SAN FRANCISCO—With Shelley Lubben's religiously based hate group Pink Cross Foundation getting press on more adult "news" sites, perhaps it's time to take a moment to look at the results of her and her group's false rhetoric regarding adult performers and sex workers in general—especially since today is the seventh annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
Today (Dec. 17) is also the date of publication of the 12th issue of the journal "Research for Sex Work"—available as a .pdf download in both English and Russian—and several of its articles provide perspectives that adult performers can certainly relate to.
Performers: Do any of these misconceptions ring a bell?
"The sex industry:
• Is “an institution of male violence and racial and economic privilege” that objectifies and keeps women in their place to fulfill male desires.
• Is a “symptom” of all that is wrong with masculinities.
• Forces and traffics sex workers, especially migrant sex workers.
• Is “rape that’s paid for.”
• Enjoy rape and domination and accept pain and humiliation to get rewards and avoid further abuse.
• Are predators who contribute to rape, battery, and violence against women and children.
• Are misled about the concept of having choice because they are victims of the system of male domination and individual males within that.
• Have permanent emotional scarring and other ongoing consequences such as changed appearance.
• Have vaginas that are receptacles to be masturbated into and are filthy with semen and lubricant.
Those are only some of the falsehoods spread by anti-sex work activists around the globe, and their effects on workers (and porn stars) can be painful and even deadly.
"There are five main consequences of this discourse of hate," write British researchers Calum Bennachie and Jan Marie. "First, sex workers who are confronted with these opinions are likely to doubt their self-worth and their self-agency, and may put themselves in the position of victim, thus making it more likely they will become victims of violence. When subjected to violence, they are less likely to make complaints about it.
"Secondly, the discourse encourages hatred of sex workers, clients and all who support sex workers in any way. All cultures have approved objects of hatred. Often this hatred takes aim at whole classes of people. Speech denigrating particular groups has been described as a ‘psychic tax on those least able to pay.’ As an example, it has been shown that negative comments about the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities contribute to increases in physical and verbal violence against homosexual and transgender people. This can be extended to sex workers as well."
[Producers, directors and crew: Maybe it's time to rethink off-handedly referring to adult actresses as "whores" and similar disparagements?]
"Thirdly, conflating sex work with trafficking and violence against women has affected the funding of sex worker groups. For example, PEPFAR (the US government AIDS fund) will not fund organisations that support sex workers or promote the decriminalisation of sex work. As a result, this has led to groups that supply sex workers with condoms, or support the rights of sex workers, not receiving funds, thus endangering the lives of sex workers and putting them at risk of HIV infection. This policy also reinforces stereotypes, stigma, and discrimination against sex workers.
"Fourthly, male, gay, transgender and gender-fluid sex workers are made invisible. The violence against these groups is ignored, and rarely appears in any of the papers they produce. In fact, male sex workers rarely appear in any of their publications, perhaps, because they assume male sex workers to be gay men. For example, Sheila Jeffreys calls gay men the cause of women’s subjugation, while male-to-female transgendered sex workers are referred to as 'self-mutilating men'. Perhaps they count even less as human?
"Finally, and cumulatively, the discourse actively encourages violence against sex workers. The way something is defined can make a huge difference in how it is perceived and how it is interacted with. When one understands a group of people as 'other', different, dirty, filthy, stupid or malevolently manipulative, then one can support or condone the violence that occurs. Whether this is forced rescue, forced health checks, taking children away from their parents, or rape and murder."
Another article in the journal delves into how sex workers in New York City protect themselves from violence against them, and some of their methods are ones that adult performers can certainly relate to:
"For Lisa, one of the most important dangers to avoid is being 'outed' as a sex worker," wrote Sienna Baskin in an article titled ‘Working Smart.’ "In order to protect her privacy, she takes only clients who ‘live at least thirty, forty, fifty blocks away from my neighbourhood,’ she said. Once she was identified in public as a sex worker by a former client with whom she had acquaintances in common, so Lisa is now very careful to make sure that her work life does not cross over into her private, social and family lives."
“Lisa, Sonia, and Beth said that ‘staying calm’ is an important strategy against forms of immediate harm and danger. Sonia emphasised the importance of ‘trusting your gut’ and ‘not being naïve and trusting’ with clients. If a client gives clear signs of being dangerous or makes her feel otherwise uncomfortable, Sonia does not let on to her fear or concern because ‘that could make him mad or lash out.’ Instead, she appears either unaware of or indifferent towards the client's threatening behaviour until it becomes possible to see a way out of the bad situation.”
“Emotional harm caused by stigma and loneliness is of significant concern to everybody in the sex trade, Sonia said. Lisa echoed this when she discussed the importance of having ‘a close friend who won't judge me.’ Having a consistent and reliable source of peer support is essential to the emotional and physical health and safety of many sex workers. ... The three women said that letting a close friend know where they are going, who they are with and when they will call back is the safety strategy they employ most often.”
The journal is filled with advice gleaned from actual sex workers around the world, many of whom share the same concerns no matter in which country they practice their craft. And what better day to get educated about one's sex work job than today, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers?