‘I BECAME A SEX WORKER TO AFFORD MY WRITING CAREER’
16 Mar 2014
Melissa Gira Grant is a journalist, but before that she was one of the sex industry’s first ‘webcam models.’
She tells of how she used her income from sex work to fund a career as a writer in an interview withThe Observer.
“I wouldn’t say I got into sex work because I wanted to write about it,” the 36-year-old American explains. “I got into sex work because I wanted to afford to be a writer. It’s an incredibly underpaid profession and ever more precarious.”
“And it’s only been in the last four years that I’ve focused on journalism as my livelihood and haven’t done sex work,” she continues. “It was being part of sex-worker movement communities that gave me access to all these brilliant people and allowed me to be part of a world that I thought was so under-represented. I don’t think anyone goes into activism without personal experience.”
Gira Grant has published a new book, Playing The Whore, which she describes as a political account of her experiences, rather than a “peepshow” memoir.
In an extract printed by the newspaper she writes: “Sex workers should not be expected to defend the existence of sex work in order to have the right to do it free from harm … These complaints are common to all workers and shouldn’t be exceptional when they are made about sex work. As labour journalist Sarah Jaffe said of the struggles at her former job as a waitress, “No one ever wanted to save me from the restaurant industry.”
Responding to the proposed introduction of laws criminalising clients and pimps rather sex workers in the UK, she said that similar models in Norway reportedly left sex workers “facing increased violence on the streets.”
“Sex workers aren’t supporting these proposals that are currently in front of the UK, or those in front of the European Parliament – in fact they stand quite opposed to these measures,” she added.
Since the beginning of recorded time, women have been prostitutes to support themselves and their children. Women of the night have been here for over 6000 years according to Jewish historians. Many were slaves and forced into performing sex acts, some were sold by terribly poor parents to save the lives of the other children, some were spoils of war. Most women had no education, couldn’t read or cypher, or write their name.
Since then, women who are raped or molested do at times become prostitutes. Some declare it is what they want to do. But, when you have been raised as second class and beaten or raped, you think that is all you are worth. When I was on the board of directors for NOW, the National Organization of Women, we adopted some Canadian women of the night. It was not our goal to save them from themselves, not to change them but to understand them. Many insisted they were happy. And it would have been disrespectful to tell them how they were feeling. There is a point that I would like to make, however, this profession exists only because of the rule of supply and demand. If men didn’t provide a constant demand for sexual services, prostitution would soon die out. Men, the Johns, need to be arrested as the women are to discourage the growing demand.
Daguerreotype: “Fallen Women”
“The clock between her thighs ticks like a heart of gold:
satins, furbelows, no matter what she wears
she know it’s there, quick treasure, time machine that carries her,
pink nymph of the Pave,
from mattress to mattress, day to day.
Rustling her colors, she tells us this
between gulps of beer,
confides, “It’s the drink that gets me through,”
grins, twitches her skirt. Her hair
is a curious shade of green.
(from spit and sweat, she thinks)
and clings like fingers to her neck;
her frayed shawl, dull as a night’s work,
sway around her hips; her breasts are question marks.
Some afternoons she sleeps, she says, and dreams,
green ringlets in her eyes,
that she is a tree, falling through the Thames,
falling through the easy mud,
into Australia, where the sun is hot
and a armless man suchs out her hole, her clock, her heart.”
Sarah Gilbert was born in 1936 and has often used being an immigrant as a source for stories and poems. She is best known as a literary critic and a teacher, She was a professor of English at Princeton. She has done much in the way of feminist literary critiquing. In 1979, she wrote The Madwoman in the Attic.
Men provide the demand for Prostitutes