Archive for February 6th, 2011

Every harlot was a virgin once. –  William Blake

On many occasions I’ve written about the fact that whores aren’t all that different from everyone else; that is to say we’re different from each other just like everyone else is different, and we no more share a certain “whore personality type” than all amateurs share a “non-whore personality type”.  We’re not all addicts, nor are we all emotionally damaged, nor have we all been molested as children.  We’re not all nymphomaniacs or criminals (except insofar as our societies choose to brand us as criminals), or pimped “sex slaves”, and we don’t all have low-self esteem; in fact a disproportionate number of us have high self-esteem, which anyone who actually bothered to talk to real whores instead of just chanting dogma would realize is almost inevitable.  We have families, children and friends, outside interests, hopes, dreams, fears and needs just like everyone else.  But some people insist on portraying us as somehow inhuman, with dangerous or even fatal results.

A new advertising campaign in Nova Scotia hopes to spread the message that we are real people and therefore deserve the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as everyone else does; here’s a paraphrased version of a story about that campaign which appeared in the Chronicle Herald on Wednesday, January 26th:

At first glance, you might expect the wholesome-looking woman staring from posters in Metro Transit bus shelters to be selling something like milk or granola.Nova Scotia ad “I’m glad my prostitute made me finish school,” says the jarring copy that accompanies the ads for Stepping Stone, a Halifax group that advocates for and offers outreach to street-level sex workers. And then in much smaller type:  “Sex workers are mothers too.”

The controversial campaign was designed by Halifax-based Extreme Advertising and aims to humanize the stereotypes of those practicing the world’s oldest profession.  Violent attacks against prostitutes were Stepping Stone’s motivation for the campaign, according to Anthony Taaffe, the creative director at Extreme.  “People have a bad habit of pigeonholing sex workers as not being people,” he said.  “It’s easy for people to kind of go, ‘Oh, that woman’s just a whore.’  Well, no, that person is also somebody’s mother or somebody’s daughter or somebody’s sister or something like that.  So it helps humanize them a little bit.  And I think that’s what we want people to really understand is you might not necessarily agree with what they do for a job, but don’t forget that they’re humans and they deserve the same respect that you give to your brother or your father or your mother.”

“We did want to get people’s attention,” said Rene Ross, the executive director of Stepping Stone.  “And we really wanted folks to see sex workers for what they are, and that is people, and to get people talking about the issue, because the reality is sex workers are criminalized in Canada and they face a great amount of stigma, marginalization and violence.”

Sadly, it would be nearly impossible to launch such a campaign in the United States; nobody would dare to contradict the politically correct view of hookers as infantilized victims to be “rescued” from “pimps”, our customers, or even ourselves.  And in recent years trafficking fetishists have dehumanized us even more, into mere numbers:  The larger a crowd any person vanishes into, the less her individuality can be perceived.  I don’t think it’s done on purpose, but it couldn’t be more effective if it were; by reducing individual women – daughters, sisters, mothers, lovers, friends, wives, professionals, entrepreneurs, priestesses, therapists and any number of others – into mere digits in a huge number like “10,000 prostitutes coming to the Super Bowl” or “300,000 trafficked victims”, the fetishists erase these women’s individuality.  They become mere ants in a mound, grains of rice in a sack, drops of water in a bucket…identical, interchangeable particles who don’t have to be cared about as individual human beings, just treated collectively as part of a “problem” to be “solved”.  Remember the song “Easy To Be Hard” from Hair?

And especially people
Who care about strangers
Who care about evil
And social injustice
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?

infantalized prostitutes adUnfortunately, there are a very large number of people who do indeed only care about the “bleeding crowd” while turning their backs on the needs of real human beings.  It’s very easy to claim to be oh-so-concerned about the tens of thousands of “teenage sex slaves” who don’t actually exist, because they don’t have faces and idiosyncrasies and opinions which the “rescuers” might find offensive.  Imaginary sex slaves who can never really be rescued don’t make inconvenient demands like “OK, if you don’t want me to be a whore give me a job which makes just as much money and still allows me to be my own boss and have the flexibility to go to school/be with my kids/write my book/work my other job.”  Real women do, and thus it’s much better for the fanatics not to think about us in that way; numbers can be manipulated, modified and made to do what a skillful manipulator wishes, but real women can’t.  Real women may not wish to repent, to waste their lives enriching others by drudge work, or to parrot whatever lies their “rescuers” wish to put in their mouths, and there’s nothing the prohibitionists hate more than whores who refuse to allow themselves to be pimped to the prohibitionist cause.

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