Throughout Trump’s presidency, one thing has been made very clear: Combating sexism is a very important issue, but only certain women need protecting. Trump supporters — well, they rejected Hillary because they literally thought she was the Antichrist. But the left has barely done better: Over this last year, I’ve watched plenty of so-called “nasty women” and their male allies use Trump’s involvement with sex workers as further evidence of his immorality, drawing on the worst whorephobic and misogynistic stereotypes. During the campaign, it was Melania with her nude photos, which prompted waves of snipping over what a First Lady is supposed to look like. (Her lack of interest in policy might have been enough, but no.) Now, it’s the Stormy Daniels scandal that once again highlights the infuriating way we talk about sex work in public.
Here is the main fact: Stormy Daniels is a woman who is a porn performer. But look around, and you’ll find ample evidence of people and publications replacing her name with “porn star,” reducing her to an objectifying, stigmatized stereotype. The left certainly has no monopoly on the snide ways to refer to Daniels. Outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly are wielding “porn star” like an epithet, throwing sex workers under the bus. The deputy Washington bureau chief of The Boston Globe suggests that, despite how absurdly off-base the Trump administration has been, it’s still more credible than a porn star; and the permanently smug Bill Kristol noted the supposed irony of the Daniels scandal bringing down Trump after facing “the forces of decency.” There’s an aura of mocking fascination around the whole thing. Trump and a porn star? Really?
Sex workers have always fallen into the cracks of public discourse. We’re used for certain agendas, but despite all the claims of sex positivity or good Christian behavior, we’re pushed aside when we ask for our rights to be protected. The right consumes our products and services, then attacks us publicly — Trump himself signed an anti-porn pledge during the campaign, whatever that means. The left wields sex workers as weapons to discredit the right for their supposed hypocrisy, disregarding our humanity by reducing us to rhetorical arguments. They insist evangelicals answer for why they’re supporting Trump despite his dalliances with sex workers, as though this is the worst thing he could do in a long history of moral failings, like his comments on African countries or the travel ban.
Zoom out, and it’s more than left or right. Politicians, writers, millionaires, celebrities, doctors, lawyers, and on and on — they watch our porn, purchase our cam shows, book our escort services. We hold their secrets, desires, fears, but they do not show up for us. They completely dissociate from us in public, crack dead hooker jokes, attack our rights, make us the butt of the joke. Over eight years in the sex industry, I’ve seen it all. I’ve met men with their social masks off, revealing what’s truly there — a side their wives, bosses, and best friends never see. I’ve witnessed their grotesqueness, and their beauty. But despite the safe space we create for them to explore themselves, at the end of the day we’re still just whores — whereas when the mask slips back on, they’re rewarded with titles, recognition, fame, money, awards, or even the presidency.
The hypocrisy runs deep. Consider the attention this consensual affair has received, when compared with the 19 women who’ve accused Trump of sexual assault. The discrepancy in moral outrage is so profound as to feel banal when acknowledged. Sexual assault is easily boiled down to “he said, she said”; sex with a porn star is mostly meant to be mocked. It doesn’t matter what else might be taken from the story, like Trump’s susceptability to blackmail or the similarity of Daniels’ account to the women who’ve accused him of sexual assault. All that matters is the quasi-pornographic titillation of watching the most salacious elements play out in public.
This would all be bad enough if it was just chatter, but these attitudes really do endanger human lives, simply because they’re trying to make a living. Various studies have found that anywhere from 45 to 75 percent of sex workers have faced physical violence; the World Health Organization put it succinctly in a study by summarizing that “most violence against sex workers is a manifestation of gender inequality and discrimination directed at women.” This inhumane level of violence would not exist if society could talk about sex work with just a little more respect — and if it is not easy to expect these attitudes to change overnight, it’s enough to ask that people who know they can do better simply do better, and dispense with their antiquated stigmas. It’s long past time for the women in my industry to be treated like women.