I always wonder why certain words, arbitrary in their existence, carry so much weight when used as insults. They're only words, yet when they are wielded as weapons, they truly pack a punch. Whether it's "fat" or "old" or "slut," when they are thrown at us they can make us feel small and insignificant.
The people who spend their free time diminishing others baffles me. People who hack the Facebook account of a girl who rejected them, then masquerade as her while telling family and friends she's an escort, meant to cause her harm and trouble. It's the worst, right? This is exactly what Windsor Canadian man Wayne Berry* did between early October 2012 and as late as September 2013. From The Windsor Star:
"A Windsor man is facing a slew of charges after a woman police say may have spurned his advances had her Facebook account hijacked by him, with false accusations and explicit sexual language posted to family and friends in her name.
Sgt. Paul Jean said Wednesday the victim, a local professional, was fired from her job over false Facebook postings that suggested she could be a prostitute or stripper."
What's in a word to give it such power over us? Even the accusation is enough to cause someone to lose their job and damage their relationships.
"Police say the suspect assumed the victim’s Facebook identity to maliciously and publicly defame her reputation. The suspect gained access to photos of the victim and according to police, posted them with sexually explicit language that indicated that the victim was employed at a local strip club and that she was a prostitute for hire."
What's in a word? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Why need I volumes, if one word suffice?"
Like many people in the trades, my friends and family are not totally aware of my involvement in the industry. They have some hint of it, of course. They may suspect even more than I assume of them, but there is an easy silence regarding it in my life and relationships. They never ask and, though they will always listen, I rarely tell. When I do, it is always with the sweet, sweet cushion of "The Past Tense." I never speak of my day at work as those who leave and arrive home with briefcases must when asked about their shift by their lovers and spouses. I don't wax poetically with family and non-trade friends about what private entertainment has given me in exchange for so many seconds, minutes, years of my time: a concrete sense of God, sex, and self.
If I ever spoke about it as I see it, which for me is overwhelmingly positive as an idea albeit extremely problematic in actuality, I fear they would never understand me. I think they might wonder if I'd lost my nuts (and bolts) along with loosening more than a few of my many screws. I can't imagine someone outside of the trades, someone without intimate and firsthand knowledge of the simultaneously complex and mundane nature of "all in a day's work." I don't know that they have a full understanding, or even a desire to understand, that this job is never only one thing or another. Even being what many (myself included) would term a Survival Worker and someone who will someday leave the trades behind, there are a great many things I enjoy, and yes, even love about this job. Still, I absolutely cannot see someone not employed in the trades able to understand or empathize with this point of view, primarily because we have been inundated and brainwashed with one extremely affective idea: It is the worst thing in the world.
But to whom do we owe our thanks for this idea?
It isn't Christianity, as many would suspect. According to the scriptures, God Himself chose Rahab, a sex worker of her time, to pave the way for the birth of Jesus Christ. She is included directly and by name in His lineage. Is it the forerunners of Modern Christianity as we know it, with their obsessions for purity and chastity? It very well may be that this was the beginning of the pervasive idea we battle against now.
Could it be the cloistered nature of the trades? Unless one is employed as a sex worker some way, it is near to impossible to truly know what it's like to live a life as one. Beyond that, however, is the question: Why, if this is either the primary or simply a supporting reason for the "Liverwurst, Bratwurst, Bierwurst... It's the worst" idea so many people have regarding sex work, is it assumed this business is an inherently negative one?
One cannot argue the view of laypersons regarding the sex industry is an overly and overtly negative one. With stories (both true and fictional) of trafficking, violence, addiction, and abuse in high supply, the number of people willing to listen to and learn from providers is practically non-existent. There is no other argument to be made or given credence. Overwhelmingly, the idea exists, dominates, and propagates itself inside our collective consciousness: We (providers) must be unhappy. There is no way we can be healthy, happy, or even balanced and/or driven individuals with goals and dreams. There is no way we could possibly be in control of our bodies, choices regarding alcohol and drug use, or even our educations and ethics.
Regardless of the cacophony of voices of providers and former providers begging to be heard, trying desperately to rightfully assert themselves (for balance, if nothing else), it seems we are still forced to stand outside in parking lots for hours. We are still forced to read "prostitute murdered" and "porn star dead," most of the time with the reporting house or site not caring enough to even give a name in the teaser line. We are still living in a world where even a malicious rumor begun by a jilted would-be lover mentioning the words "stripper" and "prostitute" can result in a pink slip from an employer.
Somehow, instead of doing damage to people with this terrible idea, we need to do damage to the idea itself. Until this industry can be seen like any other, we'll continue to read stories about women whose lives have been ruined by wagging tongues, pointing fingers, and rumors. I suppose only repetition coupled with the new and open nature of social networking, blogging, microblogging, and research sites focused on the trades can, in time, sufficiently tear down the tragedy/redemption narrative in regard to sex work and, in its place, construct and reveal the actual complex and anti-monolithic truth of the sex industry.
*the offender's name has been relayed as both Wayne Berry and Dwayne Berry in different news houses.