Writing About the Oldest Profession

A friend sent me a link to this magazine who currently has a call for submissions (poetry/prose) on “the oldest profession.” Due date March 15.

One thing that jumped out at me: “Poems and stories do not have to be written by sex workers or even from the perspective of a sex worker.” Well, I think it helps. At least, if this magazine wants some honesty, instead of glorified stereotypes from someone who has had no contact with sex workers except through the media and college lectures. They do try to be broad and inclusive, so I’ll give them credit for that.

BnG readers/writers, submit something.

3 Responses

  1. Hi there! I’m Jenni Russell, an editor for MiPoesias Magazine, and the editor for the issue “Oldest Profession.” I’m also a former sex worker. I worked in the industry for ten years.

    Thanks for bringing some attention to the issue. I do appreciate it. I disagree, however, with the notion that good writing about sex workers must come from sex workers. There is an entire history of literature–from ancient to modern times–poetry, stories, essays, musings, etc on sex workers from wonderfully insightful writers who were not sex workers themselves.

    To me it is like saying a novelist MUST be a detective to write mysteries, or a poet must be an environmental scientist to write about nature. Some writers write about what they have experienced themselves as a means to understand it better, others write about what they don’t know or are curious about as a means to understand it better.

    Personally, I think it’s very important to open up this dialogue amongst those who have never worked in the industry. Aren’t we, as former and present sex workers, isolated from society enough without intentionally isolating ourselves even more? When it comes to art, no one owns subject matter. It has been proven time and time again that a writer does not have to be their character to bring truth, wisdom, and empathy to the human condition. If the standard was that the writer had to experience their subject in order to write about it, well we’d be out of millions of great books, wouldn’t we?

    Another thing the openness of the call accomplishes is that some may have worked as sex workers but they may not be ready to “come out,” and an opportunity to use the guise of fiction to explore their experiences protects their anonymity.

    The only standard to submit to this issue is a standard of excellence: insightful and honest writing. I don’t care if the person was a sex worker or not, but the writing must be up to par. MiPo is an award-winning online journal and has had work featured in both The Best American Poetry series and the Pushcart Anthology. We publish the best writing submitted to us, regardless of the writer’s personal history.

    Again, I appreciate you mentioning the issue. And for anyone reading this post, feel free to submit up to 7 poems or a short story under 5,000 words. I will also consider novel or memoir excerpts if they are self-contained. Submit to: jrussellhughes@yahoo.com

    Sincerely,
    Jenni Russell

  2. Not that the only authentic writing about sex work must come from sex workers, but it’s a good place to start. I don’t know that I’ve recently come across any fictional writing about sex work that wasn’t full of media-influenced stereotypes, but maybe I’m not looking in the right places (Tracy Quan aside). One doesn’t have to experience what they write about in fiction, but when it comes to sex work, most authors don’t even bother to do their homework.

    I’m glad that you have been a sex worker and can more accurately judge the submissions.

    The issue of sex worker writing has been covered here recently (check the left sidebar), as has the issue of broad inclusion. Pretty soon, I think we’ll see debates on what makes a sex worker a sex worker. We’ve certainly talked about voice as well. All these issues are important to us.

    Given that most readers of MiPoesias probably aren’t sex workers, I wanted to alert sex workers that here was a chance to balance possible incorrect assumptions and perceptions in a small way.

    XX

  3. What I find truly depressing is the mainstream assumption that somehow people who sell sex can’t also produce good art. Witness the firing of the president of William and Mary college because he supported an art show by sex workers on campus.

    For my part, I look forward to reading an interesting issue of MiPoesias.

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