Embracing Difference

We have a tendency to legitimize certain experiences by dismissing others. We come up with reasons to explain why our identity is valid, why it is worth respecting, why it is not perverted, why it is okay to be that way- and then we condemn anyone who does not fit within those reasons. We generalize our experience because the things that make us feel proud of what we are then feel more true: it makes us feel credible. It makes us feel respectable. It makes us feel like it is okay that we exist.

But when it comes down to it, it does not validate your experience of your identity any more to exclude others who have different experiences of the same identity. Saying there is one way to be something is just as much of a problem as those that say you cannot be that way at all. You are not better, or more valid, or more real, or more palatable because you express or experience your identity a certain way.

Telling people how to be any identity the “right way” is never going to benefit your cause. Saying an identity is only okay because people are “born that way” is never going to be revolutionary. There is nothing inherently less “right” about someone who was sculpted to be a certain way due to their life experiences. Having one experience and not another does not make a more legitimate identity. And who would get to decide those rules anyway? There is no ineffable quality that makes an identity suddenly valid, when it wasn’t before for someone else.

Let’s trust people to know about their own identity in the unique way it manifests for them. Let’s accept that we can experience the same identity differently. Let’s admit that there are infinite ways to embody an idea, or a label, or a name. Distancing yourself from other people who label themselves the same way but experience it in different ways doesn’t make you more legitimate. We need to stop shaming each other to prove some kind of point in order to ultimately align ourselves better with the rigid social systems we live within. True revolution means we accept fluidity, and nuance, and difference- it does not mean we separate ourselves from the rest of our own to gain credibility with the status quo.

Giving it to you

Even if I try, I know,

I cannot give myself to another

How I give myself to you.

I can’t expose my soul to another,

The ways I show it to you.

I tore myself open, sharply-

You tugged at me until it oozed out:

My heart thick like jelly.

My soul sticky like glue.

You say that you want to be in control of me-

You want me to prove to you: that I can stay here, secure in your restraints.

You move slowly to see if I will wait for you-

You push me ahead when I am reluctant-

You watch, still as stone, while I dance around you frenzied.

I pass every test. I am tamed. I am kept tight on your leash.

Even if I wanted to, I know: I cannot give myself to another.

I am yours.

Complexities of Work

Sex workers are in a unique position from other occupations when speaking about their jobs. It is treated as so different from any other work that even casual remarks about having “good” or “bad” days become saturated with deeper political meaning.

Current attitudes mean that I am not allowed to have any kind of complex feelings about my work- something people in all other professions are allowed. I risk other people taking my experience and turning into rhetoric which could be used to romanticize, or oppress.

If I express all of the ways I felt empowered and fulfilled by doing sex work, I risk overlooking the often violent experiences of less privileged sex workers who are forced to engage in risky, frightening, often abusive interactions with their clients and employers. I cheat myself from honoring the times I was creeped out, degraded, and assaulted while doing sex work.

If I describe the times I was treated disrespectfully or unfairly, or abused while I was doing sex work, I risk promoting the idea that sex work is an inherently harmful or dangerous industry- I risk espousing the attitude that all sex workers are victims who are forced or coerced. I fear that someone might use my experience to promote criminalization or argue that sex workers need some kind of paternalistic “saving”.

The attitudes that surround sex work limit my ability to have any kind of complex relationship with the experiences I have lived. Stigma narrows our capacity to express all the parts of our experiences- it makes it so hard to engage with the issues in any real way. The reality is, my experience with sex work is nuanced, and I have a lot of different complicated feelings around it. And that’s okay.

There is almost no other job in the world where every worker has to have a perfect working experience for it to be considered a legitimate line of work. All sorts of other workers labor in hazardous, abusive environments every day and yet there are no “rescue organizations” for them. The reason abuse exists in the sex industry is the same reason abuse exists in any industry. The problem is not sex work, the problem is that anyone is forced to work any job where they experience injustice. I would make the argument that there is likely no sex worker who 100% happy and fulfilled by their job. I would also make the argument that there is likely no one working any job who is 100% happy and fulfilled. All workers are exploited by the oppressive systems in place in our society to some degree.

Social issues are complicated. By distilling an issue down to one experience, we miss the many nuanced parts that make up reality. Right now, if I defend my participation in sex work and play the part of the empowered whore, I deny the sexism and often terrible working conditions that so often comes with that kind of work the way it’s set up today. If I identify as another victim, I disempower myself, and I betray the workers who are harmed by the stigma created from that disempowerment. Either way, I lose a part of who I am and what I know- I lose my sense of agency and the ability to rejoice in so many of these experiences. We need to let people be complicated. We need to recognize that all work under capitalism is exploitative. We need to allow other people’s experiences to sometimes just be experiences, and not always co opted into political rhetoric.

The goddess inside me

Sometimes my tears erupt in surprise, like a sinkhole opening up.

She grabs him by the hair- she bites him on the face- this is the closest he has been to the wild creature that lives inside me.

He pushes her away. It incites me: “fear him”. It tells him: “dismiss her”.

She is a destroyer. When I try to explain her to you the words come out jumbled- nothing makes sense.

Your face is reason. Your voice is logic. Her vastness, her power- it crumbles under your gaze.

Her profound grief. Her wild bliss. She is emotion: she is duality: she is perfection.

The intensity of her experience, of her own connection to the tangled strings of the world-

He cannot understand it, and it leaves me terrified, it leaves her untouchable.