Do sex workers have to be smart?
I’m asking myself that a lot these days, especially as I doom scroll through Twitter, digging for the perfect replies to the frumpy hot takes of the latest woke someone-or-other. I’ll be honest: It’s mostly toxic cynicism on my part.
And some of it is jealousy. Sure, I see what kinds of porn celebs are celebrated in editorial coming out stories. Forget the fact that they’re always white himbos from the south—I just notice how the porn they make is “actually art,” not “just” porn, or “there’s more to this man than his asshole,” or “they’re so beautifully authentic and empowered.”
I’m hungry for extra validation beyond my sex, who isn’t? But sex work doesn’t have to be empowering. That’s often the first line of defense in lay-person terms, as they shout across the happy hour table about why sex workers deserve basic human rights and civil liberties. And sure, sex work can be powerful, artistic, beautiful, a force of positive change and a safe space for people who need it––but man, is that exhausting.
I don’t need to save anybody’s life or feel beautifully free, empowered, and authentic all the time to deserve a seat at the table. I deserve respect and basic civil liberties because I’m a human being, not because I’m brave.
A lot of porn people actually are really smart. You don’t arrive at a job like this without some kitchen sink philosophy and rejection of societal norms, plus you don’t start your own business as a dumbass. But the branding of it all. The capitalistic dream job nonsense of it all. There’s so much pressure to be a martyr of sexy, smart politics: tweet those hot takes, write essays like this, drop an EP, leverage porn for a platform (speaking of, please vote!).
And honestly, a lot of that flops. Remember when we all thought Colby Keller was a free spirit intellectual artsy guy? He might’ve fucked one guy in every state, but he fucked us all over by voting for Donald Trump as some kind of edge-lord branding move. We show off our asses for a living, and when we try too hard to have the hottest take instead of just being the hottest, we often end up, well, looking like an ass.
Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning in meaningless discourse, or doing intellectual gymnastics to justify earning a living wage. It’ll all be worth it if I can show off my acting one day, or make a change! I don’t deserve to feel that pressure. Maybe we all deserve things like affordable healthcare, housing, access to food, education, voting rights, small business loans even though you’re a dildo manufacturer. Then we wouldn’t have to peddle nonsense like “The Only Way to Make Sure Your Porn Is Ethically Produced Is By Buying It From the Performer Directly.” I just want my basic human dignity, and I deserve that without being some kind of gay philanthropist philosopher-king artist.
Photo credit: @rosscollab
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