Dear Sex Work Abolitionists, Nordic Model fans, Morality Police, and so-called "radical feminists",
I get it. We live under an oppressive, bullshit, ridiculous, totally imbalanced and unfair patriarchal system, all around the world, with varying degrees of institutional violence and oppression, especially for marginalized folks. I understand your frustration with the dynamics at play within the sex industry. It's largely men, using their privilege and financial capital, to buy the time/bodies/love of mostly women (though I see that you often forget, or simply don't care, about trans and male sex workers, who maybe don't generate enough feminist buzz), in what are sometimes shitty conditions where consent is sometimes difficult to navigate. I get it. It sucks that people have to work under shitty conditions. We should work to change that. I know you feel that this is precisely what you're doing when you call for the abolition of sex work, and for the criminalization of clients who purchase sexual services.
But people still HAVE TO WORK, or somehow earn a living, if they want to be able to function in this society. It would be amazing if everyone could do what they love, and get paid not only a living, but a GOOD wage for their labour. That would be amazing, and I think we should continue to work towards that goal.
I also understand that workers, but especially women, in particular Trans women of colour (who, again, you never really seem to care about), experience violence at the hands of clients, police, and society in general. I understand that a lot of you are survivors of that violence. I'm sorry you had to endure that, and I'm sorry the sexist, misogynistic "justice" system in this country, and in most countries, is so woefully inadequate, uncaring, and unfair. Law enforcement in general does not give a shit about violence against women, unless they're rich, or white, or really pretty. When you're a sex worker, the indifference is quadrupled, victim-blaming is common, and violence is casual. It sucks, and is wrong, and we should continue to work to change that.
Where our paths diverge is when you start calling for the abolition of sex work and/or the criminalization of clients. Because you've experienced (or know someone who has) violence while doing sex work, that's justification for you to actively attempt to destroy an ENTIRE INDUSTRY, along with the livelihood of folks who still engage in that industry? Because one, or several, people violated your person, that's reason to criminalize an entire group of people (based SOLELY on gender) who've never violated anyone? Are you serious? Do you not see the parallels with racial profiling, or with gender stereotypes? What if every industry where workers have endured violence, duress, or coercion were abolished? There would be NO INDUSTRY AT ALL, including health care and social services.
Where it gets personal, and where, frankly, a lot of you start to piss me off, is when you, especially those of you who've never done sex work, call for either the abolition of my industry (which is the way I earn my living), the criminalization of my clients (from whom I earn my living, and with whom I've almost always had positive experiences), and when you refer to sex work as "inherently violent". I literally fill up with rage when you refer to me, and folks like me, as "prostituted women". I am not being "prostituted" by anyone. I am a free-thinking, independent person who decided, a few years ago, when I got so tired of being unemployed and and in constant poverty, to market myself and grow a business around something I enjoyed immensely, and regularly did for free: sex.
*I* made that choice. Not some vague "pimp". Not some trafficker. Not some agency "madam". ME. I decided that, since this society values fat women as either jokes or sex objects, that I would capitalize on this oppression. I still liked sex, but I always felt used by guys who pretended to want a relationship when all they really wanted was to see my boobs. I wanted more from them, and it was becoming clear that finding a suitable partner for dating or marriage wasn't going to happen. So I decided to start charging for access to my body. Maybe that sounds sad to you, but this is the reality. Romantic relationships with cis-men aren't easily accessible to women who look like me. And given that, at the time, I was earning $8/hour doing outdoor postering, walking around for literally 9 hours per day, in the hot summer sun, my sunburned skin (sunscreen? haha, rich people things) and clothes covered in toxic glue, being unable to move for a day afterwards, and having my lunch breaks deducted (when I couldn't even afford to make/take a lunch), this seemed an ideal way to kill two metaphorical birds with one metaphorical stone.
And I know what you'll say: that you all are working tirelessly to abolish the system that makes this kind of exploitation and fuckery possible. That's great. I wish for, and work towards, a society where everyone can get a minimum income or gainful employment, can access love/sex/relationships, and where we really challenge each other on beauty standards, violence against women, capitalism, patriarchy, and rape culture. I'm with you on all of these points.
I get that women in sex work face violence at work in a way that, say, a woman working in an office would not. And do you know WHY that is? Because if that office woman calls the police on a would-be rapist/attacker, the police can't simply ignore that or blame her business casual attire, even though they rarely pursue rape cases. If a sex worker called police because a man (not necessarily a client) raped her, what do you think the police would do? Pursue the attacker with full force? No. They would more than likely arrest her, possibly rape her themselves, seize her earnings, and/or use her safer sex supplies as evidence to prosecute her. More than likely they will think she deserved it and do nothing but re-victimize her.
And do you know why THAT is? Because of stigma. Because we're just damaged whores with daddy issues, right? They know nobody will believe us, even if we do have the privilege and courage needed to come forward. This stigma is further perpetuated by people like you who insist on calling sex workers "prostituted women", "damaged", "sexually broken" "delusional", and the like. It happens because men fear women's sexuality. But this is not unique to sex work. Do you honestly believe that exploitation, coercion, and super fucked up racial/gender/ability/etc. dynamics don't play out in offices, fields, restaurants, academic institutions, and anywhere in this fucked-up society? I know you don't believe that.
So, why focus on criminalizing clients, the majority of whom, based on the experiences of myself and at least a hundred other sex workers (indoor, outdoor, agency, survival, etc.) that I personally know, are just regular folks? Your fathers, brothers, doctors, bosses, pastors, etc., are our clients, I can promise you that. Why aren't you focusing on the people who perpetrate the violence? Just because almost all violence against women (and men) is at the hands of men, doesn't mean ALL MEN are innately violent (no more than all radical feminists are clueless, ignorant, privileged assholes, though A LOT of you are). Why do you insist on conflating trafficking with sex work? THESE ARE VERY DIFFERENT THINGS, and akin to comparing rape to sex. Rape is not sex anymore than trafficking is sex work.
I get that you want to amplify the voices of survivors of violence, but actively working to fuck over people who STILL DO SEX WORK to earn their living isn't the way to go about this. How is being disrespectful, ignorant, and oppressive towards sex workers radical, feminist, or at all productive? I think WE ALL want violence against women (and anyone) to stop. But demonizing men who've never hurt anybody, because some men do hurt others, is NOT the way to do this. Use some of that anti-oppressive analysis to see how fucked-up your thinking is. Use your immense privilege (yes, you are privileged if you're university-educated, employed, able to pay rent, or white) and power to combat TRAFFICKING and rape (what you like to call "forced prostitution" - when prostitution implies consent) not the clients who just want to get off/feel wanted/talk to someone, or the women who provide those services.
Of all of the jobs I've had in my life (janitor, Tim Horton's drive-thru, bill collector, market researcher, call centre rep, graphic designer, childcare provider), sex work was BY FAR the most empowering, fun, easy, educational job I've had, and it allowed me the most freedom from oppression and poverty. In sex work, I set the rules, work conditions, hours, and rate of pay. I understand that I am VERY privileged in this regard, and I want to fight for EVERYONE to be able to work this way, if they so choose.
But please, please, don't tell me that sex work is ALWAYS "violence against women". Don't tell me that my sweet, awkward, unable-to-find-dates client who pays me for two hours and MASSAGES me, without having sex, in a candle-lit room, because I tweeted that I had a bad day, is exploiting or violating me. Don't tell me that the outcall guy, in a wheelchair, who also can't find a partner who isn't a judgmental fuckface, wanting some affection and a blow-job (because he's never even been touched sexually before) is violent. Don't tell me that my 65 year-old divorced client, who can't navigate modern dating, and who just wants to be kissed while I jerk him off is doing anything wrong. He isn't. And neither am I. They don't deserve to be arrested for that. I shouldn't be harassed, intimidated by police, and forced to retire from sex work (out of fear of being outed) because of moral panic, which, thanks to police now targeting independent sex workers in Southern Ontario, I've now had to do. I'll be applying for welfare next week, because I still have to pay for luxuries like rent, food, tampons, and soap. Are you happy now, radfems? Will you be satisfied when myself, and a lot of my community, will be forced to move back in with our parents (those of us lucky enough to have such options), or go hungry, or live on coffee because it suppresses our appetite?
THIS is the REAL WORLD consequence of your misguided and ignorant campaigns. I'm happy that you want to help those who want to exit sex work. But I am pissed, angry, and occasionally suicidal because you see fit to fuck with the last option I had for basic survival. What the FUCK am I, and folks with a lot less privilege and options than I have, going to do now? Work and risk jail, or getting put on some list that will show up at borders, welfare offices, and RCMP stations?
This comes down to choices. Whether you believe it or not, or whether or not you want MORE choices for people (I think we feminists ALL want this), the bottom line is that, for a lot of sex workers, this is a CHOICE we make, and no one, especially anyone calling themselves a feminist, should be working to take that agency away, regardless of how violent, dirty, immoral, or sexist YOU THINK sex work is. There is a word for that, and it's OPPRESSION. Stop acting like patriarchal morality police, and focus your efforts on reducing the stigma that makes sex workers targets for rapist and murderers, holding police and law enforcement accountable, and shifting the public's perceptions of sex workers, thus reducing the stigma/violence/bullshit we constantly face.
What you're currently doing is exacerbating the problems we face, and, frankly, making a mockery out of feminism.