Saying no to selling myself
Posted by charliegrrl on July 31, 2007
A few months back, I was sitting in a feminist meeting when I overheard a woman confiding to another about her ‘waking up’ moment that led her to become a feminist. She spoke of how she was really struggling for cash whilst studying and was considering escorting, to supplement her income. What stopped her was meeting her boyfriend, who persuaded her otherwise. On the verge of tears, she said she can’t believe she came so close. This shocked her and led her to question why she came so close to escorting herself.
Her story resonated with me. When I was about 16, slim with large breasts, people and then boyfriend used to say you could be a model. I used to think of Page 3 in The Sun, and think I could do that as I have the breasts. Despite getting good grades at school, I valued myself as a body, as breasts. When I was 21 and skint, the thought came in my mind again- I could make money from my body. You could say I was already in training to be a model/stripper as I was seeing a man, for whom I knew that to be a good girlfriend, I should play the vixen, wear the lingerie, know how to take off the lingerie, touch my body like a stripper… I could even play at being bisexual. So when I was struggling for money, with a degree but still no career prospects, the thought entered my mind, that I could sell my body.
Even now, as a feminist who opposes prostitution, the thought still crosses my mind. Not having a lot of money is shit, needless to say, and the stress can pressure you into considering ways of making money. All around me are messages that the sex industry is fun and you can earn lots of cash. I’ve just been watching Big Brother, where a part time stripper has been talking about how great her career has been, as a former masseuse, an escort and as a stripper. Housemates cheer as she gives two of them a topless lapdance. I’ve been looking at lads mags, where the message is constant: ‘send us your naked photos for cash; you too can be a succesful glamour model’. I open the paper to read adverts for an escorting agency: ‘go out on dates with people and get paid for it’, they say, ‘it’s just like going out on a normal date, except you can earn shit loads of cash’.
Cash would be nice. But I know better than to believe the bullshit glamourisation, cos I’m a feminist. Why is it then that these thoughts come in my head when I’m stressed about money? I know I’m never going to sell my body, but I still toy with the idea and about a better life- would it be that bad I ask myself…
The answer struck me as I was watching Shanessa from Big Brother give a topless lapdance- I have grown up in a culture that glamourises the sex industry, and encourages me to view my body as a commodity; in a culture where playing the poledancer, the stripper and the porn star on film are encouraged for young women in a heterosexual relationship; a culture in which sex and the sex industry are fused. Hell, when I’m at the Job Centre signing on, I can even apply for a job as a lapdancer or BDSM Dominatrix. The sex industry is painted as a sexy and lucrative alternative to the monotone of minimum wage. So that when I do struggle for money, despite having a good university education and being a feminist, the thought of selling my body returns and it doesn’t seem that bad. I often hear stories of female students turning to escorting, modelling and stripping to supplement their university education. But how is it that all the men are affording university…cos they’re not stripping to get by? I bet male students don’t look at their body as a commodity and sexual service that can be sold when money is tight. It seems young women are being primed to accept the sex industry as a legitimate avenue from which to make money. Whereas male students, I dunno, eat porridge for a week or do factory work…
So despite pressure to pay my way and the sex industry seeming to be the easy way forward, I say no to selling myself. I know things aren’t really that bad for me, as I’ve got good family who can support me. I can make that choice. But for those who are desperate, it’s times like this that I know how easy it is for women to fall into the sex industry.