We’re all sex workers, aren’t we?

“I have sex, just like you.  I just have it for money.  You don’t do that?  Really?  So how did you get that Blackberry?  That fancy car?  Or that fancy dinner I heard you talking about last night?”

This is an imaginary conversation that came out of a session that was held during a media training workshop that I attended at the Hyatt on the 30th of June.

During that workshop, we looked at the words that were used to describe sex workers.  We were asked about the preconceptions we grew up with and possibly still held about sex workers.

These are some expressions that people used:

Words people use to describe sex workers (1)

  1. Enticing
  2. Diseases
  3. Women
  4. Oppressed
  5. Criminal
  6. Whores
  7. Whores
  8. Hoes
  9. Damaged
  10. Home Wreckers
  11. Wotless
  12. Nasty
  13. Hopeless
  14. No other choice
  15. Latinas in Trinidad are all here as sex workers
  16. Diseased
  17. Nasty
  18. Nasty
  19. Needy
  20. Fun
  21. Open
  22. They congregate on Murray Street and Curepe
  23. Lazy
  24. Police harass the cross dressing CSWs (Commercial Sex Workers) and not the “real” women
  25. Female only (heterosexual)
  26. Powerful

    Words people use to describe sex workers (2)

  27. Slutty
  28. They are all human beings
  29. Have a story
  30. Sex workers mash up families
  31. Destitute
  32. Brave
  33. Dependent
  34. Sad
  35. Loose/Promiscuous
  36. Uneducated
  37. Damaged
  38. Sinners
  39. Oldest Profession
  40. Spanish
  41. Have STIs
  42. They give me what they don’t get home
  43. Abused!

But really, how true are they?  Some are just ludicrous (in my opinion at any rate).

But a point was made that, in some sense, we’re all sex workers.  We all trade sex for something, whether it’s being validated sexually, as part of being in a relationship, or in some cases, for financial gain.

It’s called transactional sex, I learned, and stories were told that had me thinking hard. One participant told of a friend of hers that tells the men who want to date her that they have to have money and she vets them before she’ll go out with them. She’s gotten cars, trips and an apartment out of the deal, so it works for her. Others said that there were schoolgirls and college students, who in an effort to keep up with the perceived status quo, have sex, usually with older men, in order to get the latest cell phone and enough money to go to the fetes every week so that they can see and be seen. So, in a sense, even though we may not walk a street corner or have a pimp or a location where we entertain customers, we all perform some type of transactional sex.

If we think about it in that way, do we have any right to look down on those who have sex to earn a living? I even learned that there are people who have day jobs and do sex work as a means of supplementing their income (because Lord knows that sometimes what we earn from an employer just can’t stretch sometimes).

That being said, let’s look at some of the perceptions that we have about sex workers, as represented by the viewpoints of the participants above.

While the majority of sex workers are female, there are also male and transgender sex workers. The advocates at the workshop said that the police will leave the women alone, but harass the cross-dressing men and the transgender workers. Another example of hypocrisy and patriarchy in action?

As I said before, they’re not all whores or hoes (and isn’t it interesting that we use the same words to describe women whose sexual history we don’t approve of in any case?)

For the most part, they’re not nasty, diseased, damaged, dependent, sad, uneducated, lazy, slutty, needy, promiscuous, home wreckers or hopeless – and some of these adjectives apply to people who don’t have sex for money, but we don’t stigmatize them do we?

I could continue going through the list, but I’ll just let you do that and see what misconceptions you might hold. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

I will tell you that we came to the conclusion that the only two concepts that did apply to all sex workers were that all sex workers are human beings and every one has their individual story, just like us.  So let’s not condemn them.  After all, we all do sex work, don’t we?


6 thoughts on “We’re all sex workers, aren’t we?

  1. A friend of mine left this comment on my FB page
    “Eh? Not too sure about the ‘we’. Does EVERYBODY you know really trade sex for favours? That’s kinda scary. Besides, I know a whole lot of people who trade it for nothing but the simple pleasure they get from it and from being in relationship with another person. (And that’s not to say that I’m pigeon-holing people who ARE sex workers, just that I have my reservations about the generalisation.)”

  2. “Besides, I know a whole lot of people who trade it for nothing but the simple pleasure they get from it and from being in relationship with another person”

    You can’t put much of a price on social validation.

  3. Paula, that’s a big presumptive jump in your article, of the inference that sex is both objective and oppressive for most of us engaging in that sad undertaking: “Were it not for gas money/rent/food, etc., there’s no damn way (eh, to the left…yeah, yeah, right there) that I would EVER subject myself to this sinful prodding of my lady parts! Again!”

    No, we’re not all sex workers. I love it too damn much to just give it up for a plate of chicken, gas money, or rent (I gotta love you or at least like you for a few minutes). Some of us engage in sex for the pleasure…and that incredible afterglow.

    I share this not to condemn any woman’s situation that, for whatever reason, has her profiting from the, eh, kitty; but, no, putting all sexual indulgence in the same category of “NO CASH, NO CARPET” is not going to uplift the status of the sex worker. Better to accept that she does what she does without condemnation, and give her due respect, still (that she is a woman is enough!). Any attempt to redress the burdens of her lot only dismisses whatever strengths she keeps in order to bear it – why would we rob her of that? And, be careful how you address her: whore today, governor tomorrow.

  4. I wish you’d use cisgender to differentiate between trans* and non-trans* instead of “sex workers are female, there are also male and transgender sex workers”. It’s misleading to state it this way because male and female are sex identifiers whilst transgender is a gender identity qualifier. You can’t compare the two because they’re two different things. Otherwise I thought it was good.

  5. LOL everyone is a prostitute, in my mind. Everyone pays for sex, whether your boyfriend pays for it by the gas driving to your house, the gifts, the time etc. Or vice-versa, the point is we all pay for it.

    But there are women who will not accept these things as payment, they want you to do things for them and we wonder why they’re so successful. We work an honest living and they’re saying if they’re going to give it up, it won’t be for free. It’s all about value, how much or how less.

    Nice article.

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