Sex work is an often stigmatized and unloved profession, sometimes even by those who purchase its services. Yet what is that stigma based on? Why does society seek to degrade sex workers or relegate them to an underclass of citizen?
Selena, a former junior engineer turned sex worker is here to help us understand her small corner of that world and show us why some people decide to be sex workers and how sex work can be ethically run even if currently illegal here . We discuss how legalities make sex work less safe and ultimately endanger the people they try to protect, even when those legalities apply to people around sex workers and not sex workers themselves.
We chat a bit about herpesvirus in this podcast. To clarify, there are nine strains of herpes virus, and one strain, herpes simplex, can be broken down as HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both strains can cause facial or genital symptoms. However other kinds of herpesvirus that don’t carry the same stigma would include epstein-barr virus that causes mono, cytomegalovirus which causes pneumonia and also mono – the point being there is a whole range of casual sicknesses to which we would say “it sucks you’re sick; get well soon” and for which there would be no added shame. The three herpesvirus that cause skin lesions are herpes simplex and varicella-zoster virus which causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults – both are in my opinion far more frequently horrific symptomatically than herpes simplex. I don’t know anyone who enjoyed getting chickenpox. Many people similarly had herpes simplex on their face at a young age and carry the herpes simplex virus. Our stigma is so out of line with the reality of the disease that doctors are extremely hesitant to test for herpes simplex unless there is an active lesion as it can cause emotional distress when asymptomatic people learn they carry herpes simplex. You probably have herpes simplex according to wikipedia. It infects between sixty percent and ninety five percent of all adults. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herpes_simplex – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herpesviridae)
So let’s live and let live. Let’s treat each other with kindness. Let’s destigmatize STIs. Let’s treat them like any other kind of infection. Some infections are chronic; some painful; some are really simple to treat. Typically the ones we’re afraid of or shame the most are in the last category: really simple to treat.
Now just because STIs aren’t harbingers of horror doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use protection. I still think the simplest way to prevent any kind of disease is the incredibly simple technology of just. Washing. Your hands. Wash your hands, folks. Use barriers be they male or female condoms or dental dams or gloves. Gloves make a great disposal container when you put discarded condoms and wipes inside of them and then turn them inside out and tie a knot in them. Problem solved.
Consider being gentle with yourself. Consider being considerate of others. Let’s treat sex work like any other body work: legal access to society. Professional societies keep their members safe and advocate for them. Let’s give sex workers the tools to make their industry safer for everyone.
Let’s talk resources. The PACE society in Vancouver is run by sex workers for sex workers. Before you decide to jump into a profession or if you’re new to a profession in sex work, consider learning more about the various kinds, what is the best fit for your wellness, and what is the most lucrative. The right fit is different for everyone. If you are on your own or thinking of starting with someone, it’s free to go talk to people. Get reviews of different agencies. Ask about common problems. As a former webcam worker, a little understanding will save you money and avoid a lot of emotional upset. Check out reputations, and as in any line of work, do your self care and keep yourself happy and healthy. Links in the description. (http://www.pace-society.org/contact-us/)
While a lot of sex workers are happy to chat about this stuff for free, there are also more experienced sex workers who charge to consult about the industry or train you in specific skills like somatic body work. One such human is Aurora, someone who presented sessions at both Converge Cons I taught at. Links for her in the description as well.
Please understand Selena’s perspective and lived experience about sex work is just one voice in a sea of voices. There are other stories with different conclusions about sex work. However understanding one positive experience can help us understand what a positive model might look like and what services might be beneficial. It also seems clear to me that our punitive model isn’t currently quote unquote fixing the problem so I think it’s fair to say at least some revision is necessary for the law to be in line with reality and for it be to beneficial or optimal. Let’s learn more with Selena on Intimate Interactions.