FEATURE: Sex work is work
Published by the LRC on 17th February 2012
“Within the LRC I don’t need to apologise for who I am”, says LRC member and sex worker, Thierry Schaffauser
Recently I have been elected secretary of the Hackney LRC where I live. Although a majority of people supported me, I was surprised that I was questioned whether my public profile as a sex worker, and the porn films I did, could bring a bad image to the LRC. I was challenged because I state publicly that I am a sex worker on my Facebook page which can be seen from the LRC one.
I answered as calmly as I could that of all my life, I have never let anyone, whether my family, my friends or my boyfriends, tell me anything about my sexuality or my occupation, and that I wouldn’t start with my comrades in my own movement.
The concern was that my refusal to hide my job could be seen as a form of promotion of the sex industry criticised for being detrimental to women. So I feel the need to explain that my pride to be a sex worker means that I refuse to be ashamed and nothing else. When sex workers say that sex work is work, we are not saying that sex work is fun but that it’s work. We don’t glamorise it.
Work can appear as a form of fulfilment and accomplishment for middle class people who benefit from the status work gives them. For most working class people, work is just something we do to pay the rent, transports, and tuition fees, to fill in the fridge, to support our family, etc.
People have different opinions about the sex industry and whether it’s bad or not. But what should be clear is that sex workers are not bad and that we shouldn’t be blamed for violence or sexism in society, even when we refuse to be portrayed as victims. Being a victim has nothing empowering while being a worker means that we are part of the working class and that we share a History of struggles.
The LRC has taken a position in 2009 to support decriminalisation of sex work and sex workers’ unionisation. This is the reason why I joined the group: I could see that I had a place. I felt that I was respected as a real worker and real trade unionist as a member of GMB. Within the LRC I don’t need to apologise for who I am.
Sex workers’ unionisation is relatively new, because like women before us, we have been for a long time excluded from trade unions. This doesn’t mean that sex workers never resisted or never participated in the social struggles of the working class. We did and we will continue to do.
Nowadays, many workers have to work in a decontractualised and a casualised environment. Increasingly many workers are like sex workers; deprived of labour rights. Trade unions need to realise that younger generations no longer work in the usual workplaces and factories but are disseminated, and isolated from each other. More than ever, sex workers’ working conditions actually look like those of other workers.
Of course, the stigma attached to sex work remains very strong and makes such a difference. But precisely by coming out, we try to fight against it. So please don’t reproach us to be proud when we just try to resist to our oppression. We are part of the same class.