Sex Worker Voices
'Nothing About Us, Without Us'
K.J. Kingsley is a writer by Day, pro Domme by night. Sometimes, it's the other way around. In her spare time, she has discovered a knack at writing poetry. You can read her posts on sex worker's rights, advocacy, & advice, as well as kink/fetish/BDSM on her blog www.sexworkerextraoridinaire.com or read her published works at www.kjkingsley.com
Find her at Twitter @KatieJKingsley or for the more risqué @CuntressKate
In the Whoredom, a magical kingdom filled with whores of all kinds, exists a distinct and insidious social pecking order. I like to refer to it as the totem pole of hos. But there is a much more intellectual sounding term for it and it's "Whorearchy". You will not find a definition for this word in Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English Dictionary. No, you certainly won’t! Although, you may find a meaning on Urban Dictionary or other sites where people can arbitrarily add words with their meanings for our society’s burgeoning lexicon.
Yet, maybe going to these resources to find the meaning of the word is not so much of a stretch. Because the truth is, while everyone can agree that a Whorearchy does exist, no one seems to agree on what the term actually means. For the purposes of explaining the current landscape of sex work, I will go with a basic definition: Whorearchy is a hierarchy that exists against and amongst sex workers.
Against Sex Workers
To society in general, there exists a huge inconsistency when discussing sex work. What does the term actually mean? And what is considered sex work? Many will hear the term "sex worker" and instantly think of a prostitute. Within that scope, they may further make a distinction between the drug-addicted “hooker” who is “turning tricks” on the corner for twenty dollars and the high-end, very high-priced escort. Human beings tend to be very swift in their judgement of what others do and how they do it. They are hasty to make assumptions and conclusions based on broken, preconceived societal norms and very biased media reporting. This is a prime example of Whorearchy at work. The general public will shudder in disgust when they think of the woman involved in street prostitution but may be a little more tolerant when they think of the beautiful companion.
Some of these people will disregard that a professional dominatrix, webcam model, sensual masseuse, stripper, porn star or phone sex operator are also classified as sex workers. For most people, it will not even register that these jobs are also considered sex work. But why is that? Why are these sex work professionals overlooked? Why is sex worker synonymous with 'prostitute'? This seems to be fall-out from society’s vanilla moral compass that deceptively points north.
This moral compass also seems to have a direct association with how closely a sex worker is to the legal line. The more visible and vulnerable to the law a sex worker is, the more they seem to be looked down upon. While it isn’t every parent’s dream for their child to grow up to be a stripper, at least they are not breaking the law to make money, right? You can’t get a criminal record for taking your clothes off for money. You can’t even get one for getting paid to have sex with someone if there is a camera recording it. But providing supply for something that clearly has a demand? Nope, can’t do that without fear of legal repercussions. This is exactly what Whorearchy is.
I would also like to point out another glaring effect of Whorearchy: the gender gap. Sex worker seems to be synonymous with female. Men are rarely thought of when a discussion involving sex work takes place. And if a male sex worker is presented, it is somehow downplayed, even glamoured. Both the movie Magic Mike and Drake’s song “For Free” comes to mind when showcasing the difference between the two genders. It is obvious that society’s stance on the sexual activities of men and women are still at odds. The more people a man can sleep with, the bigger a man he is. And if he is getting paid for it? Well, all the better. Women will get labelled a whore whether she takes payment or not. Go figure.
Among Sex Workers
If the thought of society looking in on sex workers and distinguishing who is better and who is less immoral, than imagine what it looks like within sex work. A professional dominatrix may sometimes feel they are better than porn stars or strippers. Porn star & strippers think they are better than an escort. Some escorts think they are better than a street level provider. Webcam models, phone sex actresses, and masseuses themselves can sometimes deny that they are, in fact, even sex workers. But probably the worst of them all is the "Sugar Baby". Thinly veiled and half-hearted hos who will deny that they are sex workers until their dying breath.
Every sex worker that has chosen this career path willingly will tell you that they wish they could do their job like it was normal, legitimate work. Because it is legitimate work, that should be considered normal. Yet we are forced to shroud ourselves in secrecy and sanitise what we do. We have to hide it from our friends and our family. The world's oldest profession has a really bad reputation and we can thank a society that seems to be knocking back a mixer of 'state and religion juice' here, perhaps with a 'radfem' chaser.
I am of the firm belief that we need to stand tall and proud. We need to raise our voices to a shrill decibel. I am personally "out" to most of those who know me. My friends, acquaintances, sister, cousins, aunts and uncles, distant relatives, and yes, even my mother, all know that I am a professional dominatrix and online sex worker. They know because I have told them or because I haven’t made any secret out of it. This is because I am not ashamed of my choice. I refuse to allow anyone to determine what my worth is or how I should feel about myself because of their own personal beliefs or morals.
There is an overwhelming call in the sex work community to end stigma. It is one of the major forces we advocate for. It is one of the driving forces in keeping our occupations top secret. But we are never going to convince society that sex work is not necessarily detrimental or that being a sex worker is actually a legitimate choice, if we cannot get our collective shit together.