NB: If you are related to me or to my partner, I would prefer that you not read this article. If you are a friend of my or Alex’s parents’ who somehow found their way to this site despite the precautions I took to move the site, then keep anything you read to yourself or if you are unable to do so, then do not read further. Do not share ANYTHING you read with either my parents or Alex’s. Any violation of this boundary will be grounds for me cutting you completely out of my life. You will be considered unsafe. I will consider you someone who does not respect boundaries and thus consider you abusive, and I will not keep this opinion to myself. You have been warned.
A sex worker’s perspective:
I have a great friend on Facebook who due to a variety of circumstances, disability chief among them, is unable to work regular jobs. As a result this friend makes regular monthly statuses asking for financial contributions from her friends and followers. This friend is also an advocate for disability rights with a special interest in autism, reproductive rights, and a variety of other social justice issues. She is a talented writer, and spends the energy she has on improving the world, and provides great tips on makeup.
Her name is Angie Jackson, and she is fabulous.
Her requests for money are often shared with the note that people who have no interest or are unable to help are welcome to ignore the status. As a result, many are happy to donate when they can, and those who can’t or won’t know they can do so without hard feelings.
As can be expected however, every once in a… well almost always actually, someone just absolutely has to come on the thread and explain why what she is doing is wrong and/or suggest ways in which she can make money without begging. The suggestions are often influenced by underlying classism, ableism, and more, but those are topics for another post.
This time, someone popped on with the suggestion that she try her hand at being a sex worker; specifically a cam girl.
This may come as a surprise to some of my readers, but I was, and may be again, a cam girl. This isn’t about to be a story about how sex work ruined my life. In fact I greatly enjoyed it and it did a lot to help with my body image issues. I found it to be a positive experience.
So why wouldn’t I recommend it to someone who is poor?
Sex work is not for everyone.
Sex work is work and just like not everyone is predisposed to becoming a doctor, or a mechanic, or any other profession, not everyone is a good fit for sex work.
Sex work can me mentally exhausting. While my experience is in no way representative of everyone’s experience, I noticed that a significant percentage of my work was providing emotional support for my clients. Since my work was online, this was often in the form of offering advice with regards to meeting women, and assuring them that “yes, there really are girls out there who like shy awkward guys”. (As an interesting side note, these guys were a lot more receptive than most seeking advice on the internet to being told to take no for an answer, that women don’t owe them sex for being nice, and that women are human beings with diverse interests and no easy one size fits all cheat code.).
A lot of the work is about creating and maintaining a fantasy for the client. About maintaining a balance between providing enough interesting content to attract viewers while leaving out enough to entice people to tip or buy private shows. About creating a believable fiction that the people watching and chatting can participate in. It is performance art of a type, and like any time of performance, it can be exhausting.
It can also be emotionally taxing putting up with the social stigma surrounding the work. Having to hide what you do from family, from authority figures, can be overwhelming. There is the fear of what happens when inevitably someone you know finds out: the insulting presumptions, the intrusive questions.
Another reason why suggesting sex work to someone who is struggling with money, especially someone unable to work due to disability, is that it presumes that all someone has to do to make money in sex work is diddle yourself and the money comes pouring in. It devalues the work. It makes assumptions that are based on ignorance.
Sex work is a business. It is both a service and a product that you are offering. In order to make money, you have to put in effort and time. You have to set up websites, build your persona, advertise, you have to maintain your sites, organize and plan shows, all of this outside of the performance itself.
Like any business, It takes time to build your client base. It takes time to become established enough to make an income that would actually alleviate the financial woes in any significant way.
You don’t just start as a cam girl if you want to succeed. You have to set up a website, build a profile that could be viewed by potential clients. You have to familiarize yourself with what is on offer and what is successful. You have to create a marketing plan to decide how best to advertise your specific profile.
There was prep that needed to be done before every show as well. You need to decide what sort of show you want to offer that day. How far you are willing to go. You need to come up with hook. You need to prepare your look if you want to present a certain style.
Even with all this effort, you might still not succeed. There are a lot of different factors that can influence your success: availability of what you offer, success of your marketing, the quality of your performance, and a great deal of luck. Like any business, failure is likely and possible.
Improving your chance at success involves making financial investments as well; in toys, clothing, equipment. Some of the expenses can be spread out over time, and some can be passed on to clients as recompense for services rendered, but some of them are required upfront. Someone who is struggling with money already may not have the resources necessary to make the best investment possible.
One of the main reasons I had to leave was because the workload needed to be successful was greater than what I had the physical energy for, despite my enjoyment of the work itself.
Sex work is a valid career option, and can be fun, fulfilling, and a great confidence booster. It can be empowering, but it is not for everyone. By suggesting someone who might not be disposed to such a career path that they go into it for monetary reasons, you are creating a circumstance that adds to the already existing stigma surrounding sex work. You are creating a situation where sex work can be deemed as being coercive or exploitive.
But ultimately, the main reason you shouldn’t recommend sex work when someone complains that they are struggling financially is because no one asked you and no one owes it to you to make money in a way that you deem acceptable. No one should starve, or be homeless, or be unable to access basic fucking necessities because they are unable to work. Anyone who says otherwise lacks empathy.
If you would like to donate Angie and her family, her paypal and google wallet are firstname.lastname@example.org