So, as you know bob, Saturday was International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

I’ve already posted about my thoughts on decriminalization. Now I’m going to talk about stigma.

See. I’m a model. A nude model. I do fetish work (sometimes) and erotic nude work (sometimes) and glamour/pin-up work (sometimes), but predominantly I’m a figure model.
Meaning that I get naked and strike dynamic (and sometimes not all-that-dynamic) poses for art classes and community clubs, and get paid for it.
Meaning – to put it the way a fellow model did, earlier today – that I “get naked for money”.

And there’s a stigma that goes along with that. The kind that means I’m pretty careful, when discussing my modeling career in unfamiliar company, to emphasize the “art” (and schools and community centres) aspect of my job. The kind that prompts my mother to ask “exactly what kind of pictures are you taking?” when the results of my third shoot involved “partial nudity” and body-paint.

Naked pictures of me hanging on local gallery walls? Wow, that’s really impressive!
Naked pictures of me on the internet? Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute. You mean like porn?

I have a photoshoot coming up in about two weeks.
It’s for a collection/show that will be (theoretically) mounted in a gallery or published as a coffee-table book or similar. The poses I’ll be doing are very much like the ones I do when I’m working for an animation class or a drawing club.

I have a photoshoot coming up in about two weeks.
It’s a private shoot, nude photos. There will be molasses involved. I’m booked for 3-4 hours in a local hotel room. The photographer has requested a Brazillian (or that I be “as smooth as possible” in the mons/ass/hips/thighs area). He’s also commented on my long legs and asked me to bring a pair of stilettos with me for the shoot.

These are, of course, the same shoot. I’m just emphasizing different aspects of it to make a point.
One description, with its talk of galleries and classes, sounds tidy, legitimate, above-board. The other one, with its references to bikini-waxing, high heels, and private hotel rooms, sounds shady and implies that there’s maybe something sexual going on.
It all depends on how you (want to) look at it.

There are people in this town who will (and do) sneer down their noses at figure models because we “take [our] clothes off for money” – a fact which, in these people’s eyes, puts us in the same category as strippers, peep-show dancers, go-go boys, and porn performers. Which, if you don’t put strippers, peep-show dancers, go-go boys, porn performers, and… other people who take their clothes off for money, in the “not as good as other people” category, is fine. (However you wouldn’t be sneering down your nose at us, if that was the case, now would you?)

So. I take my clothes off for money.
That’s the most obvious parallel between what I do and what people’s whose jobs fall more clearly and fully under the heading of “sex work” do.
I also spend my on-the-clock time caring about – and, on some level, embodying – the stuff that my client is passionate about[1]. But that parallel is a lot less obvious – and comes under a lot less fire – than the stuff about naked bodies and cash does.

There is (some) stigma attached to what I do for a living. It’s the same stigma that sexworkers get[2], although to a much lesser degree.

Whore stigma effects people who do things, or who are perceived as doing things, that the non-sexworking (or anti-sexworking) population associates with sexwork. Your daughter to who goes out Dressed Like That is effected by whore stigma when you don’t let her leave the house for fear of what people will think. Your class-mate with the big breasts is effected by whore stigma every time people smirk at her tits and assume she works at Hooters. Your neighbour is effected by whore stigma when some loser yells “How much?” out the car window, and speeds off leaving her to wonder why he yelled that at her[3]. Your room-mate is effected by whore stigma[4] when her sexual history is paraded across a courtroom during the trial of her rapist. Your brother is effected by whore stigma when he gets turned down for a job at Programmer Inc. because he stripped his way through college, even if he hasn’t been near a go-go cage in eight years and it has fuck-all to do with what Programmer Inc is hiring for. Your childhood English teacher (to site a really specific example) is effected by whore stigma when “concerned parents” say her second career as an erotica-writer makes her unfit to teach tenth graders about Shakespeare. Your cousin (and hir partner!) is/are effected by whore stigma when someone finds out about the totally consensual internet porno hir spouse made at age 27 and starts asking “Why did you marry someone Like That? Don’t you think you could do better?”

Do you see where I’m going with this. Even if you don’t give two hoots about the rights of actual sexworkers[5], the systemic stigmatization of sexwork and sexworkers effects people who are not now, and may never have been, involved in sex work.

So. This is me saying: This crap effects me, too.

In addition to being human rights and workers’ rights, sexworkers’ rights are also your aunt’s/sister’s/brother-in-law’s/neighbour’s/room-mate’s rights.

And sexworkers’ rights are my rights, too.

Ms Syren.

[1] In my case, that tends to be long lines and good angles and a passion for the play of light and shadow.

[2] …Of various job-descriptions, to varying degrees depending on things like what kind of sexwork they do, how that job-description fits into mainstream paradigms about power and value AND how much money they can/do make/charge doing it, but also depending on things like how many intersecting points of marginalization they are dealing with (as the fewer you’ve got on your plate, the more protection you have from the direct, physical violence that comes hand-in-hand with that stigma).

[3] And, yes. All of those examples were about women. Who get hit by whore stigma (and virgin expectations) a lot more frequently than men do, both because there are more women than men doing sexwork, and because “slut” is to women what “fag” is to men. A sexual boundary marker that says “don’t be that”. A man who isn’t conforming to societal expectations of “appropriate masculinity” is way more likely to get “fag” than “whore” thrown at him.
None the less, the stigma that comes from being a closeted sexworker and hearing friends/neighbours/family/co-workers talk about “what a ho” someone else is… that effects all sexworkers, regardless of gender.

[4] Or slut stigma, which is effectively the same thing in that it means a woman has “too much” sex or sex for the “wrong” reasons.

[5] Though you should. Partly because: Duh. But also because, hey, maybe your daughter/aunt/room-mate/brother-in-law/neighbour/whoever actually is a sexworker and you just don’t know about it.