Discrimination sucks in any walk of life, but when you’re working in the adult industry it’s almost inevitable.
In 2017, we may hope for open-mindedness when it comes to occupations and life choices. Sadly, however, this isn’t often the case for sex workers. From escorts to performers, we’ve all heard tales of sex workers experiencing discrimination. It seems increasingly common for adult industry employees across the spectrum to suffer some form of discrimination as well. Or perhaps it’s just more common for us to hear about it.
This recently was highlighted when I contacted the police regarding an issue of ongoing online harassment. When reporting the incident, I mentioned I worked as a sex writer and toy reviewer. The officer’s tone changed. She declared, “This kind of work will bring weirdos, unfortunately,” and advised me to close my site to avoid further harassment. I was furious and explained to the officer how discriminatory she was being.
The incident is far from isolated. I spoke to several cam performers and fetish models who echoed my annoyance because they experienced isolation in the community or playground when their occupation was discovered.
According to British fetish cam model Ruby Rousson, “I’m pretty sure I got turned down for a house because I put ‘online dominatrix’ on my form. How innocent I was. This, even though I made more than enough for the house and had for years.”
To add insult to injury, she added “My partner who was renting with me got accepted for it, and he earns less than me.”
Often hidden behind a façade of cultural concern, this kind of discrimination is extremely hard to prove. As such, it’s very difficult to fight and it often feels like there is little we can do.
If you love Me, you’ll spend more. pic.twitter.com/HR07RxrRBG
— MistressRubyRousson (@MistressRousson) October 10, 2017
Writers and cam models aren’t alone in suffering the problem. Workers at the London-based women’s erotic emporium Sh! have suffered shocking cases of adult industry discrimination. Sh!’s Managing Director Ky Hoyle described an instance where they had raised money for a breast cancer charity.
“We once had a breast cancer charity refuse a donation from us or, more specifically, from our customers in-store, the majority of whom, of course, are women,” she said. “Breast cancer being something that effects mostly women, we were staggered. I was so cross I rang them back to challenge their right to refuse a donation to their charity because of some weird moral stance [regarding] where it was collected.”
The very notion money collected from within the adult industry is somehow unacceptable or “different” from money collected from organizations in other industries is appalling. And yet, this is far from the only instance of an organization refusing a charitable donation from the adult industry.
— Ky Hoyle (@MD_ShWomenstore) June 24, 2017
It gets even more egregious. Discrimination against sex workers and members of the adult industry doesn’t need to involve sex. U.K.-based company Kinkcraft was looking for somewhere to host a photoshoot to showcase their range of plus-size latex clothing. They hired a hut on a local beach with no issues. But to their shock, the rental company emailed them back a week later cancelling the booking.
Pixie of Kinkcraft explained, “When the email came in that asked me what exactly did I want to use their beach hut for, I already knew where this was going, but I held out hope I was wrong. There was no way a family-run business would have a problem in our plans. When I told them and their response was ‘We don’t want to be associated with anything like that,’ my heart sank. It was quickly replaced with anger.”
Pixie mailed the company back offering to allow them to see the outfit, which was simply a latex dress. The rental company was not interested.
“In their mind, we were somehow dirty, and there was no way they were going to allow us to use their beach hut,” Pixie said.
— Kink Craft (@KinkCraft) October 10, 2017
The examples are almost endless. In another instance, TFL (Transport For London) refused to allow Sh! to view new office premises based on the nature of their business.
It seems no area of the adult industry is safe from this kind of unfair –- yet often legally sanctioned –- behavior. How should we tackle this kind of discrimination?
For Rousson, the solution is to separate her identities.
“Unfortunately, [discrimination is] really common,” she said. “I’ve separated my accounts now. I want to do more work on disability and such, but they won’t come near me with a barge pole because when you search ‘Ruby,’ you get boobs.”
For many, attempting to maintain some measure of anonymity is one solution, but often the “solution” is a maintenance tactic. It doesn’t actually call out or challenge instances of discrimination. Members of the adult industry continue to seek opportunities to confront stereotypes and fight discrimination.
Hoyle said, “Nothing surprises me, but it’s important to remain passionate about challenging the barriers surrounding sex and the adult biz. Mostly you hit a brick wall, but it’s good to not let [problematic instances] pass because that’s helping to internalize shame, embarrassment and ignorance surrounding sex and sex work.”
— Team Sh! (@ShWomenstore) October 11, 2017
This is great advice. For me, the best way to deal with my own discrimination was to challenge it. I knew the officer wasn’t acting according to her training but according to her own prejudice.
As members of the sex industry, we all certainly have dealt with different forms of discrimination. As individuals, we all certainly have our own comfort levels and ways of managing these experiences. Consider your own safety and wellbeing first, but don’t allow yourself to be shamed for what you do. Don’t apologize, and don’t allow this kind of outrageous discrimination to slide.
Katy Seymour is a super-sex-positive writer in the U.K. who believes kink is life. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image © Young-sun Teh.