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ecowhore
photo from ecowhore.com

We close today with an affecting first-person account of underage sex work. While it should go without saying that Tits and Sass doesn’t endorse underage work, the solution is not continued criminalization and hysteria based on unsubstantiated “facts,” it’s better alternatives, a safety net, and decriminalization. Many thanks to Ecowhore for graciously allowing us to repost this November 17, 2010 entry from her blog.—ed.

Exploitation. They say half of underage girls on their own turn to sex work within 24 hours of hitting the streets. I know when I was a kid I turned to it right away every time I ran away or my dad kicked me out. Big eyes, tits hanging out, thumb out, I’d wait for any man to pick me up and give me money or a place to stay.

They say it’s a bad thing. They say there are pimps and traffickers who will lock those poor innocent children in apartments and make them fuck for up to twelve hours a day. I try to imagine this. When I was a kid no pimps ever approached me, but my step-grandmother-in-law used to warn me about them. Just handle your own business, she would say, don’t let any guy start protecting you, taking your money, next thing you know… She was 60 and fat with eighties hair and sparkly spandex clothes. She’d been a hooker during the pipeline days, when things were really rough, until she’d married my mom’s husband’s father 30 years ago.

In Defense of Backpage

History is repeating itself, and I doubt a single sex worker is surprised. It was common knowledge that Backpage would become the next political target after it absorbed the tremendous spillover of adult advertisers when Craigslist shut down its “adult services” section. Now, given The Village Voice’s willingness to take the fight to those who want it, the Advertising Service Provider vs. Abolitionist battle has a good chance of replaying in the near future.

Virtually all of the defenses for Craigslist apply to Backpage, too—most relevantly the fact that shutting down the service won’t end trafficking or pimping, but it will most definitely make it harder to find and prosecute those who do. It will also put consenting sex workers in danger in the process. But don’t tell that to the Kutcherites advocating an irrational and worthless scorched earth policy when it comes to escort ads: ban them all regardless of the repercussions for consensual sex workers, and then pretend the trafficking problem is solved. If you don’t believe me, check out the way in which these deeply concerned citizens handle the opinion of an actual sex worker.

If You Can’t Accept Facts, You Can’t Be An Ally

A lot of sex workers and sex worker activists had trouble enjoying their July 4th weekend thanks to Ashton Kutcher, who has been waging war against The Village Voice for airing its concerns about his anti-trafficking efforts and misinformation campaign. On almost every non-sex worker helmed website that covered this story, comments consisted of the claims that 1) misinformation is unimportant, irrelevant, or even justified if it’s for a good cause and 2) anyone who criticizes misinformation in the name of a good cause is necessarily against the good cause. In this specific case, that means critics of Kutcher’s bad stats are in favor of child prostitution. (Fun sarcastic commenter’s summation of this position can be found here.) Some have made the similar assertion that Kutcher’s careless campaigning is a good thing because it’s “gotten people talking” about the issue, as if any incidental end justifies the means, or all discussion is automatically beneficial. Judging from what internet “talking” I saw, lots of self-righteous, under-educated people are feeling even more morally superior than they did before, and many experts and activists feel even more discouraged and devalued.

The Best TV Prostitute Ever

Chances are that since you’re reading this site, you’re already cool enough to know that Arrested Development was one of the greatest TV shows of all time. A big reason for that was their “Family Ties” episode which featured a high end escort named Nellie, played by Justine Bateman. As with every episode, there are tons of in-jokes and funny plot lines but we’re going to stick with discussing the strictly sex work aspects and Nellie’s all-around awesomeness.

Let’s start with presentation. Nellie is impeccably clad in sexy, elegant dresses without any gauche hallmarks of conspicuous consumption; she looks like a beautiful businesswoman during after work hours. (Indeed, we eventually find out that she started escorting because of her business school loans.) She’s not blonde, doesn’t bare generous amounts of cleavage, or conduct herself in an embarrassingly transparent manner while in public. In other words, she’s barely a recognizable TV prostitute at all. She’s articulate, dignified, unpretentious, and capable. By the end of the episode, she’ll have triumphed over everyone’s uncharitable assumptions and saved the day.

“Pretty Woman” Is Real

Ahh, marital bliss.

If there’s one element Pretty Woman is most commonly maligned for, it’s the improbable ending of a street working prostitute whisked away by a filthy rich client. Civilians love to crow about how wildly unrealistic it is to think that a john will ever marry his sex worker and yeah, if you’re entering into sex work with the goal to use it as a dating service, you’re probably going to be a disappointed. That goes for clients and providers. But it’s not uncommon for sex workers to have romantic, unpaid relationships with men they first met as clients. I’ve been in just such a relationship for almost six years. And at last count, I know five married couples who fit the same bill. (I should stipulate that two of these are now divorced, which is consistent with the national average.) It’s not just escorts; strippers, too, can end up with a patron. Nor it is limited to folks who work indoors. A street worker I know spoke to me once about a burgeoning unpaid relationship with a former client, although she made it clear to me (and to him) that she had no intention of quitting work just because she began dating him.

That’s where Pretty Woman really gets it wrong: even when sex workers find a man willing to support them, they often want to keep working.