“The aim of the talk was to give an inside view of what it’s like working within the adult industry whilst at the same time having a physical disability. Also to draw parallels between disability stigma, and sex work stigma – speaking personally as someone with a finger in each pie, sex work and disability are very similar in how they’re viewed – as something sensational yet marginalised and ‘not normal’.”
3) You very rarely hear the voice of the sex worker or person with a disability talking, other people talk over us and for us.
This one ties neatly into my previous point, so I won’t go on too much about it, but even when our voices are portrayed they’re twisted. News articles want a story that juicy – just last year I came down to Eroticon, but I came down a day early to go to an industry event. The event was a showing of a new show like Sex Excetra that showcased sex workers doing their day to day jobs. When they tried to pitch it to places like Channel 4, Channel 4 apparently came back with an email that said – now don’t quote me on this ‘where are the pimps and drug addicts’. People don’t like to listen to us because it changes their misconceptions, and when it comes to TV – people don’t like it because it doesn’t sell as much.
The past few months have also shown me all too well that as a disabled person people don’t want to hear from me. When I did a 12-day stint in the hospital earlier this year, the doctors took pain medication requests more seriously when they came from my partner. I had multiple nurses decide that because I was 24, and admitted because of pain that I was essentially seeking drugs. I had nurses refuse me pain medications, and I had to ask for it time and time again to get them to listen to me. An eye doctor last year addressed my partner when asking if I could transfer from my wheelchair into the chair for the tests instead of me.
4) People don’t understand us – but they also don’t make the effort to.
If you say you’ve got a condition or you use a wheelchair or mobility device, people seem to expect you to give them a rundown of why you’re using the device or what exactly happens with your condition when you shouldn’t have to feel the need to inform them – particularly when disabled people have very limited energy reserves.
People feel they have a right to know about your condition / the ins and outs. As if you need to prove to them that you’re deserving.
It’s the same with sex work. People like to lump us into one. Lorelie Lee sums it up nicely for me in one Tweet. Side note; you should really go follow her.
porn performer: *makes literally any statement*
Internet: My counterargument is that you’re a porn performer. That is my entire argument.
— Lorelei Lee (@MissLoreleiLee) March 16, 2018
5) We are people too / sex work is work.
People tend to forget that we’re people.
It’s the little things that people forget, like when a venue says its accessible, but you come across steps to the bathroom, or when restaurants ‘forget’ to mention their lack of stable ramp. People forcing you to take pictures when you’re worried about identification. People sharing your job – or your medical history without your consent.
But, it’s also the little things like having coloured lanyards to denote you don’t want to be in pictures. My first Eroticon I didn’t want to share that I was going for fear of people knowing my exact location. It’s knowing things like that that make you feel safer and more secure telling people what you do.
Sex work is work. Yet people don’t think it is.
I pay taxes. I pay bills like rent, electricity, internet, etc., and as well as being a kick-ass sex worker I’ve picked up many so skills that are transferable. If I told a company all the skills I had but conveniently missed out on the ‘sex worker’ part they’ be far more willing to hire me than if I told them where I picked the skills up from. I mean, if you saw the multilevel audio hypnosis clip I produced last week …
People like to stigmatised, and instead of finding out what goes into being a sex worker, they don’t like the change their preconceptions. I posted something on Twitter about sex workers shouldn’t be included in-jokes anymore. One of the responses I got was this:
‘What’s the difference between being a sex worker and a drug dealer? a hooker can wash the crack and sell it again.”
That’s the pure assumption that sex work is exploiting people, but within sex work, we help more than people realise – I have a client who’s trying catch up with over 200 hours of work and losing weight. He gets orgasms as a reward, but that’s it. I help to keep him accountable. Sex workers can be self-help coaches, therapists, and so much more.
Sex work is work and people don’t respect that. The utter disregard for our work is also shown through good old fashion porn piracy. Numerous people comment on porn sites ‘why would I spend money on porn’. It doesn’t even enter into their minds that they should pay for the labour that goes into porn – either indie or professional.
It’s easy to go on PornHub and search for your fetish, but it’s easier to forget the work that goes the videos. Sex work is emotional labor. It’s physical labor. It’s a labor of love.”
I’m sure you’re all sitting here thinking how does this relate to writing?
After all, it is Eroticon.
- Don’t sensationalise – even if you think it would sell better, it’s just furthering a stigma many of us are trying to fight against.
- If you don’t know, ask! And Google like your life depends on it. Better yet interview people and remember that their time is valuable. Often they are freelancers like yourself.
- Rethink your preconceptions. Remember that both disability and sex work are vastly different from how they are often portrayed in the media. On top of this, they are ever-changing. New laws are cropping up all the time.
Right now in both America and England is we face problems, because other people want to speak for us. In regards to sex work Look at SESTA and FOSTA- the new laws in America where trading information online about sexual services online is illegal – making providers in more danger of harm, and the Digital Economy Bill in England.
Those in power act as if we do not know minds – that we don’t know what’s good for us, when in fact we are the ones who should really be talking on these topics. What they’re really doing is making out jobs more dangerous, and removing our ability to earn. In regards to disability, the government has announced a ‘crackdown’ on PIP form – with a billion-pound investigation into it, when the DWP calculated that the largest fraud in 2015-16 was in the housing benefit system. (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39980793)
Sex work and disability are two areas people want to shy away from, but we don’t want you to shy away from us. We want you to look at us – police yourself in your language and thoughts so language doesn’t perpetuate stigma, we want you to recognise you’ll make mistakes, and admit when you mess up, and ask how to do better and be better allies. There is a very good chance that someday you will come across someone who is disabled or who is involved in sex work.
If you take away nothing from this talk please just take with this – don’t write about us, portray us without us – better yet amplify our voices so we can be heard.
That’s the speech! I had 45 minutes, and I spoke for every single one of them – well, apart from the time taken up by the fire alarm. I split it into three parts so it’s easier to digest – the whole speech is around 3,500 words. I definitely went a tad off-topic during the talk, but this is what I was trying to get across.
I hope you enjoyed reading it.