Dear clients and patrons of sex workers, I come to asking for a humble favor today.
Recently, the ACLU has been showing their support of sex workers on their Twitter account. The responses from the general public have been largely less than supportive. Some of them have been downright denigrating to women* in sex work, calling them horribly misogynistic names. Some of them have been arguing that no sex workers ever really choose sex work and that we're all victims in need of rescue. Some have wanted to argue that sex work has no intrinsic value because sex isn't a need, or isn't important. Some have wanted to argue that sex should never be commodified.
Now, I realize that most of the time, it's not a worthwhile endeavor for my emotional wellbeing to engage with these people and argue for your right to exist, let alone your right to define your labor and sexuality as you see fit. And I'm sure many will read this and say "then why did you do it?" I'm not going to say that it was the perfect decision. But sometimes...you just get tired of people speaking over you and for you, of people never having to have any sort of interaction with people like you. So you try to fight the good fight, even though you know you're not going to win. So I'm not going to try to convince anyone that I have made the right decision to engage with these people. But I hope that it's an understandable decision, one that you can see yourself making from time to time if you were me.
So why the call to thank a sex worker today? Why thank us for this effort that may be a bit self serving and not always inherently productive? What exactly do you, the clients and patrons have to do with this?
If you really strip away the differences in each and every argument these people have, there is one commonality among every disparaging remark against sex work, and that is "men** who patronize sex workers are all predatory monsters and deserve to be punished."
It is true that we often center ourselves as the workers at the center of the argument for our rights. As well it should be, as we are the ones whose livelihoods and lives are at stake through both the stigmatization and criminalization of our jobs.
However, part of our fight is to humanize you, too. Part of our fight is to add nuance and complexity to an issue that is often times oversimplified. And a big part of that is stripping away the cultural assumptions of what type of person pays a sex worker. And often, we're made to answer that question all on our own without any input or support by the people who patronize our industry.
We want our work to be seen for what it actually is, and we want you to be seen as you actually are. This isn't to say there aren't predatory clients or abuses that happen to us within our industry from clients. That does happen. But when every aspect of our jobs is written off as abuse, that not only minimizes when a sex worker is actually abused, but also turns every single client into an abuser. And our efforts to illustrate that this is a massive oversimplification are usually mocked and ridiculed, often with a side of telling us that we're so badly abused that we don't even know what's best for us anymore
Sex is complicated. Labor is complicated. Discussions of that combination should address complexities and nuance, but it rarely ever does. So sometimes we fight to be heard. And we still often aren't. But we try.
So if you appreciate the effort being forth here in this uphill battle to stop stigmatizing you as clients (among other things of course), I implore you to thank a sex worker today. If you can, send a sex worker some money or a gift for no other reason than to thank them for the continued emotional stress and trauma from being stigmatized by the world at large (it doesn't have to be me, I promise!) Or donate that money to a sex worker run organization or mutual aid fund. If that's not possible, signal boost them on social media, or tell a sex worker "thank you" with no expectation of anything in return (including a reply). Or thank them indirectly by posting on social media about sex worker rights, or having difficult conversations with friends and family about these topics, knowing that you may not be fully heard either.
I realize many of you already do these things, and I sincerely thank you for that. If that's you, then consider this your reminder to do so. As allies, your work is always appreciated, though never quite done.
If you haven't done these things, please do what you can to thank a sex worker for fighting for your right to be seen as a human being.
It's a very heavy load to bear all on our own. And a simple, genuine thank you for this time, effort and energy, no matter how it's expressed, can make all the difference.
*Not all sex workers are women, but often in the arguments against sex work, people exclusively focus on women/female identified sex workers
**Not all clients of sex workers are men, but often in the arguments against sex work, people exclusively focus on men/male identified sex clients.