Prostitute is not a word I like. When used about those who provide professional sexual services it is heavy with stigma, used either to convey contempt or to imply that the person is a helpless victim in need of rescue. It is often used too by lazy journalists. Take the case of the professional dominatrix who was for six months in a relationship with the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale. and who was described as a whore, a Miss Whiplash and so on.
Now most people who are reading this don’t need to be told that the job of a professional dominatrix is in many ways much more complex than that of a full service sex worker. She needs clothing, equipment, and specialised premises. She also needs skill and experience to engage in the various activities safely, Above all she needs empathy and psychological insight.
In saying this I do not want to be seen as driving a wedge between pro dommes and other providers. . although one pro domme (a lady for whom incidentally I have enormous respect) once upbraided me in an online exchange for comparing pro dommes to escorts when I referred to them as hex workers. I felt this comment was unfair. I had never suggested that she, or anybody else for that matter, had sex with clients.
There are reasons for thinking too that the rigid demarcation on some people still see between domes and escorts is anyway quite recent. The distinction is I think quite recent. A couple of years ago I found a fascinating article about the world of professional domination written in the early 1990s, just before the internet emerged as a real game changer for those who provide professional domination services. The piece was illustrated by ladies’ cards from which it is clear that, at that time, many dommes also doubled up as escorts.
But I think the key point is this. All of us who engage in BDSM are expressing an aspect of our sexuality. This very much includes the clients of pro dommes. A pro domme I spoke to once put it like this..
“I do consider myself a sex worker. OK I don’t actually have sex with clients but it’s all about making people come isn’t it?”
The term sex worker embraces a large number of service providers many of whom do not have genital sex with clients and indeed some, such as webcam girls, may never even physically meet their clients. Melisa Gira Grant in her book Playing the Whore had no hesitation in making the connection. And this is surely right. The attacks on sex workers, the demands for the criminalisation of clients for example, need to be seen in the wider context of attacks on sexual freedom, for example the attacks on mainly BDSM porn and the creeping demands for ever more draconian internet censorship. These are attacks on all of us with alternative sexualities. So the next time someone proposes a law to criminalise the purchase of sex remember…..you and I could be in the firing line next. Get out there and make your voice heard.