Monday, January 28, 2008

Deprogramming

There is an issue I have noticed with fellow sex workers- a bizarre relationship with their work, society's perspective on female sexuality and commercial sex, and the way they reconcile these internally.

I have met several ladies in the industry who ended up hating men. It hurt my heart to hear them say that and behave that way- a bitter, self-destructive thing. In conversations with them, it always seemed to come down to the issues they face "swimming upstream" as sex workers in a not-sex-friendly society. The men were easy targets for their frustrations.

When someone is constantly telling you as a girl how horrible sexually independent women are- sluts, whores, etc.- it is hard to not internalize that. It is also hard to reconcile how we are supposed to be sexually with how we are or want to be sexually (if that differs from what we are taught is acceptable). We are taught to button up our blouses, wear muted make-up and wait for Mr. Right to gallop in on a Lippizaner and "make honest women out of us." We are stripped of our very power.

Clearly, any woman who works in the sex industry has already deviated from this norm, and has to deal with the sometimes dire consequences of her choices. But how do we deprogram our very deep socialization? We internalize various guises of guilt, shame, hatred, etc., and it is only a very few, very strong women who can deconstruct society's erroneous conclusions about unfettered female sexual autonomy.

The most horrible aspect of this socialization we've gone through is self-hatred, and the second most horrible aspect is hatred of other women.

10 Comments:

Anonymous AH said...

Hi Holly. Very thoughtful posting.

Women re often trained to see any other woman as competition (as you have mentioned over the years in your posting)and they will not function in any other manner.

AS for men, it is the harsh treatment shown to pro girls and the obvious concern shown to nice girls (wives, long-term girlfriends, that seems to sour a number of women.

I think that a strong woman just locks her ears and mind to negative messages and goes forth with the process of living.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Thanks for commenting, AH!

I agree that strong women do this- but how can we stengthen more of us? How do we get other women to find common cause with women in the sex industry? It is exactly these issues that prevent women from becoming equally powerful as men in this world. I know we have a long way to go... sigh.

I have a crush on Betsy Prioleau.
:)

4:27 PM  
Anonymous AH said...

Women often work as a unit, because they often can't see the bigger picture.

Women who are outsidethe sex industry gain their comfort by that fact-they are outside. Thus, they can maintain the level of purity that is so highly prized by wider society.

Just because a person does something I don't, does not mean they should be treated badly or are outside of my compassion zone.

Too many women are scared of a woman who says "pay me". Not because she is a wife and mother but because she is a woman who doesn't have time to be used.

As long as the girls outside scoff at the girls inside then there is no common ground.

I hope that less scoffing is in our future but I will not put any cash on it.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

I'm dealing with a lot of these issues right now. I can't even blog about it -- it's such a tangled mess.

Even the simplest things, like expressing needs in a relationship, become a minefield if you're a sex worker or former sex worker.

XX

5:57 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

AH, you've pegged it, and it is pretty sad that women will sell each other down the river, so-to-speak, just to deflect the whore stigma to someone else.

Amanda, that's a whole 'nother can o' worms- dealing with that stigma within a relationship. The stigma is used (successfully) against us by everyone- including, many times, those who claim to love us (family members, partners, etc.).

I think the key is to toughen our skin against the stigma. Once it loses its power to hurt us, it loses its power to control us.

Question is, again, how can we develop a formula for women in the profession to do this?

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

"Question is, again, how can we develop a formula for women in the profession to do this?"

Right now, the only thing that's working for me is the small network of support I've managed to build. If it weren't for other sex workers having my back...I cannot even imagine how bad off I would be.

So maybe the answer is as simple as decriminalizing to allow more of these networks to build. Not easy to do, but a simple idea.

Right now I'm very big on the idea of frienship among sex workers. It's the biggest help I've found.

XX

7:00 AM  
Anonymous AH said...

women in similar circumstances will find and support each other. The whole birds/feather argument.
It is a matter of friendship, as Amanda so rightly said.

Until it is either legalized and/or explained as human behavior (instead of sin) then banding together en masse is not in the foreseeable future, IMO.


We just need to be honest with each and not competitive.
Those two things are the key.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Aspasia said...

Betsy Prioleau is my hero. Seriously, I regard her Seductress book as my personal Bible. My ONLY Bible, truthfully!

8:27 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Yay Aspasia! So nice to see you here. I agree, Betsy rocks!!!

11:16 PM  
Blogger Aspasia said...

I love your blog. You always have something interesting to say that I'm agreeing with. In fact, I'm highlighting this specific post on my blog tomorrow.

I've actually given Seductress as "assigned reading" to a couple of my girlfriends. Ninon de Lenclos and La Belle Otero and Josephine Baker are, by far, my favorites. And of course Mae, it goes without saying.

1:24 AM  

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