Friday, November 05, 2004

"legitimate" sex work

So I’m at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) conference in Orlando, networking with sex professionals in the research and science fields as opposed to sex work. Some interesting dynamics have presented themselves. Some of the stigmas you would assume to be null in a theoretically open-minded and educated atmosphere such as this, unfortunately continue to assert themselves.

The most apparent is the hierarchy of legitimate versus illicit sex work (defined as any job concerned with sexuality). There was a workshop for students and young professionals featuring several senior SSSS members. All three were primarily therapists, although two had academic teaching experiences, and one had roots in social work as opposed to psych. I find this reflects much of the organization, which is 80% psych people, and then 20% for the rest of us.

When asked how they deal with the stereotypes associated with the sex professions, their response was bonding at SSSS and similar conferences, but living somewhat closeted in other environments ("Oh, I’m a therapist"). Now, I understand wanting to avoid the assumptions, not to mention endless questions; however, visibility is a crucial step to relieving stigma. We must challenge assumptions by providing positive and confident examples.

Furthermore, we must challenge the stigmas and heirachies within our communities. I asked how one would go about framing "alternative" sex-related work when applying for positions that may or may not be directly sexual in nature. The example I provided was I felt fairly innocuous, writing a sexual health column for a porn site. However, the immediate response of the panel was, "Why would you want to tell someone you wrote for a porn magazine?!?" I found myself attacked and defending this theoretical scenario, much tamer than many of my life experiences.

Additionally, the theme of the conference was politics and sex research, very timely. There was talk of the spring’s NIH "sex list". I was shocked to hear many sex researchers challenging the validity of some of the work of other researchers on the list and present at the conference. I can understand the competitive nature of grants, especially government grants, but isn’t it healthier to assert the strengths of your own research as opposed to attacking others’? I’m just so sick of this shit, especially since the election.



Blogger Michael said...

Speaking purely from a writer's point of view, if I had a column published in a sex magazine, I'd scream it from the rooftops. But that's more for the byline than anything else.

11/08/2004 1:09 PM  

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