Olivia Grace is a sex worker based in Toronto who took issue ~ make that issues ~ with a recent Vice interview with a sex worker hobbiest. She felt her original response to the piece wasn’t enough, so she sent this piece in too…
The other day, Vice released a very lazy reporting job that wasn’t edited and talked to precisely the wrong person. I am talking, of course, about the article “We Interviewed a Sex Industry Hobbyist – the Worst Kind of John.” This article is written in opposition to that.
The person they interviewed is based in Montreal, sees agency girls (I’m willing to bet real money for a half hour at a time) and then has the nerve to tell them to get out after the act is done. The organization seems to have decided that this person is worth listening to, although one of my followers on Twitter just couldn’t get through the article because the guy was too much of a troll.
By a troll, I mean a person who actually has nothing good to say, who the SP (Service Provider) is unsure if he engages in the hobby because he loves sex or hates women, is a misogynist and is only a customer of agency girls who are young and, for the most part, naïve. This is not the preferred type of client, and would definitely not get through my pre-screening process. There’s a slang word for that on Twitter: a slobbyist. Let me explain.
When you first start out, you really have no idea which way is up, and so the agencies do have a great deal of power over you. You accept the 60/40 or 50/50 cut, you’re young, it’s quick money, whatever. For some girls, they find agencies that are a perfect fit. That was not my particular path – I went independent a couple of years ago and, although I have to pay for my own marketing and self-care, I have been happier for it. I speak from my lived experience, however – I cannot speak for anyone else.
That should not be used to silence me. I have met several guys at events thrown by review boards – remember, this is an interview of a “hobbyist” who is actually a troll, but on a review board – and that is typically where they congregate. SPs (Service Providers) don’t have to like the boards, but they are good, safe spaces to advertise, to be heard, to be seen, and to communicate with other service providers about bad experiences, etc. It’s all about safety and advertising for me, as much as the big debate currently on (Caramel or Nutella? Which would you rather lick off an SP? To be clear, I voted Nutella).
These events (those thrown by review boards) are also often opportunities to network with other independent SPs, so I spend an equal amount of time chatting to colleagues and clients. Plus, it’s just a good time to look pretty, which is rare in the isolating life of an independent.
Now onto the objections I have with the article. He says that once a girl has been in sexwork for around 10 weeks, she’s seen around 100 clients, so I’m going to assume he’s talking about agency girls. After 10 weeks, he says, she loses her “authenticity.” She becomes an “actress” (which is repurposed bovine waste, because all of us – no matter the flavour – are actors: just choose your own fantasy). He says that mature indies “try” to market themselves. We don’t try – we do. The language used in the article (“hooker; whore”) was and is problematic and should have been replaced with “sex work” or “sex worker.” Specific words mean specific things – there is a movement going on to try to reclaim those words. Unfortunately, you can’t use them unless you’re one of us. Surely this organization can replace foul, outdated language with words that are more respectful and fairer to hear.
Many of my friends and clients on the review boards are decent human beings – they wouldn’t get through my screening process if they weren’t. To be completely honest, I don’t get a lot of clients from the review boards, but those whom I know and I trust are also, reasonably, upset. They treat the ladies they see with respect, and would never dream of buying into this guy’s dogma (see, lecture, leave). To interview one man on one board in one city with one opinion is wrong and doesn’t for a moment make that opinion true for all. It suggests that everyone on review boards is the same. Well, that simply isn’t the case.
Wait! There’s more. Besides giving out a misrepresentation of those involved on the boards, this article will have real-life impacts on the independent SPs and agency girls. This article plays straight into the rescue industry’s hands. It does all the workers who do sex work voluntarily a massive injustice, and the antis can say, “But we read Vice! That article with those poor girls! Remember when they interviewed a board member in Montreal?”
Listen, if we wanted the press (who, frankly, don’t understand the complexities of sex work) to paint a grim picture and lack of respect, then we would ask for it. What we are asking for is respect. I was on side with Vice until this article came out. I have worked with them. It puts their reporting back into the Dark Ages with regards to sex work. There is a lot of advocacy left to do, and I (and hopefully other SPs) will do it. But we will not do it in light of this article – it puts the whole concept of investigative reporting to shame. We do not need a further body count.
Hoping for more,
Follow me on Twitter: @OliviaGraceSP.
Ms. Grace would like you to know the following, sent from the Vice interviewer: “The language in the Vice Q & A (interview not a classic article format) is the hobbiest’s, and I unfortunately can’t alter quotes. I would never say ‘hooker’ or ‘whore’, for instance. Publishing this is in no means an endorsement of his views, I just want that to be clear.”
Image Credits: Photo by Cédric Puisney, via Vice.