Some of you may have come across the Invisible men tumblr, one of the most whorephobic recent productions of the anti sex work brigade. They of course claim it’s not whores they dislike, but the clients, despite knowing nothing about them, but the tumblr revealed their true feelings.
Firstly the design, sex workers were not seen as individuals, or even human, instead they were objectified and othered by being presented as white masks, interchangeable and all individuality removed. Now no doubt the designers of the site would claim that they were actually showing how the men viewed the workers they reviewed, but the very reviews show this is not true. Some (although by all means not all) may use misogynistic launguage, others a singular lack of realism. Quite a few of the cherry picked reviews seem to be of people who went to a walk up brothel and expected a night with Julia Roberts. They all however wrote about a person, a unique individual, they gave their thoughts about an interaction with this individual.
The tumblr removed all that, taking what was written in response to meeting another human being, and dehumanising it. I wonder how any of the sex workers felt if they saw one of their worst reviews plastered across the internet, with no right of reply? The sex worker might know it was from someone they disliked, or disliked them, or was unfair, or even written by a rival (that doesn’t just happen in the restaurant trade) but there was no way to say any of this. Of course the feelings of the women reviewed was the last thing on the minds of the creators of IM. I doubt they even considered we have them.
Every service industry has reviews and reviewers, in the UK we are quite lucky that punternet and similar sites are not particularly important, it is a different situation where sex work is more heavily criminalized, and reviews are proof you are not an agent of the law on a sting operation. Here they exist, but you can, like me, be blissfully unaware of it. Until the Invisible men tumblr came up I had never even heard of hobbyists! (Met a few but that’s a different blog) There are problems with some of the language used, but the real problem seems to be that some people refuse to accept sex work is work, and as such you can be critiqued for doing your job well or badly. Just like sites where people read what others have written to choose a hotel and restaurant if you want to book a whore it is not the worlds biggest crime to see what others have said.
Just as when googling your hotel I assume the sensible clients trust their own instincts, feedback is only ever the view of one person, and I am sure many of us have been scrolling through reviews slightly suspicious of both those who claim the restaurant is the best place ever, right next to the one that says it makes the apprentice greasy spoon look 5 star.
AS well as a refusal to accept sex workers are workers is a deep rooted whorephobia. The creators of the tumblr felt it was acceptable to dehumanize the women written about because they do not see sex workers as active agents, but as victims. We are a mass of victim hood, unable to even know we are being raped. The fact a good review might draw in business, and a that a bad one can be challenged never occurred to them. Of course why should it, they cannot imagine a sex worker might want business, that we are marketing experts, I assume they picture us chained to a radiator and unable to even read or write.
Another reaction to the tumblr was to decry the fact sex workers needed a way to share information, warn each other, list the timewasters and more seriously the abusive and dangerous. OH WOW BEING BRAIN DEAD THAT HAD NEVER OCCURRED TO US. THANK YOU GREAT SAVIOUR!
Seriously could you think of something more whorephobic or privileged than assuming sex workers might not have thought of that already? Sites like saafe have whole forums for it, and of course there is the national ugly mugs project. NUM is brilliant in it’s simplicity, when you register you are sent alerts about assaults in your area, they will include details such as a description, and part of a phone number, this is especially important for independent and street workers, who often need to assess risk in minutes.
Of course to see the value of NUM you have to not have preconceptions about clients (believing all are abusive rapists) and have to see sex workers as adults capable of making informed decisions about risk. Some people prefer to see us as faceless, and mindless, victims. That is the kind of attitude that actually endangers us.
The excellent NUM scheme is nationwide, but struggling to continue due to lack of funds, I know it isn;t something vital like getting Thatcher on a banknote, it just helps prevent rapes and assaults, you can donate here.