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How You Can Tell That Your New, Perfect, Accepting Partner Isn’t All That Accepting (Or Perfect)

That worshipful look we hope they’re directing towards you.

You’ve met that new person, and boy, are they different! They aren’t an unemployed boyfriend living off of your lap-dance money or a girlfriend making snide remarks about you supporting the patriarchy. They’re different from the partners assuming you’re always down to fuck or the ones constantly asking how much you make. No. This new person is so enlightened. They get it! They’ve got some neoliberal politics, are woke as fuck, and they told you on the first date that they are 100% a sex worker ally.

Clearly, they are perfect.

Until they aren’t. Because as many sex workers can tell you, it’s often the open minded, polyamorous, sex positive folks who will smash your heart the most. It’s harder to see coming from them, though, because unlike the usual whorephobic partner, their red flags tend to be a lot less obvious until hindsight kicks in.

I’m here to share my dating history with you and let you know about some warning signs you should look out for in your new and improved sweetheart.

1) They won’t hear a bad word about Moulin Rouge (or other anti-sex worker media)
I use Moulin Rouge as an example because I have literally been brought to tears by two ex-girlfriends who refused to admit how problematic it was, but this can apply to any tragic hooker media. Do they view everything else they watch through a feminist lens only to tell you to “just enjoy it” when you mention not wanting to see dead sex workers? That’s a problem.

If your SO laughs about having problematic faves but doesn’t see violence against sex workers as a problem, then that person is a problem. They’re not seeing fictional sex workers as people, and if they don’t see the fictional ones as people, I guarantee there’s at least a small part of them that doesn’t see you as a person either.

2) You can only have good days
It’s perfectly fine to be annoyed by your job! It’s total bullshit that our capitalist society forces people to give up years of their lives being unhappy in a workplace that devalues them. Especially when people are just trudging along, trying to make ends meet as cost of living soars!

Except when it comes to you. You’re a healer. Your work is so important. You provide this amazing service that everyone really needs to respect. WHAT DO YOU MEAN A CLIENT CALLED YOU A BITCH?

Does your partner expect you to console them after a long day at the office but act distant when you talk about time wasters? Have they maybe flat-out said, “I prefer to only hear about work when it’s good’?

That’s not support. That’s someone with a glamorized view of sex work who wants to leech cool points out of their association with you. Having a porn star girlfriend is really neat, until you have to hear about unsafe shoots. It’s so cool dating a stripper, until she tells you about a guy smacking her ass so hard she had him kicked out.

See, if you’re on top of everything and always flush with cash and 100% job satisfied, then they are too. They get to live vicariously through all the pros of the job without having to think of any of the cons. Bonus: the partners who only look for the best case scenario in your work are often also the ones who will tell you how much they wish they could be a sex worker. They’re the ones who might even ask you for an in, but who will never take the plunge and actually do it. As long as you keep up their dream job fantasy, they never have to deal with the reality that they’d never cut it as a whore.

Selling Sex Sort of Ruined My Life—All The More Reason I Support Sex Worker Rights

Do I have a target on my head?

When I first came out in print as a sex worker, it was pretty much decided by everyone that I was an idiot. That, or an opportunist and/or an attention whore—a fact one feminist blog called “disgusting.” In the comments sections of articles I have written, it is widely accepted that no one would pay to have sex with me and that I ought to shut the fuck up. I am frequently accused of making it all up. I’ve been insulted and undermined in every way and yet, amidst the hate mail, the most damaging criticism I’ve ever received came not from a New York Post reader or even a radical feminist (although I got hate mail from them, too) but from another advocate, a sex worker, someone I knew.

“Hi Melissa:

I hope you’re well. I read your Salon.com article. I appreciate that you’re sharing your story and advocating for sex workers’ rights. And I sympathize with your struggles.

I want to share a concern with you. In this article you make a statement about sex work, particularly prostitution being work that relies on dishonesty. In [an article published on Huffington Post] you similarly made a statement that the industry is “soul bankrupting.”

I can see how this may have been true for you, but it’s certainly not the case for all of us. For someone who is out of the business I can see how these statements would seem harmless. But for those of us still working, these are exactly the concepts that we’re trying hard to dismantle—the idea that we are somehow emotionally or intellectually compromised because we do this work.

I would never ask you not to speak your own truth. But I do think it would be helpful if these statements were framed in such a way that it’s clear this was only your experience, and not broad-sweeping truths about the business. Many of us come to this work honestly and operate from a place of truth and compassion. We deserve respect for this work. It’s problematic for an “expert” to portray us as liars with bankrupted souls. It’s especially hurtful when a colleague who presents herself as a dedicated advocate takes this stance.

Respectfully,

[redacted]

Outcasts Among Outcasts: Injection Drug-Using Sex Workers in the Sex Workers’ Rights Movement, Part 1

Myrna Loy wants to know if you're one of us (Gif from "Double Wedding" (1937))
Myrna Loy wants to know if you’re one of us (Gif from “Double Wedding” (1937))

For a long time, I’ve wanted to talk to other former and current injection drug-using sex workers about our experience of sex work and the sex workers’ rights movement. With every other statement from other sex workers seeming to be a disclaimer about how, “we’re not all junkies!”, pushing drug using sex workers in front of the bus in the name of respectability politics, a girl can get lonely out there. My most cherished dream is true, consistent collaboration between the sex workers’ rights movement and harm reduction organizations and drug users’ unions. Until that dream is realized, there’s always this roundtable. Material for the roundtable was gathered over e-mail dialogue throughout the month. Some of us wrote more than others, just as some of us have chosen to be pseudonymous while some of us are out. The participants are OS 1, KC 2, Inane Moniker 3, Lily Fury, Andrew Hunter 4, The Specialist 5, and me, Caty Simon. Part two will be posted tomorrow.

What are your experiences with stigma against injection drug use in the sex workers’ rights movement?

Lily Fury:  I feel like it’s hard enough to be an out sex worker but because, in general, sex workers experience so much stigma they feel like they need to separate themselves from “other” sex workers, especially injection drug using sex workers. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard or read a sex worker saying, “I wasn’t molested, I came from a good home, I don’t use drugs” in an attempt to bust stereotypes. But what about the girls who were molested or who came from poor shitty homes or who do use drugs? I feel like many times our stories and voices are muted just to make certain people more comfortable and I especially feel like this speaks to the divide among sex workers. It’s like because there’s so much stigma in just being a sex worker it’s triple hard for an IDU sex worker to be open about drug use and gain acceptance among her sex worker peers. Being outcast from a group that is already outcast from society can be really shitty and I just idealistically wish we could all have each other’s backs regardless of things like class, working conditions, and whether or not we decide to use drugs, because our voices and experiences are equally important.

OS: I have been part of sex worker Facebook groups, which I chose to opt out of largely due to the problematic nature of the way drugs were dealt with, actually. It was as if it was acceptable for a client to offer drugs as payment (something I get constantly due to where I work and find really difficult to deal with as I only stopped using IV a year ago) but not acceptable for sex workers to be drug users. I saw other workers say things like, “it’s not like we’re street-walking crack addicts”, which is blatantly whorephobic as well as discriminatory to drug users. If I complained about being offered drugs as payment though, I was being unreasonable. I have no explanation for the duality of this; it’s okay to offer drugs as payment but not to use drugs. Bizarre. In general, the stereotype of the street-based drug addicted worker is one that some sex workers are at pains to disprove, and I think that’s where this comes from. My experience of queer communities as well is that we have this tendency to cover up anything that could be seen as negative by outsiders and present this perfect image to try to legitimize ourselves. I think sex workers often fall into the same trap and the stigma around drug use, especially IV use, is a big part of that.

Surviving As Working Class After Backpage

Content warning: This post contains discussion and accounts of trafficking, debt bondage, and exploitation, both in the context of sex trafficking and trafficking in another industry. There are also brief references to experiences of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, custody loss, structural violence from criminalization, and violence against sex workers.

In the last four months, I have been in the most unusual employment circumstances of my life. I am kept in a small box with no access to even basic human needs like hot meals and showers. I am forced to stay there until my employers are ready to use me again. I am only permitted to shower when my employers are not using me. Up to a week in between showers has passed.

I am not paid for all of the work that I have performed. I am forced to share my small box with strange men when my employers demand it. These men have become aggressive and verbally abusive toward me. I am not allowed to know if the men have been violent to others before I work with them. I have been harassed sexually by my employer and I’m viewed as a sexual object by an overwhelming number of the men that surround me.

I am paid less than minimum wage for the hours that I work. I am kept apart from my family and do not see my home for months at a time. In fact, since taking this job I have not seen my home once, though I was promised I’d be brought home every three to four weeks.

I do not have access to healthcare despite having been the victim of a violent physical assault by one of the people they had living with me in my box. I’ve asked repeatedly to go home to see a doctor, but my employers keep me in my box. They keep moving my box around the nation so that I am too far away to escape and return home. I suspect they keep my pay minimal so that I cannot afford to escape.

I first saw the signs from Truckers Against Trafficking at truck stops around the nation. They were your basic public awareness flyers with signs about how to recognize human trafficking. Then at the port of entry in Wyoming, I saw a different poster from Polaris asking, “Do you want out of the life?”.  I thought for a moment and realized that I do feel as if I am being trafficked and I do want out of “the life”.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I should call Polaris for help, but I can’t. Because I am no longer a sex worker.

This all began after I left sex work.

No Such Thing As A Free Colonic

My favorite aunt almost died a few weeks ago due to a burst colon, and it got me thinking about my own colon health. It was my birthday week and I’ve been eating so many fried things and drinking too much and eating birthday cake off of girls’ titties. As a result, my body just feels NUTS. I could use a little digestive fresh start, so I decided to schedule a colonic.

I googled “colonics,” and didn’t read much about any of the places, just picked one that wasn’t too far from my house. I showed up a few minutes early and was greeted by an extremely friendly bulldagger, which I’ve always taken to be a good sign. She gave me an intake form to fill out. Under “occupation,” I just put “dancer.” Such a handy euphemism when you don’t feel the need to LIE, but would rather not write “stripper.” I finished the rest of the form, gave the clipboard back to the friendly dyke, and sat back down in the waiting room.

A few minutes later I was greeted by a different butch dyke, who led me back to the irrigation room. She went over my intake form. “What kind of dancer are you?”

“A stripper.”

She lowered her artsy eyeglasses and peered over them at me in a meaningful way, like someone on TV who has realized that their terrible suspicions have been proven true. After several seconds of silence, she announced, “Well. You’re not going to pay for your colonic today.”