Love & Sex Magazine

Be the Change

By Maggiemcneill @Maggie_McNeill

I notice that a lot of escorts whine about criminalization, yet don’t want to do anything about it.  How are we ever to evolve change if we attack each other, or if we won’t speak up, or at least get behind someone who is out on the front line fighting for our rights?

It has been said that trying to organize sex workers is like herding cats.  I’ve always found it darkly amusing that prohibitionists paint us as meek, passive, spineless creatures at the mercy of anything with a penis, when in actuality sex workers in general are the most stubborn, willful, independent and even defiant women I know.  In fact, if you look at anti-sex worker rhetoric from prior to about a century ago, you’ll notice that these exact characteristics were used to support the claim that we are “bad” women, because the Establishment likes women meek, passive and spineless and we’re the opposite.  We like to do things our own way, on our own schedule, by our own rules, and we’ve been well-known since Biblical times for rebelling against authority and refusing to jump when told to or speak only when spoken to.  I’m sure you see where this is going: the very characteristics that drive women toward sex work in the first place, the same characteristics which enable us to succeed in a profession without structure, bosses or trade unions, are the very traits that make us difficult to organize.Be the Change

There is hope, of course.  The submissive or weak-minded are easily driven from the rear by “leaders” who don’t actually lead, but rather stay in safety and shout orders while others take the risks.  But the ornery and self-motivated can only be led from the front, by those willing to take the risks and model the behavior they’d like others to adopt.  Nor can these leaders be motivated by the desire for power, glory or adulation; most sex workers are keen judges of human behavior and can smell hypocrisy and manipulation a mile off.  The only way we’re ever going to win our rights is by ceaselessly fighting the lies prohibitionists tell about us, and relentlessly opposing the police state’s desire to control us.  The best way to do that is by speaking up and being out, by refusing to hide our light under a bushel, by fearlessly living our lives no matter who tries to threaten and terrorize us into submission.  If we do a good job of that, others will follow our examples, and those gifted with the ability to organize will take on those roles.  It won’t be a fast process, but it’s already well underway; there are strong sex worker organizations in many countries, and though criminalization makes that harder in the US it’s gradually happening here as well (albeit at a maddeningly-slow pace).  In her book The Love Project, Arleen Lorrance wrote, “Be the change you want to see happen instead of trying to change anyone else.”  This quote is usually shortened to “Be the change you want to see in the world” and misattributed to Gandhi, but I prefer the original phrasing and try my best to live by it.  I don’t have the power to change anyone else, and I wouldn’t want it; however, I do have the power to behave in the way – independently, fearlessly, honestly and ethically – that I’d like others to behave.  And I can only hope that by so doing, others will like what they see and want to do it as well…not because anyone forced them to, but because they want to in order to win rights for themselves, their friends and all their sisters.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)


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