Don’t measure a woman’s worth by her clothes, it says. With bad words describing the kind of judgement you might get when you wear clothes that are too revealing. Worse than “slut”, worse than “asking for it” is the word “whore” all the way on the bottom. It’s quite correct, I fear. In our minds, sluts and cockteasers are bad enough. But whores are most certainly the lowest of the low. I was watching an episode of American Horror Story the other day. One of the characters cried to her lover “I’m not a whore, I matter! I matter!”.
Dutch media usually depict sex workers as victims, innocent girls forced into a life of prostitution. Never because they thought it was their best option, but always coerced by pimps or poverty. But tv shows and movies usually seem to take it a step further. Sex workers become completely dehumanised. A dead hooker is just a thing, not really a person. Their death isn’t even worth reporting. Their murderer gets away with it, or is chased by police after he makes the mistake of killing a real woman. Suddenly, all those dead hookers become an interesting trail. This happens so often and so completely that it becomes in a sense almost invisible. Unless you are a sex worker or love a sex worker, and then it starts to hurt.
When you work in an industry as stigmatised as the sex trade, jokes which dehumanise workers and normalise violence have a considerable impact. As long as the viewing public continues to get a kick out of tropes such as “dead hookers in the boot of a car”, the violence some of us encounter at work will be seen as inevitable, and, worse still, unchangeable.