Sunday, July 20, 2008

An Article from CJ Social Worker

I'm not sure if you all know this but I nearly always post an article in it's entirety if it stirs emotion deep within me. This is one of those...


Forgotten is forgiven.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
She posed with exaggerated sexually at the counter of the rural Texas working class restaurant, waiting for her lunch order. Her purposely selected clothes were probably a size too small. She was sending out a signal and occasionally looking around the room at the uniformed, blue-shirted workers on lunch break to see who was receiving it. A few were and giving her lurid looks. I felt like I kind of knew her. I’ve talked to many women like her over the years, women who are primarily defined by the approval of men – male defined women.

When we left the restaurant, my husband, who is a criminal defense attorney, remarked about the “ex-dancer” in the restaurant. I guess that makes sense since he represents so many of them. I said, “You mean the woman who looked like a sexual assault victim?” Maybe we’re both being reductionistic. Maybe we’re both right.

Sex workers seem to be perennial victims, at least the one’s I’ve met. Most of them have been my clients, victims of domestic violence. (And, mothers. Kind of takes away the lure to think that the woman gyrating in front of you at Babe’s has a 2 year old at home.) Maybe my view is skewed. I also meet a lot of teachers and nurses who are domestic violence victims. So – maybe I just see a lot of them because this is another profession that primarily employs women?

From what I’ve experienced and read, and what I think to be true is this: How is it that a woman feels like sex is her primary power? Is it because society tells women that to be worthwhile, we have to be sexually attractive? Is it advertising? Magazines like Cosmo? Playboy? Penthouse? Could it be that women who end up selling sex are taught at a young age that the best, most powerful thing about them is sex? And who taught them? An abusive step-father? Grandfather? Pedophile uncle?

Once a woman is defined as a sex seller – a prostitute, dancer – then she can never, ever get away from that role. Never. She will always be known as an “ex-dancer.” You can imagine at the PTA meeting that someone finds out. One mother whispers to another, “SHE used to dance naked.” Yet, we wouldn’t consider defining a man as a “sex-buyer” or much less and “ex-sex-buyer.” Could you imagine at the same PTA meeting, one father saying to another, “You know, he used to go to titty-bars all the time.” Even if they did, it would be said with admiration or jealousy.

A common defense in domestic violence cases is this idea that the woman is a whore. They don’t come out and say it like that. But, that’s what they mean. “She was cheating, so he lost it and hit/shot/stabbed/killed her.” Often in protective order court, the man’s attorney will talk about how she works as a dancer, or she’s been having a sex with many men. Uhhhh, and that has what to do with the fact that he beat her until her face looked like one big, swollen bruise? Once a respondent’s lawyer told us how the protective order applicant had been having sex with a lot of different men. I looked at him with a straight face and said, “You mean she’s a whore?” He said, “yes” without the slightest clue that I was being sarcastic. Wow. My co-worker had to explain it to him.

The point is this: We want sex-workers. We want male-defined women. We encourage and expect this behavior from women. The price they (we) must pay is that we cannot escape this role and we cannot be equal. It isn’t that sex or sexuality is bad or wrong. It is the imbalance of power that is wrong. Even if a woman temporarily gains power in her role as a sex seller, ultimately she will pay the price – her humanity, her self-worth, and inclusion in the “legitimate” world. Because, she’ll someday be at that PTA meeting or at church or try to get a job in an office – and they’ll say it…”you know, she used to…”

Posted by CJ Social Worker at 12:10 PM"


  1. Thanks for this and as I commented there (and will here too) I think it's a great piece.

  2. This is a great addition to your page. It rings true with many women I've encountered, and I work with the ones with 2-year-olds at home. Which brings us to yet another sphere in the sex-based women blaming: sex work directly and negatively affects a woman's chances of keeping her children when protective services is involved. It's insult to injury.

  3. This makes me think how important it is to educate young boys in their attitudes towards women. It takes re-programming and prayer. I feel I'm there.

  4. Thanks for the comment Stephen and welcome :) I said in class one time that it is our own fault (women) because we don't teach our girls to command respect and we don't teach our boys exactly what it is to have respect for women. You would have thought I had said there is no God or something. At least it got the conversation rolling. I started with my son as soon as I realized he was able to understand and have never wavered in my stance. I don't harp on it because then he will learn to tune me out but if I have a chance to gently add it to the conversation then I do...the same with drugs and sex. He's 19 now and I believe he has grown into a wonderful young man in every way. If I am proud of anything I have done in my life it is that through it all I raised a fine man.