“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:
- Home Wreckers
- No other choice
- Latinas in Trinidad are all here as sex workers
- They congregate on Murray Street and Curepe
- Police harass the cross dressing CSWs (Commercial Sex Workers) and not the “real” women
- Female only (heterosexual)
- They are all human beings
- Have a story
- Sex workers mash up families
- Oldest Profession
- Have STIs
- They give me what they don’t get home
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?