Thursday, June 11, 2015

An Honest and Personal Look at My Experience with Education Privilege

About a year or so ago, my friend's boyfriend told me he thought I should probably invest my time and money in an education because, "as you grow old, you will lose your beauty. Your tits will sag and you won't be able to command the same rates and attention." Or something to that affect, I'm definitely paraphrasing. But the part about my tits sagging was definitely there, I remember that vividly because I had to laugh; my tits already are sagging, you see, and no one seems to mind.

It was such a slap in the face to me. It was over the Internet, Facebook to be exact (yes, I am out on Facebook. And to just about anyone who asks), and I admit I egged him on. It was something I believe he would not have said to me in person. Maybe. I hadn't actually seen him in person for ages at this point.

I'm a confident woman, or at least good at acting like one. This wasn't an insult to me because of the dig at my age, the fact that I am continuing to age, or the sad but true fact that my tits are sagging. It was just staggering in it's latent whorephobia and complete misunderstanding of how the sex industry works. And, because I like to believe the best in people (despite the fact my husband has thought this guy was a psychopath pretending to be normal from the moment he met him- and my husband is hardly ever wrong about people) I actually don't think he meant the comment to be anything other than "tough love." I think he's genuinely worried about me, thinks I have academic potential, and thinks I'm wasting my life on frivolity. I think it was a bit of the worst kind of non-client captain-save-a-ho moment; he thought he was helping, and all I could do was be triggered by his rampant misogyny.

For those of you who don't know, I do not have a college edumacation, as we yokels call it out here in the hinterlands. I have long relished in reminding people of this fact, as I believe there is a lot of class warfare going on around liberal arts education in our society. And for those who can't tell, I am on the side of the poor and the disadvantaged. Because I was once poor and am disadvantaged- but I'm really good at faking a higher class than I was raised because I was right on the border. Somewhere between lower and middle middle class; not all the way poor but poor enough that my parents could not afford to send me to college. And the idea of me taking out loans to make a go at college was laughable because I likely wouldn't be able to make it through. I have these things called "learning disabilities," that I actually like to call "seeing the truth behind your wage-slavery propoganda prison education industry." I struggle with jumping through the hoops and following the rules of traditional education, and some have labeled that a learning disability while others labeled it mental disability or quiet genius. Whatever label applies, the idea of needing to earn my piece of paper that says I have learned a thing by getting a letter grade and passing some tests is overwhelming to me.

This doesn't mean that I don't appreciate those who have been able to achieve a level of education higher than me; I actually quite admire all of you and wish to have a lot of deep, philosophical conversations with you. You know a lot of things I don't, and believe me; it is a great privilege that you were able to do it. I envy you that privilege. I just don't like being treated like I'm not one of you. And I especially don't like people telling me that I should attempt to obtain a certain level of education because I live a sad little whore life that is all going to come crashing down around me. Whether or not it does (and trust me, it's actually seeming extremely unlikely that it will), an education doesn't help someone like me because I don't have access to it. I have money but not that much, and I am unwilling to go into debt for something I (likely) won't complete. I am definitely the little sex worker that could, and I am definitely book-smart, but there ain't no imperialist education out there that is going to fucking suit me. I am way too mentally disabled/ aware I live in a dystopian nightmare to waste one minute of my time on traditional methods of education in this country. Or probably any country.

As you may have guessed, this sort of anarcho-thought is partially what led me into sex work, though I have honed my feelings and opinions around this topic much more since then. It's a funny thing, that- I continue to gather knowledge, learn things, fine-tune or change my opinions. I read and I pay attention to social and political and cultural issues and deconstruct pop culture. I have little time or patience for math, and yet I successfully run my own business, pay my own bills, and have significant (for me) savings. I try to work on myself as a compassionate person, and I try to learn from my bad experiences. I sort of... I don't know, function like a normal, upper-middle class person with a bachelors degree in liberal arts.

I am a depressed sex worker and I have infiltrated your club. And I have a great deal of love for those of you who have welcomed me with open arms. Thanks for acknowledging that my journey has been different and yet similar to yours. Thank you for recognizing my intelligence, even if I express it differently than you. Thank you for taking me at my word when I say I have issues instead of trying to tell me I could so easily not have them.

When my friend's BF reduced my job or my expertise to my beauty, and especially when he made the laughable mistake of assuming something like age matters, he showed me just what he really thought of me. He was very clearly and firmly telling me I am not a member of the club, but I should wish to be a member. I should try my damndest to be a member of his shitty little club where sex workers don't automatically get to join; they have to prove they can get a BA in something other than blowjobs first. I mean fuck off with that.

I do have a lot of what I will call, I don't know, intelligence or education privilege. I hate even deeming it either of those things because I firmly believe everyone has their own intelligence and their own way of educating themselves, but that does nothing to change the fact that I do carry that privilege, and it does give me a lot of advantages as a sex worker. I have frequently been told I have a gift for clear and thoughtful personal writing, and so I must believe I comport myself in a way that translates to "brainy and/or educated." I guess I'm also easy on the eyes or something, which again really makes me uncomfortable to cop to, but it's also something I've been told a lot. No doubt that has some bearing on people patting me on the back and telling me I've been a smart little Kitten. All of these facts may make me not the best person to talk about this. But damn it if I don't feel it intensely when my success is treated in a reductive manner. I've had to do a lot of thinking outside the box to get here.

All apologies for sounding like such a libertarian right now. It's not my intent. When I talk about my personal successes, I am not trying to rub it in the face of those less privileged than I. All I'm trying to convey here with this very personal investigation of my very important special snowflake feelings is that education is both a privilege, and not always needed to succeed. Everyone has a different definition of success, and it is often based on circumstance. For some people success looks like making a lot of money as a hottie sex worker and proving everyone wrong with their marketing and business acumen. For other people it means simply being able to pay for groceries and roofs over the head, and there are a lot of people way, way more on the margins than me who are being more hurt by reductive arguments against sex work than I am. My wounded pride is but a faint echo of human suffering, but I do think it is a personal anecdote that might make a little more sense to those of you up there at the top of your academic privilege ivory tower, as it may be closer to some of your own personal experiences.

For education to be a useful thing for me, and a lot of other sex workers who actually desperately need/ want access to education, it needs to be a lot of things that it isn't. It needs to be FREE, not low cost. It needs to be absolutely free for everyone. It needs to be accessible for everyone, and not have barriers that force people to prove their relative intelligence or ability to operate within capitalist and imperialist structures. It needs to have a strong focus on honest historical perspectives of white colonialism. It needs to reward people for thinking differently rather than punishing them for not being able to think in a way that the gate keepers of education find acceptable. It needs to foster skills for continued learning and education, rather than giving someone an arbitrary piece of paper that says they have learned all the things and now have the magic key to higher class and social status (and by the way, that key is getting less and less magical over time, and not giving the sort of access to class and social status that it used to, as we millennials know all about).

Perhaps this is all ridiculous idealism, and not something attainable within our lifetimes, nor a perfect model of social utopia. But until I start seeing more of you academia fuckers welcoming the common, uneducated masses into your club, I am not going to be nice about this. I will continue to laud my financial success over you. I will continue to laugh at you for thinking it has as much to do with my beauty as you assume. I will high-five those who support me and my choices, and I will write screeds about those who don't.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

International Sex Worker Rights Day: Please Listen to Us!

Editors note: since my original publication of this piece yesterday I have learned that it was in fact not International Sex Worker Rights Day, which is March 3rd. It was actually International Whore's Day or International Sex Woker's Day, which I guess is an Australian/ Kiwi celebration and I just follow a lot of Australian and New Zealand sex workers on social media? Anyhow, all of my sentiments still stand, yesterday and every day. I'm only a little bit embarrassed and cut me slack, I smoke weed.

Hey everyone! Long time no write, I know. Seeing as how this is a sex blog, and I'm a sex worker, I've been having a hard time writing about sex lately because I do sexy things for work and it's all become very complicated for me. I'm sure anyone who has ever had a job can understand that on some level.

One thing that is not very complicated for me in my life right now is my belief that society needs to get it's fucking shit together regarding how it treats sex workers. And I'm not even talking about me; I'm mostly treated pretty well. I occasionally get an email from a religious person trying to rescue me, but I can just ignore those. Sometimes people give me nasty stares because I have stickers on my laptop that say "be nice to sex workers," and "be nice to drug users," but a nasty stare is something I sort of enjoy in a sick way. Stigma surrounding sex work can and has affected me very deeply, and has complicated a lot of my existing issues with depression and anxiety. But I can't even begin to imagine how much worse it must be for sex workers who don't have a supportive network of friends and family. Or how bad it must be for sex workers who are arrested, incarcerated, living in poverty, attacked for their gender or sexuality in addition to their work, and etc. I am very fortunate to be the sort of sex worker that I am, and to get away with the shit that I get away with.

There is a ton of injustice in this world, and I am not the best person to express all of it. I'm not even the best sex worker to express the injustice that sex workers uniquely face. I'm using a blog that is mostly read by clients, friends and some other sex workers as a platform to preach to the choir here. But I do have a few things to say about our need for rights as sex workers, and so I'm going to practice saying them here in this loving and supportive articulating zone I have created for myself.

One of the most damaging assumptions made about sex workers is that we do not have the ability to speak for ourselves. It is, of course, hardly ever an assumption made about me personally. But I am often silenced as well, albeit through the different and arguably legit tactic of telling me that I am too privileged to speak for sex workers who are on the margins, or who are not doing sex work as consensually as most assume that I am (for the record, I do consent to sex work repeatedly and without issue, but I do not consent to capitalism so it's a little complicated). When it comes to sex workers who aren't me, many of them do not speak openly or loudly out of concern for their safety and/ or privacy. Many do speak and have their words erased and ignored in a fashion that is similar to how my words are erased and ignored. When a sex worker does speak, the message is almost always "because of your station/ the class you belong to/ your ethnicity/ your grasp of language or communication or level of communication, your words can not be taken seriously." It works both ways; a marginalized sex worker is told that because she did not consent to her situation, she needs help and rescue rather than rights. And a privileged sex worker is told that because she did consent to her situation, she can't be trusted and is a "collaborator," or worse. Both sex workers are thought to need help of some sort, and are thought to not have agency whether or not they think they have some or a lot of agency.

If you were to ask just about any currently operating sex worker what sorts of rights they want, you'll hear the same things over and over again: decriminalization or legalization. Money to survive. Suitable working conditions and safety. Kindness from strangers. They are not unreasonable demands. Of course, the problem occurs when we start talking about how decimalization (for the ease of my own personal argument, I'm sticking with that model rather than legalization) would affect our ability to earn income, work safely and change societal perceptions about our work. Many still believe that keeping sex work illegal is for the protection of those involved in the industry. Even with a resounding, collective battle-cry against criminalization coming from sex workers, these people wish to cover their ears and sing "la la la!" and firmly state that they know what is best for sex workers. Because sex workers are victims, because sex workers are tricked and coerced into the industry, because sex workers, in effect, are either stupid or evil. Or both.

Of course, an abolitionist would never admit that they think sex workers are either stupid or evil. They have too much pity in their hearts to even realize they're thinking such things. I believe they wear this pity and concern like an armor that protects them from having to admit to things that are much more problematic about our society than how we relate to each other sexually. When sex workers say it's about our rights as laborers, rather than our rights as sexualized women (and not all sex workers are female, btw), it forces your average abolitionist to start to confront some of their own issues with whatever labor it is that they perform. When we continually assert that sex work is work, it challenges some very fundamental ideals about what exactly work is and why we're all doing it. It requires a much deeper analysis of capitalism and labor overall, and not just a simple narrative of sex work is abusive because money and sex together in the same space equal exploitation, objectification, rape, whatever.

There is really nothing more frustrating than continually being told that you don't understand that complex politics behind your labor, and I would argue that no other group of laborers (perhaps beside drug dealers) are told that as often as sex workers are. It's insulting no matter where you land on the consensual/ non-consensual spectrum. It's hurtful and wears you down.

So, the thrust of this stream of consciousness is that everyone needs to listen to sex workers when it comes to policies that affect our lives. I have never met a sex worker who didn't know how to advocate for their own rights better than just about anyone else. It is a universal truth that no matter how "victimized" a person is by their situation, they still know what's best for them because they are the only person who knows what it's like to be them. This is something that I'm fairly certain anyone reading this blog will take no issue with. But in case you were considering talking over a sex worker and telling them what's best for them in the future, take it from me. Just don't. Even though I myself am a sex worker, I'm going to try even harder not to speak over other sex workers. And you should too.