If you know anything about the all too human failing called “projection” than you know humans have a history of blaming their foibles and fears on individuals and groups of people known as scapegoats. Rather than engage in the all too rare virtue of introspection, the disappointingly lazy human will choose to project their lust, fear, weaknesses, taboo fantasies and secret cravings on anyone they can designate as “other.” The scapegoat often becomes someone of a different race or gender or perhaps sexual orientation.
For instance, AIDS was initially blamed upon homosexual persons. Disease is usually blamed upon immigrants. Poverty is blamed upon minorities. Sexually transmitted infections are generally blamed upon sex workers although prostitution can only account for 7% of STD transmission. Yet the myths and the prejudice persist.
This special form of societally sanctioned hatred has taken many forms over the years. Just a few hundred years ago, hatred and suspicion of women who owned property and lived alone translated into the infamous “witch” burnings. It was quite common for suspected witches to be stripped naked and tortured sexually until they “confessed” to the sexual fantasies which took up residence in the twisted minds of their persecutors. Once the “witch” confessed she was often killed and her property absorbed by the “good” people and their “holy” institutions.
Today’s prostitute is a convenient scapegoat for society’s discomfort with its own sexual desires and while the prostitute approaches sex as a job, her detractors often see her as sexually wanton and lustful which is an obvious projection of the motives of one who would choose to purchase the services of a prostitute. Second wave feminists take the opposite approach and cast any female who makes the choice to put a price on her sexual behavior, a victim in need of being “rescued.” The second wave feminist cannot imagine choosing to engage in sex for pay unless something horrific had forced her to do so and since this is true for her, she assumes it is true for all women.
Either way, the mind and motives of the individual sex worker are never accounted for and the net effect is one of obliterating the sex worker as a viable human worthy of a modicum of respect. Whether one of my clients fantasizes me into some kind of nympho or a feminist accuses me of “being in denial” I am effectively reduced to the cartoon in its originator’s head. What I really think and feel is of no concern. How my life can serve someone else’s deep psychological processes becomes paramount because in the final analysis, prostitutes are NOT people. We ARE of course. But we are NOT percieved as people by anyone but ourselves.
Of course the sex worker rights movement is entirely about procuring rights and human dignity for sex workers and it is why I devoted so many years putting my life and my personhood on the line publicly. I paid a price for all those television appearances. I was jailed, audited, fined, evicted and nearly lost visitation of my stepchildren. But those are just the headlines. The part that hurt the most and continues to take a toll today even though I have been “retired” from escorting for five years now, is the perception of being either evil or pitied. If I am seen as strong then I am also “bad.” And if I am seen as sweet or endearing than I am to be pitied and pathologized.
Today someone saw the spiritual side of me and came to the conclusion that I should abandon all this talk about sex because apparently in their world sex and spirituality are incompatible. In addition, they blithely announced that I “am finding my way” as if I had been lost and was finally getting my life together. That I refuse to “repent” or disavow my past as a prostitute or porn actress creates so much cognitive dissonance in the vast majority of people that they simply rewrite my script to suit themselves.
In their world I must choose one or the the other. I cannot be both spiritually enlightened and pro sex work. I can’t move on to a second career unless I am prepared to lable my years as a sex worker as somehow “unfortunate” but perhaps “necessary” to my personal journey. When I speak about how much satisfaction and yes even fun I had as an escort, I get looks of disapproval and concern. If I speak about those aspects of sex work that I liked less, the understanding nods of approval commence and once again my truth becomes irrelevant in the telling of my life.
My story isn’t unique. Every prostitute finds himself or herself relegated to a stereotype at some point in their life and career. If they hide their profession from family and friends, they still have to navigate the stupid assumptions made by some of their clients – or at least would be clients. Someone at some point will inevitably reach into the deep recesses of their own tortured psyche, grab a handful of smelly shit they should have dealt with in a therapist’s office and hurl it toward a prostitute with the moral conviction and piety reserved for “good” people.