Why are female sex workers deemed socially unacceptable
Sex & Relationships

What Slut Shaming Sex Workers Says About Our Society

When I hear the title sex worker, my mind races back to a scene in Pretty Woman. You know, when Julia Roberts is walking down Rodeo Drive in a snug cut-out dress and thigh-high boots. And every single person looks her up and down. Silently labelling her a whore and directing their husband’s gaze away. 

But things have come a long way since the film was released in 1990. Porn is no longer limited to films and magazines. Smartphones have made it easier than ever to watch x-rated entertainment. I simply slide my finger and I have access to not only hundreds of porn sites. But apps like Tinder, where men ask for sex quicker than Barry, the homeless guy outside of Tesco, can ask you for spare change. Every day, 2.5 billion emails containing sexually explicit content is sent or received. And 37 pornographic videos are made. So, shouldn’t the perception of sex workers be socially acceptable? 

Last week, a young man (let’s call him Connor) took to Twitter to talk about sex workers. He expressed how women who use OnlyFans to sell sexually explicit content are ‘socially unacceptable’. The tweet quickly caused a debate with hundreds of men and women defending sex worker’s rights to their own bodies. 

In 2016, OnlyFans was launched as a social media platform for subscribers or ‘fans’ to receive x-rated entertainment for a fee. The customers, mostly men who are straight, gay and beyond, purchase videos, images and sessions to talk to the models to entice their sexual fantasies. 

It’s no secret that men watch porn. In March, 77% of men admitted to watching x-rated content that month. And it seems that our Connor is one of them. On Twitter, he has made plenty of references that he uses the site. Connor liked and retweeted content in reference to Pornhub saying, “When it’s been 1 hour since you sent the ‘you up’ message and a response is looking unlikely.” Popular pornography sites, like Pornhub, attract almost 64,000 visitors per minute. Along with an average upload of 12 videos. However, these videos don’t guarantee payment. Unlike OnlyFans, viewers don’t pay to watch the videos – obviously making it a popular choice. Similar to YouTube, Pornhub only pays it’s models if their videos gain enough views. 

Therefore, OnlyFans was thought to offer guys the opportunity to direct their own specially made videos with their favourite models. Whilst models have the chance to directly monetise their content. They can make up £10,000 without showing any sexually explicit content. “I’m like their online girlfriend,” one model explained. “They want the opportunity to get to know somebody they’ve seen in a magazine or on social media.” 

And why shouldn’t they? This way, women know who is viewing their body. It makes it more comfortable for them to work as it is illegal for sex workers to band together. Consequently, women are abused and attacked because people believe they don’t need consent from a sex worker. As viewers are directly paying for the content themselves. Rather than allowing model’s videos and photos downloaded and shared around for free. They are gaining a deeper experience with the model. They can have the model playout a sexual fantasy or dress up in a certain outfit. 

And the best part of all of this? Men created the new line of sex workers themselves. As two-thirds of men have asked women for naked photos. It’s no wonder why women resort to sex work. From as young as 14 years old, teenage boys are begging for nudes. 

In year 10, a topless photograph was shared around my school. During morning registration, one boy asked another to send him the picture. And by the end of the day, over half the school had seen the photo. Even some girls had a copy on their phones to torment the girl. But, the thing is, the girl took the photo for her boyfriend who quickly shared it with his mates. Of course, the girl was labelled a slag and her friends avoided her. Meanwhile, her boyfriend was being patted on the back. 

A few men took to Twitter to support Connor’s comment. One said, “I’m sure their parents are proud they show their gash for a fiver”. Whilst another claimed sex workers to be ‘deeply average [looking] girls’. It’s so common for women to be slut-shamed with 50% of women being called an offensive name. They don’t even have to show any skin to be harassed. But it’s the same men who happily watch sex workers, for free, on Pornhub and have no complaints when the model’s check comes in. It’s the same with Page Three models. Pin-up girls have decorated boys bedrooms for years. And yet, you only hear nagging from mothers when Aunt Carol comes to visit. So, why is it ok for men to watch free porn online free but suddenly have a problem when women charge for their pornography?

It’s the same old tale of ‘boys being boys’. But isn’t that just another excuse to belittle women? Girls shouldn’t wear skirts too short because it will distract boys. And wearing a thong is ‘asking for it’. Wolf whistling women walking down the street is just ‘banter’. Women can’t even slap on a tint of lipstick without getting a second look. Yet, no one questions a man when he harasses these women. We don’t take the opportunities to teach boys a valuable lesson. Instead, we teach girls to conform to male behaviour – or leave. 

There’s a deeper problem here. One that’s been lingering for hundreds of years. Where women have been fighting for equality. Are women being slut-shamed because, decades ago, women were pictured as pure and innocent? Are we still only deemed marriageable to the lucky winner if we offer up our virginity on a plate? Maybe it doesn’t sound as serious as the right to vote or employment. But our grandmothers fought for our reproductive rights. Because, just like men, women enjoy sex. Today, more women are engaging in casual sex than men. But women are ridiculed for showing any skin, whilst men continue to send unsolicited ‘dick pics’ and ‘beg for nudes’.  

It is men who continuously ask for naked photos of women. Men that are more likely to watch x-rated entertainment. And yet, when women take charge of the situation by putting a price on their photographs that will, more than likely, be shared around drooling groups of men. They are scrutinised. They are slut-shamed for taking control of their own bodies. Meanwhile, certificates are being handed out to men who sleep with hundreds of women. And each time they beg women for a naked photo, we have the ultimatum of either being labelled a slag or frigid. Men created this job, it is the women who are just smart enough to monetise it. 

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