Aundi joins us from Queercents:

A source of money that has historically fueled several tiers of the queer community and is often overlooked, ignored, and sometimes even shunned by other queer subcultures, is that which is funneled in via the sex worker contingent. For the past several weeks I’ve been talking with a variety of queer individuals who are currently or have previously been employed in various sects of the industry, including three dominatrices, an erotic dancer, an escort, and an alternative porn model.

There is certainly a financial phenomenon that occurs in relation to this line of work and its effectual funneling of resources into the queer community. Some in the industry or tied to it have called it “trickle-down ho-encomics,” and it is unique in form and effect to nearly any other money system on earth.

Ask any woman or man who has been paid — in one way or another — for a sexual presence; and she will tell you that the typical client is a straight, white, middle-aged, middle-class biological male. Of course, sex workers’ clients come in all genders, from all backgrounds, ethnicities, classes, etc; but the overwhelming majority is the aforementioned. To some degree this is a result of entitlement; certain people simply have a better grasp on what the world owes them. Others have been trained differently. The anomaly does not lie herein, but in the fact that the same socio-economic group that constitutes the bulk of sex-worker income, has historically been responsible for creating and enforcing systems that curtail prosperity and equality for queer people.

I should probably toss in a disclaimer at this point. I am not at all a lesbian separatist; in fact, many of my closest friends are straight, white men; but even the bad history books reaffirm the facts of historical power systems. A second disclaimer: with the permission of those interviewed, I will be using the words ho and whore for sex worker as they are easier to type out, are actually preferred references by my sources, and do not translate strictly into people who exchange intercourse for money. They are broad terms, T.S., a San Francisco-based professional dominatrix says, “like beautician” or DJ.

T.S. said, “I wish that there were more realistic accounts of what it is like to be a successful career whore. I feel really misrepresented by many of the “dabblers” who end up writing about their experiences. I want there to be open discussion of all kinds around sex work including the economics of it, and for sex work to be taken more seriously so that there is more understanding of the variety and range of experiences. I think people would be able to see that many women in the sex industry are making informed decisions about their work and greatly contributing to the community.”

S.L., who has been employed in a variety of facets in the sex industry, from porn to fetish modeling to working as a professional dominatrix, calls her work like being the sexy Robinhood. “Money tends to rise economically in one direction,” she said “this [sex work] is the hidden trap door where it falls back down and gets spread out in a different way,” and she says that this particular flavor of work has been an “economic overflow valve historically.”

T.S. said she remembers a sexologist referring to sex work as “the second National Endowment for the Arts,” and for many of the women I spoke with it has been just that. S.L. said, “My most important commodity is time. That’s one of the benefits of being an independent sex worker…I do a lot because my work time is condensed, and I have a very flexible schedule, so I have a lot of time to work on personal artistic projects. With a 9 to 5 job, I wouldn’t have as much energy for art…meetings, rehearsals.”
Many hos, including several of my references, are currently in or have completed school, and their work has prevented them from taking out costly school loans. Two own homes; one has financed a complete remodel via his work in the sex industry.

And the trickle-down often extends past the sex-workers themselves. S.L. says she’s been a “constant lender, mostly for partners and lovers, but also to a number of my friends. I’ve also offered housing for free or reduced rates to people who are important to me.”
R.L., a former stripper and dominatrix, paid her lover’s rent for two months while the lover began her M.B.A. studies. P.F. funded a portion of her lover’s sexual reassignment surgery. A.W. paid for her lover’s education (and then got dumped). “There’s an element of being a sugar mommy,” S.L. says and adds she’s covered many “event tickets, plane tickets, meals, and presents.”

Coincidentally, Moorea posted last week on the down-side to the economic imbalance between many sex workers and their lovers, a sugar mommy burnout of sorts. I asked several of the hos I interviewed to make generalizations about partners who might milk the income and time of a sex-work employed lover, whether they found this to skirt an unhealthy imbalance or a natural exchange. S.L. agreed that, “some people become chronic whore daters because of that phenomenon.” She quipped, “What does the stripper do to her asshole before she goes to work?”
“Drop him off at band practice.”

S.L. described this as a pre-ordained role, not just by a straight culture, but by human beings in general. There are those who are “dazzled by fancy ladies, like to experience luxury but have no interest or the means to pursue it on their own,” she said, “but plenty have partnerships in which a whore might bring in the money while the other person does all of the household work, transportation responsibilities, lawncare…economy [like any relationship] does not exist strictly in fiscal terms.”

T.S. said, “Ultimately the sugar mommy role is taken by choice and for many comes from a place of empowerment rather than default. I’ve been what some may call a sugar mommy not just to my lovers, but to my friends and members of my community who have less earning power. It comes down to my values about ownership and wealth in general, which are that (although I need to take care of myself first in order to be able to do so) I believe that what is mine belongs to my friends, family, chosen family and extended community.”

And, as many of our Sleeping With Money posts can affirm, money is often fetishized. “It has a sexual dynamic,” S.L. says, “It can be a turn on to buy lavish gifts for lovers.” A high-end professional like herself is often lavished upon by wealthy clients, and she, in turn, has the opportunity to lavish upon others. “Characteristic of radical queer culture, so many people…are activists” or work on causes or artistic endeavors for little or no money, and sometimes, “queer hos are the wealthiest queers in a given group.” She adds, “It’s not what I want solely for the rest of my life.”

But, without a doubt, sex work is fueling the queer economy. Queers often patronize queer-owned or managed establishments: restaurants, bars, event venues; and sex-workers and their partners are not unlikely invest in their people. Several report financing art shows and performances. T.S. says, “Because I am running my own business on every level, I am hyper-conscious of cash flow, in both directions and I would say that many of my friends are as well.”

I have a friend in Los Angeles who is among those queers that believe taking money for any sort of sex work furthers the negative objectification of women and that, regardless of the financial rewards and dollars into the community, the end result is hindering to the community at large and overall equality. I asked the hos what sort of thoughts they had on this.

T.S. said:

“I like to explain that it is a matter of me exercising my power to do what I want with my body. I enjoy my work, and I enjoy the freedom that comes with it. As far as objectification goes, I believe that my work and interaction with men often helps them to understand the complexities of our current societal gender crisis better which in fact fights that which many think I am perpetuating.”

S.L. said:

“Sex work is one of only labor sectors that historically and [continues to be] populated with a vast majority of women and transwomen. It’s still one of few sectors in which women consistently make more money, and it actually could be used as a labor model. It’s one of most appealing options for working class women, other than the stigma… While if you think of it as selling your body, selling a beauty ideal, yeah, that’s an unappealing picture of how women can be equal or unequal, but if you understand it as selling a service of human connection – especially in these times …— it’s a really powerful and necessary service to provide…I don’t disagree with capitalism being a barrier to ending oppression…My particular set of interests, values, skills, and talents have led me to working within the system in a subversive way. Much of the money that I get from the deep trenches of patriarchal capitalism ends up in co-ops, queer radical spaces, and funding subversive art. That’s what I am capable of right now. That’s my flavor of fight. For revolution — if that’s the goal — it takes hits from all different directions to get to a tipping point. Being a socially conscious queer whore is a powerful act against those anti-capitalist powers.”

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