Of Brains and Breasts

This is a conversation between one whore and her mother…

Mother: “What have you been doing?”

Whore: “Finishing up a grant that is due this week.”

Mother: “You are so smart, why can’t you get paid more for doing that sort of stuff?”

Whore: “Mom, I make plenty of money.”

Mother: “But I thought the organization only pays for your travel expenses.”

(Yeah right, travel reimbursement, what’s that?)

Whore: “Mom, I work, I am self-employed, I’m making money.”

Mother: “Yeah, but I mean why can’t you get paid to use your brain?”

Whore: (With absolute resolve) “I do use my brain. You have no idea.”

Mother: “Oh whatever.”

This story only subtly outlines this theme that I’ve been running into lately- well, I’ve run into it throughout my entire life, but lately I’ve been thinking about it more…

Why is it commonly assumed that if one engages in physical labor involving the body, then obviously that person doesn’t use their brain or employ intelligence in their work? Yes, I use my body and sexuality to pay the bills, but do people actually believe that it doesn’t require a lot of thought and presence to do this work.

Do people actually believe that we just lie in bed all day waiting for a hard cock to come around and leave an envelope on the end table? Do you have any idea what it actually takes to be in this business? Even more so, do people have any concept of what it takes to have the conscience to dedicate your life to making changes in this business?

I’m guessing probably not.

It is far easier to default to the dumb bimbo assumptions- that doesn’t require too much thinking. The irony of it all is that this ignorance demonstrates how very little those who stand in judgment of us are using their brains!

This story also illustrates the woman-against-woman mentality that fuels the whore stigma and perpetuates violence committed against us. Everything is about putting somebody else down in order to validate one’s own position in the world. The mother in this story- she’s a housewife. She doesn’t have to think about making money to pay bills, somebody else does that for her. With so much free time on her hands, you’d think she’d be out doing something with her brain. No, that’s not where her interests lie. Why should she have to use her brain for survival when she can just get married? I mean, it’s not like marriage could be considered sex work or anything.

15 Responses

  1. i offically love this post. People really have no idea how much the mind and the social skills come into play in the sex biz.

  2. Spot on. One thing I’ve noticed more lately that comes into play all the time is the classism angle. Middle-class families have this expectation that their kids will take the safety net of education and a white-collar job; a job that relies predominantly on mental labor rather than physical labor.

    Never mind that many liberal arts grads work as waitstaff. Never mind that many tradespeople make damn good livings. It’s about appearances, it’s about getting your hands dirty and it’s about the fact that physical jobs have one downfall: our bodies have a timeline. I can see parents wanting their kids to have long-term security but snobbery against physical labor – which is why, in the defense of sex work, so many of us defend it *as intellectually stimulating work* – is a fact of life.

    As a society, except for athletes and the military, we primarily value mental and social labor (at least, in the financial sense). The Gnostic heresy as seen through the workforce… welcome to it.

  3. That’s brilliant!!!!

  4. Then you’re going to love our upcoming blog party topic!

    XX

  5. I haven’t run into this much, but I sure ran into it with a book review from the (supposed) FeministReview. The (non sex worker) reviewer mocked the idea of my book, “As one escort said to another ‘How hard can it be?'”

    It’s very irritating. Not that all sex work must be difficult but nothing is as simple as lay there and get paid. Otherwise couch potatos would have it made.

    XX

    PS: Don’t even get me started on housewives who use their spare time and brains to…um…do….something, I guess.

  6. I officially *love* this post. LOVE IT.

  7. This is parallel to a broader issue about what qualifies as a “real job.” I use a book called “Sidewalk” in my American Society class and it focuses on street vendors in Manhattan. Specifically it focuses on book and magazine vendors. One thing that many students say upon first encountering the book vendor profiled in the first chapter is “He’s so smart. Why doesn’t he get a real job?” What they mean is “why doesn’t he get a job in the formal economy, even though in his work as a vendor Hakim has autonomy, contributes to the education of his customers, reaches out to a young man who needs some encouragement to finish school, etc.

    When we discuss the characteristics of a “good job” (not quite the same thing) they discover that Hakim’s job, though not a “real job” has a lot of characteristics of a “good job” (autonomy, making a meaningful contribution) even though he doesn’t have benefits like sick time, a retirement plan, or health insurance. Then we dare to ask how many “real jobs” also don’t have sick time, health insurance and retirement plans.

    “Real job,” “working with your brains” …. these are generally codes for “why can’t you just follow the rules!”

    I applaud anybody who can find a way to carve out of the often-alienating economy that we live in some space where they can combine some autonomy and flexibilty with some personal satisfaction and enough income to pay the bills.

  8. “Real job,” “working with your brains” …. these are generally codes for “why can’t you just follow the rules!”

    YES! You nailed it, Elizabeth.

    I’ve never heard it put quite this succinctly. I’ll likely be quoting you in the future.🙂

  9. Excellent analysis Elizabeth! Thank you! The parallels also exist between being an ‘undocumented’ worker and being a ‘criminal’ worker. I think this also intersects with Sabrina’s comments about class structure and labor.

    After I posted this I felt the need to say that my mom is actually a pretty fucking cool mother. We sometimes have to agree to ignore the obvious, which makes me crazy. But still, she comes around on most things and hasn’t dis-owned me yet!!

  10. […] Of Brains and Breasts « Bound, Not Gagged “It is far easier to default to the dumb bimbo assumptions- that doesn’t require too much thinking. The irony of it all is that this ignorance demonstrates how very little those who stand in judgment of us are using their brains!” (tags: sexwork assholes work awesome money sex society stereotypes) […]

  11. Reading this, I wondered if you weren’t talking about my weekend, K. Working on grants for transgender sex worker health care = juggling more skills than I have at any job, with the possible exception of professional domination. Grantwriting & whoring have so much in common I probably ought to stop right there!

    Aside from that, heck yes let’s talk more about the informal economy, and “playing by the rules,” and what it means to make your own way as an unruly player in the class game. Maybe that — and not the sex — is why sex workers are still considered immature, not afforded the rights of other grownup citizens. Of course from our work we know what price comes with playing the game, getting the Good Job, Good House, Good Family — what pressure goes with that. We see the seamy underbelly not of sex, but of class, and for that, we’re distrusted?

  12. Wonderful analysis all of you and I appreciate all the insight and great writing.
    We also got the soul and that we all know.
    The part of our industry that is left out (although not by us) is the companionship that we offered to our clients. The focus by sexually repressed outsiders is always on the sex. Some of the men came to us lonely and needed more than our sexual services. Just remembering.

  13. This is a fantastic post!

  14. […] should listen to them when they say things like, ‘I love the business and want to stay in it. But I’m interested in helping […]

  15. “Why should she have to use her brain for survival when she can just get married? I mean, it’s not like marriage could be considered sex work or anything.”

    Nice!

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