Despite the acceptance of “sluts,” the “prostitute” remains a deeply embedded symbolic marker between decency and disrespect. The “ethical slut” engages in sex of her or his own “free” will, while the “dirty whore” insists on getting paid for sex. Sex-positive feminists and other “sluts” believe there is nothing morally wrong with consensual sex between two (or more) people in private, or for adults, in a semi-public setting such as a sex club, dungeon or swingers’ retreat. But money changes everything.
Whorephobia remains pervasive in the social psyche, showing its ugliness even in sex-positive communities. The positive emphasis on sex work confuses “straights” into thinking that sex work is about sex, not work. That cognitive dissonance — the deep chasm filled with stereotypes and prejudices — interferes with the capacity of civilians to hear sex workers speak about their experiences. Stories that don’t conform to the “superhappyfunsexysexwork!” narrative tend to flummox pro-sex feminists; they can identify with privileged exotic dancers, porn performers and professional dominants (even fantasize about being one), but think “junkie whores” need to be rescued and should be prevented from working in their gentrifying neighborhoods. Such disrespectful treatment leads to silencing, ignoring, or rewriting what sex workers have to say.
Writing in the blogosphere recently, sex workers say they’re frustrated with the uncritical acceptance of sex-positive feminism. Furry Girl, the Seattle-based founder of SWAAY, is also the blogger behind Feminisnt because she “got tired of trying to shoehorn my life into a useless ideology like a pair of ill-fitting high heels.” The habit of always trying to put a “good” face on sex work leaves little room for those who have had not-so-good experiences. They fear talking about the bad stuff because “straight” audiences, whether pro-sex feminists, prohibitionists or the media, tend to stuff those stories into established morality tales about sex, violence and bodily integrity. But the truth is that by telling stories with all the gory details and delicious specifics, we can get to the revolution that sex workers are creating right now.
Melinda CHATEAUVERT : Ethical Sluts and “Dirty Whores” : Straight Talk About Sex Work