Present, mind or body.

20Apr09

Someone who once hired my services asked me if I dissociated from my body during said service. To which I replied in some typical fashion in order to avoid the question. (When I am asked political questions on the job, I have a hard time biting my tongue. Case in point, a recent conversation I had in which I informed a client about prostitution laws.) Despite how much it annoyed me, the question put very succinctly what many people want to know when they talk about sex work.

I find this question incredibly frustrating and insulting. Why ask it just of sex workers? I’ll be frank. Yes, sex workers do detach themselves from their bodies sometimes during the act of whatever it is they’re doing (sex, lapdancing, etc). However, this is not further evidence for the pathological nature of sex work in general. Rather, I think it is a job skill.

The idea that when you’re bodily detached in sex work it’s bad without examining other ways you can withdraw from your body is suspicious. I can’t imagine than marathon runners are completely bodily aware for every step of their 26.2 miles. When I ran long distances, when I took dance, I found that kind of mental mastery over the body to be highly adaptive. I don’t care if it hurts, I am going to keep going.

I waited tables and tended bar for a while. If I had been completely present in my body for every minute of those shifts, I would have fucking killed someone. Aching back and knees, sore arms from lifting heavy trays, hurting feet. Yet no one who employed my services ever asked me if I dissociated.

It’s an adaptive strategy. Every encounter a sex worker has is not going to be glorious and fun and full of mind-shattering orgasms. But that doesn’t mean that adaptive job skills like being able to shut off your mind-body link make the job morally repugnant. This is, of course, in the context of regular, consensual business. A sex worker who dissociates in the course of violence from a client, agent, or pimp is not practicing a job skill, but an adaptive psychological mechanism.

There’s some fascination with sex work that constantly tries to pathologize it. The question posed to me was no exception.

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One Response to “Present, mind or body.”

  1. “I waited tables and tended bar for a while. If I had been completely present in my body for every minute of those shifts, I would have fucking killed someone. Aching back and knees, sore arms from lifting heavy trays, hurting feet. Yet no one who employed my services ever asked me if I dissociated.”

    No kidding! I dissociated from my body much of the time when I worked retail. If I didn’t turn into a robot I would’ve gone crazier than I already had. And for a fucking pittance at that!


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