I called my friend Amy and told her I feel trapped, and that I don’t think I can live my life if it’s just going to keep cycling back to having no options. And she was kind enough not to tell me why sex work is awesome, or to question my commitment to the movement, or to question whether I could really feel this bad about it. There is something really crazy-making about trying to pretend my feelings about sex work don’t matter, about continually tying the right of decriminalization to the obligation to be happy, when doing sex work makes me desperately unhappy.
…In The Promise of Happiness, Sara Ahmed traces the rise of happiness as a personal and cultural obligation. Happiness is “the good life,” and good people are the ones that make themselves and others happy. But we live in a world in which some people’s “good life” is necessarily dependent on others’ exploitation. The obligation to be happy, for Ahmed, is the obligation to let that continue. The history of unhappiness in the 20th century – as it has been told and recorded, in literature, memoirs and other archives – has been the history of resistance.
I’m not sure precisely what a sex positive feminist theory of prostitution that embraces unhappiness looks like, or could look like. But I’m tired of only ever seeing my feelings about sex work represented in abolitionist writing that doesn’t reflect my politics (or my basic need for survival, thanks bitches).
Sarah M. in “Unhappy Hooking, or Why I’m Giving Up On Being Positive” on her exceptional and erudite blog, autocannibal