Sex Workers In The Myths
I'm ranting today about the continually perpetuated myths of sex work which add to the further debasement, exploitation & abuse of sex workers.
Ask Wellness Centre's Sex Trade Myth & Facts is a classic upsetting example. While purporting to help sex workers and their families, they not only pull inaccurate information out of thin air, but dare to pass it off, literally, as fact.
- It takes an average of six attempts before a Sex Worker leaves the industry for good.
- Only 20% of all Sex Work is Street-Based. The remainder occurs through independent escort agencies and in crack houses, massage parlours, brothels, private residences, bars, and clubs.
The truth is, very little is known about the sex trade, as they call it. Few accurate studies exist. This because with sex work a crime, few participate for fear of legal repercussions. Such limited involvement limits the scope of studies. And then there is the research which so clearly does not examine the issue, but rather goes about gathering what it can to further an agenda, seeking only negative stories of downward spirals to prove their slanted view.
And I love over-simplified myths like this:
Myth: Sex Trade Workers sell their bodies because they like sex.
Fact: Most Sex Trade Workers do not enjoy their work, and they have a difficult time enjoying sex within a relationship as a result of their work.
"Says who?" still applies, but this is far more complicated. It deals with relationships, duh. Why is the "non-enjoyable sex life" the sex worker's fault or problem? Could it be that her partner is the problem? And I don't just mean sexually either.
I had a friend who had gone to school and become a massage therapist ~ yes, the "real & legit" kind. Her dates & boyfriends were constantly expecting, even demanding, free massages. Her response was, "This is my job; will you perform your job for me for free?" But it still didn't stop the whining and requests...
Now imagine you're a sex worker in a relationship. Don't you think you'd be asked for acts when you're not in the mood ~ and then hear, "Well, you do it for Johns..."
My response was always, "Well, then pay me my rate." That always shut them up. But still, they asked, expected, whined... And they thought that since I was getting it all day, I didn't need foreplay. (Too many men think this for various reasons; but I'll keep this specific to escorting.)
All of this is to say that the issue of sex worker relationships is, like any relationship, complicated. Do we ask massage therapists, cooks, childcare providers ~ any service professional how satisfying their relationships and sex lives are?
Do we research addiction among IT professionals? Are there studies regarding abuse and violence perpetuated on doctors? But we do ask sex workers these questions, and with no real reason to do so.
This is the biggest clue to the myths of sex work ~ we ask questions we don't ask of any other professional and at the expense of the dignity one gives to any other professional.
Myth: Most Sex Trade Workers practice safer sex.
Fact: Some johns prefer sex without a condom and offer extra money for this service. If it means turning a trick or not, sex trade workers will engage in unprotected sex
Do we make such assumptions about firefighters? Do we think even for a moment that if a firefighter was paid more to enter a burning building without his gear that he'd do it? No. We know that professional is aware such gear saves his life, which he values. So too sex workers know that condoms save lives ~ and they value their lives too, thank you very much.
Myth: If a Sex Trade Worker really wanted to exit the sex trade, s/he would just quit.
Fact: Quitting, far too often does not appear an option due to social stigma, economic reasons, being controlled by another person, homelessness or addictions issues.
Do we even ask a janitor, a pilot, or a person in a cubicle farm why they can't just up and quit their job? How about things like "the money's good," "I've been doing it so long, I just don't know what else I would do ~ and I can't be retrained because I've got a mortgage to pay." Are those no less valid responses because a sex worker utters them?
And should a sex worker want to quit, it's exactly the sort of sordid myths seen here which prevent him or her from doing so. The stigma, keeps them stuck, forces them to hide what they've done. Keeping mum on the five years in the sex industry leaves a five-year gap in the old work history.
While society is busy passing on myths and asking inappropriate questions, they miss the real questions ~ starting with the rights that other professions and professionals have. If they asked those questions, they'd find that sex workers do not have the same legal & labor rights to basic health and safety.
But still they continue to stick to the myths.
So even when they aren't being sensational & sexploitative, the well-intentioned wander far from the mark. Which is to say that until people start dealing with the facts, they will be perpetuating the abuse & exploitation of sex workers.
So there is more than great irony in Ask Wellness Centre's statement below; there is great harm.
Misconceptions and Social Stigma attached to Sex Work have a huge impact on Sex Trade Workers. Many of them are disassociated from family and friends and are reluctant to ask others for support.
Ask Wellness Centre's myths passed as fact only adds to the misconceptions and stigmas, and therefore the harm.
And it pisses me off.