Queer/Race

Sex Work

Posted in Uncategorized by sross10 on May 7, 2010

When we had a discussion about labor/public vs non-labor/private it reminded me about an experience I had in D.C.

One day I went to a book reading at busboys and poets. This reading was promoted through the organization HIPS “(Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) was founded in 1993 by a coalition of service providers, advocates, and law enforcement officials as an outreach and referral service. HIPS mission is to assist female, male, and transgender individuals engaging in sex work in Washington, DC in leading healthy lives.”

During this event. A man (we’ll just call him ‘Joe’) who said he was “in the life” for about 9 months and a woman who was a dominatrix for six years talked about different experiences and the reason why the became sex workers.

You can get into sex work many different ways and these two people were examples of that. The man told us, the audience, about being kicked out of his home and meeting a man who subsequently raped him. After working at a frying chicken for a month and getting little pay; his boss approached him and asked if he wanted to make “real money.” He got into it blindly and without much thought.

The woman (we’ll call her ‘Jane’… yeah i know its typical) became a dominatrix fully aware of what she was doing, answering an ad that stated she could “get paid to be a bitch.”  Jane was in college and need a way to make a lot of money quickly, waitressing what not cutting it.

Joe’ s first clients was a elderly widow. He expected the experience to be horrible and serious wondered if he could “perform.” Instead he had a nice evening with her and found that he genuinely liked her as a person. After listening to her talk about her love for her late husband she reveals that he had never performed oral sex on her. During the act of performing this duty he felt appreciated and vulgarly explained that 83 year old pussy tastes good. Joe’s last experience as a sex worker was what got him out of the business. He was asked to humiliate a Judge. The Judge wore his robe and nothing underneath it but a diaper. While his head was on the Judge’s chest he felt this pulling motion on his hair. He looked up only to discover the Judge sucking on his hair and he saw red. He beat up the Judge and destroyed the room they were in. He broke all the rule and of the sex worker- client relationship and realized he had to get out of the life.

One other part that was significant about this was the political aspects of sex work. The speakers spoke of the legalization of prostitution. There are two opposing arguments to whether prostitution should be legalized among actual sex workers. I was surprised to find out that there’s a difference of opinion between a high priced call girl and a poor drug addict on the street. The main arguments for the legalization is for health and safety. I believe this is incredibly important and was disheartened to hear one audience member talk about a cop who is a pimp at this moment and collects his money in the back of his car. Over all this was a very enlightening  presentation.

This topic in inherently queer because its an atypical profession that is non-heteronormative. I think this is a very important issue that need to be highlighted by the mainstream. prostitution is seen a deviant as is being queer.

In fact many of the sex workers in Washington D.C are Trans. I believe there should regulations to ensure the safety of the sex worker and the client, whether that prevents a broken arm or an STD. I believe sex wok is going to happen legal or not so why not make its safe?

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7 Responses

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  1. thecasualsquirrel said, on May 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    This was a very interesting look into the life of prostitution. However, having said that I think you could have done a better job examining this issue. You glaze over the fact that “Joe” was raped and yet this is supposed to be a “healthy” prostitute? And Jane gets into it because she needs money. Is that OK? Are we supposed to accept that as reasonable reason for a well educated college girl to start selling herself for money?. A healthy prostitute is an oxymoron in my book. Mentally I do not think Joe got over being raped by a man and Jane clearly does not have the smarts to get a job that doesn’t require her to be a “bitch”.
    I think it is a good idea that there is an organization out there to help these individuals because it is the worlds oldest profession but that still does not make it okay. Sterilizing all the needles in the world wouldn’t make doing heroine legal so just because some of these prostitutes don’t have diseases doest mean they are healthy. I think if you explain your view a little better I could understand where you are coming from but as of now I think Joe and Jane are not healthy in the least bit.

  2. mrthomps said, on May 7, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    First I have to say that I was immediately excited to read this post when I saw that HIPS was one of the tags! I recently went to an event where a bunch of representatives from various organizations (including HIPS) were discussing sexual assault and sexual violence. I immediately took to the organizations message and goals. I think that they are providing invaluable services to possibly the most marginalized people in the United States and doing a great job of closing the void in this area.
    I also really liked this post because you brought up some interesting aspects of the arguments made for and against legalizing prostitution. This is such a complex issue and while I personally feel that legalization would be a good thing, I have no clue how anyone could attempt to do so. One of the biggest problems with legalization is making blanket policies that define prostitution and would work in all cases. It’s a really tricky situation but I think something needs to be changed that will allow sex workers more protection and groups like HIPS to have more flexibility and access.

  3. anj316 said, on May 7, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I’m really glad you mentioned HIPS too, because they are a phenomenal organization. With that being said, when you say healthy prostitute, I’m assuming you mean physically. Like they don’t have STI’s, HIV/AIDS, etc. But even with that physically healthiness, why does that it make it better that they are in that profession? I realize that many people get into it because they aren’t making enough money. But I guess I just can’t fathom the reality that people are so hard up that they have to sell themselves. This is going to sound a bit messed up, but on one hand, it’s a bit admirable that these sex workers can put aside any morals and values to do this, especially if they have a family and this is the only way that they can sustain them. But obviously, this is a horrible profession because of the job itself, on top of safety in many different avenues.

    I wish that organizations like HIPS were able to try and help these sex workers more. Like try a rehabilitation type thing, and help them find/get jobs and stuff like that. Because although an oddly lucrative business, no one wants that life, right? Wouldn’t it be better to try and get people out of that life and into something better for them?

    I know that what I just wrote about is a tangent on what you wrote about. But these things are still important. But I do agree with your final point. Even if we try, sex work isn’t going to stop. So making it safe would be a good thing.

  4. sross10 said, on May 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    I told a very brief story about an hour long dialouge, that had so many other parts to it. Yes Joe was raped, but not while engaging in sex work although plenty of people do. Mentally Joe seemed fine, but i don’t know him personally, but he was a rather dynamics guy and seemed happy. Even wrote a book about the experience. I believe he was in his 50s, married and had children (which doesn’t meant you’re healthy, I know). These people did what they felt they had to do and many people will continue to do so because of social inequities. I’m not saying its right, but its a reality.

    There are so many aspects of sex work that are deplorable such as human trafficking. Depending on regional law (both in the United states and in the work) sex work may be be regulated, tolerated, or illegal. but my main point is that people don’t talk about it. I think it does need to be regulated in some way because it is a reality for millions of people, how much involvement that means is a mystery to me, but I a conversation need to happen. People need to start a dialogue.

  5. mlhbenz said, on May 9, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I found this article particularly interesting because this semester I am enrolled in “AASP 450: Sex Work” and I have found it one of the most empowering and changing classes that I have ever been involved. My opinion and attitude toward sex work has changed soooooooo much since I started the class. When I first started I didn’t really have my own opinion about sex work, I mean I didn’t really mind prostitution but I wouldn’t say I was pro sex work either. After taking the class I would say I am definitely PRO sex work because I say as long it is a complete choice up to the person doing it than they should be supported just like any other job. Sex workers come in all shapes and sizes and they need to be respected and appreciated just like any worker. I believe sex workers should be able to unionize and have health benefits because the fact is at the end of the day they are workers who are simply doing a service.

  6. connvoss said, on May 10, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I feel like I should speak up in this series of comments both because I feel intrigued by the subject (it is the topic of my final research paper) and because I find many of the statements and reactions problematic. First of all, I think the stories of sex workers need to be told, that conversation needs to be had for them to be humanized (all too often they are animalized, or objectified, rather than understood and given voice to). I agree with the legalization effort in state and city law, and the legitimization effort in academic discourse; laws and discourses which ignore the voices and presences of sex workers disadvantage them and cause social violence to them. I have trouble following that being raped necessarily causes a shift in power and moral standing, and that one cannot be healthy after a rape. To me, this equates the sex work and the victimhood; it also equates victimhood with disorder. I am not arguing that rape is positive or unnecessary in the discussion, and I am not arguing that rape is never a part of sex work, however I do believe that the situations which disadvantage sex workers also set up conditions that empower rapists and the violence done by rape.


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