One major facet of cultural appropriation is taking artifacts that would be violent on the body of a person of color and making them trendy on a white body.
That’s why Forever 21 is able to sell a Black Panther crop top, and why Che Guevara t-shirts are so popular, and why Macklemore can win Grammy’s for writing songs about smelly sheets, and why white drugged out kids can walk around Coachella in tacky “native” headdresses.
When people of color cannot participate in aspects of their culture without persecution, but white people are welcome to those aspects, that’s a major undeniable example of white privilege.
TW: This post will be dealing with whorephobia. Specifically the kind leveled at full service sex workers.
I got really worked up the more I wrote and I’m hoping my language isn’t offensive. I welcome feedback and other people’s opinions on this subject provided they aren’t more whorephobic comments.
This post was spurred by a comment that I myself made when discussing the game ‘Cards Against Humanity’ with some friends. The card ‘chunks of dead prostitute’ came up and how it is one of the most violently awful cards. I mentioned that a ton of people I have played with have played this card during my judging rounds because as a sex worker they think I’ll find it funny.
Let me correct that.
They think that AS A STRIPPER I will find it funny.
It’s a subtle but important distinction. Because, you see, as a stripper I must hate all full service workers. I must loathe them entirely. Despite them. Find the fact that they are put in more danger than me hilarious.
This, readers, is the whorearchy.
The whorearchy is a system that has non sex workers and sex workers alike sort of ranking workers against each other. Who sits where varies from person to person but a common view is that strippers are definitely above full service workers. And even within full services workers, the kind portrayed in Secret Diary of a Call Girl are above the streetwalkers you see on Law and Order. It pits sex workers against each other. It’s what leads to many strippers, porn stars, cam girls, dominatrices saying they are above workers who actually have sex with their clients and customers.
This is bullshit.
I’m not going to get into the whorearchy within the sex work field as that is a different post. I’m here to talk about when you, the non sex worker, supports it. When you try to drag me into it.
Stop. Just stop.
First of all, you do not get to decide that I am better than other sex workers. That’s not accepting me and my job. That’s saying ‘oh I’m still fine with being your friend as long as…’
You don’t know what I do at my job. You don’t know shit about my job, okay. I may not be doing full service but I do plenty at my job (and back when I did bachelor parties) that I’m not sharing with you because I know what your reaction would be. Because I’m not ready to face that rejection from you. Because I’d be part of your joke. Because then if I died at work, I’d be funny to you.
When you tell me that as a stripper I’m cool but that full service workers suck, you are saying you hate women (and men and non-binary people but honestly are you even considering them?) who have sex. That’s it. You hate people who exchange sex for money. You have drawn a line and it is penetrative intercourse. That is what you are doing. You are not being supportive because you aren’t supporting sex workers when you’re only supporting one branch of the sex work tree. You’re supporting strippers in the same way you supported your friend in high school who made out with three guys on spring break but made fun of the girl who slept with one.
Also, let’s look at who CAN’T be strippers. Because stripping is a very looksist job. Much more than full service work most of the time. A lot of people are turned away from being strippers. This ranges from things like people having too many tattoos or alternative haircuts to people who have visible disabilities, people of color, trans people, people of size, and older people.
Full service work is often something people can do independently on various economic levels. It’s something they can come and go from even easier than dancers can come and go from a club. It’s a job where many people from marginalized groups can make a living and work around their needs as people.
And you just shit all over it.
When you say that my being a stripper is better, you are saying that sex work which excludes the groups I mentioned is better. You are saying that people who have a harder time finding work due to discrimination are awful for trying to make their way. You’re also saying something about who should be allowed to be ‘sexy’ and ‘sexual’ and your choices are pretty normative and restrictive.
Lastly, I want to go back to that card and why people would think I find it funny.
Full service workers work outside of the law in most places. This puts them in danger. Danger which is often put in the media as a joke, as a punishment, as something deserved and expected. It is usually female sex workers who are shown on tv as corpses and in films as mutilated props.
Honestly what about that is funny? You think I enjoy my job because I’m not one of those women? That because my job is relatively safer and I experience less stigma I’ll join in on the joke? That me and my coworkers sit in the back room reading about how Gary Ridgeway got away with murder for years because he figured his victims wouldn’t be missed? And that as far as the police were concerned he was right?
Fuck you for trying to pull me in on your bad taste. On you getting off on murder. Fuck you for thinking I take enjoyment in this. How dare you try to pit me against other people. Against other women. How dare you try to bring me in on a massive level of girl hate.
Because something tells me you’re trying to get me to say it’s okay. It’s okay for you to hate full service sex workers because if the stripper says it’s okay then you and your little office or retail job that you hate can totally say it’s okay. Because you’re so far from it. But if the person who does sex work is cool with it then it must be okay.
That’s not how it works. You’re a terrible person.
And you know what, nevermind. That thing I said about not wanting to face rejection from you? I changed my mind. I’m rejecting you.
Anyone who tries to pit me against other sex workers has proven themselves to not be an ally or a trusted individual and they can get the fuck out of my life.
EDIT: SERIOUS TRIGGER WARNING FOR GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
This is a really serious problem, guys.
Let me tell you a story. Once there was a multi-millionaire pig farmer in Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada, by the name of Robert Pickton. Pickton liked prostitutes, especially poor prostitutes from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, the poorest postal code in Canada. What did he like about them? He liked how he could invite them out to his farm for work, he liked how he could kill them, he liked how he could cut their bodies up into chunks and feed the pieces to his pigs, he liked that no one cared about investigating missing prostitutes, and he liked that he was able to continue this operation of murdering women for twenty years.
So, “chunks of dead prostitute”? IT HAPPENED. IT HAPPENS. IT IS SICK.
On with the story. The murders started in 1983. They continued until 2002 when the RCMP arrested Pickton for firearms possession and then received a warrant to search his farm in connection to the BC Missing Women Investigation. The RCMP found items belonging to some of the women reported missing, so the farm was sealed off and and forensics teams came in to search for remains.
On Friday, February 22, 2002, Pickton was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson. On April 2, 2002 three more charges were added for the murders of Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock and Heather Bottomley. A sixth charge for the murder of Andrea Joesbury was laid on April 9, 2002 followed shortly by a seventh for Brenda Wolfe. On September 20, 2002 four more charges were added for the slayings of Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark and Jennifer Furminger. Four more charges for the murders of Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall were laid on October 3, 2002, bringing the total to fifteen, making the investigation the largest of any serial killer in Canadian history. On May 26, 2005, twelve more charges were laid against him for the killings of Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Debra Lynne Jones, Marnie Frey, Tiffany Drew, Kerry Koski, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Wendy Crawford, Diana Melnick, and Jane Doe (unidentified woman) bringing the total number of first-degree murder charges to 27. [x]
So they had found evidence that led them to charge Pickton with 27 counts of first-degree murder. Pickton also boasted to an undercover police officer posing as a cellmate in prison that he killed 49 women and lamented that he couldn’t kill just one more before he got caught so he could make it an even 50. He said the only reason he was caught was because he got “sloppy”.
However, the trial only ultimately charged him with 6 murders and (of the original 27, one was dismissed for lack of evidence and the other twenty were split for another trial), while the jury decided he was guilty, they lowered his charge to second-degree murder. That’s right, the jury decided that these murders weren’t pre-meditated. That they weren’t planned. Pickton had been killing sex workers for almost 20 years and the jury thought he wasn’t planning this shit.
Of the remaining 20 charges of first-degree murder that were still laid on Pickton, none of them ever went to trial and were officially stayed by the Crown in 2010. The reasoning given was that there could be no increase to Pickton’s existing sentence, because he was already serving life in prison.
So how did no one notice that women went to the Pickton Pig Farm and never came back? The thing is, people did. People reported it. A prostitute was stabbed by Pickton in 1997, survived, told the police, but the charge of attempted murder was dropped.
At the preliminary inquiry it was revealed that in 1997 Pickton had been charged with attempted murder in connection with the stabbing of a prostitute. The woman survived and testified at the 2003 preliminary inquiry that after driving her to the Port Coquitlam farm and having sex with her, Pickton slapped a handcuff on her left hand, and stabbed her in the abdomen. She also had stabbed Pickton. Later both she and Pickton were treated at the same hospital, where staff used a key they found in Pickton’s pocket to remove the handcuffs from the woman’s wrist. The attempted-murder charge against Pickton was stayed on January 27, 1998, because the woman had drug addiction issues and prosecutors believed her too unstable for her testimony to help secure a conviction. The clothes and rubber boots Pickton had been wearing that evening were seized by police and left in an RCMP storage locker for more than seven years. Not until 2004 did lab testing show that the DNA of two missing women were on the items seized from Pickton in 1997.
In 1999, Canadian police were tipped that Pickton had a freezer filled with human flesh on his farm. Although they interviewed Pickton and obtained his consent to a search of his farm, the police never conducted one.
That’s right, because the woman suffered from drug addiction and was “unstable”, prosecutors decided it wasn’t worth it to try and convict Pickton. In 1998.
The testimony at the trial was horrifically gruesome. Skulls cut in half with hands and feet shoved inside. A revolver with a dildo attached to the barrel, because that’s not seriously fucked up. Pickton boasted that a good way to kill a heroin addict was to inject her with windshield washer fluid. Shit like that. It’s also likely that Pickton mixed the flesh of his victims with the pork from his pigs and then sold it to the public.
So, the next time you joke about “chunks of dead prostitute”, remember Willy Pickton and his pig farm, the police that let him continue murdering because the victims were just poor drug addicted prostitutes, and remember Pickton’s victims, women who were just trying to make money to live and ended up being murdered and fed to pigs for the amusement of a multi-millionaire.
Full service sex workers are people. They are no less than you. They deserve justice and respect just like anyone else. Every time you joke about gruesomely murdering and dismembering a full service sex worker, you’re telling people like Robert Pickton that he chose the right victims.
It’s also really disgusting to me how “prostitute” is often a qualifier for devaluing women’s humanity. That Cards Against Humanity card would have never gotten published if it was “Chunks of Dead Women”, because most people understand that that is horrifying and unfunny. But “Chunks of Dead Prostitute” made it in, because to a bunch of white, cis men (aka the creators of CAH) if a woman is a sex worker, her value is automatically diminished to the point that any violence done against her is deserved enough to be humorous. Those (and most) men have the privilege of never having to even imagine how it feels to have a job in which your own death at the hands of a client is a very possible risk, and one that will likely go unpunished or under-punished simply because of how society sees you.
why are there so many “love songs” that mention girls not knowing that they’re beautiful or attractive or whatever like is her insecurity a turn on for you?? are you afraid of being with a girl who values herself enough to leave you when you treat her badly?? wow haha really romantic so impressive
What constitutes “chilling” behavior? A teacher calls on the boys in class more than the girls. A CEO ignores what a woman says in a meeting but listens intently when a man makes the exact same point. A conference emcee mentions a female speaker’s appearance rather than (or in addition to) her accomplishments, but feels no need to comment on the appearance of male speakers. A guy at an atheist/skeptics meeting hits on a young woman in an elevator at 4 AM, ignoring the fact that she just spent the evening talking about how she hates being objectified at such gatherings.
All these sorts of things seem tiny and insignificant by themselves, but they add up, and this produces a cumulative “chilling” effect that makes women feel unwelcome, like they don’t belong. That’s a “chilly climate.” The effect is subtle; sometimes we’re not even consciously aware of it. We just have that nagging feeling of being “less than,” unable to put our finger on why we feel that way.