Friday, May 22 2015
In my last post, we learned about the Disposable Sex Worker trope as it is used in media and pop culture. Today, we’ll discuss how the trope impacts the real lives of sex workers.
In real life, many men who buy sex (known as ‘johns’ or ‘tricks’) prefer engaging in sexual activity with women that fit the trope—nameless (pseudonyms are commonplace for sex workers), with no personal ties to him or anyone he knows. They are women who exist solely for the john’s sexual pleasure or need for control, and he is not expected or required to maintain even the barest sense of intimacy with any of the women he buys. They may be estranged from their families and isolated from their friends, and like the trope, are nearly always defined by their profession, using derogatory and demeaning terms. Each of these factors greatly increases the chance that any person not integrated into their community will experience violence, but for sex workers, who are 40 times more likely to die than women who are not sex workers, the odds are stacked high against them.
Many johns view women involved in prostitution as less than human. One study showed that 10% of johns believe that prostitutes cannot be raped, and 22% believe that payment entitles them to do as they wish with the sex worker’s body. Some even state that they pay for sex to do “things you wouldn’t dare ask a normal female for--a female that’s not a prostitute, that’s not offering sex for cash,” One john even described prostitution as “paid rape,” an opportunity to violate a woman who, as a product, is unable to say ‘no.’ On an even darker note, serial killers who target sex workers do so because they are ‘easy targets.’ Prolific murderer Gary Ridgeway, better known as the Green River Killer, chose to murder prostitutes “because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught."
These attitudes seem extreme, but they are confirmed and validated countless times in television, movies, music, and journalism. They are normalized and considered humorous by ‘nice, normal’ people who would otherwise never consider making jokes about murder and rape. The Disposable Sex Worker represents a large group of real women. We owe them better.
Next time, we’ll discuss the second most common trope: The Happy Hooker.