June 2 is International Sex Workers’ Day. In 1975, hundreds of sex workers gathered in Lyon, France, to protest their increasingly unsafe working conditions and the violence they were experiencing. Now, in 2017, more than 40 years later, we are still advocating for sex workers’ rights and safety. To recognize this day and bring awareness to the experiences of sex workers in our communities, the following blog was written by a member of the Shift advisory committee. It presents the candid and personal perspective of an incredible individual who wishes to remain anonymous:
Why do I do my job?
It seems that so many people spend their entire lives working at an unfulfilling job to then retire with less financial stability than they had hoped for. I believe the majority of people live and die without ever having reached their goals and lived their dreams. I don’t think many people have choice in this matter […].
The question is asked frequently, “can sex work be a choice?” Consider first this counter question: are minimum wages, interest rates, and working in this system choices, or are they just faint shadows of choice established by the structure of our society? In this system, sex work is just another way to make money.
I know that people in all sorts of jobs are merely surviving. We scrape by to ensure we have a roof over our heads, can pay the bills, and buy food from day to day. Many of us are living off loans, credit cards, or lines of credit, which accumulate increasingly more debt with daunting interest rates. Some might save up for a down payment on a lengthy mortgage. Curiously, the word ‘mortgage’ is a French word that literally translates to ‘death pledge.’ For the privilege of owning a house, the French peasants would be expected to work until they died – not much of a choice there.
Given these circumstances, try and consider how sex work could not only be a choice, but even a way to thrive. This is a reality for many of us in the sex industry and something I’ve noticed people often do not want to hear or even think about.
I had been surviving in this system for most of my life. As a child, my parents often fought about money, and when I was sixteen I got a job to try and build my own independence. I struggled from then onward working for uninspiring authority figures, never feeling appreciated, and being consistently underpaid and undervalued. I found it unbearable to work for minimum wage in a sterile work environment doing something that I had no interest in. I went to college, got an education, and though my new profession paid better, I still struggled to find financial stability in my career.
In sex work, however, I found something that I could do well and independently while earning hundreds of dollars per hour. Of course, like any job, there are days that I love it and days that I don’t, but I feel good about working for myself, setting my own hours and rates, and being true to my need for freedom in life. I fear that many people may never get a taste of that at all.
Before you judge what I do, ask yourself honestly – does your work bring you meaning and support you in making the most of life? I’ve tasted both struggle and freedom, and although it’s sometimes complicated, sex work has allowed me to challenge the mundaneness of the everyday struggle and follow my dreams, on my terms.