Perhaps in 2020, I’m less likely to need to say it, but sex workers are not empty vessels to be filled with your fluids and then discarded like disposable plastic bottles. But when I was regularly blogging from 2007-2017, it did need to be said, often and stridently, because almost no one else was saying it. For a decade I kept making the same point again and again and again and… Each of the 500 entries comes at it from a different angle, but all of them ultimately make the same point: Sex workers are fully-formed human beings who have all the same capacities for good or ill as any other person.
In the intervening years, I’ve seen television shows, print articles, social media interviews and even activist coalitions with government support come to the fore and magnify that message to huge audiences. It’s a relief to see the tides beginning to turn culturally, if not necessarily legally. I’ve also noticed far less hypocrisy amongst gay men these days concerning their attitudes about consuming adult entertainment while negatively judging the people who are literally performing for their pleasure. Better late than never, but sometimes I wish I weren’t always a decade early to every party.
Ten years ago a week from today, I wrote a poem in a blog entry dedicated to a young man I’d fallen in love with. You can see that original entry online, which includes a very meticulous breakdown and explanation of the poem itself. I won’t repeat all the sentiments here, but practically every word of it still resonates with me now, as if I’d written it today for this article. Matthew told me he’d never had a poem written for him, “except for that one time, but it made no sense whatsoever.” So, I wrote him one (and I’m still very proud of it to this day, not only for the intricate techniques I employed but also the raw vulnerability I was so earnestly professing):
Heaven’s azure gates
open under hallowed rays,
baring a fair wraith
whose hand radiates
prisms of dazzling haze,
daring me to hope
will be, like happy bouquets,
flaring into bloom.
I was so eager, yearning to be with someone who would treasure me. I had felt that way since I was five or six years old, the first time I played house with Jason next door. We were both in kindergarten. We took his mother’s patio furniture up the barn ladder into the hayloft, and there we set up our apartment. We were living together as a happily married couple. I can’t even imagine how our parents in Aiken, S.C. in 1981 perceived that. Was it is just boyish naughtiness to drag furniture around, or were these Religious Right adults able to see beyond heteronormative childhood marriage imitation to realize that we were aping domestic bliss? Who knows? But we weren’t prevented from being best friends after that, so my guess is that no one was any the wiser, or that they simply didn’t care (even when they found us exchanging kisses on the cheek while I literally played Wonder Woman to his Superman?).
At any rate, in 2010 I was already a year into the process where I had started courting, dating and ultimately marrying myself in front of witnesses in 2012. The idea for that was taken off my blog and turned into a television show for a straight woman. Pretty cool, yeah?! I went through that process, not to cynically give up on love, but to be more intelligent about it. I made a vow in front of dozens of guests in my home on my 36th birthday that I would love, honor and cherish myself. I couldn’t date someone else until I married myself. I had made so many disastrous compromises in an attempt to find “the one.” I empowered these friends to hold me accountable to my vows if they saw me entering into any more toxic relationships.
I’ve watched dozens of clients squander love over the years. Just totally devalue it completely, as if it were aluminum foil instead of solid gold. It has never made sense to me that people would talk about nothing but finding a relationship until they had one. Then all they would talk about is getting out of it (or making choices to undermine it). Obviously one “shouldn’t” remain in unhappy or abusive situations, but I think a little more effort in many instances would speak better of non-sex workers.
My point is this: Contrary to the assumption that sex workers aren’t capable of or interested in love, affection and emotional stability, many are very successful in it (or ravenously hopeful to be so one day). I am the outlier, the exception, not the rule amongst sex workers. Despite dozens of humiliating failures and dangerous disappointments, I was still secretly hopeful in 2010 of having a valentine on the day itself. I have never experienced that, even now. After I gave Matthew that poem he never spoke to me again.
Up until four or five years ago, the dilapidated optimist in me was still grudgingly eager to fall in love. The edge of that sword has finally been ground dull. I just simply do not believe it will ever happen to me, and it isn’t any longer a consideration, let alone a priority. I tend to slam the door shut loudly and decisively when a prospect does come up. That’s my fault, but I have VERY good reasons for doing so. I chug along without thinking about it at all anymore.
So, if I could ask you for a Valentine’s Day gift, it would be this: Do not take romantic love for granted. As hard as it might be to date or relate, go forward with it knowing that you are at least not presumed to be incapable or unworthy of it. I’m not saying to take delight in every person you meet, but I am asking that you disconnect enough from the cloud to reconnect with human beings. There are enough obstacles in the way as is it. Don’t create more of them unnecessarily. And definitely don’t take all the opportunities you may have for granted either. Even if they are few, infrequent and/or generally disappointing, relationships teach us important lessons about ourselves. And there are so very many of them to learn.