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Sex work: what's your problem?

Before entering the world of sex work, I built a career as a sustainable fashion consultant, driven not only by a concern for the environment but for working women, working class women like myself.

After years of campaigning, talking, arguing, and endless upcycling workshops, i couldn't help but form hatred for fast fashion and the men who profited from it. Global corporations headed by men, selling bodily loathing to women, enslaving women to produce goods that were destroying the planet in back streets, dark corners of the globe. I wanted to bring them down in any way possible.

At no point did it occur to me, however, to target the shop staff of fast fashion stores.

I never imagined it was fair to legislate to make their landlords evict them, pressure payment providers to close their bank accounts, or remove their children from their care.

The retail staff are provably linked to the unethical and abhorrent treatment of vulnerable women struggling in poverty, forced into work they may not enjoy but prefer it to the prospect of starvation. Workers who are beaten and persecuted by their factory bosses, and left uncompensated when industry incidents occur, no matter how productive and valued they previously were.

Women with no choice: trafficked women.

So why do we do these exact things to sex workers?

Every commercial industry has it’s dark side, but none seems to hold more fascination than that of the adult industry. The workers of the modern sex industry are treated at best as victims of the industry, and at worst complicit in human trafficking, and no amount of stats, spoken testimony, or studies will convince people otherwise.

So why the difference in treatment between the Saturday girl on the high street and the cam girl on the internet, what’s the problem?

Class, Shame, Power.

Like all creative pursuits, we have classism in sex work. The street worker from a back ground of poverty faces more discrimination compared to the the middle class girl who side stepped from a liberal background into sex work. As a Dominatrix for example, I’m unfairly given status by some above full service workers. Its bullshit, but its a fact of the industry.

A middle class, non industry, friend of mine some time ago asked me to refer to myself as a dominatrix and not as sex worker. She felt the latter made others uncomfortable. I’ll never forget the feeling that gave me.

Which leads us to shame. I also worked as an support worker for sex workers in a large UK city, assisting those in a rehabilitation centre. The first thing I learned was that the problems the women were facing were abuse, lack or prospects, lack of housing, and subsequently mental health issues, including addiction. These women faced stigma in their lives from birth, and sex work brought them the ultimate stigma. The project I worked with did not encourage shame, it did however work in an environment or organisations dedicated to saving women by any means, As long as it was the means they felt appropriate.

Organisations which obtain grants to ‘save’ sex workers who to my knowledge do little to house, clothe, feed, or care for working women, but campaign for abolition, campaign against the very women they say they support. These ‘Women's Rights’ organisations pick and choose their clients. Only the right sort of women seemingly deserve support or autonomy in their eyes.

I guarantee you, even now, if I wished to exit this work and needed help I would not approach those organisations, I would approach a charity that provides sustainable housing.

Which leads us to power.

Much like my sisters in the textile factory, I don't come from the easiest of backgrounds. I know how it feels to be treated like scum, to be judged for being poor, sick, lost, lonely. And I know how easily we fall between the cracks when no one is there to advocate for us. I know what it is to be a woman without power.

So I know the degradation of being called a povvo, a slut, a prozzie. I know how it feels to be ostracised,and the power that holds over our lives. So as we as sex workers are slowly shadow banned from social media and academia, refused from jobs and accused of being criminals, also know how powerful it is to deprive us of a voice.

The simple truth is no one wishes to hear the fact of the sex worker because its female sexual power, which is shameful, which is bad. Albeit the oldest trade, no one examines it: the trade, the sexual equity. Why should women not exchange their erotic power for goods? Why shouldn't anyone?

Because we are chattel traditionally. And the ongoing subjugation of women who manage to gain power because society tells us we owe men sex. When we demand returns, we are punished.

I invite you to show me the true difference between a high end sex worker and a woman married to a rich man: both know their obligations, the deal, the job. But one is “sanctified by god”.

Below them are the single mums on dating apps, brutally devalued by the dating market, ‘used up’ but all the same providing what men want. The same as your average sex worker, advertising online, accessible, blamed when she doesn't see the risk from afar, often insulted, but expected to not discriminate. She must compromise. She must know her worth in the eyes of society. She must not demand returns for her efforts.

And then the vulnerable lass, undervalued her whole life, powerless, tired, underestimated ignored, presumed stupid. The undervalued worker who does the things you cant be bothered to do because you think its beneath you. The very foundation of every economy.

Now it may feel uncomfortable to think of SWS as a bedrock, but we've all known forever that men thrive on sex, so in the face of patriarchy as fact and patriarchy being as powerful as ever, why is sex so objectionable as leverage?

Why are people so reluctant to recognise that exchanging sex and sexual content for goods is what people want? Not just men, but all of us?

I cant even mention non cis women, POC, or the queer community who have led the way at every step of sex work without blowing the collective mind of mainstream media. The media have the same problem as the peal clutching abolitionist: they wish to dictate to us what is normal and what is good.

With the ongoing whiff of fascism in the air we do right to question those who wish to deprive us of autonomy, including the right to work as we wish, especially as women. Sex workers deserve the support of non industry people, even if you find the work unsavoury or hard to understand, we have a right to choose. Its extremely important to safeguard that right.

If you pole dance or enjoy adult content, or sex toys, or PRIDE, you owe sex workers their dues, you owe us thanks for maintaining an atmosphere of ongoing defiance in the face of censorship. We pay prices you cannot comprehend but are complicit in creating.

Christopher Isherwood’s book “Goodbye to Berlin” which later became the basis for cult

film “Cabaret” tells the tale of a young man seeking sexual liberation in the clubs of Germanys Weimar Republic as it slowly and violently falls to Nazi rule. He enjoys the spoils of the scene whilst wilfully ignoring the plight and imminent demise of those who created it.

The author himself later acknowledged his regret in callously abandoning the city to return to the safety of America, reaping rewards from the suffering of its inhabitants by writing a book as the clubs closed and the entertainers disappeared forever.

So is the voyeuristic nature of the anti sex work rhetoric: enjoying the benefits, but unwilling to save those who create them as their lives are ripped away. Unwilling to see the consequences for us all.

Class, shame, power.

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