Friday, March 14, 2008

The media, gender, and representation

Originally Posted on March 14, 2008 by existentialhedonist on


I was recently reading the comments on a post here, and noticed one that Amanda made:

“Someone needs to dig up some of Spitzer’s childhood friends."

And then it hit me: in this entire media circus, not once has anyone ever brought up Spitzer’s childhood.

But that seems to be all they can manage to talk about when it comes to Kristen. They all talk about how she came from a broken home, had substance issues, and so on. They tsk tsk about how she “fell into the wrong line of work,” how she must have been abused as a child, and that perhaps if she had been able to properly attend to the various psychological issues her childhood had wrought upon her, she may not have been a prostitute today. And that once she attends to them, she should be just fine- she’ll become enlightened and can finally get out of this line of work (because loads of us are eager to leave a job that pays $4300 an hour to have sex with powerful men). They wonder where it all went wrong. (Again- what’s wrong with a job that pays $4300 an hour to have sex with powerful men??)

But what about Spitzer? Why is his childhood and homelife not of interest to the media? Perhaps he had some “childhood abuse issues” which led him into the “wrong line of work.” Perhaps there was something in his childhood that created some disconnect whereby as an adult he came to see no wrong in busting escort agencies with one hand while taking advantage of their services with the other. I mean, this stuff has to come from childhood issues around self-righteousness, propriety, and entitlement.

I think the media’s obsession with Kristen’s childhood ties directly into the prohibitionists’ habit of using the term “girls” when referring to sex workers who are between 18 and 28. It seems to be a form of infantilizing women when they exercise their sexual and economic autonomy. It reminds me of the Swedish model, and it makes me want to wretch.

How about talking about her strength in overcoming a challenging youth to grow up and land a job that paid her for one hour more than most of her critics will see in a month? How about talking about her strength in the face of this onslaught of media attention and scrutiny? How she hasn’t cowered off into some corner- how she has kept her myspace page up, and how so many of the comments there are full of love and support in the face of this?

Kristen deserves to be seen for the amazing and strong woman she is. The obsession with her childhood is simply a cheap ploy to diminish the inherent fortitude of a person who faces challenges head on and rises above and beyond to become a creative entrepreneur beholden to nobody but herself. This is the hallmark of successful sex workers everywhere, and something that must be quashed by society lest more of us become such entrepreneurs.

I think it is important for the media and people like Farley to portray us as broken and weak people. It is ironic that some of them actually do this in the name of “feminism.” The truth is that the ”abused girl” thing has to be played up to create a smokescreen to hide the reality: sex workers like Kristen don’t need you or anyone else to validate them. That is power. And that is dangerous.

Sex workers continue to be the strongest, wisest, and most resourceful humans I know. They have no bosses but themselves, and they are truer to their convictions than anyone in any other profession I have ever met.

Sex Workers Rule!


Anonymous Amanda said...

I refer to other sex workers as "girls" all the time. Sometimes "woman" sounds too serious, other times it's because there's not really another good word. "Gals" doesn't do it for most females that I know.

We need to expand the lanuage, that's for sure.

And bravo for your Spitzer/Kristen/media examination. Send this to every newsroom in the country.


1:52 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Yes- I refer to other women in the industry as girls as well, but have made a conscious effort lately to refer to them as ladies. Sometimes that can sound too formal, though.

ButI believe this is one of those occasions in which we can reserve the right to call ourselves and each other "girls" because we are all in the industry and have that privilege, but outsiders are not entitled to refer to us that way.

While I was dancing, many of us jokingly referred to each other as "hos" and "hookers", and we'd often grab each others' behinds and breasts in passing as a little joke among ourselves. All in good humor and with affection. But that behavior would never be acceptable if someone from the "outside" were to engage in it.

There is a sociological term for this, but it is too late for me to think about it. I need sleep! :D

2:34 AM  
Anonymous AH said...

I just spoke to a male friend that is not against sex workers, but he did decide that to do those things, something has had to happen in one's past.

Or that if not, the choice to sell one's image to men who seek to purchase it, will wear one down.

*shoulder shrug*

I have been tagged by Ptr, so please, join me in this merry-go-round, if you please.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Clea Summers said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a beautiful post. The more I hang around in this line of work and meet people who have done the same for over a year, the more I begin to realize what an independent, revolutionary, intelligent, self-aware, sensual bunch we are.

In response to "Ah," nothing horrific has ever happened to me sexually, either in my childhood, or during my work life. Like everyone, I've had challenges, but more than anything those have been economic. So, if anything, I've been economically abused. Like many people in this world!

Again, thanks for the post, Holly. You are proof that sex workers do indeed rock.


3:37 PM  

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