FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Memo to Sex Workers

by JILL NAGLE

You can write the story without the names. Prominent White Male gets caught with Extramarital Female-bonus points if she’s profiting from the transaction. Prominent White Male steps down in disgrace, muttering and apologizing all the while. Extramarital Female rides the wave of publicity to launch or accelerate a career in modeling (Donna Rice), broadcast journalism (Paula Zahn) or perhaps even fashion accessories. (Monica Lewinsky’s handbags did look so cute with silk stockings).

Public’s reaction to the ‘scandal’: Shock. Sure, in part because that’s all we know. But also in part because what we know comes from the media, who reproduce shock as the only option. And sex workers, who help keep those same newspapers afloat, silently comply.

One need only peruse the back pages of weekly tabloids to get a sense of the enormous amount of ad revenue from sex work that floats these papers. Even major papers run thinly veiled prostitute ads under ‘massage.’ The same papers that run stories reproducing the shock at this unthinkable revelation get hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising revenue from.sex workers. Who do they think those working girls’ clients are? Someone isn’t doing their math.

The indoor (as opposed to street) sex workers who advertise in newspapers quietly and unobtrusively service singles, husbands, boyfriends-and even wives and girlfriends-from all walks of life, all over these United States of America. Those sex workers pay rent to landlords. Many pay taxes on their income. They enable strained marriages to stay afloat, help relieve the stress of many a harried executive, and provide options for anyone having a hard time getting laid for whatever reason, to have consensual sex without much risk of rejection and without bugging the uninterested. Sex workers are an integral part of the media economy, and as reviled and ‘shocked’ as some people are to think of it, provide what most of their clients consider to be an extremely valuable service.

Though it pains me to do so, I will stop to preempt conflation of sex workers who choose the profession with those who are forced into it, leaving aside for the moment the tremendous philosophical complexities involved in the notion of choice in any realm. Now really think about this one: Just as we don’t talk about sweat shop workers in the same breath as clothing designers with their own boutiques, so am I not conflating economically oppressed, drug addicted or underage sex workers (or anyone who needs help to get out of the business because it is damaging them) with educated adults who make rational choices to trade sex for money. The subject in this moment is the grown men, women and transgender sexual service providers whose profession of choice forms an integral part of our social fabric and our economy.

I want to enjoin any sex worker who currently advertises in a newspaper or website that’s covering the Spitzer story to use their economic power to demand that the media provide a more balanced account of sex worker’s lives, their work, and their clients. Has anyone, even one reporter at one paper, thought to ask Governer Spitzer WHY he resigned instead of assuming it would be obvious to everyone? Would any other profession tolerate these assumptions being promulgated in the very media they support with thousands and thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money?

Think sex workers don’t organize? Think again. In 1997, the Lusty Lady in San Francisco’s North Beach became the first-ever group of strippers to unionize, achieving many benefits workers in other professions consider basic, like sick days, and protection from arbitrary discipline and firing. Other clubs have since followed suit. The infamous Mitchell Brothers theater, a high-end strip club, in 1998 paid out over 1.65 million dollars in back wages to dancers based on a 1991 suit brought by a group of former dancers claiming they were employees, not independent contractors.

Now it’s middle-class sex workers’ turn. Ask your ad representative when the newspaper plans to run some more balanced coverage of the profession whose dollars they’re only too happy to take. And if they can’t answer, tell them to talk to the editorial department and get back to you when they have something positive to say-then maybe you’ll consider forking over your hard-earned cash.

JILL NAGLE is a blogger, freelance writer, and editor of Whores and Other Feminists (Routledge, 1997), an anthology of writings by feminists in the sex industry, and associate editor with Kerwin Kay of Male Lust: Pleasure, Power and Transformation (Haworth, 2001). She can be reached through her blog: www.jillnagle.com

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail