(Image via memegenerator.net, courtesy of femmefurious.tumblr.com)
I got an anonymous message on my Tumblr after a recent post I made complaining about how fashionable it seems to be for the sex workers’ rights movement to focus on the voices of clients of sex workers. Like me, the anonymous poster felt that clients’ feelings and experiences were being prioritized over theirs. This poor anon felt obligated to give a fuck about men’s feelings. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I really don’t give a shit about clients’ feelings. If I’m not being paid to deal with male bullshit, I have no interest in it.
Yet I, like anon, feel like I’m alone in that position a lot of the time. The illustrious Morgan M. Page/Odofemi, a Toronto-based trans writer, artist, activist, and former sex worker, has written about the clients of trans sex workers and described them as “the missing link in obtaining trans* and sex workers rights”. Entire blogs are dedicated to telling the stories of punters. It seems like people are really keen on the idea that the men who use our services should be there to stick up for us. And why not? They’re being criminalized too (though we’re the ones who suffer the truly awful consequences), and I’m sure many other sex workers will agree that we do get a sense from some clients that they appreciate our humanity. It all sounds very good on paper. So, what’s the problem?
Well, first of all, have a look at the link to the blog about punters’ stories I posted. One of the posts is even titled “Women only sell sex because they have to.” Really? You’re speaking for us now? Excuse me, dude, please do not tell me why I do anything. I am entirely capable of doing that myself. Sadly, the voices of non-sex workers have long been used to drown out those of actual whores, and this divergence into punters’ points of view doesn’t seem any different from here. What are they actually contributing? Are they calling out whorephobia, talking to their friends about how to treat us with respect, designing laws and social policies that make our lives easier? No. What I’m seeing is eerily reminiscent of review-culture, which is about them, not us. I could live with that, if they stopped it there and didn’t tip-toe over to our side of the fence and, armed with their male entitlement, start speaking for us in ways that usually re-affirm victimized whore tropes. I remember one post in particular in which a man moaned woefully—and creepily—about the breakdown of his marriage, his ex-wife’s daughter, and his mental illness (hi, I have one too and I’m not a twat), then suggested that an escort he contacted clearly wasn’t “a real professional” and wasn’t “dedicated to her work” because she didn’t want to deal with him calling her repeatedly weeks before his fucking booking. Why should we listen to that kind of shit? Who is it helping? Hint: NO ONE. Oh look, here’s the post in question. Somehow I don’t think “everyday whorephobia” understands how ironic their blog name becomes when they post this trash.
The point I am trying to make here is that if clients were contributing something valuable or even something innocuous to our movement, I could deal. Instead, they are perpetrating whorephobia. I fear that people who don’t know better will see posts like this and think these men somehow have more knowledge of our lives and the realities of our work than we do. After all, the conversations surrounding punters and activism are largely cisheteronormative, and most of these men bring their male privilege to the table, while not even being aware of these advantages.