Raise your hand if you feel personally victimized by the BBC
I’ve done many different kinds of sex work. I’ve been a cam girl, a porn performer, a professional sub, and a performer at a peep show (similar to a stripper). I’ve also been working in retail and food service simultaneously.
I get so frustrated at how I’m treated at work. It really gets to me. I find myself involuntarily crying once I get into my car to drive home. I hate how dehumanizing it is. People don’t acknowledge me as a person. They think I’m less than them because of my job. Maybe they don’t actively think that, but that’s how they treat me. Oh, by the way, I’m talking about the food service job.
When I’m doing sex work I can refuse a customer. I can be rude to them if they are being rude to me. I don’t have to apologize for their mistakes. I don’t have to be sweet when they are being inappropriate. I negotiate my limits, and I only do what I feel comfortable doing. They don’t get to order off the menu, I’m not going to bend over backwards for them.
I find it oppressive to work for minimum wage. I find it oppressive to act like the customer is always right. I find it dehumanizing to apologize for things that aren’t my fault, like how much something costs or if you order something wrong and you want it remade the correct way. I find it dehumanizing to say “Hi! How are you?” and in response get “Yeah I just need a blah blah blah” and then have a customer go back to their cell phone conversation. I hate being reduced to a cash register.—
Yes, this. Excellent. During my many presentations on sex work and sex workers, people would try to make the point or ask the question “well why don’t these people just get a real/decent/non-sex work job? there are jobs! you can go to McDonald’s and get a job.”
But food service, I would argue, is more dehumanizing in some ways than sex work. There is no job autonomy in food service. You work for minimum wage, less than 8 bucks and hour. And you have to work all the time (if your place of employment will even give you the hours you need) to make rent payments. Sex work, in all the varieties it comes in, can provide more opportunities and is often times more lucrative than working a minimum wage job. Sex work is labor.
People, during my presentations, try to argue that sex work is inherently exploitative, and that is what is wrong with it. But I argue that all work is exploitative.
The last time someone was arguing about sex work with me, I said I didn’t want to take away someone’s choice to do sex work and they said, “It’s not a choice if you do it to put food on the table.” Show of hands: how many of us go to work in order to put food on the table? Right.
There is no comparison between food service and sex work. For one, food service doesn’t require you to turn your body into a commodity for the consumption of the customer. And while some people may make good money doing sex work, most of them are people with a great deal of privilege to begin with — they’re doing sex work by choice, in that they could just as easily do another type of work if they didn’t want to be sex workers.
89-95% of sex workers say they would no longer do sex work if they had other options, meaning they can’t do another type of work either because of lack of education, mental health problems, age, substance abuse issues, etc. It is not the same as working “to put food on the table” because it’s either sex worker or starvation.
I work to put food on the table, but if I didn’t like my job I could just as easily find another job I like better. I have other options. Most sex workers do not, maybe because the average age of women entering prostitution is between twelve and fourteen. Twelve year old runaways under the watch of an abusive pimp can’t just refuse a customer they don’t like.
Comparing the two is incredibly erasive of the struggles of exploited women by focusing only on the privileged few. This whole thread is ridiculously condescending and short-sighted.
And you’re erasing the sex workers who choose it. You are treating sex work and human trafficking like they’re inextricable from one another, which is not true. Not all human trafficking is for prostitution, and not all prostitutes and other sex workers were trafficked. You call them a “privileged few” but that’s thousands and thousand of men, women and people of other genders who choose this kind of work, and you would take it away from them, even though it wouldn’t solve the problem of human trafficking in any way.
I have seen people cite that 89-95% number, that most sex workers would leave if they could, but I’ve never seen an actual source for it, and Googling it now isn’t turning anything up. And how many people would leave the food service industry if they could find a better job? Tons.
And any job that requires labor involves using your body as a commodity. So do any jobs like modeling or acting.
Finding a solution for human trafficking, as well as substance abuse, education issues, and access to mental health care are all extremely important problems facing our society, none of which would be solved by shaming people who choose sex work or by making that work illegal. The Urban Justice Center has some great information sheets on the subject: