Or: In which Miss Pearl opines on what she knows not.
Disclaimer: I am not a sex worker. I do not speak for sex workers. I really hope this is not patronizing and this is me trying to think about what I’m bombarded with. Tell me why I am wrong in the comments if you would like.
Professional female dominants are such an integral part of BDSM communities it’s functionally impossible to imagine the scene without them, but they are also one of the groups people get pissed off at most. Amateurs hate the fact that it turns sex into a job (especially non-pro femdom, where there is a decided difference between beating men because it makes you horny and beating men because you get paid, so the fact that news outlets generally are obligated to quote one pro per article on kink-in-real-life really colours things) or encourages judgment on performance standards. Male subs complain about getting spammed with business solicitations, or hand wring about the vulnerable and the naive being preyed on by wicked fraudsters. All these things suck.
But, in their defence, prodoms generally own the dungeons we play in, they make a reasonable deal of the porn we enjoy, and they tend to end up as sex educators and active contributing community members.
There’s more reasons…
They are also, by dint of their professional lives, liable to be more amenable into being made the spokespeople of kink. Since their faces and bodies are usually part of their marketing, turning their lost anonymity into a strength means they can speak where other people worry about job loss. From a feminist perspective, it’s often a women-in-control-of-their-lives industry, I think more so than porn.
My biggest issue with the pro/non-pro thing is one that really gets across the dilemma of sex work and other heavily stigmatized groups- I’m mostly pissed off by the fact that I get treated like a sex worker, but on the balance that’s not dealing with the fact that sex workers getting treated like sex workers is a serious problem in and of itself. Pushing sex workers out of the community is contributing to marginalizing them and not dealing with the actual problem, which is that some would be clients are assholes. so on the one hand, environments that heavily objectify women have the risk vector of dehumanizing me- on the other hand, leaving sex works to wrangle creeps seems pretty unfair.
Which leads to the Swedish solution of trying to ban paying but not asking for payment. I’m not really sure this helps either, but humans just don’t handle sex work well much in the way that we can’t handle sex well. About 99% of these problems would go away if we could eliminate the worst parts of sexism and banning sex work feels like telling adults that some people are too evil and stupid to handle it so nobody get to do it.
And women, by and large, get stuck with much of the social and body work that goes on, from cleaning up bodily fluids and tending to people’s physical heath, to ripping out body hairs from people’s genitals and massaging them. And many of these jobs are really crappy, can involve trafficking and exploitation. sexwork is just part of the continuum of demanding jobs. I think it is icky, but then again, so is call centre work. Besides, part of what makes sex trafficking possible is how nasty we are to sex workers- they don’t get the protection to be helped if they get in trouble, and because it gets treated the way it does, it becomes perfect bait for organized crime to dig in.
I’m not sure what can be done about the unequal commoditization of sex by gender, and that unabashedly sucks. It is very bizarre to see something so darn lopsided, and it’s a horrible feeling to be treated like something, that in the right context, has a price sticker. But I think empowering sex workers to protect themselves is a heck of a lot more likely to help them and me than forcing them underground.
And here’s where I bring up my only real quibble. Part of following a lot of prodoms on twitter is following along with their active attempts not to be arrested, raped or murdered- or shamed and punished.
But there’s one way the topic is approached I could do without. Specifically, can we knock the “wife” argument off please? I mean the one where you say “I might trade sexual services for money, but I’m just like a wife!” Wives, historically, have had very little say about the provision of sexual services. They were in effect, sex workers for a singe client as part of their wifely expectations. However with that came legitimized marital rape, where it was considered literally impossible to rape your spouse because they were obligated to to fuck you. There has been a great deal of effort to utterly obliterate wifely sexual expectations such that no fault divorce is favoured because it’s nobody’s god damn business who fucks what.
Further more the lopsided support of women as a wives comes with some pretty monstrous baggage as far as the inequality of the sexes- this is not a comparison you want to make. Massage therapist, yes. Bartender, yes. Hair dresser, yes. But wife? No. Emphasizing the sexual obligations that were forced on wives in the past emphasizes things like the absence of opportunity. Since the pro side of sex work is that you are all competent adults able to make your own choices, and since the sex-for-money side of marriage is seen as a blight… It’s not a good combination to pick.
Besides, it normalizes inequality. Like, in my (failed) marriage, I was a contributing member of the household. If I try that sort of union again there’s a chance that I’ll be on roughly equal financial footing was my spouse- and if not, it won’t be by choice (because of systemic underpaying) or it’ll be because we are mutually making babies and again, there’s societal pressure to make women primary caretakers of children.
I would say one of the most common arguments against sex work is powered by the same sort of fear that powers homophobia. The “Degrades women!” one. You’ve probably heard the line that the fear of gay men is the belief that they’ll treat male homophobes the way they these men treat women. Fear of sex workers is often the misguided belief that their presence is what causes people to treat you like sex worker- essentially failing to stand in solidarity in the hopes of not making yourself a target.
I suppose, to tie this together with a coherent point- I don’t want anyone trying to hire me as a sex worker, but that doesn’t make me better than them, or more mentally healthy or more able to make freedom of choice. And if like me, you might quibble with clients, or the stupid ass marketing copy that gets mistaken for real femdom, it’s not their fault it’s a thing and you probably hang out in their dungeon, so you can at least be nice.