Ex-worker

Friday, September 10, 2010

Question

I'm a former escort who just got out of the industry, and I'm wondering if there are any support groups for people like me. It could be an online group or other.

Answer

Both abolitionist and pro-sex-work organizations offer strategies for people who want to leave or who have left the sex industry. Abolitionist groups tend to focus on the psychic damage incurred by sex work, while pro-sex-work groups generally take a more inclusive approach, understanding that people do sex work for a variety of reasons and, as such, require different resources.

For example, while a group like REED (Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity) says it supports women in and out of the sex trade, the language and actions employed by the organization do not reflect this. From their website: "There is an uncontrolled male demand for sexual access to the bodies of women (and children), and the supply for this demand is met through violating the dignity of women. It is our conviction that in order to stem the tide of human trafficking, we must end the demand for paid sex. Demand flourishes in an atmosphere of anonymity."

REED also holds demonstrations outside strip clubs, standing, as they say, "in silent solidarity with the women inside and outside the club." This patronizing double talk also comes across in the term they use for ex-sex workers, "formerly prostituted," as though there is no possibility for choice in this profession. Ending the demand for paid sex does not stop trafficking. If history is any indication, abolition only drives business further underground, leaving those who work, whether by choice or not, in an even more precarious position.

While it's unreasonable to deny that this industry has been rough for many people, you may want to try groups that look more at the broader experiences people have. Organizations that view sex work only as coercive and harmful reinforce that perspective with strident and misleading rhetoric that lacks sensitivity and reason. From REED's website again: "Prostitution is inherently violent and involves the systematic exploitation of women."

A poster for the group's "Buying Sex Is Not A Sport" campaign (embracedignity.org/?page=buyingsexisnotasport) implies that every act of sex work is rape. For those who have been raped as well as had more complex experiences as intimate service providers, this is a leap in logic that can only be described as breathtakingly insensitive.

Organizations like Stella actually do stand in solidarity with sex workers, both current and former. Find it online at chezstella.org.

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