The poor phallic onigiri – no one will eat it but it’s really just “shy and introverted”. Before anyone accuse us of being all SWERF-y for laughing at Chester Brown’s comments, well, let’s just say we both have reasons to believe to the contrary.
But that’s a big part of the problem with a lot of discourse I’ve seen regarding sex workers — at least online, where those who speculate are free to roam among those who may speak from personal experience, to inform them what their experiences actually are. (Because individual sex workers and former sex workers apparently don’t know for themselves in the world of internet polemic.)
On one hand you have those who say that all sex work plays into the oppression of women (male sex workers are seldom mentioned from this position) and any woman who would enter into it of her own accord is a traitor to women everywhere. I actually had one second wave feminist tell me this to my face once, “I don’t approve of the way Giuliani is persecuting strip clubs, but I want you to know that I think what you do is harming women everywhere.” Now, I agreed with her Giuliani-is-an-asshole stance, disagreed with her what-I-do-with-my-life-is-somehow-her-problem stance, but looking back on that conversation now, after experiencing the world of online Social Justice Warriors, I’ve come to respect her ability to state a dissenting view face to face and then discuss it with the person. They are also thankfully opposed to trafficking, which does involve removing the individual’s volition to choose whether or not they work in this type of environment. Unfortunately methods of “combating” trafficking seem to involve arresting the workers themselves rather than actually attempting to help them or offer options.
On the other hand you have the people who insist all sex work is EMPOWERING and LIBERATING and anyone who says anything to the contrary is just all patriarchal and sex-negative and furthermore anyone who actually claims to have had a less than stellar experience is probably some kind of anti-porn crusader or undercover cop. I’ve known people to be just as readily harassed by this pro sex work type online for sharing stories of personal trauma or critical opinions as I’ve known people who have been given a hard time just for being involved with it at all.
In both cases what I’m seeing is an attempt to silence anyone who’s actual lived experience doesn’t gel with their agenda on sex work, pro or con.
People who are or have been in this type of work in any capacity do not all have the same outlook on it or level of damage. (And no I’m not going to lie and say there’s no such thing as damage.) Some may be relatively unscathed while others may be deeply traumatized. And for those whom things do go wrong for, people process trauma differently. To insist to someone that surely they must be traumatized beyond all hope could be as negating for them as insisting that they must feel utterly sexy and empowered and like a sex goddess.
Personally I feel relatively fortunate to have lived that time in my life with less damage — I won’t say none at all—than what could have been possible. Others weren’t so lucky. I know someone who was murdered in that line of work, saw others wither away or obliviate themselves with drink and drug. Eric and I had a mutual friend who we learned after the fact had committed suicide after being coerced by a club owner into the same scenario I had once been, only my coping mechanism had been alcohol, weed, and hallucinogens after the fact. There was police harassment. Yes, there are risks in that industry. No, arresting or otherwise persecuting sex workers is not “helping” them.
<==An artifact of the Giuliani-era crackdowns.Not to mention the pre-texting, pre-smartphone era. Dancers distributed these cards amongst themselves. I held on to a couple for history’s sake.
Of course, we also know others who have gone on with their lives to do other things.
And maybe sexuality is a sacred form of energy that it’s unhealthy to commodify. Maybe it’s also unhealthy that the bulk of the human race has to spend their lives in labor, not just for the survival or benefit of the race, but to profit those at the top of some hierarchy. And maybe it’s unhealthy also that we’ve collectively been led to believe status and emotional fulfillment are connected somehow and that both are achieved by acquisition of things. Or that sometimes human beings are viewed as things to be acquired.
And then the weird thing is, the efforts to abolish these things end up creating an even more dangerous climate, where sex workers feel they have less places to turn to to get help, or where cops feel they have free reign to heap on abuse, you know, in the name of “enforcing the law.”
Anyway, this stuff isn’t really a reflection on Chester Brown or his book. Maybe he and his friends are all nice shy introverted johns who wouldn’t hurt anyone. It’s just when I revisited this comic to ink and put it up it just brought to mind all this other stuff I began to mentally sort through. And I really didn’t have any further thoughts on the onigiri.