Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wow, This One Got Long

I’m in a letter-answering mood this week, let’s see what else we can pull out of the mailbag…

Mistress Matisse…
I have a question. I remember you mentioning in a column that your clients tend to be conservative. I have this idea that many guys with sex-negative, homophobic views are secretly seeing sex-workers. Maybe you even recognize some conservative politicians amongst your clients. Do you ever feel like you're betraying your fellow sex-workers or the queer/poly-community? Because you're supporting, in a way, the hypocricy of those conservatives? i realize my question isn't exactly fully thought out, but do you understand what I'm trying to say, or am I way off?

Maybe it helps to clarify my question when I explain how I came up with it. I (male and gay) recently met a gay guy who is a musician recording for a christian label (which forces him to stay closeted). I understand that he is religious and that recording under that label is his way of expressing his believe and supporting the good things his church does (like helping street children) but I still feel like he is betraying the queer community somehow, by working for that homophobic institution. Isn't your situation somehow comparable?

Goodness, how very Lysistrata-ish of you. Short answer: No, I don’t. No, it’s not. And no, I do not have any prominent conservative politicians (that I know of) among the people who come to see me.

You can find people in the queer community, and the poly community, that are sex work positive, but you can also find lots of people there who are strongly opposed to sex work. I do not feel that I need to consult their wishes - or anyone else's - in making my career choices. And I can assure you that other sex workers do not feel betrayed by me having conservative clients, given that they all do too.

If you want to get into long-winded political philosophy, then read on…

My dear earnest young man, your assumption here is that "liberal" equates with “sex-positive, non-homophobic, supports sex workers.” You are correct: this reasoning is not fully thought-out. It’s superficial and unexamined at best, and mainly just wrong.

(You also assume that I would define myself as a liberal. I don’t. I’m not a conservative, either. I am a complex blend of leave-me-alone libertarianism, it-takes-a-village progressive, and free-market conservative.)

Now, I will grant you that someone who calls himself a liberal is more likely to say he supports gay rights than someone who calls himself a conservative. However, I have known liberals who paid lip service to the party line, but carried around a lot of unspoken homophobic assumptions. And I have known secular conservatives who honestly didn’t care who slept with who. Or who married who, or who adopted children, or whatever, as long as they didn’t frighten the horses.

However, liberals as a political group are no more likely to be supportive of sex work than conservatives. I have seen just as much dismissal, condescension, and vitriol towards sex workers from the far left as the far right. In the view of many liberals, sex workers are simply victims. And if they refuse to be victims, then they are just bad, evil people. They’re like – oh my god – capitalists! (To be pronounced in same tone that a fundy-christian would use when crying “whores!”)

I'm curious what exactly you think liberals do that’s so supportive of sex work as a job choice? Because I am not aware of any legislation introduced by a mainstream liberal politician to decriminalize my career. I don’t mean citizen’s initiatives like Proposition K, I mean a sitting elected official making a clear effort to repeal laws prohibiting sex work. I don’t know of any. If you find me some, I’d be pleased to hear about it, but my experience and observation is that liberal and conservative politicians may phrase it differently, but they both get to the same conclusion: keep sex work mostly illegal and heavily stigmatized.

On the other hand, my experience and observation has also shown me that thinking individuals of either side can often be educated. Both liberal and conservative people have told me that knowing me changed their opinion of sex work and sex workers, because I was happy and smart and had my shit together.

But only if they're open-minded. I’m remembering one extremely liberal man, who I knew for several years back when I was an escort, who simply could not let himself believe that no, I wasn’t a drug addict, and no, I didn’t have a pimp, and no, I wasn’t abused as a child, et cetera. He was a very nice man, but his continual anxious hand-wringing about whether this was really, really something I was okay with doing got on my nerves. It certainly was not conducive to a good fuck.

No, if I was going to screen for political affiliation, I might very well choose secular moderate-to-conservatives, if for no other reason than they generally sympathize with my work-ethic and entrepreneurial bent, and my desire to be mostly left alone by my government. They see that I am not a victim, and that no one is forcing me to do anything.

And that guy you’re sprung on, the closeted one? He isn’t being forced, either, unless his christian employer is holding a gun to his head. He is choosing it. He may not like everything about the choice he’s made – I can tell you don’t - but he’s a grown-up, and he gets the responsibility for his decisions.

Approaching sexuality with this "never give aid and comfort to the enemy" mindset disregards the power of body and soul. And if you’re going to say that no one from a less-powerful social group should be sexual with someone of a more-powerful social group, then you’d have to say women should not be sexual with men, period. Nor any person of color with a white person, nor any working-class person with a middle- or upper-class one. Not a realistic premise.

So think about it: Are you really saying we should put pressure on people to keep their sexuality strictly in line with, and segregated by, their political affiliations? I don't think that's the way to make the world a more sexually progressive place.

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