Speech by BesD member and sex worker Vani (kaufmich.com/Muecke1403) on the occasion of the Women*Fighting Day 08.03.2020 in Rostock, Thanks also to SeLa – Selbstbestimmt Leben und Arbeiten, the Centrum für sexuelle Gesundheit, Frauenstreik Rostock and Demo zum Frauen*kampftag.
Wow. I am really nervous. I am always nervous to speak to large groups. But today I’m particularly nervous. Why? Because I stand before you as a sex worker. I am an escort and a member of BesD, the professional association for erotic and sexual services and it is exactly in this role that I am or what I do is devalued by an incredible number of people as immoral, dirty, nasty, cheap or otherwise. Because women are still divided into whores and saints, good woman, bad woman.
The good woman is the one who doesn’t stand out and doesn’t upset, who shuts her mouth and does what she’s told, who is not a sexual being in public but is available to her partner if he wishes for it. The bad one is the one who breaks all of this, who doesn’t make everything look beautiful on the outside, who – for God’s sake – has her own sexual needs, which is cool and can be used from time to time, but just not as a girlfriend or wife at home and please let not your own daughter be one of them. In this scenario I’m obviously the bad one, and with that I gambled away any respect that could be shown to a human being. This is the so-called whore stigma.
In my case, this means that I can’t talk to my family or new people about my everyday life because I’m afraid of their reaction. It means I felt really shit when I had to go to the compulsory health counselling according to the “prostitutes protection law” and with condescension was told how contraception works again. It means that I have lost close friends because the person “even if they don’t want to judge me, they just think of me differently now”.
Fortunately, I do have friends who know about it, who support me and with whom I can talk about my experiences. And I am white, I’m German, I’m cis-gender, not disabled, academic, I speak the national language fluently, I can read and write and I can even understand officialese. All of this means that there are many sex workers who work in much more precarious situations than I do.
For women with fewer privileges, the whore stigma may mean violence. It may mean that they can’t talk to ANYONE about their everyday life. It means difficulties in moving on and finding a new job, poorer health care, shame or even a risk for themselves when reporting crime. This is in a society where we just started decriminalizing sex work a few years ago.
Recently, however, voices have been heard again, which call for criminalization, this time in the form of a sex buying ban, which means punishing clients and making my work basically impossible. The sex buying ban is said to protect women, not by making sex work safer but by eliminating sex work. Because the logic of client punishment is not primarily “we have to support the women who work in this profession” but “sex work is immoral and should not take place”. Welcome back to the whore stigma.
What is true is, that sex work is subject to sexist, racist and many other structures because our society is sexist, racist, anti-queer and much more. And that’s why we’re here today, that’s why we organize, demonstrate and do everything possible to fight against this and above all to show solidarity and support each other in our struggles! Because the whore stigma is always also the stigma of women who live their sexual freedom without asking for money. Who somehow do not fit into the image of the “saints”. Who live their lives the way they want and not the way our sexist society dictates.
Therefore, I ask you to show solidarity with sex workers as well and to fight for our rights. My body, my choice!