“I have an I.Q. of 140,” a fellow phone worker told me last week. “I hate it when the default setting guys bring to me is ‘dumb,’ and I usually have at least 10-20 points on them.”
“Jane” started in sex work as a stripper. That was two decades ago. Now she does phone work, because she has health issues and has moved to an area sans local strip clubs, her skills and confidence now shaky. She knows the arsenal of feminist lingo, and immediately identified herself as a “sex-positive” woman; she has no conflict about her life choices. Jane doesn’t think that the problem is her work, but those who judge her work — similarly, she believes that sex workers provide a vital and necessary social service. Her biggest complaint expressed during our talk wasn’t the men or the work, but the stereotype of sex workers as being “dumb” and “lazy.”
Given our conversation, I don’t doubt that Jane’s I.Q. was 140. Though I doubt the validity of I.Q. tests, Jane convinced me that she could easily and adroitly pass one with an admirable score.
I recently posted an article on my FB page written by an academic who was also a prostitute, “Why I’d Rather Be A Whore Than An Academic,” and, though written in 1999, it takes to task many of the unexamined myths and over-generalities that we still live in:
“This condemnation of whores ultimately boils down to the fear and hatred of sex. Our Judeo-Christian society is so ashamed of sex that it has to lock it behind closed doors and swear it to secrecy under the vows of marriage. A woman who transgresses these bounds is frequently called a ‘whore,’ even if she’s not a prostitute. Being a ‘whore’ — either literally or figuratively — is unacceptable in polite society.
But it’s no coincidence that whoredom also poses a serious threat to our society’s limitations of women’s power. Many people want to see whores as victims, because they don’t want us to own our power and embody this threat. Historically the whore has always represented a danger to the patriarchy, because she does not have to depend on any one man for financial support. She makes her living off of many men. This gave her financial freedom in times when women were forbidden to work to support themselves and the wife was her husband’s possession. Dependent on no one man, the whore was no man’s property.”
(Entire article: http://bad.eserver.org/issues/1999/46/anonymous.html )
We’ve accepted the metaphor of “whore” as being one of the worst labels possible. How many will denigrate a politician with the label “whore?”
Such labels are an insult to workers with I.Q.’s of 140 and above, who serve the most intimate needs of the wantonly needy, seriously damaged, and egregiously selfish, while seeing through the narratives that have brought the client to a particular transaction in its many complexities, frequently with more intuition and acumen than a therapist.
Whore is a term too noble for nearly all politicians, and tells of a courage and inner strength that few will possess, given the delusional narcotic dependency on other people’s stories that dictates much of our lives.
Speaking for myself, the great gift of being a self-employed whore is that suddenly the myths ceased being true and experienced as real. Seeing through the myths came easily, and with this clarity, the Universe handed me a singularly remarkable gift, while softly whispering in my soul, “now go, and tell a better story.”
When I began working independently many years ago, I chose the name “Julia” because I thought it was noble. It was an homage to Julius Caesar’s daughter, Julia Cesaris, who was known for her intelligence, wit, and beauty.
Given that I never lived with my father, and possessed little but curiosity and personal ambition, a not so subtle slip of a lifetime.
One advertisement at a time. One call at a time. I chose just one name, and decided to do the business my way, earn my own money, and attract the kind of client that I wanted.
Julia, the daughter of Julius Caesar. To my imagination’s unconscious associations, the most powerful woman in Rome, answering to no one but her father. For myself, that meant my “higher power,” an inner knowing whose controlling ideas were in constant expansion and revision from those given to me in my youth.
Choosing a name indicative of power, autonomy, and possessing one of history’s most culturally influential fathers almost predictably appealed to a fatherless sex worker busting her backside to avoid living on Cambridge’s streets, while striving to earn entrance into graduate school, among the presumed brightest and best in the world.
Frequently, men have called me and been “pleasantly surprised” by their conversation with “Julia,” a deliberate construct framed on power and autonomy. No matter how much reality might prove otherwise, there is the stereotype that sex work is for women who are dumb, lazy, greedy, or victims; rarely are sex workers cast as intelligent and self-determined. Whatever pejorative label justifying the cognitive bias proves comforting, because the dumb sex worker gives society a means to distance itself from its repressed sexuality. If the sex worker is stupid, then she’s disposable, incapable of true humanity, or some other vague self-justification, enmeshed in cultural mythology. The sex worker’s presumed lack of intelligence allows the Madonna – Whore schism to go unchecked, because if they’re stupid like dogs [no insult to dogs], then they’re no better then animals caged in kennels: by keeping her stupid in the stereotype, she becomes dispensable in the real world.
But it’s not that a stripper with a 140 I.Q., a Ph.D. turning tricks on the side, or a young woman who strategized her way out of four years near homelessness and into an Ivy League graduate program while being a self-employed phone whore are stupid. Rather, our stories have created comfort zones and habits and beliefs, and if we rethink too many, we disrupt our world view and its massive neural network of associations that we accept as true and real.
Ninety-nine percent of our comforting stories are not true or real. They’re simply other people’s stories that we have accepted without questioning.
Shattering stereotypes, one story at a time.
(“The Importance Of Larry Flynt, Part III” will be posted, soon.)