the invisible majority and the PC exclusion factor

When I was 15, a stunning article in Allure magazine introduced me to luminaries Veronica Monet, Tracy Quan and the irrepressible Norma Jean Almodovar. All three women talked about sex worker rights and changing the law. That article was the only bright spot in the next eight years of reading about sex workers.

By the time I began stripping, I knew what a sex worker activist was: a lesbian vegan living in San Francisco who didn’t shave (let alone wax) and was often very overweight. She had a useless degree in philosophy or women’s studies from Berkeley (unlike my highly-useful photography degree!). Sex worker activists were overly-represented in my readings about sex work and they never, ever described me or any other strippers that I knew. I remember emailing Jill Nagle and complaining that Whores and Other Feminists was not representative of all sex workers, I wanted stories from sex workers who looked and sounded like me and my co-workers, workers who walked in our shoes too. I never heard back from her.

Maybe because I and the sex workers I knew looked mainstream. Veronica Monet and Tracy Quan were the only two public sex workers who looked normal to me (I did not find other interviews with Norma Jean, sadly). I was so happy to discover the books of Dolores French, Lily Burana and Heidi Mattson because I could identify with them, though Lily and Heidi weren’t “activists.”

Everything I read told me activists discounted you if you looked mainstream sexy, as though they believed a sex worker with implants or blonde hair has nothing of value to add (just like everyone else in society).

There is a deep prejudice permeating the sex worker rights movement in the US. Just because some of us have a mainstream appearance doesn’t mean we don’t deal with the same stigma that every other sex worker does, that we somehow work under a different set of laws. Just because we look much like the “pretty” depictions of sex workers in mainstream media doesn’t mean we’re not “real,” it means we’re making money (most sex workers are in sex work to make money). Does the movement think that because mainstream media depicts a certain look that it’s somehow representing or speaking for those who have that look?

Just because we’re hetero doesn’t mean our sexuality should be ignored or dismissed — it’s as meaningful to us as it is to LGBTs. Whore Stigma is based on fear and hatred of female sexuality in any form. Just because we’re female doesn’t mean our “female-centric” views should be automatically discounted. Women have made up the vast majority of sex workers ever since women were invented. The majority of the issues sex workers face are parallel with women’s issues, and sometimes parallel with issues confronting those who identify as women.

“Inclusiveness” and “diversity” are such huge preoccupations in the movement that they often derail energy and focus on the real-world issues staring all of us in the face. In the stampede to be inclusive and make sure that all ethnic/gender/occupation/whatever boxes are ticked and that a token representative is present, a huge majority go unnoticed and unwelcome. Many in the movement seem to think that because a certain type of sex worker are a majority, that somehow their concerns are being met or they don’t face serious, often universal, issues. Because they are a natural majority, they are punished by being given no voice.

meet the invisible majority

The invisible majority I’m talking about are the lower to middle -class independent online providers all over the US. They are the majority population of sex workers in the US (strippers would be the next most-populous category, I think). Most do not live in San Francisco or NYC (because there is a lot more to the US than those two cities). The slight majority are white (because the majority of the US population is white), but an almost equal number are non-Caucasian — the overall split is very nearly 50/50. A higher percentage are mothers than in the movement. Their politics span the gamut but they usually have very definite liberal views on sex work!

They’re generally an open-minded bunch: they have almost zero tolerance for racism, understand the discrimination gay people face and most are cautiously open to transgenders. The most unfortunate thing about them is a widespread adherence to the sex work-hierarchy and their profound dislike of street workers. This is something that a little education and mind-opening personal interaction could change.

One thing they do feel is excluded, and rightly so. They are. The Internet has allowed the invisible majority to connect and share ideas. They’re reinventing the wheel by trying to start activist groups because (surprise!) they want the laws to change and they want a voice in that change. There is energy.

There is also a sad lack of information and leadership skills because they’ve been excluded from the movement for so long. They, like I used to, don’t see many in the movement they can identify with.

The ultra-PC concerns the movement spends so much energy on is foreign to the majority (their idea of getting things done is to just get on with it!). There are more and more of the majority types coming into the movement, but sadly, their concerns are not taken as quite as valid as someone who represents a sliver minority. So many people in the movement have internalized their stigmatization by mainstream society they lash out at anyone who appears to represent mainstream society. Activists deliberately ignore the reality of the bell curve.

The movement forgets that sex workers do not live and work in a vacuum. Sex workers are the girl next door. They cannot live and work anywhere else.

prejudice

I have often wanted to point out to the ultra-PC types who look at me, see a blonde white girl wearing business-casual clothing and have knee-jerk prejudice — they are prejudiced. Prejudice is prejudice. It doesn’t matter what your motivations are or how ultra-PC you are. If you judge someone by the color of their skin or outward appearance, then you are prejudiced.

In my mind, there is no difference between ultra-PC prejudice and the KKK-style prejudice I grew up with. Both are based on stereotyped assumptions of appearance, both discount the value of the person based on that appearance. This is neither inclusive nor diverse. It’s prejudice.

The invisible majority — whom I long to bring into the movement — feel this as clearly as I do. They feel excluded because they don’t look the part or use correct terminology. This unnecessary fragmentation hurts everyone. It certainly hurts the movement because, frankly, the numbers are sorely lacking. Actively welcoming the thousands and thousands of online providers would change that in a hurry. It hurts the invisible majority who lack the years of experience in organizing, debating and research that so many in the movement have.

The exclusion leads to apathy. The movement is not accessible or relevant to the majority, so they turn away from “activism.”

A prime example is the [lack of] reaction to the worldwide removal of the Craigslist’s Erotic Services section. A massive, frightening victory for US-based anti-prostitution activists. The majority just move onto another website to advertise. Their lack of context leads to a dangerous apathy. I daresay the majority hardly realize there are home-grown anti-prostitution activists out there changing their lives out from under their feet. (Hapless sex workers in other countries probably don’t realize this is the work of US-based antis. Another topic, another day.)

That big-picture apathy disappears when it comes to acting locally. The invisible majority very often respond to calls for help from their fellow workers. They’re being activists — but don’t tell them that! “Activist” is as dirty a word to them as it used to be to me.

This is a sad commentary on a movement that spends an inordinate amount of time/energy/money on anti-racism/anti-oppression training for its members more often than it values accomplishing tangible goals. It’s a circular thing: so inclusive as to be hugely exclusive. (They should be giving AR/AO training to police and mainstream media because they’re the ones who seriously need it, but never mind that.)

privilege vs the invisible majority

This became crystal clear at the Desiree Alliance conference this summer. It was a fabulous event. As always, all sex workers are welcome and there were scholarships for those who had trouble affording the conference (never enough money, though; never enough). This conference is seen mostly as an “activist” thing and that turned off a lot of the invisible majority who might otherwise have attended.

Due to huge efforts in publicizing the event, more of the invisible majority were there than ever before. They seemed excited about mingling with LGBT workers, workers of all colors from all over the world, workers with vastly different types of work experience. It’s a rare sex worker who does not have a healthy curiosity about other sex workers.

The feedback on the social-mixing was hugely positive. The feedback on the “safe space” aspect of the event was hugely positive (the invisible majority more often live and work with a sense of isolation that activists don’t). The feedback about the activism side of things was somewhat negative, mixed with quite a bit of confusion, such as wondering how anything gets accomplished.

Basically — the movement as it currently stands isn’t for the invisible majority. A pity for both sides but I think the movement loses the most in this equation.

Within the event itself, there was obvious lashing out at whatever mainstream-looking representatives were there (there was lashing out at the 2008 conference too). The last day of the conference, a group of attendees put together a little zine and I bought one. It included several diatribes against the “privileged” “white” people at the conference who were somehow excluding and offending the makers of the zine.

In sex work, it is often the “privileged” “white” women who can make the most money and they tend to foot a lot of the bills of the conference out of their own “privileged” “white” pockets. The hard work and donations of “privileged” “white” women are part of the funding that go into the conference scholarships every year (probably a few of these zine makers were enjoying the benefits of said scholarships).

As far as I can tell, “privilege” is simply the hierarchy turned inside out and upside down. Accusations of heresy witchcraft privilege are easy to make. If someone charges more than you do, has their life more together than you do, or chose their parents better than you did — they are “privileged.” (The easy privilege test is to throw them into the hotel pool. If they can swim, someone obviously paid for swimming lessons at some point in their life — they’re privileged. If they drown but have life insurance to cover funeral costs — they’re privileged.) The invisible majority are “privileged” just by being the majority.

Mainstream society does not split hairs over hierarchy or privilege. A whore is a whore is a whore. And all whores are drug-addicted, disease-riddled, parasitic victims. The movement has a lot bigger issues to work on than internal debating over who is oppressing whom because someone can charge more in the open market or chooses to wear clothing that blends with the general public.

There are wise people in the movement who are points of light — they can see the bigger picture, truly and equally welcome every sex worker who crosses their path. Their wisdom is often ignored because they tend to lack the blunt-force righteousness of the ultra-PC types.

Okay, I think that’s everything, or at least the broad strokes. This has been building for the last 16 years or so. No doubt I’m just opening myself up to fire from every side, including from people using PC-phrases I’ll have to Google. Happy 2011.

61 thoughts on “the invisible majority and the PC exclusion factor

  1. Hobbyist

    Happy 2011 right back! :)

    Pioneers of any emerging movement tend to be the tip of the iceberg, and something of a caricature. They’re at “war” and they have to identify themselves clearly as warriors (paint and all), and label all others as “with, or against us”. They live in a black and white world.

    So if they perceive you as mainstream in any way, they just classify you as “part of the problem”. Militants are rarely inclusive unless during temporary alliances because they are terrified of assimilation (“selling out”). If they were a little more secure in their beliefs, they’d probably be more tolerant of other approaches.

    There’s also the fact, I’m sure, that fights attracts fighters. The angriest and most vocal members of a movement are the most motivated ones to effect change, but they miss that they can be responsible for the cause of their own anger. By revelling in shocking others, they feed the ostracism they decry. They actually undermine their movement by slowing down acceptance by the rest of the population.
    Very self-fulfilling.

    This is very much what most adolescents do, in search of an identity and place in the world, “in your face”, fist in the air and with a “no prisoners” attitude. It hardly ever lasts, except with the most hardcore individuals.

    So I view these people as aberrations, while you represent the future. They are part of a transition phase and will recede into the background one day as surely as zits in our adult memories. There’s always the odd one, but they’re mostly a thing of the past… 😉

    I must say, I never gave much thought to sex workers until I became a hobbyist. And even now, although sympathetic to the plight I’m nowhere near informed. So my comments are based on general observations of minority group dynamics I’ve made over the years.
    The prejudice you seem to suffer reminds me of blacks being seen as traitors who “act white”, in particular.

    When Bullworth came out, Warren Beatty supposedly said that Halle Berry incarnated the future of mankind: a day when we’ve all fucked with each other so much that we’ve made races disappear and all look like her.
    I can’t stand the man’s politics, but I think he had a point. Go tell that to a Black Panther, though. He’d rather see whitey’s head on a spike or at least make him cross the street at the sight of dreadlocks and an angry stare.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the terrorist-activists, the freaks (I’m gonna get me some flak too!), have to be the agents of change (fighting the good fight), while the more mainstream members of a movement will eventually be the ones winning the war (or peace, depending on your outlook).

    I was just watching my copy of Se7en last night, when Morgan Freeman’s cop looks at a photo of a prostitute and goes, “she looks like a pro” (obvious wig, too much makeup, addict-skinny). One day, this will be an impossibility, unless the sex worker really wants to be seen as such. And I think that’s a GOOD thing!

    Of course, I could be just projecting my own M.O., as I find it much more subversive and effective to feign assimilation on the surface while keeping a rebel’s soul. The barricades never called my name.

  2. Furry Girl

    Here’s a piece I mostly agreed with that I linked from my blog a while ago: http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/features/ideas/diary-of-a-domestic-extremist-on-activism/

    It’s a big problem that lefties/liberals in general, when they do discuss sex work, they seem mostly interested in judging a worker’s IQ and degree-of-whether-they’re-oppressed by whether they’re *punk*. It’s the most surface-level bullshit. A chubby alt porn model with pink hair? Totally feminist and smart and no doubt empowered by her work. Thin stripper with breast implants? Probably just doing this to support her boyfriend’s drug habit, and hasn’t read a book since high school.

  3. Maggie McNeill

    @Amanda: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    @Furry Girl: I was recently attacked by a radical activist for “trying to sound intelligent”; obviously since I have a good figure and implants and don’t use PC terminology I couldn’t actually be intelligent, so I must just be “trying” to “sound like it.”

    @Amanda: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! :-)

  4. Amanda Brooks Post author

    FG — I agree with some of that article too, as I see a lot of these things in sex worker activism. A tangent: one of the reasons I’ve never cared for Suicide Girls is the uniform adherence to what is “alternative.” Your long hair, clear skin and furriness is far more radical than 1000 models with the same lower-back tattoos and the same nose-piercings.

    “A chubby alt porn model with pink hair? Totally feminist and smart and no doubt empowered by her work. Thin stripper with breast implants? Probably just doing this to support her boyfriend’s drug habit, and hasn’t read a book since high school.”
    Exactly. Exactly.

    Maggie — You’re welcome! :)

    Hobbyist — Even before I became involved in the movement, I did finally realize that every call for social change requires people at an extreme end to make it start happening. The movement is full of those extreme people and I applaud them. They forget that one can affect change without having to walk down the street and BE extreme every day. (Tooting my own horn — not every activist is out to their family.) I’ve read The Tipping Point and The Deviant’s Advantage — I understand what’s going on. I understand the anger at being treated as sub-human. I try very hard not to let that anger push away those paddling along in the same leaking boat I am.

    I have my militant moments and thoughts, for sure. But neither is this a contest to be “cool” or whatever. It’s a fight and it’s going to be a very, very long one. Probably one I won’t see the end of in my lifetime. My choice of strategy is much more about guerilla warfare and subversion than full-on combat (unless absolutely necessary). I see coming out as subversive though I guess people see it as full-on combat (in their own lives).

    “Feigning assimilation” is an excellent point. That’s what the invisible majority does, yet somehow the movement falls for it too and they should know better!

    Our movement mixes major elements from the Civil Rights movement, the gay movement and the feminist movement. That’s powerful stuff and hasn’t been unleashed — only hinted at. The thought of that finally happening excites me.

    People are funny: while everyone really does like to have sex with everyone else, there is also a large population in every country that will never sully their genes with anyone not “one of them.” Keeps things interesting; though I would happily see a world full of mutts — much harder to keep prejudice alive in such a world.

    “One day, this will be an impossibility, unless the sex worker really wants to be seen as such.”
    I hope so too. I really do. But do NOT get me started on movies/TV shows and hookers. (I had the misfortune to watch an episode of CSI: Vegas which featured the “ho-vine.” Don’t even ask.)

    XX

  5. Furry Girl

    Maggie: I have heard that more times than I can count from anti-sex work feminists and people who just dislike me. Here’s one from a few days ago, part of a long comment “rebutting” me by explaining what a stupid and desperate smart-poser I am:

    “Imbeciles such as yourself bear only the pretense of intellectualism and have no high mental capacity to speak of, so you parade your body to gain a [shallow] following and only write [poorly] about controversial topics…”

    LOL. Maybe I’m a blithering idiot, but they’re the ones choosing to spend their time reading a blither idiot’s blog.

    Amanda: My looks put me in this weird place where I’m too “mainstream” to be “alternative”, and too “alternative” to be “mainstream”. Thankfully, I look just like the girl every guy lost his virginity to in the 60s and 70s, so I still plenty of admirers. (And given the choice between appealing more to baby boomers or young hipster guys, I pick the boomers any day. More polite, willing to spend money, and able to communicate in complete sentences.)

  6. Hobbyist

    Division and hierarchies only play in the hands of the enemy – the status quo. Unfortunately, when folks are in the middle of a drawn-out struggle, their aggressivity can turn to self-destruction and friendly fire is sure to ensue too.
    As you say, it would be nice if people could take a breather once in a while and realize who’s on their side.

    I never read those books you brought up – I’m just drawing parallels from my own observations and the lessons of those other movements you mentioned, so I’m really a bit out of my depth on this topic.
    I just hope that you’re wrong and that we’ll both see progress in our lifetimes. I’m afraid it’s going to be a tough sell in this country, though. :(

  7. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Maggie — BTW, don’t we ALL “try” to sound intelligent???

    FG — Hee hee! LOVE your second answer! Most escorts are aware of the power of garters/stockings for the exact same reasons!

    Hobbyist — Indeed — the hierarchy that sex workers face is one built by the mainstream. Even the whole “privilege” argument is based on non-sex worker ideas about society. We haven’t self-defined ANY of this yet. I wish we would.

    You’re not out of depth. Anger is anger, prejudice is prejudice, change is change. You may get more of a kick out of Deviant’s Advantage than Tipping Point — should you ever feel like it.

    I’m hoping for the best but realistically planning for the worst. This does not mean I will ever stop, though. I do care enough about sex workers that if I can effect positive change (even that change that doesn’t include me), I will.

    XX

  8. Maggie McNeill

    Furry Girl and Amanda: Is it just me, or is “pseudo-intellectual” one of those insults that says more about the one who uses it than the one he directs it against? 😀

  9. Kelly James

    I certainly do my best to “sound intelligent”, in fact it is a highly concerted effort (lol).

    By “running my mouth” as I like to say I am essentially representing sex workers whether it is my goal to do so or not. If I sound stupid I am doing all sex workers a disservice.

    Great post Amanda, I have noticed the same issues within the movement. In case you didn’t know, you have done a great job of representing the “invisible majority” of sex workers for a very long time :-)

    KJ

  10. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Kelly — Ha! I know what you mean about the effort, same here!

    True: anytime a sex worker of any kind speaks up she is representing all other sex workers. Some are more aware of this than others.

    Concerning my post…bringing the invisible majority into the movement gives them a chance to learn some important concepts so when they do speak they’re better-informed. Not saying they MUST parrot everything they learn, but at least they’ll have a stronger knowledge base to form their thoughts and opinions from. To me, that’s important. Scaring them away from the movement is almost deliberately keeping them in the dark about knowledge that is their right to know.

    Thank you. I’m not sure how the invisible majority sees me in relation to the movement. I’m fairly sure a lot of the movement sees me as a privileged part of the majority and I get dismissed because of that. But I keep trying to remind them we’re here and they should get used to it!

    XX

  11. Richard

    A wonderful breath of fresh air! Thank-you. Today (in the UK certainly) the invisible majority is discriminated against almost everywhere, and, apparently, that is as it should be!

    If NASA can get its act together and get the Mars colony up and running, we ought to all get together and head off up there.

  12. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Maggie — Indeed!!

    Richard — Thank YOU! Nice to know this is not just a problem in the US. I am curious about that question but have zero grounds to talk about it in any other country. Feel free to share more.

    I’d love a planet colonized by sex workers. :)

    XX

  13. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Richard PS: Actually, it ISN’T nice to know the US isn’t the only one with this problem. I should’ve said, it’s interesting to find this out. I was hoping we were the only one.

    XX

  14. Jill Brenneman

    What an awesome piece! Thank you Amanda Brooks for saying what has been largely unsaid. I appreciate your strength, wisdom and willingness to put this issue out there. Thank you!

  15. Kelly James

    and Amanda – I dunno how the invisible majority sees you in relation to the movement – or if they are even aware that there is in fact a movement – but I see a lot of girls on a lot of message boards saying a lot of really good things about your books. Since writing is an extension of oneself a) they appreciate you and b) they are listening, which is a powerful tool in and of itself.

  16. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Jill — Thank you so much for coming here and commenting. It’s already been read and dismissed by one NYCer activist. Not sure if that’s a badge of merit or not.

    Kelly — It does bother me about the lack of awareness that there is a movement because it means they’re cut off from gaining knowledge they could use for themselves. What you’re saying is true, though. The movement has made zero efforts to connect with the invisible majority.

    Thank you and thank you. I’m aware there is an audience out there (sometimes too aware) and I’m trying. If I didn’t love ’em, I wouldn’t have bothered to write my books in the first place.

    XX

  17. J

    When I was in college, there was a group of feminist white women who started a “white privilege group” on our campus in order to better understand their privilege and share it with other white students who weren’t informed. They wanted to shed light on their privilege in order to understand it and better work together with those less privileged. It was an eye opening experience on the campus. Some white students wanted the group disbanded because they weren’t happy to see messages around campus, “you’re privileged if…characters in a novel don’t have to have their race explicitly described because they are white (it’s assumed as if they are the normal race) while others do or when being described you aren’t always or ever described as ‘Suzy the white girl’ like ‘Bill the black guy or Mexican…’.” “If all presidents look like you (now we can say if all but one look like you” “If ‘nude’ nylons and bandages are the color of your skin” “Etc…” The list went on and their acknowledging their privilege helped create a more overall cohesive group of feminists on campus despite race privilege, economic privilege, US American status privilege. It made all of us despite race look at how we are privileged in life (even blacks from upper class backgrounds were doing some introspection).

    Recognizing privilege was one key to creating a cohesive activist culture on my campus and I will always have tons of respect for that group of white women. It takes a lot to step back and really acknowledge your privileges and then actively incorporate some of those issues the less privilege face when fighting for everyone as an activist. This also gains respect from those who criticize the privileged mainstream. That’s my experience. Interesting discussion. xoxo

  18. J

    Of course there will always be some “Negative Nancies” creating a division or complaining, but it’s good to see this discussed so that at least change can begin. Always good reading. Xo.:)

  19. Amanda Brooks Post author

    J — Thank you!

    A lot of what sex worker activists complain is “privilege” is, in truth, concepts called “hard work” and “focus.” That’s not privilege, it’s a character trait than some have or choose to develop. There is nothing that is handed to any group of sex workers on a silver platter.

    I daresay sex workers who have made a success of themselves through hard work and application of their talents don’t appreciate their efforts being dismissed as mere “privilege” instead of a personal achievement in their chosen career.

    Then there are plenty of other forms of privilege that indeed come with social class, skin color or gender. All that changes from region to region and country to country. For instance, did anyone ever point out the irony of discussing “privilege” only amongst college students?

    I don’t mind a discussion on the concept of privilege as long as it’s held to a discussion and awareness-raising because that IS important. It’s not a principle on which to base a movement for massive social change. The in-fighting alone prevents us from accomplishing much. I don’t think the antis worry about offending other antis when they make sweeping statements about sex workers or campaign to change laws that affect our lives (not theirs).

    There is always someone more talented, successful, better, luckier than you. And always someone who has it worse. That’s life. Sometimes it requires whining and venting, sometimes it requires just getting on with it.

    XX

  20. Pingback: Feminisnt » Quote: Amanda Brooks on activism, subculture beauty standards, and the invisible majority of sex workers

  21. Maggie McNeill

    “A lot of what sex worker activists complain is ‘privilege’ is, in truth, concepts called ‘hard work’ and ‘focus.’ That’s not privilege, it’s a character trait than some have or choose to develop. There is nothing that is handed to any group of sex workers on a silver platter.”

    Exactly. I started stripping a few weeks before my 31st birthday, and I had no car and $90,000 worth of debt. So as you can imagine I tend to be rather annoyed at claims that my skin color and looks somehow gave me any kind of “privilege” over the scores of other white, pretty and much younger girls dancing in New Orleans at that time.

  22. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Maggie — It applies across the spectrum.

    One person I’m thinking of exemplifies this. This particular person (a low-end worker who happens to be black) complained about other workers who charge more than she does (I’m assuming this also includes all the black escorts who charge more than she does). The type of workers she complained about have well-written websites, good photos, and obviously take care of their health. Are their rates a reflection of privilege or hard work? I tend to think it’s the latter.

    Nor is there any rule stating she is only allowed to charge what she does. I wonder if she’s ever attempted to charge more or made an effort to appear worth spending the money on.

    Speaking of strip clubs…I looked like Barbie (customers said I did), yet was regularly out-hustled by far less attractive girls. They were possibly working harder than me. The real reason for the income disparity was that stripping did not suit my personality and was not a place where my talents could truly shine. That’s not an issue of privilege. That’s life. My solution was to go where I could enjoy making a decent living.

    XX

  23. Hobbyist

    You ladies are making too much sense. I’m starting to think you’re closet conservatives. :)

    Seriously, the world is full of people who don’t have what it takes (for various reasons) to better themselves. So they wallow in their misery instead and naturally resent those who manage better and prove them wrong. They’ll shoot you down to avoid looking at the reasons for their own position in life.

    And you’d think that people who claim to be “different” would be more tolerant of others, but you can never underestimate the need to feel superior (the origin of the “sex worker hierarchy” we all decry). In fact they often end up even more judgmental and antagonistic than the mainstream they despise so much. A clear case of becoming your enemy.

  24. Amanda Brooks Post author

    CuriousBlue — FurryGirl links to that article too! Yes, similar points abound.

    Hobbyist — I don’t think conservatives make much sense because they deny human reality. But that’s my take on it. :)

    Yes and yes to everything else you say. Especially the part about those who are “different” being tolerant of differences in others. I’ve noticed that people who are truly different don’t require labels — they just are. People who merely like to THINK they’re “different” enjoy labels and focus on the surface details. And yes, that whole need to put others down to feel superior. If one were truly inclusive and truly saw everyone as equals, then there would be no need for assigning value based on fairly nonarbitrary things (like skin color or sexuality).

    XX

  25. Pingback: Do sex work activists exclude the majority? « www.harlotsparlour.com

  26. Serpent

    Amanda,

    Thank you for being brave enough to write this and expressing what a lot of us have felt for quite some time. As one of the organizers of Desiree, I dealt with a lot of this and as a local organizer I deal with this all the time. As a longtime sex worker, I feel I’ve earned the right to be a leader and activist, but I can see sometimes the anarchist types feel I’m too mainstream or privileged to work with. Fuck that. i don’t need to prove myself to anyone…because I’ve already done the work. And oftentimes these “activist” types have only dabbled in sex work because their friends told them it was cool and now claim to be “experts” or they have no grasp on who real sex workers are, but just know they are oppressed.

    I didn’t hear about the zine that came out of Desiree, but I’m curious to see it. I did, however, see a few of the videos that an attendee made that were just crazy and offensive. So typical.

    As I always say, “Those that complain the most oftentimes do the least.”

  27. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Serpent — Thank you SO much for coming here and supporting me. You do tremendous work in Chicago and I’m saddened to hear the flack you continually get for it.

    “i don’t need to prove myself to anyone…because I’ve already done the work”
    Beautiful statement. Yes.

    I’ll email you about the zine. I know about the videos too — that probably will prevent us from ever using that particular hotel again.

    Thank you for your words here.

    XX

  28. Furry Girl

    On a side, I was just reading an article about the problems with activism – from a 1999 eco/anarchist magazine, on the subject of a massive protest on June 18th in London – and there was one paragraph that jumped out at me that I wanted to post here.

    “The activist role is a self-imposed isolation from all the people we should be connecting to. Taking on the role of an activist separates you from the rest of the human race as someone special and different. People tend to think of their own first person plural (who are you referring to when you say ‘we’?) as referring to some community of activists, rather than a class. For example, for some time now in the activist milieu it has been popular to argue for ‘no more single issues’ and for the importance of ‘making links’. However, many people’s conception of what this involved was to ‘make links’ with other activists and other campaign groups. June 18th demonstrated this quite well, the whole idea being to get all the representatives of all the various different causes or issues in one place at one time, voluntarily relegating ourselves to the ghetto of good causes.”

    http://www.eco-action.org/dod/no9/activism.htm

  29. Parker

    Excellent article. Thank you.

    I experienced this when I was involved in the BDSM scene in SF, London and NYC (which is more beholden/friendly to alternative body types and looks). I felt I was treated cooly at times because I looked obviously different…and mainstream sexy. I find “alternative” people to be the most exclusive and judgemental in my experience.

    Anyway, I’ve also experienced this on my path to getting trained in community health. I was white and wasn’t a minority–I could be type-cast as a “do-gooder” and not as legit…*gasp*. I had to exaggerate my alternativeness by outing myself as a dancer to get into grad school and it worked with the two schools I did it with (I didn’t get into the one I didn’t try it with)–as if that was a qualifier for empathy and my experiences with suffering. But it seemed to work for grad school.

    Yet I do empathize with those that suffer. I feel a kindred connection to what Cambodians went through. I never experienced a genocide but both my parents were mentally ill and dumped their kids as soon as they had experienced psychosis. Both dumped us as soon as they could. My mom told me she couldn’t be a mom because she was in fact from the Pleiades. Whatever. Point is that empathy is not a skin color. Privilege to me looks like having a solid family who has your back but I don’t go around blaming those that had it. Good for them! Yet there was a gift in there for me. I learned self-sufficiency and I didn’t turn out bitter. I’ve seen a lot in my life.

    Hard work got me into grad school and that same hard work paid off my student loans. An open heart made me able to connect with others and believe that I can improve the world rather than resign myself to believing that suffering is all there is.

  30. Amanda Brooks Post author

    FG — VERY nice and thank you for posting this.

    The isolation of the label is something I’ve noticed with myself too and it’s something I have to watch. Sex worker rights is not a fight I’m going to win on my own and I deeply desire to draw in as many sex workers as I can. Sex workers face the same issues (sometimes it’s a matter of degree), activists are just the ones stepping forward a bit more on it.

    Parker — Thank YOU!

    One thing I am tired of it the need to defend one’s life if one appears a certain way. I try not to assume others’ histories, I don’t appreciate mine being assumed for me. But…I really do NOT like having to highlight the negative in my life to pass someone’s credibility-test because THEY have an issue with some surface trait of mine.

    Of course you empathize with those who suffer: you’re not human otherwise. That’s what empathy is — putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and we don’t all need to have the exact same experiences to understand how they might feel. Empathy is also about being non-judgmental, a point that is often missed (and I work on reminding myself this). Assigning privilege is the antithesis of empathy.

    Your last paragraph is beautiful.

    XX

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  33. Critical Alpha

    Hi Amanda, best wishes for 2011. I’m sorry I missed this post – other things have been intruding!
    There is another “concerned population” here as well: clients of sex workers are also a larger underground group. They do not experience the same discrimination as workers but they are not “out” to any degree, and they are discriminated against.
    Whilst sex work is largely “legal” in this country it is still the subject of overwhelming prejudice. My simple test is this: if a worker or a client can say, without universal repercussions “I’m a sex worker” or “I saw a prostitute” in context or in answer to a question in a normal conversation then we are there.

    And we are not there, we’re a million miles from there.

    Why are we not there? Because of that good old economic institution, marriage. Both parties to a sex work transaction are a threat to that institution in the eyes of its supporters. So until Mr & Mrs Middle Wherever don’t feel that this activity is a threat then there will be prejudice because they need there to be and they are the “real” majority.

    I loved your post, and sit here troubled that there seems to be zero chance of the other parties – the clients taking a voice and enlisting in the real struggle: that is to normalise this activity as being like any other commercial activity with no particular negatives attached to it.

  34. Amanda Brooks Post author

    CA — Happy 2011 to you!! (Wait till my next post!)

    “My simple test is this: if a worker or a client can say, without universal repercussions “I’m a sex worker” or “I saw a prostitute” in context or in answer to a question in a normal conversation then we are there.”
    YES! A thousand times YES! Exactly.

    I can’t speak for clients though I certainly wish for more clients to speak up and step forward. I take issue with those who insult my clients as mentally-deranged losers who can’t get it any other way. Why would I want to have sex with someone like that, even if paid??? (Not that all clients are angels but the majority are quite normal men.)

    Society has arranged itself against prostitution for a reason — my next post. Hold your thoughts, it’s coming in the next couple days. Basically, our society is a reflection of our biology. Prostitution is a threat at a biological level and that comes through in some societies more than others. Marriage is actually a bit of a biological threat — hence rampant infidelity. Society isn’t built on biology alone, of course. Money and marriage are more tied together than money and prostitution (historically-speaking). Anyway….

    Thank you!

    Is half our battle lost because one side of the equation will never come forward? I hope not.

    XX

  35. J

    There’s no denying that the concept of privilege exists, though some sociologists and people will argue about it until the end of time. And privilege is not exclusive to skin color yet extends to other things like socioeconomic status, education, being a USA citizen, etc. Given privilege exists in the real world, it does so in the land of prostitution. We are a merely a subset of our society. I am black (white mom, black dad) and I am privileged as an escort even though I have worked a lot when it comes to marketing and advertising myself. But my privilege comes from my life circumstances and socioeconomic status. I have been afforded opportunities in life that made it possible for me as a brand new escort to buy a laptop so that I could keep up with this technology driven prostitution business – you can’t be an internet escort without access to the net. And I was able to buy a $500 camera right away so that I could take nice do-it-yourself photos that were far better than what was posted locally and thus command higher local rates from the start. Being able to spend $1000 on a professional website instead of children worked to my benefit (thank goodness I do not have children – my hat is off to sex workers who are parents out there). I am privileged enough to know that I will never have to work on a street corner because if all else fails and I can’t find a job, I have a family with money to fall back on (i.e. socioeconomic privilege). Though I have never needed to fall back on them, I am privileged to know they are there and I will always have the nicest of incalls, which reinforce the money I can command. I am privileged that I really do have a college degree and so I can work a mainstream job while I bank on higher than local rates as an escort (I can dip and dabble, making money off of both). Unfortunately, it’s not easy to just get a job nowadays. I am privileged to have had the opportunities to make it to college (attending a proper public school, scholarships, family, etc). Also, I believe that I am privileged that I inherited European facial features. My skin is brown, but my features are all delicate and from my mother. And I say this based on experience in psychology and the studies I have read that prove certain features are considered more favorable by people in general. And when you are considered favorable, you have a better chance at obtaining many things in life, such as job opportunities…or being able to sell yourself often and make good money from it. I have worked really hard in life and as a companion. I will never let anyone take that away from me. But I know that without access to certain things, my career as an escort could have turned out quite different. ***So my point is that admitting my privilege does not negate hard work, but acting as if privilege does not exist in the world or the land of prostitution is simply faulty and is probably one reason certain sex worker activists get irritated by mainstream escorts who act as if they have NO privilege. And I hope to make it to the Desiree Alliance one day. I’d like to meet all of the ladies despite our differences in life circumstances or any privileges we may have. And hopefully the sex workers activists will who complain about privileges will look past them so that we can work as a cohesive group to make things better for all sex workers despite privilege. ‘Tis life, it’s not fair…

  36. Amanda Brooks Post author

    J — Life isn’t fair and so some are born with more advantages than others — this includes things like being smart. Some people, despite advantages, never excel. Some, despite great disadvantage, turn things around for themselves. And others just want to whine about everything. You’re a fine example of hard work and taking advantage of what you’ve been given without stomping on others with it.

    Nothing wrong with being aware one was given certain advantages in life. Nothing wrong with being aware that hard work can make a difference. Focusing on THAT instead of fixing the real problems that actually exist is the issue.

    Every sex worker in the US is FAR more privileged than the majority of sex workers in the world. This is one reason why I have zero patience with the hair-splitting that goes on among activists over who is privileged. And if we are so privileged, then it’s high time we got off our asses and made a real difference instead of sitting around and beating each other up over which one of us has it “better.”

    XX

  37. Lee

    Great stuff Amanda. Very well said.

    Privileges are advantages, but not every advantage is a privilege. And no advantage means much if you don’t put it to use.

    What happened with CL – and especially how it happened, with an abundance of false information and specious arguments – was a big deal. It was exactly the kind of fight that cried out for an organized, pro-sex work opposition / defense, prepared with credentials, talking points, facts-at-hand, media targets, etc. And the previous year’s setback (in Rhode Island) showed just how possible that kind of effort is (as unsuccessful as that was) – and that was led (with great passion and courage) by a non-sex worker without previous experience, who engaged a wide variety of affected and interested people. And there is also the insidiously creeping problem of sex work establishments in different parts of the country being persecuted by the slow vice grip of bureaucracy – another issue entirely, but again using many of same arguments that were used in the CL affair as underlying justification.

    Honestly, these were the kind of things that I thought I would find others ready to purposefully discuss at the conference. (If not at a sex worker activist conference, where?) I’m sure that part of why that turned out to be anything but the case was my own circumstances, but as you wrote so well, there is apparently much more to it than that.

    On the other hand, I agree with your comments about members of the invisible majority at the conference: women who came to get practical, useful information that they could use to help their businesses. I think that most of those who came to my presentation fit that description, and almost all of them had seen Attorney Obenberger’s presentation before mine, and the panel with you and Belle de Jour after me.

  38. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Lee — “Privileges are advantages, but not every advantage is a privilege. And no advantage means much if you don’t put it to use.”
    This is so true, another reason I think I’m tired of some people just assuming advantages for someone just because they see something the other person has they do not.

    The thing with CL irks me no end. There was very little response from sex worker orgs, very little anything. It was an enormous victory for the antis, bigger than RI (because this has now spread worldwide).

    The conference was far more concerned with AO/AR training and ensuring diversity than the gathering CL/BP storm, which hit hard in August (after making lots of rumblings in May/June).

    The invisible majority was indeed usually found at the Business Track presentations. A clear indication of divisions, interest and possible direction for the next DA. But who knows?

    XX

    PS: Obenberger’s presentation was good, but pretty much everything I covered in Book 2. I am proud of my research. :)

  39. Supreme Bitch NYC

    You are so right about the stigma that is attached to being “privileged” or even percieved as such. I have always felt animosity from the granola faction who seem to be the gate keepers of sex work organizations I have looked into. Sometimes I wonder if these types really get down, or if they just want to feel persecuted. Ideally, every sex worker could share their own unique experience with their sisters, and we could all learn from each other. My time in the industry has blessed me with my closest friends, some of who are miles away in almost every category which defines social identity in the straight world. Race, class, religion, musical taste, what we eat, our politics,our childhoods, etc. couldn’t be more different. But these are the ladies who I can and would call in my darkest hour, or my happiest moment, who will break down my door if a client flips out on me, or keep it going with me in a great session, who I can trust with my money and my real name. That’s who we are to each other.I owe them all I can give, some of which comes from my middle class privilege. Our differences, when acknowledged and used right, make us a stronger group. Goddess knows we workers are already outcasts, why allow the worst aspects of straight society in?

  40. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Supreme Bitch — I think you nailed it, it’s the PERCEPTION of privilege that gets me. This could be seen as envy and that’s a personal thing, not something that should be a defining force in a human rights movement.

    I’d like to think solidarity in action and ideas overcomes the stupid label of privilege — as you have shown. In the larger movement though, it does not seem to. Sigh.

    “Goddess knows we workers are already outcasts, why allow the worst aspects of straight society in?”
    Indeed. My entire point. Thank you.

    XX

  41. Anon

    You make a very valid point that most of society doesn’t care if you’re a high class escort or a street walker.

    A few years ago I was outed to my parents, landlord, and friends- and it would have been in my favor if I had been a drug addicted or someone they could pity and “cure”.

    They hated and were disgusted with me.

    I had no social resources (no niche bdsm/lgbt/womens shelter/AlcoholicsAnonymous etc community) and no one had any sympathy for me or the devastation I was going through (the fall out was terrible on all levels and put me into a general tailspin with my life).

    This was in a mid-sized town- not one of those major metro areas represented on any hobby related message boards (so naturally, I didn’t use those boards). The small regional sub-boards are sparsely posted on- I could digress on why I think that is so. Between the deletion of Craigslist and the appearance of Backpage, for a few months there was effectively nowhere locally for escorts in that area to advertise…. but I digress again.

    The psychologist I tried going to in the depths of my resulting depression, didn’t have any specific advice or professional literature to turn to (much less any resources to connect me with). By the time I finished educating her (that I didn’t face the dangers of a streetwalker, I really honestly love men, that I was never sexually abused, etc) and could talk about my issues within MY context, I had gotten over it by myself and moved on. Being in a small-ish town, I was also paranoid of saying too much anyway, of this going on my mental health record, of a nosey secretary noticing my family name and snooping…

    Really glad to read someone acknowledging chicks like me!

  42. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Anon — “…most of society doesn’t care if you’re a high class escort or a street walker.”
    Which is why “privilege” is a silly argument to make within the movement. Your story illustrates that in the worst possible way.

    There really isn’t much literature in dealing with being outed, except maybe from the gay community. There are no resources for sex workers except other sex workers (usually on blogs like this).

    I can completely sympathize with having to explain your ENTIRE LIFE to your therapist before you can actually get her to start helping you. At least you opened one person’s eyes and likely they’ll stay open. You did that during a terrible time in your life too. Something to be proud of.

    You’re more than acknowledged. :)

    XX

  43. Lee

    These judgments based on surficial and/or superficial things are blind to the reality that humans are/can be/should be more than these. What we do and how we do it; our output – actions and words; the things we do of our own freewill – our character, is who we are. Not the circumstances that we have no control over – where and to whom we were born, our physical features, how much money was used to raise us. These people’s thinking turns Dr. King’s maxim on judging people based on their content of character rather than the color of their skin on its head.

    I can’t argue with your comment about the CL situation being the worse one, but one of the reasons I keep bringing up what happened in RI is that in reading some of the statements from the anti-CL, anti-sex work people (like Dick Blumenthal), there is a lot of common wording with the rhetoric from the lunatic fringe in the RI episode – (the trafficking, non-free will stuff; adopted by people like Blumenthal from people like Donna Hughes). How to counter-act an argument that is largely false, but where a very few, true examples (and there are some – even if those who make these arguments rarely seem to cite or know, or care to know, much about them) are used to represent the general situation in a very untrue way? (Being forced to prove innocence rather than the other side having to prove guilt; how to flip this?) This is a growing and maybe the biggest present hurdle that I see and hear in the various public debates. The visibility and activity of your invisible majority. You are ahead of the game.

  44. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Lee — I think it’s the superficiality of the privilege argument that gets me the most. When a group of marginalized people get together and start making judgements based on surface appearance, I gotta wonder what went wrong where.

    I argue CL was a bigger victory than RI because RI was merely brought in line with the rest of the US. The CL victory has affected sex workers worldwide — and no US feminist should dictate sex work policy for the rest of the entire friggin world.

    Though I totally agree with you that the RI arguments and debates were filled with awful crap from the people who were supposedly the “saviors” of the oppressed. These arguments take a minority of examples and make them into the majority and yes, the invisible majority stays invisible. Guess that’s what you are saying! :)

    “Being forced to prove innocence rather than the other side having to prove guilt; how to flip this?”
    This is the crux of the current debate on sex work in the US. You framed it perfectly. This is where it’s gone off the rails and why the discussion is no longer in our hands, not that it ever fully was.

    Chicken and egg thing: getting rid of automatic criminality changes that question, but that question won’t be changed without the laws changing first. Sigh.

    XX

  45. Vegan Vixen

    I have mixed feelings about this piece, though I have the utmost respect for Amanda as a person and an activist. I agree with Amanda that people shouldn’t be shunned or excluded because of their privileges, but that doesn’t mean people should use their privileges to act superior either, which I’ve seen happen sometimes in sex work and also in our movement, which is probably unconscious.

    There definately is a lot of stratification within sex work and sex workers tend to judge each other a lot by what our rates are. Sometimes, so called “high end” sex workers act like they’re some how above other sex workers, because they have higher rates, or perhaps because of their level of education, worldliness, or just because they they may think they’re better at what they do. I think how much we charge is based more on our financial conditions and how much we can afford to turn down rather than how good we are at what we do. For example, I could decide this second that I’m going to charge a $5000 minimum, but that wouldn’t automatically make me better at what I do. I would also need to be a a position where I could afford to turn down every client who won’t spend at least $5000, which not every sex work is financially in a position to do.

    Sex workers are also sometimes judged by how much time we spend with clients, in which there’s sometimes a tendency to assume that we must all have at least a three or four hour minimum and look negatively upon he “hourly” sex workers, so I can’t imagine what they must think of me considering that I do some half hour sessions in the legel brothels where I’ve worked. I do my best to provide pleasure and enjoyment no matter how much time clients spend with me. This negativity I described toward sex workers with hourly or half hour rates tends to be more prevelent within escorting than the brothels. Though I’m not an escrot, I’ve spoken with many escorts and some have expressed this as an issue.

    That being said, I agree with Amanda that we shouldn’t villify or discount sex workers just because they may be on the more prestigious side of sex work. Also, in response to the breast implant comments, I agree that we should discount the voices of sex workers just because they have implants, but people with implants shouldn’t make negative comments about natural breasts either. I’ve heard that happen before and believe or not, there are people with beautiful natural breasts, so not all natural breasts are ugly or disgusting. However, if anybody feels that they are, then they don’t have to look at mine.

    Rather than being a binary, I see privilege as a continuum and a spectrum, in which we’re not typically always privileged or unprivileged in every sense of the word, but rather there are different types of privilege. Thus, many of us are privileged in some ways, but not in other ways.

  46. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Vegan — Oh I’ve talked about the hierarchy and the escorts who buy into it. However, this piece is not about high-end escorts at all — it’s about the low/mid-range escorts who make up the invisible majority (“meet the invisible majority”). Please read it again.

    Some activists are like feminists who believe that doing things to look mainstream-attractive (like getting breast implants) is selling out or means the person with the implants is a bimbo. This comment wasn’t about natural vs surgery, but about the stereotypes of appearance within the sex work movement and how there are activists who buy into the exact same stereotypes everyone else does about women who have a mainstream appearance when they should know better.

    This piece wasn’t about breast implants or high-end escorts. It was about the sex worker rights movement willfully ignoring the THOUSANDS of online escorts who could easily become a strong part of the movement if they were included instead of excluded. (And then we can move onto trying to include the thousands of strippers too.)

    XX

  47. Vegan Vixen

    Thank you for the reply, Amanda. I saw that the “invisible majority” was a major theme of this blog entry the first time I read it.

    I just got more than one theme out of this entry, and found the piece to be very thought-provoking. Another theme I got out of reading this was that the more privileged sex workers (or those perceived to be) were being shunned and trivialized in our movement, and subject to prejudice. That theme really touched me emotionally, so that’s what I was responding to.

    I agree that all of our contributions to the movement are important shouldn’t be discounted based on levels of privilege. I just see different sides of this issue, which is what I was trying to express in my comments.

  48. Vegan Vixen

    Just one more thing: I need to fix a typo from earlier, which totally twists around the meaning of my comments. When I wrote,”I agree that we should discount the voices of sex workers just because they have implants, but people with implants shouldn’t make negative comments about natural breasts either.” I meant to say I agree that we shouldn’t discount the voices of sex workers just because they have implants. Unless somebody writes something I feel compelled to reply to, this is my last comment on this thread and I appreciate reading all the comments as well as Amanda’s blog entry.

  49. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Vegan Vixen — Ah okay, thanks for clearing that up.

    I would like to point out that though escorts who buy into the hierarchy are indeed a big problem, few high-end escorts are part of the movement and, relatively-speaking, there are few of them out there to begin with. They’re part of the invisible majority by default, but they are far from a majority in any sense.

    As for assigning privilege and all its issues — I think I’ve said everything I want to say already in the piece and comments. Glad this piece was thought-provoking for you.

    XX

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  53. Ketogenic Paleo

    Amanda there’s another problem I’m seeing with the activist movement.

    This might make me sound crazy, but I think trying to decrim. all sex work, including streetwork, is a tactical error.

    Due to the Orwellian nature of our opponents who have utopian ideological reasons and hidden financial reasons to keep prostitution illegal, it’s extremely difficult to get the average-joe types of people to see what the problem is. Our opponents are very good at using doublespeak, so we need to take a position that makes it harder for them to use doublespeak rhetoric against us. Most people probably very logically either don’t care or would see nothing wrong with selling sex, but most people are easily confused by the doublespeak coming from self-anointed authority figures.

    If we try to push to decriminalize streetwalkers it’ll be all about how you’re all supporting the harassment of people on the street by aggressive streetwalkers – how the streets won’t be safe. But even worse, without the street hookers to control large segments of the police might be out of a job. People’s livelihoods are threatened which means they’ll fight back hard.

    The good news is there’s a lot of social mobility in sex work; it doesn’t take much for a street worker to work parlours and agencies and go indie. But the antis don’t know this and if activists supported the decrim. of all laws that hurt brothel/parlour/indie sex workers while allowing the cops and antis the symbolic victory of keeping streetwork illegal it would make THEM look like idiots for arguing against decrim. escorts. They wouldn’t be as effective at their Orwellian doublespeak.
    Once this is accomplished activists can simply go back and lobby to decrim. street-level work.

    I say all this because I’ve noticed there’s a recurring mistake activists, especially lefty activists* make of rejecting incremental change like this in favour of radical change which can backfire.
    i.e. gay marriage: one of the main goal was to keep the State from taking back adopted children and have longterm gay couples recognized as such when adopting. You don’t need gay marriage for this, civil unions would have been fine… more than fine, even better – get civil unions now, then sue for religious discrimination once a gay-friendly priest gay-marries a couple and the gov’t refuses to recognize them. Instead we now have the absurd position where religious activists are passing laws allowing the gov’t to dictate to churches whom can and can’t get married. Why? Because activists underestimated their opponents and tried to win it all in one shot. I guess incrementalism is too un-PC as it makes it seem as if you’re giving up. The problem with pushing for radical/revolutionary change is it has a smaller chance of success and can take much longer – meanwhile no progress is being made.

    *Read Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society and/or A Conflict of Visions; lefties are more prone towards the Utopian vision or the Vision of the Anointed.

  54. Amanda Brooks Post author

    Ketogenic Paleo — I assume you’re a guy? Yeah, almost all men tell us that decriminalizing all sex work (including street work) is a tactical error. You’re hardly the first. However, since I will assume you haven’t sex worked your way around the world, I can tell you firsthand (and I’ve blogged about this topic), that leaving ANY part of sex work criminalized is just a loophole for police exploitation and client violence. The ONLY way for sex workers to be as protected as possible is for ALL sex work to be decriminalized, across the board. Period. It’s the only logical answer.

    And that’s what decrim is about: the protection of sex workers. It’s not about money or ease of getting clients, it’s about protecting people who are often seen as disposable as tissues. It’s not like the gay rights movement in that there are no half-measures (like civil unions) that will do the job. Decrim is the only right answer, as evidenced in countries and areas that follow it. Legalization allows too many opportunities for harm, decrim is the best answer for harm reduction in this imperfect world.

    Oh, as for the “aggressive street worker” stereotype — it’s cultural. It depends not only on the area of town (some areas are red light zones and yes, the sex workers will be aggressive — it’s their work-space) but also how the culture of prostitution is set up in that society. It’s my very firm belief in societies where prostitution is far more tolerated the sex workers aren’t going to be so aggressive. In a society like the US, where sex workers are both pariahs and victims, they’re going to be aggressive as a survival tactic.

  55. Aspasia

    This post has long been one of my personal “Amanda’s Best”. Since interacting with certain types of activists on social media forums, I am seeing more and more of those who are the ultra-PC types acting in the way you are criticizing here. It’s almost as if they’ve doubled-down since this post was published almost three years ago. Also one of the reasons why organized activism has turned me off. I can tell with some that I’m not the right kind of POC because I don’t fit into the box they have decided I should fit into. No one has ever said anything outright, they’re not that damn stupid, but my personal “Batsense” goes off.

    1. Amanda Brooks Post author

      Aspasia — I’ve always thought it was one of my better pieces, one I’d been writing in my head for over 15yrs before I put it here. Mostly, it just offended people. However, it helped spur FurryGirl to create SWAAY and encouraged a few of the invisible majority to try to get involved as activists.

      Have I caused the ultra-PC types to double-down? Ha! Still, they only harm themselves and all other sex workers AND the movement with stiff-necked reactionism. Inclusive is inclusive and this word does not mean what they think it means. (Also, if your entire identity and politics is built around being a stereotype, regardless of what it is, you might want to rethink the direction of your life and the sincerity of your convictions.)

      Sorry to hear that you’re not the right POC they want. You’re a painter’s palette of color (as are many of us), and that should be beautiful enough for them. How offensive otherwise.

      I can’t say I’ve seen the situation improve since I wrote this, another reason why I’ve backed away slowly as well (of course, I think this post helped encourage the backing-away process). The movement could be moving forward with great strides — the spirit is there, but the openness is not and in the end, it hurts all of us. I wish the movement would believe its own lip service to the idea that all sex workers have something to add and that all sex workers deserve a voice.

      I have Spidey sense. You have Batsense. There’s gaydar and hookerdar. What other senses are there??

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