On Saturday night (Feb 10, 2018), I found myself bounding out of the house I live in as I realized that I’d confused the end time of the event I was set on attending that evening with its start time. I walked briskly through the rain while I struggled with my uncooperative umbrella, which I only managed to get to unfurl properly after I started seriously contemplating adding the damned thing to my series of Abandoned Umbrellas of Brooklyn photo series. I will have to start thinking “Work or I will turn you into lazy art.” at things that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to more often. Even so, I was pretty well soaked by the time I got to the venue, Catland Books.
I was there for the XXX Manifestos, described by its event listing as “a program of indie xxx films, docs about porno, and a couple of porno-adjacent experimental films to round out the program.” It was being presented by Stigma Unbound, whose first event I’d attended back in October and had loved. The proceeds were going to The Sex Workers Project, which is definitely a cause I’m happy to support. Sex workers need all the help they can get, given that they often find themselves stigmatized and marginalized even by otherwise progressive people. Even by the very people who unabashedly use their services.
Back when I still lived in Asheville, my nesting partner at the time had an on again, off again lover who would talked shit about polyamory while not having any qualms about having sex with her that he wouldn’t be able to have if we had been monogamous. I referred to this as “damning the tree while eating its fruit”. When I moved to Atlanta and became involved in the kink community I started becoming socially (and occasionally romantically or sexually) entwined with a lot more people who did some sort of sex work. Strippers, fetish models, porn actors, cam girls, pro dommes. I even did some sex work myself, in a loose sense, topping in a few tickle fetish videos. While they were fully clothed and not anything close to what I’d personally consider sexual, somebody was paying to masturbate to them.
I quickly reassigned the phrase “damning the tree while eating its fruit” to the enormous number of people in this country that enjoy the result of sex work, all while thoroughly denigrating the people who do the work. While what I did was pretty low on the hierarchy of sex work stigma, somewhere snugly beneath even phone sex operators in terms of how much grief society gives me over it, I’ve never condoned the shaming or systemic oppression of any level of sex worker. The people who need to be ashamed of themselves are the people who will regularly go to strip clubs, jack off to people getting paid to fuck for their entertainment, or even pay for sex directly, then condemn those same people for providing them that service.
Sex is a wonderful thing with many scientifically proven physical, mental, and emotional health benefits, and those who provide it willingly in any context should be cherished rather than demonized. It makes no sense to punish people for stepping up to fulfill the obvious need for what they provide.
So I’m happy to have had the opportunity to support both Stigma Unbound, in their efforts to raise awareness and funds, and The Sex Worker Project, for helping sex workers fight for their rights in a more hands on way. I look forward to what both groups will do in the future.