Friday, January 21, 2005

debate

There is a fascinating discussion over at feministing.com regarding the recent voice article. They raise some valid points. However, a few I would like to rebuttal (cause I’m a debate nerd).

The majority of the discussion centers on the race and class biases of the article, the media, and the blogs, and glamorizing the sex industry. Now, I think the article, which is hardly an exhaustive investigation (no offence, rkb) is reflective of a few sex workers’ individual experiences, not representative of the variety of sex work as a whole. The author does not hide our race and class but rather acknowledges it as part of our experience. Yes, we are middle-class, white, and college educated. We are also whores. This does not make our experiences more valid than the lower class person of color without a degree walking the street. But neither are our experiences less valid.

The discussion argues that the media primarily represents sex workers as the “young, white, and college-educated happy-hooker schtick” and marginalized sex workers (streetwalkers and victims of sex trafficking, for example) are neglected. However, in terms of newspaper coverage, radio, and television, it is my experience that streetwalkers and the occasional call girl are the primary focus of sex work themed stories. The newspaper articles and tv specials (HBO’s Atlantic City Hookers) directly referenced in the comments are examples of this coverage. Sadly, this is due to the nature of atrocities survived (or too often not) being a sensational sell. Sitcom and evening dramas cast sex workers as comic relief, hookers with hearts of gold, or victims.

Then there is the research. The majority of research done to date focuses on streetwalkers and/or sex trafficking. This is due to the nature of grants and methodology. It is easier to justify outreach and research of underserved and marginalized populations than more privileged sex workers. This is reflected in the data that is published. Some sexologists argue that the bottom of the sex work hierarchy is over-represented.

The exception to the media representation is books, magazines, and the internet. At one point (before I started whoring) I developed an exhaustively research paper on the power dynamics and identity politics of upper class call-based escorts in contemporary manhattan utilizing first person narratives as a primary source. This highly specialized focus was necessary. I could not have done a similar paper on victims of sex trafficking or child prostitutes because the first person accounts are not as readily available. Privilege is necessary for access to publishing (self or otherwise).

The internet provides a unique opportunity for sex workers who are not super-rich madams or scandal queens to also publish via websites and blogs. It is increasing the experiences represented. Although it is hardly universal, it is a wider spectrum. I heart audacia’s eloquent phrasing that “the combination of talking, writing, and doing is really the only way to destigmatize sex work and diverse sexualities generally.”

And in personal defense:*Why does Jane Vincent feel the need to point out that she's "educated" in her blog title?*
“The Educated Slut” is a multi-pronged moniker. First, slut is my personal sex-positive identity. This references more than my sex work, but rather my entire sexual life. I am slut-identified (and have been since 7th grade). I think this is a good thing. The “educated” phrasing references the amount of research and information I have encountered through studying sexuality at the university level, teaching sexuality education with a variety of health agencies, and the experiences of my friends and my self. Additionally, “the educated slut” is homage to the early snl days of jane curtain and dan ackroyd (“jane, you ignorant slut!”)

And now, my favorite comment for those who don’t make the link.

***I'm always tempted to say everything is a spectrum, but with sex work, I think that is not really descriptive. I think it is more useful to say that sex work is two spectra. There are the women (and men) for whom it is at least superficially consensual, and those for whom it is compulsory, whether through the threat or use of force or just strong circumstantial pressure.

It makes no sense to talk about self-discovery and empowerment when speaking of a sixteen year old runaway supporting a meth habit. At one end of this spectrum are the dead and mangled and the cases that make me want to throw up, and at the other are the merely depressing and sad. These are compelled sex workers; they have not really chosen sex work at all. Patriarchy has imposed it on them.

Then, there's the other spectrum. At one end, women and some men do various kinds of sex work because they have other options, but not attractive ones. They can get out, and may -- but they are not happy where they are and it takes a toll. I don't deny these womens' agency, though I do criticize the circumstances that reduce their options. At the other end of this spectrum are the happy sex workers. When talking about these women, we are talking about choices (without, of course, ignoring the context).***

6 Comments:

Blogger Sk8RN said...

I did not read the feministing.com article, but found your posting very thought-provoking and well-said.

1/22/2005 1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, Jane. It's always fascinating how people need to superimpose their experiences and perceptions on- and try to invalidate- other people's realities. Your rebuttal is well considered and eloquently stated, and I applaud you. It seems very clear that you know what you're doing and that you're enjoying your life!

1/22/2005 5:32 AM  
Blogger Librarian Babe said...

I love your blog and adore you because you *are* the educated slut. You can articulate your viewpoints and they're backed up with research and thought.

Bravo!

1/22/2005 11:01 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Are they flaming you, sweetie?

'Cause if you need backup, I can bust in there and go all ChuckG on their asses.

1/22/2005 5:35 PM  
Blogger HeroineGirl said...

Jane,
Your blog has changed my whole perception on sexuality.
Coming from the streets and also making it back - I believe that anything is possible. You have educated me on safe sex, encouraging my self-esteem and not resorting to shame. You are a gifted teacher and advisory and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lessons that you have taught me about respecting my body and taking responsibilty of my sexual function.
It's amazing to think a blog can change your everyday behaviour, but that is what you iniated in me.

Thank you, you may have saved much pain.
Heroinegirl.

1/23/2005 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane,

I love love love your blog and the way you think.

Can I see the paper? Pretty pretty pwease with a cherry on me? ;)

Ember
(emberverity@onyxdreams.com)

1/24/2005 9:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home