A couple of days ago, Furry Girl (of Feminisnt) launched her new website, swaay.org, which stands for "Sex Work Activists, Alllies, and You". It's bit of a mouthful, but I like the acronym. I'd buy a T-shirt if I had the money. Anyway. it is essentially an American project, but I think a lot of the information transfers to any Western culture and perhaps could be applied to the UK. I support it - of course I do. I've known a few sex workers in my time and they've all been very nice people, and I've also known people who apply the stigma - my sister, for example, who is against sex work in all shapes and forms.
Or so she says.
SWAAY's tagline is "advocating for understanding, respect, and change by connecting the public with the people and facts behind sex work". Again, a bit of a mouthful, but admirable. And I'll advocate that too. I'd like to consider myself a bit of an ally to the sex industry - I even filled in the opinion form Furry Girl put out including my views (including a Christian standpoint; something I don't think a lot of people would have). It's a good cause, and all.
But I don't think it's going to work. Of course, it's worth trying. And damn well trying hard. SWAAY is not a new thing, but it's a good example of an attempt to bring the industry into the public eye a little more, and sort out the woefully ignorant idea that all sex workers are prostitutes, all prostitutes are trafficked, and therefore all sex workers are trafficked. That sort of ignorance. And yes, I'll support it. But sex work is a sticky issue. It really is. It shouldn't be, but it is and it always will be.
That's one of the things about sex work. It's often called the "oldest profession", and yet it's still seen as disreputable. Or at least it is now. The Ancients kept records of it and even had it in their mythology. Jesus befriended Mary Magdalene, believed to be a prostitute. But now it suffers from the degredation of public opinion... which is a shame. When you consider that people who strip, operate phonesex lines, or write, direct or act in porn are sex workers of a sort, it's even more of a shame. It's one of the messages that the SlutWalk carried - sex work is real work.
But I don't think it will ever reach the level of acceptance that SWAAY advocates. It's unrealistic. By all means, shoot for it. And any step is a step towards it, of course. Anyone converted - or anyone that stops to think for a second (unlike my sister) - is a positive thing.
One of the things about sex work that I hate to admit that I like, however, is the fact that it's seen as something of ill repute. I can't help it. I just can't. Yes, I wish sex work were more well-respected and I wish more people had a greater undertanding of it. But I still quite like it. I'm neither inside or outside of the industry, and if you count soft porn, then I partake of it occasionally. What I like about the fact that it's effectively under an imposed veil is that that makes it, for want of a better word, naughty. It's like eating ice-cream between meals or sex on a Sunday afternoon. You can do it all you like, but polite society expects you not to. Which makes it more fun.
I don't mean to devalue sex work or sex workers here. Obviously there are some aspects of any job that aren't fun. There are a lot of aspects of not having a job that aren't fun, as I demonstrate very clearly here. But the aim of sex work is to provide pleasure, right? And pleasure is fun. I mean, it's customer service. That's what it is.
However, imagining it being quite as enjoyable to watch Emmanuelle: Queen of the Galaxy if my dad gave me a copy for Christmas is difficult. Never having visited an escort, I can't really imagine that, but just telling my mum that I was popping out to pay for sex is unimaginable. Hell, I don't even tell my friends I write a sex blog, and that's not even close! Yes, as much as I don't like to admit it... I like the secrecy. I do. It's thrilling, and exciting. The fear of getting caught - even caught in contact with an industry that is, to all intents and purposes, honourable and reputable - provides the main adrenalin rush (well, until the orgasm comes along, anyway). And yes, I'm sort of okay with that.
Sort of. I mean, SWAAY is doing what I consider to be the right thing here. But I don't think Joe Public's view is likely to change much. Maybe a little as time goes by and acceptance grows, but not massively. It's something to hope for, but I can't see it happening in any measurable short-term time-scale. But if the adult industry is to retain its seedy reputation (even if that is not at all deserved), I just hope the more enlightened of us stay enlightened.
Just my twopennyworth. Or, for the US citizens reading, that's about 3.3 cents. Whatever works for you... right?