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.

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