DATING AS A SEX WORKER
Chloe is a single mother and a sex worker. She takes her children to school in the mornings, packing their lunches, making sure they have their homework completed, with her youngest’s football kit lined up next to the door ready to take him to practise after school. During the day Chloe sets up her lights, her camera, and undresses, creating content for a fan base she has attracted from her solo masturbation videos. Of the “estimated 72,800 sex workers in the UK, 88 per cent are women and most are mothers working to support families,” this is why Chloe is illustrated as such. In an article on Sex work, motherhood, and stigma, sex worker and single mother Holly Dickinson writes under a false name, in the fear that revealing her identity would mean endangering her business and her family. In her first year as a sex worker, she received comments such as “if your daughter is raped or molested, it’s going to be your fault.” Sadly, this way of thinking isn’t uncommon, as once a woman asserts her sexuality as a way of financial or personal gain, she is seemingly now dirtied by her choices, or as Fawn Ryan beautifully puts it “What sex work means and who a sex worker is has been informed by a mass of historical slander established by so-called experts — typically white men who aren’t sex workers. Historically, sex workers have been medicalized with discourse that references dirt, disease, low IQ, and a lack of good moral standing.” In Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again by Katherine Angel, she speaks of what many women go through “the moment they reveal their desire: Will I be in danger? In revealing myself, have I forgone privacy and dignity? Will I be pursued, haunted by my own actions? Will I be able to resist the unwanted desires of others? Has saying yes precluded my ability to say no?” (pg. 3-4). Evidently, for mothers in sex work, these questions extend from themselves and onto their children, how will their choices effect them? Sex work would not exist if there wasn’t a market for it: there is no business without a customer. Whether these customers come to buy body; time; self-worth; fulfilment; objectification; a way to own something; a break from loneliness; or something entirely different and much more menacing, the fact is: sex sells, and no matter your personal political stance on sex work, it will continue to sell, or at least be desired. This means, therefore, that the stigma around sex workers needs to be addressed and protection, security and laws need to be made to ensure those entering into a career in the sex industry can do so without fear for themselves or their families. Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM), are one of many organisations or movements campaigning for “the rights and safety of everyone who sells sexual services,” sharing lessons for sex workers on how to combat stalking and harassment or on how the Swedish Model effects sex workers. What I would like viewers to take from Chloe’s character is to humanise her, to see and understand sex work being a valid choice, and that it in no way makes her a bad parent, or unavailable for a relationship.– Issy Stephens, Director
The stigma around the sex industry makes online dating incredibly difficult for the workers within. The main issue faced is people’s preconceptions and expectations of these persons from their online (or real life) dates; from expecting a ‘free session’ to using their career, former or not, against them to humiliate or manipulatethem. They are often banned from online dating sites, despite following rules and using the platforms for personal not professional reasons. Those who do not disclose their profession online but are still banned suspect it is because they are reported by other users. Whilst exchanging sex for money is legal in the UK, soliciting in a public space, brothels and pimping are not. (Sexual Offenses Act 2003.) There are a number of responses found when sex workers ‘reveal’ their profession or history, some people have no issue and others are quite discriminatory. Some fit under a ‘saviour complex’ category who feel they are doing the world a service by dating someone who works, or has had worked in the sex industry; and could ‘save them’ from their job. Ultimately, for the online dating scene to get better for sex workers, there needs to be more protection and more understanding that sex work is a ‘real’ profession, and people within the industry are valid.– Lydia Jenkins, Assistant Researcher
SOUND COLLABORATOR STATEMENT
My initial reaction to seeing the preview was dread, sex is one of those things some people find difficult to discuss and I am certainly no exception. CHLOE began with a mind map, trying to capture all the thoughts surrounding parenthood, sex, sex work and discuss them in a 30 second audio clip!
Sex is something that, despite the times, I (and many others) have difficulty discussing with partners, friends and even have difficulty thinking about it by myself. Because of this I decided to approach the task without directly mentioning the conventional discussions surrounding sex work and pleasure (it would also be a bit too tacky to record a 30 second Careless Whisper saxophone solo). Instead choosing to discuss sex and sex works implications to the individual when being a parent, something I had never thought about before.
In late 2019 I released several songs, the composition of which revolved around the use of ambient recordings and relevant samples to capture the thoughts, feelings and experiences of particular locations I visited. When approaching composition for FAST FOOD : CHLOE I used very similar techniques in order to compose the music and design the sound for the short clip. I began by collating materials relevant to the subject, in order to give the project a clear direction and collection of relevant reference material before I actually started putting sound to the image.
The song is based around a repeating, droning bass sound I created through manipulating a patch (or custom synth sound preset), a ping-pong delay and phase inversion (I barely grasp the theory behind all these terms, a lot of the time I’m just pushing buttons and twisting knobs until I hear something I like). I also included several ambient recordings I made in and around my local area, making them as much a part of the music as the instruments. I then went back to the initial plan I made and read some of my notes and some of the reference material that stuck out to me, picking and choosing my favourites to record.
The equipment I used were the Korg Microkorg Synthesizer, the Roland CR-78 Drum Machine, field recordings were made with a TASCAM DR-40 and vocal recordings made with a RODE NT1A, RODE M1 SM58 clone and a RODE NT-USB Mini. For effects I used a Soundcraft Signature MTK Lexicon Effects bank and a DBX 266xs Compressor.– Tony McAspurn, Sound Collaborator for Chloe
- Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights – a book by Molly Smith & Juno Mac, 2020.
This book covers sex work, its history, its future, and how it changes around the globe. In the words of Silvia Federici, this book is “uniquely fit to address the destructive divisions that exist among feminists concerning prostitution.” It looks at law and control and safety, and how we can push for liberation from the systems that trap us.Issy Stephens
Sex workers are everywhere. We are your neighbours. We brush past you on the street. Our kids go to the same school as yours. We’re behind you at the self-service checkout, with a baby food and a bottle of Pinot Grigio. People who sell sex are in your staff cafeteria, your political party, your after-school club committee, your doctor’s waiting room, your place of worship. Sex workers are incarcerated inside immigration detention centres, and sex workers are protesting outside of them.Molly Smith & Juno Mac (pg.1)
Pathologising sex workers as unable to make ‘good’ decisions, rather than seeing them as people largely motivated by familiar, mundane needs, can lead to disastrous consequences.Molly Smith & Juno Mac (pg.47)
- Why the Media’s Obsession with Sex Workers who are Paying Their Way Through College Has to Go – an article by Fawn Ryan for Salty.
The article starts with a rigorous disenfranchising of the show Bonding, calling it out for its ‘tired tropes’ and unrealistic impression of the job. Fawn states that in an ideal world, sex work would merely be the exchange of money for sexual services, however we do not live in an ideal world, and sex workers have to live with the consequences of historical slander, both of their characters and of their work.Issy Stephens
When ‘coming out’ as a sex worker, I’m often asked: Am I paying my way through university using sex work? My interrogator’s face usually relaxes once I answer this question correctly, and they’re able to understand me as more than a whore.Fawn Ryan
Authorities who are supposed to protect will likely arrest a sex worker after she reports a rape, and this knowledge isn’t hidden. Violent men understand where systemic care is lacking, and purposefully prey on the most vulnerable of women, knowing these systems of supposed protection will sooner keep them safe over any woman in the sex industry. Rarely has an attempt been made to simultaneously depict sex workers as potential victims of both physical and systemic violence. These stories should find a way to be told whilst showing sex workers in their entirety, and those who work to hurt us as the focus of pity, shame, and the ones in need of redemption.Fawn Ryan
- Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again: Women and Desire in the Age of Consent – a book by Katherine Angel, 2021.
This book comprises of four chapters, 1) On Consent, 2) On Desire, 3) On Arousal, 4) On Vulnerability. Although the book is not aimed entirely at sex work, it is aimed at sex and the culture around it, providing key discourse about how women’s sexuality is monitored and spoken about. It features debates on #MeToo, consent and pornography, looking deeply into ‘the bind’ women often find themselves in – the bind between yes and no. I wanted to include this book for Chloe’s character because it helped me to unlock the language to talk about consent and sex in a way that can encompass the grey areas of desire and arousal, rather than a yes or no: a conversation that can be translated into sex work.Issy Stephens
A sexual ethics that is worth its name has to allow for obscurity, for opacity and for not-knowing. We need to start from this very premise – this risky, complex premise: that we shouldn’t have to know ourselves in order to be safe from violence.Katherine Angel (pg.40)
- #Nudes4Sale – a documentary for BBC Three, 2020.
This documentary covers different women’s experiences selling pornographic or nude photos and videos online through platforms such as OnlyFans and Snapchat. It interviews Lauren, a 23 year old who is living alone in her own three bedroom house, earning upwards of £37,000 each month on OnlyFans. It also interviews Hannah, a 17 year old who has been illegally selling explicit images since she was 16. The documentary looks at this type of content creation from one extreme to the other, asking whether it’s a good thing, and the effects it’s having on the people doing it.Issy Stephens
- What It’s Really Like to Date When You’ve Done Sex Work – an article by Melissa Petro for Allure, 2017.
When I started dating online, I knew I wanted to discuss my sex work past — and everything else — with anyone I got serious with. By then I’d appeared the cover of the NY Post, lost my teaching career, and established a new one as a writer.’‘The “good” guys who conflate sex work and sex trafficking, who assume all sex work to be tantamount to abuse, felt sorry for me. Almost invariably, they concluded I must have deep-seated psychological issues that meant our relationship would never become serious… The guy was obviously titillated, drooling for details like he’d stumbled upon a living, breathing character out of a Penthouse Forum Letter of the Month. I’m not ashamed of my past, but I’m not necessarily proud of it either — and I’m definitely not looking for someone else to use it to objectify me. What had been a pleasant evening of getting to know one another turned into an invasive, uncomfortable Q&A. Instead of inviting him up at the end of the date, as I could tell he was expecting, I sent him on his way.Melissa Petro
- Peepshow: Sex Workers Open Up About Why It’s Hard To Date Online – an article by Jessie Sage for Pittsburg Current, 2020.
As a sex worker, I spent much of my time sexting, sending dirty pics, talking to men on the phone, and doing erotic skype sessions. Even though I tried to mentally separate the dating apps from the platforms I worked on, it was hard and left me annoyed by the online dating experience.
As sex workers, we live in a world of double standards. We are told to get “legitimate” jobs, and then excluded from these jobs because of our history in sex work. Similarly, we are told to not solicit on dating sites lest we be kicked off, but are kicked off in large numbers regardless of following the rules.Jessie Sage
COMMUNITY FOUND resources on sex work
- The Subversive potential of queer pornography – an essay by Veronika Koller for Journal of Language and Sexuality, 2015.
Queer porn features performers of various gender identities and sexual orientations intermixing and exploring genres in ways infrequently seen in other sexually explicit content” [with the aim of]“interrogating and troubling gender and sexual categories and aiming at sexual arousal.Veronika Koller
Resource submitted by Alfie Challis
- Hearing Impaired Silver Daddy Face Fucked by Hunter Scott & Charming Bears Teach Sexy Sign Language Before Fucking Raw – Bearback, 2020.
These porn videos introduced me to the idea that porn can be different from the repeated narrative of porn being cold detached masturbation, these videos serve to educate the viewer around the topic of being hearing impaired as well as having the aim to turnus on.Alfie Challis
Resource submitted by Alfie Challis
- Pornography is Good For Us: Without It We Would Be A Far More Repressed Society – A debate for Intelligence Squared, 2013.
A debate with a range of different opinions on the topic of pornography.Alfie Challis
Resource submitted by Alfie Challis
- @charlieshe – instagram account.
I chose this account as Charlie is a sex worker who often speaks out about the marginalisation people in their profession face, as well as many other relevant topics including female empowerment, trans rights, POC marginalisation and many others. (I don’t always agree with everything they say but I thought it would be an interesting account to check out).Arianna Stapley
Resource submitted by Arianna Stapley
- Feminism, Interrupted – a book by Lola Olufemi
This book explores reproductive justice, transmisogyny, islamophobia, sex work and more. A quick read that’s perfect if you don’t have much spare time with loads of organisations and reading lists to look into!Katie Bonar
Resource submitted by Katie Bonar