Meet you at the Crossroads: On Activism & Sex Work

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's Mercury Retrograde y'all. "Mercury is the planet associated with all forms of communication, it rules over how we express ourselves + how we think and how we communicate our ideas and feelings to the outside world." (The Hood Witch) And, I know you're not supposed to sign shit and most definitely not start shit. But then, in true "LJ" rebellious fashion, I started some shit. I will deal with the consequences of my actions for an unforeseeable amount time,  because as an adult that's what I do. And I will also take a second to explain why I felt the need to say some shit yesterday. 

Since returning to sex work and to Twitter, I have been a bit more brazen about keeping it eight more than 92 within the industry. That means keeping it "100" y'all. Basically, I keep it real and honest in my observations of and in sex work. Whether the issues range from the lack of diversity and inclusion in companion collectives or the lack of a stance from some of the most well-known companions in the industry on issues they could make a huge impact on, I typically call out the bullshit when I see it.

Yesterday, around 12pm CST (a great hour for many) I tweeted the following:

By the way, I also do this in my everyday life – call out bullshit. Yesterday, I had to explain to someone how white politicians turned many white people against welfare and into a Black phenomenon even though the stats say… well, if you’re reading this, you probably already know. I digress.

Do you see the core of the issue? 

Often, it is those with marginalized identities having to address the issues and do the educating whilst also taking the heavy hit for it. Therefore, allowing our “allies” to speak up and out after the fact and thereby receiving praise.

What occurred yesterday, which I’m sure most people have sort of forgotten about by now, did not come from the silence of sex workers of marginalized identities. It came out of the long silence of those who most likely can afford to say something and should. It took a few hours but that tweet was retweeted and quoted. It started debates and intellectual civil discourse. Now granted, I was only calling out my observations, but what I expected to happen, happened.

  1. Others proposed that people had no idea what was going on which I can get down with. However, the issue had been reported on since around noon on Friday, August 11th. Many marginalized sex workers in the U.S. knew what was up so I’m kind of confused how others in the U.S. didn’t know. But hey, that’s on me. I kind of live in a country where I must be hyper vigilant of what is going on. Like did you know the NAACP sent out a “Travel Advisory” for people of color for the state of Missouri? But pardon me.
  2. Some argued that it was elitist for me to assume people would speak out and therefore taint their brand. A little elitist? I’ll admit it – yes. Although, I had never been called elitist before so I’m still quietly mediating on that one. However, was it worth it to make my next point? Abso-fucking-lutely.
  3. Those that originally were quiet, finally said something because either they genuinely felt compelled to do so or they realized people were watching. From what I was reading this morning, it might be that some understand that performative activism via social media platforms can aid their brand and serve as an effective marketing strategy. And gold stars are in abundance for those folks today. People telling folks they are “brave” or their “desire to meet them has only blossomed”. *insert eye roll* We do all realize how much of a double standard this is right? Or do we just not care?

If that last one resonated with you and you sit in a place privilege on the sex worker chess board, I’ve been trying to speak with you. I know many of you have a brand to protect but there are legitimate clients out there eating out of the palm of y'all's hand because your melanin isn't as concentrated and you once told a racist client to “fuck off”. Girl... do you want a cookie? 

I, and many others on the other hand, am being labeled by you or these clients eating out of the palm of your hand, as an “angry black girl”, “bitter social justice warrior”, or having others state that “you always make it about race (or insert other issue here)”. Allowing this behavior does more harm to those of us even further on the fringes of sex work society. I’m not sorry that some of us are not the soft-spoken, well-accepted MLK Jr. of sex work like you'd like us to be. Recognize there was and is always a need for folks like Angela Davis or Malcolm X.

Why do you not tell the world monthly that you see clients regardless of color? Why do you wait till things of this nature happen to speak out? Why do you quietly take the praise and only give it to those that fit within your brand? Why are you not centering the voices of the unheard until your hand is forced? Why are you not following the direction? Why is it so hard to advocate during times of peace for all of us regardless of race, color, sexual identity, gender expression, creed, body size, disability, etc., because last I checked a rising tide lifts all boats, y’all. But I suspect once this blows over in a couple days we’ll go back to the status quo of people only saying something when they realize people care and are watching.

Allow me to be clear: I do not judge sex workers for what they opt to say and/or do or not say and/or do. I believe there is a stark difference between judging a person (re: indicating they are wrong and there is something inherently wrong with them) and calling out problematic behavior. There is a privilege in our industry to be able to mix activism and business. The more privileged few in our industry would make it easier on all of us to do this work.

Where does this leave me? Well, I’m torn. In the past 24 hours, I’ve received an onslaught of messages ranging from overwhelming support to blatant opposition. I have clients and sex worker colleagues that do not want me to stop speaking out. The other side of that coin is the reality that many of my clients are middle aged white men. And while they may stray to the left often, tradition still beats deep within in their veins. And there are sex worker colleagues that are gatekeepers that will not open the doors to me unless I back off. Last I checked, I desire a continuance of the positive rapport I have with my many of my colleagues. However, I have now come to find out that I am “intimidating”. If you are a “woke” person reading this, you can only imagine the anxiety I have being a WOC and linked to the word “intimidating”. So, when there is a rupture between my colleagues and/or clients, what am I to do? Am I to be what I consider complacent and complicit or continue to be unapologetic and outspoken?

So, I’m left here between a rock and a hard place: principle or brand/relationships. It could not be more fitting considering Mercury Retrograde. I'm going to spend some time shifting my focus away from expressing outwards and into expressing inwards. This blog post and some auto tweets are about the most folx are going to get for a bit. 

What we all can agree on is this: Sex work is feast or famine. And we all do what we must to survive. 

But also know, when you struggle to understand what I was speaking on yesterday but you feel like quoting MLK Jr. again, he also said this: “I have reached the most regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Klu Klux Klaner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which the presence of justice.” Interpret as you will.

As we say in my native tongue, "Wakan Takan kici un",

-LJ, xox

Further Reading: "When you fight for the lives of the most marginalized you simultaneously liberate yourself. A rising tide lifts all boats, y’all. Don’t end up with a yacht in the desert."

London James2 Comments