Sanctimony and Sex Work

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From the blog “Sex Ed in Higher Ed” where a college human sexuality instructor writes:

This semester, I had another former sex worker come talk to my class. Let’s call her Lauren. She was very different from Kiki. Polished. Articulate. Totally mini-van-driving soccer-mom looking young woman. Currently wrapping up her master’s degree in epidemiology. In order to work her way through an expensive private college, she was a call girl for two yeas. She was neither ashamed nor apologetic. Actually, she was more interested in educating my students about sex workers in other countries in the world. Lauren was also very knowledgeable about the difference between making sex work legal and “decriminalizing” it. Then she spoke about sex workers’ unions and told us that in countries where sex workers are unionized and have health benefits, rates of HIV/AIDS and other STIs (in the entire population, not just among sex workers) are significantly lower than countries where sex workers are not unionized.

And guess what? My (female) students hated her. After she left, the room became a sea of waving hands. A quote: “She was not at all ashamed of herself! And she’s crazy if she thinks she’s going to get me to feel sorry for her!” Luckily, for me, another student raised her hand. “I don’t think Lauren was trying to get us to feel sorry for her; I think she was just trying to explain that sex workers need insurance just like anybody else.” Then another (very dear) student said quietly, “I guess if she would have seemed more embarrassed or said she was sorry, I might have been able to like her. But she just wasn’t sorry at all!” That was the consensus – at least from the female students – the men were conspicuously quiet. It’s okay to come to a class and talk about being a former sex worker as long as you cry and thank the Lord and act ashamed and sorry. So last week, I was reading papers about students’ reactions to Lauren, and the same female student who made the first comment about Lauren not being ashamed of herself wrote, “This lady should have gotten a REAL JOB and not tried to take the easy way out! I have a full-time job at a restaurant, and I have a car and I work hard so I can go to school. THAT’S what she should have done.” Here’s why I had to ask, “What the hell is wrong with people?” (And my answer was, honestly, I hope it’s just that she’s 20. When I was 20, I was judgmental and sanctimonious as all hell. I pray she grows out of it.)

Via Daily Harold.

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