Yesterday I met with two sex workers so we could discuss our plans for Sekswerk Nederland, the sex workers’ rights organisation we founded in 2014. Already we’ve met with politicians, attended meetings, been on tv, been quoted in national newspapers and have developed a good network within the Dutch sex workers community. For 2015 we’re even more ambitious, and I honestly feel we will be able to make a difference. One of the most interesting things, for me anyway, is how easy it is for people to change their mind once they find out that sex workers are.. people. Just people who order coffee, go travelling with their boyfriend, have opinions, make choices. One of the women told me she regularly has the following conversation:
“But.. what if you get a customer that you do not want to have sex with, you really do not want to have sex with?”
“Then I say no and we don’t have a session”
“You can do that?!” MIND BLOWN
There’s something profoundly perverse about many of the ‘grim truth behind prostitution’ and ‘what nobody is telling you, the shocking truth revealed’ articles, documentaries and other rescue stories. “It’s like porn” another activist said, and I replied “I wish”. Porn is honest about the fact that it’s fiction, that its intention is to arouse. Rescue stories read like erotica, but they sensationalise sex workers’ lives at their expense and commodify the experiences of actual victims. They are obsessed with how many penises in filthy surroundings and rape by their stepfather and forced abortions and getting peed on and condomless blowjobs. While sex workers and sex work activists want to talk about human rights, international law, respecting the agency of other adults and stopping violence, rescue fetishists get all flushed as they emphasise that thousands of women get raped with objects and are forced to drink buckets of sperm and they get tattoos so everyone can see they are a whore. It’s so inappropriate. They ignore and silence actual sex workers so they can enjoy their rescue-fetish unhindered.
I’m not morally opposed to getting a certain kick out of hearing about the misery of others. It’s not something to be proud of, but you know, ‘based on a true story’ sells, we gossip about the misfortune of others and many people enjoy a little pityporn now and then. Kinksters get into heated arguments with each other over the question whether it’s acceptable to read true stories about rape and kidnapping as inspiration for their own fantasies. I get conflicted over that sometimes. But you certainly cross a line when you start to use others without their consent for your own sexual gratification. The rescue industry exploits others for financial gain, which is morally reprehensible, but their non-consensual use of vulnerable women for their perverse sexual preferences is a grim truth about the rescue industry that really nobody is telling you.