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Sunday, March 2, 2014

I can't quit you, sex work

While I've officially "retired", I'm filled with sadness when I say "former sex worker". In response, I've changed my bio back to sex worker. Period. I don't want to be a former sex worker. I want to keep working, to have enough to pay rent, phone, and groceries, safe in the knowledge that I won't be monitored, or arrested, or investigated, unless someone actively calls the police on me (which, if you're not hurting anyone, seems a gross waste of resources). I want to be able to advertise, screen, get that extra little bit of magical cash, and be able to go out for a single beer, and not have to worry about bus fare to get home with. I want to be able to buy fruits and veggies, not just live on the boxed, processed food that comes from the food bank.

I want to be able to buy shampoo, toothpaste, dish soap, and tampons. Eventually, I want to save enough to go visit my dad again, who is probably not going to be with us much longer. I don't want to regret not being able to spend time with him before he died because I couldn't afford a $300 plane ticket AND pay my rent. I feel selfish and like a total failure.

I *might* know who designed this.....
But it's more than that. I feel like I've lost a part of my identity. I still feel welcomed in my sex work community, and I still feel that I can access all of the (admittedly limited) privileges that come with being, and identifying as, a sex worker. I will always have my experiences and memories of my time doing sex work. While I am still seeing the occasional regular client, and am open to seeing an exceptional (and well referenced) new person, I am no longer advertising, maintaining my website, or planning to renew my domain.

And I'm kind of pissed about it. I'm also sad. I feel like the police, along with the SWERFS and "sex trade survivors" (AKA folks not in the industry anymore) they seem to like consulting with have really forced this on me and other workers. It's definitely not a choice I wanted to make: Being broke or being a police target. THOSE ARE NOT CHOICES, and this is what the SWERFS  and "sex trade survivors" and mainstream feminists claim to be fighting for: Better choices for women.

Yes, I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the time-wasters, and was becoming increasingly paranoid about no-shows to my incall (both dynamics made possible thanks to criminalization), but I would much prefer to just go in the opposite direction: to just be totally open about sex work, to take clients as often as I can, and to try to once again save up a few thousand dollars (which I've since spent - having no income forces you to do that). A paltry sum, but better than having to apply for welfare and constantly borrow money from friends and family who really can't afford it either.

But the Canadian government wants to criminalize women's sexuality under the pretext of "fighting trafficking", which is bullshit. If they cared about trafficking they would change the immigration laws. They would make it easier for victims of trafficking (the majority of which are domestic and farm labourers - which, let's be honest, doesn't generate buzz like the term "sex worker") to come forward, without fear of jail or deportation. They, and so-called "sex trade survivors" are also denying this fact under the guise of criminalizing clients (which, by extension, affects CURRENT workers, and forces our work underground, into unsafe conditions, which was JUST RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL by the SCC). The Nordic Model, which is still criminalization, is also bullshit, and is premised on the notion that since most violence is committed by men, all men must therefore be rapists and abusers, which is further exacerbated by folks calling themselves feminists referring to ALL sex work as violence. It's not.

Folks like me who are completely fucked over in the process just aren't important to them. Women's rights only count if you're a certain kind of woman. A "survivor". In need of saving. A person willing to become a statistic that helps a non-profit continue collecting government funding. And I am not that kind of woman. I am not ashamed of being a sex worker, I don't want to stop, and I don't need rescuing. What I need is the freedom to make my own choices, and to support myself, even if some don't agree with, or understand, using my body, time, and/or sex to achieve that. It's not your body, it's not your choice, and whether or not you "believe me" is not relevant to me. What I do with my body in the privacy of my own space is no one's business but mine and the person, or people, I am doing it with. When the pressure of poverty gets to be too much, and I consider throwing my body off an overpass into traffic below, which WOULD affect other people, feel free to intervene then.

I am a sex worker. I am a survivor: Of violence, oppression, verbal familial abuse, fat-phobia, whore-phobia, poverty, illness, and of a patriarchal system that doesn't really give a fuck about women, especially women who dare to be sexual and independent. I am supposed to be who these self-righteous crusaders are fighting for, and I am being completely left behind by the very government and institutions claiming they are fighting for my rights. And I am one of the lucky ones: white, educated, pretty, able to fluently converse in the colonial language, housed, and able to work indoors. If it's this dire for me, can you imagine for a moment, how difficult it must be for Indigenous, Of Colour, street-based/involved, or homeless sex workers? I wish these people would just stop, think beyond their own personal view, and realize that their actions are HURTING the very women they claim, and are given lots of governmental money, to protect.

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