Mark Your Calendars

Did you know there was an International Prostitutes’ Day? I didn’t. It’s the second of June, if you were interested, and I am marking my calendar.

No, that isn’t a joke. There have been whores since the dawn of time, and some of them have been simply tumbled into their occupations by circumstance, while some have assessed their options and decided that they could do worse, or that the work suited them, and so we have teenagers who ran away from home and learned that there was only one reliable way to support themselves, and then again we have people like Dr. Annie Sprinkle. They all deserve a day — the exploited and trafficked kids, and the enthusiastic high-flying professionals, and the women and men in an in-between place who are just doing a job because dammit you need a job, and the world clearly wants the service but never seems to want to respect it.

(Except for a few romantic authors, I guess: Anatole France:

And never was the celestial thought, never was Eunoia, so adorable as in those days when, as a woman, she prostituted herself to heroes and shepherds. The poets surmised her divinity when they painted her so peaceful, superb, and fatal, and when they addressed that invocation to her, ‘A soul as serene as a calm upon the waters.’)

Don’t get me wrong. It is not okay to take people who have few or no choices and compel them to do things with their bodies they don’t want to do. (That also goes for scrubbing floors and cooking meals without a day off, to mention another common form of human trafficking.) It is also not okay to apprehend the people who have been so compelled and criminalize them. And it is further not okay, in my view, to arrest and criminalize people who are adult free agents and mutually choose to buy or sell sex in some form, whether or not you or I would choose to do it, whether or not you or I find some aspect of the transactions squicky. (I wouldn’t care to drive a cab or do data entry either, if you get what I’m saying.)

Prostitutes, or businesses that employ them, often masquerade as members of my profession. Some people in the massage field get all ootsy about this and launch kind of frantic anti-prostitution flares that make us all look a little Comstocky and silly. I really wish they would just sponsor decriminalization and unionization of sex workers so there would be no call for fake identities. Whores have a job making people feel good in one distinct way. I have a job that helps them feel good in another. There should be no need for rivalry or impersonation. And we should all have legal protections. It seems really pretty elementary.

Any road, here is where I found out about this: to wit, a movement in Brazil to honor prostitutes and their role in controlling the spread of HIV. If anyone has an interest in this issue, it would be a sex worker, for the same reasons as health care workers; they need to protect themselves and their clients/patients/customers (Annie Sprinkle’s memoirs will have you thinking that some of her johns were all three). There was a whole HIV-prevention poster campaign in Brazil getting off to a stellar start until one of their governmental gerbils decided it was all wrong to send sex positive messages — like the quotes beside photos of real women stating “I am happy being a prostitute” and “My biggest dream is for society to see us as citizens.”

You can read about it here, at the New York Museum of Sex site. (New York has everything.) There is more here from the author of that post.

Apparently, the Brazilian government ministers are ashamed of their prostitutes. They ought to be more ashamed of themselves.


2 thoughts on “Mark Your Calendars

    • I’m going to allow myself one good fantasy of tearing it up in the Senate gym. Trust me, I don’t work and play well with others. But I’m flattered by the props.

      It all actually seems so simple to me. Why does something that almost everyone does with at least one person magically become a crime if done with many different people, for money? No one is forcing anybody to patronize prostitutes, just like no one is forcing you to get gay married. We just enforce an age of consent. And we inspect restaurants and regulate where you can open one, but no one calls them a social evil. Even though probably more people are sick and ailing from fast food than from having sex with escorts.

      My favorite thing about that poster campaign, I think, is how ordinary and unretouched the women look. They could be standing behind you in the grocery line. None of that airbrushed glamor you see when something like the Eliot Spitzer scandal breaks, nor yet the dilapidated state of the people displayed in news stories about women tricking to support a habit and so on. Just regular average looking people who have a job.

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