So, you are the black sheep of the family…

Red leaf

Christmas is the time of year when we are confronted by where we came from – most of us, while not necessarily being physically present with our family members, at least make contact with them – and the realities of who they are (and maybe what they have always been like) becomes glaringly apparent. Families all have their quirky loved ones, and if your family happens to know you are a sex worker (as mine do), you may well be it.

A lovely story an ex-sex worker told me (she’s now in her 70s) was how she announced to her parent after her first client about her fabulous new job: “Mother, all I have to do is make love to men!” Another sex worker I know of told her father who was initially concerned for how her soul was going to survive – he now leaves her notes telling her she is “such a fine daughter”.

My own family is conservative and strictly religious and not without our own eccentricities, and that is before you even include me amongst them. Due to a number of siblings immigrating at the same time a few generations back, having large families who then also had large families, there are quite a few of us, news travels fast and it’s impossible to keep a secret – not that everything we hear is ever believed. (Due to selective deafness and overactive imaginations, things do get misinterpreted sometimes). Mostly we keep in touch, even with distant relatives, and are proud of each others’ achievements and certainly have rallied together during past difficulties, and for that I consider myself so lucky. So what, I’m a sex worker, my family still loves me.

I’ve never actually got to the bottom for certain of how my family found out I was a sex worker, but it happened a few years back that it became apparent that even some elderly relatives knew, judging by topics which were raised with me when we were alone. I had told a couple of my close female relatives who are around my age, but I suspect the rumor was widely spread when a senior loved one overheard me discussing some related issues with a non-family member and promptly passed it through the grapevine, getting quite the wrong end of the stick which I had a bit of fun with before coming clean. Luckily for me there were no great dramas.

Disclosing you are a sex worker yourself, however, is one way to get an audience with ears pricked up, as it were, as I found when I told my own offspring, and answered the many weird and wonderful questions that were thrown at me. Out of respect for my immediate family and their community of loved ones and to protect their ambitions of one sort or another and their chances for my loved ones to design their own futures without being affected by my past choices, I don’t show my face in my advertising or allow myself to be officially out, but each to their own on that one, and that is my reasoning behind what I have decided. As for my offspring, it’s up to them to tell whomever they want and I am happy to answer questions about sex work should such a need arise.

Sex work of course is considered by some not “right livelihood”, (part of the Buddhist eightfold path) and that’s what the issue is according to some, if you try narrowing it down. But we all have our opinions on what is right or ethical and I’ve had many discussions about this in the past, and what a funny old time Christmas is, for interesting family conversations of this sort.

For example, maybe a vegetarian does not think farmers keeping stock in captivity then killing them for human consumption is right livelihood, or, speaking of captivity, maybe when judges don’t hand out fair jail terms it is not ethical, or for that matter lawyers who act for notorious criminals and help them get off “lightly”, or corporate executives who make pots of dosh while their staff have to work every hour that god sends to pay the rent (living wage, anyone?) and speaking of rent, landowners who just keep snapping up property and bankers behind them lending money on equity while refusing loans for young couples just wanting to buy not too far from their workplaces, somewhere to raise their family and while I have my soap box out, does the media ever put the whole story across fairly? What about journalists, film-makers etc all but sucking up to the talent to get a story, then gleefully juxtaposing things to suit their purposes or slightly misrepresent?  Is it ethical that almost everything we read, listen to or watch from publicly-funded broadcasters have been edited according to someone’s personal opinion of how events should be portrayed, which is subtly persuading the masses? And I haven’t even started on the ethics of wanna-be politicians getting citizens to vote for them based on promises that are likely unable to be kept – if you were to sit down and be judgmental about the work some people do you could have a grand old time. Sure, these judgments on the ethics of the work of others will sound annoyingly naive to those working in these fields but so do the judgments of others on the ethics of sex work to me.

How people react to the news you are a sex worker varies depending on how open-minded they are and also it’s a generational thing. The younger ones (and family genealogists) may think it’s kind of cool, slightly subversive even, to have a family member who is a sex worker while the elderly relatives have their own take on the situation. Doing their best to be awfully sweet and understanding, they may let it be known that they are open-minded about this unspoken of situation and adore you a great deal – a conversation that would surely always be treasured. Their main concern however could be that if the Hilton-Von Dinklages* from the neighboring farm ever caught wind of it, they would prefer that their concoction of the most unlikely alibi-like explanation imaginable should be put forward. Yes, it often comes down to what others might think.

The coming out to the family or being outed to your family is such a big thing, a fear, for sex workers as I’ve touched on before. I have a friend whose mother has practically written her out of the will, and as a result, she has had to protect her own children from this private information (which in my opinion it would be premature to disclose to them at their young ages) by withholding access to her children from her parents. My hope is that time will heal this wound. Life is too short to hold prejudices related to sex against family members, surely there are worse things to be then an adult consenting to earn money by selling sex.

It can be scary to find out how non-sex workers view sex work, when you have been surrounded by other sex workers who are obviously okay with it, but as Popeye said “I yam what I yam” and life goes on. At the end of the day (forgive me for using this overused phrase designed to downplay arguments which could be raised by being followed with another cliche) sex work is only a job, and sex workers are only people who do it. Penises and vaginas, that’s all.

* Name changed to the especially grandiose in order to protect the innocent.

3 Responses to So, you are the black sheep of the family…

  1. […] wrote that her father, on finding out she was a sex worker, enquired as to how she was going to safe guard her soul.  He could just as easily have asked how she was going to protect herself from the mental health […]

  2. […] Christmas is for family get-togethers, I occasionally ponder at this time of year, the place of sex workers within, or their […]

  3. […]  And think of how interesting it could be for future descendants who are interested in their family history.  The sex worker may well be the most interesting one among your generation, so make sure you own […]

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