For an industry which prides itself upon being real and genuine, there are many times when I do not reveal my true thoughts. I doubt that I am alone. In the contemporary sex industry, image is everything. This means that within all of our actions, there is a calculation. Will divulging an opinion gain or lose clients?
Oftentimes, this calculation lends itself to an over-amplification of the positive aspects of the sex industry, a minimization of its downsides, and a hesitation to speak out on topics considered taboo. Sex workers understand that their job is to make clients comfortable in visiting sex workers. Revelations of negative industry realities may make participation less fun for clients; some clients may even choose to no longer participate. This is the real fear. So, again, we resort to the calculation: how will thoughts be perceived?
To me, it’s ironic. I used to think that sex workers were empowered but, oftentimes, actions contradict words. There is a dichotomy within ourselves. We are both strong and weak, emboldened and timid. Although we prefer to see ourselves as independent thinkers, we do not want to rock the boat. We argue that we have free agency; yet, we consider the saleability of our opinions.
All the while, this silence creates isolation and sex worker fragmentation. Countless times I have asked myself: how can I be the only one who feels this way? But, deep down, I know that there are others. But they, too, have made the same calculation. They, too, are keeping their thoughts to themselves.
But if truth be told now, silence perpetuates the problems by distorting the reality of the sex industry. Yet, still, we make the calculation. Trapped by our own image, we rarely speak truth to power. Instead, we perpetuate an image for ourselves, one which shields the truth and justifies inaction.
But, this is not real, nor is it empowering. Instead, it is a culture of silence.
And, it should have ended long ago.