This is our truth, tell us yours
Every so often a client will ask me a variation on that old question “whats a nice girl like you doing in a place like this”. What they mean is that I don’t seem “low-class” or desperate enough to be a sex worker. Of course what they are doing booking someone they thought might be desperate or “low-class” is between them and their conscience. Anyone who wants to leap on this as some sign clients are evil however needs to go down the Bigg Market on a Saturday night, where desperate and incapacitated by alcohol are the norm. A client once said I was a nice girl who fucked like a dirty slut. I smiled and refrained from the 3 hour lecture on why his ideas needed to be given back to the UKIP candidate he had borrowed them from.
I am, whatever the term means, not high-class either, just a whore trying to make ends meet. The idea I could be doing better though, from men who have paid to have sex with me keeps coming up. It’s not just in sex work that women (and it does usually seem to be women) are told they could do better. If we form a relationship with someone who doesn’t meet the standards others arbitrarily set we are seen to be “settling”. If we don’t put career above motherhood, or indeed a decent work life balance we are seen as letting the feminist side down. If we chose an option that pays less, or can’t work, or work part-time, we are used to represent all women, and all women’s choices. (Of course this is magnified if you are a woman on other intersections, such as disabled, trans, or black)
The “whats a nice girl” trope is very often extremely ablest. Clients don’t know about my mental health issues, I usually laugh and say what job could be better than being paid for fucking. However when people do know you have physical or mental disabilities they can still berate you for not doing well enough according to their capitalist neo liberal standards. After a period when we actually thought education for education sake was of value, and time outside work was useful and beneficial we are now in a period where our only value is as workers. The baby boomers enjoy the university of the third age while the rest of us are told enjoy is a luxury we cannot aspire too.
When it comes to judging the suitability of someones partner a different set of tropes are usually at play. These are rooted in the myth of romance. The myth takes two, completely contradictory forms, which people seem to be able to hold in their heads. You either meet the perfect person, who appears like venus out of the waves fully formed and immutable. Or you meet the perfect person, except they aren’t perfect yet, and you change them in such a way as to make them perfect. Think Mr Knightly or Mr Darcy. In looking for a partner words like compromise, acceptance, accommodation, are seen to be bad things to be avoided at all costs. I am not talking here about putting up with abuse. The myth of romance actively discourages the idea a relationship may be less than perfect, because people are less than perfect, and that’s OK.
This links with the idea of us as workers because we are in an era which hates nuance and complexity. We can be only ever one thing, we must be shaped from childhood to be that one thing. Part of the value of the idea of education for the sake of education, and not to produce drones, was that beautiful accidents happen. Lowry was a rent collector, Steinbeck grew up on Cannery Row. They were educated not because it would make them better workers but because it was thought it would make them better people.
The myth of romance is at heart a capitalist myth. One that says you are cut out for one thing, moulded by some strange hand of fate to fit in one hole, and if any edges need to be smoothed off to make that fit work, you are a failure. If you need some compromise or accommodation, be it in work or in relationships, you are seen as a failure, ready to be thrown away, and advised to throw away the relationship. The myth of romance is perfect for our disposable culture where people are no longer encouraged to look up at the stars and wonder.