Fighting The Sex Work Stigma

I recently told one of my very close friends that I am a sex worker. I have been for the last ten years, and thought that I could trust her enough to understand. As you may believe it was a huge shock for her, and when she got over the initial shock she wanted to know more.

Sexy woman seducing man

Anyone who works in the industry in any way understands the curious nature that comes over people when they learn your job relates to sex. They are horrified and yet they have this strange desire to know more, to get a better understanding of a world they didn’t know much about.

Of course, there are a lot of stereotypes and plenty of stigma surrounding the sex industry. My friend, unfortunately, believed every single one of them. Straight away she asked if I was like Vivian Ward (the main character from Pretty Woman), and so I began to explain to her what the industry is really like. Here are the stereotypes she asked me about, and how I responded.

“What’s your real job?”

Yes, some sex workers have another job that they go to in order to keep up the pretence of being one of society, but I don’t. My job is being a sex worker. It’s sex work for a reason. It is a job like any other, but with benefits that really suit me and my work style.

I am my own boss. I don’t have to answer to anyone and can work whichever hours I choose. I pick my own clients, working conditions, and to an extend even my own uniform. What happens during those appointments is up to me. The client may have requests or fantasies, like a sexy nurse uniform or some passionate hard sex, but the decision is mine to make. If I don’t want to do it I am under no pressure.

The problem is that people assume that it isn’t real work because they think we all simply lie on our back. That’s not anything like what I do, and unfortunately the only thing that can tackle this is by talking about it. This is a real job, and we are real workers. Treat us as such.
Business woman

“But you’ve got a degree!”

One of the biggest struggles for non-sex workers to get their heads around is the fact that some sex workers have degrees and yet they are in this industry. They believe that sex work is only for those who are nymphomaniacs (who wouldn’t really be charging for sex) or those who are stupid. When they find out you have a degree and do it, it can be too much for them.

I first started working in the sex industry as a pole dancer in a club when I was at University. It was a great course, which I loved, but there was always a bigger thrill in the world of sex and I ended up becoming a sex worker. I finished my course but the job I wanted just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. It happens to many University students, but it seems all the more shocking when we choose sex work over “being a professional”.

For a fact I know that I am not the only sex worker with a degree. My story isn’t uncommon in the sex industry, and yet the one that people know is a poor woman with no skills doing it for a little bit of money. That isn’t me. I am an intelligent woman and I have chosen sex work because it suits me.

“I bet the men are horrible”

Yes. Some are. Just like in every other job. Clients, like customers, can be difficult, challenging, and downright irritating. Luckily most of my clients are fantastic. They show me a lot of respect, treat me with gifts often, and worship the ground I walk on.

Only a handful of times have I had “horrible” clients, and dealing with them is easy. I just don’t see them. Being my own boss I have the power to do that. Sure, I might not get paid for the booking, but my safety and comfort come first. It’s a job I love, and so why would I take risks?

“Do you take drugs to cope?”

This is one of the biggest stereotypes about sex work. It is so difficult for people to understand that some people genuinely enjoy having sex and making their clients happy. They think that we cry ourselves to sleep at night because of what we’ve done, and that we do not sleep comfortably because of the horrors we have encountered.

They think the only way to cope is with drugs.

I have never taken drugs. There has never been a need. I sleep very soundly at night because I am happy in my job. If I weren’t, I would change my job. Drugs aren’t an answer for me, but they are just another part of the stereotype.
A woman talking to another woman

“But you have a great relationship with your parents!”

My parents know I’m a sex worker, and while they aren’t exactly overjoyed about it, they support me. Yet another one of the big stereotypes is that people who work in the sex industry, whether lap dancers, street workers, or courtesans, is that we all have had difficult and traumatic childhoods.

No. My upbringing was ideal. My parents are still happily married, and there were never any huge issues at home. We have always gotten on with each other, even when I came out as a sex worker, and so the idea that some childhood trauma has brought me to this job is laughable.

Fighting the stigma and stereotypes

Unfortunately, there is only one way to fight the stigma and stereotypes surrounding the sex industry, and that is by talking. Talking and telling our stories will show people that we aren’t helpless and we don’t need saving. In fact, the majority of us are proud of what we do and want the chance to be treated the same as everyone else. I am proud to be a sex worker. Now that my friend has a better understanding, I hope she is proud too.

How are you fighting the stigma? Tell me in the comments below or on the Escort Ireland forum. I’d love to hear it.

Martin Ward
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Martin Ward

Martin Ward is a well respected editor and writer with over five years experience in the adult industry. After stints in the Escort Advertising call centre and on the escort forum, he moved into the site editor position around three years ago.

Since then, he has specialised in articles on the battle for equal rights for sex workers, sexual health, as well as bringing the readers fun news from around the world. He also has a major interest in LGBT rights, and is an active campaigner in this field.

When he isn't fighting the good fight, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, and young daughter. He also enjoys reading and taking long walks.
Martin Ward
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