This column was supposed to go next week, but in the midst of the Boobs on Bikes debate, I realised that I was in danger of blowing all my powder in the comments section, so instead I’m going to jump my own gun. It's been put together in a hurry, so please excuse the lack of rhetorical flourish.
I’d like to introduce you to the Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy. I know there are a lot of feminist carnivals out there, and I've seen the same material featured in this one and the Down Under Feminist Carnival, but this is the one which most often speaks to me. That doesn't mean it's 'better' than the others. I'm not trying to privilege this voice above others, I'm just trying to add another piece to the picture.
Over the last couple of months, starting there and spreading out the way the internet and cancers do, I've become more and more fascinated by the voices of sex workers on the web. They're not difficult to find. They're also all different. I don't know why this should be surprising, except perhaps that people in sex work are so often referred to in monolithic terms. They're all women, they're all victims, they're all subject to some degree of coercion, they're all lacking real choices.
Except they're not. Some of them are Renegade Evolution (mildly NSFW). There’s no way in hell I'd have the ovarian fortitude to tell this woman she lacks agency. She's a one-time prostitute, current porn actor and out-call stripper, possessor of degrees in History and Theatre, columnist at Village Voice, and currently guest-blogging at Feministe. On top of that, she works with the Sex Workers’ Outreach Program, so it’s not just her own experience she brings to the blog.
I’ll also point eyes at Wil Rockwell, a male sex worker, because I think it pays to remember those exist. And for a range of views, Bound Not Gagged, a collective blog for sex workers. From there you can access a plethora of links. (I counted them, and that is exactly one plethora.)
For dirty filthy pornographers, you can’t go past Ms Naughty (NSFW!) – Candida Royale doesn’t have a blog. The Ms is good for news in the porn sphere on censorship, as well as the travails of women making porn for women in a heavily male-dominated industry. And also Olympic perving…
I’m aware that the voices of those at the very bottom of the heap are still missing. The closest I can get is the University of Otago’s report on The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers, which includes first-person quotes from their interviews with sex workers.
I share the same problem Wendy McElroy had when she wrote her book, XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography.
With all the voices shouting about pornography-pro and con-the ones least heeded are those of women who work in the industry. Usually, when you want to know about something, you ask people who have first-hand experience of it. With pornography, however, most of the theories come from people who are "outsiders," with no direct knowledge of the industry.
I am open to this charge, as well.
I don’t want to join the ranks of middle-class women sitting comfortably at their keyboards offering their opinions on sex work. Fortunately, with voices like those so accessible, I don’t have to. I can still my mouth and my fingers and simply listen to what they have to say.
I’ll leave the last word to Ren:
Now, what does get to me is the stereotyping, which comes from all sides, male and female, and on all fronts. I’ve discussed this before; the default ipso-facto image that the world as a whole uses as “Sex Worker”; the victim of childhood abuse, the junkie, the drop out, the person with no other choice, no other talents, no hope, and no where to go. And while the shoe fits for some…most street prostitutes, many dancers, some porn women (and men), it is not accurate for all. And that does bother me. It bothers me a great deal.