starting with Waking Vixen's "How to be an ally..."
Occasionally at $pread we get a bit of flak for prioritizing the contributions of sex workers, but here’s the thing: non-sex workers have a whole world, a whole media landscape to express themselves. Sex workers don’t - unless they are ready to deal with what it means to be an out sex worker in an unfriendly world.
So for non-sex workers who want to help, here’s some stuff you can do (and others can feel free to chime in with suggestions in the comments):
Encourage the sex workers you know to speak about their experiences and perspectives in ways that they are comfortable. For some the comfort zone is just with friends, though others may be interested in other, more public outlets. Realize that a sex worker’s perspective doesn’t have to be titillating and all about what they do in their sessions - prying for that kind of stuff probably won’t go over well, or you’ll be treated like a client.
Volunteer for sex worker support and harm reduction groups, but know that many organizations that cater to sex workers basically do affirmative action for people who have worked in the industry. Respect that and be okay with being in a supporting role. Boring support stuff like preparing mailings is mind-numbing but crucial to the existence of many non-profits or groups that are primarily run by volunteers.
Speak up when people say misguided or hateful things about people in the sex industry. This is probably the most key thing a non-sex worker can do: verbally stand up for us when someone talks smack. Do some research on resources in your area - the list of resources in $pread magazine and on our website are a good place to start - and pass the info on to folks who need it. Teachable moments abound!
Donate to sex worker support organizations - cash is always welcome, but things like computers, software, and skills are usually welcome as well. Ask if the org has a wishlist and give what you can.
From SWOP East via Bound, Not Gagged:
Ending criminalization of sex work involving consenting adults creates opportunity for positive social change. With an end to criminalization, sex workers are no longer marginalized for abuse and victimization by customers, the legal system and law enforcement. Instead, the legal system would serve to protect sex workers, to represent them in the event they are victimized by a crime. Rather than having to fear the police and be easy targets for renegade cops abusing their positions, sex workers would be able to access assistance from the police just as any other citizen victimized by a crime. STORM’s website has many testimonials from individuals victimized in the sex industry that had no recourse due to current social views regarding sex work, criminality and the stigma and marginalization that comes with them.
Current policies of criminalization also really serve no value for those either in the sex industry in a non-consenting situation, trafficking victims or those underage. Those who; coerce, traffic or exploit both adults and youth are aware that criminalization keeps the victims from viewing law enforcement and the legal system as allies to assist them in getting out of the sex industry. The victim becomes imprisoned by a system that is allegedly setup to protect them. It is both unrealistic and simplistic not to recognize that people who prey on those who are coerced into the sex industry will use criminalization - the knowledge that the victim fears being punished by the law as a criminal - as reinforcement in a dynamic of fear that makes it difficult for such a victim to leave. Predators use criminalization and the legal system to coerce and deny access to people under their influence who want to leave the sex industry.
The right to form and join professional associations and unions allows for empowerment of sex workers to have greater authority and rights within the sex industry through the strength of a group and networking....
UBUNTU was born in the aftermath of the March 13, 2006 rape of a Durham, North Carolina black woman by members of the Duke University lacrosse team. UBUNTU is a women of color and survivor-led coalition with both individual and organizational members. We prioritize the voices, analyses, and needs of women of color and survivors of sexual violence. We are women, men, transgender people, and people who do not fit into the gender binary. We are people of color, multi-racial, and white. We come from throughout the Triangle area and have roots both within and outside of the United States. We are sex workers, students, and community members. We are workers. We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, Two-Spirit, questioning, queer, and straight. We are young, old, and in-between. We come from a broad range of economic, geographic, spiritual, and political backgrounds. The name UBUNTU reflects a commitment to a traditional sub-Saharan African concept, which roughly translated means, “I am because we are.”
...The ugly commentary we heard all over the media following the rape, reflects an undercurrent of thought that many Americans would not normally feel free to voice that says black women and sex workers are not “people of note” (something Yeagley actually said to describe the survivor). As a result, a defense strategy that poses the lacrosse players as men capable of racial harassment, physical intimidation, and robbery, can expect that these same men will be seen as credible witnesses when compared to a black stripper. This is deeply painful for those of us either currently or formerly engaged in sex work in Durham. One UBUNTU member who is a former sex worker and rape survivor wrote:
When I began to think about and really process this, I had to acknowledge to myself that the survivor of the Duke Lacrosse rape was raped because she was a sex worker, which makes her just like me… Rape is seen as acceptable because she was a sex worker — according to that logic she and [I] are alike and both “un-rapeable.” And does that mean? [T]hat when I was raped it somehow [didn’t] count?
...The power dynamics also require an analysis of the intersections between racism and social perceptions of sex work. UBUNTU’s work to end sexual violence targets those situations and people we know are most vulnerable to sexual assault. As women of color and sex workers, we know that we represent groups of people that are made more vulnerable by cultural perceptions that say we’re throwaway people and declare open season on our bodies. Those that prey on us are aware of how society regards black women and sex workers and choose their targets accordingly...As one UBUNTU member explained, “As a dancer myself, it was not uncommon for customers to refer to me on stage by racial epithets–both by those perversely turned on by patriarchal ideas about “exotic women” and by those who I had made angry in some way as a more intentional form of verbal assault.”
...UBUNTU’s work is centered on ending sexual assault. When we look at sex work and this case in particular, we see that there are many connections between sex work and sexual assault that make sex workers more vulnerable to attack, less able to report attacks, more likely to be discredited in the process of criminal investigation and trial, and less able to draw on support of their communities.
For some of us who are current or former sex workers, it is clear that a traditional feminist take on sex work (All sex work is harmful to women–period.) does not address any of these issues, or empower sex workers in any way. For this reason, two former sex workers and sexual assault survivors in UBUNTU developed a political education workshop to address these issues while discussing the particular needs that sex workers and former sex workers have in the healing process as survivors of sexual assault. Our coalition members really responded to this workshop and it has grounded our work in an internal politics that puts sex workers’ dignity, humanity, and right to safety at the forefront of our work to end sexual violence...
from Emi Koyama of eminism:
...Isn't Prostitution Inherently Oppressive?
Not any more so than other lines of work in a global capitalist system. If prostitutes were more vulnerable to exploitation than other workers today, it is because we, like offshore sweatshop workers and migrant farmworkers, lack the institutional power to defend our rights as workers. To say that prostitution is "inherently" oppressive would absolve the wrongdoers of their responsibilities, and therefore is ultimately reactionary.
From the European Conference on Sex Work,
This manifesto was elaborated and endorsed by 120 sex workers from 26 countries at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration 15 - 17 October 2005, Brussels, Belgium.
We come from many different countries and many different backgrounds, but we have discovered that we face many of same problems in our work and in our lives.
Within this document we explore the current inequalities and injustices within our lives and the sex industry; question their origin; confront and challenge them and put forward our vision of changes that are needed to create a more equitable society in which sex workers, their rights and labour are acknowledged and valued.
Consultation to the Manifesto
The committee decided it wanted the conference not only to give sex workers a voice but also to create tools that sex workers could use in defending their rights across Europe and to create alliances with human rights, labour and migrants’ organisations. One of the tools the committee decided to develop was a Sex Workers’ Manifesto – created by sex workers for sex workers.
The committee undertook a year long consultation with sex workers across Europe, the
results of which were collated. Views that most sex workers agreed on were used to
produce a draft manifesto for sex workers to consider at the conference.
The Sex Workers Manifesto identifies sex workers' demands and recommendations. These demands are not likely to be covered as rights by international treaties but are considered essential to the creation of a more just and equitable society for all. We wanted this document to reflect the situation of sex workers across Europe.
from the (lengthy, detailed) pdf file (to be found at the link):
BEYOND TOLERANCE AND COMPASSION
FOR THE RECOGNITION OF RIGHTS
...Selling sexual services and being a sex worker is often defined in our societies as criminal, even when neither is an actual criminal offense. The hypocrisy of current legislation is that it criminalises many of the activities within the sex industry that enable us to work collectively and safely. Such legislation – which governments tell us is to protect us from exploitation – actually increases our alienation and gives greater possibilities for exploitation, abuse and coercion within our industry. It treats us as legal ‘minors’ as though we are unable to make informed decisions.
We demand an end to legislation that criminalises us, those we work with and for,
organisers and managers who follow good practice, our clients and our families.
We demand an end to legislation that denies our freedom of association, and restricts our ability to self organise.
We demand an end to legislation that denies our right to freedom of movement within and between countries
We demand the right to be able to work individually or collectively; as either independent workers or as employees with the full protection of labour rights.
We demand the right to be able to rent premises from which to work, to advertise our
services and to pay those who carry out services for us.
We demand the right to use our earnings in any way we choose. We demand the right to
be able use our earnings to support our family and loved ones.
We demand that sex work businesses be regulated by standard business codes, under
such codes businesses would be registered not sex workers.
We demand the right to spend time in public places and support the call for designated public areas for street sex work, in consultation and agreement with sex workers, whilst not removing an individual’s right to work wherever they choose
We defend the right of non-violent and non-abusive clients to purchase sexual services.
In order to make sex work safe for all we demand that criminal laws be enforced against fraud, coercion, child sexual abuse, child labour, violence, rape and murder within the sex industry.
from a commenter at Women of Color Blog:
I have little direct experience of porn, but for many years I’ve been an on-and-off sex worker, in brothels or, at my most desperate, on the street in Melbourne, where there is really only one male sex work strip, a few hundred metres from effectively the only trannie sex work strip and totally surrounded by streets and streets of women working the streets. Street sex workers in Melbourne are predictably varied in race but in the majority white, certainly so on the street though there are eg. brothels solely devoted to Asian women: what all these sex workers have in common, overwhelmingly and banally, is poverty.
Over the decade of my working I’ve seen all ‘categories’ of sex workers subjected to violence, over ninety-nine percent by men. Most recently I was drugged and raped by an HIV-positive man, since which I have not worked in the sex industry.
I know of exactly two instances in which women were involved in sexual violence against workers, once a man and woman who hired a woman and together raped her while both laughing, the other two women who hired a man and sexually assaulted him. Assaulted me. Both of these cases were in brothels. Actually the number of women who are clients of sex workers in Melbourne is small, but the percentage of these who go to the streets is microscopic (though it happens).
As a male sex worker I have had multiple experiences with clients who also engage in what is essentially sex tourism in ‘Third World’ countries, especially Thailand and the Philippines but also Bali. Sex tourism, or sexual-assault-mediated-by-money tourism. For obvious reasons these have been men who use their power as relatively rich westerners to exploit these people, overwhelmingly male, often quite young boys. I know of but have had less experience of clients who use sex tourism to do the same with young girls. And over the last few years I have become aware of Australian women going overseas to similarly exploit young guys in impoverished parts of Asia, which it turns out is a surprisingly large economy though still dwarfed by its male equivalent.
The power/economic differences in these cases makes the nature of the ‘transactions’ clearer, but to me also make clearer that the difference between those cases and say those on the street in Melbourne is one of degree as much as, more than, kind. Quantity doesn’t really become quality here quite often.
Partial legislation of sex work has not really helped very much, for complex reasons, though I still oppose the criminalisation of sex workers and support any efforts at the self-organisation of workers, for all their limits.
...I think that these discussions are important and only wish that more sex workers could find ways to create such spaces or participate in debates such as these, which are so directly relevant to our daily lives, to our experiences of violence, gender, class, state power.
from Compartments: An Escort's Weblog: "Shoppers and Thieves"
Who can deny the kernel of truth to the stereotype of the wealthy man who uses women as trophies, having reached the age and income level where he needs to add a mistress or two to his toy collection? I’ve certainly come across them in my whore travels. These guys are materialistic and often talk about where they live, what they do, where they’ve been, and what they have. Women are just toys and accessories to this kind of man. At least in that case, he’s not really looking for love, and the “gold-digging whores” are not deluded.
But I’ve also had experiences where a john thinks he can just buy a girlfriend, and then expect her to not only like him, but LOVE him. I think a lot of men have this attitude, whether they realize it or not. The ironic part is that, at the same time, they often feel used by women who only want their money, when they use money to attract and control women in the first place.
When dealing with a guy like Gordon, I suspect that some men aren’t really shopping at all, but trying to cheat you out of yourself right under your own nose. I think a lot of women who still believe in fairy tales are particularly susceptible to falling for the old using-love-to-get-sex ploy from guys who get off on conquering “good girls” who are not “sluts” sleeping around for fun or “whores” who are too expensive...
"Why I've Done It"
My reasons for being a prostitute haven’t always been about desperation.
I had my first prostitution experience when I was 19, after jokingly demanding money from an engaged-to-be-married older male crush who often used me for fuck-buddy sex. I wasn’t really joking after a while, and one night he pressed a hundred dollar bill into my hand after telling me I needed to go. Instead of feeling insulted I felt, well, compensated. It certainly sweetened the pill.
Later, he amateurishly pimped me out to a few of his friends and, being 19, a few hundreds was big money, and fast. These experiences eventually inspired me to join an escort service after that guy got married and cut himself off from me. I usually never lasted more than a few months at a time when I worked for agencies, alternating between or sometimes simultaneously working at shitty clerical jobs also. In between I was married for almost two years. And no, I didn’t escort while I was married, the good little girl I was. But certainly just after the divorce. My top priority was finishing school, and after graduating I landed a decent salary, transferred to another city, and stayed out of prostitution for almost four years.
Until I decided on a career change.
Approaching my late 20s, I wanted time to think about where my life was headed. I wanted change, and change as we all know, often needs to be funded. I wanted to take a training course and move in a different direction in my career. Another person might have stuck it out, moved back in with their parents, relied on their spouse’s income, or taken out loans. My way was to quit my job to go independent from home, which was possible in my field, but really tough, especially after Y2K. So in order to give myself some added financial security, I joined an escort service again. Why not, I figured? I’d done it before and already had the stomach for it...
From ghosty ghosty crocodile,
I have retired from the escort biz, as of 8 pm Pacific time today, April 20th, 2007.
...That was the main point of the escorting, paying off the whole $3000. Thing was, playing it safe and not burning out in that game means you don't work that often, and there's a lot of expenses. Oh well. At least I don't have to worry about killing some ornery john with a lamp these days.
from Lady Aster:
...And for those of us in the world's oldest profession, let the fortunate among us recollect that we still are professionals in the oldest and most honourable sense of the word. We are our own persons, free to take pride in our work and the craft of the erotic spirit which is the heart of our trade. Our sisterhood still can be a guild whose purpose is not control and conformity but the the preservation of our independence and liberal lives. Let us pray that neither persecution, nor the terrorism of patriarchy, nor a corporatised legalisation on male terms, shall steal this from us is. A true profession is a vocation, a calling- an economy which is at once a means to art. I look at a world where, despite all progress, the majority of people and certainly of women are locked in serfdom wither to families or to corporation. That any of us have a chance to breathe free air above all that is, I think, a blessing and a gift.
...A sad effect of oppression is that it sets the perfect conditions for hatred of those who somehow find a way out of those who escape the condition and consciousness of the disinherited. Sex workers, ancient and modern, fulfill both fears. And just as today's Republicans encourage the conservative working class to hate liberals, immigrants, and gays rather than their bosses- today's and yesterday's patriarchs encourage 'good women' to vent their fury on 'whores' rather than their fathers and husbands. In the end, there is no answer to this division but an alliance against the oppressor. Women who have preserved their independence by becoming sex-caste outlaws should join with those oppressed within the system if we are to end this senseless division.
And too often, sex workers have attained their status as independent human agents against a background of pther women denied theirs. And too often, the resulting ressentiment with which sex workers have been met has been countered by sneers at other women and identification with the oppressor. Yet this solidarity has never been returned, and time and time again patriarchal 'friends' have revoked their edicts of tolerance at their slightest convenience...
This is something I've been thinking about much recently- as much as I've vocally defended pro-sex feminism, I've started to feel like there are definite problems with the easy pro-sex stance. Most pro-sex feminists advocate and celebrate pluralist, liberated, antisexist, and/or woman-centered views of sexuality, which I very much applaud. But too many of them are also among the relatively privileged in this industry; having succeeded on the sexual auction block or otherwise 'made it' by shrewd mastery of the existing rules. As a result, they keep quiet when criticising the cruelties of the current order even while they exemplify themselves the kind of sexuality we should hope for in the future. I can very much understand this on a personal and professional level (every social advance is always begun by the privileged, who have the liesure and social armor to speak up safely), but as a result they make plausable the lies of the Dworkinites that we 'let the pimps speak for us', since most pro-sex feminists act as if the pimps are benign or don't exist. And there exists also a faction of sex workers who are profiteering off of an unjust system and are some of the fiercest guardians of that system as it is (you may recall my SWOP blog on sexual 'crony capitalism' a month or so ago, where I mentioned some sex workers who shortsightedly support persecutory prositution laws).
I didn't get into the Life to serve the patriarch. I don't want to be Malinche, leading the armies of the conqueror to the doorstep of her own people- even if the love she carries is real. And I can't admire the Empress Theodora, using her body to climb over piles of slaves to become the queen of a male supremacist empire- even if the Empress did turn around and use her position to improve conditions for Byzantine women. I think being true to thine own self is the most important thing in the world, and for that reason I cannot love any conception of the Life embedded in a system which throttles human potential and dictates a script to human individuals.
Personally, I think a radical pro-sex position needs to be coupled with a critique of the *precise forms* which sexuality and the sex industry takes under patriarchy. And this certainly includes prostitution's existence as a safety valve (or, as Aquinas put it, a 'sewer') for marriage. I want to see a society without the sexual retrictions of monogamy, and I'm not thrilled about patching a bad system by institutional fudging (and what about wives, whose sexuality is even less recognised within marriage? why should only husband get to escape now and again?). I want to see a society in which everyone is free to pursue sexual happiness and where relationships aren't tainted by patterns of authority. I also want to see sex work as an honest, respectful exchange between equals, unindexed to those social roles. I'm not interested in working for the system. I'm not interesting in being a good social functionary- in a university, in a bureaucracy, or in a bedroom.
From Diary of a [N]e[u]rotic Masseuse:
You know, every time someone finds out what I do for a living, they can't wait to interrogate me about what it's like. Some people are shocked but most are just amused and curious (my friends are generally arty, bohemian types who are pretty open-minded). They forget though - and, indeed, so do I - that this profession has its dangers. In my case, perfect strangers are coming to my house. I could be attacked, raped or murdered (although I do feel safer now that I own a Pit Bull who loves me to death and would surely rip off a crazed clients' balls for me! Hurrah!), or I could even end up with a stalker. I advertise on a site where I can often check the "references" of the men who want to see me (i.e. they tell me which women they've seen before and I contact these women to check they're safe and sane) so this allows me to have some control over who I see and, to be honest, I have been very lucky with my clientele here in the US. They're generally all pretty decent, respectable types.
However, every so often, you have an experience with a client which does weird you out...
From Full Frontal Politics:
For a lot of women sex work is a last-ditch option, something we all consider in the back of our minds when we’re growing up; we ask ourselves once or twice, if we needed the money, would we strip? Would we do porn? Turn tricks? And that fallback, that fishnet safety net, is there for every woman when times get tough.
Of course, it’s a valid emergency gig, but it’s not a decent job, let alone a respectable career choice. Once again, nice girls don’t. Well bred girls don’t. It’s beneath them - much like community college and dating outside their background.
So, yeah, it’s a class thing. Sex work is something a woman can turn to when she’s down and then slander once she’s back on her feet. In fact, she’s expected to. That’s part of the ritual of the redemption of the whore: she has to cast off her old life to be reaccepted into society...
From Note For Rent (And what the life of a call boy costs):
Just me gets harder and harder to define under a workable heading, and the "me" that’s for sale is a curiosity. How much of myself goes into that transaction? If I was just a prostitute, that would be one thing; or even if it were the first thing -- before I found that something else, before I managed to seek out some other defining factor -- but escort is such a small crest: the tip of an iceberg’s finger. The sex-trade does not define the best and brightest of its participants, by any means, on either side of the bed, even though cultural onus tries to do that for us. You sell sex for money. Or (not to leave strippers out), you sell the suggestion of sex for money.
Either way, Culture doesn’t know what it’s talking about.
Let’s be honest: people sell far worse things for money: arms, for one; debt, for another; and those individuals get off with a lot less disgust and moralizing thrown in their direction, and considerably less legal trouble.
What really sticks in peoples craw, what brings them to such retrogradation of their usual tempers and demeanors, is that some of us can put a dollar value on intimate activity.
“Quelle horror!” They exclaim.
It is horrifying.
Not the act itself, but the fuss, this interminable palaver over sex and paying for it. Something we should all be asking is: why? World’s Oldest Profession, the title reads. Why is that? Why is it that every culture has a reference point for it, a strata of society, whether dirty, pitiful, regular or sublime?
Has human history been paying for beauty, or charisma?
And how can it be considered morally horrifying? After all the taboos, the false starts, the superstitious interpretations, it still remains: prostitution, an individual compensating another individual for their intimate attention.
But that may be it: outside of procreation, sexual expression remains a mystery, and completely unexplained. Commonly, it is something that occurs between individuals, in private; but it has no express purpose, and that (especially to Western minds) is where it all falls down. Collectively, collectiveness is something that we have required, as a species, to grant authenticity. Sexuality doesn’t have a cultural value, by itself. It needs a function. It needs to be interpreted, and defined, by communal effort. There is the fact that we need to make babies, and the reasoning that’s the whole purpose behind attraction and erotic play, but that doesn’t hold because all of the mammals on the planet busy themselves with sexual pleasure when they can find it, procreational or not. Climbing into bed with someone, uncovering another person’s modesty, has been confused by so much misinformation and mystification that it’s been locked down. Even in this day and age, no one really wants to talk about it.
Stigma is the only thing that has given sex the power of the dollar.
Which is why the prejudice against its trade is a farce. You can’t make something which is relatively innocuous, yet completely ubiquitous, hard to archive and not expect there to be demand for it. The sex trade is a service, nothing more. And it would be a safer one, if it weren’t for the fact that culture defines it as invalid.
So what am I vending, really? And am I diminishing my distinctions from the crowd by putting whatever they are, out there on the market? Am I better served as a person to save up my youth and my erections, and lend both on the value of merit, rather than cash? When a masseuse charges sixty dollars an hour, a pedicure costs twenty a pop, and a psychiatrist can take hundreds at a go?...
From the F.A.Q. at "the stripper hates you:"
Do strippers really hate me?
An old adage in the industry: My love for you is in direct proportion to the amount of money you spend on me.
Will you post a picture of yourself? Please?
No. Christ, NO!
Do you hate men?
No, not at all of them at least. I hate, hate, hate patriarchy. I *DO* hate this question.
If you hate your job so much, why do you it?
This is a dumb question. First, I don't hate my job. My job fucking rules. This is only job in the world that involves listening to death metal, swigging a Guinness, and smoking a ciggarrette all at the same time. And those are just the fringe perks. I even have panty-clad pillow fights in the dressing room. I dislike some of the customers. Ahh, if only there could be a strip-club with no customers...
from Don Shewey:
SEX WORK AS HEALTH CARE
Sex workers can be and often are the first-line providers of care to the sexual health of men or who have sex with men, especially those who don’t identify as gay. The services provided by whores, escorts, and erotic masseurs begin with something that is often underrated in our culture: healing through pleasure. Inside every gay man are traces of a kid who’s been shamed, humiliated, silenced, or terrorized for being queer. For some people, going to a professional for sex is one way to gain permission to experience pleasure in our own bodies, which can be an amazingly powerful healing event.
Sex workers can also serve as providers of information on health matters ranging from safer sex to sexual hygiene. They can be role models of healthy male sexuality, sexual self-acceptance, and/or gay identity. They can be shame busters and stress-reduction engineers, and more. In this article, I’d like to look at sex work as health care from two different directions. What are the health-care issues that face sex workers themselves (especially since caregivers are notoriously lax about self-care)? And what are the opportunities for sex workers to convey health-consciousness to their clients?
...Most of the time I keep my clothes on and discourage clients from interacting with me. However, in the course of my work as a professional masseur, I have engaged with clients in oral sex (active and receptive), anal sex (active and receptive), fisting, foot worship, water sports, power-and-surrender, verbal humiliation and other kinds of role-playing, body shaving, and various forms of intense body play, including spanking, flogging, bondage and discipline, blindfolding, hot wax, cock & ball torture, and experimenting with toys like titclamps, buttplugs, and vibrators. So I consider my professional employment as a masseur to fall within the realm of sex work. I don’t especially relate to the term “prostitute” -- I like the designation one client bestowed upon me, which is “pleasure activist.”
While I have incorporated many kinds of sexual interaction into my bodywork, I have also coached people on breathing and meditation. I have referred people to acupuncturists, chiropractors, medical doctors, dentists, psychotherapists, psychic healers, colonic hydrotherapists, nutritional counselors, and yoga studios. I have worked with men and women who have a history of being sexually abused and assisted them in their struggle to regain contact with their erotic bodies, to practice consent, and to honor their desires. I have shared what I know about using diet, vitamins, herbal supplements, and homeopathic remedies to treat specific ailments. I’ve given people reading lists, xeroxed articles, and brochures on tantric sex workshops. I’ve turned people on to some really great music. And I’ve listened. I consider myself a holistic health practitioner, meaning that I don’t treat bodies, I treat people, and I try to remember that every person who arrives at my massage table has numerous dimensions -- physical, emotional, erotic, ethical, and spiritual.
I don’t claim to represent or speak for sex workers as a class of people. I think my experience and practice is not typical of sex workers. I also think I am not alone in my attitudes toward sex work...
From "Bound, Not Gagged:" dissociation,divination, and the booty duty.
There is a vicious cycle, a debate, between sex worker and anti-porn feminists about the culture of ‘use’ and ‘abuse.’ I’d like to address this debate from a completely different perspective than it is usually discussed, at least in my experience. I’d like to discuss ‘use’ from the perspective of a western woman of color, and also a faith perspective.
Firstly, there is a tendency, I believe in many segments of society to avoid pain at any cost. We live in a culture firmly and completely afraid of pain, death, and dying. We are so privileged that we have lost much of our visceral connection to the experience of pain. Look at the way in which we drug women in labor, as though their pain were ‘uncivilized.’ It is the quiet hush of polite society, and we relegate our paroxysms of ecstacy and pain into sterilized hospital rooms, bedrooms, and the underground. Drugs, gambling, religious trances, and sex. We flirt with these things, desperate for the unity that these experiences offer.
This is the world that those of us in the sex industry inhabit, and if we are to survive within it, we learn to understand our role in it. This necrophobic culture needs us to hold this place.
Make no mistake. There is a healthy and healing way to do sex work.
As a woman of color, as most women, most people of color, most queers, differently abled folks, etc have experienced, we are not born into a world free of pain. Use and abuses of power are around us all the time.
Doing sex work can be many things. It can be a compulsion, an addiction, a healing process. It can be pleasant, emotional, profoundly life changing. Each experience is unique, and each whore is unique. There are some people perfectly suited to do this work with love, and without dissociation, or the abandonment of the self. I believe that I am one of those people. But we are NOT ABLE to create a culture of education, of colletive knowledge about how to protect yourself spiritually and emotionally in this work. We are forced into anonymity and amnesia.
Spiritual development in my belief system is a process of experiencing the world, faith, and the tools to process what occurs. Pain, death and dying are all a part of this. We must create a framework to process pain and abuse. Most women experience it at some point in their lives regardless of whether they choose to do sex work or not.
Prostitution is not inherently harmful. It can be the most beautiful, healing, divine, present, and prayerful way to live a life. Or it can be harmful, confusing, debilitating. But prostitution is only part of a much larger discussion, and the more we shy away from sex, from paroxysms of ecstacy and pain, from blood, the cunt, and the body, the more we create a culture in which sex workers are abused, and in which prostitution becomes shameful and compulsive. Sex is a natural human expression.
The sex industry fills a void.
Prohibition does not engender abstinence.
The sacred is not always painless, deathless, or clean.