Listen, I think you’re old enough, and, well… I think it’s time we talked about sex.
But not the nice, friendly kind of sex, with scented candles* and Bach playing in the background. Nooo. Y’see, some people actually sell it. I know, I had to go and lie down for a moment on my fainting couch too. Some people sell sex, and that’s terrible. Apparently.
This aggression will not stand, man. I got quite exercised by this blog post. Fundamentally, it’s a new twist on an old, old view of sex workers, and no less troubling for all that.
But how many gay men actually have to sell their bodies in order to put food on the table? Very few I would say.
Look, I can’t give you numbers and frankly I don’t want to give you anecdata, but that, to my mind, displays an astonishing amount of naivete. Unless you believe that gay men are somehow possessed of some kind of forcefield that makes them immune from such things as poverty. That certainly seems to be the public perception at the moment; this idea that gay men are naturally thrown into a life of expensive cocktails (make your jokes now and get them out of the way), endless dancing and general glamour. And that’s an improvement on the way things used to be.
Yes, some do have limited options, but there are also those who follow this path because of deep seated issues of self esteem and good old fashioned laziness and greed.
Ah, there we go. Good whores and bad whores. That’s familiar, too. The poor poor working classes, whom We Must Pity for their Limited Options, and those we expect to know better, as it were. In fact, that’s positively Victorian – some orphan girl takes to the foggy streets of Whitechapel and, well, it’s all she’s good for, but when a Lady of Society becomes a Fallen Woman, well, that’s a scandal. My arse. As if it makes any moral difference whatsoever.
I don’t like the pity angle either, played-out as it is. It’s condescending beyond belief, for one. And for another, it seems like people think that sex work gives them a right to judge someone’s life for them, in a rather prurient manner. ‘…there are also those who follow this path because of deep seated issues of self esteem and good old fashioned laziness and greed’ could apply to merchant banking just as accurately. This idea that we have to save sex workers from themselves is a frustrating one, because no-one stages an intervention to tell anyone that working in a call centre is an ultimately futile and meaningless path in life that is doing irreperable damage to their mental health.
Laziness and greed, too. I like that. From now on I suspect that’ll be my stock answer in any job interview when asked why I’m interested in working for Initech or whatever. Thing is, sex work is hard work, in oh so many senses of the word. There’s a lot of variation, granted, but I’d ask you to consider whether it’s any lazier or greedier than, say, selling cars for a living. In fact, don’t even get me started on greed. Unless you want me to get into right-on, Trot-student ‘capitalism makes whores of us all, maaaaan’ mode, I was rather under the impression that working in exchange for money wasn’t so much greed as good economics.
Bursting on to the exploitative gay scene some men do not know how to react when they hear the words they have longed to hear for such a long time – “you are attractive.” It can be like a drug and, as with all drugs, nothing is ever enough.
If this guy was projecting any harder I think I could use him to show off my holiday snaps. Some men have issues with self-esteem. A revelation! And this apparently leads to sex work. Or becoming Louie Spence. Honestly, if the choice is between ‘rent-boy’ and ‘television personality’, all of a sudden the moral decline doesn’t seem so bad.
A large section of the gay media glamorises male prostitution. These people, with their seemingly perfect (and often supremely photoshopped bodies) are seen as celebrities.
A large section? Really? And I love that it’s supposedly a gay thing, because funnily enough I don’t remember seeing Secret Diary of a Rent Boy on ITV2 any time recently**. You might instead say that the media’s stopped freaking out quite so much about sex work; I think ‘glamourisation’ might be on the strong side, all things considered. It’s the difference between aspiration and fantasy, and that’s a pretty wide gulf.
And the fringe benefits are simply wonderful – does not everyone yearn to be on the guest list for Fire and Area every Friday night?
We are almost led to believe that we are losing out if we do not choose this lifestyle. We are, heaven forbid, not reaching our full potential as “A- Gays.”
I think there have been some crossed wires here. I have a lot of problems with the gay media – the body fascism, the consumerism, the general shallowness – but the idea that we’re somehow being pushed to sell ourselves to get through the door at Club Wankfest just isn’t happening for me, at least not without some concrete examples. What this does sound like to me is ‘Doesn’t everyone want to get into Fire on a Saturday night? Well, I do, and if I can’t it must be because of those damned prostitutes!’. Which, I’m sorry to say, is a logical leap I can’t quite follow. Yeah, the gay media sucks. But we’re hardly being ‘force-fed’ it. And it’s only as serious as you take it yourself; feeling that prostitution is being sold as necessary to enjoying that lifestyle of club nights and cocktails and all the rest of it requires that you buy into the myth that that whole thing is required of a gay man, yes?
And more to the point, the implication is that gay prostitution is new, or newly commercialised. Does anyone in the audience remember Jean Genet, please? And besides, they don’t call it the oldest profession for nothing.
I have never had a problem with prostitution.
So the point of the rest of the post is…?
What I do have a problem with is delusion and lack of integrity. Selling your body to manipulative men who also often have severe issues with self esteem is not the way to build a satisfying life. It prohibits personal growth and the ability to construct meaningful relationships with people. In the long term this can only lead to a regime of diminishing returns. The consequences can be dire – a shallow existence based on lies, self justification and a personality that is not in synch with the real world.
Ah. Right. Well, ‘delusion’ and ‘lack of integrity’ are pretty subjective things. And then after that we’re back to condescending. ‘X is not the way to build a satisfying life’ is one hell of a generalisation, for one. And characterising the men who use sex workers as manipulative? Well, yes, sometimes that’s true. But honestly, most of the time if they were manipulative enough they wouldn’t need to pay for it. For an existence based on lies, it can be surprisingly honest. More to the point, this whole paragraph is talking about sex workers as if they have no self-awareness or insight whatsoever, which I’d like to think is very far from the truth indeed (1385 words, for heaven’s sake), and are living a life that can only lead to diminishing returns and other such badness, with no exceptions.
I’m sort of walking a tightrope here between ‘What are you on about, Alex?’ and Way Too Much Information, I know, but bear with me. It is possible to do sex work and be fulfilled, happy, whatever. Granted, it’s not a choice that most people would make, but to characterise it as fundamentally dishonest or ugly or lazy or morally repellent, any more than anything else, is inaccurate and unhelpful.
Recently I met an individual several times who seemed to be fairly decent. [...] I then found out that he made his real living through escorting. It was not the escorting that I had an issue with. It was the fact that this person had been deliberately deceitful about how he earned his money.
Okay, okay, deceit is bad, etc etc. Whereupon we find out that this guy is in it for the money and the glamour and so on and so forth. I see absolutely no problems with wildly extrapolating from that to an entire industry.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been round the block more times than Pat Butcher
Now there’s an image to savour.
…and consequently have a very liberal attitude to sex. What I will not tolerate, however, is evasion of the truth and a total lack of self respect for others. These qualities should never be compromised because they are the very things that make us civilised human beings.
Evasion of the truth and lack of self-respect for others [sic] are the very things that make us civilised? That’s probably true, especially for a certain value of ‘civilised’. If it wasn’t for absolutely shameless lies the governments of the world would never get anything done, as the Wikileaks cables demonstrate.
Moreover, the idea that sex work is a perversion of the naturally honest and forthcoming nature of interpersonal relationships? Yeah, right. Were that true, no-one would ever cheat on their partner, and I could find someone on Grindr whose height and weight were exactly what they said they were.
I believe in sincerity, decency and trust. I also believe in frankness. I remember years ago Aiden Shaw writing about his life as a prostitute in his book Brutal. He said that he had a problem with the word escort. He felt it conjured up a rather twee picture of people holding hands at champagne fuelled parties. He preferred the word prostitute because it did what it said on the tin. It did not hide behind pretence and said “do you have a problem with that?”
Is it still a euphemism if no-one earnestly believes it? I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thought the escort-client relationship was purely innocent, and that the guy was paying for the time as opposed to the particular use of it. Pretence isn’t always a bad thing, and you can draw certain distinctions – ‘escort’ can be a fairly narrowly-defined term, particularly when money comes into it. More to the point, it’s a case of N Word Privileges to my mind. If Aiden Shaw would prefer to call himself a prostitute, that’s his business (literally, too). But when you’re describing someone else, it becomes more judgemental, the connotations change. If you work for BAe in sales, I might call you an arms dealer, but whether it’s true or not the point is derision and insult.
It’s not unlike the disparities between the words “porn actor” (how much acting is actually required to pull off even the most extravagant orgasm as you have a thick cock or fist shuved [sic] up your arse?) and “porn model.”
Never having been in porn, this is somewhat outwith my experience, but from what I hear, you’d be surprised. I’d imagine that after a while it just gets to be work, and if you’re doing that X times a week, well, it has to take it out of you.
Needless to say that this unnamed individual is off my Christmas list now.
Well. Clearly that’s the mature response, isn’t it.
Blaerg. Nearly 2150 words, this particular rant. Rest assured I’m not going to make myself into Bel du Jour any time soon. The next one’s likely to be a lot more prosaic in nature, I fear.