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.

3 comments:

  1. Beautifully said. Maybe the best the work of yours I've read. Thank you.

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  2. I came to this blog vecause I was very intrigued by the topic and I hoped to gain insight into a subject that Im very ignorant about. Instead I got to rwad an opinion of a person who judges other people without knowing anything about them. Maybe it's because I was not born and raised in the US, and maybe it's because I worked my ass off to get my education in order to help people with mental health problems I find your article absolutely insulting, stereotypical and ridiculous. I don't know anything about the sex workers world and I never tried the trade and that's why I don't write about sex workers. How would you feel if I wrote that all of the sex workers are a stupid, uneducated mass that take advantage of a pure capitalistic system to make their life comfortable and that it's an easy way of making money???
    You would feel insulted and you know what? You would be right to be so!
    Your article is one sided, generalize people that seek education, making them look like bunch of assholes who want to get educated just to impress people, who they perceive to be worse(lower class?) then them.
    Let me tell ypu something: I may be educated but I started and finished my uni as a lower class person, bordering on poor. I worked my ass of with many MANY people doing the same. We chose particular uni because it was good, not because of anything else! We went to educate ourselves to help people, to work with children, to save the world and to broaden our horizons...if you are happy with limited education you posses - that's great for you, but don't judge people who chose a different path than you, because it is easy being judged and it can bite you in the ass.
    In short - don't judge people or situations that you have no idea about.

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  3. "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."

    Yep, I guess I'm pretty judgmental! Sorry.

    "How would you feel if I wrote that all of the sex workers are a stupid, uneducated mass that take advantage of a pure capitalistic system to make their life comfortable and that it's an easy way of making money???"

    Well you did just write it, and I feel pretty unaffected by it since you're wrong. You can try to hide behind the fact that you know it's insulting, but I can tell from the tone of your entire comment that you hold at least some of that as you personal feelings. So thanks!

    To be clear, in the US higher education is placed behind financial barriers in addition to being able to prove you're intelligent and/ or hard working. It is not accessible to someone like myself due both to my own and my families access to money, and my learning and physical/ mental disabilities. I'm sure you worked your ass off to get your education, and I that's wonderful (see quoted paragraph above). What I don't appreciate is being treated as less than because of something I don't have access to. I don't think you read the full blog post, or you misread it or took the wrong things out of it. Perhaps my failing for not being clear, but it was not my intent to paint every academic with the same brush. It was intent to point out I should not be painted with the same brush for not having an education.

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