delve a little deeper....
One of the things that makes sex work activism so tricky is not always what you might think.
We all know that those who want to 'ban' prostitution, if that is ever a thing possible do so from a moralistic point of view or from a complete lack of comprehension that it is something a woman could choose to do. Sometimes it is from a so called feminist perspective that insists those who sell sexual services are somehow letting the side down.
I was reminded today about the 'whorearachy' that exists when reading a comment on a punting forum from an escort being sniffy about escorts who charge £60 for half an hour (in central London). As well as insulting the man enquiring about recommendations for an escort who charged £60 for a 30 minute booking it demonstrated her lack of knowledge about the industry. Her implication that charging £60 in central London would get a man a terrible experience was vile.
It's not uncommon for escorts to show off about what they can make. It's drummed into us to charge what we feel our worth is, after all it is a very intimate service we give. This is true but also perpetuates the notion that charging less than someone else makes you less worthy is just as unhelpful and doesn't take into account any business factors.
There is often an underlining (or indeed an obvious undercurrent of whorearchy splashed on forums, both for punters and sex workers as well as on Twitter and blogs.
Strippers or dominatrixes think they are 'better' because they don't offer full sex. Full sex escorts dismiss other sex workers as lesser because they don't have sex. Sex workers as a whole are often not a unified bunch.
And there's the thing. We are all different. We are not a monolith. There is a snobbery that exists in the industry that makes it hard to unite us as one body.
I have often shouted about not being what the general public often think a sex worker is. I've said but I'm not forced, I'm not a drug addict, I wasn't abused as a child, I'm don't have mental health issues or an illness that stops me doing traditional work, I'm educated and so on. I also have talked about enjoying the job and having 'good' clients.
It felt important to me that I made these points. I felt I was doing the right thing by sex work activism.
I admit that I sometimes felt part time escorts, those who do it for pin money or just for kicks didn't really get how it was to have to escort to live; to pay my rent and my bills and do it as a career. I never saw it as a paid version of swinging. That was me being sniffy and whoreararchial about it all.
Eithne Crow sums what I am trying to say much better here.
And to be fair it is hard not to want to shout about not being exploited and about enjoying the job. It gets frustrating when you read about prostitutes being poor exploited unhappy beings.
I've had to defend myself and explain to people why I took the road I did and had to reassure people that no I wasn't doing it to pay for a drug habit or please a boyfriend.
What I have learned, mainly through twitter that whilst the huge majority of sex workers are against criminalisation and want the laws to change regarding sex work it doesn't actually matter if they are happy or sad with their work. It doesn't matter if they have a drug habit or if they hate every single man they see.
It's unhelpful to promote the idea it's all happy hookering as much as it is unfair to brand all sex workers as damaged.
The few very open sex workers who appear in the media will always push happy hookering and insist they have never had a bad client or felt scared by a client. And I don't blame them to a degree. Any mention of the shitiness will be leaped upon by the anti brigade and taken as good reason to criminalise the men who pay for sex.
The answer? A bit of understanding all round that sex work isn't something you can put in a tidy box. Like any other career path there are variables.
Arguing for something shouldn't be about ignoring the unpalatable stuff or spinning like a politician. It shouldn't be about shouting over those who have less pretty stories or elevating yourself and disregarding your privileges.