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The myth of the apolitical sex worker

The myth of the apolitical sex worker

. 6 min read

“I don’t talk about political issues. It alienates my clients.”

I know we’ve all heard it or seen it -- usually from a white and/or wealthy sex worker aiming to justify their apolitical public persona. They don’t talk “politics” or social issues because it jeopardizes their client relationships. They don’t get involved in discussions of decrim or police brutality because they have police or judge clients they don’t want to offend. On the surface, it makes sense. Short term gains and all that. But beyond the superficial veneer of apolitical aloofness that sex workers craft for ourselves, we are political by virtue of our existence. Our very existence is legislated, moralized, and debated almost entirely by people who don’t know the first thing about us or our lives. There is no such thing as an apolitical sex worker. It’s contradictory and inherently antithetical. And yet...there those who find the very idea of discussing racism, colourism, and the ways that Blackness and sex work intersect to be so contrary to their carefully crafted image of ethereal, aloof, beauty that they will vehemently defend their right to skirt the topic(s) entirely.

As a Black woman and a sex worker, it’s easy to take the defensive stance. When your humanity is the perpetual topic of debate, the offense of being denied an ally -- however superficial -- is that much greater. White people should use their privilege to amplify the issues and struggles that Black people face, especially when they share a profession that is often misunderstood and frequently maligned. It’s non-negotiable. Right? White sex workers are given the leeway, the space to be more political, more outspoken, and more controversial than their Black counterparts. Conversely, Black sex workers are “lucky” to be given attention or any measure of financial success because they offend by virtue of their unchosen appearance.  And yet, that feels like a gross oversimplification of the issue at hand. But I’m just one person -- hardly the spokesperson for Black sex workers -- and not the pinnacle of the monolith that so many think the Black experience is.

The unfortunate, and uncomfortable truth, is that there are no easy answers to the question of where political activism and awareness begin or where the pursuit of wealth for survival’s sake begins. The issue of “allyship” is fraught with concern for public persona when so much of sex work is pandering to the lowest common denominator. To be clear, this is not meant to be a question of comfort. This reckoning has no room for the discomfort of self-professed allies wringing their hands. Rather, this is a real question that seeks to address how activism and outspokenness jeopardizes the livelihood and survival of those forced to craft a veneer of aloofness, perfecting the balancing act between just politically aware enough and too “woke” to earn a living.

For so many Black sex workers, the answer is clear. When your skin colour is a fetish or a dealbreaker, anything that further others you is dangerous. The idea of the activist sex worker may be a quaint novelty for those with access to niche markets. But for so many Black people in the industry, there is no room for error. Too much political talk becomes a permanent black mark (no pun intended) on your record for slobbyists, trolls, and racists alike. It is the death of a career. (This highwire act is not strictly reserved for Black sex workers, but that is the “hot topic” of the day.) For white, and non-Black sex workers, there is more room for political eccentricity. A politically-minded, well-educated sex worker is a selling point when there is no Black skin to work against you. You are now a charming dinner companion; a formidable intellectual sparring partner, if you will. But only to a point. Too much political conversation, too much evidence of intellectual prowess or global awareness and you become a threat. The very idea that you may be more well-read or academically inclined than a client threatens the (usual) masculinity they’ve come to prove.

There are no universal or simple answers to these questions. So I asked four Black sex workers for their take.


Izzy (she/her) | UK

Have you seen white or white passing escorts claim to be apolitical or refuse to discuss social justice issues to protect their client relationships and income?

I’ve definitely see escorts and cammers stay silent and when confronted with anything surrounding any social issues - I often find that they’re promote one Black sex worker as a signal of “support” but refuse to comment on anything.

Do you ever confront them or call them on it? Why or why not.

I do not because the majority of my sex work is anonymous therefore I fear that if I try to confront someone who has a bigger following than me, I’m putting my livelihood at risk. Also since having a chronic illness, I’m trying to protect my peace.

And do you think that any sex worker has an obligation to be politically active/aware -- either in or out of their persona?

I think ideally it would be nice if sex workers were socially aware especially with the increase in surveillance laws etc. however I think in reality, white sex workers operate in a bit of a bubble as they benefit from an aura (?)  of “innocent” and privilege. I don’t think being politically active/aware offers safety but I do think that it can help be more strategic in how we move forward.

L (she/her) |  Los Angeles

Have you seen white or white passing escorts claim to be apolitical or refuse to discuss social justice issues to protect their client relationships and income?

I have, forever.

Do you ever confront them or call them on it? Why or why not.

So, I started escorting full time around the time of Trayvon Martin. Then, I did confront a few, but only on the boards when it was a topic of conversation. But otherwise, no, because my feelings on it evolved. Moving forward, especially in the past few years and even now as I'm mostly removed from the escorting community on social media (I'm UTR), I don't particularly find it to be an issue. It's cringey, but I don't think they should have to explain it the same way I don't think really any sex worker should have to explain how they markets themselves unless they're actively doing harm.

And do you think that any sex worker has an obligation to be politically active/aware -- either in or out of their persona?

I think everyone has an obligation to be aware. I don't think anyone has an obligation to be an activist.

Rayven (she/her) | Chicago

Have you seen white or white passing escorts claim to be apolitical or refuse to discuss social justice issues to protect their client relationships and income?

Yes! I've seen a ton of white-passing/white escorts actively avoid talking about politics so it doesn't ruin their brand. Most of their clients are racist anyway, and they know that, so they don't want to alienate them.

Do you ever confront them or call them on it? Why or why not.

I don't call them out on it because I'm not in community with those women. I call out (or in) when the person's possibility of growth has value to me. I do not value white people and am not committed to living my life calling them out. I'd be doing it forever.

And do you think that any sex worker has an obligation to be politically active/aware -- either in or out of their persona?

I think a sex worker has the right to live without being policed, socially, or literally - our bodies are not to be reduced to activism. It is, however, very, very silly and dangerous to pretend our existence is not political. And more privileged sex workers who distance themselves from politics in favor of money are usually the ones who aren't the most at risk by dangerous policy, anyway.

Lasha Lane (She/They) | Los Angeles

Have you seen white or white passing escorts claim to be apolitical or refuse to discuss social justice issues to protect their client relationships and income?

I've both seen and heard of escorts who refuse to discuss or even disclose support for social issues. I've also come to notice that this refusal isn't just by White Swers either.

Do you ever confront them or call them on it? Why or why not.

I rarely confront women about the choices they make to earn a living publicly. Especially WOC who do this. Usually the reasons behind it aren't as cut and dry as one may believe.  

And do you think that any sex worker has an obligation to be politically active/aware -- either in or out of their persona?

Yes and no. I believe that we SHOULD be politically aware, but until sex work is protected and decriminalized we only have an obligation to stay safe and sometimes disclosure of political stance can get you injured. There is so much that we can do and change if we had the support system to use our voices safely.