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FAQ on frequent myths about sex work
i am putting together a list of the most common misconceptions and prejudices about sex work.  i plan on writing an intelligent, clear, honest response to each of them so i don't need to repeat myself every single time i encounter these misconceptions.  i don't want to just pump out sex positive propaganda but  rather really explore the concerns about sex work, acknowledging the difficult and dark potential of such work as well as the positive and richly rewarding.   i would like the help of others in this project. 

what are the negative perceptions about sex work?    what do you hear again and again that could do with clarifying? do you have secret concerns about sex work you do not voice for fear of being shot down by sex positive folk?  i want to collect a list of them and work through them one at a time, giving my perspective, that of other workers and also academic studies on the topics.  i want to honestly address these concerns. 

i am doing this because i told someone i thought was openminded and aware of sex positive ideas,  that i am training as a pro dominatrix.   his horrified, ignorant and self righteous response took me by surprise.   i thought he would understand and accept but he has been the furtherest from accepting yet. 

this got me to thinking... if he was a fly on the wall in my sessions and actually understood my life and experiences he would not react like that.  he is really responding to:

* his own personal experience of sexuality/sex work which he then projects onto me and my clients,
* cultural ideas about sex work that do not match my reality at all

in short, he is imganing that my life and work is something that it is not.  he is emotionally responding to his imagined version of my life, not my actual life. 

to get to the place i am currently at, i spent years and years exploring sexuality in a conscious and curious way.  i have studied and experienced  a multitude of different perspectives on the physical, cultural, political and spirituality of sex.   in conjunction with this i have explored the nature of consciousness and am pretty self aware.  this is over a decade of conscious study and examining and breaking through prejudices, misconceptions and figuring out exactly what i want and how i want it.  how can my previously mentioned friend be expected to instantly understand and support me?  it took me  more than10 years to get here afterall...  what is more, i have carried misconceptions about sexwork myself for some of that time.  even though i was up close to it, it took actually doing it to realise what it is really like for me...  how it really affects me on all levels...

so it is understandable  (and frustrating as hell!) that well meaning folk will misunderstand and alienate me over this chosen path.  this leaves me kinda lonely.  this means that if i want intimate friendships and relationships i have to spend a great deal of time and energy educating them, slowly and patiently again and again just so i can be accepted and understood.   exhausting!

so, its time to collect the most common misconceptions about sex work and write a comprehensive FAQ.  Something I can point at when folk get all horrified at my chosen path... here, read that.   if i do a good job i can publish it somewhere and help other sexworkers have something to point at too. 

wanna help?  leave a  comment here about the misunderstandings you have experienced or concerns you feel.  also links, points or perspectives that are sex work positive would be much appreciated.  the less reinventing of the wheel i have to do the better...

i also want you to feel free to email me privately with your concerns about sexwork at ladyavika at gmail dot com.  its only by really and honestly engaging with this topic that i can actually work out what the real concerns are... where they have merit... and where they are misunderstood.  it is an emotive topic so i request that you be respectful in your correspondance to me.  any personal attacks will not be responded to. 



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Disclaimer: I do not believe any of this! This is just stuff I've seen repeatedly. In no particular order:

1) Sex work hurts women/hurts feminism/supports the patriarchy/kyriarchy. This is a bad one, because addressing it honestly requires looking at the fact that sex workers ARE often abused, and that the attitude necessary for someone to commit that kind of abuse is one that is undeniably fostered in privilege. Yet it IS NOT true. Each woman decides for herself what is empowering. Not harming anyone is not enough, though, IMO. If one is involved with a problematic system, one has to work for positive change. Help thy sister!

2) Sex work and drug abuse are explicitly linked in people's minds.

3) Sex workers are not independent workers; they are under the control of someone else, often assumed to be a toxic person.

4) Though I think defining yourself in positives is important, you might briefly address what you are not, things that are not part of your work. The boundary between work and private life blurs when your work IS something that is normally private. Setting out boundaries is going to be vital.

5) I am sure you will touch on the sacred aspects of it. You can't change the mind of a hateful bigot who uses his/her religion like a club, but you can show others that you acknowledge that others think it's a sin or displeasing to their god or whatever, and that you not only disagree, you sort of feel the opposite.

6) An area of concern I see expressed sympathetically is concern that the person will burn themselves out, will wreck their relationships or overwork themselves until what should be meaningful and sacred becomes rote and stale and rotten. I think this applies to any job! But I have seen this as an especial concern woman to woman.

7) Safety concerns. This is a big one. People are curious because they don't know how it actually works. How do you stay safe? Mostly, people wonder about STIs/STDs, but I have seen concern about creepy behavior from clients and so on as well.

8) Sex work is done in a cheap hotel or other sleazy place with an atmosphere of despair. Seriously, people assume this. They need to have that picture replaced with something more positive.

I hope any of that was helpful. I wish you well on this project. I think it's quite important to do these things.

I think that everything there is a good start. My one suggestion is be aware that a lot of the some times described "sacred prostitution" is more wishfull thinking than fact. I am in no way saying that there isn't or can't be a sacred aspect to it, no for me to say, but check your sources if something is claimed as historical.

I think that if you can add some gender balance to it as well as there is huge gender imbalance in the perceptions. While this may be largely true it would be good to address both genders.

what do you mean about gender balance wuff? do you mean male prostitutes? male perceptions of sex workers?

There is a very strong perception, I belive at least partially founded, that a) Men are always the customers b) pro's are always women c) because of this a particular power imbalance is inevitable.

There is also as you say little discussion of male prostitutes, any specific they face. The fact there are female customers for pro's of both genders... etc.

Is that your current email address?

ladyavika at gmail dot com

This is amazing. Keep up the good work and if there is anything I can do to help, please dont hesitate to let me know!

I'm seeing a series of photos in the near future based on debunking the common myths around sex work... :P

ooh that's a great idea! :)

Some perceptions that I think could do to be examined.

1. Paid sex is demeaning to those who participate in it, both customer and service provider?

2. Sex work/ers is(are) immoral and/or damaging to society?

3. Sex work is the easiest way for a woman to make lots of money?

Thats all I can think of at the moment that haven't already been asked.

I don't believe the first two, but I know people who do.

I have no way of determining the ease or otherwise of sex work for myself, but then neither do most of the people I know that hold this belief.

Um, goodness, it's hard for me to think of the things that used to concern me but let me try. Just as a note, these are things that USED to concern my very feminist self and don't anymore or at least not in such a straightforward way - I might still think about them.

- Sex work commodifies female sexuality and bodies (which I guess is true, but I think it's more complicated than that and doesn't have to be harmful).

- This commodification promotes the idea that the only value in women is their bodies.

- Women only do sex work because they don't have enough better options, unlike men for whom the world is an oyster. So it's uneven and not really a "choice" for women when there are so few options.

- It could be ultimately damaging to a woman's self esteem if she had to worry about her looks all the time and how would she feel about getting old?

- If a women spends all her time pleasing men, doesn't that add to the male sense of entitlement and wouldn't that stop the women from learning how to please herself?

I can argue a lot of these things myself and it makes me feel weird even to type them as they're really not what I think anymore but I hope they help!

BTW how would you feel if I added your journal to my blog's "blogroll"?

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