I often compare the sex worker rights movement with the Civil Rights movement and gay movement. Most often, I see it closer to the Civil Rights movement.
I’e become used to conversations with people or business interactions with them — all behind the scenes. But I understand that in public they might not wish to be associated with me. It’s not a condescending remark. Not everyone is ready to stand up to prejudice or make logical arguments to refute knee-jerk morality. I understand. So if we meet in public I pretend not to know and do not burden them with social embarrassment.
Take the constant checking I have to do with publishing-related businesses. I can’t assume they’re going to want to do business with me, so before we get too far down the road I have to give background info, detailed explanations, legal disclaimers (and prove that others have worked with me before) — and this is just the introductory e-mail. In essence, I apologize for what I’m doing and for imposing on them.
My hat must be in my hand, my eyes down and I should respectfully step out of the way so they can pass. In case I make them uncomfortable, I should cross the street so they don’t have to.
Usually I get praised for checking their tolerance level before daring to engage in a business conversation with them. Before I dare to believe I’m a regular publisher like anyone else making a book about cats (or cooking or yoga or whatever has been done to death). Before I dare to act as though I have a right to choose my business partners, instead of letting them choose me and being grateful for it.
I grew up in a very racist part of the country (though I did not share those prejudices). Common wisdom seemed to be that black is contagious. Sex is contagious as well (and let’s not even get into the disease aspect!). Black stinks and black people are on another level — pathetic creatures no one is convinced are human. Sex workers have this same ability to interact with humans yet not be a part of the human race.
I have no doubt that I’m going to get (verbally) hit for assuming to know the black experience. All I’ve seen is from the outside and I’ve seen even more through the eyes of the deeply prejudiced people I grew up around. And what I’ve seen of the treatment of sexual women, especially sex workers, is very much the same.
There have been numerous posts on here chronicling my first year in small publishing. But it’s taken me time to really digest what has happened. I’ve been as emotionally battered as when I was a stripper, probably more so. Certainly I’ve lost more illusions than with stripping (I didn’t go into stripping with many illusions).
Take fulfillment houses. They don’t want my book showing up in their online catalog because –well, I was never actually given any good reasons for it. I assume it’s because they worry about public perception of who they’re willing to do business with. It drags them down to where they assume my level is. Or maybe they worry a floodgate will open and suddenly sex work books will pop out of the woodwork (where they should stay, damnit!) and demand to do business.
Or my own fulfillment company, who has successfully beaten me down to the point where I’m afraid to contact them for anything. I would like to move my books out of their warehouse but until I find another fulfillment house to my liking relatively near them, it will cost too much to ship all my books to California. Cheaper to leave them where they are. And so I pay a monthly storage fee; paying for the privilege of being abused (in a business sense) because I deserve no better for what I dare to put into print.
And so I put my hat in my hand, lower my eyes…
I would like to sit in a seat on a bus and change the world. But I can’t even get on the bus.
What about all the famous sex workers memoirs out there? Some are starting change in the mainstream mind. Most others are simply entertaining. Dance, sex worker, dance!
And what is the current housewife obsession in pretending to be a stripper if not a blackface minstrel show?
A person can like you until they discover you’re a sex worker (past or present). It’s a common experience. I think it’s mostly because sex work is on the inside and not something that shows on the skin. It if could show on the skin, my! wouldn’t that make life easier for everyone? If it could show on the skin, we’d have a whole new ethnic bias spring up overnight. Although I think the sheer number of the tribe might take the country by surprise.
The most perfect, shining example I can think of right now is the book industry (yeah, I’ve got plenty to bash them with). A whole industry that gives lip service to freedom of speech — just so long as it’s what they approve of.
Just like the people I remember who liked certain blacks because they were “good” blacks, blacks that were approved of. They could trot out the names of these black people to prove they weren’t really prejudiced, after all, here were some black people who made them think “Hey! Not all blacks are bad. I like these!”
I’ve stated that I would like to be someone the public can look to and think “Hey! Not all sex workers are a plague on society. I like Amanda Brooks!” It would break down barriers. But that it’s even a position to aspire to…is a sad sad thing.
PS: I’m deliberately taking a negative view right now to express some thoughts that have been boiling around for a long time. This doesn’t mean this is my sole viewpoint.
11 thoughts on “sex work is the new black”
Well, I think you and other writers like you (meaning with a similar background) are the pioneers of this next “Civil Rights” movement, and you’re doing the right thing – getting the word out there through this blog, through your book, and your other efforts. It may take a long time, but I bet you will eventually find mainstream acceptance.
Best of luck!
I’m confused. Isn’t “fulfillment” where the order is filled and shipped? Is it harder than that?
I don’t think it’s a “new” black because there is nothing new about.
First women got the right to vote and work. Then came the end of black segregation. But we still have racism and gender inequalities, decades and even a century later.
Now we have gays and polyamory beginning to be openly accepted. Hopefully, sex work may be next.
But the key word I am afraid is ‘beginning’ not ‘accepted’. It’s going to be a long struggle. I suggest we look at what’s already been achieved and draw strength from it: communications between sex workers all over the world, sex work rights movement, conferences. Who could have imagined any of that 20 years ago?
Thank you. You get it.
Yes, fulfillment is simply warehousing stock and fulfilling orders. Some places also offer credit card processing and an online shopping cart (or their own online catalog for sales processing). That’s pretty much it. (I don’t have a merchant account and so wanted a more complete package of fulfillment services.)
No, it’s not new, but it is one of the few “acceptable” prejudices to have in America (and the whole world, really). Plus, it made a catchy title, IMO.
There has been a lot of progress but that it’s still okay to consider sex workers as inhuman is highly offensive to me. Gays were generally seen as freaks or sickos — but still mostly human. Other alternatives sexualities are still often seen as abnormal — but identifiably human.
The Internet has made a huge difference in sex workers communicating with each other. To be frank, I don’t expect to see the changes I want in my lifetime. But I do hope to at least see sex workers accepted as humans, however “wrong” or “immoral” they may be.
I do a news blog for SWOP-East and every day in my Google Alerts I see comments (after blog posts and news articles) where the commenter doesn’t even see the sex worker as human. Chilling comments. The prevailing attitudes are awful. For whatever reason, sex workers are unwitting symbols of a deep hatred for sexual women. Changing that attitude first will change everything else. Unfortunately, that attitude is still perfectly socially acceptable. Maybe that’s the real problem.
Amanda, that was illuminating.
I am simply not exposed to general public view as much… Although I have seen quite a number of comments on different blogs that expose that mentality, I kept thinking those were just occasional idiots.
I don’t think the problem is isolated. But for whatever reason it doesn’t make me pessimistic — maybe because I know better than to believe those comments? It does sadden me though.
I think that race is a valid analogy. There’s so many ways that a majority keeps a minority silenced. One particularly perverted side-effect of (ost)racism is the self-loathing present in most sub-groups I’ve looked at (non-whites, gays, sexual deviants, etc.).
On the one hand you have the in-your-face, militant ones who climb on the barricades, and on the other those who (more or less secretly) would like nothing more than assimilation into the mainstream, and internalize as truth the prejudices displayed by the majority.
When a handjob pro claims that she’s not a sex worker because she doesn’t do THIS or THAT particular (dirty) act, or a former escort feels violated, victimized, and crippled by guilt over an activity that she once chose willingly… I’m reminded of blacks who bleach their skin and shun darker brothers, Asians who have their eyes re-cut, and gays who torture themselves living the straight lifestyle married to the other sex.
Denial is a powerful force.
This is the first sex worker blog I read that is completely devoid of justification, commiseration, delusion, and above all, condemnation of others of a perceived lower status to feel better about oneself. It is what it is, “not that there’s anything wrong with that!”. I love it.
Now, that the sex worker “stigma” would scare publishers is absolutely baffling to me.
You said it. You truly captured it in a nutshell. So many of the problems sex workers face is indeed because they have internalized the stigma. They just don’t realize it.
Oh, I’m deluded. Just ask anybody 😉
Publishers are a spineless lot. At least, IMO.
I like Amanda Brooks!
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