Why Shaming Sex Workers Hurts All Women

In North American culture today, it is common to disparage female porn stars and other female/femme sex industry workers as damaged, unintelligent, or amoral.

In fact, women are still looked at as less intelligent if we express ourselves sexually. Too often, women who are either sex workers or simply sexually/sensually expressive are painted in a negative light. Either as damaged, pitiable women with low self-esteem, or as just plain dumb.

Not only does this attitude contribute to stigma surrounding sex workers that prevents us from having equal rights under the law in the majority of the world’s countries, but it also stifles all women in our erotic expression.

In Naomi Wolf’s book Vagina, she describes an intricate network of connections in the female body linking the vagina to the brain. Sexual fulfillment for women is intimately connected to our creativity, confidence, and ability to express ourselves. She talks about many women writers and artists who had creative breakthroughs following a sexual awakening.

Indeed, our sexuality is not only an integral part of our humanity, it is also a vital connection to life force itself. It seems that the idea of sexually liberated women as unintelligent is not only patently false, but can keep us from accessing our true potential.

 

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Cultures with greater gender equality tend to be more accepting of sexual expression than cultures that preach male dominance over women.

As inheritors of the present capitalist white supremacist hetero patriarchal culture, we must navigate these ancient attitudes about women and how we are expected to move through the world. And I believe that we cannot have a true partnership between men and women if we do not heal these sexual wounds on a cultural level. And that starts with healing within oneself.

As long as sex workers and women in the adult industry are routinely shamed, all women are at risk of this treatment.

 

Sex workers are on the front lines in navigating this fractured, trauma-saturated culture. We provide a caring, compassionate safe space for our clients. We help our clients (or audience in the case of porn stars and exotic dancers) explore their sexuality in a non-judgemental space. We have many skills that are not cancelled out by the fact that we express ourselves through our bodies. The sex industry, too, is notably the only industry where women are paid more than men as a rule. How, then, does one justify the assumption that sex workers are unintelligent?

This line of thinking about sex workers makes us seem disposable, which makes some people feel justified in committing acts of violence against us and the rest of society doesn’t have to care.

This disconnection is harmful for men as well. Eroticizing, and yet holding contempt, for another is damaging to the self. Self and other are one and the same, so holding disrespectful attitudes for women who are, or appear to be, sexually available, hurts men as well as women. It keeps true union out of reach, and keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns.

Imagine a world where we could grow up knowing that our sexuality is an important part of our humanity? What if we regarded it with joy and care, rather than shame and embarrassment?

  • Where men were taught to retain their semen, circulate their sexual energy, and truly care for the women they sleep with.
  • Where women were raised to know their own bodies and own their sexual desires.
  • Where all of us were taught to respect one another.

 

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In the ancient Babylonian poems about the goddess Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, she is said to have visited her father as a young woman and new queen. He gave her gifts to celebrate her coronation including ‘The art of the prostitute,’ and ‘the art of sucking the phallus.’

At that time in history, sex workers were highly regarded. The highest of them were the sexual priestesses who served in the temples. Many of them ran the government at the time. There were also women who worked in brothels and taverns, and they were considered business women.

In Passionate Enlightenment by Miranda Shaw, she shares evidence that in ancient Tibet and India, women in Tantric Buddhism held a special position of respect. Many of the highly realized Tantrikas of the day were courtesans, hunters, beer and wine sellers, or other ‘low’ positions by some standards. Yet the Tantric tradition recognized their skills and agency and regarded them highly.

Even before I became a sex worker myself, I believed that all women will not be safe and respected until sex workers are safe and respected. As long as the desire to engage in consensual sex can be used as an excuse to deny us our full humanity and our right to bodily autonomy and a life free from violence, we cannot say we are free.

And, since change begins within, it is vital to our own well-being and the good of the planet and humanity that we heal our personal and collective trauma and become fully empowered in our sexual expression.

With Authentic Tantra, I have been able to clear so many blocks and heal in so many ways. Learning that my sexuality is so deeply connected to my spirituality has helped me shed layers of shame and find my voice. I want to see that transformation for everyone in the world.

And sex workers are a vital part of this cultural shift. We deserve a seat at the table.

Carmen Shakti

 

Article by Carmen Shakti:
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