Cate is something of a renaissance sex worker and has held numerous interesting jobs in the adult industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.
Like any subculture, the subculture of sex workers has its trends. Currently, the latest thing is misandry ranging from the playful to the deadly serious. It’s sort of a complex issue, because while I firmly believe one can’t simultaneously be a good sex worker and also a true misandrist, it’s also true that as sex workers we often see men at their rawest, which means we frequently see them at their worst. It’s not that my clients are violent or cruel–it’s just that, well, dudes can be the worst. They can also be thoughtful, charming, sweet, and generally lovely, but eventually they all tend to revert to their default of complete and total obliviousness coupled with a belief that their experience is the only one that matters.
It’s infuriating when my clients–mostly white, middle-aged professionals–tell me that I have it so easy because I’m young and female and pretty and I can sell sex. It’s as if it doesn’t even occur to them that by virtue of being all those things, I actually have fewer advantages than they so. Sure, for an hour or two I’m the one with all the power and they’re the ones paying me, I’m the one who gives or retracts consent, and I’m the one with the power to kick them out, but in normal life they are the people who can get away with almost anything and I am one of the people who cannot.
It sounds like it would be very easy to just deal with the annoying clients, make my money, and go about my life, but it’s only easy if you see clients as something less than human. Clients are people just like anyone else, and they are men just like any others. There is nothing that makes my clients any different than a guy you might see on the street and because of that, it’s very easy to take frustrations with clients and put them on every man I encounter. This is further complicated by the fact that most men really do seem to share the same obliviousness and entitlement that my clients suffer from. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in the middle of a conversation with a boyfriend or male friend, and they have said something particularly myopic that could have been pulled directly from the mouth of a client. All too frequently they try to explain it away with “I didn’t mean it that way,” or worse, “why are you overreacting like this?”
When these kinds of things happen, it becomes very tempting to just remove all non-paying men from my life. I could live a perfectly fulfilled life without a single man around, I tell myself, my life would actually be better.
While this may be true, it’s simply not realistic. As annoying as they can often be, men live in this world with me, they are people like me. Just because they can often be narrow-minded, oblivious to the various privileges that come with being male, overly emotional, and frequently unable to express those emotions in any kind of helpful manner, it doesn’t mean that they should all be shunned and shut out of the worlds of women.
Another huge problem with misandry among sex workers is that it’s entirely counterproductive to our work. While it may seem as if our only duties are to provide sexual services, that’s just the surface of our jobs. We are healers above anything else.
As I said earlier, we see men at their rawest. We see men who are stressed by demanding jobs, failing marriages, the existential crises that come with getting older without having achieved the things they once dreamed of. It is our job to provide peaceful spaces for them to decompress and de-stress. It’s hard to do our jobs well if we truly hate our clients. Even the best clients can be terribly frustrating–faking orgasms while a man mashes your pubic bone with calloused fingers or timidly licks your urethra is one of the most irritating things in the world–but ignorance of female anatomy isn’t a good reason to hate anyone.
It can be very cathartic to joke about misandry and castration and claim to hate all men. This world we live in can be so profoundly inhospitable to women and so hospitable to men, but that isn’t a reason to hate them, either. Their privilege isn’t their fault, and in most cases their blindness to their privilege isn’t either. That’s the thing about privilege: in a world where it’s accepted as “just the way things are,” it can be very difficult for those who benefit from privilege to see it for themselves. Besides, there are plenty of things to love about men. Even their annoying tendency to become clingy and emotional can be almost adorable at times.
Hatred and exclusion won’t help anything, but it’s an easy way out. It’s much harder to explain the challenges women face than to just shut men out and let them keep living in a fools’ paradise. Sure, I can’t explain to my clients what it’s like to experience street harassment. I’m certainly not going to get on my sex workers’ soapbox, thereby reminding clients that they are paying for my time and favors, unless I’m directly asked. It’s frustrating to not be able to tell my clients that the world does not revolve around them, especially since I sometimes feel as if I’m reinforcing their privilege by selling them an hour or two during which the world really does revolve around them. But simply because I can’t talk about these issues to clients doesn’t mean I can’t talk about them with the other men in my life. And it’s just as important to remember that frustration, while trying, is not the same as hate.