If you have picked up a newspaper or flicked through Netflix or even scrolled down your Facebook feed, you will be inundated by photos of disembodied fishnet-clad legs in red high heels, coupled with loaded headlines that make me want to reach through my computer screen and throttle whoever is writing this trash.
We get it, you hate us.
So because I’m some kind of emotional masochist, I’ve been keeping track of all of the sex worker stories over the last month just to see if things have gotten better in terms of representation in the media (it hasn’t). This tirade of quality journalism kicked off with a heartwarming, well thought out and articulate…
wait, never mind.
The Independent published this literal garbage fire, titled “Pregnant women are being legally pimped out for sex – this is the lowest form of capitalism”
As a sex worker who works under legalisation, I think I rolled my eyes so hard that they detached from the back of my skull. That one line managed to strip this sub-contractor of her agency and misinform the public on the safety of having penetrative sex while pregnant. I know plenty of pregnant workers, and honestly? They make bank. What I don’t understand is that the article clearly has a bias against how capitalism works, and yet demonises those who have found a way to make the best of a shitty system. What other industry can circumvent class, education and disability like the sex industry?
Then the ‘scandalous’ story was released on The Project about the Uber driver who accidentally picked up a sex worker instead of his client. The hosts laughed endlessly at the drivers encounter, and marvelled at how he ‘couldn’t even tell she was a sex worker’ (Watch episode here), which sparked an outraged response from escorts all over the internet because of the assumption that people can automatically tell what a sex worker looks like based purely on their appearance.HINT: we don’t all wear fishnet stockings and cheap corsets, despite what the television would have you believe.
Then finally last week, ‘Cocaine Cassie’ was arrested for smuggling drugs back from Columbia, and Daily Mail delighted in revealing her ‘sordid double life’ as a brothel worker as proof of guilt, even throwing some good ol’ fat-shaming in there with some quality clickbait titles like “Cassie wasn’t a popular prostitute because she was a bit tubby” and “She would sit in the corner and cry into her chips and gravy”, right along with a photo of her face and quotes from her escorting ads. Not that any of these publications would actually give a shit, but outing anyone as a sex worker is deeply dangerous, as a direct result of stigma we are many times more likely to experience violence not only on the job but outside of work, regardless of personal choices and behaviour.
This is only a few examples from the last month, not including the train wreck that is Hot Girls Wanted or any of the ‘documentaries’ that ironically talk about how exploitative the sex industry is, while exploiting sex workers by freely airing their content and making a profit for themselves.
Sex worker and activist Lucie Bee articulated this rage a lot better than the single syllable expletives that my brain had to offer in her article for Junkee.com when she said that “I don’t have the fortune of being able to just roll over and let stuff like this lie. I don’t have the fortune of doing that because this kind of reporting reinforces a stigma that could get me killed”.
While present day journalism may be banking off trauma porn and click bait headlines, there is a faint silver lining. While in the past the media did most of their story circulation in print, now they have moved on to our turf, online onto a space that they share with the very people that they are trying their hardest to discriminate against, giving people a chance to point out how messed up a particular way of thinking is. Having these conversations about bias is the first step in shifting people’s preconceived notion of how stigmatized minority groups should be treated, and holding journalists accountable to an unbiased code of ethics is so important.