I went to a sex workers’ organizational meeting a few months ago. This is the kind of thing that used to give my life meaning: I started volunteering with Danzine when I was 17; I was part of a pointless and frustrating attempt to unionize my club when I was 20 (we were against the 25$ stage fee and 17 girls a shift which at this juncture–I work with 20+ girls regularly and usually pay over 150/night to work–seems kind of hilariously absurd. That’s too thorny to get in to, but you know?); I went to SWOC meetings and we tried to organize a SWOP, &c&c&c.
I was burned out for a long while–at some meetings I would be the only, or one of two, sex workers in a room full of social workers and I missed Danzine ferociously. The idea of being around sex workers with similar values who wanted to get active in the community didn’t just seem naive, it seemed anachronistic. What would we even do? The oft-stated goals–union, co-op, whatever, aren’t that appealing to me anymore, and they don’t seem workable. Despite my commie pinko red solidarity with the values behind the Lusty, in practise it fills me with quiet distaste. Get naked for barely minimum wage? What a joke. People make more working at Starbucks.
But nostalgia and a desire to, I don’t know, explore my options, led me to the inaugural meeting of a new group a few months ago. We did introductions, names and what we do. It was (predictably, for activist meetings in my city) overwhelmingly white and mostly politicized queers. I knew a few of the people there already, one person I worked with in Danzine. Then:
“I’m _____, I run _(the student cafe the meeting was at)_, and I’m not a sex worker but I have a lot of slut identified friends so I can really understand where you all are coming from. But if you want me to leave I can.”
My eyes involuntarily rolled so hard they hurt. He was assured that he could stay, and in the interests of progress we moved on. It would have stuck in my head anyway, but got sealed there when we were planning for the next meeting; the kid next to the kid with lots of slutty friends side-eyed me and announced that he would feel more comfortable if the legal sex workers had their own meeting and weren’t invited to the illegal sex workers meetings.
Because A) I clearly have never done anything else besides strip and B) I/strippers never get assaulted or arrested by vice or deal with boners or sexualized services for money and C) strength in numbers and a variety of perspectives is a pretty stupid idea so let’s just have that stripper meet by herself. I sighed.
1-Altho, one of the reasons I appreciate my club so much is that the stage fee is proportionate to dances. So it’s only high if you’ve made enough to absorb that.