Ending Violence Against Sex Workers Starts with Respect and Ending the Sex Worker Hierarchy.
There's been a lot of talk around Me lately because of the speech I gave on December 17, 2017 on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. There's a video of Me speaking, I was a little upset because it cuts off at the end.
I wanted to make sure that My full words were available so below, you will find the speech I gave that night. Also, I've embedded the video. As written in My last blog post, this speech ended up getting Me in a local paper, the Baltimore Beat and just this week, I spoke with TIME Magazine on the same topic and the #MeToo campaign.
My speech read as follows:
I spent days trying to figure out what I’d say today. How I could convey the seriousness of the issue of violence against sex workers without making all sex workers appear victims. The more I agonized over trying to avoid generalization, the more I found Myself reflecting on all the “jobs” that fall under the category of sex worker, the more I was able to distance Myself from the stereotypes and generalization to focus on what matters.
Every time I hear about a sex worker being attacked, robbed or worse, murdered, I immediately thank the universe that I am alive. I know how easily I could fit into any of their shoes. People harm sex workers for the same reason people harm members of the LGBTQ community, for the same reason a spouse batters their partner, lack of respect.
The stigmas surrounding sex work must end for the violence against sex workers to be not only be taken seriously, but to stop. As someone who has spent 20+ years as a sex worker, exploring different options from escort to dancer, phone sex operator and even webcam girl, I’ve often had a hard time understanding the fine line that divides the legalities of sex work. I’ve also experienced the different levels of respect that come with the job titles.
When people hear I used to be a whore, they are taken aback, some look at me differently with the “I thought you were a respectable author and business woman” bullshit. When I say I have 2.6 million views on pornhub, that changes. There’s a level of respect that they now give, as if Me being a whore is ok bc I’m a popular one. If its ok because I’ve slept with a celebrity and have a lot of people watching My videos then why isn’t okay if I do the same with tom dick and harry from down the street? While we’re at it, I could do Larry too, what’s the difference? The camera? My popularity?
Before there was phone sex, webcams and escorting sites, there was the good old art of trading money for sexual favors that did not always include sex. Society tended to put it all under the umbrella of prostitution, but the reality is every escort or person paid for a sexual favor, wasn’t involved in a sexual act.
They say prostitution is the oldest profession. It’s illegal in most states, yet, if you go to Vegas, there are legal brothels where money is exchanged for sex, taxes are paid and at one point, the most popular brothel had a very popular show on HBO chronicling the lives of the sex workers who stayed there.
Somehow, pornography is recognized as a legal job, though people are paid to have sex and perform sexual acts but because it’s on camera, it’s not a crime, nor apparently, immoral. It’s just business.
Like the saying goes, “there’s levels to this”, the question is, how many people realize the correlation to how sex workers are treated on these different levels. Porn stars are regarded as sex symbols, no matter how much they display, to some they will always be Goddesses. Webcam girls these days can build an almost cult-like following when done correctly. They’re showered with gifts, money and even trips as men compete to show they adore her. Phone sex operators and strippers are a little further down the “respect” pole it seems. Yet, there is little to no difference in the behavior of any of these positions in the sex industry. Let’s not even get into BDSM where the sex worker is regarded as highly as God in some cases.
Often, a prostitute or streetwalker is seen as the lowest on the totem pole, these are the most vulnerable in our field. Many are alone, relying on each other on the street, if they have anyone at all. This makes them easy prey for those who mean to do them harm. They get the least respect and are at more of a risk because they have little to no protection on the street. To some, they seem disposable. They aren’t and whether they’re on the street, the pole or in your favorite porn movie, they all deserve the same level of respect
Respect for sex work? Not exactly, respect because they are human beings living their lives and everyone deserves common respect and should be able to have an expectation of being able to go to work and make it home at the end of the night.
We’re here to talk about violence against sex workers so why am I focused on respect? Respect has a lot to do with how sex workers are treated and crimes against them are handled. We must change the mindset that has come from the societal stigmas around sex work. We’ve come a long way, porn was once taboo, then shown on big screens, moved from being delivered in brown paper packages to stores and now beamed directly into your home 24/7 via the net.
We have normalized some aspects of sex work, we call them porn STARS. They are idolized, what is the difference between them and any other sex worker?
Perception is everything, but what is a sex worker? It’s a free spirit who makes money doing what they love, a mother trying to feed her kids, a husband and wife duo who love to “play” and open a swinger’s club, it’s a retired grandmother at home with her 976 #, it’s an exotic dancer, it’s a guy on webcam paying his student loans. A sex worker is a person with a job in the sex industry, period.
Sex workers are every day people living life, they aren’t detriments to society, they aren’t the monsters among us. The problem is, we as a society, base the respect we give to people on our own opinion and perception of them and their lifestyle. THIS MUST STOP.
You don’t have to agree with someone’s life choices, nor understand them to respect the person. Respect that they are someone’s mother, son, daughter, sister, cousin, brother, grandson and that whether you think they matter or not, that there is someone out here in this world that loves them despite ANY thing you think could devalue them.
No one is disposable, no one deserves to be attacked and treated as less than by the people who are supposed to help them, because of their profession. How can a sex worker report a crime when they have to then worry about the repercussions against them or their cries being ignored because they “deserved it” or are “probably mad they didn’t get paid” as I’ve heard used as an excuse to ignore the cries of “Me too” from sex workers.
Respect, change the stigma, this is what we must do. Sex workers need the same on the job protection and ability to report a crime and be taken seriously as would anyone else who was robbed or assaulted at work.
While we as a society can’t agree on the morality or even legalities surrounding sex work, I’m sure we can all agree on one things, everyone deserves to have the expectation of going to work and making it back home. The world can’t be this cold place where THAT can’t be a basic expectation and common right for us all.
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