review of Diablo Cody‘s new film, “Jennifer’s Body”. If you’re not familiar with Diablo Cody, she was the person who wrote the screenplay for “Juno”, one of the most nauseating, contrived pieces of hipster shit I have ever had the displeasure of seeing. Ms Cody, in case you didn’t know, rose to fame because of her blog “Pussy Ranch” which detailed her year (pffft! Pathetic! A year?!) stripping. I despise Diablo Cody with every inch of my being but, well, that’s another post entirely.
“Jennifer’s Body” has got nothing to do with sex work, but seeing Diablo Cody’s name made me think about how prevalent sex work and sex workers are these days. There’s even a new book out, which is getting a lot of press, called “Hos, Hookers, Callgirls and Rentboys: Professionals writing on Life, Love, Work and Money”, which I can’t bring myself to read because I just don’t care.
Yes, most sex workers probably have a lot of juicy stories to tell, and, yes, the voices of certain sex workers deserve to be heard (those women who are poor and marginalized, and who are forced into the sex industry just to survive) but, to be quite frank, there is nothing more boring to me than reading about other people’s sexploits, whether they occur as the result of a “natural” hook-up or as a result of money changing hands. Who the fuck cares?! We’re all adults. We all know what happens during sex.
My life as a sex worker is horrifically boring. It’s the same wrist movement thing, day-in, day-out. My clients are so fucking dull, too, that I often wonder if there is a factory somewhere creating john clones out of the same middle-aged-paunchy-software engineer mould. Even if I had the world’s most exciting and attractive clients, I’m sure that even that would start to get old, too. For me, sex has never been the most interesting thing about sex work; it’s people’s motivations which have always fascinated me. What is it that makes men come and see people like me?
The increased visibility of sex workers has also led to more and more sex workers’ rights groups coming into existence. Many of them are more concerned about helping street prostitutes or saving the victims of trafficking; but there are also some who actually care about the rights of women (and men) like me, e.g. people involved in more so-called “high-end” sex work who have often chosen to work in the sex industry. In many ways, this is a good thing, as there is obviously still a lot of social stigma attached to being a sex worker (well, at least for some people…not for the likes of Diablo Cody. They graduate from college, slum it for a year as a stripper just for “a laugh” and then get to write a “gritty” memoir about their “hard” life). For many sex workers, it’s probably important to know that there is an organisation out there which will support you, and not judge you. I imagine this must be a lifesaver for sex workers who are leading a double life, and find the stress and loneliness of that too hard to handle. Luckily, I’ve never really had to hide my lifestyle from many people. Of course, I don’t tell everybody I meet (especially Americans, as even the so-called “liberals” will often freak out), but I have a husband who knows what I do for a living and most of my friends back home in Europe barely give a second thought to how I make my money.
Despite all of the reasons why sex workers’ rights groups are good, I find it hard to give a shit about sex workers’ rights. At the moment, it is true that I am not yet legally entitled to work in the US, so you could argue that I don’t have a choice about my lifestyle. However, I am very well-educated (I’ve got a fucking Master’s degree for fuck’s sake), and my kind of sex work is pretty much “under the radar”, so it’s unlikely I’ll attract any unwanted attention and have my reputation and career tarnished forever. It will be relatively easy for me, and those like me, to get out of the sex industry. So why the hell would I need somebody to campaign for my rights as a sex worker?
If my last paragraph makes it sound like I skip through life as a sex worker with nary a dark thought or problem, think again! There will always be people out there who will scorn me and look down on me. The following is a pretty insignificant detail but even just last week I got snubbed (or at least I think I did) by a blogger, Dana Damico, over on the NaBloPoMo website, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of what I do for a living. I read one of her blog posts, left a complimentary message, and attempted to “befriend” her. When I looked at my stats, I could see that someone (presumably her) from her blog, Feast After Famine, had visited my blog, but my friend request was never accepted. When I later returned to her blog, I saw a post in which she had mentioned attending amass in which the priest had denounced Obama’s health care plan as being anathema to Catholic teaching. Oh, I see, she’s Catholic! Well, that explains everything. At least she had the sense to question that priest’s views, but, hmmm, I bet she’ll have no trouble returning to that church in future despite the fact that her priest would quite happily condem millions of Americans to even more suffering and poverty because of his “righteous” beliefs. Me, on the other hand….a sex worker who would like to be a teacher and work in a high needs school? Clearly, I should be on a fast track to hell.
Well, Ms Damico, if you did not mean to snub me, then please accept my most sincere apologies. If, however, you did, well, there are still no hard feelings on my part. In fact, if your rich husband, who clearly earns enough to allow you to stay at home and be a mother to your four children, should ever lose his job in this terrible economy, I’d be more than happy to offer you a position working beside me! We could do doubles! I’ve never done that kind of thing before, but apparently the men go crazy when they have two women at once! That way you could earn enough money to be an independent woman instead of being kept by your husband as you are now.
Ooh, that comment was a bit below the belt, wasn’t it, ms Damico? Somewhat nasty and unfair, huh? Especially because I know nothing about your life and the choices you and your husband had to make…just like the way you know nothing about me and my choices…
But let’s get away from Ms Damico (who got me a little more worked up than I expected! Wow!), and tackle a more serious matter…My being a sex worker could spell the end of my future career as a teacher if word ever got out about my “moral turpitude”. Many would disagree, of course, but what the hell does my past and current involvment in the sex industry have to do with my ability to be a knowledgable, caring, good teacher?! If there is one area in which sex workers do need rights, then it should be this one. It should be illegal to fire people because of their involvement in the sex industry (unless they were somehow encouraging colleagues to use their services, or the like).
Nonetheless, you’ll still never find me out on the barricades campaigning for sex workers’ rights even if I do get my arse kicked out of the first school I find myself in because of my “immorality”.
I’ll tell you why!
It’s ridiculous to focus on the rights of sex workers like me. It’s too much of a niche issue. Focus on improving the rights of all women (and gay/transgendered people) instead, and then you’ll see people respecting sex workers more. Focus on helping people understand that a woman (and also a gay man/a transgendered person etc) should be free to live her life, and use her body as she chooses…whether that’s giving birth to four kids and being supported by your husband, or giving handjobs to boring software engineers so you can go to grad school to be a teacher. If we can respect each other’s choices, and understand that human sexuality (in all its many glorious shapes and forms) is not a dirty, dangerous thing there will be no need for sex workers’ rights.