dissociation, divination, and the booty duty

There is a vicious cycle, a debate, between sex worker and anti-porn feminists about the culture of ‘use’ and ‘abuse.’ I’d like to address this debate from a completely different perspective than it is usually discussed, at least in my experience. I’d like to discuss ‘use’ from the perspective of a western woman of color, and also a faith perspective.

Firstly, there is a tendency, I believe in many segments of society to avoid pain at any cost. We live in a culture firmly and completely afraid of pain, death, and dying. We are so privileged that we have lost much of our visceral connection to the experience of pain. Look at the way in which we drug women in labor, as though their pain were ‘uncivilized.’ It is the quiet hush of polite society, and we relegate our paroxysms of ecstacy and pain into sterilized hospital rooms, bedrooms, and the underground. Drugs, gambling, religious trances, and sex. We flirt with these things, desperate for the unity that these experiences offer.

This is the world that those of us in the sex industry inhabit, and if we are to survive within it, we learn to understand our role in it. This necrophobic culture needs us to hold this place.

Make no mistake. There is a healthy and healing way to do sex work.

As a woman of color, as most women, most people of color, most queers, differently abled folks, etc have experienced, we are not born into a world free of pain. Use and abuses of power are around us all the time.

Doing sex work can be many things. It can be a compulsion, an addiction, a healing process. It can be pleasant, emotional, profoundly life changing. Each experience is unique, and each whore is unique. There are some people perfectly suited to do this work with love, and without dissociation, or the abandonment of the self. I believe that I am one of those people. But we are NOT ABLE to create a culture of education, of colletive knowledge about how to protect yourself spiritually and emotionally in this work. We are forced into anonymity and amnesia.

Spiritual development in my belief system is a process of experiencing the world, faith, and the tools to process what occurs. Pain, death and dying are all a part of this. We must create a framework to process pain and abuse. Most women experience it at some point in their lives regardless of whether they choose to do sex work or not.

Prostitution is not inherently harmful. It can be the most beautiful, healing, divine, present, and prayerful way to live a life. Or it can be harmful, confusing, debilitating. But prostitution is only part of a much larger discussion, and the more we shy away from sex, from paroxysms of ecstacy and pain, from blood, the cunt, and the body, the more we create a culture in which sex workers are abused, and in which prostitution becomes shameful and compulsive. Sex is a natural human expression.

The sex industry fills a void.

Prohibition does not engender abstinence.

The sacred is not always painless, deathless, or clean.

thinking of you,

Surgeon

Posted by: surgeonscofflaw

13 Responses

  1. I dig that many prostitutes are healers. But they are misdirecting their talents.

    There is nothing spiritual about processing other people’s pain. You can only process your own. They have to process their own pain. If you let people use you to act out rather than deal with – you are not doing them any favors.

    Prostitution does not heal anyone. If you want to be a healer there are many many ways to do that. But letting someone buy you, boss you, and hurt you, is not a spiritually healing act for them or for you.

    The world does not need you to manifest MORE pain. There is plenty in the world. We need you to manifest more joy and love. And that doesn’t come from selling your self.

    IMHO

  2. Manifesting JOY and LOVE are essential elements of the work that sex workers do.

    You are very narrowly defining sexuality as something that can only be taken from women.

    Isn’t a central value of feminism the idea that women have an equal capacity to make decisions with their body as men do?

    To say that women are not capable of CHOOSING to be sexual seems to be supporting the idea that women are somehow inferior if they don’t operate within the confines of sexuality defined by others.

  3. Hey, I am all about sex. I love sex. I want there to be more sex in the world. Yay sex!

    But you are not dispensing joy and love with prostitution, even though that may be what you would like to do.

    Let’s say you just wanted a guy to feel good. You want to commit a totally selfless act.

    And let’s assume a completely enlightened man with no power issues (yes, rare but they do exist.)

    What favor are you doing for him by letting him buy affection? He knows he is buying it. He probably has guilt about it. Definitely if he is married. He may be thinking that he is missing out on something since sex looks so different in the porn movies than what he gets at home. So he wants to try some of those things out. But he’s just acting out a role, just like you are.

    So you have two people acting out roles. None of it is real. Obviously the sex is real, the release is real and the endorphins are real. But love and joy? Internally, subconsciously, in your souls you both know it is not real. So you have given him nothing but more guilt and confusion about what real love and joy are all about. You have not helped him at all.

    Men cannot find love by buying it. Women cannot find love by selling it.

  4. “Real” is such an arbitrary term. Is affection and companionship only ‘real’ if it spans a particular amount of time or if people come there for pre-defined reasons?

    There is a mutual understanding about what defines the relationship. It is sincere, even when role-play is involved- which is not all the time.

  5. This is one of the loveliest posts I have ever read. I’m not a sex worker, but I *am* an SM top and have a disability, and I see my role as a top as very similar indeed to what you describe here.

    Linked.

  6. One more time! For those in the class who aren’t listening.

    We’re selling sex, in all it’s intricacies and subtleties. Not love. Love, in the universal sense, however, is what drives ME to do what I do. I do it because I have love for my clients. Clients of all genders, marital status, and orientation.

    I’m glad that you are pro-sex, but you cannot be pro-sex, really, until you broaden your definition of what is REAL. SEX to me is everything from from an extended teasing session with my partner across a crowded bar, to stolen moments of deep love and compassion between baby feedings, to giving a married crossdresser space to express his feminine side that would otherwise remain closeted.

    Because something does not ‘dispense joy and love’ should it be illegal? Slinging coffee at a cafe, manufacturing noxious chemicals, designing video games, building fences and digging ditches do not dispense joy and love all the time, but they are not illegal.

    Services of all kinds are provided in a capitalist society. They are desired by some, and not by others. What we are really talking about is the moral imperative of government. How much control should said government, with said economy have over our right to provide services? Why is sex different than, for instance, psychotherapy? Or massage? Or the sale of alcohol?

    You think it is different. I do not. There is the argument. I do not feel as though my business is any different. I feel empowered, happy, and blessed to be in my line of work. I have had bad experiences, of course. But the good FAR outweighs the bad. I love what I do.

    I do not help all of my clients, buy no service can make that guarantee. I help a good number of them, and I claim the right to distinguish between when I am helping, and when I am not. And if my business were not illegal, I would have far more ability to help other people, of all genders, in this industry learn to make that distinction as well.

  7. >There is nothing spiritual about processing other people’s pain. You can only process your own>

    By the standard you’re using that means professional counselling is a no-no, too.

    which, too bad, because that’s my own chosen path; and yes i definitely see connections with certain expressions of sex work, particularly somatic (body) psych.

    yeah, there are ways and ways in which to “process” other peoples’ pain; even pros need to maintain their boundaries, there are techniques and support groups for such; but that doesn’t seem like what you mean, here.

  8. and again with the comparison to counselling/talk therapy: you’re not selling “friendship,” it’s a particular relationship of itself; nonetheless, it IS a relationship, it is not a SUBSTITUTE for friends; the fact that money changes hands doesn’t make it less “real,” it just means it’s got a structure and purpose of its own.

  9. “I do not help all of my clients, buy no service can make that guarantee. I help a good number of them, and I claim the right to distinguish between when I am helping, and when I am not. And if my business were not illegal, I would have far more ability to help other people, of all genders, in this industry learn to make that distinction as well.”

    So well said Surgeon! Particularly the part about reserving the right to distinguish fo ryourself.

    That distinction is so important because these conversations often become polarized where it is assumed that if we enjoy our work we are making a huge blanket statement that the work is ALWAYS joyful.

    When in fact, just like other occupations, there are a wide-range of experiences and the duality of good vs. bad is not sufficient framework to have these discussions. Identifying our right to determine those boundaries for ourselves is central to understanding this work and how it pertains to reproductive justice.

    Warmly,
    Karly

  10. Thinking of me?! awesome!
    you write so profoundly and beautifully. it fills me up. I too am really interested in the connections between death and pain and sex. Funny how the rawness of experiencing death relates to the rawness of feeling in sex. I am glad for whatever catalyst has created this blog so that these ideas could be expressed so well.

    I do, however, take issue with your characterization of ditch digging as, at times, joyless. As you rightly point out, ditch digging does not dispense joy at all times. However, I would just like to emphasize that with the right tools, ditch digging can be quite satisfying. I have also worked some in the production of noxious chemicals field, and while I try not to do it when other people are around, this too brings me no small amount of joy.

    in solidarity,
    matthew t. jackalinsky, esq.

  11. Matthew!

    I have had some pleasurable ditch-digging experiences also! I guess you wouldn’t call it a ditch necessarily, but I had this wonderful experience camping out at a Rainbow Gathering one summer and volunteered to dig ‘sh*tters’ for Kid Village.

    Not at all glamorous- but my crew and I had a lot of fun and some great conversations.

    Ah.. to be dirty in the woods…I need a camping vacation!

  12. Karly!
    That’s rad! It’ funny that you mention the conversations. I too have found that many of the best convos I’ve been in happen over a cutting board, a pile of nails, a mop bucket. That is to say, isn’t it amazing how these “mindless” tasks help us to use our minds in such fabulous ways.

    In terms of awesome tools, I have recently gotten to use a demolition hammer in my ditch digging. Cuts trough dirt like a hot knife through butter.

    here is to dirty in the woods… in which ever way you mean it!

    -maaattthhew

  13. I believe using ‘mindless tasks’ to help people express themselves is a component of occupational therapy.

    I volunteered for a few days at an in-patient mental care facility. At a specified time each day the occupational therapist came in and the patients were able to voluntarily participate.

    It was amazing to watch the therapist work her way around the room. She’d see somebody deeply involved in their task, whether it was making stencils and painting or giving each other manicures (self-cleanliness is a major component of healing)…

    she’d approach them and ask them questions. Maybe specific questions to help with a road-block that the psycho-therapists could not get around, or just general questions about how their day was going.

    For some, when their hand were busy getting something done, their heart and mind could more freely communicate.

    The human mind/body/brain/spirit are so fascinating! I would love for sex workers to be able to get training and opportunities to incorporate these techniques into our work. This rings back to Surgeon’s comment about how if the work were legal, we’d be better able to truly help our clients- of ALL genders!

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