by Furry Girl

05.29.13

Yesterday, I went out to lunch with one of my nerdy friends from my new "straight life."  (He's the only person in that sphere who knows that I've been working in porn for the last decade, a "big reveal" that I decided to allow to organically manifest itself in conversation as though it were nothing bizarre or noteworthy.)  On our break, we lamented how frustrating it is to have to work with people you can't stand, or to make smalltalk about the weather because that's considered polite.

"I went to a big university, so if I didn't like someone, I'd never have to interact with them again.  I could completely choose who was in my social circle."

"I've spent a decade running my own business, so I haven't been forced to spend time with people I don't like.  I can jettison anyone, and it didn't matter to my bottom line.  Now, I'm making an effort to not rock the boat because I'm the lowest person on the ladder and I need the good reference for later."

"It's so frustrating..."

"...now that we have to have to completely relearn our social skills."

We laughed, but it's true.  One of the things I've been dealing with as I've been moving out of the sex industry is a longing for the shocking degree of freedom one has as a sex worker.  Even if you're not fully running your own business the way I have been, sex workers generally have the ability to reject clients, to move to another strip club, find a new escort service, work for a different studio, and overall, set a much greater number of boundaries than your average worker.  While that statement seems bizarre - how can you have "boundaries" if a stranger can see your naked body or is even having sex with you? - boundaries come in more forms than ones based on chastity.

With the vast, vast majority of jobs, a worker has very little control over their working environment, boss, coworkers, and upward mobility potential.  A typical waitress doesn't show up to shifts only on days she feels like working, bouncing between various restaurants depending on which she prefers at the moment, the way a stripper might.  A nurse knows he'll never be able to start his own hospital and declare himself its chief of surgery, unlike a porn star who works hard and invests his money in starting his own production company.  For all the endless criticism lobbed at the sex industry for being a measure of last resort and misery, there's a huge and unrecognized amount of freedom in it, both freedom of association and the ability for your hard work to propel you upwards. The sex industry is the true "American dream," in that tenacity, hard work, and creativity can take a person (usually with no formal training and little startup capital) from poverty to the middle class more easily than any other industry.

One of the things I've been thinking about more lately is the issue of "association privilege," both how I've been lucky to have it as a sex worker, and how it remains perhaps the most invisible privilege.  When framed in that way, it makes obvious a particularly strong correlation between the shrill lefty feminists who rail endlessly about how everyone is too "privileged," yet themselves possessing the privilege to choose their work environment, bosses/editors, and business/activist contacts.  (I've long maintained that nothing is more indicative of privilege than spending all day on the internet picking fights with strangers about how privileged they are.)   If someone wants to refuse to associate with anyone who isn't also a socialist feminist wannabe-academic that adorns their virtual spaces with Audre Lorde quotes and Foucault references, they can easily live in such a bubble.  There are plenty of such bores in neighboring regions of the blogosphere.  (Where all of these people make money remains a mystery.  While I know that two big names in the sexy feminist scene have secret rich male partners/husbands who bankroll their lifestyles of being internet pesonas, I don't know how the others do it.  NGO jobs?  Sporadic paid writing gigs?  Trust funds?  Secret sex work?)

It all reminds me of a favorite section from a piece in The Atlantic a while back, which perfectly sums up the completely un-checked privilege that runs rampant among those who have declared themselves the enforcers of privilege-checking.

According to [UC Berkeley sociologist Neil] Gilbert, the debate over the value of women’s work has been framed by those with a too-rosy view of employment,

mainly because the vast majority of those who publicly talk, think, and write about questions of gender equality, motherhood, and work in modern society are people who talk, think, and write for a living. And they tend to associate with other people who, like themselves, do not have “real” jobs—professors, journalists, authors, artists, politicos, pundits, foundation program officers, think-tank scholars, and media personalities.

Many of them can set their own hours, choose their own workspace, get paid for thinking about issues that interest them, and, as a bonus, get to feel, by virtue of their career, important in the world. The professor admits that his own job in “university teaching is by and large divorced from the normal discipline of everyday life in the marketplace. It bears only the faintest resemblance to most work in the real world.” In other words, for the “occupational elite” (as Gilbert calls this group), unlike for most people, going to work is not a drag.

As an impolitic creature by nature (or hateful cunt, depending on who you ask), I've greatly enjoyed being in the "occupational elite" myself.  As I shed this awesome privilege in order to start over, I wonder how many people in the world I'm leaving  - both sex workers and/or feminists - realize the degree to which they hold this significant privilege themselves.  Enjoy it while it lasts, because you'll miss it like crazy when you're making obligatory workplace smalltalk with people with whom you have little in common.





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