Monday, October 11, 2010

The Scarlet Letter Of Sex Work

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.


Blogger rhhardin said...

Respectability for a woman comes from how good a deal she makes for herself.

It's taken that stripping or prostitution isn't making a good deal for herself unless it's really a lot of money, in which case it's okay.

It's not so much piety as social role convention.

11:43 AM  

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