sex worker self-care: ebony edition, part one
We are having a mental health revolution right now. Black women and [queer] femmes of all-or-none genders are embracing self-care, and it is magnificent to witness. Through my Twitter travels I have run into black women such as Memphissipian (@CuntryCounselor) and @dramberthornton (do not address her without the doctor), black midwives-in-training, and many others who are publishing or running workshops or life-coaching.
A little while ago I was blocked on Twitter by Hey Black Girl, after I responded to one of their tweets about positive things we are doing in our lives. It was my first time responding, and I responded no different from any of the other Black women, so I was surprised to find out later on, that I was blocked from their account. At the time my profile photo was a picture of me from the neck down, fully covered, in a black studded stripper onesie (the title photo obvs). I list “sex worker,” along with “comic artist” and “proheaux womanist,” in my Twitter bio. So I was taken aback but not so surprised that a (probably Christian) Black woman pre-blocked me for no apparent reason. But it still stung. I chose not to speak on it then, but it made me wonder: Are black sex workers not meant to be included in this self-care movement? This is not to indict all Black Christian women. I follow a few Black Christian womanists, such as Candace S. and @MelanieCoMcCoy (Africana WomaNINJA), whom I engage with and enjoy.
The emotional abuse that Black sex workers endure is taxing. Our main clientele is cishet white men. Most porn and content is created for the white cismale gaze, although that is slowly changing (See: Shine Louise, Sinnamon Love, and the Crashpad Series). We receive constant requests for degrading role play (race play), free shows and products, or outright verbal abuse. Not only do we endure abuse from white men — we also receive a heaping pile of vitriol or indifference from Black men, white sex workers, and other women of color. It hurts the most coming from Black women because you would think that there would be an understanding of the capitalist oppression and economic inequalities which led us to make the almost non-choice to engage in any type of sex work. Many of us are not ashamed of being sex workers. But there are other things we’d rather be doing than dealing with shitty men.Some of us just want to homeschool our kids. Some of us are artists. Some of us just want to make ends meet. Some of us are felons. Some of us have mental illnesses. Some of us are just tired and want some semblance of freedom.
Black sex workers perform so much emotional labor for other people, especially if we are active in sex worker communities on social media. I cannot tell you how many white sex workers have dismissed me when I speak on pay inequality and racial hierarchies within sex work. Racism and misogynoir(see the glossary tab for definition and credit) are compounded in the sex industry. Heather Hunter was the first Black woman porn star inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame (in 2003), and she’s light-skinned and weighs less than 100 pounds. White porn stars still refuse to do sex scenes with Black people in 2017, and yet white sex workers are still telling us (in so many ways) that we just don’t work hard enough. When the conversation of rates surfaces between sex workers of color and white sex workers, it always boils down to whiteness as a virtue. Talking to anyone but other Black sex workers about what we go through can be thoroughly infuriating.
I am already at the point where I have ceased looking for acceptance from other Black women too. I cannot express the level of irritation and disappointment I feel when having conversations about sex work with vanilla/civilian, usually cishet, Black women. We are rarely included in their little internet meet and greets. We are erased and shut down because their respectability does not allow them to regard us with the same respect. In many of their eyes the work we choose shows that we are not deserving. Boughetto church-going cishet Black women turn their noses up at us “ratchets.” It doesn’t matter how educated we are, as soon as they hear sex worker we are relegated to the back. We man-stealers, we home-wreckers, we thots. They seek to separate themselves from us.
There are some Black queer womanists, trans womanists, and feminists who are attempting to bridge this gap. My piece on proheauxism also attempts to create space for Black and brown sex workers. There are many unique experiences that Black sex workers have that require a nuanced approach to self-care. Stay tuned for my next piece!
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