Speaking of Being Privileged…………….

Josie posted on this board about how we’re a privileged group who doesn’t represent all sex workers, even though none of us claim to represent all sex workers.  However, speaking of being privileged, what about Melissa Farley, whom Josie has expressed much support toward.  Unless I missed something, Josie has said nothing about Farley’s position of privilege as a women with a high level of formal education (a Ph.D); and as somebody who runs her own organization, receives grant money, has been published various times, and has been deemed by the FEDS and the media as “an expert on prostitution” even though various sex workers have expresed otherwise. 

And one more thing, Josie….. you also have access to a computer.  If we’re privileged for having access to a computer, then so are you. We don’t represent all sex workers, but neither do you and neither does Farley or any of the other prohibitionists.

15 Responses

  1. yes, apparently it is a cardinal sin for any sex worker to have access to the net.

  2. I mean this to be supportive, not critical, but many, many spelling errors can be nipped in the bud by using Firefox: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/2.0/releasenotes/
    It has a built-in spell checker that underlines mis-spelled words as you type them.

  3. And Farley also has access to a really good publicist, something us (supposedly) over-privileged sex workers need.

    XX

  4. Ya know, we count among our allies 60,000 sex workers in Sonagachi, India, as well as many other large groups of rather poor and certainly not privileged sex workers in India, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, South Africa, and so on and so on.

    They fully support our efforts, as their lives are most poignantly affected by the Bush Administration’s policies against prostitution.

  5. For some of us, doing sex work IS a privilege.

    I bought my computer with money that I earned as a sex worker, I pay my DSL bill with money earned in sex work, I pay the tuition on classes where I learned how to use my computer with money from sex work and I support organizations that make computers and other resources available to less privileged sex workers with money from sex work.

    I consider my ability to do sex work a privilege that gives me access to the tools necessary to make the world a better place, not just for sex workers, but for humanity (yes, it may come as a surprise to some, but sex workers do care about issues that reach far beyond debates at this blog.)

    My privilege as a white woman is something that I was born with and I utilize it both as a sex worker and as an activist. However, economic privilege is something that developed because I CHOSE to do sex work.

  6. “However, economic privilege is something that developed because I CHOSE to do sex work.”

    Here here.

  7. Tangentially, do you guys know of Ubuntu?

    http://iambecauseweare.wordpress.com/

    http://iambecauseweare.wordpress.com/a-statement-about-sex-work-sex-workers-and-sexual-assault/

    UBUNTU was born in the aftermath of the March 13, 2006 rape of a Durham, North Carolina black woman by members of the Duke University lacrosse team. UBUNTU is a women of color and survivor-led coalition with both individual and organizational members. We prioritize the voices, analyses, and needs of women of color and survivors of sexual violence. We are women, men, transgender people, and people who do not fit into the gender binary. We are people of color, multi-racial, and white. We come from throughout the Triangle area and have roots both within and outside of the United States. We are sex workers, students, and community members. We are workers. We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, Two-Spirit, questioning, queer, and straight. We are young, old, and in-between. We come from a broad range of economic, geographic, spiritual, and political backgrounds. The name UBUNTU reflects a commitment to a traditional sub-Saharan African concept, which roughly translated means, “I am because we are.”

    …The consequences for sex workers of color may be greater in terms of community acceptance and stigmatization. Scholar Elizabeth Higgonbotham coined the phrase “the politics of respectability” to describe how racial oppression can be broken down if oppressed folks are just respectable enough. Basically, people of color who engage in stigmatized behavior are seen as reflecting poorly on their people and disparaged for their actions. The politics of respectability most certainly enters the Duke rape situation when we see community leaders like Jesse Jackson offering to give the survivor a full-ride scholarship to pay for the remainder of her education so that she does not have to strip. While it is certainly a wonderful thing that a single mother of two no longer has to worry about how to pay for school, the gift confuses the issue. The problem is not that she was stripping. The problem is that she was raped.

    The same politics of respectability plays out within activist communities, making sex worker rights advocacy difficult to be vocal about. It is our sincere hope that by being vocal and visible UBUNTU will be a coalition that is able to cut through some of the theoretical debates about the sex industry and feminism and actually be a welcoming community and support base for sex workers. The experience of speaking out about the Duke rape case and dealing with the politics of respectability within activist spaces was a frequent point of discussion for UBUNTU members. As one member said, “I am afraid that no one will listen to us or want to listen to us because of our histories with sex work and that people will see us differently…I also feel angry. I believe we come to live out loud, and our silence will not protect us – as [Audre] Lorde always says – and that if I am silent, then I am also saying that it is okay that she was raped because she was a stripper.”

    UBUNTU’s work is centered on ending sexual assault. When we look at sex work and this case in particular, we see that there are many connections between sex work and sexual assault that make sex workers more vulnerable to attack, less able to report attacks, more likely to be discredited in the process of criminal investigation and trial, and less able to draw on support of their communities.

    For some of us who are current or former sex workers, it is clear that a traditional feminist take on sex work (All sex work is harmful to women–period.) does not address any of these issues, or empower sex workers in any way. For this reason, two former sex workers and sexual assault survivors in UBUNTU developed a political education workshop to address these issues while discussing the particular needs that sex workers and former sex workers have in the healing process as survivors of sexual assault. Our coalition members really responded to this workshop and it has grounded our work in an internal politics that puts sex workers’ dignity, humanity, and right to safety at the forefront of our work to end sexual violence…

  8. Thank you for the information about Firefox, Diva . Personally, I’m more focused on the overall content of what people are saying then on whether every word is spelled perfectly. As long as I call tell what other people are saying and what I’m saying, that’s what matters to me. I’m just speaking for myself. None of us are perfect and we’ve probably all at some point in our lives had a typo here or there. Perhaps, I have some in this reply (lol). Besides, if our spelling is too perfect, the prohibitionists may say we’re even more privileged because of that. Maybe, we’re not all “privileged” enough to spell the word “privilege” correctly.

  9. But you realize that if there were too many typos, then it would help fuel the arugment that sex workers can’t possibly be intelligent women who are capable of thinking for themselves.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    XX

  10. Well, sure. The options appear to be “over-privileged and out of touch with the reality of ‘real’ prostituted women” or “dumb whore I mean victim who sorely lacks an education, poor thing.”

  11. ON the issue of privilege, you have to look at who is saying it, as has already been pointed out. It’s like the slave owners in the south trying to discount free blacks in the north from speaking out against ownership of human beings in order to extort their labor. The haters use it against us as means to detract from what they are doing, to disempower and shut us down, make us second guess ourselves and put us on the defense which keeps us off the offence. The privilege put down doesn’t apply to those of us who risk being subjected to the violence of arrest, justified sexual assault in the line of duty by the police, jailed, rendered homeless and put out of work at any moment. Privilege is irrelevant to our class of workers in the face of such human, civil and labor rights violation. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve done or not in this business, no amount of privilege is going make up for the kind of deficit we live with on a daily basis.
    The privilege put down doesn’t apply to ex workers who have to lie about where or how they got their work experience either.

    ON the issue of sexual assault on the job, The haters only want to scream about rape committed by pimps and clients.
    Well men who rape are not clients in my opinion, they are rapist and men who have sex with women they work with in the sex industry, or in any other occupation are guilty of sexual harassment because of the gender/economic imbalance alone.
    It is easy to have a bad business transaction or relationship in any industry when you don’t have the right to negotiate for your labor and work conditions.

    But in any case, when a worker says: ‘don’t take me on the freeway’, and he gets on the freeway, can she dial the police? Can she call out for help? Jump out of the car? Those were some of the options one of the women who testified against her attacker in open court last March here in Oakland considered. He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting workers on their job and is awaiting sentencing.

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/03/BAGCCPKLC223.DTL

    The big shot father has tried to call in the FBI to try to discount the investigation, i.e. the workers testimony against him, the forensics evidence presented in the case by Oakland Pd in an effort to lessen his son’s prospective 14 year sentence, which is way too short for me anyway. 14 years for 4 women, that’s just over 2 years apiece!

    ttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/09/22/ED12S9QU2.DTL&hw=De+La+Fuentes&sn=001&sc=1000

    The Oakland Police Department did a great job of responding to the calls for help, and collecting the sexual assault forensic investigation. I believe this happened because a few years back, Robyn Few, Daisy Anarchy, and Veronica Monet, (sorry for leaving others out whom I can’t remember) had served up a delegation on the Mayor of Oakland about who an other serial rapist who had been targeting outcall escorts who were too afraid to make reports because they were in fear. And even though the prosecutor in the case on behalf of the women thinks just like Farley haters, he managed to do a good job in not reveling his bias in court because he’s a professional, unlike any of the haters.

    Please join me in taking direct action by writing the judge in this case and tell him to give this self described guilty man the maximum sentence possible under the law and ask that your letter be included in the California Department of Corrections official record to keep this violent predator, who assaulted street based workers on their job, in jail for as long as possible. De La Fuente Jr. is scheduled to return to court on October 26th for sentencing before Judge Allan Hymer. Address your letters to Judge Allan Hymer, Department #3, 1200 Fallon, Oakland California 94612

  12. Well, the problem I have with being accused of having a privileged perspective, when it comes from hardline anti-prostitution feminists who claim that all prostitution is a form of rape, is 1) it’s an accusation, as if I somehow criminally assumed my privilege because I have no compassion for those who can’t assume privilege, and 2) it doesn’t jive with the idea that all sex work is a form of rape, since there is no privilege in being repeatedly raped, and I’m a sex worker.

    I understand that privilege applies to a pre-existing set of circumstances and opportunities and not to the actual advantages it accrues to the holder of said privilege, but do they?

    I believe that my privilege needs to be taken into account. I don’t , however, believe it invalidates every opinion I have about the issue. I also think it’s entirely relevant to the examination of sex work to consider the input of privileged workers, since their privilege does not automatically exempt them from many of the drawbacks of sex work, such as discrimination, threats of violence, acts of violence, arrest, having their children taken away, etc., etc. The fact that people of privilege can be discriminated against in this fashion because of their jobs is INFORMATION, which is what research is supposed to be gathering.

    It may be that the methods of addressing these issues with regard to workers of relative privilege must differ from those used to address workers in less privileged conditions, which is the whole POINT. The whole freakin POINT is that there has to be more than one view of sex work and what it means to be a sex worker or to have sex workers in a community. The point isn’t that sex work is great. The point is that IT ISNT ALL THE SAME. Abolitionists do NOT get to represent the entire world’s population of sex workers, no matter how much extra funding that means they might get for their research, in which they explicitly exclude statistics about people who don’t find having done sex work to be entirely hideous.

    And that means that dismissing their point of view when they are struggling with labor, safety, and social issues that affect them, their children, their families, and the communities around them, simply because they may get served more easily in restaurants which favor a clientele of their skin color, is very self-serving.

  13. I remember reading the story about the table grape strike of the 1960’s in Delano, California by the Filipino farm workers before they joined with the Mexican farm workers which became the United Farm Workers. I remember reading that the grape crop was like no other in that it required constant attention by manual labor 10 of the 12 months of the year. This created a stable work force around it which was not the usual situation for crops or for the workers who attended them. A certain kind of stability was created for the workers as result which classified them as the richest of the poor. Because of the stability they had acquired, stable housing, school for their kids, community ties, they had something to fight for and a foundation upon which to stand upon to do it. Their ability to unionize opened the door for other kinds of crop workers who made strides in their wages and work conditions by gaining access to collective barging, grievance process and representation. Many of them were didn’t have documentation, they didn’t speak English, and they didn’t have the right to vote.
    My point is that if we are the richest of the poor, we too can take a stand and make a difference for ourselves. In fact it is our duty to stand up for ourselves as best we can, collectively. Opening doors for ourselves is opening doors for everyone to walk through. Solidarity not charity.

    The concern I have with looking to the researchers, feminist, poverty pimps and legislators is that they are not reliable. They can’t be counted on support our intrinsic right to be self determined, in fact they use their legitimate jobs titles to undermine decrim because decrim doesn’t pay them, it won’t ever be their priority. Their priority is to get paid from a third party who frequently is the same third party exploiter of our rights by maintaining the ban on prostitution and regulate prostitution by omission. We have to look to ourselves and our ability to stand in solidarity on our issues with each other instead of looking outside of ourselves to researchers, poverty pimps, feminist and legislators to make the arguments and make the demands.

  14. “simply because they may get served more easily in restaurants which favor a clientele of their skin color”

    BTW–this is a reference to a discussion that took place elsewhere, and which I now can’t relocate, where there was an implication that privilege was actually pretty trivial in the big scheme of things. I disagree and when I think of privilege and its effect on my perspective I think of many of the points made in this article:

    http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html

  15. My point is that the sex worker pro prostitution rights movement needs to create a political body and relate from that place which is different from how we relate to the world from the first person.
    I believe that by creating a politcal collective body we will benefit by getting away from this first person experience where by every worker has to define and defend the attacks from his/her perspective. I don’t see that as an effective means of moving forward.
    Yes we want to identiy our internal and exernal oppression in order to transcend our internal and external barriers so we can move forward. Yes that is very important address our own perspective and all of the trainings I’ve been involved in with organized labor has those specific trainings on class, race, economic background. And alott of attention is being paid to immigrant rights issues and gender identiy for inclusion in contracts. Its about the equality.
    There are youth labor organizations too. In fact, one helped us fundraise to help get workers into labor school this past summer.
    I don’t see the feminist movement doing these regular trainings. They may have policies but not regular trainings.
    But when the haters bring it up as a means to disable our right to speak out on our own behalf, it is a waist of time to address. The haters are the bosses and they all use the same tactics to shut down activism.
    Our collective political body can’t be bothered

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