And they that are most galled with my folly, they most must laugh.
Full service sex worker. Jewish. Bisexual femme. Trauma survivor.
the fat birds tumblr helps a little when you’re sad. Now maybe some ice cream.
It’s time to change the narrative.
Sex work is probably one of the most controversial topics of our times, the oldest profession in history. The past 100 years have seen many shifts in public perception of the sex industry from good time girls to girls for sale.
As a sex worker of 10 years who has been involved in activism and policy work, I have heard the full gamut of assumptions people make about the industry, which is easy to do — the media does not allow much room for nuanced portrayals of the lives of sex workers.
Such perceptions can lead to increased stigma, dangerous laws and discrimination, however, so let’s go over nine of the biggest lies told about sex work.
1. Sex work is not real work.
Unlike the romanticized or sensationalized depictions of the media, sex work is actually a job that requires many more skills than lying down and waiting for sex to happen to you.
In my work as an independent escort and a porn performer I personally use the following skills: I have to be a skilled writer to convey myself to my audience in advertising and written communication, letting people know who I am, what I do and what my limits are in ways that are exciting and clear, while being careful to not do so in a way that is incriminating.
During a booking, my job is to provide physical and psychological pleasure and have the other person leave feeling attractive and refreshed. In each booking I ascertain what that person needs to get out of this time together. This requires counseling skills, negotiation techniques, sexual health education skills, teaching skills and of course sexual technique because a blow job isn’t just putting your mouth on a penis. I am anything but unskilled.
2. Sex workers need to be rescued.
Kittens need to be rescued. Sex workers should be granted the agency to make decisions about their own lives.
In order to provide an environment where people who wish to exit the industry are able to do so, educational and economic resources must be provided, affordable housing made available and there must be good employment options for mothers, immigrants, youth and the formerly incarcerated.
The idea that you can “rescue” a sex worker by arresting them fails to address the underlying reasons that people engage in the sex industry if they don’t want to — many of which will likely still be there when the system has spit them back out. Only now, that person will have an arrest record, making accessing employment and housing all the harder, keeping them trapped in street economies.
Attempts to rescue sex workers can also lead to the stereotyping of certain communities, particularly the transgender community. And it perpetuates the notion that sex workers cannot help themselves.
3. Most sex workers are victims of human trafficking.
A victim of sex trafficking, generally, is defined as ”the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.”
Data on the number of victims sold into sexual slavery is hard to come by, since much of the transactions are hidden. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime claims that a "conservative estimate" is 2.5 million. However media accounts often sensationalize the problem, without evidence, at times reporting on anecdotal estimates that rely on speculation.
Anecdotally I know hundreds of people involved in the sex trade — not one of them is under the age of 18 or doing so against their will, any more than under the iron hand of capitalism that we all do jobs that sometimes we aren’t thrilled about. This doesn’t mean that human trafficking in the sex trade doesn’t exist, but it’s not everyone, not by a long shot.
Sex trafficking absolutely needs to be addressed but increased criminalization of sex workers doesn’t do that. It drives the industry further underground so that anyone who sees situations of abuse are afraid to come forward about it, for fear of also being implicated.
4. Most sex workers have pimps.
The common pop culture image of prostitution would not be complete without a swaggering, violence-prone pimp hovering in the background. However, research suggests this phenomenon might not be nearly as prevalent as television would have us believe.
In a study of underage prostitutes and young adult sex workers, researchers found that only 10% of the 249 participants had pimps, and 47% of participants did not even know a pimp.
5. All sex workers are women.
Sex workers are all kind of people, cisgender and transgender women and men, and intersex people, too. Straight, gay and queer. Young and old. All different body sizes and races, every type of economic and educational backgrounds. I myself am a transgender man, although I entered the industry as a cisgendered woman.
6. Supporting the decriminalization of sex work is anti-feminist.
In some countries like South Africa, sex workers claim that police use the threat of arrest to rape and abuse sex workers. Meanwhile, women who have a history in the sex industry are assumed to be bad mothers and have their children taken away from them. In the U.S., women have even been arrested for carrying condoms, taking away their right to reproductive choice and safer sex.
The criminalization of sex work is based on the idea that consenting adults should not be able to choose what they do with their bodies, something which flies in the face of a major tenant of feminism. Whether or not you are in favor of prostitution, acknowledging that it does exist and that decriminalization will reduce the harms for those in the industry is a completely feminist standpoint.
7. Sex work is always a job of last resort.
Imagine a job that you could make your own hours and where if you play your cards right, you can make a lot of money. It doesn’t require an expensive university education, there is a lot of potential for travel and your job is giving people pleasure.
I have never done sex work as a job of last resort, although I have definitely done it in the face of limited options. In the last 10 years working in the industry, most of the time it has been my primary form of income, although I continue to do porn and escort work. I like the work, and as a person from a working-class background, it provides me the ability to build savings, which I wouldn’t have otherwise.
8. Sex workers spread sexually transmitted diseases to the general public.
Sex workers have long been blamed for the spread of venereal disease, but rates of HIV/STDs amongst sex workers seem to be dependent on the environment they are working in.
In Australia, where prostitution is legal in some states and decriminalized in others, HIV/STI rates are extremely lowamongst sex workers due to “the work of community-based sex worker organizations and projects conducted in partnership with state and territory governments,” reports the Global AIDS Progress Report. This, despite the fact that sex workers are generally much more vulnerable than the general public to such infections, according to Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the HIV Department of the World Health Organization.
If we want sex workers to be less vulnerable to STIs, and therefore their clients and all the people their clients have sexual contact with, we need to create room for people to be able to negotiate safer sex.
9. Nobody that you know is a sex worker.
You have absolutely met someone who has done sex work. You probably didn’t know it; maybe they didn’t tell you for the fear of how you would react or maybe because it simply wasn’t relevant. Sex workers are mothers, sons, even grandmothers.
The idea that you can tell who has exchanged sex for money just by looking at them is a falsehood. St. James Infirmary, a San Francisco clinic for current and former sex workers, published an ad campaign in 2011 targeting this myth.
Trans History And Science
Being trans is not a psychological disorder.
Even the psychological establishment now officially recognizes this fact; the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has replaced the past diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” with the non-disorder diagnosis “gender dysphoria”. The American Psychiatric Association further acknowledges that transsexuality is only included in the modern DSM because the lack of an official diagnosis might “jeapordize patient access to care”.
It is important to note at this point that the APA has a huge conflict of interest here; if they don’t keep transsexuality coded in the DSM, gatekeeping authority over the gender transition process would transfer from psychologists to medical doctors. This would deprive APA members of considerable income, since the APA rules for gender transition require all trans patients to undergo at least one year of psychotherapy and allow this period to be extended indefinitely based on the “professional judgement” of the psychologist.
In other words, trans people are a legally entrapped cash cow for psychologists. That the APA would nonetheless declare transsexuality to not be a psychological disorder underscores just how definitive the scientific case on this matter is. Any sincere examination of the facts clearly shows the continued placement of gender dysphoria within the aegis of psychological conditions is a case of institutional inertia reinforced by that predatory financial interest.
Transsexuality was originally classed as a “psychosexual disorder” because it was considered obvious that it was a delusion; in fact, it was considered so obvious that no research whatsoever was considered necessary to support this conclusion. Within this framework, the gender transition process — i.e. hormones and surgery — was only introduced because nothing else worked. Even the literal Nazi efforts at “reparative therapy”, which discarded all pretense of professional ethics and were built around outright torture and brainwashing, proved completely ineffectual.
Throughout the Cold War era, virtually all of the actual research on sex and gender was focused on intersex people because they “belonged to” the medical establishment, whereas transsexual people “belonged to” the psychological establishment. Even though trans and intersex people were ultimately receiving more or less the same medical treatment, their access to that treatment was regulated via completely different gatekeeping systems. This had dramatic effects on their relative histories. Trans rights were framed as “queer” civil rights and were integral to the LGBT civil rights movement from its very inception, yet often stalled as gays and lesbians succeeded in focusing the LGBT movement strictly on their own advancement. Intersex rights were framed as patient advocacy and flew almost completely under the radar as part of an obscure medical specialty.
In any case, Cold War era research into gender identity clearly demonstrated that for the overwhelming majority of human beings, gender identity is an innate and immutable characteristic which emerges in early childhood. Gender identity is manifested through the internalization and performance of socially constructed gender-specific behaviors, but is not itself a social construct in the sense that it demonstrably cannot be socially programmed or reprogrammed. The ultimate demonstration of this was the Reimer case, in which the grossly unethical behavior of John Money ultimately provided a double-blind twin-controlled experiment definitively demonstrating the unalterability of gender identity. This was the opposite of what Money wished to prove, so he falsified his findings and the true outcome was not known until the late 1990s.
From my professional viewpoint as a modern-day cognitive scientist (and previously a developmental geneticist), I can say that there is a strong consensus that transsexuality is rooted in neurological anatomy. While the general idea of a “male versus female brain” is firmly refuted by modern neurology, there are certain specific areas of the brain which are sexually differentiated. Research shows that even in non-transitioning subjects, the sexual differentiation of these areas is congruent with expressed gender identity rather than assigned birth sex. The development of these areas is strongly influenced by pre-natal exposure to both endogenous (internally produced, i.e. the fetus’ own) and exogenous (externally sourced, i.e. the mother’s) sex hormones, making it likely that these factors play a major role in atypical differentiation.
Even leaving aside the probable etiology of transsexuality as a neurological intersex condition, trans advocacy and intersex advocacy are not just compatible, but broadly congruent. The core goals are pretty much identical:
- No one should be discriminated against based on their gender identity, role, or presentation.
- No one should be forced to comply with a gender role based on sex assignment at birth. Birth assignment should be considered provisional or even eliminated altogether.
- Everyone should have timely and unhindered access to gender-affirming medical treatment in an informed consent framework.
- Everyone should have timely and unhindered access to legal documentation which accurately reflects their gender identity.
Lune is getting her tattoo. It’s gonna look pretty cool. Much excitement.
I GOT MY TATTOO IT’S THE PRETTIEST