15 May 2020
North London, a former council estate, a small flat. Ostensibly a now affluent, vibrant area yet one which masks the hidden poverty at its core. Newly arrived middle class neighbours peep out of curtains and pry on the arrivals in and out of the flat, the curtain twitching of the once suburban classes now taking over the estate. Concealing their thinly veiled hatred of whats going on inside, they contact the police under the pretence of concern for ‘public health’, as if a sex worker is less essential than the postal worker or underpaid Amazon courier that brings the daily offerings of consumer therapy to their door. Eventually, after weeks of supposedly ‘public spirited’ snitching, a lone PCSO knocks round to enquire about reports of lockdown rules being broken, leaving after reassurances that no such thing has occurred.
This is the sad reality for myself and thousands of other working class sex workers across the country as we deal with the lockdown. While restaurants remain open for delivery and the likes of Amazon continue to do a roaring trade we are told that we are not essential, subjected to discrimination by both the law and our neighbours, and wrongly blamed for the spread of disease.
The notion of sex workers being responsible for the spreading of disease is an ancient and deep seated prejudice that can trace its origins back to the middle ages and the anti sex worker bigotry of the catholic church. Unable to actually ban it outright, church leaders branded sex workers with yet more stigma to go along with the associations to Satanism and moral degradation that they already endured. This puritanical distaste lingers on into the modern age in the form of middle class moralism and the anti sex worker rhetoric of bourgeois feminism, using false concerns of sanitation and moral integrity as a stick with which to beat the downtrodden workers who invoke their ire.
Working class sex workers, who are often or not also disabled, trans or POC are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Middle class sex workers are largely moving their work online to sites like onlyfans;, using the slick production, social networks and the aesthetically pleasing locations that their social and economic status can afford, whereas sex workers such as myself don’t have the means, or the airbrushed, heteronormative beauty standards to compete online. We simply don’t have the option to stop seeing clients if we want to survive. My middle class neighbours, furloughed on 80% in their ivory towers look upon me with disgust, yet I find myself wondering if faced with the option of sex or starvation what they would do?