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.
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.”