Total Pageviews

Monday, September 23, 2013

You're Not Mentally Ill. And the Sky is Hot Pink. Because I say so.

This article is likely going to piss a lot of people off. That’s just too damn bad. These are my truths, my opinions, my thoughts, my healing. I’m entitled to this and so I’ll go ahead and write it.

It’s hard to know where to start. When I was in my late teens, I was diagnosed with a mental illness. I’ve been in and out of therapy for years, on and off various medications. I’ve made more mistakes than I’d care to admit to, but at the end of the day I’m pretty satisfied with where I’ve ended up. MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR. Should I repeat it another thousand times? Perhaps.


Ok please don’t make me repeat that again. So moving on…

I’ve led a colorful life. I’ve been victimized, and I’ve victimized others. If you’ve never done the latter, then good for you. I admire you but unfortunately, most of us cannot say that. There are different levels of victimization (of course), but for now can we just leave it at that? Simply put, I’m not a saint, but I am a woman with a heart of gold and good intentions. Like many other human beings, I’m multi-dimensional. I struggle, and I screw up, and I do positive things, and sometimes I try my best. Sometimes I don’t. If you’re a person who’s never made a single mistake, never hurt another human, never acted selfishly, never lied…stop reading. Go and get sainted & leave us common folk alone. We’ll probably have more fun without you. (Ha.)

There are times when I’ve done crappy things to those that I love. Here’s the thing about hurting people- they always want an explanation. People always say “but why? How could you?” Fair enough. I’ve asked that question of many who have hurt me. I’ve screamed it, yelled it through tears, written it. I’ve begged for the answer. Part of asking for an answer is accepting the answer that’s given to you. It’s usually not enough to satisfy, and it usually falls short. Sometimes the person gives a bullshit answer. What should we expect? Perhaps we should stop asking.

Mental illness and/or drug addiction ARE part of the reason that people act out and hurt others. Can anyone deny that? Once again, IT IS NOT AN EXCUSE. Please don’t make me type that another 8 times. People need to stop conflating “explanation” with “excuse.” Mental illness IS a source of poor behavior, a partial explanation, a possible cause. It is not an excuse, and when somebody mentions their mental illness when discussing their poor choices, please stop telling them that it’s not an excuse. Unless somebody says “I did these awful things but I can’t be held responsible. It’s not my fault, I’m ill,” they don’t deserve to be told that they’re “using mental illness as an excuse.”

The problem is that as a society, we don’t know how to talk about mental illness, and we sure as hell don’t know how to discuss abusers who are mentally ill. When we hear of things such as abuse, torture, harassment, rape, etc, our blood turns hot. We become (rightfully) angry, and unfortunately, along with that rightful reaction comes a tendency to ignore reason. We want answers, but we won’t accept the answers. We’re out for blood. So, what can the abuser do, other than go 6 feet under? What is the acceptable way for an abuser to return to society? I’m sincerely curious as to what people have to say about this. I don’t have an answer. However, I do not believe that telling someone (even if they are an abuser) to “Shut up. Go away. Die. Disappear. Stay off of social media. Stay off of life!”  It may be our gut reaction, but is it reasonable? For those of you that say yes, think about this- do you believe in the death penalty? Why or why not? My guess is that anyone reading this is fairly liberal, and likely to reject the death penalty. I’m against the death penalty because I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye,” and I believe in rehabilitation. I believe that the death penalty is hypocritical. Okay, I know it’s a far stretch to compare shunning somebody to the death penalty, but does anyone see the point that I’m trying to make? We’re always quick to be liberals when the person in question isn’t somebody who has personally abused us. But what about when they have? Then what? How do we deal with them? How do we deal with our boiling blood, our rage, our pain? How is the person in our life supposed to answer us? What would satisfy us? Should they just go 6 feet under?

I feel myself straying from my original point because honestly, I’m tired and I didn’t plan to write anything tonight. I’m feeling slightly triggered by all of the social media posts floating around out there tonight. As someone who has mental illness and who has also worked as a therapist treating mental illness, I’m disappointed by the attitudes that surround me. People whom I regard as intelligent are saying things such as “that person is using mental illness as a privilege!” No, he’s not. He’s simply answering your questions, and to pretend that mental illness wasn’t at least a slight contributor to those actions is foolish. As I’ve written in earlier posts, it IS possible for a person to be a manipulative abusive fraudulent POS and also be mentally ill. I’ve noticed that people don’t like to realize that simple fact, but it’s the truth. C’mon folks- THINK IN DIALECTICS! Let me repeat this- To pretend that mental illness wasn’t at least a slight contributor to those actions is foolish. That’s part 1. Part 2 is this: it doesn’t mean you have to forgive that person. You don’t have to feel sympathy for that person, but to deny that mental illness played a role is silly.

So, why is it that people don’t want to believe that an abuser is mentally ill? Well, perhaps because mental illness usually garners sympathy. We usually feel sorry for sick people, right? And, nobody wants to feel sorry for an abuser. Newsflash- we don’t have to. We don’t need to feel sympathy for the mentally ill. We can be just as fucking angry at them.

I can already hear people saying “but what about the victims?! You’re an apologist!” No, I’m not. I’m simply capable of holding multiple uncomfortable truths in my mind, all at once. It would probably be easier and less painful to be less insightful, but that’s not my style.

Facing these uncomfortable issues head on has made me think of the abuse that I’ve faced throughout my life. It dawned on me that since I’m running around lecturing people about facing uncomfortable truths, I should try to face my own. So, I decided to think about my ex, and how I would feel if this controversy were surrounding him. I immediately felt angry. I’d want people to write him off, to scream at him, to tell him to go away. But, is that okay? No, it’s really not. As much of a piece of crap as he is, he’s still a human, and there are reasons behind his horrid behavior. One of the main reasons that he was so abusive (in my opinion) is his severe problem with anger. He’s got one of the worst tempers I’ve ever had the displeasure of being around. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and would be happy to never see anything like it again. So, it would be safe to say that he abused me partly due to his anger problem, correct? Is that excusing him? No, of course not.  It’s just the truth. It is what it is; nothing more and nothing less. In my opinion, he’s also mentally ill and that’s also part of the explanation for his horrendous actions towards me. That’s also not an excuse. I don’t have to like him and I don’t have to forgive him, and I never will. I also don’t have the right to demand that he disappear from the public sphere, that he stop living his life. That’s not an easy thing to admit because trust me, there are days that I wish he would disappear. BUT that’s not my call to make, and it’s not reasonable.

So what do we do with abusers? Do we pretend like they’re not mentally ill because it suits us to believe they’re in perfect mental health (even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are- HELLO FOLKS! THAT IS A CLEAR AXIS II PRESENTATION IF I’VE EVER SEEN ONE!)
Do we banish them? Kill them? Treat them like a child & take away their social media accounts? Demand that they never see the light of day again? When we ask them for an explanation, do we continue to tell them that it’s not good enough? If so, why do we keep asking for one?

Seriously, what do we do? I’m seeking an answer for that. Please keep in mind that it’s almost midnight and that I’m tired. I’m not sure if everything in this post made sense…but I am trying to stir up some reasonable discourse. I’ve been thinking about these issues for quite some time, and now I’m sharing them with others. Thank you for reading.


For background on these issues, click here:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Sex Worker Outing & Getting Outed- Interview by Gram Ponante

Hi friends! Gram Ponante, America's beloved porn journalist, interviewed me a couple of weeks ago. We touched on some serious issues including what it was like for me to come out as a sex worker to family, and more. The original interview is here, but it's NSW (not safe for work). There are some advertisements and pornographic pictures on the site, so for those of you who would rather skip that, I re-posted the interview here. Enjoy! :)

Christina Parreira On Sex Worker Outing & Getting Outed

A few weeks ago, Christina Parreira posted on her facebook page that her mother was dismissive and judgmental about Parreira’s work in the sex industry. A stripper, occasional cam model, and fetish performer, Parreira also holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is a Ph.D. candidate and sex worker rights activist. We talked about coming out as a sex worker to family, and the conversation grew from there.

Gram: How receptive had you expected your mother to be, and had you prepared yourself for Not Receptive At All?

Parreira: Coming out to family members can be a very scary experience. My mother is rather conservative. She’s only slept with one man her whole life, and that’s my father. The concept of sex work is foreign to her. She views it as degrading and “dirty.” I knew it was going to cause big problems in our relationship if she found out, so I kept it from her as long as I could. However, given my increasing interest in the sex industry, she started to ask questions. She knew something was going on, but she just wasn’t sure what. At first she assumed I was a stripper or perhaps a prostitute. She used to ask me why I had so many wigs! She started harping on me about something that I wasn’t even doing at the time, and I finally broke down and told her the truth; that I was a cam model.
Although she was angry, she was relieved that I wasn’t leaving the house to work and that I wasn’t at a club (she deemed this to be more dangerous than just working from home on a webcam). Although things were tense, she took the news better than I had expected. Things remained relatively calm until I became more vocal about being a sex worker. She read my blog and realized that I was “out” to everyone, and this is when the real problems began. At this point in time, I have decided to take a break from my relationship with her. As much as this pains me, I feel it’s necessary to keep my respect and sanity intact.

Gram: I have a pornographer friend who says that he hasn’t told his family because only he has made the decision to be a pornographer, but they have not made the decision to be related to one. Your mother’s attitude toward your work seems like the two of you have found an unhappy medium between your not hiding the truth from her and her rejecting your truth. Is it possible you could have not told her?

Parreira: I think it would have been much easier to never tell her, although she would have continued to worry and make her own assumptions. Also, I am not one to hide. As I said, I felt that hiding that part of who I am would only perpetuate the stigmas that I work to fight against. I felt that I was being disingenuous, and I did not want to live that way
My mother worries about public perception. She would be much happier if I were a sex worker that didn’t talk about being a sex worker. By being so open about it, she says that I am bringing shame upon her, and she asked me how I could “have sunk so low.” As much as she’s disgusted with what I do, she’s even more disgusted with the fact that I am not ashamed.

Gram: Here is a particularly invidious question: How would you imagine your mother treating your profession in a perfect world, or would a perfect world mean you wouldn’t be a sex worker?

Parreira: In a perfect world, I would still be a sex worker, but I could do so without being shamed or stereotyped for it. This goes for every individual who works in the sex industry. Sex workers would be treated with respect, would have labor rights, protection under the law. We would have the basic civil and human rights that we deserve. Perhaps my mother would disagree with my choice, but she would still respect me. My mother views sex work as amoral. In a perfect world, she wouldn’t push her morals onto me, and would respect my right to do what I please with my body.

Gram: Again with the perfect world, I know that a lot of porn performers rarely acknowledge that personal relationships can get tricky in this business. Sex is personal, and often proprietary. Jealousy is hard to avoid even with the grooviest couples…

Parreira: It’s an ongoing journey. In both camming and stripping, I provide a service to individuals: attention, titillation, fantasy, company, conversation. My clients provide me with monetary compensation. It’s a clean exchange without false pretenses, and it feels very honest. I understand that this is just a job and I feel that I am able to separate the two. However, sex work has changed me. It would be strange if an individual worked in ANY profession for five years and didn’t experience some changes, right? I’ve had sex on camera for money, many times. “On camera sex” is different from off camera sex. I’ve had moments in my personal sex life where I begin to mimic some of what I am used to doing on camera, and then I catch myself. Sometimes it can be hard to relax and just enjoy the natural process of sex, but this also depends on my comfort and familiarity with my partner. Working as a stripper has also produced some changes, but it’s still too early for me to pinpoint exactly how those changes are manifesting. I’ve only been dancing for a couple of months. It’s interesting to work in a space with all female workers, and the majority of male clients. I observe the way gender roles play out in the club. They seem much more extreme inside the club than they do in the “real world.” I will be honest and admit that I am at times very turned off by some of the stereotypically male behavior that I witness inside the club. These men are clients, and in my mind, they are fundamentally different from the men that I would choose to get romantically involved with. This is how I keep it separate, and I’m not so sure that this is healthy. After all, this separation suggests that clients are “bad,” and I do not want to fall into the trap of stigmatizing clients of sex workers. However, I can’t help being put off by some of the client behavior that I have observed. It’s really a tricky thing to navigate, and I believe it’s an ongoing process.

Gram: In a scenario where people think of sex work as a job like any other, but perhaps more glamorous, wouldn’t there also be a decrease in the exciting taboo of being/employing a sex worker? What are your thoughts on the role of a societal taboo in the function of your work?

Parreira: Even in a world where sex work is considered work, sex will always be a hot button topic. There’s always scandal and taboo when it comes to sex. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Even if it does, sex workers will always have work. To be blunt, humans like sex. Humans have been paying for sex for a very long time and will continue to do so. As a species, we enjoy sexual contact with other humans. That’s not changing anytime soon, regardless of how “taboo” it is.
It’s also very important to note that different types of sex work come with different levels of taboo. The same goes for stigma. Television shows have been made about “high end” white escorts, but I’ve never seen a show about minority street workers. People just want the glitz and the fantasy, the “high end call girl.” They put her on a pedestal while still shaming her for being a whore. But, at least she’s visible. The most marginalized are hardly acknowledged.
It’s hard to make general sweeping statements in regards to sex work because we aren’t a homogeneous group. We face various levels of stigma and this has to do with the varying levels of privilege. Unfortunately, the most marginalized workers aren’t usually given a voice. Look at me- I look white, I’m in my 20s, and I’m educated. You’re interviewing a privileged sex worker. I have a lot to say and I face stigma and adversity, but I can’t pretend that it’s the same as a sex worker who’s black, transgendered, and living in poverty. I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but there’s something about the word “glamorous” in regards to sex work.

Gram: That’s true. Each financial; end has its own stereotypes and is nowhere near as homogenous as the public thinks it is.

Parreira: Unfortunately, the mistake that many sex workers make is in perpetuating a harmful hierarchy, rather than helping one another. I’ve heard many porn performers make remarks about being “better than the girls who escort,” and I’ve heard “high end” sex workers make comments about workers who charge less. It’s all bullshit. Society already thinks we’re all whores, so why are we attacking each other? That’s the last thing the sex workers’ rights movement needs. It’s one thing to discuss and acknowledge the role of privilege. We need to be doing that! Our oppression isn’t created equal. It is not okay to use one’s privilege to shame others. “I’m a classier whore than she is! I don’t fuck for less than a grand an hour.” Oh, shut up already. That sort of talk isn’t helping anyone. Get off your high horse and do something useful with that privilege that you’ve got!

Since first we talked, Parreira has been outed as a sexting partner of Hugo Schwyzer, a Pasadena City College instructor and sometimes-controversial “male feminist” blogger. Schwyzer’s online and in-person meltdown have been well-documented elsewhere, but in recent weeks Parreira was outed as one of Schwyzer’s sexting partners (though the two never met). Parreira has since surfed a wave of high drama of exes real and virtual, in which her porn name (Christina Page) was linked with her real one.

Gram: The sex industry is very much like academia. There are a lot of jealousies and politics to navigate.

Parreira: There is a lot of drama. It’s easy to get caught up in it, especially when one feels passionately about an issue. Issues of bodily autonomy are a hot topic and always have been. People with varying ideologies will always argue over who’s right. The radical feminists think we’re all brainwashed and suffering from a false consciousness. Even within sex worker activists, there’s arguing over privilege, decriminalization of indoor/outdoor prostitution, and so forth. I try to keep a level head, but it’s difficult and I’ve lost my cool many times. I keep striving to keep an open mind and understand where others are coming from, but it can be very stressful. I try to practice self care, but that’s a work in progress!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My New Interview for Raw Attraction Magazine: Cam World, Sex Work, Gender, Sexuality

Hey friends! I recently did an interview for up and coming magazine, Raw Attraction. Here is the link, and I've also posted it here for your reading pleasure :) Please feel free to comment & share if you enjoy!

Raw Attraction Magazine

We speak to Christina Parreira, M.A who is a PhD Sociology student with a primary focus on sex work & prostitution. She is also a 'web cam' girl. We wanted to speak to her about how this affects her life and public perception of her.

At Raw, we believe women (and men) should be able to do what they want with their bodies as long as they are happy.

Christina... Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to step into webcam work

I had been in a relationship for a few years, and my partner and I were looking for ways to spice things up. One of our friends told us about couples who broadcast live on amateur porn sites, and I was intrigued. It proved to be a fun way to add new excitement to our sex life, but it wasn't something we were charging money for. Honestly, I didn't even consider the possibility of profiting from it when we started. At the time, I was working on my Masters in clinical psychology and the majority of my income came from student loans. I was also working as a waitress part-time, but I was really burnt out on restaurant jobs.

As soon as I realized that other performers on the site were profiting from cam work, I refused to do it for free. Why on earth would I do something for free that others were getting paid for? Unfortunately, my partner wasn't thrilled with my new plan. He felt that it became all about work, and that getting paid took the fun out of what was initially something meant to improve our sex life. We eventually parted ways (not because of the cam work) and I continued to work as a cam model on my own. I started my doctorate and continued to work as a cam performer, and fortunately was able to take out fewer student loans thanks to my new source of income.

What do you normally do when you are on web cam? How do you feel when you are working?

Earnings vary depending on how many hours I work, how many clients are online, the time of day. Much like waitressing and stripping, it can be very hit or miss. It took me a while to build up my fan base, my "regulars" as I call them. It also depends on the website's traffic and how well the site promotes itself. Once I established myself as a cam performer, I'd average anywhere from $100-300 per night. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I took a 6 month break between academic programs and during that period, cam work became a full time job. I was consistently earning over a grand a week. I was working 5-6 nights per week on cam.

As far as what I normally do on cam, it really varies based on what the client requests. Some clients want what I refer to as a "standard show:" a strip tease and a toy show. However I also cater to a lot of fetish clients, and that doesn't even involve nudity. I've done hundreds of foot fetish shows, dominatrix shows, role play, cuckold and humiliation, etc. When I am on cam, I feel that I am fulfilling a role, a fantasy. Honestly, it doesn't feel a whole lot different than when I used to work at a bar. I'm paid to perform a service and if I'm comfortable with that service and I agree to the terms, I accept payment and I do the best I can to please the client. I will admit that at first, camming was a novelty. I felt sexy, I felt a thrill from it. As the years went on, it turned into a boring job just like any other. I go through the motions, get paid, and sign off. I've actually been spending less and less time on cam. I'm starting to feel burnt out from it, and I have much less patience for irritating clients. I've been doing this work for almost five years, and with anything else, it gets tiresome.

Are you able to easily tell new boyfriends/lovers about your work? If yes, how do they react?

When I first started cam work, I was much less confident about telling others. It was a source of anxiety for me, and I was concerned over what future partners would think. I think that was part of being young and insecure. At this point in my life, I feel confident in who I am and in what I do. I'm also passionate about advocating for the civil and human rights of sex workers and have met many incredible sex workers/activists over the last couple of years. Being around other individuals who do similar work has helped to empower me. I won't date anyone who is not okay with what I do, and I am always upfront. Given that sex work is such a large part of my life, both in how I make my money and in my academic interests, it would be near impossible for me to hide. I don't think I should have to hide it, and I certainly won't have anyone telling me what I can and cannot do with my body. If somebody cannot accept that I'm a sex worker, they can head towards the door.

When I was younger, I had partners who were insecure about the whole cam thing. Those relationships didn't last long. My last serious partner was involved in the adult film industry, and so he was supportive of my work. It was one of the few things in our relationship that wasn't problematic! Currently, I'm single and taking a break from dating. I've had a string of unhealthy relationships and am at a point in which I need to take time to work on myself and to focus on my academic work. I can't be bothered to worry how future partners will react.

How has it changed you in terms of your attitudes to sex and in the bedroom when you are having sex?

This is an interesting question, and one that I'm still exploring. I don't know if I have a clear answer to this yet. It's not black and white. Our attitudes and behaviors change as we progress, and as a result of exposure to many influences. How can I know exactly what has been a direct result of being a sex worker and what has been a result of exposure to past relationships, sexual partners, etc? There's overlap there. It's not cut and dry.

I've always been pretty open when it comes to sex, but I can definitely say that cam work has broadened my awareness. I am more  accepting of different fetishes and fantasies. For example, when I was new to cam work, I did not understand how or why somebody could be turned on by feet. I was shocked by some of the requests that I got from clients! To be honest, I thought some of it was really weird! I'm more open minded now, and I have more appreciation for the broad spectrum of human sexuality. Actually, I feel really privileged in a way. I've been allowed into the deepest darkest corners of people's minds. Men have shared their secret desires with me, and it's been fascinating.

Has sex work changed my behavior in the bedroom? Maybe we should call up some of my exs? Just kidding. Well, anything that a person does for five years will have an impact, but I'm still trying to figure out what that impact is. Occasionally when I'm having sex with a partner, I notice that I may "amp it up" a bit, as I would when I'm in front of the camera. It's one thing for me to keep an eye on. I've noticed this more when I'm with casual partners rather than when I'm in a relationship. I'm very comfortable with my sexuality, and perhaps that's a result of being a sex worker. However, as I've already said, I'm not comfortable with making a statement such as "I'm comfortable in bed because I'm a sex worker." That's assuming direct causation without taking other variables into account.  I'm much more than just my job, and I've been exposed to many other things that may have affected who I am sexually. Sex work is only one facet.

What are some of the craziest fantasies that guys come up with?

I hate to say that any fantasy is "crazy," as that has a judgmental tone to it. However, there were some that surprised me, mostly due to a lack of exposure. I've seen clients use clothes pins on themselves, rope, nipple clamps, etc. I don't think that this is by any means "crazy," but I suppose by many people's standards it may be thought of as unusual. We should be careful to not shame anyone for their preferences though. Actually, I will say this- the bestiality people freak me out. I can be judgmental about that because it is abusive and unethical. I have a dog and I've had clients request "dog shows," and I tell those people to go to hell.

What is your opinion on the male species after working in the industry?

My answer to the "male species" question is the same as my answer to the sexuality question. It's hard to say how much sex work has played a role, and how much my previous experiences & relationships have played a role. Also important to note that I have had a few female clients. They're rare, but they exist! I know plenty of females who enjoy porn, but it seems that fewer are willing to pay for it. So, I don't want to make any sweeping generalizations about a gender based on my work. Perhaps more women would be willing to pay for cam girl services if it were more socially acceptable for women to express their urges and desires. Women often get shamed for their sexual urges, so they're not given equal opportunity to explore them. But, back to the question of men, I have been guilty of statements such as "Ugh men are such pigs!" and so forth. I really don't want to turn into that though. Also, I have to admit that I'm probably not in the best position to articulate my views on men at the moment. In my personal life I've had negative experiences with men over the past year, and as I mentioned earlier, I'm taking a long break from dating. So, how much of this is a result of my cam work and how much is a result of my previous relationships? Ask me again in a couple of years!

What is your ultimate fantasy?

My ultimate fantasy? Having sex with porn star James Deen in a Hello Kitty-themed Love Hotel in Tokyo. Yes, that exists. Seriously, can you think of anything better? I can't!
What are the positives from the work and what would you recommend to anyone wanting to get into it?

The biggest positive from my work is without a doubt the money. That's why we all work, isn't it? I also have a lot of freedom in terms of when I work and how much I work. I am my own boss, and I love that. I'm able to go to school and support myself. I've also met some interesting people that also work in this industry. As far as advice for other women (and men because men can be cam performers too!) I would say don't ever do anything that you're not comfortable with. This work is not for everyone. I cannot stress that enough: sex work is not for everyone and that's okay. Observe your limits and boundaries. Check in with yourself. If something feels right, then explore it. Perhaps even more importantly, if something feels wrong, don't keep doing it! Be kind to yourself and to your body.

You can find Christina at and on

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Slut Riot: A Sex Worker Shares Her Perspective

Hello friends! I am so pleased to announced that The Sin City Siren is doing a week long campaign about slut-shaming, including articles on the topic from different perspectives. Today's article comes from a sex worker- me! I have shared the link here as well as the article. Thank you so much to The Sin City Siren for this opportunity. Enjoy! XO

The Sin City Siren's Slut Riot!

Slut Riot: A sex worker shares her perspective

In today’s installment of Slut Riot we hear from a sex worker who also happens to be a graduate student. I encourage you to read her words and consider any assumptions that float into your head. Do you pre-judge her before you even start because you hold sex workers to a different standard? Can sex workers be slut-shamed when their vocation requires the real or imagined acts of promiscuity? Keep in mind that the social caste system that marginalizes and even dehumanizes sex workers is just an extension of the pervasive patriarchy all around us.

By Christina Parreira, M.A.

Women who transgress traditional gender roles are often targets of ridicule, shaming, and even violence. What does it mean to violate these mores, and what type of women are most at risk? Women who exhibit promiscuous behavior are shamed for being sluts, but what about those who charge for it? Sex workers are arguably one of the most targeted groups when it comes to the phenomenon of slut-shaming.
American culture has a love/hate relationship with promiscuous women. I am reminded of the Madonna/Whore complex, a psychoanalytic theory which states that men view women as either virtuous saints or tarnished whores. According to the theory, it would be nearly impossible for a man to simultaneously respect a woman and explore his sexual fantasies with her. Granted, this theory is outdated, but I think it has some merit in the discussion of slut-shaming and sex work.

A sex worker is any individual who trades a sexual service for compensation. This includes porn performers, strippers, phone sex operators, escorts, prostitutes, webcam models, and so forth. Some sex workers work legally, while others work illegally. Unfortunately, the criminalization of prostitution in most of the US contributes to the shaming of sex workers, but even those who work legally experience slut-shaming. Porn and stripping are both legal jobs, but both come with high levels of stigma. Porn stars are the stuff that dirty wet dreams are made of, but you wouldn’t dare bring one home to mother … would you? Men shower strippers with dollar bills at bachelor parties, but many wouldn’t be caught dead dating one. The sex industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and yet the performers who make up this industry are regarded as pariahs. The hypocrisy is stunning — to masturbate to these individuals in private but to damn them in the public sphere.

I have worked as a webcam performer for almost five years, and recently started stripping. I identify as a sex worker and receive the majority of my income from this work. I am also a graduate student. The reactions that I get from people when they learn that I’m a sex worker are astonishing. Even more confusion results when people learn that I am also a graduate student. Why is this? Are people stunned that sex workers also have brains? Why aren’t we allowed to be simultaneously intellectual AND sexual? How does the exchange of money affect people’s perceptions of individuals and the level of slut-shaming that takes place? Women who exhibit “slutty” behavior are already damned, but what about those who profit financially from this behavior? The shaming is even more amplified. Not only are we sluts, but we have the nerve to charge for it! It is important to note that this does not only apply to female sex workers, but also to male and transgendered workers.

Society targets sex workers the way it used to target the so-called witches of Salem. Individuals who engage in sex work shatter the widely held beliefs of what constitutes socially appropriate behavior, making sex workers a prime target for slut-shaming. I hope to one day live in a world where I can do as I please with my genitals without being shamed. A world in which a rape victim isn’t blamed for what she was wearing. Unfortunately, I think we have a long way to go.