Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Further Thoughts On Labor Issues In The Sex Industry

Molly said yesterday: It kind of depresses me to hear you say (I paraphrase) "Just accept your crappy working conditions, that's the way it is and it's not going to get any better."
Sure, if you just roll over and accept terrible working conditions, your work environment isn't going to improve. But workers, in the sex industry or otherwise, have rights to working bathrooms and to have their contracts (number of scenes, whatever) agreed to. If no one stands up and says "Hey, don't treat us like shit!" management won't change.
Maybe I'm just idealistic, but I've seen direct positive results from the labor movement. I think those ideas can be adapted to sex work. Then again, I've never been a sex worker, so this is all theory.

I understand what you’re saying. I myself put in quite a lot of time doing sex-worker activism in the nineties. I helped run a local sex workers organization called Blackstockings, I wrote articles, I made speeches, I produced sex worker events, I helped put out the ‘zine. (Remember 'zines?) So it's not that I don't care, or that I don’t think social change can happen.

But I am a pragmatist, and I am also a capitalist, albeit something of an anarcho-capitalist. I have seen a lot of smart, earnest women expend a lot of energy trying to change the way sex business owners treat their contractors (read: de facto employees) and achieve...not very much. It's great and wonderful that they/we achieved anything at all, given the level of resistance that exists, but to me, it was like trying to bail out the ocean with a bucket. I saw that if I worked really, really hard, I might, just might, help create…a slightly better place for women to go make money for sex business owners. Hmmnn. Didn’t seem worth it to me.

I suppose part of it is my family background – I come from a whole nest of self-employed people, and I was raised in an atmosphere where if you wanted something to happen, you made it happen for yourself. The idea that workers have the right to make demands about how a business owner runs their business is sort of strange to me. I’m not saying it’s wrong, because I know, intellectually, that it’s not. I’m just saying that it’s not a way of thinking that would ever naturally occur to me. For me personally, if I don’t like what’s happening in a work environment, my rights are my feet: I can leave and work somewhere else, or better yet, start my own business and run it my way.

The sex business owners don't care because they don't have to. As it is now, if women quit because they don't like the conditions, it doesn’t matter, because there are plenty more where they came from. There is no financial incentive for them to change, and appealing to their better nature is a joke. Thus, my answer was to quit bouncing from one workplace to another and create my own work environment. I think that’s a better solution. If enough women quit working for someone else and started their own businesses, that would make an impact on sex business owners. They’d be inspired to offer more competitive working conditions, or see their labor pool dry up.

But I think that's unlikely. Many people want to work for someone else. This baffles me, but I see that it’s true. However, I’m hoping that if I keep talking about how I have created what I want, then I will inspire other women to do the same - whatever it is they want.

I didn't dance at strip clubs or work at lingerie-modeling joints to create social change, I was doing it to make money for myself. While I was there, I saw and accepted the trade-offs that come with the gig. But I made plans to get myself out of there and into something better. I’d rather teach women how to do that then spend a lot of energy trying to change the rules of someone else’s game.

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