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what's wrong with you?

dear.abby's picture

During our brainstorming questioning session about sex work I found myself repeatedly comming back to the same theme: that having "something wrong with you" or "having problems" is an inherent prerequestite of being a sex worker. I think this idea comes up a lot within the media, specifically television or movie portrayals of sex workers, where a character's participation in such "demeaning" work is explained/rationalized via their terrible (read: abusive) childhood or their substance abuse problem. I definitely view Live Girls Unite! as attempting to paint a different/new picture of the sex industry; and while it succeeded in revealing to me a relatively novel image of sex work, it definitely has not erased the more cliche (possibly more realistic) image of sex work as taken up by persons with impaired agency.

A recent English tv series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, also worked to displace the average representation of the sex worker as a less than fully capable human agent. This series was based upon the blog and subsequent book, The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, written by an actual London based American escort and Ph.d student named Brook Magnanti. I am more familiar with the tv series, which definitely worked hard to paint the escort Hannah/Belle as a completely capable, undamaged woman who simply enjoyed having sex over having a dull office job. Now I am fully aware this is tv, but it was a tv series based upon reality, a real woman's reality. I am just left very confused about which sex worker's reality counts more, or which is more "real", or whether or not it is possible to reconcile all the various representations of sex workers...

Also, I wonder how many Ph.d students (like Brook and Sioban Brooks) are involved in sex work? Either for research purposes or simply to support themselves.


Nancy's picture

Sex Work

No matter whether one is trafficked or chooses to engage in sex work, it takes a toll on both the sex worker and his or her family. Our group strives to support family members and loved ones of sex workers, who struggle to support and understand the life choices. Visit us at

buffalo's picture

sex work

I agreed with many of your thoughts on how Live Girls Unite! took away stereotypes for sex workers. Growing up I always had the assumption that you would only do sex work if it was the complete last option, but I don't think that now. After talking with friends who are interested in exotic dancing and seeing this documentary it is more fore seeable to make that choice, when you can make other choices. I still struggle with the idea of if sex work can be not degrading, wether it's porn or exotic dancing, but I really do think I have a more open mind now. If the woman fully accepts sex work as her job and it's voluntary then I think there can be instances when it isn't degrading. With porn I also think it can be non-degrading, it's just that when there is a general trend of violence against women in porn, that's when it scares me. When watching Live Girls Unite! it did feel a bit skeezy when the men were watching, but the dancers were profiting off of them so there obviously is a huge benefit. I think that sex work (porn, dancing, prostitution, ect) always objectifies the members participating, but it isn't necessarily degrading.