In the waning days of the last millennium, I worked as a stripper to pay for university. It requires no courage to admit this now, but had I written it a few years ago, when I taught high school, I would have been fired on the spot. My continued presence in the classroom would've set a bad example for the innocent teenagers in my charge, because we can't let "The Children" think sex-industry workers could ever be decent people or anything.
So, if any strippers or (God forbid) prostitutes are reading this, and thinking, "Someday, when I finish university, pay off my debts, or the economy improves, I'd like to quit this job and do something else," here's two words of advice: don't bother. At least, don't bother if your sordid past is public knowledge, because the public for the most part believes two things: first, sex and sexuality are inherently degrading if you make money off either one; and second, the sex work you do or did defines you as a person, and will for the rest of your life.
The rest of this piece is online at the Guardian's America blog
, along with the story of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's heroic campaign to fire an elementary school art teacher after learning she'd spent four months as a prostitute four years ago, and what Bloomberg's piety shares in common with the racists of my Virginia youth.