Sex Worker Voices
'Nothing About Us, Without Us'
Bubbles is a 26 year old sex worker, currently working behind a window in Belgium. She has also worked as a street sex worker and as a camgirl. She lives in the Netherlands, and works there as an activist for sexworkers at PROUD (www.wijzijnproud.nl). You can follow her at @sekswerker
A common question I get is whether traumatized or vulnerable sexworkers should be protected for taking the risk of being retraumatized (by restricting or refusing their legal working places). I don’t mean victims of human trafficking, but the traumatized or the so called vulnerable ones who choose this job by their own choice.
Many people I spoke with about my job said I’m vulnerable, because I’m traumatized and started way too early with having sexual contact with adult men. I definitely don’t deny that I started too early with that and I know that I have some traumas, including sexual ones as well.
My job isn’t always easy when having sexual traumas. There are some clients who tend to be abusive or aren’t seeing you always as an equal human being. Unfortunately screening my clients behind the glass of my window is not my best skill. To keep things short: I had some clients I rather didn’t had. In a few cases I ended up on my bed with tears, feeling disgusted and bad memories flashing up in my mind. These moments are not fun and I usually don’t share them with my coworkers. Fortunately these moments usually doesn’t last long.
So should I look for a different job, simply because I have some clients who trigger me? I don’t think so. There are many people with some amount of traumas and also people who get triggered on their work once in a while. I think people need to decide for themselves what it’s best for them in their circumstances. As I wrote earlier, my job not only provides me money, but it also provides me with self-esteem, self-appreciation and satisfaction. For me, the pros outweighs the cons.
When you work here in Belgium behind a window or in Holland, sooner or later some health professionals will visit you to talk with you. Of course you’re allowed to refuse this, but it can be a good thing as well. If you’re new in a country, you may not be aware of the facilities for sexworkers. This way you’ll have the opportunity to learn about this. So far, so good.
In Amsterdam I’ve got in touch with such a health organization which aims at sexworkers. Besides the STI checks I decided to get frequent chats with a social worker. After all, my job isn’t always fun and great to me. The social worker was helpful to me in a practical way. For instance, she helped to decide whether my current way of working as a sexworker was best for me or not. We also talked about other forms of sexwork and which one would work best for me. Some other time she also shared some options for support when I would want to stop working as a sexworker. In that point of view her help was useful.
However, there was also a different side on this. She was a social worker and as most health professionals, she was kind but also quite distant. I didn’t shared with her my issues that were emotionally troubling at that time. I think most health professionals do their work with best intentions, but I can genuinely say that most of the health professionals I had were not healthy to me. I’ll write about my issues and views of health professionals more in the future, to explain this further.
So yes, I had many health professionals. I also received many therapy in the past, both as inpatient and outpatient. So it’s not like I didn’t tried to resolve my traumas in a way which is considered the healthy and ‘as-it-should-be way’. As a matter of fact in my work it seems to be that I am slowly recovering my past. I can remember more traumatic memories ever without being too much triggered. Besides that, it also get a lot more out of this work than just only money. So in my opinion, I don’t need ‘protection’ and I’m able to make that decision for myself.