Scholarly whores do it in ivory towers.

28Aug08

I am a feminist. Hold your britches. I am aware of how controversial identifying as both a sex worker and a feminist is. This is for no good reason I can see. Feminists are individuals against oppression based on gender. When feminists stop trying to save the whores, they tend to realize that we’re all in this together. But if you’re the kind of feminist who just wants to save the whores to feel more secure about your place in the social hierarchy, stop reading now.

So I am a feminist and a scholar. No, I’m not Jane Brazen, PhD, and you won’t see me published in any major (or any at all) journals. I haven’t written any books (yet) or taught any classes. I’m a scholar in the classic sense of the word, when all you needed to break intellectual ground was a stack of books, a willingness to observe, and something to write on and with. Lately, I have been reading a lot about and have been fairly obsessed with epistemology, with the nitty gritty motivated doing of science.

Feminists have contributed to science the idea that science comes from a place of privilege. Anyone who ever read about Tuskegee or the development of modern surgery sees this. The people who have the power make up the rules of science and tend to do a kind of science that reflects their positions. People who can easily socially distance themselves from the so-called disadvantaged can do a kind of science that is positivism, that we can be separated, dispassionate, and neutral. But, as feminists have pointed out, we can’t get outside of social location. The discourse of power is always at work. Someone always have the privilege.

When I read research about sex work, I see this need for a critical reflection on how we do science like a Las Vegas Girls! Girls! Girls! sign. I can’t understand how anyone could possibly overlook this. So many studies of sex workers, studies that end up concluding we are all irrevocably fucked-up diseased victims of childhood trauma drains on the social order, come from someone in a position of power. That researcher decides that there’s just got to be something wrong with this poor, poor group of people, and sets out to figure out why we are the way we are. And the research reflects it.

Well, I’m sick to fucking death of it. This is my call to arms for any whore out there with the guts and ambition to invade the ivory tower. There was a time when courtesans were the most educated women around. This is my call for the sex worker standpoint, for sex workers to start doing research about sex workers. Since sex workers have started doing research on their communities, there have been some really interesting books written. This research doesn’t wonder what is wrong with sex workers, it wonders how it is that sex workers manage their work. It doesn’t ask what type of person goes into sex work, it asks what skills a person needs to thrive in sex work. The people who are going to cry about how biased what I’m suggesting is are the kinds of people who privilege supports. There is no such thing as value-free science.

Instead of doing research that examines sex work to make everyone else feel safe, I want to see research that helps sex workers and I hope it makes everyone squirm. I hope this because the oppression sex workers face is tied to every classism, sexism, racism, heterosexism, and fear of sexuality we see in society.

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