– If you want to know something, ask the person (if you can) –

Sex work = Enslaving? Empowering?

I was googling my way through twitter, before a lady who I normally seen many updates on wrote a message spiting her disgust about a writer “refer” to a sex worker’s experience, I clicked the link and here comes this…

Melissa Petro

Former sex worker and “hooker teacher” who has written about the industry for HuffingtonPost, Salon and others

For as long as I sold sex, it was impossible to articulate the ways the job negatively impacted me. To carry on doing what I felt I had to do, and to feel a sense of dignity while doing so, I couldn’t admit to feeling disturbed — not even to myself — not even by what was clearly disturbing. It reminds me of an article in the New Inquiry, wherein prominent sex worker activist Charlotte Shane argues that the time she was anally raped by a client was not traumatic. Sex workers, quite literally, cannot afford to be traumatized by their work.

In recent years, political conversations on sex work have begun to acknowledge how women’s participation in the sex industry can be — as politicized sex workers insist — consensual, but that such work may also be — as anti-industry feminists contend — exploitative. Sex work is work, an income-generating activity that is in some ways similar to other jobs and, in other ways, different.”

Right when I read the article I wondered right away – why was Ms Shane not being invited to talk about her experiences, like her fellow sex worker activists Laura Lee and Ruth Jacobs? Why was she instead being “referred” by Ms Petro instead? Could Huffington Post not e-mail Ms Shane and asked her “can you send us the story of your experiences?” Even a journalist does know he or she will have to ask people affected, if they are to talk about an issue.

Whilst Ms Petro in twitter expressed her struggle to understand how certain sex workers found her writing offensive, I presume the point she missed was that her referral/reference on Ms Shane’s opinions and experiences, actually in a way “talked over” her (by using her opinions to make arguments. As the scene went, it seemed she did not received any consent or notification in the least). Which as a result would be extremely problematic, especially for the public to understand sex work. 

Yes sex work’s experiences are different in every cases we come across, but that does not give journalists excuses to talk over the person. Even sex workers are people, they have every right to talk about their stories and situations, so one talked over the other is not just a disrespect to the person but also in a way distort the truth.

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