by Furry Girl

05.04.11

Karl Marx's headstone: "Workers of all lands unite."  I approve this message.

I am often asked what I mean when I say "sex worker."  Here's my short and long-form answer, including why I don't have as expansive a definition as some.

I maintain that sex work is exchanging one's own sexual labor or performance for compensation. It doesn't have to be actual sex for cash, it doesn't even have to be in person (like web cam or phone sex) or with direct compensation from the end customer (like being paid by a producer for doing porn).  But it does have to involve your own sexuality or sexual performance.  That's the sort of definition I'll be using in my outreach project, SWAAY.

"Sex worker" should not not a term for people who simply profit from the labor of sex workers, or have a job/hobby that is related to sex in some way.  As someone who does both sex work and other sex industry jobs in my tiny empire of revenue streams, I have zero ethical or personal qualms with business owners, photographers, writers, managers, or retail employees in the sex industry, so long as they're not treating anyone poorly.  Serpent Libertine (autoplay video/sound warning), whose work I love, has a definition on her blog what constitutes a sex worker that includes lots of job titles that I don't even remotely consider to be sex work.  [Edited to add: Serpent clarified in my comments that the list was a collaborative definition written in 2008 by her and other sex workers rights organizers, and is not her own personal definition.]  Here's the list, in grey text below are ones that I absolutely would not consider a sex worker:

A Prostitute
An Escort
A Whore
A Hooker
A Streetworker
A Madam
A Courtesan
A Dominatrix
A Master
An Erotic Masseuse
A Full Body Sensual Masseuse
A Stripper
An Exotic Dancer
An Adult Film/Porn Performer
Someone Who Shoots, Directs, or Produces Porn
A Fluffer
An Erotic Writer
A Phone Sex Operator
A Tantra Provider
An Agency owner
A Pimp
Someone supported by A Sugar Daddy/Mama
Someone who has had sex for food, drugs, or to get the money you needed to survive
A Clerk at a Sex shop
An Owner of a Sexually Oriented Business
A Peep Show Dancer
A Webcam Performer
A Fetish or Nude Model
A Fetish/Erotic Photographer
An Online Domme
An Adult Webmaster/mistress
A Burlesque Dancer
A Sex Advice Columnist
A Sex Toy Reviewer
A Sex Worker Advocate/Activist
A Publisher/Editor of A Sexually Oriented Publication
A Hustler/Ho
A Waitress at A Strip Club
A Phone Operator at an Escort Service
A Fantasy Sex Provider
A Curator at A Sex Museum
A Sex Educator
A Sex Surrogate
A Sex Therapist
Rent Boy/Girl

(A lot of the terms are duplicates to take into account pretentious or fussy people who would rather call themselves a "sex surrogate" or a "tantra provider" than a prostitute, or a "fetish model" rather than a porn model.)

Half of those listed people - those I put in grey text - do not sell their own sexual energy or physical sexuality.  Dan Savage is a writer who offers people free advice about bettering their sex lives, he doesn't offer to come over and provide them with good sex for $500 an hour.  A clerk at the porn shop isn't being paid by customers to act out their wildest fantasies, he's being paid by the owner of the store to man the cash register and sell DVDs and vibrators.  A woman who writes dildo reviews on her blog is paid in free sex toys by sex toy companies in exchange for the exposure, she's not working in a peep show where an audience is paying by the minute to see her masturbate with the toys.  All of these dynamics are not about sex work, they're about having a job or hobby that relates to sexuality.  There's a large overall sex industry - in which sex advice columnists, retail clerks, and reviewers could be included - but sex workers are a distinct subset of the sex industry.

I love that sex workers rights ties together so many threads I enjoy.  Sexual freedoms.  Privacy rights.  Free speech.  But when it comes to the key terminology for the movement - the definition of sex worker - that has to be defined from a labor rights perspective.  Organizing around labor has always been about actual workers, not the managers and bosses, not the outside contractors who refill the snack machines in the break room, not the artist who created the logo for the product's advertisements, and not the journalist across the country at Consumer Reports who tested out one of the company's widgets for an article they were writing.

To put "escort" or "stripper" in the same category as the person who designed a dominatrix directory web site dilutes and erases the special and complex challenges faced by sex workers.  Unlike webmasters or publishers or photographers, you can't just swap out the sex part of my work and have it be basically the exact same job.  Whether a clerk is being paid minimum wage to stand fully-dressed in a retail store ringing up purchases for anal gangbang porn on DVDs or Hollywood's latest blockbusters on DVDs, it's not a fundamental change in what the worker is doing.  They're still a video store worker being paid to sell tangible items they had no role in manufacturing.

What sets sex work apart is that you can't just take the sex out of it and still have a job.  People don't pay a $20 monthly fee to see thousands of clothed and nonsexual photos of me.  People don't pay me $4 a minute for random video chat.  People don't pay me $300 an hour to hang out in their living room.  We'd all like to think we're so charming - some sex workers even desperately clinging to the idea that they are truly paid only for their time and presence, not the sex - but we all know the real score.  Even though we all do get customers sometimes that just want someone to keep them company, if that's all we offered, every one of us would be out of business.

Let's be honest about something else - the people who enthusiastically consider themselves sex workers when I would not are hardly your typical porn store clerks, photographers, and bloggers/webmasters.  They're sex-positive feminists, sexual intellectuals, kinksters, already somewhat in the public sphere or trying to get more internet famous, and generally living in pervert-friendly cities.  What I see is the same dynamic I've seen in many different places: liberal/lefty folk falsely claiming life experiences that they've never had because their social circles make it stylish to be part of marginalized groups.  Widening the definition of "sex worker" to include everyone with a sex-related job or who does slutty things for fun online doesn't build solidarity and create a stronger/larger political movement.  When you look at who actually seizes on the opportunity to label themselves a sex worker under more far-flung definitions of the term, the attempt to be "inclusive" only facilitates the hipsterization of sex work by giving people in certain social circles a chance to add another trendy term to their list of descriptors of why they're such a sassy nonconformist.

Rather than falsely inflate our numbers by expanding the meaning of "sex worker," how about we try to empower and activate the huge numbers of actual sex workers who feel alienated from the current feminist-/pagan-/left-wing-/sex radical- dominated activist scene in the US?  (The types of people that alienate many sex workers from getting involved in their own movement are the exact same ones that are allowed in when we have a more liberal definition of "sex work"!)  Our problem isn't a lack of people who could be considered sex workers, it's a lack of overall direction and strategy, money, public outreach, and organizing/lobbying experience.





36 Comments

  1. I understand given the definition you are using, why you left off what you did, besides one.. Out of curiosity, Why do you not include "someone supported by a sugar daddy/mama" ... it seems like that falls into the definition of someone who is being compensated for their own sexual labor or performance.. ?

    Comment by Betty — May 4, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

  2. I'm torn on what to think on this. On the one hand yes, your definition of sex workers does exclude people who don't face the specific challenges we do. But there is one thing we all have in common and that is social stigma. A porn/fetish photographer may have to hide what they do or face a lot of shame. Hell, I model as a side job under a different name, and when a model recently found out about my job as a prostitute/webcammer she freaked out and cancelled a shoot with a photographer I'd worked with who doesn't even shoot nudes. Even vague links to sex work are enough to get you stuck firmly in the social undesirable category. And while I'm not saying we should count that unfortunate photographer as a sex worker, I do think photographers who shoot porn, people who run porn sites, escort agencies etc should be included as they have to deal with the same legal and social issues we all do.

    I would count sex toy reviewers who get paid in sex toys, as well. It's still using your sexuality for a material reward. If I stopped asking to be paid in cash and instead asked for shoes, clothes or groceries would I be any less of a prostitute? I'm thinking no.

    I'm also confused why you greyed out erotic writer - assuming they're published and making money from it, doesn't this fit even your restricted definition? I am sure the vast majority of writers put lots of their own sexuality into their work, as everyone is advised to 'write what you know'. They're not writing non fiction about their own sex life but a lot of the time they might as well be.

    Comment by Krystal — May 4, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

  3. Your argument convinced me about the need for a narrow term.

    It seems to create a need for a word for some of the people in the gray area. Like you say, an erotica-writer isn't selling sexual services. But their work is intrinsically sexual and would pose its own (different) set of challenges.

    Comment by Villa — May 4, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

  4. I'm confused as to why Someone supported by A Sugar Daddy/Mama, Rent Boy/Girl and Someone who has had sex for food, drugs, or to get the money you needed to survive are not all classified the same way.

    Just curious :).

    Comment by :b — May 4, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

  5. I coined the term erotic service provider to include all folks who use their erotic labor to make a living however they define that. We all know exotic dancers who don't identify their work as sex work, lest they be confused with prostitutes as so many of us have been forced to work in strip clubs over the years.
    Same with many adult film performers. When in LA last year, upon learning that I work as a prostitute, many afp asked if I could hook them up with some jobs but please not tell anybody because they didn't want to ruin their reputation as afp. So they call themselves escorts.
    In organizing, I've learned that our erotic service providers' economy is connected to those we hire to work for us in support capacity. That's called industrial organizing.
    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/demand-the-department-of-justice-do-its-job.html

    Comment by Maxine Doogan — May 4, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  6. Why I don't consider people with a sugardaddy/momma to be sex workers:

    The traditional dynamic of hetero pairings is that a man pays for what a woman wants in order to woo her into providing him with sex. If we start counting gold diggers and relationships with more "unbalanced" money dynamics, then we're counting billions of extra people (mostly women) throughout history as sex workers. Side note: there are definitely sex workers who work quietly on sugardaddy dating web sites and attempt to see if they can milk sugardaddies for more than typical clients. Sleeping with someone who has more money than you because you like getting presents isn't selling sex, it's a pretty accepted norm of how lots of women date.

    Why I don't consider erotica writers to be sex workers:

    This means defining "erotica," and defining what percentage of a story or book contains "erotica" in order for it to be considered sex work. Are romance novelists sex workers? Is Stephen King a sex worker because his tales often include descriptions of sex? How about Stephanie Meyers, the Mormon lady who wrote Twilight? I don't really care about this one in the way I am offended at the idea of a pimp or strip club manager being labeled a sex worker, but I don't count it. As a writer, you're selling your ability to craft a tale with words, not your sexuality. (Even if you write about things that personally turn you on.) If you're not good at the *writing* part of being an erotica writer, it doesn't matter how much of your own sexual fantasies you pour into your work, you won't be able to sell stories or publish books.

    I got a comment on Twitter telling me that waitresses are sex workers because they get groped and propositioned by customers, and have to "hustle for tips." To disagree on both counts: being sexually harassed or assaulted at your job does not mean you're a sex worker. Being a person who flirts or acts nice in order to get better tips does not mean you're a sex worker. If using their sexuality and flirting power to gain an advantage in a situation is what brands a woman a sex worker, then pretty much all women are sex workers, barring perhaps nuns or asexual separatist communes or something. (I have definitely flirted to get things I wanted, including better tips as a restaurant worker when I was a teenager. Does this mean I was an underage sex worker?)

    In sum, I don't like extending "sex worker" to occupations and mating habits where there's this huge slippery slope that extends to vast portions of society.

    Krystal: Just because a person's job has stigma, I don't think that alone makes someone a sex worker. An abortion doctor's job has stigma, and it has to do with sex and touching naked women, but they're not sex workers. There's stigma in the greater sex industry, but sex workers are but a small part of that larger industry. I don't know why people are so eager to lump every worker in the *sex industry* into the category of *sex worker*. Sex toy reviewers are not getting paid for a sexual performance or experience, they are getting paid (in sex toys) to promote a product on their blog. It's more of an advertising job. You ask, "If I stopped asking to be paid in cash and instead asked for shoes, clothes or groceries would I be any less of a prostitute? I'm thinking no." If you spend $2000 worth of cash-rated time with a client, and then said you'd rather have $2000 worth of shoes, you're a sex worker. But if you go home with and fuck a rich-looking man from a bar, and the next day, ask him to buy you some shoes or clothes (which he is within his right to refuse), that's not sex work. Getting gifts from dates/lovers is not a negotiated transaction where the sexual labor is performed in exchange for compensation.

    Villa: The word for other people who do something in the sex industry is "someone who works in the sex industry." There's tons of words. "Pornographer," "adult webmaster," "sex shop clerk," which are job titles in and of themselves.

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 5, 2011 @ 12:45 am

  7. Thanks for this. I've been thinking/talking about it a lot lately. I'd like to add that although I feel 'sex worker' is a great signifier WITHIN the community of sex workers (which I'd rather not have diluted by porn store clerks and sex educators, awesome as they are), I think it's very important to publicly use more specific language, like prostitution/prostitute/stripper/escort/whatever. Because right now, there's this huge divide between people who talk about prostitution (anti-trafficking groups, End Demand pushers) and people who talk about sex work (sex workers, sex-positive folks). I don't want my profession, prostitution, to be defined by those who are against it.

    Comment by Robin — May 5, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  8. First off , let me clarify that that list was a collaborative effort and not just composed by me. The original list I created was much shorter, but I then asked for input from Desiree Alliance/SWOP members and a lot of those came up as suggestions with some fair amount of debate, some of which I didn't necessarily agree with. My goal was to create this list in preparation for my presentation at the 2008 Desiree conference, which focused the hierarchical order of sex workers, particularly those who were unwilling to use the term because they didn't perform "sex" with their clientele. The goal was to create some sort of solidarity between those who performed sexual labor of some sort, but in hindsight, I think the list should have been pared down quite a bit.

    My current concern now seems to be more with "dabblers" who find the sex industry trendy, so they do a few jobs and then call themselves sex workers and claim to be experts on the industry, or worse yet, try to write a book about it. I agree with your statement "hipsterization of sex work by giving people in certain social circles a chance to add another trendy term to their list of descriptors of why they're such a sassy nonconformist." There's a lot of misinformation being spread around by people who think they're experts because they hang out with sex workers or did a couple of jobs once and think they know everything there is to know about sex worker. But this is one of the drawbacks of the internet...spend enough hours online reading blogs and you think you know everything. Obviously the Alexa DiCarlo case was a good example of someone who was spreading misinformation and had longtime sex workers and the general public lapping it up.

    Perhaps, we can re-visit the list and edit it. I know the term "sex worker" isn't one that everyone feels comfortable using, even among those who clearly fit the criteria, such as porn performers. It's up to the individual to decide what they feel comfortable with. I'm not one for forcing labels on anyone.

    PS- Sorry about the audio/video prompts on my blog. Thought I fixed that but apparently not.

    Comment by Serpent — May 5, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  9. Don't have much to add just want to say I totally agree with Furry Girl, Villa, Robin and Serpent here. Love the "hipsterization" analysis! Fucking hilarious and right on. Especially Serpent's comments about it.

    Thanks FG for breaking down the "Sugar Baby" dynamic. Having been both a "sugar baby" and a real pro, I feel it's extremely different. Particularly because as a sugar baby, it's critical to not appear to be "working". Ends up being a whole lot of fucking hassle IMO. Not to mention one can get stuck in an unhealthy relationship because of the financial dependence. And one can be played out even when not aware that they're "paying for it." Just totally unprofessional and shouldn't be called "work." More of a game.

    Comment by Kimberlee Cline — May 5, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

  10. "Hipsterization of sex work?" I love it. I agree that we definitely need to distinguish between sex work, a subset of the sex industry, and other professionals who work with sexuality but aren't practicing sex work/aren't engaging in sexual labor.

    Lately when I want to umbrella I've been using "sexuality professionals" - it has enough potental cachet to catch on and actually be used, it's both descriptive and accurate, and it distinguishes working more generally with sexuality from, say, being tied up and fucked for money.

    The dabblers make me nervous, honestly. They tend to approach the work cynically and from a distance, laughing at themselves, everyone else, their clients... like they're mentally writing the tell-all even as they're living it. I know ours isn't the only profession with that problem but I find myself pondering what we can do to preempt/counteract/reduce the damage.

    Comment by Sabrina Morgan — May 5, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

  11. hey ! Loved the post. I guess it is a cultural difference, but here in the UK, the only people who pretend to be sex workers or who are actively trying to broaden the term sex worker to anyone ( drivers and all included ) are Escort agency managers.
    Funnily enough, real sex workers, some of us who have been selling sex since we re 16 yo , for 15 years and worked in almost all areas of the industry are being called " lefties fashionistas " because, like you, we believe that "when it comes to the key terminology for the movement - the definition of sex worker - that has to be defined from a labor rights perspective" .

    Comment by Luca London — May 6, 2011 @ 9:21 am

  12. "Whether a clerk is being paid minimum wage to stand fully-dressed in a retail store ringing up purchases for anal gangbang porn on DVDs or Hollywood's latest blockbusters on DVDs, it's not a fundamental change in what the worker is doing. They're still a video store worker being paid to sell tangible items they had no role in manufacturing. What sets sex work apart is that you can't just take the sex out of it and still have a job."

    Bingo!!!!! :-)

    Comment by Maggie McNeill — May 6, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  13. Robin: Excellent summary with your comment, "I don't want my profession, prostitution, to be defined by those who are against it." I think that when you're talking about specific issues, it's best to be specific, but as a whole, I like using "sex worker" as a blanket term. I wish more non-prostitutes embraced "sex worker," just as I don't like when allies and sex worker rights group use "sex worker" and "prostitute" interchangeably.

    Serpent: I'm amending my original post to clarify that the list was a collaborative definition written in 2008, not just your personal one. I wasn't aware that it wasn't just your personal definition. I hear you on the dabbler issue. I don't have anything against people who want to do occasional sex work, or do sex work as a fun hobby, but I do get mad when people who've been in a couple of feminist porn movies are suddenly telling the world that they're available to do paid guest lectures at colleges about what it's like to be a sex worker. I hate how the people with the least experience seem to feel most entitled to represent us. My own personal solution to the over-representation of dabblers is to speak up more myself (as someone who's been a full-time sex worker for over 8 years), and to encourage other full-timers to speak out, rather than telling anyone to be quiet. It's a more positive solution. I've ranted more on this topic earlier this year: http://www.feminisnt.com/2011/my-call-for-a-working-class-uprising-against-inaccessible-discourse/ It's funny how I've long felt like, "Oh, who I am to speak up so loudly about this, I've only been doing sex work for 8 years?" Yet, there are people who do 8 *hours* of sex work, and are suddenly all empowered to make it their key personality trait.

    Kimberlee: Thanks for agreeing with my on the sugarbaby thing. While I do think that a lot of heterosexual dating/mating/marriage dynamics aren't that much different that prostitution, they still *are* different.

    Sabrina: Good call on "sexuality professionals." I hope it catches on, as there are lots of sexuality-related jobs out there that are not sex work, but are still not totally "normal." I simply find it very important that those of us who sell sexual labor have our own distinct term. Also, totally love: "They tend to approach the work cynically and from a distance, laughing at themselves, everyone else, their clients... like they're mentally writing the tell-all even as they're living it."

    Luca: That's interesting that you find that agency managers in the UK are the ones who seek to broaden the term. Thanks for sharing.

    Maggie: Thanks!

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 6, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  14. I agree with you on this:

    It's a lack of overall direction and strategy, money, public outreach, and organizing/lobbying experience.

    SWOP Colorado does much of the above thanks to the efforts of two women who were no longer willing to allow disintigration of the group through internal conflict. We do outreach with donations from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and other prevention agencies. We will apply for grants to fund us as a sister organization to SWOP USA. We have many members who are business people, lawyers, accountants, etc. This group is not just about sex workers, it is about providing needed services to sex workers. As an organization who is very organized, we now lobby on behalf of sex workers and proposed legislation. We will gain experience in lobbying through networking with other lobbyists and women's groups.

    For me, there is no time to sit around and sing "Kumbya" holding hands and voting on every little issue. If you want this then I suggest you join a support group! A group has to have purpose and leadership in order to make changes. Members also have to follow through with what they say they are going to do as the other members depend on them. Dedication to this cause is important in never losing sight of the field goal of legalization. Other sex worker organizations may seem disorganized and chaotic, not SWOP Colorado :)

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Billie Jackson, M.A.
    SWOP Colorado

    Comment by Billie Jackson, M.A. — May 7, 2011 @ 6:18 am

  15. I'm a bit confused by the normalisation in your comment regarding milking a sugar daddy as a regular procedure of dating from a female perspective. Are you sure it is not a personal bias? Considering that the earlier argument was that the clerk is a clerk without respect of context, so should be getting reward in money or expensive gifts for having sex for that purpose. If prostitution by definition is the purchase of sex, it should so without regard of the power structure between the parts of agreement.

    Also, a personal note; If that is "a pretty accepted form of dating" but different from prostitution, I'd say there is something askew with those norms.

    Comment by Swedish Feminist — May 15, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  16. Billie: Thanks for chiming in. I wouldn't say that sex workers rights groups look "disorganized" to me per se, but that the movement seems to lack direction and strategy. There's plenty of "this is where we're trying to go" but there's not much "and this is the plan for how to get there."

    Swedish Feminist: Plenty of non- sex worker women date men with money because money is an important thing they seek in a mate. If this is a shocking revelation to you, you really must get outside the feminist bubble more often.

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 19, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

  17. Well, I'm no longer a sex worker. I got old, and got arthritis. But over the years I was a stripper, porn performer, phone sex worker, and prostitute. I actually miss a lot of it. I had way more freedom and money then than now, and I set my work rules and what conditions (mostly) I would tolerate.

    But I think I agree. If your job doesn't involve anything that uses your body, it's not sex work.

    Comment by Comixchik — May 19, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  18. Of course I know that, but that was not my point. Please read again.

    Comment by Swedish Feminist — May 20, 2011 @ 8:42 am

  19. Coming to this conversation late, but I was wondering what you're take on people who fit into the "sex worker" category in some ways and not in others? The example I'm thinking of is Douglas Fox, who is an agency owner who also still goes out on calls. He's one of the main organizers in the UK for the IUSW. Several of the usual idiots from the Guardian, Cath Elliot and Julie Bindel, have used this fact to campaign against the IUSW, claiming it is not an organization of "real" sex workers.

    Another example would be a sex worker rights activist I know who is a former stripper, but currently a floor manager for the club where she used to strip. Once again, she get's attacked by "antis" who know of her background as a "low level pimp" and not a real sex worker.

    It seems to me that anybody who has any success in this line of work is going to end up in a position where they have dual roles or histories as sellers of their own sexual labor, and employers of the sexual labor of others. And if that disqualifies them as activists for sex worker rights, that's disqualifying quite a few knowledgeable, strong activists.

    Comment by Iamcuriousblue — May 31, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  20. Iamcuriousblue: Nowhere do I rule out people with dual roles. I shoot photos and videos of other people as well as my other work, and that doesn't mean I'm not a sex worker. One can be a sex worker AND a manager, or a sex worker AND a photographer, but that doesn't mean that someone who only does managing or photography is a sex worker.

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 1, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  21. I am concerned when some people within the sex industry decide who is or is not a sex worker. It is divisive and encourages anti sex work activists to concentrate attention on divisions within the sex work.

    I have been a male gay sex worker for fourteen years. My partner is an escort agency owner. He like many agency/brothel owners also works as(in his case a gay male)an escort. Is he a sex worker in the definitions given or a manager or both?

    He suffers the stigma associated with selling sex (as I do)but he is at much greater risk of prosecution here in the UK than I am.

    He like myself and the escorts who employ him to represent them makes money from selling sex. He works longer hours than any escort I know and with little thanks but much greater risk from the law. Other sex workers use his experience to their advantage and many escorts who work for agencies go on to work independently (which involves them having management skills) or even to open their own agencies or brothels. It seems to me this is and should be recognised as part of the career path within the sex industry.

    The term sex worker was created in part to diffuse the stigma associated with selling sex and to create a solidarity within an industry where everyone is equally stigmatised and are understood to be criminals (even if legally they are not).
    While our industry remains criminal and some sex workers remain at greater risk of prosecution than others it is wrong to institutionalise stigma and discrimination within our industry against fellow sex workers.

    It seems to me; especially here in the UK, that arguments to define who is a "real" sex worker are driven not by any desire to clarify what is often a very grey area but by a political agenda.

    For myself and for many sex workers here in the UK at least the term sex worker is a welcoming and encompassing definition that shares the stigmata while celebrating "equally" the work of everyone who makes money from selling sex. It is a definition enshrined within the the IUSW and within the GMB sex worker branch 150. I celebrate that definition and will argue against any who would compromise that solidarity.

    So sorry but I do not accept this list.

    Douglas. http://www.harlotsparlour.co.uk

    Comment by Douglas Fox — November 6, 2011 @ 5:15 am

  22. Douglas: Just becomes someone suffers from sex-related stigma, it doesn't mean they're a sex worker. People who distribute child pornography are seriously socially stigmatized around a sexual topic, so if we're basing who's a sex worker on stigma, then they should be considered sex workers, too.

    Labor organizing has always been about workers, not owners/management. It's silly to pretend that there is zero difference in the political needs of workers and bosses. Sex workers' rights issues can be anti-boss, such as people who feel mistreated by owners of brothels, or who protest the huge stage fees charged by strip club owners.

    We already have a perfectly good label for people in the sex industry who are not sex workers: people in the sex industry. Think of it like this: everyone who works in a restaurant can be considered part of the food industry. But not everyone is a waitress, and it's nonsensical to say that the owner of a restaurant is a waitress when they are not.

    Extremely-broad definitions do nothing but erase and ignore the real issues of being a sex worker.

    Comment by Furry Girl — November 6, 2011 @ 11:30 am

  23. Douglas: Just becomes someone suffers from sex-related stigma, it doesn't mean they're a sex worker. People who sell child pornography are seriously stigmatized around a sexual topic, so if we're basing who's a sex worker on stigma, commercial-grade pedophiles should be considered sex workers, too. And why not include all sex offenders, rapists, and child molesters while we're at it? After all, they suffer from social stigma, so they must be sex workers, right?

    Think of it like this: everyone who works in a restaurant can be considered part of the food industry. But not everyone is a waitress, and it's nonsensical to insist that the owner of a restaurant is a waitress.

    Labor organizing has ALWAYS been about workers, NOT owners/management. It's laughably ignorant to assume that there is no difference in the political needs of workers and bosses. Sex workers' rights issues are frequently anti-boss, such as those who feel mistreated by owners of brothels, or strippers who protest the huge stage fees charged by strip club owners, or porn performers who wish more companies would allow the use of condoms. The needs and wants of sex workers are often the exact OPPOSITE of the needs of management/owners.

    Extremely-broad definitions do nothing but erase and ignore the issues of being a sex worker.

    Comment by Furry Girl — November 6, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  24. The fact that paedophiles produce and distribute and earn money from selling sex may make them sex workers but that definition does not in any way condone what they produce and sell. Just as someone who builds houses that fall down and kill people remains a builder even if his work is undesirable and genuinely criminal.
    Rapists and other sex offenders as sex workers? No I don’t understand your logic to mention these people. Lots of people suffer stigma(some deserving and some very definitely not) but that does not make them sex workers.

    I don’t understand your argument re the restaurant owner and the waitress. THEIR jobs are different but yes they both earn money from selling food.

    Your third point has merit because the term sex industry covers such a huge range of services. Strippers, porn stars, telephone operators etc etc etc. All very different in how they work and in many ways how they are structured. Your argument still fails however because in many situations the boundaries between those who manage and those who do the direct contact work is blurred.

    I notice for example in your reply to a critic that you manage to define yourself as a sex worker even though you manage and direct etc. Many who supported your “list” of definitions of who is a sex worker would NOT accept your right to call yourself a sex worker because you manage and because you (in their terms) exploit others for your profit.

    The organised labour argument equally fails because (as you well know) sex workers are self employed and to change that status in many instances would be difficult and often offer more disadvantages than advantages to those who work directly with clients. In escorting the escort “employs” an agent. There are good agents and bad and good escorts and bad escorts as you again well know. The dynamics of who is the boss and who the worker however is blurred. The definition becomes more blurred when the agent sells sexual services alongside the escorts he or she is employed to manage. Indeed I can see more of an argument from escorts complaining that they are paying for a service that is not perhaps being provided.

    Sex work (and indeed most modern forms of labour) cannot be trapped within nineteenth century definitions of them and us. Those who argue for definitions of who is and who is not a “real” sex worker are trapped by a dated and increasingly irrelevant ideology that means little to sex workers working in a modern and market led industry like the sex industry. Organised labour within the sex industry ( I argue) should reflect the reality of our industry and not the ideologies of the those who deliberately create and perpetuate stigmatisation and division within our industry for no good purpose.

    If you argue for these definitions of who is a “real sex worker” do you also argue for recognition in differences between sex workers ie a high class hooker and a street walker? a seller of casual sex when they want a few pounds and someone who works seven days a week and treats selling sex like a “proper” job?

    For me the term sex worker is and should remain a term that is inclusive and welcoming. Otherwise we become our own enemy worse than those who hate what we do and who use the law to divide us anyway.

    Comment by Douglas Fox — November 7, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

  25. Douglas: I can't tell if you're pretending to be obtuse or if you truly can't grasp the differences between sex workers and non-sex workers, but either way, I'm not going to waste time debating you on it. You're wrong, and I don't really care to spend time hand-holding you any more.

    Comment by Furry Girl — November 7, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  26. I think your response tells so much.

    Agree to disagree. No need to be rude.

    Comment by Douglas Fox — November 8, 2011 @ 11:27 am

  27. So, I spent years working on a B.A. in English Literature and honing my art to now be called a "sex worker"! That's pretty repulsive and I know you're asking people to be respectful in these comments and I'm trying, but strangers have been suggesting I'm a whore since I was twelve. I don't think this helps anyone...

    In the early 18th century and prior in England (not so much in the U.S.) women writers were all considered to be harlots. And, now, here we are again!

    I, also, worked as a stage performer - note: stage performer means working on a stage - as a dancer for several years across the U.S. and a little outside the country. Here in the U.S. we have some very sickening, very un-Constitutional, very broad laws that deem dancers to be prostitutes. This does not make it so. It just means a man gets to arrest you if you speak to another man in a parking lot, maybe in an attempt not to be attacked. They don't care. Speak to someone in a parking lot, where particular shoes, hold someone's gaze too long in some jurisdictions and you are are "legally" a prostitute. Does this sound like freedom or rights to you? Maybe it does, if you are so stupid that you can't tell the difference between dancing and f**king!

    Here's the other thing I don't get - call innocent, hard-working people "sex workers" and then demand that they be polite to you, afterward.

    Comment by Jane Doe Writer — November 20, 2011 @ 6:23 am

  28. After hitting some links and reading some of the comments here I'd like to add that dancing is not a "sexual performance". It is an art. Many of us studied dance. It's how we put ourselves through college and educated ourselves through travel, etc.

    Personally, I'd like to see prostitution decriminalized because I believe it would help put an end to human trafficking. I think it would help issues like free speech, as well, which we have to deal with as writers and performers.

    But, trying to diffuse your shame as prostitutes by including non-prostitutes in your argument doesn't help. I saw this happening for the first time back in the early 2000s and I was worried. Now, we have night clubs in some states being called Sexually Oriented Businesses and this has laid the ground work for some shocking abuses on behalf of the police and city governments against many, many innocent people... people who are not prostitutes or pimps! ...people who are not selling sex, despite your false labeling of them as "sex workers"! In part, I believe you people have caused this!

    Again, this broad interpretation of sex to try to legitimize yourselves in the eyes of (probably bad) people isn't helping you or those of us who are not hookers - like writers of romantic stories and dancers (just dancers... the word is not a euphemism for something else... get it, yet?).

    Comment by Jane Doe Writer — November 20, 2011 @ 6:42 am

  29. Jane: I have no idea what on earth you are talking about. I guess they didn't teach reading comprehension skills in that school of yours. You should really ask for a refund.

    Comment by Furry Girl — November 20, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  30. Why don't you try reading the other comments here - the characterizations of dancers as "sex workers," and information at the links... maybe you'll figure it out.

    Comment by Jane Doe Writer — November 21, 2011 @ 3:05 am

  31. Jane: Perhaps your rage an confusion is stemming from the term "dancer." A stripper is a sex worker, a ballet dancer, for example, is not. But no where has anyone on this page, myself included, claim that anyone who does any variety of dancing is a sex worker. Really, ask for a refund for that degree of yours, they forgot to teach you how to read.

    Comment by Furry Girl — November 21, 2011 @ 3:08 am

  32. I'm very late to this, but I got referred to it from a post on DKos, and found it very interesting.

    I write erotica. I'm on various websites and I have made some money from it from self-publishing. By NO means would I consider myself a "sex worker". I'm a writer who enjoys writing with sex as part of the story. Considering I can write by myself and fully clothed, actual sex doesn't even come into it :).

    So, yeah, any erotica writer who thinks they're a "sex worker" is indulging in that whole hipsterism thing you talk about. I was never that hip :).

    Comment by Frank — March 24, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

  33. Thanks for sharing, Frank.

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 6, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  34. Comment by Trackbacks — June 26, 2017 @ 3:45 am

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