Thursday, January 21, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: topics of sexual nature

I received a bit of flack from my last post because it was perceived that I assumed that sex workers had all gotten into their profession from a place of abuse, neglect, and destitution.

I want to clarify a few things here. I don't personally know what this life is like and I am reading a memoir about a woman that reacted to this life in the way that I know I would were I a part of it. I feel that many women that make similar choices probably are doing so as a result of a path that started in neglect, abuse, or destitution.

There is a chasm of difference between a person that's heavily screening clients beforehand and in complete control of their sex work and a person that needs to service tens of men every day to support themselves.

I'm in the process of sorting out how I feel about sex work in general. It is my instinct to say that it is damaging because a woman's body cannot be for sale and until our society respects and accepts women as equals, this situation will likely almost always be bad for the woman in sex work. I cannot imagine it being any other way, unless you truly do have ALL control in an environment in which you do sex work. You cannot completely control these situations and even if you successfully weeded out the abusers as your clients, you wouldn't be seeing enough to make a good living. Perhaps this is a dismal view of our society, but I believe it is accurate.

These are my instincts and I talk about things as I'm processing them. I understand that there are many sex workers that disagree with these statements and my philosophizing about their work means little in comparison to their experience.

I don't place any shame or blame or disrespect on sex workers, only their clients and the society that's made this practice a thing. I have experienced some flavors of the fucked up sexual dynamics of men in a society wherein no is not a word heard by their ears often enough.

I was accused of assuming all women within prostitution are "broken" in my last blog entry. I have a hard time disagreeing with that because I have a hard time believing ANY women in our society aren't broken. I was trying to imagine a way that sex work could be beneficial to a woman that had grown up happy and wasn't under threat of homelessness and was doing the type of sex work that involves many men per day. The part that was harder to imagine even than the part where a person might get benefit, a benefit other than financial, from this profession was the part where a woman had grown up happy, without any incidences of abuse from family, friends, boyfriends, society, etc. That whole and happy woman is a myth, I think. Until our society has true equality she will be like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and the Unicorn, a figment of our imaginations. Every single woman I've ever known has been damaged by something or someone that took their choices away from them.

In reading Rachel Moran's memoir, I've been experiencing a lot of emotional echoes from her experience within sex work to my own sexual life that never included getting paid for it. She talks of how she learned how to be a sexual being growing up in this trade. I learned that part of myself in a 5.5 year abusive relationship. I once said to my second partner before our first time together that every time I've ever had sex it has felt like rape. He didn't respond to that statement. Either it didn't seem upsetting to him or he completely misunderstood, but I took it to mean that maybe it wasn't that important. The psychological ramifications of growing up thinking it would all feel like an invasion are vast, as one can imagine. Consent from me didn't become a consistent part of that aspect of my life until partner 3. By then I was 22. Another odd parallel with Moran's story is that this is the age when she got out of sex work. I don't want to suggest that anything I experienced was anywhere near as awful as what she experienced, but I had similar emotional/psychological reactions that she outlines in the book.

Her story is, as a friend said, just that. HERS. But I think it's telling that my perceived experience as a person leading a completely different life feels similar to me. Because the sex life of a girl that is kind-of saying yes can look like that of someone that was very damaged by a lifestyle of sex work. Her experience within that industry matters. Pretending that sex work is full of choices is just not plausible in our society, though there are corners of the internet wherein I feel hopeful that women are doing this work without abuse. I can't believe it's common because I don't even believe that it's very common outside the realm of a man thinking he's bought YOU.

But this isn't me telling someone what to do. This is me theorizing how this type of work would make me feel. This is me experiencing empathy for the way a woman dealt with it.

And on a personal note, as I said above, I process things in writing. Y'all see the process more than the fully formed thoughts most of the time. Because of this, I can be unintentionally insensitive. Intentions matter a lot to me and I am always very open to people calling me out on stuff I may not understand fully. But if you've issues with the way I presented something, please contact me directly. Try to explain your viewpoint from an assumption that I'm probably just ignorant of whatever the issue is. I am NEVER going to be intentionally espousing the view that people should be stripped of their personal choices, though I am having a hard time thinking of sex work (again, there are many different kinds, but here I am speaking of the sex with many men per day type) as being a choice that someone is ever making for reasons other than financial.

It's causing a war within me because I want sex work to be like Inara in Firefly. She was a woman that chose her own clients,was respected in society, paid very handsomely, and enjoyed her work. I want that for sex workers, but I'm afraid we might be lying to ourselves if we think that any more than 10% of them can work this way in our world as it is today.

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