“Then which is the correct female sexuality?” – she was thinking – “We are so plagued by the dichotomy between the two Marys, you are either the virgin mother or the prostitute. And prostitutes are the negative norm, girls don’t want to be whores, they don’t want to be called whores, to break the rules on how to dress and how much sex to have. I am the negative norm, the measure for dirtiness…”
“Or they want you to be a whore but, you see, only for them.”
“And dominant feminism sucks… I too am feminism, why use the same old patriarchal methods to discredit me? Why try to convince me that I am unfree and victim of machism when it is your sexuality which is also at stake, always fluctuating on the saint-whore scale? And besides, prostitution isn’t inherently more oppressive than anything else under capitalism. Still, is there more structural oppression in being a prostitute or in not being able to be one?”
– Mm, yes…
“But then, almost everyone does it for the money. Where is the frontier between necessity and freedom? What is autonomy? What is empowerment? How can I know if I’m free or not, when everyone in this world is in chains… And seen from the inside, the dark world of prostitution becomes surprisingly human and normal.”
“Also. I want to punch them in the face every time they use “whore” as an offense. And when they talk in my “defense” with false paternalism to save my soul. My dignity is fine, thank you. And also make up your mind, am I a victim or just a vicious woman?”
– Oh yes, baby, go on. Have some more.
“Is this an exercise of power of men over women? Fucking Foucault says nothing about gender or prostitution when he talks about power. He is so into knowledge and bodies and bio-power and Victorian stuff, but why does he pretend women don’t exist? I’m sure he was a nice person, but not being attracted to girls does not excuse you for excluding them from the world.”
“And the body is such a product of discourse and a target of power, a constructed sin and a sacralized possession. When you are selling sex, are you selling your body, like a liver, or are you working with it, as with your hands? In the end, the most intimate thing you have is not your body, it’s your mind…”
– Oh yes, yes… Good boy.
“People just don’t realize what an important function prostitutes have and what kind of a professional it takes to make love to whomever, and what a double life we always live. But am I proud to be a whore?”
And with all of those reflections in her head, she stood up and took her baby son into her arms after the good meal and put him to sleep. Then she went on to make herself a warm cup of tea, call the nanny and prepare for work, while she was wondering:
Will my son ever be a proud son of a bitch?
The protagonist of this story is inspired by several women: the Spanish prostitute Natalia Ferrari, the US porn star Stoya, and the revolutionary Swiss prostitute Grisélidis Réal, as well as the the Spanish prostitute María José who shared with me her experience of being a mother and a prostitute (she started working as a prostitute in order to pay for a brain tumor surgery of her son but after the operation her ex-husband hired a detective and took away her custody. Today, her son is a grown-up man who loves his mother and takes pride in being called “son of a bitch.” María José is normally reluctant to talk a lot about her experience because she holds that her rights should be recognized no matter what her story is).
The experience of Maria José is an example of how the dominant whore-mother dichotomy excludes prostitutes permanently from being “normal women” and mothers, while mothers are desexualized. The fact that prostitutes are automatically considered bad mothers leads to institutions taking away their children even if they are perfectly taken care of. (Read more about prostitute mothers here).
The character I have created cannot represent the diversity within the collective of sex workers and the opinions of character do not stand for the experience of every prostitute around the globe. While I support sex work, especially when it is independent, I need to emphasize that coercion and exploitation are impermissible and to recognize that prostitution is in many cases “the choice made by those who have no choice,” forced by sex and race discrimination, poverty, sexual and verbal abuse, poor education and a job that does not pay a living wage (Farley, 102-103). Prostitutes are a vulnerable group frequently exposed to economic exploitation, social isolation, verbal abuse, threats, sexual assault, etc.
Most importantly, it is the stigma and the conception of prostitution as immoral which keep the industry away from public attention and deprive prostitutes of many of their rights. When governments do regulate prostitution, it is out of an interest for imposing taxes and rarely out of a concern for sex workers. Political discourse on prostitution abounds with issues of public nuisance and moral order while safety and protection are rarely discussed and even though poverty is cited as the main reason for why people enter into prostitution, anti-prostitution policies concentrate on intellectual and moral solutions, such as reducing “male demand on sex.”
A dialogue between former and current prostitutes documented in “Prostituciones: diálogos sobre el sexo de pago” concludes that the measures which are truly needed by prostitutes are eradication of violence, protection of voluntary sex workers’ rights, security, rigor in assuring the norms for condoms unconditionally, support for trade unions, information about the rights of sex workers and especially immigrants, and actions towards empowerment, visibility, leadership.
Ultimately, I’m including a quote by the former prostitute Lilith on being invisible:
“This is the most outrageous thing. That we are doubly punished. We are considered victims but we are also punished for being prostitutes. Look, when I suffered aggression they tried to strangle me, there was a moment when I thought I was going to die. I knew I was going to die and I was waiting for death. It was not knowing that you’re about to die because when you’re being strangled, at first it hurts, then the blood… but then, when you are becoming unconscious, it stops hurting. Dying doesn’t hurt. What hurts is knowing that the dude will remain unpunished, because justice will not prosecute him because it was just a prostitute who died. That’s what hurts. That hurts infinitely more than… I didn’t fear death, I felt rage that surely nothing was going to happen to that guy. And at that moment, that was what made me more outraged than knowing I was about to die.”
- Farley, Melissa. “Prostitution, Trafficking, and Cultural Amnesia: What We Must Not Know in Order To Keep the Business of Sexual Exploitation Running Smoothly.” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. 5 March, 2003.
- Isabel Holgado Ferández (Ed.) Prostituciones: Diálogos sobre sexo de pago. Barcelona: Icaria Antrazyt, 2003.
This post is an exercise in dignifying prostitutes and rejecting the social stigma they are surrounded by. For more inspiration you can refer to:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR1J8lT2JNk – Top 10 Movie Prostitutes. Note the imagery constructed for prostitutes.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4raFYN1ph8 – The Dark Side of the Heart, the most poetic love story between a man, a prostitute and death.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRoGsw_qUMo – A song by the great rhapsodist of prostitutes, Joaquín Sabina, which goes:
“The virgin of sin, the bride of the flower of saliva, the sex with love of the married ones./ Owner of such a five-star heart, that even the son of a god, when he saw her, went to her/ And never did she charge him, the Magdalene”
https://libcom.org/files/Caliban%20and%20the%20Witch.pdf – Silvia Federici’s “Caliban and the Witch. Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation” in which she investigates the figure of the witch, which is folclorized today, but which designated the powerful women which nascent capitalism persecuted in the Middle Ages.
http://www.salon.com/2013/02/24/the_feminist_pornographer/ – An interview with Tristan Taormino, a feminist pornographer and co-editor of the “Feminist Porn Book”
http://www.playgroundmag.net/articulos/reportajes/Cosas-inspiradoras-aprendi-curso_0_1660633922.html – A report (in Spanish) on a prostitution course led by the Barcelona-based organization “Hetaria,” which reveals many subtleties about being a prostitute
A “Professionalization Manual”(in Spanish) created by the organization “Genera” with useful advice for everyone who starts practicing prostitution: