Blog Post: Mad skills

Thursday, April 9, 2009
In my post the other day about SWOP-Chicago’s “tips for sex worker allies”, one of their suggestions was:

Respect that Sex Work is Real Work. There’s a set of professional skills involved and it’s not necessarily an industry that everyone can enter into. Don’t tell someone to get a “real job” when they already have one that suits them just fine.

But I wonder if people actually believe sex work does require skills. I know, at least, that when I tell people what I get paid per hour, their eyes kind of go big and they’ll say something to the effect of what a sweet job it is. And that’s true, sometimes it can be pretty nice work. But it is work.

Born Whore is the pen name of a sex worker originally hailing from Toronto but currently working the brothels of Sydney, Australia. A few months back she compiled just some of the skills required to make it in the whoring business:

The longer I whore, the more I realize how highly skilled it is. I watch in awe as the older, more experienced hookers hustle with sterling confidence. We have to know how to hustle, how to read and handle all men, when to soften and relax, when to harden and be a pushy bitch, how to stand up to brothel management, do a health check, employ a much more sophisticated understanding of safer sex, sell ourselves in the introduction or on the phone, work various niches/tropes, determine the right use of language, dress and euphemism, manage relationships with other workers, predict the impact of alcohol or various drugs on our client, manage their physical limitations and disabilities without shaming them, determine what the client is really after, monitor and protect our physical boundaries, get regulars, read a client’s ability to pay (and conduct all financial negotiations), subtly “train” clients to follow our lead, prevent work related strains on our bodies (e.g. RSI), control when he comes, get extensions and tips, connect and communicate with an incredible diversity of women and men with whom we may have almost nothing in common, find (or feign) intimacy and fun in a 30 minute interaction and finally to direct the entire interaction from “hi!” to “goodnight!” PLUS prevent burnout, educate community and friends, find appropriate, non-judgmental services, housing, health care and social support (part of resisting and managing ubiquitous social stigma and discrimination), avoid arrest (in criminalized environments) and have good sex. Amazing! I’m inordinately proud of these skills. They make me feel incredibly fucking smart and I can’t believe I’ve gotten to do this.

Luca Raven, a male sex worker in the UK, thinks sex work requires so many skills that he’s organizing an “open university” for sex workers in London next month. Luca says:

People think sex workers have no skills, but I know they have many talents including acting and performance, entrepreneurial talents or a compassionate, attentive and non-judgmental ear. We want to share our knowledge. A lot of people come to me and say they want to start doing sex work. It is much better that they go to a workshop telling them how to get into the industry safely.

Link to original post on Ickaprick and Ironpussy

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