Women who sell sex do not fall into two neat categories, the Strong and the Weak

Photo Jonathan Lorange

Ottawa sex venue Club Madellyn Jae is presented here as an agreeable feminist spot where ‘clients are friendly and respectful, and everybody goes home satisfied.’ I am the first to welcome such a place, where it seems customers spend their time enjoying intimacy that can end in a hand job. What I object to is the way the proprietor divides sex workers into two easily distinguishable types: the strong and enlightened versus the weak and neurotic. She characterises the latter category as ‘self-destructive’, mirroring the Rescue Industry’s obsession with the psychology of poorer people and the claim that only ‘elite’ women ever really choose to sell sex (see brainwashing and Stockholm Syndrome recently).

It is understandable that sex workers who are struggling to normalise the profession should wish to make this distinction, and, as usual, it holds if one focusses only on the two extremes on a continuum of choosing and unchoosing. But most people who sell sex lie somewhere between those two end-points, and if they are not perfectly conscious and unconfused neither do they deserve to be called ‘self-destructive.’ And although it’s more difficult to defend the rights of people who have mixed feelings about sex work, it’s important to try: understanding precarious employment can help.

Thanks and come again

Tony Martins, Guerrilla, Ottawa

“I believe there are two types of people in this business,” says proprietor Kennedy. “Sound, level-headed, strong women who are focused individuals. They are using their sexuality to get ahead in life.”

“The second type, unfortunately, is in the industry for the wrong reasons and is self-destructive,” Kennedy continues. “They are sometimes addicted to drugs, in abusive relationships, spend the money as quickly as they make it. Often, it’s all about the money and they always want more and more—they chase the dollar and end up starting as a dancer or masseuse and end up as an escort.”

“That to me is very sad about these women,” Kennedy adds. “If they make it past my training, they usually don’t last long at CMJ because I don’t want to be a part of their self-destruction.”
“At the time I started I was mature and experienced enough to make the choice for myself and it felt very empowering,” offers Simone. “I was not a girl, but a woman. I knew my boundaries from day one. I wasn’t comfortable stripping or doing full-service. Hostessing at CMJ was a
perfect fit for me.”

6 thoughts on “Women who sell sex do not fall into two neat categories, the Strong and the Weak

  1. Maggie McNeill

    I am reminded of Kristin Davis’ recent claim that “80% of escorts are coerced” and the rest work for people like her. I hope this sort of arse-kissing of trafficking fanatics isn’t becoming some new trend… 🙁

    Reply
  2. auletride

    Ugh, I’ve heard this attitude wayyy too much from sex workers (the ones who, of course, are the “strong” kind). It’s just another form of barely veiled class/racism, goes to show how divided a population it is. What does this attitude lead to? Elitism, reinforcing privilege, reducing support for sex workers who have less resources already. gross.

    Reply
  3. E.K aka Jasmin

    Hey – thank you for your article, I really apprecaite the feedback and being able to understand others perspectives and opinions. Your blog is a beacon of light and very refreshing.

    I honestly didn’t look at it that way before but I respect your opinion. My comment was not meant to be taken as an elitist sex worker antics.

    Let me be clear – its not the sex work that makes these women “self destructive” – these types can be found in every industry in society. The sex work is merely the vehicle to make the quick cash and provide the flexibility to accomodate their lifestyle and choices, or lack there of.

    My issue is that mainstream society primarily blames the sex work as the root of the problem. If we wish to change the views then we must stop allowing our industry to be the vehicle. Owners need to be active and ensure tha their staff are living clean and healthy lifestyles. If they are not, then the owner needs to make a choice as to whether they are willing to be a part of, or profit from behaviour or lifestyle choice that you do not agree with, or support.

    Speaking merely from experience of having 100’s of women come into my life as an owner of an adult orientated business, I believe I am in a position to make such a distinction because I have seen it and lived it.

    Yes, its a tad simplistic to catagorize every woman that has walked into my place into a dichotomy and for that, I apologize. Everyone of those women are unique and their life experiences equally as unique. I choose, as every business owner has the right to, the type of women that will work at my club and represent the brand/experience I have created and have put my heart and soul into.

    Some of these women who I refer to when I make comments such as the one in the article have personally thanked me for firing them – I cut off their ability to support their addiction, or I helped them get focused and find purpose to their lives. At the same time, some of these women just moved on to other places and continue on – and that is their choice…

    Thanks again and keep up the great work,

    Elizabeth Kennedy aka Jasmin

    additional comments from Trinity (university student, hostess @ CMJ for 1.5 years):

    By making a clear distinction between characters typically found in the sex industry, we by no means intend to place certain people above others. Rather, women within the sex industry who strive to normalize sex work do so with the intentions of creating universal, fundamental rights, so as to rectify the exploitation that takes place. This is simply a reality of the industry. There are those who use this means to an end for deviant purposes, and those who do not. Furthermore, it is easy for an individual to look from the outside in and intrepret the intentions of so called “elite” sex workers or owners. However, making disctinctions based on anectodal experiences is by no means done with malicious intent.

    Sincerely,

    Trinity

    Reply
  4. Maggie McNeill

    @Jasmin and Trinity: I see where you’re coming from, and when I owned an escort service I did the same thing. If I send a girl out and she gives the client a negative experience that reflects badly on me; no argument there. But I also see Laura’s point about dichotomies; what I try to show readers on my blog is that there are as many “types” of sex workers as there are types of women, and that every personality one can find among sex workers can also be found among health-care workers, saleswomen, housewives, etc. The sooner the public realizes that as a group we aren’t any different from any other women – neither stronger nor weaker, stupider nor smarter, more or less corrupt or more or less moral – the sooner they’ll realize that laws against sex work are nothing more or less than laws against women, and react accordingly.

    Reply
  5. Laura Agustín

    jasmine and trinity, thank you for writing. i understand completely the attempt to make a good workplace where you have personally chosen the workers for whatever characteristics you want – that goes without saying, and your club sounds great. and i know you did not intend to sound elitist.

    the employer position fosters a dichotomy: those who were hired and those who were not hired. but sex workers come in every human variety, as maggie says, and the ones you didn’t hire are by no means all dysfunctional, or drug users, or any other particular thing. for that matter i have a friend who was a highly functional escort throughout her drug addiction, so she was both messed up *and* able to be hired by a demanding escort service.

    i have to comment on these sorts of simplifications because they feed in so directly to anti-trafficking campaigns, and to sex worker professionalisation that wants to distinguish absolutely between the unfree and the free, the wholly conscious worker and the coerced victim.

    again thanks for your responses, all.

    Reply

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