Harlotry: On Arguing With SWERFs (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists)

Twitter feuds

Most people know that arguing on the Internet is a futile battle with very few positive results and a whole lot of all caps, personal-as-possible retorts from grinning trolls. Sex workers are intelligent humans who also understand this concept, though sometimes, we can’t help but defend ourselves to those who don’t think we fit into the very idea of feminism.

One of the things many of us do is tweet. Actually, sex workers tweet A LOT. We have our own little corner of Twitter where we talk about clients, make jokes, create hashtags, and share links. I’m not totally sure who can be credited with starting sex worker twitter, but I know the first sex worker twitter account I became aware of was Susan Shepard‘s, back when she was still @strippertweets. I started following @strippertweets, and that lead to the rest of the Tits and Sass crew, and pretty soon I was following other sex workers from around the world almost exclusively and having pleasant and frequently inspiring chats with some lovely ladies on a fairly regular basis.

I lived in my cozy little sex worker-friendly utopia for quite a while before I realized that all was not just “rights not rescue” hashtags and descriptions of the harm of stigma that spanned several tweets. There was a dark side to sex worker Twitter, and it wasn’t in the small divisions and little tiffs between the anti-capitalists and the libertarians or the misandrists and women who truly, deeply love men. The dark side of sex worker Twitter is caused entirely by the frequent invasion by sex worker exclusionary radical feminists (SWERFs) and trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs).

What usually happens is that sex worker twitter will band together around a hashtag, most recently #notyourrescueproject, and it will become fairly popular, even if it doesn’t always end up actually trending. All will be well for a while, but just as the retweets are rolling in and my entire timeline seems to be covered in the latest sex worker hashtag, the SWERFs–who usually also happen to be TERFs–hop in. They inform us either that we are unknowingly enslaved or that it is wrong for us to talk about our happiness with our chosen careers, seeing as there are millions and millions of women and girls (the men and boys don’t matter, you see) who are forced into sexual slavery.

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    • anna

      there is really NO argument to someone telling you that you don’t know something because you’re repressed, besides a sarcastic thank you for being so much more in touch with myself than I am.
      I remember a jen wright piece ages ago about a man trying to tell her she was a fake, because she shouldn’t wear dresses and be polite, she should be FREE. Not free to act like herself, but you know. Free in his sense of the word.

    • Elle

      Feminism is fast becoming just another oppressive ideology which enslaves people, so it is profoundly ironic that they see sex workers the way they do. I’m a sex worker, I am a woman, I don’t answer to anyone and enjoy a life where I am in complete control. I don’t think these women know what empowerment looks like in order to say what it is not!!!!

    • Trina Ricketts

      I love this article! May I ask where the term SWERF came from? I love it and have been using it but would like to give credit to the person who coined it. <3

    • Kellendra

      I am not in the sex industry, but I respect and support your decision to do with your body and your life what you choose to. There is no place in true feminism for women that hate other women…and that is all these women are about.

    • JoJo Spalding

      That’s pretty funny. I can’t help but laugh at the comment, “….women who truly, deeply love men”. And who decides that, pray tell? I guess you have to want a man you don’t know to spew his jizz all over your face in order to truly, deeply love them, eh? lmao Yeah, you guys know so much better. Please.

    • Medusa Jordan

      ‘millions and millions of women and girls (the men and boys don’t matter, you see) who are forced into sexual slavery.’

      I have never ever seen any article about sexual exploitation saying that males do not matter, but it is like rape: most victims are female, so most of the attention is focused on girls and women.

    • Chelsea Tornade-Hoe

      Some of us “sex workers” are also radical feminists. Angela Dworkin speaks of her experience in prostitution, which some of us relate to and agree with. When some sex workers get all ranty about radical feminists, they make people like me un-exist. Please don’t do this.