For me, and for all the sex workers I know, sex work is work. That means that it is a job that is just as valid as any other job, with its definite pros and cons, and some people love their job while others hate it, just like in any other field of work. A lot of people who are not familiar with the sex industry tend to confuse sex work and sex exploitation. The former implicates a choice to be in this line of work, while the latter implies coercion. All sex workers are opposed to sex exploitation.
With that being said, my personal way of seeing sex work is one of exchange, connection, and intimacy. We all need to be touched and desired from time to time. What I am selling is not my body, but my time, my companionship, the way someone feels in my presence, and a true connection on a human level – all of which are key elements to intimacy. I like to describe myself as a professional fairy: I create a multi-sensorial bubble in which my partner and I are free to discover one another, and, sometimes, a little bit of ourselves.
Misconceptions About Sex Workers
One of the biggest misconceptions about sex work is, as I already mentioned, the fact that people don’t differentiate work from exploitation. In that line of thinking, there is a widespread theory among some types of feminism that states that any money transaction in a sexual context takes away the person’s ability to consent to said sexual activities. The problem is that kind of thinking denies all agency to sex workers, who are grown women who are otherwise perfectly able to think and decide for themselves. There is just as much violence in denying a person the ability to consent, as there is in not respecting that consent. (As a parenthesis, I just want to add that the vast majority of the sex workers I know are especially intelligent, strong and grounded people, able to stand up, speak, and provide for themselves, usually better so than most people.)
Another misconception that is often encountered, is that sex workers have necessarily suffered abuse, or live with mental health problems. The thing is, some sex workers have had traumas in their lives, while others have not. Some sex workers do live with a mental health condition, but then again a lot of people who are not in the sex industry do too. It is also important to mention that we, as a society, tend to judge more severely women when they make a choice that is considered “risky,” and associate it with emotional instability, instead of bravery as we would naturally do with men.
Why Is Sex Work Stigmatized In Society?
As developed by Gail Pheterson in “The Prostitution Prism” and “The Whore Stigma,” the oldest form of prostitution is marriage. Historically as societies, we have used marriage to keep women in line and we have put on them the whole burden of sexual, domestic, and emotional labor, expecting them to care for everyone in the household without any form of compensation. Nowadays, marriage has been replaced by the traditional monogamous heterosexual relationship, but the expectations towards women have barely changed. That is why, when a woman takes control of her own sexuality, and chooses to sell her sexual and emotional labor, we collectively feel like what she is doing is inherently wrong. We keep sex work as a taboo, we ostracize sex workers and clients (thus making their work even more dangerous), because on top of not offering all that labor to a single man, the women who choose to do sex work get an immediate and direct financial compensation for the work they do – how dare they, right?
What I Love About Being A Sex Worker
I especially love the freedom that sex work gives me. I am an independent courtesan, so I get to make my own schedules and choose the clients that I see. I am also a full time student and a writer, so a job that gives me both free time and a lot of inspiration is the best for me!
Another positive side of sex work to me is the fact that it forces you to set limits for yourself. Surprisingly, I found that having to word out those limits in a professional environment made setting them in my personal life easier, thus making my overall sexual life healthier.
Can Sex Work Be Empowering?
Absolutely! As Virginie Despentes writes in her essay “King Kong Theory,” it is all about the mind state and the consciousness of what one is doing. For example, dressing up in a sexy way and wearing high heels, when done strictly to please men, or when done without thinking about it, can be considered a symbol of female oppression – because society forces that look on women and tells them that it is the only way to be beautiful and desirable, and the subtext of that tells women that being desirable to men should be their main goal in life at all times. But, from another perspective, if a woman is wearing heels and lingerie in order to get a direct benefit from it (such as money from a client) and she is conscious of it, the choice of clothing switches from being oppressive to being subversive. The same goes for body hair removal, makeup, or having phallocentric sex. When you are a woman, the act of consciously complying to a societal sexist imperative in order to make money off of it is in itself an act of rebellion, and should be celebrated as such. 🙂
Léonie Stein – A professional fairy and independent courtesan from Montreal. Free-spirited, curious, and adventurous, as a full time student and writer I thrive on art and literature, as well as on pop and internet cultures. I am both easygoing and sophisticated, and human beings fascinate me. I consider myself a radical feminist and a sex workers’ rights advocate.
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Images courtesy of Léonie Stein
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