Archives de Tag: Jill Nagle

Prostitution and the sex industry in general have exposed me to a lot of divergent realities about money and sex. I experienced for the first time what it felt like to “pay for everything, ” as had all the men I used to date. I started my own business, paid all my own bills, traveled, took men and women out, invested, shopped till I dropped, and walked away from hundreds of dollars because I had more important things to do with my time. […]
I am not suggesting that prostitution is the only way to acquire this information and experience. But I do believe that prostitution affords a unique opportunity to see some truths about the way women are expected to interact with sex and money in our society. Once I lost the approval and acceptance of the good girl and felt the punishment and rejection of the bad girl my view of reality changed drastically. At that point, it became apparent that mainstream feminism just wasn’t radical enough. A feminist theory that allowed me to complain about wage discrimination but failed to show me how to make more money to pay my bills was of little practical use.

Véronica MONET, “Sedition”, in  Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997,  p. 220

Madeleine Lawson : Personally, I just have to say that my experiences in the sex industry have been, for the most part, lonely and unpleasant. Being a Black woman, I have to deal with a lot of bullshit in society. Being in the industry just intensifies that because it is all the more racist and sexist. At a certain point I was so angry and frustrated that I started to question my physical and mental wellbeing in such an environment. I remember one day when we had lots of business. Each of about seven women had about four or five clients. I was the only Black woman there, and I did not get one booking. Eventually, I felt like the maid, because when you’re working in this house, we’re all supposed to pitch in. If you get a session, great, but if you don’t you still have to take care of the house domestically, because its a play house for everybody, right ? So here I am, cleaning dishes, doing laundry, throwing away used condoms, answering the phone, and I’m not getting a dime. When I answer the phones to book sessions and mention myself, they’re all gung-ho until they hear I’m Black and then it’s like, “Sorry. I don’t want a Black chick. Who else do you have ?” I felt so angry because it confirmed my feelings that, in the sex industry, just like in the vanilla world, you have to try twice as hard to get anything, and you’re still not given any recognition.
I’m tired of being around all these naive white women who don’t know the meaning of fighting the system. They just sit there all wide-eyed, feeling philanthropic. They’re like, ‘Oh, do you want to come in on my session ? I can give you some.” Like something out of Uncles Tom’s Cabin. And I feel like, “No, I want my own session. I don’t want your fucking crumbs. I want my own piece of cake, thank you.” Being around all those white women who just don’t get it, the strength that I had as a Black woman slowly began to diminish. Contrary to what many of my white colleagues believe, for the most part, they are getting paid, being worshiped, and don’t want to get it.

« Showing Up Fully. Women of Color Discuss Sex Work. Blake Aarens, Hima B., Gina Gold, Jade Irie, Madeleine Lawson, and Gloria Lockett, moderated by Jill Nagle », in  Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997,  p. 206-207

Objectification literally means to hold oneself as subject and everything and everyone else as object, the object of one’s actions and thoughts. According to this definition, traditional feminists objectify strippers. This paradox grows increasingly obvious considering the us/them construct such discussions inevitably employ. “Those strippers undermine our ends.” Are not strippers and their patrons the objects of these women’s disapproval ?
Or maybe they mean “object” as a thing devoid of humanity. But a stripper’s humanity, including her sexuality, is intrinsic to her profession. In my experience, few men would talk to me at length and grow aroused by my personality while simultaneously denying my personhood.
I maintain that a man isn’t denying a woman’s humanity if he admires her breast and not her intellect in the appropriate context. Human phyisicality takes precedence in many arenas. As long as theses instances remain free of sexuality, no one complains. Few people argue that Martine Navratilova and Mary Lou Retton, much less men such as Michael Jordan or Mikhail Baryshnikov, are dehumanized when others admire their physical prowess.

Stacy REED, “All stripped Off”, in Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997, p.  182

Testimonies of sex workers who identify themselves as heterosexual also show ways in which the performance of sex work queers heterosexuality […] One interviewee, Monica, said that her work experience makes her less likely to put up with the hetero pickup scene : “When I go out to a club and some guy’s trying to pick me up, I look at him and think, Why should I even talk to you ? Why listen to your life story and what you do for a living ? I don’t care. You’re not even paying me.” Because she now gets paid to perform heterosexuality, that is to say, to play a role of sexual availability and feminine receptivity, she is less willing to play that role for free. She does not claim to have no sexual interest in men; rather, it is the institution of compulsory heterosexuality, whereby women must politely tolerate and respond to male sexual advances, to which she objects.

Eva Pendleton, “Love for Sale”, in Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997, p. 76-77

The power of Hima B.’s film and the 10 Percent articles is in their juxtaposition of the subjects’ self-described “real” sexuality with their professional, or performed sexuality. The juxtaposition of paid “straight” sexuality with lesbianism actually illustrates that there is nothing straight about sex work. What these women are doing is performing heterosexuality as they perform a sexual service for money. They do not go straight, they play straight. I would like to argue that the sex work in these texts represents a performance of heterosexuality, regardless of the sexual self-identity of the performer. Its defining characteristic is the exchange of money for a sexual service, which is, I would argue, a queer act. Selling sex is quite outside of the normative codes of sexual conduct, whereby sex is privileged as something you do for love or, in a more liberal world view, for fun or, if it is in a Hollywood film like Pretty Woman or Indecent Proposal, for a whole lot of money.

Eva Pendleton, “Love for Sale”, in Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997, p. 75-76

I have waitressed, and been sexually harassed by bosses and customers. I have modeled for art classes, and watched students and teachers fuel their fantasies with my motionless body. I have worked in an office, and been stuck in a cubicle with a coworker who just could not grasp the hard fact that I preferred my woman lover over him. I have worked in the film industry, and felt myself a cog in a multimillion dollar machine that designs and markets “entertainment” around the sex-values of its stars. These all look like sex industries to me. I wondered : What is the difference between jobs within job systems that hypocritically deny the importance of sex to their smooth operation as opposed to those that exploit it as their very reason of operating ? If capitalism was structuring my work experiences, and if sexism was structuring roles within capitalism, what had I to lose by facing overt rather than covert realities ? I certainly had choice of not doing this particular work, but I never had a choice of not dealing with its existence

J’ai été serveuse, et été harcelée sexuellement par mes patrons et mes clients. J’ai été modèle pour des cours d’art, et vu les étudiants et les profs nourrir leurs fantasmes de mon corps immobile. J’ai travaillé dans un bureau, où j’étais coincée entre quatre murs avec un collègue qui n’arrivait pas à concevoir le fait que je puisse lui préférer mon amante. J’ai travaillé dans l’industrie du cinéma, et je me suis sentie comme un petit maillon dans une machine multimillionnaire qui crée du ‘divertissement’ sur la base de la valeur sexuelle de ses stars. A mes yeux, ces industries sont toutes des industrie du sexe. Je me suis demandé : ‘Quelle est la différence entre des jobs dans des systèmes de travail qui nient hypocritement l’importance du sexe dans leur fonctionnement, et celles qui exploitent le sexe comme la raison même de leur fonctionnement ?’ J’avais clairement le choix de faire ou ne pas faire ce job en particulier, mais je n’ai jamais eu le choix de ne pas avoir à faire face à l’existence de cette réalité.

Vicky Funary, “Naked, Naughty, Nasty”, in Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997, p. 19-20

Since all our desires and actions still grow up under white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, we need to problematize not only choices to participate in the sex industry, but also choices not to. Whores, too, are something that women are not only supposed to not be, but also, not be mistaken for. This division translates into a mandate to not only be virtuous, but also to appear virtuous, to again demonstrate our affiliation with the privileged half of the good girl/bad girl binary.

Compulsory virtue, then, is also something that informs and constricts women’s every move, i.e., “I could never wear/say/do that, someone might think I’m a whore ! ” Beyond the internal constrictions women experience lie external risks, as well. As with other pariah categories, one does not have to actually be a whore to suffer a whore’s punishment or stigma. Getting mistaken for a whore can land one in jail, as Priscilla Alexander and Norma Jean Almodovar point out. Recent laws, such as one passed in January, 1996 in San Francisco, give police officers the power to arrest someone for appearing to intend to exchange for money. As with most laws governing sex work, women are disproportionately targeted and arrested, although the total number of men who participate in prostitution is far larger than the number of women.

Jill NAGLE, Whores and other feminists, Routledge, 1997; “Introduction”, p. 5