Shame Someone You Love on TV (And Get a Makeover)

Even before scandal drew my sex work history to light, in my daily life, my coming clean -- or not -- had always been an issue.

Jun 19, 2012 at 10:30am | Leave a comment

Want to shame someone you love on TV (and get a makeover)? Well, you’re in luck. My Facebook friend Kitty Stryker found this awesomely awful ad on Craigslist

"IS SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT DESTROYING THEIR LIFE AND MAYBE YOURS TOO BY A PROSTITUTE OR MALE ESCORT? A STRIPPER? A PORN STAR?   ARE YOU READY TO CONFRONT THEM ON A NATIONALLY-SYNDICATED TV SHOW AND TELL THEM TO GET OUT OF THEIR SEX INDUSTRY JOB NOW!???  IF SO, CALL PRODUCER ALLIE AT 718-316-3045 AND YOU CAN BE A GUEST!  WE WILL FLY YOU OUT TO NYC AND PAY FOR YOUR: -AIRFARE -HOTEL -MEALS -TRANSPORTATION FROM AIRPORT TO HOTEL -MAKEOVER FOR TV -MORE!"

It seems there is a word or two missing in the first sentence. Do they mean "by BECOMING a prostitute" or "by FREQUENTING a prostitute"? Who needs so many words, I guess, when what’s really important is the implication. Sex workers = destroy lives!! 

The title of the ad was BE ON TV, TELL SOMEONE TO GET OUTTA SEX INDUSTRY NOW! Whereas I suppose we already knew that shows in the glorious tradition of Jerry Springer aren’t exactly peer-reviewed research, it is probably worth mentioning that “BE ON TV!” “WE WE WILL FLY YOU OUT TO NYC!” and “MAKEOVER!” might just persuade someone from “I’m sort of uncomfortable about my roommate’s second job” to “They’re ruining my life!”

Forget bias, how about the fact that -- as Dr. Drew is always pointing out-- one individual’s choices, however seemingly misguided, needn’t “destroy” the lives of the people who care about them -- and there are meetings for people who think that they do

I suppose that people’s feelings about other people’s involvement in sex work is a touchy subject for me, because it’s true: Being a sex worker DID sort of ruin my life.

And yet, for me, sex work sucked not so much because of my experiences in the industry, which were somewhat benign compared to what some people might think -- but because of “what some people might think”-- for, from the first time I stepped off stage at a strip club until sometimes even today, over five years since the last time I sold sex -- I suffer and have suffered from being seen and seeing myself through the lens of stigma associated with being a sex worker. 

Even before scandal drew my sex work history to light, in my daily life, my coming clean -- or not -- had always been an issue. When you tell people that you used to do adult work, you get one of three reactions. Some people, most rarely, will admit to some equally illicit past of their own. Some people will come right out and tell you how they disagree with your choice, never mind that they might not always understand -- or even care to understand -- your reasons for making it.

More often, people try -- and fail, miserably -- to not react at all. Women bristle. Men are titillated. Most people, for these reasons, you just don’t tell. Instead, you lie -- and then you become a “liar” which, for me, was much worse than being a whore. 

When my mother found out I was stripping, she was -- in her words -- “humiliated.” We spoke of it once, and then -- to this day -- never again. I was hurt, but I was also angry. Her reaction -- it felt at the time and for years after -- seemed less out of concern for me and more about how my decision reflected on her. 

Ironically, all the criticism and stigma I faced as a result of my occupation, while I was still working, had the opposite of its intended effect: I kept working in the sex industry long after I “needed” to and even when I didn’t enjoy it, as if by quitting would have meant admitting that I was wrong to have ever done in it the first place.

I spent years feeling hurt by others’ reactions to my profession, defending myself to myself, fighting for the right to feel good enough and to fit in. But to be human, according to James Baldwin, is not something we must fight for. “Instead,” he writes, “we need only do that which is infinity more difficult -- that is, to accept it.”

I am of the opinion that, so long as they say it’s their choice, a sex worker’s occupation is their business, not yours, no matter how much you “care.”