Back when I worked as a stripper, I was just about as out-and-proud as they come. I wrote a blog about stripping under my real name. I cofounded a magazine by and for sex workers. I found community in the sex worker rights movement. But when I gave birth to my daughter two years ago, I began to wonder if I should shut up about my years in the sex industry. Was it inappropriate to post articles about sex worker rights on my Facebook page, along with photos of my daughter’s first birthday party? By continuing to talk about sex work, was I setting my daughter up to be bullied at school, or setting myself up to be judged as a bad parent?
After all, society sends a pretty clear message that sex workers and kids don’t mix. Last year, a Bronx elementary school teacher lost her job because she wrote about her past experiences as a prostitute, and sex worker parents who end up in custody battles too often end up losing their kids because of their jobs. The reality is that most sex workers have kids, and most of them trade sex in order to support their kids and spend more time with their kids — in other words, to be better parents. Yet, because we can’t talk about sex work and kids in the same sentence without causing hysteria, these millions of parents are rendered invisible, forced to hide a significant part of their identities, and sometimes even denied the right to parent their children.
So how are sex worker parents supposed to deal with this? Lie for eighteen years and hope their kids don’t find out — or is there another way? Of course it’s inappropriate to talk about sex with little kids, but does talking about sex work necessarily mean talking about sex? Is it inherently confusing to grow up knowing your mom or dad is a sex worker? To try and get my head around some of these issues, I reached out to other parents (Editor’s note: all names have been changed and/or are nicknames) in the sex worker community to see how they were handling it.
Linda got into sex work after she got divorced and found herself struggling to hold things together as a single mom. Her daughter is now 24 and knows what her mother does, but Linda didn’t tell her the whole truth when she was a young teenager. “I told her as much as she needed to know, which was very little, because I thought it would be really creepy for her to hear anything at all about her mother’s sexual activities. She would’ve been grossed out by it. So I told her I was a madam. She knew all my friends were sex workers, so I told her I helped them book appointments. In the end, she was a very demure teen, maybe because she didn’t have the need to rebel.”
Georgia has worked in restaurants and fast food joints and struggled to keep her three-year-old daughter Zoe in daycare, but she prefers to do sex work because it allows her to raise Zoe herself. As a low-earning sex worker, she can’t afford childcare, so she sometimes brings her daughter with her when she goes to see clients. A friend goes with them and waits with Zoe in the car while Georgia sees her clients. Some of her regular clients visit her at home, and she sees them in the bedroom while Zoe plays in the living room. “Part of me is like, ‘My daughter is seeing me support us,’ but I’m wondering if she’s seeing too much,” she says.
Protecting kids from “seeing too much,” however, is something that’s easier to do if you’re a middle-class or high-earning sex worker. For many low-income parents, trading sex may mean knowing that their kids will grow up with an awareness of the sex industry. This is simply reality. But what does it mean for the kids?
Syd grew up with a single mother who struggled to support her as a stripper and a professional dominatrix. Syd realized early on that her mother’s profession was stigmatized, and she would lie about it to other kids, but she says it was the shame around it, rather than the sex work itself, that bothered her. “When I was a teenager she started treating me more like a friend. I was intrigued. Not shocked. Maybe embarrassed, like, I can’t believe I just had coffee with my mom before school and she told me about some guy that wanted her to piss in the corner.” At the same time, Syd’s mother struggled with alcoholism, which was made worse by the fact that she had to drink with customers at work. “As I got older, she would come home drunk. It was pretty abusive in a lot of ways, and I don’t think she felt good about her profession.”
I hear some of you wondering “Then why bother telling him? If you’re monogamous with a man, aren’t you basically straight anyway? What does it... Read more
Syd is in two minds about whether it’s inherently confusing to grow up with a sex worker as a parent. “I thought my mom looked pretty, like, ‘You’re in that sparkly thing,’ but it does affect you. I’ve clearly done a lot of thinking about it. I’ve come to a place where I can understand why it happened, because of society and inequality, but I’m also in therapy and I have an incredibly screwed up relationship with my mother. But not because of sex work. Because she didn’t make the greatest decisions in general…”
Sexuality educator Cory Silverberg, author of the children’s book What Makes a Baby?, doesn’t think it’s inherently confusing to grow up with a parent who’s a sex worker. “It’s confusing for adults to talk to a kid about sex work, because our associations with sexuality are so complicated, but very young children don’t have those associations yet,” he says. “There’s a way to talk about any kind of sex work to a kid. You might say, ‘Mommy spends time with people and makes them feel good, and they give her money.’ That’s more than enough for any four-year-old.” He makes the point that most parents don’t tell their kids details about their jobs, especially if those details could be confusing or upsetting.
As kids get older, of course it becomes more complicated. But many ten and eleven-year-olds already have an understanding of the sex industry, whether because they’ve picked it up from media or from overhearing adult conversations. Surely it would make sense to help them understand the complexities of the industry, rather than letting them take their cue from song lyrics that glorify pimping and dehumanize sex workers?
So what does it mean to have an honest and age-appropriate dialogue with kids about sex work? Surgeon is a BDSM professional who, along with two other sex workers, co-parents her biological daughter and three other kids in a town in Arizona. “Our kids know at age appropriate levels what we do. For the four and five-year-olds, they know that I give massages to my clients, and that I spend time with them talking about their problems. The teenagers are well old enough to actually know. The process for getting there was something like, they began to understand that mom goes on dates with her clients. And then they began to understand what those dates meant. Questions were asked and answered honestly, in an age appropriate way, all down the line.”
Surgeon says she doesn’t worry at all about her kids’ ability to handle this information. “This is just life, and this is a part of the life that they understand as home from the beginning. I worry a little bit about how they will be integrating how much they tell their friends and their friends’ parents as time goes on, but that has to be taken as it comes.”
In fact, all the sex worker parents I know say their main concern is not how their children will handle the truth, but how the rest of society will handle it. After all, it’s OK for a child to go to school and tell everyone that her dad is a soldier, but if she starts telling people her dad is a prostitute, she could be taken into state care. There are no laws prohibiting sex workers from raising their children, but judges too often buy into the stereotype that sex workers are bad parents.
Sonyka lost custody of her daughter after an eight-year custody battle with her ex, even though the sex work she had done wasn’t illegal — she was a stripper and a nude model. “[My ex] brought out nude magazines and printed out pages of my website to humiliate me in court. In the end they brought in a forensic psychologist. He was asking questions like, ‘Where is the kid when she’s updating her website?’ Even when my kids are sleeping, it’s not OK for me to upload some pictures? In the end I gave up because I felt like the judge was biased and I wasn’t going to have a chance.”
Georgia is trying to get Zoe into preschool this year and she’s wondering if she should make up a cover job, in case Zoe talks to the teacher. “I don’t want to lie to my daughter. I respect her too much. But legally we can have our children taken away for this,” she says. Parents shouldn’t be forced to lie to their kids in order to protect them and keep their families together, but many sex workers don’t have a choice.
In the end, I made a personal decision to continue to be out as a former sex worker. As a white, middle-class cisgender woman who no longer works in the industry, I will be judged less harshly than others. I also can’t envisage it ever coming up in a custody battle. Moreover, reaching out to other parents in the sex worker community has helped me to believe I will be able to help my daughter process the information when she’s older. Unfortunately for millions of sex workers with less privilege than me, telling the truth is just not worth the risk.
Comments on Thoughts on deciding whether or not to tell your kids you’re a sex worker
Great article! I think so often progressive stuff on sex work, sexuality, polyamoury, etc is written for some idealized person-without kids who can say f u to society. When most people are not in that position. I also really appreciate how open this blog post was about class issues and privilege re: babysitting, ability to be ‘out’ that kind of thing. Great clear thinking and I”m happy to see it on this blog.
The illegality of it is so frustrating. It really makes involving children so much more complicated. I agree with Silverberg in that it’s important to be honest with your children. And it’s true that we may be over-thinking it in some cases, since children don’t want the details of any job. And they often don’t care about what society says is wrong, not having learned that yet.
I don’t agree with the statement that “Of course it’s inappropriate to talk about sex with little kids”. Little kids ask questions, and I think it’s important to share honest, age-appropriate answers. I don’t want my children to be confused or upset by rumors that make sex seem much scarier or more complicated than it really is. If they want to know about it, then they should know.
Absolutely. My son’s known about sex since he was old enough to talk and ask where he came from (approximately age 2.5 to 3). Talking about natural human activities is never inappropriate as long as you tailor your answers to the child’s level of maturity and understanding.
Good point. I phrased that wrong. I should’ve said that talking to your kids about your personal sex life is inappropriate, not about sex in general.
Amazing article. It’s funny because in french, the word for ”stripper” is usually just ”dancer”. Which brings up pretty hilarious confusion between my ballet dancer friends and my exotic dancer ones. I’m all for telling white lies in places that are not ment for social debate, people will usually understand what they want to hear and everyone avoids pointless confrontation.
This statement really grinded my gears:
“Georgia has worked in restaurants and fast food joints and struggled to keep her three-year-old daughter Zoe in daycare, but she prefers to do sex work because it allows her to raise Zoe herself.”
Not to get all mommy-wars, but I work full time, and my daughter is in daycare 9.5 hours a day, and I’M the one who’s raising her.
I have to believe there’s something else going on here – no one thinks that daycare is so evil that they’d rather risk jail time while their daughter sits in a car outside a motel room.
It seemed to me like the article made it pretty clear that the reason was because it was a struggle to afford day care, which is totally understandable in minimum wage type jobs.
Also, why you might now feel that doing sex work (and risking jail time) is worth it to keep a kid out of day care, some people may. All parenting decisions are personal.
Sorry, I definitely didn’t mean to imply that parents who have their kids in daycare are not raising their kids. That was poor wording on my part. But I think Georgia’s point is that she wants to spend lots of time with her daughter instead of working a minimum wage job just to pay for daycare. Lots of parents make that choice, and many parents choose to do sex work rather than work 9-5. Like breannajai said, all parenting decisions are personal. And Georgia didn’t say anything about thinking daycare is evil.
I think that a lot of people have one reason for making a decision, but share a different reason. I am personally trying to stop saying that I will put my kid in daycare because I can’t afford to stay at home, which is a much more palatable reason than the real one. I can’t afford to not work, but even given the choice, I probably wouldn’t stay at home. I love to work, and I’m really passionate about what I do.
I kind of read this to say that being a waitress + having a kid in daycare isn’t worth it, but being a sex worker while getting to spend extra time with her kid is. I’ll admit that if I wasn’t privileged enough to work in the field of my choosing, staying at home would be a very different option than it is right now, though unless I was having a very long conversation about it, that might not be clear to someone outside of my situation.
What grinds my gears about this particular example is the fact that the child is in the home while servicing clients. As a former sex worker, i have experienced and witnessed how dangerous some clients can be. I think it is completely selfish and irresponsible for this woman to put her child in harm’s way like this!
I honestly think it’s pretty difficult to judge this woman’s choices without knowing more about her situation. It’s possible, for example, that she only brings home clients that she’s entertained enough times to have a trusting working relationship with them.
I don’t *want* to be judgey… which usually prefaces a comment that comes laced with judgment (one thing I love about offbeat mama is all the ideas I would otherwise not come across)- but I find it really hard to reconcile having the daughter right there just in a car or another room. That doesn’t really scream “safe” to me. :/
THIS. I get that she had a friend in the car with her child, but involving your kid in illegal activities? Not cool, whether or not you agree with the legality in the first place.
Yeah, that was the same thought I had… it didn’t sound like an overly safe setup. Could that same friend who’s in the car maybe watch the child elsewhere? All the other scenarios seemed OK to me, but that one made me a little concerned for the child’s safety.
I guess it depends what the alternative was for that family. Like, obviously its not the safest thing in the world, but maybe the alternative (not making money to get rent and possibly becoming homeless) was worse and there just weren’t any options for care and transit- sometimes choices are made out of bad choices. It’s like one time this family lived upstairs from us and there was a man yelling *all* the time at these children and it was really awful. Finally i knocked on thier door and said that the yelling had to stop and that he should take them to the park if they were running around too much (which was why he was yelling at them just then). It turned out that the mother had just left an abusive relationship and the grandfather, who didn’t really know how to look after kids, was the only option for childare and the family was in a tough spot and everyone knew that it wasn’t working but they coudlnt’ come up with anything else. Could be something like that.
I also feel that the other situation of having clients come to the home is not in the family’s best interest no matter how screened the clients are.
Thanks for these comments. I want to clarify that the only clients Georgia sees at home are regular clients that she’s known for a long time, which is really no different from bringing a boyfriend or friend to your house when your child is home.
My dad is a lawyer. Sometimes, he had clients who couldn’t make it over to the office during business hours come by the house. They were ones he knew and trusted. There is no inherent reason for this to be any different.
Of course it is different! A client of a prostitute is not at all the same. You may have built up a certain relationship with them, but the reality is that that is NOT an equal relationship. A lawyer is in a respected profession, a prostitute is not. In addition this is a gendered relationship.
From a personal point of view I met many men during my period of sex work who seemed perfectly pleasant, but I also heard horror stories from other women. I would not have trusted any of them in my personal space, where my children live
Just wanted to point out (in agreement with your comparison between a lawyer’s clients and a sex worker’s) there’s a good chance that beyond the metaphor they are equivalent, in that it’s the same men. Just sayin’
Also, I think a lot of the commenters are missing the point here. I really appreciated that the author gave us a broad spectrum of the realities of being a parent and a sex worker and how that reality is often complicated. I didn’t feel like the author was saying this was a great situation. Instead I felt like she was pointing out that just like race/class/gender based oppression leads single moms to leave their young kids home alone to keep minimum wage jobs, so it leads sex worker moms to make choices that they probably wish they didn’t have to make in much the same way.
The problem here is the systems of oppression that force a choice between bad and worse on parents, the fact that this mom is a sex worker seems only relevant to me in that her line of work being illegal makes her even more vulnerable.
I understand that her clients may be regulars, but I still do not feel as this is safe for the child. Regardless of how some of us may feel about the laws, they exist…and therefore she is involving her child in illegal activity. And even if the clients are regulars who she knows quite well, I think the possibility of danger still exists here. Getting to the article though, I did enjoy it, I think it was very well written, and I admire those sex workers who have the courage to be open and honest with their children.
Unfortunately, though, because it is illegal, there are not a lot of options. It’s hard to say whether your home or the client’s home is safer. Hotels are not options for a lot of sex workers. Maybe if you have children, then the client’s home is a better option. But not always. Making it legal would help address the safety issues, in my opinion.
Yes, to me this is just like if you went to a regular job and made your kid sit in the car. If you’re working ANY job, find someone to watch your kid while you’re busy. If if your job is illegal, try to keep your kids out of range in case things go sour.
I think all previous comments have very valid points.
The only things that bothered me about the article were the accounts of a stranger being made aware a child was around(my mind goes to a place where the mother is restrained/incapacitated and the child is hurt) whether it is a client or a new boyfriend.
I love how I stretch my mind around these things. I don’t really think I’d mind so much, and it surprises me how critical people can be. I think parents try to do right by their kids, and while I may disgree with how they do it, (and whether or not it’s right by their kids, btw) I can’t really find fault with their heartfelt attempt.
Ariel said once, and I will never forget it, that instead of immediately squashing our judgements, we should examine why it is we respond so strongly/immediately to some things… And in that vein, I pushed it out to something I knew I would judge someone for, like violence. Mostly I just think this is tough. These are important things that step on or around our core values, whether they be legality, age-appropriateness, choice, hardship, honesty, respect, individuality. It’s a whole bowl of fishhooks, and I don’t think I could blame anyone for being judgey – or defensive – about their opinions on matters like these.
That said, if my someday child was hanging out with someone whose parent proffered violence for a living, I’d really want to know, and I’d want said parent to tell me, and sit and talk with me about it candidly. I’d feel very betrayed if they didn’t. Hopefully I’d have an open mind enough to learn that, like sex workers, sometimes people who do things for a living often have the clearest heads about them.
Im not sure I understand this, where is this about violence? I don’t believe most mistresses / madames / people who engage in bdsm see their activities as violent. I definitely don’t. I don’t think parents should have to justify their choice of occupations to other parents, either (unless you interrogate all parents who interact with your kid).
I was a Guardian Ad Litem years ago. (It’s like being a volunteer social worker, you advocate for kids who are involved in DSS cases.) My last case was a 5 year old whose father’s girlfriend had horribly physically abused her. Her biological mother lived in another state, and had originally given primary custody to the child’s father because she felt he was more stable than she was financially and location-wise. She had been actively trying to regain custody for several years, and after the abuse happened it was my recommendation that the child be given back to the mother with full custody. The kicker: Mom was a stripper. She wasn’t on drugs, she wasn’t selling her body illegally, she was stripping to support herself through school and her mother, who she lived with, through cancer treatment. She was a kind, together, responsible woman who just happened to be supporting her family by doing a job that many people turn their noses up at. And in order to finally gain custody of her child, she had to give up that job and take a much less lucrative one at a grocery store. Otherwise, there was a good chance that the system would have sent the child back to the abusive home, or into foster care with strangers.
I myself stripped when I was in college. Of course, I couldn’t tell my boss or the court that, could I? The whole experience sickened me so much that I gave up the GAL program after that. There were many reasons, but that was the main one. It amazes me that we still live in a society where sex work is a woman’s best option to pay her bills…and yet where the stigma attached to her profession can cost her her child.
The mother in question did get her daughter. She also had to apply for food stamps, section 8, medicaid, and all the other social programs that our society also stigmatizes mothers for having to use, since she went from making a thousand dollars a week to minimum wage.
” It amazes me that we still live in a society where sex work is a woman’s best option to pay her bills…and yet where the stigma attached to her profession can cost her her child.”
That right there. I just want to “this” that sentence 1000 times. Print it on posters and put it in leaflets.
Some people (myself included) are too poor to afford daycare and do not have family to fall back on. I do not have kids myself, but I am a low income sex worker myself and if I did have kids I can promise you I cannot afford daycare. Both my parents are dead and the rest of my family does not want to have anything to do with me, I have been on my own since I was 16. I started sex work at the age of 20 when I was in university. Right now I am financially stuck and my only job is my sex work. I live off around 1300 a month.
I dont understand why being a sex worker is considered so bad? to be honest, as a nurse i probably bring home infectious diseases to my baby without realizing, have to do shift work, am likely to get stalked by my clients etc but for some reason my job is wonderful and theirs is not?
Ditto. People get all squeamish about women taking money for sex. In our semi-feminist culture, it is ONLY ok for a woman to have sex for her own pleasure. Any other reason is demeaning. But in reality, women have sex for all kinds of reasons, and her own pleasure is just one. Women have sex because he bought her a steak dinner, or because it’s the third date and she feels obligated. Some women have sex to secure a boyfriend or husband. Some women have sex to KEEP the boyfriend or husband. Some women have sex just to placate her partner so that she can finish her book and go to sleep. Some women have sex to prevent their partner from forcibly raping them. Some women have sex because they feel it’s their religious duty to their husband. Some women have sex because they think it will make them feel better about themselves. Some women have sex so that the other kids in school will be impressed. And some women have sex for their own pleasure, while others also have sex in exchange for money.
But all of these instances are a concession. Personally I feel that my sexual state is my most vulnerable, and I shouldn’t need to put out to achieve goals. I don’t blame people who do, I blame a society or government that gives them no options or the impression that it’s all they’re good for.
Telling your daughter about your sex work isn’t about having the awkward sex talk, it’s about teaching her through example that society only really values women as sexual objects.
I have friends who had sex with their boyfriends in highschool out of a sense of obligation or to avoid rape. It’s still a kind of rape, it ruined their already Shakey self esteem, and they regretted it in the long run. If that isn’t your experience, great, but to risk that happening to your daughter is something else.
I don’t agree that telling your daughter about your sex work is the same as telling them her example that society only values women for sex. I think it might be telling them that one of the ways that women are valued in society is through sex. It might not but a pretty concept, but it is true, whether or not you are a sex worker. You can be a sex worker and still be valued for other things – parenting included.
Just wanted to point out that men are sex workers too (although of course the vast majority of clients are men). Sex workers are like professionals in any other field, they provide a service. Successful sex workers are skilled professionals who create a safe space for their clients to receive touch, erotic and otherwise.
I would really like to move past this “I hate that society forces women to…” victim narrative that so many of us have about sex work. Are there men and women who have sex for money that are being exploited? Absolutely. There’s also men and women picking produce, working in factories, serving food who are being exploited.
The fact that exploitation occurs does not negate that there are a lot of people who choose to be sex workers, are fairly compensated for their work, and enjoy their chosen profession as much as any of the rest of us do. All the cases of exploitation prove is that we have a long way to go as a society in fighting all oppression in all work places.
For some reason, I can’t reply to Weevil, but I just wanted to say that I fully agree with what you’re saying. In fact, there isn’t a “this” button big enough to express how much I loved what you said.
Woodlandia, FYI: nested replies only go 5 comments deep. Any more and our page templates start breaking from too many indents. More info: https://offbeatempire.com/2012/10/cant-reply
Totally true about the nurse thing; my mom was a nurse when she was pregnant with me in 1987, when they still didn’t know much about HIV and weren’t 100% sure it wasn’t spread by casual contact, and she was terrified! And now there’s MRSA, XDR-TB, stuff like that, so yeah.
I am a bit stunned that at no point has anyone made the point that children might absorb that it is absolutely fine that women are servicing men and that there is a high likelihood of exploitation.
I was a prostitute many years before my kids were born. I was not ashamed of it, and still am not ashamed of it, but having done it I know that it is where strong elements of exploitation are constantly present.
Now I know that a lot of readers will disagree, and mention ’empowerment’ and ‘autonomy’, but the reality is that in that business there is exploitation and abuse on a large scale, and the whole industry exists to service men.
I would support any sex worker, but I would NOT encourage her to tell her kids. Do you really want to reinforce the common belief that women exist to service men? Yes, I know that women do this in other ways too, and many children see it at home all the time, but sex work is a particularly stark example of it – it is rarely glamourous, the reality is that it is much more tawdry than those who write about the sex industry generally admit.
I wonder if prostitution were legalized, if the stigma were dropped…would it become less of an exploitative industry? In some past cultures, prostitutes of various kinds were viewed with respect and it was a valued profession. Also, I can’t help but think about the show “Firefly”, where “companions” were highly respected professionals that were treated with honor and dignity.
“Companions” were similar to geisha in social stature, though they also provided sex. In that fictional universe there were also prostitutes that even Inara refers to as “whores,” though she does show sympathy. Those characters were subject to abuse by all class of men (including members of clergy). See episode Heart of Gold
Even a high class “companion” can be viewed as an object of ownership. See episode Shindig.
Even in ancient Greece or Rome, when prostitution is legalized, these women were still considered to be social pariah. I theorize that this is due to biological drive, i.e. men should spread their genes far and wide; women need to find THE (read one) most secure mate possible to provide for her offspring. You can see this in modern society when comparing prostitutes and “kept” women (trophy wives or mistresses). I will provide an anecdote from my own life (hardly a scientific study, but a useful illustration). My partner and I have a 18 year age difference. When we go out we always get criticizing stares until one of us makes some comment about marriage, home ownership, child rearing, other domestic shit proving I’m not an escort. When we go out with his daughter, we get the occasional curious look, but it lacks the normal venom. Either way he is still the one paying most of the bills (until I finish my PhD), and people are okay with that so long as they view the relationship as monogamous. It could be some socially constructed reciprocity of man being breadwinner and woman homemaker or something more instinctual. I surrender that thought to you social scientists and will head back to the lab and to the simpler world of biochemistry.
Actually, in ancient Greece, hetaerae (courtesans or “high class” prostitutes) tended to have heaps more social freedom than other women. They could move freely about the city and could even own property. Many of the few clear accounts we have of ancient Greek women, are accounts of famous hetaerae. It’s true that they probably didn’t hang out with “respectable” women, however.
I’d be interested to hear from any commenters from countries where prostitution is legal, actually. Does their experience match the one listed above?
In the UK, prostitution is not illegal, but prostitutes are still stigmatized.
In other countries, like Germany, prostitution is legal and regulated.
In some other parts of Europe, it is not illegal to provide sex, but it is illegal to pay for sex – how does this change people’s attitudes about telling their kids?
Food for thought – any commenters from Germany or Scandinavia in?
I don’t live in germany or scandinavia, but where I live, New Zealand, prostitution is legal – with specific conditions such as being over 18, and operating from licensed premises. Prostitution is generally not a respected business to be in and is very much stigmatised. Perhaps that will change over time, as the legalisation only happened less than 10 years ago.
In Australia, prostitution is legal and highly regulated, and there’s still a huge stigma. (There are also still illegal brothels.)
I guess I would never have assumed that only female sex workers are parents, but it does seem that male sex workers are still fairly invisible. Nevertheless, while I would truly doubt that only women are subject to exploitation in the sex work industry, It is worth noting that all of the caring industries are fairly exploitative in their own ways. (Low pay, long hours, expected to expend a great deal of emotional energy). I have tremendous respect for folks who work in these fields and still are able to do the hard work of parenting. I would think being own and honest with your child would better enable her to make informed choices about her own life.
My neighbor is a prostitute. How do I know this? GOOGLE. All it takes is one mention in your local paper’s police blotter, and for the rest of her life, every potential employer, landlord, and romantic partner can read about this. It’s also out there for her 15 year old daughter’s classmates to read about.
People keep saying parenting is personal. Well, all decision making is personal, but not all decisions are good decisions. Over time, our decisions narrow the paths our lives can take. Minimum wage druggery sucks, but it’s honest work – it provides you with a work history, a safety net for retirement with Social Security, and at least the chance of advancement and the ability to better your situation.
My neighbor is 45 and being investigated by the cops, and will probably lose both her apartment and her daughter. Prostitution is not providing her family with stability or security. But 20 years of decisions on her part have probably left her with few other options. Her story isn’t some uplifting hollywood story about a mother doing whatever it takes for her daughter. There’s no happy ending here. It’s just all sad.
I understand doing what you need to do to survive, but I don’t think we should sugarcoat the long term consequences of participating in illegal activities.
Funny how the nature of sex work involves two (or more) people but only one of the parties is routinely threatened with losing her children and home, harassed by cops and the broader legal system, deemed to be an unfit parent and/or immoral person, and ostracized from society.
I also think it is interesting that a discussion of legality has emerged here. I think the long term consequences cannot be equated with legality or illegality per se, but the stigmas attached to THIS particular illegality. After all, serial speeders arguably put their children in significant physical danger while breaking the law, but we don’t assume that folks with lots of speeding tickets should have their kids taken away.
All of the issues that you have addressed can be solved through the legalization of sex work. None the less, instead of calling for this, you have identified sex work as not being “honest”, and have chosen to consider minimum wage exploitation as being more advantageous. Is that really the best way to solve these problems?
I also want to add, that I really appreciate the author sharing these stories with us. I have some pretty strong opinions on the subject, but I’m glad offbeat mama exists to share topics like this.
Great article. It’s such a taboo subject, the kids of sexworkers. Kudos for taking it head on. I’ve often wondered if the children of sex workers don’t actually grow up better informed about sex, sexual health, birth control, rights, etc. than the children of non-sexworkers. I don’t know that there’s any way to compare because of all the other factors involved. As there would be in any other profession, there are a million variables that influence their child rearing skills.
I see a lot of comments on the legality and how it would fix these problems. I can say being from a country where prostitution is legal, the stigma is still there, it can still be used against you in custody battles and Child youth and family services can still use it against you when it comes to the care of your children especially if you are seeing clients within the home. I do not agree with any of this but until it becomes more of a acceptable by society as a whole these problems are going to continue which is sad. If it was illegal here I would never of done it, and it isn’t safe taking clients within your home when your kids are there even your most regular clients can turn on you, try to blackmail you etc I’ve seen it happen within a legal system, and there is so much more to lose within a illegal one.
I don’t see how highly valuing my sexuality would teach (potential future) kids that women exist to serve men.
I’m a sex worker who was exposed to sex work as a kid and it made me think that women are powerful and sometimes life is hard and the crafty survive. Also I was like, “wow, my mom just let’s my dad pressure her into it for free!”
I do not see how putting a (monetary) value on your sexuality has negated the possibility that your work is about servicing men. However you see it, that is what you are doing, and however you frame it, if you told your kids, as they think for themselves they will inevitably have to acknowledge that this is not something that GENERALLY women feel great about doing to make money.
As for sexuality – I do not think that it has much to do with sexuality. Most of the women I knew during my period of sex work were removed from their sexuality during the sex – it is work, and for most it was not enjoyable work. It was simply a means to an end, and had the advantage of being well paid for a short amount of time.
I met some nice women during that time, but 99% of them had major problems, mostly around abuse in childhood, or with intimate partners. On the whole the industry is simply carrying on damage that has already been wrought.
“Also I was like, “wow, my mom just let’s my dad pressure her into it for free!””
That makes raising a kid to be aware of their parent’s sex work sound like a really *bad* idea, though… It suggests that the kid grows up unaware that sexual behavior (kissing & beyond) within a relationship is a part of the loving/affectionate bond, and instead gets the idea that it’s something the male partner “pressures” the woman into “giving” to him.
This is both complicated and problematic. I’m aware that many people will likely disagree with me, but that’s fine. I like discussion.
I see no problem with sex workers raising their own children. In particular, the BDSM sex worker sounds like she’s doing everything right with the way she’s explaining her profession to her children.
Georgia, on the other hand? Yes, her daughter is seeing too much. Having her wait in the car or play in the living room while her mother sees her clients is too much. She is inadvertently making her daughter part and party of her job. I see this as being hugely problematic in the future, along the same lines as Syd’s story.
I am my daughter’s mother, not her friend. There are some things I’ll simply never tell her because she doesn’t need to know. Syd certainly didn’t need to know that a client asked her mother to piss in the corner. Zoe doesn’t need the awareness that her mother is having sex with clients in the other room, in the exact same way that a child would be uncomfortable with her mother bringing home different boyfriends every week.
Totally agree with you. There is no getting away from the fact that your average ‘client’ is an ordinary man, who will tend to think he can be just a little bit less nice than he usually is because you are being paid to be there. I was never abused – probably had about 50 clients in all, but it was perfectly clear that they do not treat you in the same way as they would in another setting. Some men have enough problems respecting women – prostitution gives those kind of men carte blanche to be even less respectful.
Probably best to keep it to yourself. I don’t share everyting with my children.