Archive for August 30th, 2012

Repression thrives on ignorance; when people see others as human beings they are less likely to support the persecution of those people, and when they see behaviors as normal rather than strange and “scary” they are less likely to support bans on those activities.  –  Maggie McNeill

As far as I’m concerned, the single most important mission of this blog is to make people understand that whores are no different from anybody else, and that prostitution is part of the normal continuum of female behaviors which is not easily distinguished from others (certainly not well enough to base laws around).  As I wrote in “Real People”,

On many occasions I’ve written about the fact that whores aren’t all that different from everyone else; that is to say we’re different from each other just like everyone else is different, and we no more share a certain “whore personality type” than all amateurs share a “non-whore personality type”.  We’re not all addicts, nor are we all emotionally damaged, nor have we all been molested as children.  We’re not all nymphomaniacs or criminals (except insofar as our societies choose to brand us as criminals), or pimped “sex slaves”, and we don’t all have low-self esteem; in fact a disproportionate number of us have high self-esteem, which anyone who actually bothered to talk to real whores instead of just chanting dogma would realize is almost inevitable.  We have familieschildren and  friends, outside interests, hopes, dreams, fears and needs just like everyone else.  But some people insist on portraying us as somehow inhuman, with dangerous or even fatal results.

Under the “Real People” tag you’ll find lots of examples of articles which illustrate the humanity of sex workers of all kinds, and under “The More the Better” ones about sex workers moving into the mainstream; last week I found three such articles, so I felt it was time for another column spotlighting them (and calling attention to the others).  The first appeared in The Gloss and was appropriately entitled “How I Started Seeing Sex Workers as Real People”:

…the truth is that some of the strongest, most diverse, and compelling women I know are sex workers.  For me, this was a revelation…my first novel [was]…about a [prostitute] named Edie…[but] she wasn’t…real…[because] I didn’t know anything about sex workers.  After a year of trying to write my way into Edie’s world, I [realized]…that…if I was going to write convincingly, I needed to track down a woman with an honest perspective and experience.  So, one night, I began to peruse the now-defunct erotic section on Craiglist for research.  There I found the ad that started it all…

The author, Emilie Allen, contacted an escort named Jasmin who not only helped her develop “Edie”, but also inspired her to make a documentary called Sex/Touch/Work about Jasmin’s business, an erotic massage establishment in Ottawa.  In the process of filming she discovered exactly what I keep talking about:

…I’ve met some crazy cool ladies from roller derby queens, to the Aussies trying to make a buck on their working holiday, to women studies graduate students, to single moms. Actually, it’s the mothers that I’ve been most impressed with. There are a lot of moms out there who moonlight as sex workers. The good money and flexible hours afford them the time and resources that properly raising a child requires. With mouths to feed, most moms take their job seriously and make the best sex workers because they know a secret: men don’t always come to them for sex. A lot of clients are looking for a far more basic pleasure: a sense of care which touch provides…our filming…has brought this up time and again. Clients of erotic massage parlors speak of the touch aspect of the experience much more than they do of the final release…I’d like to suggest that it’s time we move away from our socially engrained fears of women’s bodies and sexualities. People always want to talk about the sex stuff when I tell them about this project (Isn’t it so degrading?).  But the women I’ve come to know and love aren’t anti-feminist in the least; a lot of the time they’re simply being paid to touch, to care, no more no less. I for one, see absolutely nothing wrong with that. To want to be touched is no crime, and to know how to touch in a way that makes another person feel cared for is a gift. And if that touch happens to be erotic, what’s the difference?

Allen’s statement about mothers making excellent sex workers, though obvious to anyone who has ever actually known any sex workers, is apparently inconceivable to the “authorities” who all too often use sex work as an excuse to abduct women’s children.  This profile of porn actress Stormy Daniels discusses the subject at length:

…Mothers are a powerful influence in our lives and responsible for raising thriving, well-adjusted human beings.  We have created a romanticized image that mothers are supposed to be sexless…so when we hear about a porn star who is a mom, it shatters our expectations, and many draw conclusions that these moms can’t be good parents…the 33-year-old Daniels says, “I had to work really hard and prepare a lot to have a baby because…I can’t work while I’m pregnant.  I did two years of work in one year.”  Wicked Pictures provided Daniels the extended time off for maternity leave and made it possible for her to return to work when she was ready.  Daniels’s fans have been supportive of her becoming a mom…but…[she] has had to contend with some ugly criticism.  She kept her pregnancy a secret to avoid negativity, but hateful personal attacks surfaced against her and her newborn child when someone congratulated her on Twitter after the birth of her daughter, who is now 19 months old…moms who work in the adult industry are thought to be incapable of nurturing healthy children and imparting good values because their lifestyles and careers are perceived to be immoral…

When the time is right, Daniels intends to be honest with her daughter about her career.  She’s adamant about preparing her for the negative backlash she might experience from people opposed to the adult industry.  “I’ll tell her Mommy has a job that some people don’t approve of, but Mommy’s proud of it and it’s for adults,” she says.  Yet she also thinks it’s important to describe her career to her daughter in a filtered, age-appropriate way.  Just like how police officers, bartenders, and emergency-room doctors wouldn’t share all the details of their job with their children, Daniels believes that discussing the adult industry should be no different…Daniels is not an anomaly in the adult industry, and when I asked if other adult actresses have children, Daniels says at least half do but fans just don’t know it…

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say close to two-thirds of all escorts have children, and in fact as I’ve  explained before many of them enter sex work for precisely that reason.  But while most of us in the United States struggle merely to be accepted as normal citizens, some in more enlightened countries have much higher ambitions:

Penthouse Pet and stripper Zahra Stardust has launched a bid to become Sydney’s next lord mayor by being nominated as the Sex Party’s candidate for the council’s top job…Stardust, a human rights lawyer who wants to be known as a feminist stripper, is joined by four others on her party’s ticket in the upcoming Sydney Council elections…Sex Party president Fiona Patten said…the party wanted to bring its policies into the local arena.  The Sex Party wants Sydney to operate as a 24-hour city, increase the presence of drug-injecting rooms, lobby for the decriminalisation of personal drug use and end discrimination against sex industry workers…

I don’t really think Sydney is ready for a stripper mayor, but the very fact that she can run for the office without being persecuted by government actors and crucified by the media says a lot about the comparative immaturity and bigotry of American society.

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