In the Blog

so are you really a whore?

March 30th, 2008     by piKe krpan     Comments

Forgive the intense subject line, but this is the question that Audacia Ray had to face from mainstream media jerkos who were interviewing her on the Spitzer scandal in New York state. (It was off-air, but nonetheless off-putting.)

And why is it a nasty question? Well no sex worker wants to be called a whore, especially by some big shot who is about to control how the entire country is going to see you, your work and activism. Let’s just say there is a power differential going on, since sex workers have little to gain from public exposure and just about everything to lose.

And this same media industry also trafficks in representations of sex workers that only deal with the following images: dead hookers, exploitation, trafficking, arrests, and good girls gone bad…few of which truly give voice to the experiences of sex workers. Audacia has a great blog post on why sex workers aren’t accurately represented in the mainstream media, which she read to much acclaim at the WAM! conference session on Sex Workers and Media Representation this past weekend. I love the last line of this post.

What I really liked about this session at the conference was how Audacia opened the conversation by saying that we weren’t going to discuss how/if sex work was feminist, or if sex work was a moral activity. Now of course we’ve had that conversation at length on this blog, and I’m not really interested in rehashing it here (although I suspect you might already sense where I stand by using the words sex work instead of prostitution or sex trafficking). So we stayed pretty focused on how to bring change to the representation of sex workers in the media, which I think we can all agree does little to help anyone in the way it sensationalizes and dehumanizes sex workers, either as sexbots or as pitiful victims.

I’m a bit tired and a bit too into my duty-free scotch to say tons more here about the session (full disclosure!), but I did agree quite strongly with one woman who attended the session who suggested that the lack of truthful sex education and our general inability to talk about sex in a open and honest way perpetuates myths not only about sex workers, but about the nature of all of our sexual needs and desires. As Racialicious correspondent Wendi Muse pointed out to me later on, how is that Oprah can’t even say VAGINA on tee vee?

How can we possibly have a talk about sex workers in the mainstream if we can’t even talk honestly about sex?

I guess if we could talk honestly about sexuality, there would be a whole different world for sex workers. I invite your imaginings here on that vision!

Tags: body politics, media savvy

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