My use of the words escort and sex worker inhabit mostly political terrain for me. In the strictest sense, an escort accompanies a client to a given location or event. Most escorts of course, do not venture from their private apartments where they entertain clients. I no longer do escorting. I am no longer selling my services as an escort and so I am clear that I am at this point, a former escort.
Sex worker is a different word with different connotations. Some people think sex workers are doing illegal activities and others are pretty sure sex workers take off their clothes. But in reality, a wide variety of jobs and professions qualify to be called sex work and therefore many people who do diverse things for a living can be referred to as sex workers. In fact, some people call themselves a sex worker simply because they write about sex for a living. That is a bit of a stretch but if you add any kind of adult images, then magically the line is crossed and many will agree that someone who writes about sex with naked pictures of themselves is a sex worker. I suppose the line in most minds occurs at the point where the person selling sex toys or writing about sex, models the sex toys or illustrates the sex they are writing about by using their own body. If a writer or vendor sells images of other naked people, then we are not sure if they qualify to be called a sex worker.
I find these distinctions somewhat arbitrary and limiting. But even if I go with the definition of sex worker as someone who uses their own body in some way to procure a living, then I still end up with a wider definition of the term than society currently allows for. I would include as sex workers, people who marry for money and both print and runway models. Some performance artists would qualify as sex workers too. For instance when Karen Finley covered herself in chocolate for a photo shoot with Bill Maher, her use of her own body was deeply sexual as well as political (although I was hard pressed to ascertain what her political message was). But the popular press will always refer to her as an artist instead of a sex worker.
So what is the difference between someone like Karen Finley and Annie Sprinkle? Is Annie Sprinkle a sex worker because she used to do porn or because she still uses her naked body in some of her stage performances? Annie Sprinkle refers to herself as an activist and performance artist at this point. I know she is always comfortable referring to her past as a porn star and prostitute. Annie Sprinkle willingly and graciously stands in solidarity with other sex workers.
When women and transgenders are being murdered for being sex workers, stressing that one is a former sex worker can feel divisive. It certainly does not seem like a show of solidarity.
Toward the end of a presentation I gave to a feminist class at a college in Marin many years ago, the professor announced that she would like to consider herself an honorary whore as a show of solidarity with all the whores who suffer for being whores. I was touched and impressed. It was also an instructive moment for me as I realized that people all too often draw lines of distinction between each other in an effort to escape the fate of their contemporaries. I am not such a person and I will not abandon decades of activism now in order to garner a little more public approval. I would much rather enlarge the term sex worker while embracing it and standing in solidarity with other sex workers.
In the strictest sense of the word, I really am a sex worker even today, because I occasionally sell my adult DVDs. It is funny, really. Because if I were selling adult DVDs of Annie Sprinkle or Nina Hartley, I would not be considered a sex worker. And when I stop selling my DVDs (which will eventually happen when I run out of copies as I have no intentions of ordering more) some may stop thinking of me as a sex worker. I, however, am fond of the word. It denotes an important aspect of the Divine Feminine which I feel called to bring forth in a variety of ways.
So while I do not intend to make more porn, I may decide to get naked in front of a camera again. And if I do, will I be a sex worker or just like every actress in Hollywood? Where is that magical line between the good girls and the bad girls, anyway? I am not sure but when I find it, you can count on my arriving with a big eraser determined to blur the line even more.
Tags: adult DVDs, Annie Sprinkle, bad girls, Bill Maher, escort, escorting, feminism, good girls, Karen Finley, Nina Hartley, nude photos, political activism, pornography, prostitution, sex worker, whore