delve a little deeper....
Following on from my blog yesterday about Melissa Douglas's blog/Huff Post article complaining about how men kept thinking she was a prostitute there was a bit of a twitter storm over it. I'm not taking full responsibility/credit for it because plenty of other sex workers were calling her out on her attitude and words. She dealt with it by blocking them and not engaging with anyone about it. Her only tweets on the subject was to complain she was being harassed and threatened.
Eventually Douglas issued a statement in response to the Huff Post article, which luckily I screen shot because this morning she has locked her account.
Douglas massively misses the point I and many others were making about her article and really doesn't help matters by starting it Dear Prostitutes and their patrons.
I have no idea whether she read my blog or not but I'm going to assume she had seeing as so much of her traffic came from a result of the blog and my tweets. One of the first things I said and with a link to a helpful article was about how the word prostitute carries negative connotations and why sex workers largely prefer the term sex workers. Of course saying 'patrons' implies that the only people (men) who could possibly support us are clients...
I decided to write her an open letter in response.
Dear Travel Writer and your patrons,
Since the start of time sex workers have been harassed, stigmatised, demonised, sent to prison, abused and murdered. We have lost our jobs, homes and access to our children.
My blog was written from my personal experiences of being a sex worker and how I felt about the insulting insinuations you made in your blog. I didn't intend to offend but I did mean to criticise. I believe if travel writers choose to live their lives in a certain way or engage in a particular profession and use their platform (allegedly of millions) to make incorrect assumptions about my profession I have a right to make comment. I felt you made derogatory comments about my profession and so did many, many others. I wanted to put you straight, to offer advice.
While I support that you are entitled to do and write what you please, you must acknowledge that sex workers are not a separate breed of creature and indeed we are aware that this profession is not for everyone and maybe surprisingly to you, as women we also do not actually like men assuming sex is on offer and that we too have a discomfort in being approached by men for sex in most situations. We are not out there looking for sex all the time, we have social and private lives. For me, sex is part of my business but also on my own terms and when I choose to do so and who with.
This blog and indeed sex work Twitter is a forum for sex workers to speak out about their concerns and experiences and that is exactly what we did yesterday. It was a perfect opportunity for you to learn and to correct your horrible assumptions. You could have made it right. Instead you chose to block, ignore and play the victim.
I don't know what it is like to be a travel writer and I don't understand the struggle you face. I am not a travel writer. I am a sex worker. It must be terrible being paid to travel around the world and get paid for staying in luxury hotels and have to write about it. Many sex workers only have to have sex to do this and don't have the bane of writing about it afterwards.
No one is denying that you wrote from a personal perspective and whilst you can not encapsulate every possible perspective you did offend. You may not have meant to but you chose not to acknowledge that you did offend and did not choose to right your wrongs. You can't please everyone, but you could have made millions of sex workers feel better about your article. You could have learned from our feedback.
By not engaging in any further discussion I have to assume that your opinions have not changed, you are not sorry you have offended at all. You haven't edited the blog or asked The Huffington Post to remove it. Your unwillingness to comprehend what we are trying to achieve or prove is disappointing. You are demeaning all women who are actually threatened and harassed both online and in the real world.
Your blog and access to the Huff Post has great potential to talk about the experiences of women traveling alone and call out the men who pester. You could have talked about cultural differences in how men behave or how women are expected to behave across the world. As a guide for female travellers you could have advised how to stay safe, how to deal with harassment and been grateful that hotel concierges are checking that random people aren't walking into hotels unquestioned. Instead you chose to blame and mock sex workers and then close your ears from their voices.
You are indeed a random travel writer who has represented your demographic badly. Wouldn't you prefer to be a significant one whose voice can make a difference?
Aside all the frustrating and dangerous things about being a sex worker a constant source of annoyance is how other people see sex work and how they write about it in the name of cheap thrills and fast hits. If it's not salacious tabloid pieces of celebrity dalliances with sex workers it's the outing of sex workers, usually accompanied by the horror that a mother/nurse/school secretary dare be a sex worker alongside her 'day' job.
I'm not a prostitute. I'm a female solo traveller by Melissa Douglas, published in the Huffington Post yesterday gave me a whole new set of annoyances. It manages to be stigmatising, insulting and ignorant all in one go. Apart from anything, anyone who writes for the media should know that sex worker is the correct and preferred term for a prostitute. Here's an article outlining some of the problems surrounding media use of the term prostitute
Douglas starts her piece by telling a story of how a hotel concierge stopped her when returning to her room after a night out to check she was a guest in a hotel. Nowhere does she state he actually accused her of being a prostitute, maybe he thought she was but actually, it's his JOB to make sure people who aren't guests are not wandering around hotels at night.
Her reaction seemed dramatic to say the least, she was furious (she's probably the sort of person who tells traffic wardens they are jobsworths when they ticket her for being parked illegally), couldn't sleep and had to go down to the reception desk and make a complaint.
Douglas also felt she needed to add that "For the record, and since I know we live in a society of “victim blaming,” I was dressed conservatively - a long skirt, a trench coat and heels; though I am a believer of the school of thought that women should be entitled to dress as they please without being victims of ignorance and prejudice."
So she feels the need to ensure she doesn't offend anyone by adding women should dress how they want and that she was dressed conservatively. Because obviously prostitutes do not. The insinuation is there; prostitutes dress sluttily or at least she has a perceived notion of what sex workers look like. She says she doesn't want women to be the victims of ignorance and prejudice but only if they are not sex workers, who let's face it are consistently victims of ignorance and prejudice.
But's here's a secret she was dressed exactly like a prostitute does when entering a hotel late at night! Does she think we traipse through a hotel off to see a client in a boob tube, mini skirt and a pair of white stilettoes? No, because most sex workers want to be discreet and not draw attention to themselves. In fact, trench coats are really useful for covering up a revealing outfit. Sorry love, but yes you did look like a prostitute.
She then states "There just seems to be something about a woman that takes care of her appearance being by herself in certain locations that rubs people up the wrong way. As though it is completely out of the question that she could be in a luxury hotel by herself as a result of her own successes. "
In the piece the only word italicised is own. One assumes that if she is still banging on about the awfulness of being mistaken for a prostitute the emphasis on own implies that the success of prostitutes isn't their own. Really? So who makes sex workers successful? Usually themselves, by being really fucking good at their job along with marketing, branding, writing, planning photoshoots, looking after themselves and careful financial planning. I know more sex workers with accountants than non sex workers! It isn't an accident when a sex worker is successful, it's hard work alongside the risk of being outed, assaulted or murdered not to mention tolerating the stigma and stinky men!
She also repeats this notion later; "As a woman in her late twenties who earns her own money...". Maybe she thinks most women don't earn their 'own' money or that sex workers don't make their 'own' money. Is it not their 'own' money because they get paid for sexual services? Does she think we all have pimps we give our money to?
Sex workers are in luxury hotels because they are successful, they can afford a room to entertain clients or they have secured a booking with one through their own hard work.
An odd claim is then made; As though a woman wearing makeup couldn’t possibly have an interest in history, culture, and world issues.
What has this to do with the price of fish? Who thinks this?! Melissa Douglas must have terrible friends and associates. Most women I know wear make up and most of them have some interest in history, culture and world issues or all three. Has anyone ever actually said women who have an opinion on a world issue don't wear make up?
I think this line says a lot about the credibility of this writer. who incidentally, seems very keen to let her readers know she is well travelled, well groomed, successful and attractive which is rather odd in itself.
There's also the underlying notion that prostitutes are none of these things. I expect Douglas thinks we are all ignorant and thick and couldn't possibly do anything other than sex work. Nearly all the sex workers I know have degrees, many have come from or still work in professional fields or are studying. Even sex workers who don't have formal qualifications are savvy, business minded and bright. You have to be to do this job. It's not just about waiting for the phone to ring, slipping on crotchless panties and sashaying into hotels like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
What's more, I have never been identified as a prostitute whilst in a hotel and I actually am one and from a quick ask around none of my sex working friends have either. She may be surprised to discover that sometimes I visit hotels for leisure or for business other than sex work. I have also travelled solo many times in my life too. Like plenty of other women who also happen to be sex workers.
But poor Melissa Douglas spends her life being mistaken for a prossie. I'm worried for her. She says "I cannot count the number of times that I have been approached and offered money for sex in Korea. Most of the time, I was dressed in the most unflattering attire and buying groceries or doing the recycling. "
Because prostitutes never buy groceries or recycle...
Also, I hate to be cynical, but, Since 2004 it has been illegal to both buy and sell sex in South Korea. In 2007 35,000 men were prosecuted for buying sex. There is still a thriving sex industry, but in countries where buying sex is illegal, men are super careful about how they obtain sexual services. They don't go around asking random young women for paid sex and they know the areas that sex workers do hang out and how to find a sex worker without the risk of being arrested.
As for the "lecherous looks", "eyes burning into me" and "silent judging" that poor old Melissa has experienced is either because she is deluded, most people are too busy thinking about themselves to care what other people look like or she is experiencing something that ALL women experience at some point, being hit on by men. It's nothing to do with looking a certain way and more about entitled men who think a women busy minding her own business might want to sleep with him.
Maybe I'm being unfair on Melissa Douglas and should give her leeway because of her youth and naivety, and honestly one of the joys of getting older is that you care less what anyone, especially strangers think of you.
She also perhaps needs to think about her stigmatising and stereotyping of sex workers which is frankly shitty and as a woman who writes for a female market she should think about how othering a group of already stigmatised and maligned women fits into her brand. Maybe think about those who actually do sex work and the pressures and dangers of that. Be outraged that sex workers don't have fair safe laws around their jobs, be an ally and if you are going to champion women they don't throw some of them under the bus or make unfair assumptions about their lifestyle choices.
There aren't many great things to write about Hounslow, other than me being in it isn't the sort of place that brings in visitors. There's a tired shopping centre, an Asda (whose car park has just been closed), lots of planes going over and Hounslow Heath, which frankly is just a large bit of scrubland whatever their website tells you about it being a "Local Nature Reserve and Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (of Metropolitan Importance)" I really wouldn't make the effort to see it.
What Hounslow does boast is three, yes THREE Poundlands. I have no idea why we need three Poundlands, especially as the high street also boasts a brand new PoundWorld, a 99p shop and a 97p shop. Seriously, the three Poundlands are literally five minute walks away from each other. You may have seen the press this week about Poundland's new sex toy range. Sex toys, in Poundland, for a quid?! Yes, indeedy!
Actually, they first released their pound bullet vibe a few years back (how did I miss this?!) but now they have extended their range further. It's called Nooky. Of course it is.
The range apparently includes a finger stimulator, a cock ring and a vibrating cock ring and lube. There's also his n hers libido stimulant pills called 'Vitality', herbal Viagra basically which claim to perk you up and of course the women's come in a pink packet and the men's in blue (don't get me started on gendered colours nonsense). They've also been doing condoms for years too apparently.
So, Fanny Price and I had a Twitter conversation about this exciting revelation and made a promise to test out these Poundland treats and as she was arriving today I set out to do some shopping this morning thrilled that I had not one, not two but THREE local Poundlands to choose from!
As it turns out I had forgotten I'm actually quite shy about buying sexy stuff. I get my condoms online partly because I can get them cheaper in bulk but also because I'm pathetic about buying them in person. Hell, whilst I'm in confession mode, I still feel a bit weird about buying tampons...
I find the sex stuff shelf easily in the same aisle as the 3 packets of no name paracetamol for a quid, Pound nail varnish and Polish shower gel but there are people about. Feel awkward. Is it because it's a bit tragic to be buying condoms in Poundland? Maybe a bit, but to be honest I'm the same in Boots. Incidentally, no cashier has ever said to me 'Getting plenty then!' with a saucy wink or looked sympathetic whilst I buy two packs of heavy flow Tampax so God knows where this comes from.
Decide too many people are about so buy a packet of Opal Fruits (or whatever they call then these days) and some batteries (for my vibe ironically enough). I then discover that this Poundland has self service checkouts! Hooray! I can buy pound sex toys and no cashier will be there to judge me!
I headed off to Poundland number Two because there were no bullet vibes, finger stimulators and I had decided that I wasn't going to eat any 'Vitality' stimulants so thought I'd see if the other Poundland had a better range. It didn't, and in a burst of bravery I grabbed a cock ring and some condoms and headed off for the self check out. Oh. No self check outs at this branch. This is obviously the less good Poundland. Found myself in front of a checkout and fronted it out. If she looked funny at me I'd say I was a journalist and it was for an article. Of course she didn't bat an eyelid. Well maybe she did, I wouldn't know because I was busy making no eye contact whatsoever.
Feeling yet more confident I headed back to Poundland One and grabbed a vibrating cock ring and lube and headed for the nice private self check out only to be ushered over to a real life person because there was a queue at the self checkout. Probably other people buying shamefully cheap marital aids.
So, having not found any bullets or finger stimulators and not fancying the pep pills however natural they claim to be, I have:
A vibrating love ring
A Joy Ring (non vibrating)
Some 'Tingle'- Stimulating Lube
Twelve pack of Sure condoms (flavoured and coloured)
Fanny and I are going to attempt to live tweet our testing out session later tonight so do try and join us on @Minxy_Lydia and @MissFannyPrice_ #QuidHoes.
In further 'What The Fuckery Poundland?!', look what else they sell...