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So you’re a sex worker. What now? Don’t be a dick.

I understand why many (if not most) sex workers don’t wish to speak with the press and don’t feel like answering people who want to know stuff about their lives, sometimes to a level that gets rather personal. Many of us went through hell and back on several occasions, many suffered physical and psychological abuse while doing our jobs, we’ve been insulted, mistreated, stigmatised and, depending on where we live or work, imprisoned and made to feel like we are scum of the earth. Others had it easier and life treated them decently. Education, living standards, ethny and laws have a lot do to with how safe we feel and are, how society treats its vulnerable members, how much dignity we are able to nurture and hold, the quality of life and, among others, what real chances of survival and earning we have.

Granted, what constitutes as main media has not yet earned its reputation for writing about sex workers in a respectful, objective, free-from-judgement manner (1) and do its fact-checking with the same level of rigorosity as with any other type of reporting in journalism. I’m wary of what I say and to whom because my words have been deliberately misinterpreted and twisted in the past, to put me in a bad position or create some false reality about sex workers in general or myself as a person who works in the industry.

Also, giving away personal information that can be used to identify you or jeopardise your safety is clearly not what I’m talking about here. I wouldn’t expect anyone to put herself or himself on the line for the sake of others and should you ever do it, consider your context carefully as you might not be able to go back to protecting your privacy.

Online, I’ve been subjected to the whole list of insults one can receive for being a sex worker, threatened to be beaten and even killed on at least 2 different occasions. To cut it short, people are surprisingly monstrous and despicable when they believe they’re anonymous and, through the lens of their small twisted worldview, they pass judgements that are so cruel, narrow-minded and even grotesque, it sends shivers down my spine and makes me doubt myself and mental sanity.

But beyond the lack of time and being careful not to divulge too much about one’s personal life for privacy and safety reasons, I still see no reason for treating the genuine-as-possible others condescendingly and quickly dismissing their questions and pondering into our lives. I understand why staying away from journalists is a good idea most of the time, but refusing to speak about your struggles, presenting the things from your perspective and refuting / confirming certain popular beliefs about working as a sex worker isn’t helping you, sex workers in general or the public opinion (which, may I remind you, drives the mechanisms that decide our freedoms and safety). In fact, being more underground and despisingly quiet than necessary and telling people to fuck off is doing nothing more than to perpetuate the dangerous stigma we’re dealing with already and make it such a difficult subject to talk about.

people

When only a few understand your perspective, fears and needs, the rest have little desire to delve into your existence and acknowledge the particularities of the situation you are in. This is us, humans, being nothing more or less than humans. We’re atrocious, scary and lovely. In order to teach ourselves about each other we must take our time and make our inner life, along with the intricacies of our existence among each other, known so that we don’t appear worse than we actually are, some aliens that have no respect for the values the others share or the dreams the others dream. We are them as much as they are us.

Speak your mind to the world, be a teacher to the other sex workers and don’t be a dick. I’m talking to you, sex workers on the various Reddit subs. You suffered, others suffered as well; don’t use that as an excuse to shut the world off or discourage people from talking about it. We get it, your time costs money – everybody’s time costs something, sometimes more than money. You would be doing many of us a favour if you could share your knowledge where the case, even more so when someone enquires about the risks of doing sex work in some states in the US and other parts of the world.

It’s a bitch to be human and it can be utter shit for some women to have to do sex work to provide for themselves and, so very often, for their families, a decent standard of living. But not doing anything, or, even worse, being a dick to those allies that want to lend a hand to ameliorate a troubled, often illegal, suffering from very poor image, industry, does not help sex workers, yourself included. We’re already in dark waters and struggling not to become victims of violence in most countries, we don’t need voices to encourage this sort of behaviour or add more shit to the plate. If you have nothing to share, don’t discourage those that do.

We’re in this together, the service providers, the law makers, the clients, the whole society. We need to make this work, being a dick prevents us for advancing our best interests.

I’m into  sex work because it pays pretty well in the part of the world I live it, but I believe that it could be much safer (and potentially more profitable, depending who you ask) for us if sex work would be legalised and regulated like any other job and we would attain all the rights a person should have in advanced societies like ours. To reach that level, however, it means we have to convince legislators and the general public of a number of realities, from the fact that sex work will most likely never go away (since there isn’t a healthy reason to do so), to the matters of how we should treat each other regardless of the jobs we do and to the importance of agency and the issues of sex education, among many others.

Mass media, however lame and profit oriented it may be in general (we’ll just have to pick the people we’ll speak with more carefully), is one of the most efficient channels that can convey our message and struggles to that public and, ultimately, has the potential to become an honest and loud voice for us, like it’s been and still is for many societal groups, historically speaking. Shunning those journalists that do follow the ethics of their job and understand their role to provide a real service to the public by properly informing it about the social and cultural differences that coexist in the same space, the injustices and unnecessary difficulties some of its communities go through, would probably expose us to more bad journalism, more speculation and religious propaganda. That’s where we are now in many parts of the world, that’s what we’re against.

“The most serious task for us is for people to believe that we’re human.”—Red Schulte, founding member of Support Ho(s)e

No one deserves the stigma the majority sex workers have to live with, no one should fear for his or her life while providing a paid service to another, no one should be in the position to not be able to pay for health insurance or access health services because of their job, every person should be treated with the same dignity and respect by the laws we created for ourselves and I hope we can all agree that, since for most sex workers this is nothing more than tapping into the basic economic principle of demand and supply, there is no rational reason for why we shouldn’t look for our best interest here.

 


  1. http://www.genderjustice.org.za/publication/sex-workers-and-sex-work-in-south-africa/

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