I must be terribly deceived by sexworkers I have been with.
If you believe a so called professional researcher all sexworkers are suppose to hate their jobs and men.
A Feminist View That All Sexworkers are Abused and Sick
Researcher Dr. Melissa Farley of the Prostitution Research & Education Network
Tracy Quan, prostitute's rights activist and author of "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" (Crown, 2001)
on KERA-90.1FM in Dallas February 6, 2002
I posted some of Feminist Melissa Farley's comments on both some public and private discussion boards. It generated a great deal of interesting discussion so I decided to make an article of it. One person said, "This has to be the most interesting thread I've read in ages." Another, "If you read the papers you will see there is probably more sexual abuse within the Catholic Church then there is within the sex trade." So here is more full article including lots of discussion comments it received.
On a Canadian board this article is generating a great deal of provider discussion and some very honest feelings shared about how Farley isn't totally wrong just her over generalization. Many providers report feeling being used and abused by men, having to disassociate from their work, and the "dark hole" they fall into if they don't have strong support networks. Those that deal with the emotional issues the most successfully don't see men as just after their bodies for sex but that they are in need of caring, supportive intimacy and the emotion needs gained by customers, beyond just sex acts. This of course is my main interest and I am encouraging some of the more outspoken providers that have been on both the dark and bright side of sexwork to write up their experiences in an article that could help and support others in this serious issue for many sexworkers. Even those that are not street hookers,
I don't have a transcript of the show but it followed Melissa Farley's ideas, mostly from her website which was also her attitude toward sexworkers on the NPR radio show. Source: http://www.mergemag.org/1998/farley.html and http://www.prostitutionresearch.com
Melissa Farley says:
I never use the word "sex work" because those words imply that it is legitimate work...
You're going to see a range of attitudes on how to help women get out of prostitution, but I don't want to spend any energy supporting an industry that essentially destroys women-emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
There are many, many lies about prostitution that are being pumped out by the mainstream media. One that women like it. Two, that they get rich in prostitution. Women in any type of prostitution, when they get out, have nothing. There's a huge amount of money that passes through their hands, but they do not keep it. There is no woman I've ever known who was in prostitution, who walked out and bought a house-it doesn't happen. Pimps get 90%... Another lie that he media and COYOTE put out there, that prostitution is a fun activity that women in college can do once a week to pay for their tuition.
One of the lies I hear is that men go to strip clubs to 'admire' women-and I always say, "no men go to strip clubs to get back at women." And I think that is the same reason men go to prostitutes.
First of all, in order to continue in prostitution, you either have to be psychologically or chemically dissociated. You cannot do 15 blow jobs a night, or get fucked by 10 men and stay in your body- the human mind protects us from experiences like that. And if your can't dissociate, then you've got to have drugs. One woman told me her experience recently---she is still very dissociated even many years out of prostituting-but when she was in stripping, she described herself as very mentally disturbed and dissociated and she said she couldn't even hear what the men were saying to her, she tuned out so much.
Dave comments: Tracy Quan did a good job deflecting off some of the sexworker issues. While Melissa Farley is probably right about some kinds of sexwork, she obviously is only seeking the most messed up hookers to support her conclusions of how terrible all sex work is. But she is getting airtime on public radio and in other media. She is convincing to the average public about the only type of sexwork the public thinks of - the drugged out street hooker. Yet there are a large number of professional sexworkers who are only seeing a few clients a day, and have a very mature view about the positive aspects of sexwork.
Tracy Quan said on a private list after the show (used with her permission):
Thank you to everyone who posted before and after the NPR show with me and M Farley.
I have been amazed at the response Melissa Farley's name gets on this list! Anyway, after doing that thing with Farley, I went and got a shiatsu massage -- 1.5 hours, it was great! I feel detoxified. I also received various emails from listeners who were irate about Farley.
I think her work is heavily informed by a particular religion -- her extreme form of feminism -- and that all her work is in the cause of advancing her religion. The fact that her studies get published in journals with "feminism" in the title is already suspect. Nothing wrong with religion or feminism per se but I think Farley is someone who has nothing to offer the larger world -- her main contributions aren't to society but to her particular religious club. I know, she thinks she is doing something for the world at large but it seems to me she is reaching a very extreme community.
I also think that there are female prostitutes who hate/dislike/resent men *before* they get started in sex work. Farley might be tapping into the stories of those women. If you mistrust and dislike men, there is no telling what kind of lunacy you will attract when you consort with the male sex.
The good news is that she openly speaks of hating pimps and johns. She doesn't sugar coat the hate-component of her message at all. She says she doesn't hate men, just pimps and johns. Well, a vast number of the world's men are johns. And what kind of research can you be doing if you are so fueled by hatred?
Some brief comments of others:
And let's remember that the most common way of falsifying results in "research" is simply to ignore data which doesn't fit your preconceptions.
Dave in Phoenix said:
Farley is convincing I fear to the average person that as she proclaims that all prostitution is men abusing women, they are being raped, suffering huge emotional and Psy problems and prostitution is a violation of the human rights of women.
Mark K replies:
The reason she would seem convincing, I feel moved to point out, is because the vast majority of people in modern (American) society (and probably several other places in the world) have been brought up to believe that sex is evil and dirty and if they DO enjoy it, they shouldn't, and that certainly, people who do it for a living SHOULD be abused and raped and suffer huge emotional problems -- but not TOO much, because, after all, we ARE good judeo-christians.
For the purpose of discussion I posted a note on a couple sexworker discussion boards about Farley's attitude.
Comments from a Canadian sexworker who has been on the streets but now owns one of the more popular adult massage parlors in Toronto:
.. most women don't realize the psy problems until later. They are numb to it during. As for 'prostitution being a violation of the human rights of women'.. prostitution, most of the time, is their own choice with the exception of those who are forced into it. Prostitution to me, comes in many different avenues. Women who marry old rich men are prostitutes. Women who sleep with men to 'get to the top' are prostitutes. Prostitution to me, is using your body to gain. Men do it all the same. It's the regrets, justification and society I believe that make it hard.
(Farley treats us) .... as though women are children and we are all too stupid to make our own decissions?
Regarding comment of Farley that men go to prostitutes to get back at women: Bullshit. As they say in behavorial science, 'prostitutes make easy targets for criminals. Society doesn't care or notice if a prostitute goes missing.'
Regarding prostitutes having to disassociate to survive: .. that is true. I was a pro at dissociation. No drugs. It wasn't until I was older that I accepted what I did, enjoyed it, and didn't have to dissociate at all. I think it was because I was in a different environment and I had less clients per day.
Lyla, a well known Ottawa Massage Sexworkers says;
This reminds me of Andrea Dworkin -- some "feminists" think that they somehow have the right to speak for all women in the sex industry and to climb on our backs to achieve some measure of respect in their own industry.
But the truth is, it's bullshit. Can they find sex workers to validate their theories? Sure! It's not terribly difficult to find someone eager to blame their misfortune on someone else.
The truth of the matter is that sex work does not in any way, shape or form resemble that described by these "career feminists." They're ambitious women who aren't above using other women's backs to climb upon.
It just pisses me off when they get government grants.
Another Canadian says is part:
I love the work I do!
I meet interesting people from all walks of life and in many circumstances. Sure sometimes an asshole comes in to my life but this happens far less while working, then it does in my personal life. I go to work when I am needed at work, I work whole heartedly... and I give it my all. When I get up in the morning I have a choice as to staying home or working... I don't think there are many other jobs where this is possible. I like what I do and enjoy doing this. It feeds and satisfies certain needs and desires which I can not seem to cover else where. I have managed to combine two of my greatest passions in life and make it my job.
I know it is not a 9-5 job... I have had those and enjoy them. I also know that a 9-5 job can not and will not work arround my timetable... This will as I set my own hours. I think it is a shame when I find people who don't enjoy it and still work in the industry
A "john" says:
I've always been conflicted about my hobbying. I don't want to knowingly exploit someone who is working out of sheer desperation or outside duress.
I've become pretty selective as a result - focussing on upscale MP's and independent escorts.
Generalizations, as a rule, aren't worth the time it takes to make them. The theory spouted above (thanks for posting it, Dave) is garbage because it presumes to speak for all "sex workers" and casts the entire industry in an us vs. them light.
I have no doubt that many women in the industry suffer from various psychological problems (ranging from the mild to the severe), but so do many of their clients! I probably carry as much baggage as many of the women that I see - why am I the monster and they the victims?
The real problem, as it has been for a long time, is not the act itself but the social stigma that surrounds it. As others have noted, many people use or sell their bodies in ways that are not considered "prostitution". Why are those activities okay, but others not?
Is there really a significant difference between a fashion model, a mainstream actress who appears naked in a popular movie, and a stripper?
Why is it okay for a man to be "exploited" for his physical strength or willingness to put his body at risk in any number of dangerous or physically harmful jobs, but not for a woman to use her body in a natural way?
How are things fundamentally different between this "hobby" and casual sex between drunken, desperate strangers in a bar, each of whom carries their own agenda into things?
The sad thing is that, by taking such extreme views, women like the above-quoted miss the opportunity to improve the lives of those who choose to work in this industry, as well as the better approach to helping those who need to get out.
I think that many many girls enjoy it. Enjoy the affection.. being wanted.. being so desired that men are willing to pay to spend time with them.. the touch and appreciation of the opposite sex.
At the same time, I believe that the biz haunts them to a degree.. otherwise.. they don't realize what it is doing to them psychologically.. until it catches up with them.. and when it does.. it comes in the disguise of lonliness; I call this phase the 'dark hole'. When I was in it.. every 6-8 months I would break down and cry.. not sure why.. feeling used.. feeling unwanted.. frustrated that men only wanted me for my body.. it gets to you.. and you don't realize it until it is there.. and then it hits hard
Dave in Phoenix Replies:
I am sure we all appreciate xxxxx's openness about her feelings.
I would assume the "dark hole" is especially likely if you do not have a caring supportive "real" boyfriend, husband that loves you and you feel secure in that vs the business where your body and emotions are always being used commercially to benefit others.
In my own situation, I have found it almost impossible in our culture to find open minded women I am attracted to for any "real" relationship due to my very open views. I gave up the dating game years ago out of frustration when I ask women what is the most important thing to them in a relationship. The usual answer is something like "someone who values monogamy as much as I do." With my commitment to open relationships, more so via http://www.libchrist.com more than http://www.sexwork.com it is clear I am not likely to find a "real" relationship at least in normal uptight society.
I would think it would be even harder for a sexworker to find a real relationship with a man who accepts her chosen profession without trying to rescue her from it. Our cultures (U.S. and Canadian) are very un accepting overall both of responsible non-monogamous relationships and even more sexwork sadly.
Maybe things have been different for you, but this society view may be more the reason for the dark hole than the profession itself.
A man replies
I do agree with you Dave, it is the pressure that society and law do on people in the sex trade, that do the more damage, and this image and the virtue that this society is trying to show to the world, come from a deep back ground of religious belief, and I think that here in Canada, we have suffer from being so close of the US.
There is no continent more prude that we are here in North America, and politician close there eyes on what do happen into are backyard, but will critic what do happen into are neighbor backyard, in fact most of the people don’t give a damn shit of what could happen between a SP and is client, and they don’t give a shit if there is some bordellos existing in there country.
A Phoenix sexworker says:
Dave as always I appreciate you bringing information and misinformation to the frontline for us to ponder. I think there are many different types of feminisim, and this particular "researcher" has a almost zealot like approach.
Like many others they only want to see the bottom of the barrel, drugged out,mentally challenged sexworker, thus making them their own personal poster child for the save the prostitute campaign. It is a choice to be a sexworker, like it is a choice to be a hobbiest.
We all take our own baggage with us to work, but its how we deal with our choices that makes or breaks us. Unfortunatly the researchers only want to deal with those who chose to anestetise themselves with drugs or alcohol to deal with their job.
There are many healthy fully functioning sexworkers out there that love their work and their clients. Not feeling used or abused, but feeling like they provide a viable outlet for men who want other intimacy options in their life.
By grouping all sexworkers into the abused catagory is like saying all welfare mothers are lazy and just bleed the system. I don't think we will see sexwork viewed in any other light in our lifetime here in the states. All we can do is try to show our solidarity by not visiting those that choose drugs and alcohol to fuel their need for the so called "easy money" of sex work. But there will always be those that prey on the weak and seek out the "cheapest" and "unsafe" services of those types of providers.
Trying to change hundreds of years of repressed psudo-sexual, social morals is not going to be an easy task, even for those of us who up hold the sexworker banner, as an honest and viable profession.
In response to my comment that it seems the "black hole" is more common than I realized even with non street sexworkers she further replied:
I agree with you Dave. The empty/lonely feeling is a valid point. Since most experience these feelings. A strong support sytem is the key, but often hard to find. But I also think that you can liken it to any person who is a work-a-holic. You dedicate a large chunk of your life to your profession, you may love your job but at times it leaves you feeling overworked and under appreciated. Its a normal thing and can be worked through with the love and support of other sexworkers, family and friends. It could be easier if people were less reluctant to reveal their profession and take pride in themselves and what they do, but as we are all well aware of coming clean per say carries a large social stigma that is not only negative but degrading. Its americas dirty little secret, and no one wants to bring it out of the closet into the light to really understand it. If there were no demand for it, there would be no supply. I would love to see a nationwide support sytem like the san fransico based CYOTE (spelling?). But the risks are great for those that try and overturn the stiffling judeo-christian moralists who write our laws. Are their any other ladies out there that feel the same ? Or would welcome a unionization of sexworkers so to speak ??
Acting & Behaving like a "Victim"
It is my belief that I am a feminist....I do belive also that is a women's right to be able make choices regarding her body, if I am not mistaking that is want feminist were about at one point........Insteqad of blaming men and actinng like a victim
It is a choice that many women make. The difference is "why" they choose to act in this manner. Popular theories have always linked sexual freedom to sexual abuse. These theories conclude that women working in the "sex industry" were sexually abused as children.
IMHO, women are more victimized by religious beliefs and other superstitions that have taught us that sexual activity is aberrant, sick, perverted ...... These beliefs are the foundations of current laws by which we govern our society and control social behavior in general. Additionally, these beliefs have always held women responsible for this perversion we call sex.
Women have grown to see themselves as victims. Too often, women not only accept this role, but rationalize its existence. The feminist movement was about more that burning bras and not shaving. It was about "empowering" women and teaching them they are not victims.
Keep the faith, - maybe someday humans will truly be enlightened.
FOR MUCH LONGER discussion including some very honest posts from a number of current and ex sexworkers see the thread at:http://www.ermail.org/reviews/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2662 I started this thread but especially see some of the later discussion by Kayla, syndy and many others with much wisdom that is shared
Dave notes: Ignore the many misspellings and grammar in these copied and pasted quotes from public discussion boards, where we tend to type fast and not always use spell checkers and proper grammar!