Sunday, June 19, 2011

In Defense of Sex Work and Feminism

This piece was submitted by a faithful reader--


I am a stripper. A feminist stripper.

Much thought has gone into my past five years in this line of work. I could write an entire thesis about why I do what I do. Never has it conflicted with my personal and/or feminist convictions in any way. In fact, I would love to enlighten people about my job, the incredible women I've met, and the very positive things I've taken away from it.

I'd also appreciate an opportunity to debunk any harmful stereotypes.

Over the years, I've become pretty close with plenty of my co-workers: women who served in the Army; women who are Pre-Law and about to graduate with honors; Paralegals; women with multiple college degrees; women working in group homes; women on the verge of being published; and countless loving, devoted mothers.

Last but not least, I had the privilege of meeting a fellow feminist stripper. This college-educated, brilliant and funny woman minored in Art and majored in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. She single-handedly created a group called "Stripper Army," and recently published the group's first 'zine.

Then there's me. Define me however you like, I know who I am.

I am an unapologetic advocate for sex worker's rights. Sex work is an umbrella term, coined by the activist Carol Leigh in 1980, covering strippers, phone sex operators, dominatrices, porn starts and prostitutes.

Prostitution is particular case. It should be legalized and regulated to keep the women as safe as possible.

As a feminist stripper, I do not judge or shame the women having sex for money. My only complaint arises when women prostitute themselves from within the club-- do that on your own time, please.

The economy is down, it affects everyone and strippers don't make nearly as much as people think. It's a struggle. 

But I'm not trying to compete with that. Why would a "gentleman" purchase a plain old dance if he could get a hell of a lot more for the same price?

I was inspired to tackle this subject by someone who recently asked if I'd be interested in joining a call-girl service since he had a "hook."

"It's not some dirty ass place, it's high class, it would mostly be basketball players."

He also said it's just a step beyond dancing. While both professions are stigmatized and most people (comfortable in their ignorance) see them as one in the same, let me assure you, it's not.

I have nothing but love for prostitutes. But for me, the step is not so small.

I've been offered a lot of money to simply touch my breasts, and declined. I've been offered thousands for parties in hotel rooms or "private shows." Again, I declined.

I've been accused of being a prude stripper, but prostitution just isn't for me.

But that's the beauty of feminism-- I draw the line when and where I want. I can use my body however I see fit and make choices based on my own comfort level. Others are not so lucky and that's why feminism is anything but over.

Women all over the world, especially in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, are being kidnapped and trafficked, facing a lifetime of physical and sexual violence.

Women are stoned to death in the Middle East and elsewhere for being raped, or "dishonoring the family name." More forgiving parents force these "tainted" victims to marry their rapists.

Female genital mutilation is illegal in most places but still regularly practiced. Young girls are forced to partake in crude surgeries where their vaginas are mutilated in various ways with unsanitary instruments (like razor blades) without anesthesia.

In the United States women's reproductive rights are constantly threatened by Republicans, Christians, and the pro-life agenda. The freedom granted by Roe v. Wade is anything but guaranteed and access to birth control and abortions are becoming a class privilege.

Autonomy over one's body is a luxury many women are not afforded. But every woman deserves consent, sexual pleasure and contraception. Until this is our reality, feminism is far from dead.

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