I've Grown Accustomed to My Face: Privilege, Stigma, and Sex Work

I did something in December casually that is anything but casual: I dyed my hair red and posted pictures of the change with something no one who hasn't met me has seen before. Showing my face was a gradual, thought out choice but the way that I did it might indicate otherwise. I would like to expand on the topic, as my reasons are not just related to me and my business.

When I decided to start escorting last February, I was intrigued but apprehensive. This apprehension had little to do with the job itself and everything to to with the social stigma and taboo surrounding it. I was faced with many doubts and questions. Should I tell anyone? If so who? Would this affect my ability to find a job in another field in the future? How would future potential long term partners view my choice? How would I keep myself safe? Notice the questions I wasn't asking. I wasn't wondering if I could be intimate with near strangers, or if the work would be degrading. I was unconcerned about the types of men who would come to see me, aside from concerns of practical safety I was soon to learn were relatively easy to assuage with proper screening. In other words I didn't have a problem with escorting, I was making society's assumptions about escorting my problem. As I began to pick up experiences in this world I was pleased to find that by and large, my positive assumptions were proved correct. I began to tell select loved ones and with a couple exceptions received overwhelming love and support.

Shame is a powerful currency, and the rise of the Intenet and social media as only increased its power. You don't have to run for high office to have your past as a sex worker hurt you professionally. Employers of teachers, doctors, lawyers, and most of corporate America can and will show you the door if they find out. This puts most sex workers, even in totally legal industries like porn, stripping, and camming, in the position of having to conceal what they do, regardless of their personal wishes and attitude towards their profession. Privilege is an oft tossed around term but its invisible walls soon became apparent: my race, socioeconomic background, age, body type, and education are all factors that influence the image I portray and the clients I attract. My future career aspirations fall outside the corporate 9 to 5 norm, which is one of the many reasons professional companionship is the ideal choice for me. Because I am unlikely to experience professional censure or consequences for showing my face I feel a responsibility to those who would be likely to experience negative repercussions for doing so. 

 

Sex workers in the United States are not just controlled by hostile laws, but by hostile social attitudes. One of the first things I realized when becoming a sex worker is how society at large dehumanizes sex workers ("You sell sex? You must not value yourself!") as well as clients ("You pay for sex? You monster!"), and this stigma creates a culture of secrecy and shame even among sex workers who are fulfilled by and proud of their work. There is so much I want to say, but as this is a blog post not a book for now let me leave you all with this: I try to live my life as if I live in the world I want, because otherwise how can I expect the world that is to change? In the world that I want sex workers are not shamed for showing their faces, barred from future employment, or dehumanized for doing one of the most enduring professions in human civilization. By showing my face I like to imagine I'm doing my small part to make that world a reality.   

-Ava

 

 

 

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