by Furry Girl
"Sex worker" has become a chic identity in urban feministy sex-positive communities, so it's no wonder that some people desperately want to be able to add that label to their own bio. Doing so is badass, it's liberated, it's sexy, it will help make you internet famous, it's... totally fucking irritating.
Earlier this month, I wrote about my definition of "sex work" and why the term does not apply to everyone in the sex industry at large, or everyone who enjoys sex as a hobby. To repeat myself, "sex work is exchanging one's own sexual labor or performance for compensation." This means it doesn't include people like sex advice columnists, strip club owners, or dildo store clerks. Those people are missing the whole "their own sexual labor" thing. But, let's not forget the wannabes who are missing the whole work half of sex work.
I've apparently pissed off a sex blogger by not allowing contributions from non- sex workers for SWAAY's section of short personal stories from sex workers. She sent in a submission about why she enjoys sex blogging, and I politely declined and told her the call-out for submissions is for sex workers only.
I've had arguments with sex bloggers about this topic before, and I know I'll have it many times in the future. What confounds me is how some sex bloggers just can't wrap their heads around the difference between being a slut and being a whore. There is a distinction between posting free sexy photos of yourself because it arouses you, and posing for sexy photos to make money. One is a hobby done for personal arousal and satisfaction, the other is a job done regardless of whether the worker finds it sexually fulfilling. It's like saying that you consider yourself a prostitute because you like having one-night stands.
I've never met a person without a sex-positive web persona who thinks that their unpaid sexual escapades qualify them as sex workers. Do they think that doing something sexual on the internet is what defines sex work? What is it about getting off on web-based exhibitionism that inspires non- sex workers to identify as a sex worker? I don't understand.
Why does this rattle me so much? Because being a sex worker means dealing with some serious social stigmas that can impact your life is big ways, and to degrees that non-professional sluts won't experience. On the extreme end of things, if you get a cross-section of sex workers together, you'll find someone who has been raped or assaulted by a police officer. I've never once heard a sex blogger report that this is an issue in their community. Sex workers flat-out have more stigma and (risk of) illegality around our lives and work. Even relatively privileged sex workers like myself deal with problems like finding a place to live when your income isn't (well-) documented, rejection by friends and family, being verbally attacked by feminists and personally blamed for rape and sexism as a whole, weighing bad laws versus your own personal safety, and the endless hassles and heartbreaks of dating as a sex worker. It's everything a slut experiences, but greatly multiplied, often complicated by fear of prosecution.
On Twitter, a sex shop owner replied to my rants about sex bloggers:
clmng the name sex worker in solidarity & in rec of lvls of sex wrk is good. But priv people mkng assumptions & demands is icky.
Huh? It's good to falsely claim "sex worker" in "solidarity" with us? Please, do show me where sex workers are begging the general public to adopt the title "sex worker" in order to make life better for us. Did black liberation groups of the 60s and 70s call for white people to put on blackface makeup in order to make lives better for black people? Is the queer rights movement insisting that things will only get better if more straight people pretend to be queer? Oh, wait, none of that nonsense has never happened. Lying and claiming to be a part of an oppressed group won't fix that group's problems.
Here we have an example of someone who thinks they're being an awesome ally to sex workers, but are actually just imposing their own ideas of what sex workers should do in contrary to what sex workers are asking of them. Paternalism like this is never pretty, it's no different from the paternalism of anti- sex worker activists and "rescuers," and it's certainly not "solidarity." I've ranted about bad, bossy behavior from "allies" before, and I will continue to stand against non- sex workers insisting that they know better sex workers about what we should be doing. It's not providing useful suggestions as a part of a sex worker -initiated conversation, it's deciding on your own that you're in the best position to figure out how we should go forward.
Claiming marginalizations that you have never experienced is offensive, whether you're claiming them because you incorrectly believe you're a part of a "cool" oppressed group, or whether you think that pretending to be marginalized is an act of political change. This is one of the problems with the "hipsterization of sex work" that I've written about before - sex work can get turned into just another transgressive thing to add to one's list of (mock) transgressions against social norms.
This style of temporarily cloaking yourself in other people's realities reminds me of the countless people I've met who romanticize being poor, but as it turns out, come from money and have never experienced real poverty. While it's not perfectly analogous to the wannabe sex worker crowd, it's the same irksome problem of people flagrantly ignoring/denying their privileges, and even thinking that doing so is helping and standing with the oppressed. It isn't. If you want to help sex workers and be a good ally, please start by listening to us, not by pretending to be one of us.
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
More of me online
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Kat's Stories
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sex Worker Pie Charts
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Whore Madonna