I haven’t discussed my history as a sex worker so far on this blog, but it’s only five entries old – give me time and believe me I will! But today I stumbled this timely reminder of why I must be careful to ensure my anonymity on my blog. I’m not a teacher and don’t plan on ever being a teacher (but, hey, lots of things have happened in my life that I never planned on), but I do have a professional career these days and I hope to be employed by other companies in the future. Already I half-worry sometimes that the truth about my previous employment will somehow become public and create scandals. I am really not that important in my industry – I’m not in the public eye and I don’t work with children – but the media does like to run a nice “Journalist’s shameful past as a stripper!” or “Policewoman moonlighted as hooker!” story. I don’t want to be one of them.
Sadly, I think Petro was either hopelessly naive or intentionally provocative when she says, “I continued to write and began publishing stories and articles about my former occupation. I wrote without pseudonym or apology, feeling it my Constitutional as well as human right to not have to hide my identity or suppress my opinion.” It’s one of those things that ought to be true but just plain isn’t. Because, as she also says in her article, “Once a sex worker, always a whore.”
It seems to me to be one of those things that society deems to be unforgiveable (I say “unforgiveable” although I don’t believe that sex work is something which needs to be “forgiven”). You can be a recovering alcoholic, a rehabilitated drug addict, a former kleptomaniac, an ex-con or an ex evangelic pastor and expect society to give you a fair go. I’m not saying these people shouldn’t be given a fair go – of course they should. But, unlike petty crime or drug addiction, sex work stains you forever. The only societally accepted picture of a redeemed prostitute is a woman who was somehow manipulated into sex work who bravely fought to escape. A woman who chose to enter the industry of her own volition and chose to leave of her own volition? Impossible. She made bad choices, was a nympho, stupid, insane, self-destructive, possibly feeding a drug habit…
A few weeks after I started working at a brothel, one of my friends said to me, “You know, even if you quit working tomorrow, you’re always going to be an ex-prostitute now.” This is true, and you know what? I’m pretty proud of that fact. But I don’t need it destroying my future employment options.