“My relationship with my colleagues is largely one of camaraderie. We are mostly loving, sympathetic, non-judgmental, and supportive toward one other. Even when dancers have personal boundaries which are looser or more liberal than my own, I try not to be judgmental.”
“Never fuck with another ho’s man or money.”
“I perceive myself as a friendly senior citizen of my industry and community. Most people have a lot of respect for me as I have earned it with decades of experience.”
Having friendships with other entertainers in the community you work in can be very good. It’s common for us to be a little wary as we get to know others. So expect others to be the same with you.
Try not to be judgmental about the way others do their work. We are each on our own journey. Let’s try to be positive, momentary players in each other’s destinies.
“At the time that I was working, it was a use-use situation. A community – yes, but ultimately survival of the fittest.”
At the same time as trying to be non-judgmental, we need to be careful who we trust and not share things too soon. Many of us come to this work from hard backgrounds that toughened us up for this role. We treat everyone like a mark or a potential enemy because that’s how we’ve thus far survived.
Have compassion and understanding for the pain that causes this behaviour – in you or in others. Don’t let yourself become a mark, by not watching for this behaviour – deceitful but sincere-sounding. If you unwittingly become the target of another sex worker, duck the insults and choose not to respond. Rise above it offering goodwill despite it. It works for your own soul and it helps the other to heal a little too.
“My relationships with the sex working community have been all over the map. Mostly empowering and positive. Sometimes I haven’t seen eye to eye with other sex work activists. Sex work is so diverse; it’s not about one universal experience. I think it’s very challenging to sit down at, say, a meeting of sex workers and have everyone’s various voices be heard.”
The adult entertainment industry is very diverse. There have been eons of conversations about the difference between being a sex worker and a survival sex worker. There have been eons of arguments about whether sex work is an option or a necessity. Regardless of the diverse areas of expertise (massage, webcam, stripping, etc) and regardless of the arguments of former and non-industry workers, all entertainers will agree on one thing while they are working – they deserve more respect.
Among the multitudes of sex industry advocates and organizations that work to gain more respect for adult entertainers, there are also diverse ideas on how that respect can be achieved. But they all agree on one thing – the current laws are harming adult entertainers by forcing some to work in dangerous situations and by perpetuating the stigma that further isolates them all.
Try to find the common ground. Avoid working with people and organizations that are not open to having their minds changed if you can come up with a compelling enough argument. A strong movement is meant to evolve, incorporating diverse perspectives within an inclusive framework that supports “everyone” – and that means every one of us.
“My sex worker community was sort of two-sided. There were the girls I worked with, who where mainly poor moms, women of colour/immigrants, young runaway turnouts, etc. Then there were the sex workers I sat with at meetings and plenary, which were often older women who had been able to educate themselves, and felt safe enough to disclose sex work publicly. I often felt closer to the first community, the girls I worked with. My relationships with them seemed more vital and real. If a girl had a bad date, or if she needed to escape her man, I always knew how to do the right thing. I knew how to support these immediate crises. It was no problem to teach a new turnout self-defence, or to baby-sit a co-worker’s kid. It felt more complex and difficult to go to meetings and talk about big issues, like government lobbying. I felt intimidated by this kind of thing.”
When getting involved in advocacy work in our communities, it can be very intimidating. We all feel that way at first. There is a “green period” we’re all entitled to go through where our comments and actions will not be held against us. *big smile*
Don’t be too worried about it. We were all green once, getting nudged in a meeting by a friend as a hint to stop talking. It’s something to giggle about later on. Don’t take life too seriously. There will always be people who take us the wrong way. Don’t live life trying to avoid it.
“On the street it is just like family. We look out for one another.”
“I feel that different groups of sex workers are coming together more and more. I’ve seen a huge change in attitude over the past 10 years, especially with regards to strippers and prostitutes. I think strippers have become less afraid of being labeled prostitutes, and are more open to embracing it as another potential income source.”
A lot of “experts” like to talk about the lure of the street, like it is something awful that will swallow you alive! Less people point out the feeling of community on the street. It is a place for outcasts, where our inner beauty and cunning are respected. The street is the family many of us never had. So don’t knock it. It would be much harder to be homeless without any homies.
“Isolated from each other, broken community.”
For many reasons, adult entertainers as a community have become isolated from each other over the years. There was a time when we all worked under the same roofs, in brothels and supper clubs – as hosts/esses, cigar girls, dancers, companions, and more.
Criminalization ended the brothel era, and with each new law made that impacted adult entertainers, competition has become fiercer and the divides of the industry in Canada more pronounced.
The current movement of adult entertainers coming together again for better working conditions and the acknowledgement of our human rights, is slowly bridging those gaps to unify our community.
“There was a definite rift between sex workers, porn movie stars and strippers. None of us wanted to be defined as the other, always trying to keep our title secure so as to fight the social stigma.”
First the world places us in a hierarchy where we are at the bottom of the totem pole, despite all the good we bring to our clients and loved ones. Then WE further place ourselves into a hierarchy where one aspect of the industry is lower or higher than another. “At least I don’t…have sex for money / show my crotch to crowds of men all over the world / do drugs / rip off the customers…” etc, etc, etc.
This is called “lateral oppression” – when we internalize the world’s oppression of us, and in turn oppress each other using the same logic.
How about a new world order? I am equal to the janitor, the mayor, the crack addict, the mailman, the other kid’s parents, the bank manager, the stripper, the baker, the candlestick maker, and the Prime Minister. No one is better than me and I am not better than anyone. We are all equal. Or as one respondent said:
“We are all the same, street to stripper.”