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Hi, all. I haven’t blogged anything here yet, so I hope you’ll forgive me showing up like this. I’m Sarah. I blog at Alterdestiny and Season of the Bitch, but more frequent updates can be found on Tumblr and Twitter. I also write for Global Comment, and this is a piece I wrote there as part of a series on Rethinking Work. (Introduction is here.) I’ll post the first half here, and link to the rest, if you’re interested.
When rethinking work and what we consider work, many jobs that come to mind. Yet few are as fraught with tension and debate as sex work. Having sex, simulating sex, or implying sex for money is denigrated, threatened, questioned by the puritan Right and supposedly radical feminists alike, and yet so often the debate misses the point entirely.
Sure, sex work isn’t a job that most people dream of having. Neither is domestic labor, working at McDonald’s, being a waitress, or even being a secretary. Yet no one feels the need to write screeds about how degrading it is to humanity, or more often women, that people are forced to do those jobs.
I’m not the first person to say such a thing. No one ever wanted to save me from being a waitress the way they wanted to save my best friend from being a stripper.
So what does the difference boil down to? The sex, of course. The opposition to sex work stems from the same kind of purity myth that tells young women that if they have sex before marriage, they have nothing to offer their husband on their wedding night. The idea that you ARE your body, espoused in the phrase “selling yourself,” is what makes people blanch at the idea that sex work might just be another valid way to make a living.
I’m not getting metaphysical here—I want to stay in the materialist realm. So instead of talking about the soul or some higher plane, let’s interrogate for a moment the “selling your body” idea. After all, selling your body is what all of us who do wage labor do: we sell our bodies, our ability to work. Rather, we rent them out for a time. Sex work involves different body parts than most wage labor, most of the time, but where the concept splits gets a bit murky. Is it genitalia? Nudity? Bodies are just bodies, right? Is the construction worker’s job more degrading if he strips off his shirt in the summer heat and people ogle him walking by?